First Idea Evolution of Symbols Language Intelligence Genetics Pre-Human Culture For Sale

First Idea Evolution of Symbols Language Intelligence Genetics Pre-Human Culture
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First Idea Evolution of Symbols Language Intelligence Genetics Pre-Human Culture:

The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. and Stuart G. Shanker, D. Phil.

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DESCRIPTION: Hardback with Dust Jacket: 503 pages. Publisher: Da Capo Press; (2004). In the childhood of every human being, and at the dawn of human history, there is an amazing, and until now unexplained leap from simple, genetically programmed behavior to symbolic thinking, language and culture. In “The First Idea”, Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Shanker explore this missing link and offer brilliant new insights into two longstanding questions: how human beings first created symbols, and how these abilities initially evolved and were subsequently transmitted and transformed across generations over millions of years.

Greenspan and Shanker have formulated a startling hypothesis for which they present compelling evidence; that the critical step in symbol formation, language, and thinking is not “genetic leap” but a learned capacity. That capacity depended upon specific types of nurturing interactions and other cultural practices that were passed down and thus learned anew and further developed by each generation, dating back to pre-human and even non-human primate cultures.

Drawing on fascinating evidence, not only from their research and collaborations comparing the language nd intelligence of human infants and apes, but also from the fossil record, neuroscience, and Greenspan’s extensive work with children with autism, Greenspan and Shanker offer a radical new direction for evolutionary theory, developmental psychology, and philosophy.

CONDITION: NEW. Unblemished except VERY slight shelfwear to dustjacket. Pages are pristine; clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Condition is entirely consistent with a new book from an open-shelf bookstore environment such as Barnes & Noble.




REVIEW: Co-Author Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School and a practicing child psychiatrist. Recognized internationally as the foremost authority on mental health in infants and young children, his thirty-five influential books, translated into a dozen languages, include “The Growth of the Mind” and “Building Healthy Minds”. A former director of the N.I.M.H. Mental Health Study Center, Dr. Greenspan's award-winning work has been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and in Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, and Washington Post.

Co-Author Stuart G. Shanker, D.Phil., is Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Psychology at York University, in Toronto. At the forefront of research into ape and child language, his acclaimed books include “Apes, Language and the Human Mind” (with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Talbot Taylor) and “Wittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations of AI”. Dr. Shanker's critiques of genetic determinist theories of human development have been the subject of television specials, including "The Today Show", "Discovery", and "The Pamela Wallin Show".


REVIEW: A radical and brilliantly argued new theory about the fundamental origins of human intelligence, culture, and society. In this highly original work, one of the world's most distinguished child psychiatrists together with a philosopher at the forefront of ape and child language research present a startling hypothesis; that the development of our higher-level symbolic thinking, language, and social skills cannot be explained by genes and natural selection, but depend on cultural practices learned anew by each generation over millions of years, dating back to primate and pre-human cultures. Furthermore, for the first time, they present their remarkable research revealing the steps leading to symbolic thinking in the life of each new human infant and show that contrary to now-prevailing theories of Pinker, Chomsky, and others, there is no biological explanation that can account for these distinctly human abilities.

Drawing from their own original work with human infants and apes, and meticulous examination of the fossil record, Greenspan and Shanker trace how each new species of non-human primates, pre-humans, and early humans mastered and taught to their offspring in successively greater degrees the steps leading to symbolic thinking. Their revolutionary theory and compelling evidence reveal the true origins of our most advanced human qualities and set a radical new direction for evolutionary theory, psychology, and philosophy.

REVIEW: Noam Chomsky is the best-known advocate of the view that language skills are hardwired into our brains, and Steven Pinker made this argument in “The Blank Slate”. Authors Greenspan, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and Shanker, an authority in child and ape-language studies, completely reject this theory, claiming instead that our ability to reason is founded not on genetics but on emotional responses by infants to their environment, with emotional interactions forming the missing link in the development of symbols and language.

In line with other recent research that ties cultural practices to areas of human development long held to be biologically determined, they maintain that symbolic thinking has been molded by cultural practices dating back to pre-human species. The authors trace the development of language skills and personality from birth to old age with a 16-stage hierarchy of what they call "functional emotional development capabilities" ranging from "Regulation and Interest in the Word" to "Wisdom of the Ages".

In the last part of the book, they use these stages to examine major intellectual turning points and figures in history, such as the Greek philosophers, Descartes and Freud. This book should appeal most to readers working in psychology and child development, but its revolutionary ideas no doubt will lead to lively and well-publicized debates.

REVIEW: When and how did humans acquire the faculty of symbolic thinking? In this study of the origin of human intelligence, the nature-versus-nurture conundrum is no closer to resolution. However, the nurture side of the debate does get a boost here. Greenspan and Shanker, a child psychiatrist and a philosopher, respectively, explicate their 16-level "functional/emotional" framework to support the evidence about human intelligence that they have gathered from the fields of child development, animal (especially chimpanzee) communication, paleoanthropology, sociology, and the history of philosophy. Apart from building their construct, Greenspan and Shanker challenge the nature champions, such as neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux (“The Emotional Brain”) and Steven Pinker (“The Blank Slate”). The authors explore millions of years of social (rather than genetic) evolution in a toddler's amazing mental growth.

REVIEW: The authors propose that the origin of humans' highest mental abilities, their ability to symbolize and think, stems from our emotions. They challenge the overemphasis of genetic determinism in the nature vs. nurture controversy and show that it is the emotional signaling between infant and caretaker during nurturing interactions that evolve into creative problem solving and logical, reflective thought. The authors explain how this important element, emotion, is missing from current theories of cognitive and language development and show support for its validity from cognitive neuroscience research. The significant cultural and evolutionary implications for this theory are also an essential part of this book. A sweeping and engrossing text, speckled with colorful anecdotes and real life examples. Greenspan and Shanker deserve applause.

