Cultural Evolution

In this book, Kate Distin proposes a theory of cultural evolution and shows how it can help us to understand the origin and development of human culture. Distin introduces the concept that humans share information not only in natural languages, which are spoken or signed, but also in artefactual languages like writing and musical notation, which use media that are made by humans. Languages enable humans to receive and transmit variations in cultural information and resources. In this way, they provide the mechanism for cultural evolution. The human capacity for metarepresentation - thinking about how we think - accelerates cultural evolution, because it frees cultural information from the conceptual limitations of each individual language. Distin shows how the concept of cultural evolution outlined in this book can help us to understand the complexity and diversity of human culture, relating her theory to a range of subjects including economics, linguistics, and developmental biology.

Cultural Evolution: Contents

1. Introduction: "Small Consequences of One General Law"
Part I. The Inheritance of Cultural Information
2. What Is Information?
3. How Is Information Inherited?
Part II. The Inheritance of Cultural Information: Natural Language
4. Natural Language and Culture: The Biological Building Blocks
5. How Did Natural Language Evolve?
6. Language, Thought and Culture
Part III. The Inheritance of Cultural Information: Artefactual Language
7. How Did Artefactual Language Evolve?
8. Artefactual Language, Representation and Culture
9. Money: An Artefactual Language
10. Money: The Explanatory Power of Artefactual Languages
Part IV. The Receivers of Cultural Information
11. How Does Human Diversity Affect Cultural Evolution?
Part V. The Expression of Cultural Information
12. Aspects of the Cultural Ecology
13. Patterns of Cultural Taxonomy
14. Conclusion: A Representational Understanding of Cultural Evolution
Appendix: What about Memetics?
Acknowledgements
Bibliography
Index


Read an extract from the book at the Cambridge University Press website, here.

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