The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution
Edited By David Dunér and Göran Sonesson
Göran Sonesson & Gunnar Sandin - Chapter Eight : Urbanity: The City as the Specifically Human Niche
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Göran Sonesson & Gunnar Sandin
Urbanity: The City as the Specifically Human Niche
In this chapter, we aim to establish that city life, and more specifically, life in public space such as it can only exist (or so it would seem) in the city, constitutes an important step on the way to what we today take to be human specificity. Both Barry Allen (2004) and Raymond Tallis (2011) have suggested that city life may be, in some way or other, that which has allowed human beings to become immensely different from other animal species. Although none of them refer (in this specific context) to the work of Merlin Donald, it might be suggested that urban experience, and perhaps what led up to it, has constituted at least part of that specific human evolution, which, according to Donald, can not be accounted for by purely biological means. But neither Tallis nor Allen really offer any explanation of what is so particular about urbanity. This is where we have to turn to semiotic accounts of the meaning of environmental relationships.
8.1. The Non-Universal Specificity of Cities
The argument according to which the (big) city is the human Umwelt or niche par excellence cannot mean that it is the environment into which all human beings are born. Clearly, many human beings in historical times, and most of their ancestors, have not lived in what we call cities,...
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