by Peter Gärdenfors
A fascinating study on the evolution of thinking
The capacity to think is probably one of the most mysterious human characteristics. What would it be like if we wouldn’t be able to think? How would we live without self-awareness? The complexity of these activities is astonishing because the process of thinking is related to the collaboration of various mental processes: attention, emotion, memory, planning, selfawareness, a free will and our language. But how did these processes actually develop? Which evolutionary advantages had those who could plan ahead, mislead others and understand their intentions?
Like in a crime novel, Peter Gärdenfors tries to unravel a mystery. The mystery about the human being and the question about the development of human thinking. The author starts by analyzing our basic cognitive processes like attention and memory. Based on his knowledge about these basic phenomenons, he proceeds in explaining the more complex patterns of behavior, like self-awareness, imitation and empathy. In a last step, Gärdenfors studies the consequences of the human capacity of thinking and consults cave paintings, drawings and written documents in order to support his theory.
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The author: Peter Gärdenfors was born in Sweden in 1949. He studied Mathematics, Philosophy and Computer Science and wrote his thesis in 1974. Gärdenfors is professor at the Universities of Lund and Umeå and worked as visiting professor in Princeton and Stanford. Today, the authors studies at the department of Cognition Studies in Lund. The author is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the Academia Europea and the German National Academy of Sciences. Gärdenfors published several books and over 200 articles in different magazines.
Nya Doxa 2000