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Adapting Minds

September 5, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you pay attention to my reading list (and who doesn’t?), you’ll notice that I just finished Adapting Minds by David Buller. It’s a fairly in-depth look at Evolutionary Psychology, as propounded by Steven Pinker, Robert Wright, etc.

I didn’t know a whole lot about Evolutionary Psychology going in (what I did know came from Pinker’s How The Mind Works), but the book has a thorough introduction to it, along with an introduction to evolution, which was useful even to someone who knows a fair amount about the basics. I found the book very convincing, overall, though it does have a few problems. Chris at Mixing Memory (an excellent blog if you’re into cognitive science, by the way) lists some in his review. It also seemed like in his discussion of human nature (chapter eight) he at times knocks down the language Evolutionary Psychologists use rather than the ideas they’re trying to explain (I’m thinking of the “laws of thought” discussion). This is a fairly minor criticism and it’s certainly possible that Evolutionary Psychologists mean precisely what is implied by that language and not what I have in mind. Chapter eight also contains a rather scathing attack on EP’s conception of human nature, labeling it a “vestige of natural theology,” which I thought was sort of interesting.

One of the concerns I had going in was that the book would knock down EP’s theses and not suggest anything to replace them. I was happily proven wrong, as Buller at least gives a general idea, if not an actual theory, about the phenomena in question.

The book is about 480 pages and isn’t exactly a light read, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s generally well written (though, he seems to start a lot of sentences with “for,” which struck me as odd) and clear, so if EP interests you, this is a good introduction and critique.

Categories: Science
  1. rob
    September 6, 2005 at 12:34 am

    If only it had a paperback edition – £22 is rather steep 😦

  2. September 6, 2005 at 12:44 am

    It’s pretty much brand new, so you’ll have to wait a while for the paperback.

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