Cognitive Variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity by Geoffrey Lloyd

By Geoffrey Lloyd

Sir Geoffrey Lloyd offers a cross-disciplinary research of the issues posed by means of the cohesion and variety of the human brain. at the one hand, as people all of us proportion largely a similar anatomy, body structure, biochemistry, and likely mental capabilities--the capability to profit a language, for example. at the different, diverse members and teams have very diverse skills, tastes, and ideology, for example approximately how they see themselves, different people and the area round them. those matters are hugely charged, for any denial of psychic cohesion savors of racism, whereas many assertions of psychic range bring up the specters of arbitrary relativism, the incommensurability of ideals platforms and their mutual unintelligibility.

Lloyd surveys a desirable variety of topics, reading the place varieties of arguments, medical, philosophical, anthropological and historic can take us. He discusses colour conception, spatial cognition, animal and plant taxonomy, the feelings, principles of wellbeing and fitness and future health, thoughts of the self, business enterprise and causation, various perceptions of the excellence among nature and tradition, and reasoning itself. to prevent the pitfalls of deceptive dichotomies (especially among cross-cultural universalism and cultural relativism) he can pay due consciousness to the multidimensionality of the phenomena to be apprehended and to the variety of manners, or types, of apprehending them. the load to receive to various factors, actual, organic, mental, cultural, ideological, varies as among diverse subject-areas and occasionally even inside a unmarried sector. He makes use of fresh paintings in social anthropology, linguistics, cognitive technology, neurophysiology, and the heritage of principles to redefine the issues and make clear how our obtrusive psychic variety should be reconciled with our shared humanity.

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So on the first score, the physiological and neurological input, there are both commonalities, and some differences, between different human subjects. As to what there is to cognize, second, the universal elements in the colour cognition case include the physics of the wavelengths of light and in the spatial cognition one, the directionality of gravitational forces—on earth at least—and aspects of the physics and geometry of volumes and shapes. When we come, third, to culture and language, we can see that differences in both colour and spatial cognition are not confined just to differences between individuals, but relate also and more especially to groups, indeed whole communities.

Some limited comparative studies, notably those of Hatano et al. (1993), have brought to light certain differences in the ways in which inanimate objects, plants, and animals are perceived by Israeli, by Japanese, and by American children. The Japanese showed a tendency to attribute living properties to inanimate things, while the Israelis conversely tended not to ascribe living properties to plants—investigations that cast doubt on the confident claims that have often been made that the perception of the kingdoms of ‘animals’ and ‘plants’ shows no diversity across the world among all human populations.

3) and that ‘no language uses more than three frames of reference’ (no. 4). It is of course in particular in the input from language, in the acquisition of a frame of reference, that Levinson’s explanatory hypothesis offers the sharpest challenge to the psychic unity position. Acknowledging that the views of Sapir and Whorf were sometimes open to criticism on the grounds of overstatement, Levinson proposes nevertheless a version of what he calls neo-Whorfianism. If we seek to explain the differences in the spatial cognition of different peoples, as they have now been revealed, then the languages that they acquire (including the gestures they use in communication) must be one factor.

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