Chapter

The Humanities and Human Nature<sup>1</sup>

Steven Pinker

in Creating Consilience

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794393
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919338 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199794393.003.0002

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science

The Humanities and Human Nature1

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Many humanities scholars have expressed a malaise about the current state of their fields, reflecting a lack of optimism about the possibility of a progressive agenda for the discovery and accumulation of knowledge. This chapter argues that consilience, with the social and biological sciences, offers the exciting prospect that both sets of fields could prosper from exploring how the activities of the humanities spring from human nature—the cognitive, linguistic, emotional, and social faculties that arise from the evolved structure of the human brain. It lists several areas in which the two can be brought together, and explores in greater depth two connections flowing out of the author's own research on language: the application of research on inflectional morphology to an analysis of literary form, and the application of research on indirect speech acts to an analysis of dialogue and plot.

Keywords: language; fiction; literature; consilience; human nature

Chapter.  5594 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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