Merlin Donald
A Mind so Rare
W.W.Norton 2002


Donald - Mind XII
XII We stubbornly adhere to the idea that we are distinct individuals, yet are also highly cultural beings. Indeed, humanity might be defined as the only species on earth that combines individual with collective cognitive processes and in which the individual can identify with, and become part of, a group process.
XIII The key to understanding the human intellect is not so much the design of the individual brain as the synergy of many brains. We have evolved an adaption for living in culture... From our earliest birth as a species, humanity has relied upon creating distributed systems of thought and memory, in which intellectual work is shared across many nervous systems.
XIV
On a deeper level, any given culture is a gigantic cognitive web, defining and constraining the parameters of memory, knowledge, and thought in its members, both as individuals and as a group... Culture itself, as well as its two principal byproducts, languages and symbols, are consequences of a radical change in the nature of consciousness. We are the species that invented culture, but the roots of that remarkable public invention lie, of all places, in our most private place, the conscious mind.

Donald - Mind 129
149
The Myth of the isolated Mind
The main difference between apes and us is culture, or more specifically symbolic culture, which is largely outside, not inside, the brainbox. Culture distributes cognitive activity across many brains and dominates the minds of its members.

The isolated mind model works well in the study of nonhuman animals. Animal cognition rarely escapes the boundaries of its own embodiment, and what ever the areas of animal culture, it plays a small role in forming the individual mind. Even highly sophisticated animals, such as apes, have no choice but to approach the world solipsistically because they cannot share ideas and thoughts in any detail.

Boe: sharing - interaction - communication - communio -

153 In humans, even after our expanded brain is factored in, something remains that cannot be accounted for by in eight properties. That additional element is enculturation. The specific form of the modern mind has been determined largely by culture. The creative collision between the conscious mind and distributed cultural systems has altered the very form of human cognition. It has also changed the tools with which we think. Language, art and all our symbolic technologies have emerged from this collective enterprise.

Donald - Mind 202
202
Symbolic minds are not self-sufficient neural devices, like eyes. They are hybrid products of a brain-culture symbiosis. Expanded conscious capacity provides raw capacity, but it is unprogrammed capacity. Without culture, we could never have become full-fledged symbolising organisms.

211
Deep Enculturation
The incorporation of a human child into a symbolic culture is an enormously complex affair. Shortly after birth, the infant is wedded to a specific culture that takes control of its cognitive development through a series of transactions. This may sound improbable because cultural linkages are invisible to the child. They hide behind many surrogates, such as parents, family, tribal customs, institutions, and so on. These are the carriers of the culture, the frontlines of the infant's encounter with vast collective forces that it never sees and whose existence even the surrogates may not suspect. This process is radically different from anything that occurs in other species.
The enculturation of the mind amounts to a third factoring development, unique to our species. This third factor (the first two being genes and environment) might be labelled „deep“, or cognitive enculturation to distinguish it from the shallower forms of enculturation that are common to many species and have no structuring effect on the mind.

215
We are our own conscious creations.

252 Hybrid minds: We aquire our symbolic skills from the outside in. Therefore we had to evolve them in the same way. Symbolic thought and language are inherenttly network phenomena. Thus their existence cannot be explained in a solipsistic manner.
Abandoning solipsism: The theory outlined in this chapter might be called biocultural. It places the origin of language in cognitive communities, in the interconnected and distributed activity of many brains. Such communities have their independent dynamics.

253 The evolution of human cognitive communities can be taken as an excellent example of emergent evolution...
The formation of cognitive communities was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary events in the history of the biosphere, yet it seems to have been caused by relatively simple expansion of the executive brain, with a corresponding change in the developmental plasticity.
The specific form of human consciousness was fixed by the demands of this adaptation. We are culture-mongers, driven by the very nature of our awareness to seek refuge and solace in community. We connect with and learn from others to a unique degree.

Boe: Sinnsystem - vgl. Luhmann, Fuchs

The evolutionary origins of language are tied to the very early emergence of knowledge networks, feeling networks and memory networks, all of which form the cognitive heart of culture.

Language was undoubtedly produced by Darwinian selection, but it involved indirectly, under conditions that favoured those hominids who could make their shared cognitive networks more and more precise...

The first priority was not to speak, use words, or develop grammars. It was to bond as a group, to learn to share attention and set up the social patterns that would sustain such sharing and bonding in the species.

Boe: sharing - interaction: bonding - agonal-affiliativ; cooperation-competition

305
The Third Transition: the invention of symbolic technologies
Symbols can be internal or external to the brain. For example, the words of spoken language are internal symbols stored in the brains of speakers and listeners. The same words typed on a sheet of paper become external symbols, stored on the printed page, rather than in the brain.

Symbolic technology is the enterprise of manufacturing and crafting external symbolic artefacts and devices. They have enabled us to build a vast cultural storehouse and an external symbolic storage system, which serves as
a permanent group memory and includes such things as books, museums measuring instruments, calendars and computers.

Donald - Mind 324
324 Coda:
The human brain is the only brain in the biosphere whose potential cannot be realised on its own. It needs to become part of a network before its design features can be expressed. Since we are living beings, the networks we create are complex, fuzzy, and multilayered, rather than lean and mean, or driven solely by the needs of symbolic communication. This makes our networks radically different from those that have been invented for nonliving entities, such as computers.
The cognitive infrastructure of human culture includes many things that we do not normally call symbolic, such as patterns of public action, the built environment, and conventional expressions of emotion. These things are the cognitive purpose, because they convey a great deal about intention, bonding, affiliation, attachment, and hierarchy. They provide structure.
By eliminating the need for the explicit encoding of many
important parameters of collective cognition, and by embedding layer upon layer of tacit or implicit knowledge in a cultural network, they make it feasible to evolve in a distributed fashion the kinds of highly abstract symbolic systems that we now take for granted.

326
As our latest speculations about awareness pour onto the pages of more and more books and scientific papers, they will change some of our old ideas about awareness. But the ideas were not really our own in the first place; that is, they do not belong to any of us in a personal way. They are products of a collective process that defines the peaks and valleys of a virtual landscape of meaning.
Ideas are under constant revision by a collective process that often masquerades as a highly personal quest. If anything in this book can be construed as truly „my own“ or acknowledged in some way as „my“ achievement, it is only in the sense that I might have successfully become
a temporary vortex within the culture, a point of convergence whereby certain forces have become concentrated in my consciousness temporarily, before returning, transformed, to the collective matrices whence they came.

Boe: Antonio Machado
Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada mas.
Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. 
Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atras
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar. 
Caminante, no hay camino sino estelas en el mar



Merlin Donald

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