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Human Lifeworlds

The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

Edited By David Dunér and Göran Sonesson

This book, which presents a cognitive-semiotic theory of cultural evolution, including that taking place in historical time, analyses various cognitive-semiotic artefacts and abilities. It claims that what makes human beings human is fundamentally the semiotic and cultural skills by means of which they endow their Lifeworld with meaning. The properties that have made human beings special among animals living in the terrestrial biosphere do not derive entirely from their biological-genetic evolution, but also stem from their interaction with the environment, in its culturally interpreted form, the Lifeworld. This, in turn, becomes possible thanks to the human ability to learn from other thinking beings, and to transfer experiences, knowledge, meaning, and perspectives to new generations.
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Göran Sonesson - Epilogue : Cultural Evolution: Human History as the Continuation of Evolution by (Partially) Other Means


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Göran Sonesson


Cultural Evolution: Human History as the Continuation of Evolution by (Partially) Other Means

Following Merlin Donald, we have suggested that there is continuity, but also a qualitative difference, between biological and cultural evolution, the latter including human history (see, in particular, Chapter 1: Lifeworlds), but this model leaves many issues unaddressed, notably those stemming from the reductionism of mainstream evolutionary psychology, and those involving bio-cultural evolution, and the part played by altruism and collaboration in the latter.1 More specifically, there is a problem internal to the idea of bio-cultural evolution, which concerns the way it can fit in with evolution as resulting from the survival of the fittest; and there is a problem that emerges as we project the models of cultural semiotics, particularly the model of Alter-culture, onto bio-cultural evolution. If, as has been argued by those defending the part played by altruism in evolution, altruists can only gain the upper hand in a competition with egoists, to the extent that they are pitted as a group against other groups, then it seems that the only possible Alienworld there is must be that according to the model of Alius-culture. While there have been attempts early on in the tradition of cultural semiotics to add an evolutionary dimension (notably by Walter A. Koch 1986), these approaches have failed to address any of these weighty issues.

1. Culture as “the Big Mistake” in Evolution

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