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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 & David Dunér - Introduction : The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

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Göran Sonesson & David Dunér

Introduction

The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

Until only a few centuries ago, most people, scientists and scholars alike, took it for granted that human beings were special, and in no way to be compared to (other) animals, and if they were asked about why they had this conviction, they most probably would have pointed to the Bible or some other holy script. Early Enlightenment (dated by Jonathan Israel (2001) to the middle of the seventeenth century) sustained, and Charles Darwin finally brought home, the idea that the culture and history of human beings are very much connected to the evolution of all animal species on earth. This certitude, once recognised, has prompted a series of endeavours, the most recent of which is Mainstream Evolutionary Psychology (also known as Socio-biology), to reduce the history of humanity to just another ethogram of an animal species staking out its life in its more or less unvarying niche. Nevertheless, such undertakings do not obviate the necessity of finding out why human beings alone have created a culture that is inherited over numerous generations, and thus a history. Viewed from an extra-terrestrial position, the observation that human history has occasioned numerous, and far-reaching, changes of habitat may not appear too remarkable. However, already the fact that human beings have been able to write down the history of all these changes (and, before that was possible, no doubt reflected...

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