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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg June 17, 2021

The Skilful Origins of Human Normative Cognition

  • Jonathan Birch
From the journal Analyse & Kritik


I briefly present and motivate a ‘skill hypothesis’ regarding the evolution of human normative cognition. On this hypothesis, the capacity to internally represent action-guiding norms evolved as a solution to the distinctive problems of standardizing, learning and teaching complex motor skills and craft skills, especially skills related to toolmaking. We have an evolved cognitive architecture for internalizing norms of technique, which was then co-opted for a rich array of social functions. There was a gradual expansion of the normative domain, with ritual playing an important role in bridging the gap between concrete, enacted norms and general, abstract norms, such as kinship norms. I conclude by stating nine predictions arising from the skill hypothesis.

Published Online: 2021-06-17
Published in Print: 2021-06-01

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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