REVIEW: This book introduces an important component to our understanding of human development that adds to our knowledge across a wide range of study, including cognitive neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, child development and others. This theory has even broader applications in the study of nonhuman primates as well as our current and future view of the global community. Supplies strong evidence that rationality and cognition are not opposed to emotion. This book would be of great interest to a wide range of behavioral and social scientists who study and apply learning theory in their various fields. The authors reflect varied backgrounds themselves. Recommended for its important defense of culture and learning.

REVIEW: Greenspan and Shanker have written a significant book on the crucial role that emotions play in the social development of human intelligence. They reject Cartesian dualism, advocate the framework of primate evolution, and go beyond the ideas of Piaget, Chomsky, and Pinker (among others) in their claim that symbolic thinking is essentially the slow outcome of mental activity developing through six levels of emotional interactions rather than merely the sudden consequence of inherited genetic factors in the brain.

The authors emphasize the dynamic relationship between caregivers and infants/toddlers in terms of emotional signaling through sounds, facial expressions, and body gestures. They even extend their theory in order to shed light on ape behavior, fossil hominids, early civilizations, the origin of language, and the emerging global society. In the ongoing nature vs. nurture debate, the authors have filled a gap in the research literature by stressing the need to take the value of emotions seriously.

REVIEW: A remarkable book whose time has come. Greenspan and Shanker re-evaluate the human journey from our primate ancestors to the present through their new theory of emotional development. Old notions of genetic determinism are replaced with testable hypotheses that place emotional development at the heart of language. Language itself is redefined. Emotions are shown to be essential to all aspects of thought; indeed, without them the ability to reason vanishes.

This new theory offers a profound challenge to many of today’s thinkers who devalue caregiver-infant interactions and leave the development of intellect up to genes and ill-specified effects of the environment. The book moves beyond the nature-nurture controversy by taking the bold step of assuming that nature operates only where nurture has prepared the way. Many may see this theory as controversial, but few will want to ignore it and the hope it holds for building a more stable world.

REVIEW: “The First Idea” has all the makings of a future classic. The authors have succeeded in weaving a remarkable tapestry of synthesized knowledge and insights about the origins of learning, thinking, and experiencing emotions. This needs to be on the required reading list for anyone who seeks to be learned about learning.

REVIEW: This is a bold book that seeks a way of bringing together our knowledge about the biological evolution of the human mind with what we know about the impact of culture on mental functioning. A brilliant start in showing that a reconciliation is within reach. Well done!


REVIEW: A new theory of human development. How did symbols, language and information evolve from primates to modern humans? In The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, And Intelligence Evolved From Our Primate Ancestors To Modern Humans, collaborative co-authors Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker move beyond the nature/nurture debate to provide a new theory of human development: that the critical step in symbol formation, language and thinking isn't genetic, but a learned capacity dependent on nurturing interactions and cultural practices passed down between generations. Evidence from their own research and collaborations with others provide the backbone of a fascinating discourse.

REVIEW: No one knows what caused the evolutionary giant leap from the apes to humans. There have been all kinds of theories from the opposable thumb to walking upright. In this book two eminent psychologists propose a theory that symbols, particularly language taught from one generation to the next drove the development of intelligence. As such, they come down firmly on the nurture rather than nature side of the argument. From watching children, they are both specialists in child development, they persuasively argue that children are taught symbolic thinking. From here they use evidence from the fossil record and neuroscience to develop their theory. Fascinating reading.

REVIEW: Emotions + desire to interact + evolution = language. When asked to cite what he believed but couldn't prove, Dan Dennett responded by saying that language was required for consciousness. Interestingly Dennett's view easily harmonizes with strong trends in contemporary wisdom. The larger view is that there is something particular and special about humans and their capacity for language that is materially different than what evolutionarily has preceded them.

This book is a breath of fresh air for its helpful insight that humans are not materially different from what preceded them just more articulated in their thought processes and means of communicating them. In seriatim the book traces infant development for the capacity of spoken language and compares that developing capacity with different species of animals within the animal kingdom. In a way, it's kind of reminiscent of the old medical school "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”.

For those lucky enough not to have experienced medical school, the famous saying refers to the similarity between developmental stages of an unborn fetus and the various life forms in the animal kingdom. For example, the fertilized zygote resembles a one celled organism. The early developing fetus resembles a fishlike creature and so on. In this book, needless to say, the more articulated the comparison being made between the infant's developing speech capacity, the more the authors will be inclined to use a more evolutionarily complicated life form.

Significantly the authors use the similarities between humans and other animals to highlight their basic likenesses which according to the authors subsist in their mutual emotive acquisition of knowledge. In this sense, this book is like Read Montague's “Why Choose this Book” wherein Montague merged Alan Turing mechanistic reasoning with emotive values to create an up to date model of cognition. Again, these features are all welcome.

Where I think the authors falter is later in the book when they try to apply their theories to group dynamics. But even so the book remains healthy food for thought and welcome insight if only for the knowledge that when we visit the zoo, the animals looking back at us are really not that much different at all but certainly not lacking consciousness just because they don't speak our language.

REVIEW: Since the research that supports the theory proposed by these authors is so thoroughly documented, it may prove too technical for the average reader. Still, the insights are stupendous and easily verifiable by anyone with good parenting skills. The fact that, when applied to people with autism, the results are outstanding and highly unusual, tends to validate their theory. I found the book easy to skim and love the diverse perspectives of each author and contributor. The world is evolving and there is so much more to be understood about where we came from that may have implications about where we're going. This book helps move us forward on that journey.

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