“It Just Must Be True”: Tomasello on Cognition and Morality
Michael Tomasello’s “natural histories” of thinking and human morality argue for strong connections between advanced human attributes and the capabilities of nonhuman primates, even as they establish profound differences between them. The core of his argument, the “shared intentionality hypothesis,” asserts that what is unique to the human species is the capacity for collaborative behaviors involving mutualism and reciprocity. This hypothesis has serious implications not only for the understanding of the human species but also for such apparently unrelated fields as literary studies.
Keywords: morality, cognition, evolution, Tomasello, literary studies
Books under review:
Tomasello, Michael. 2014. A Natural History of Human Thinking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. xi, 178 pages. Illustrations. Hardcover $37.00.
Tomasello, Michael. 2016. A Natural History of Human Morality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. x, 194 pages. Illustrations. Hardcover $35.00.
Axelrod, Robert. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
Darwin, Charles. (1871) 2004. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: Penguin.
Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
De Waal, Frans. 2006. Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Eliot, George. 1994. Middlemarch. Edited by Rosemary Ashton. New York: Penguin.
Hauser, Marc. 2006. Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong. New York: HarperCollins.
Montaigne, Michel de. 1965. “Apology for Raymond Sebond.” In The Complete Essays of Montaigne, translated by Donald Frame, 318–457. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1954. Twilight of the Idols; Or How to Philosophize with a Hammer. In The Portable Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufmann, 463–564. New York: Viking.
Ridley, Matt. 1996. The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Viking.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1992. “Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men.” In Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Second Discourse); Polemics, and Political Economy (Collected Writings of Rousseau), edited by Roger D. Masters and Christopher Kelly; translated by Judith R. Bush, Roger D. Masters, Christopher Kelly, and Terence Marshall. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
Spencer, Herbert. 1892. The Principles of Ethics. 2 vols. London: Williams and Northgate.
Wright, Robert. 1994. The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. New York: Vintage.
Zunshine, Lisa. 2016. “The Commotion of Souls.” SubStance 45 (2): 118–42.
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