How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement

How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement

Hardback

By (author) Lambros Malafouris, Foreword by Colin Renfrew

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  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Format: Hardback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 229mm x 20mm | 544g
  • Publication date: 9 August 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass.
  • ISBN 10: 0262019191
  • ISBN 13: 9780262019194
  • Illustrations note: 31 figures
  • Sales rank: 209,657

Product description

An increasingly influential school of thought in cognitive science views the mind as embodied, extended, and distributed, rather than brain-bound, "all in the head." This shift in perspective raises important questions about the relationship between cognition and material culture, posing major challenges for philosophy, cognitive science, archaeology, and anthropology. In How Things Shape the Mind, Lambros Malafouris proposes a cross-disciplinary analytical framework for investigating the different ways in which things have become cognitive extensions of the human body. Using a variety of examples and case studies, he considers how those ways might have changed from earliest prehistory to the present. Malafouris's Material Engagement Theory adds materiality -- the world of things, artifacts, and material signs -- into the cognitive equation definitively. His account not only questions conventional intuitions about the boundaries and location of the human mind but also suggests that we rethink classical archaeological assumptions about human cognitive evolution. Arguing that the understanding of human cognition is essentially interlocked with the study of the technical mediations that constitute the central nodes of a materially extended and distributed human mind, Malafouris offers a series of archaeological and anthropological case studies -- from Stone Age tools to the modern potter's wheel -- to test his theory. How do things shape the mind? Considering the implications of the seemingly uniquely human predisposition to reconfigure our bodies and our senses by using tools and material culture, Malafouris adds a fresh perspective on a foundational issue in the study of human cognition.

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Author information

Lambros Malafouris is Johnson Research Fellow in Creativity, Cognition, and Material Culture at Keble College and theInstitute of Archaeology, University of Oxford.

Review quote

Is the mind imprisoned in the brain? In this mix of neuroscience and philosophy, Lambros Malafouris suggests that mind and materiality are allied in ways that defy reductive world views. Engrossing. Nature How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement is a lucid and well presented account of the state-of-the-art in connecting an archaeology of mind with the study of material culture to develop a deeper understanding of relational ontology and the importance of mediation for human thinking and cognition more generally...a compelling ally to further challenge the orthodox models of representation as already developed in the philosophies of among other Bergson or Whitehead and further on by Deleuze and Guattari... -- Martha Blassnigg Leonardo Reviews This is a noble, if possibly premature, attempt to apply the theoretical underpinnings of philosophical and cognitive science to the gut understanding of craftsmen that their craft involves an active interrelationship between their brains, their bodies, and their materials...this book is strongly recommended to cognitive scientists, philosophers, and cognitive anthropologists/archaeologists. Choice How Things Shape the Mind is an important book. Not since Human Evolution, Language, and Mind: A Psychological and Archaeological Inquiry (Noble and Davidson 1996) has an authored book taken a significant critical view of the epistemology grounding cognitive archaeology. Its challenge will not be easy to meet -- our Cartesian view of mind is just so very comfortable -- but it may well provide a means for making true progress in the archaeology of mind. -- Thomas Wynn Current Anthropology