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Cognitive Foundations of Natural History
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  • Page extent: 376 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.57 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521438711 | ISBN-10: 0521438713)

What is it about human nature that makes our species capable of thinking scientifically? Inspired by the debate he set up between Noam Chomsky and Jean Piaget, Scott Atran traces the development of Natural History from Aristotle to Darwin, and demonstrates how the science of plants and animals has emerged from common conceptions of folk biology. The author proceeds not only from the more traditional philosophical, historical, or sociological perspectives, but from a point of view which he considers to be more basic and necessary to all of these: that of cognition. He applies a 'cognitive' perspective to an explanation of the successive scientific incarnations, transformations, and mutations of what Hume called 'mankind's original stock of ideas'.


Preface; 1. Common sense: its scope and limits; Part I. Folkbiology: 2. Folktaxonomy; 3. The semantics of living kinds; Part II. Aristotelian Essentials: 4. Essence and environment; 5. Materials of logical division; Part III. From Herbals to Systems: 6. Origins of the species concept; 7. The nature of the genus; Part IV. The Scientific Breakaway: 8. The method of families and classes; 9. Science, symbolism and common sense; Conclusions; Appendix; Notes; References; Index.


' … only Atran could have written this book, because only Atran combines the deep understanding of anthropology, biological systematics, history of science, and philosophy necessary to write it. The result is a book that contains more substance per page than any book I have read in a generation.' David Hull, Biology and Philosophy

'This subtle and sophisticated book has a little of that same power to shock by innocence. It is about how children think of living things, less a matter of what they learn than of what human nature teaches about nature.' Ian Hacking, London Review of Books

'There can be no doubt that the book establishes new standards of rigour in its area and will be the starting-point for future investigations in years to come.' Andrew Brennan, The Times Higher Education Supplement

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