By Geoffrey Lloyd

Sir Geoffrey Lloyd provides a cross-disciplinary examine of the issues posed by way of the cohesion and variety of the human brain. at the one hand, as people all of us percentage generally a similar anatomy, body structure, biochemistry, and sure mental capabilities--the ability to profit a language, for example. at the different, various members and teams have very diverse abilities, tastes, and ideology, for example approximately how they see themselves, different people and the realm round them. those matters are hugely charged, for any denial of psychic harmony savors of racism, whereas many assertions of psychic variety elevate the specters of arbitrary relativism, the incommensurability of ideals platforms and their mutual unintelligibility.

Lloyd surveys a desirable diversity of topics, reading the place kinds of arguments, medical, philosophical, anthropological and old can take us. He discusses colour conception, spatial cognition, animal and plant taxonomy, the feelings, rules of health and wellbeing and health and wellbeing, options of the self, service provider and causation, various perceptions of the excellence among nature and tradition, and reasoning itself. to prevent the pitfalls of deceptive dichotomies (especially among cross-cultural universalism and cultural relativism) he can pay due consciousness to the multidimensionality of the phenomena to be apprehended and to the range of manners, or types, of apprehending them. the load to take delivery of to various factors, actual, organic, mental, cultural, ideological, varies as among diversified subject-areas and occasionally even inside a unmarried sector. He makes use of fresh paintings in social anthropology, linguistics, cognitive technology, neurophysiology, and the background of rules to redefine the issues and make clear how our obvious psychic variety could be reconciled with our shared humanity.

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Extra resources for Cognitive Variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Human Mind

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This is what the Greek poet Semonides notoriously did in his characterization of different types of woman, using a series of animals to convey extremely unflattering images of the various kinds of females whom males were likely to encounter. The sow, bitch, vixen are all painted in highly negative terms: not even the female bee, a model of industriousness, is all good by any means, for immediately after describing her Semonides points the general moral, that women are a bane for men. What different species of animals stereotypically stand for differs from one society to another: for some Chinese the pig represents wealth, not filth.

Levinson and his collaborators have supported their claims for the fundamental cognitive differences between these three frames of reference by experiments that did not depend on any particular spatial terminology. These show that the differences are indeed cognitive, and not just linguistic. In one set of tests subjects were presented with an array of objects, then rotated round 180◦ , and then asked to arrange an identical set of objects in the same way. ) observed that his own use of ‘absolute’ in connection with a frame of reference, dependent, for example, on cardinal directions, relates to, but is not identical with, the notion of absolute space.

In this area unqualified assertions as to the psychic unity of all humans look unwarranted and in many cases conflict with robust evidence to the contrary. In particular if frames of reference were innately given, you would expect them to be ‘universal, equally accessible, acquired at the same ages, and acquired young’ (ibid. 322), whereas the data concerning acquisition ‘do not remotely support those predictions’. In particular the early acquisition of the absolute frame of reference by Tzeltal-speaking children is in stark contrast to what Piaget claimed his studies revealed, for their mastery of the geometry of orthogonal axes and quadrants and other aspects of ‘Euclidean thinking’ happens far sooner than he suggested.

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