Origins of the Modern Mind

By Merlin Donald,

Book cover of Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition

Book description

This bold and brilliant book asks the ultimate question of the life sciences: How did the human mind acquire its incomparable power? In seeking the answer, Merlin Donald traces the evolution of human culture and cognition from primitive apes to artificial intelligence, presenting an enterprising and original theory of how…

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Why read it?

1 author picked Origins of the Modern Mind as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Cognitive neuroscientist Merlin Donald posited that, at the most fundamental level, humans have a hybrid mind, one that consists of a gene-based mammalian, analogue brain, onto which is grafted a culture-based, symbolic brain. The former, the primitive mammalian brain, is a space where “the lines between consciousness and the mind’s inaccessible unconscious modules are drawn very deep in the sand” (p. 286).

As to myth, Donald noted that virtually all hunter-gatherer societies observed in the modern era have or had elaborate mythological systems, all structured along the same lines, in which myth informs every aspect of life: “myth permeates and…

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