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Amazon Deals in Books – $3.87 for ‘The Power of Metaphor: Examining Its Influence on Social Life’

December 5, 2014

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new book – ‘The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal’ by Daniel Cloud

December 1, 2014

The Domestication of Language

The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal by Daniel Cloud (Columbia University Press, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Language did not evolve only in the distant past. Our shared understanding of the meanings of words is ever-changing, and we make conscious, rational decisions about which words to use and what to mean by them every day. Applying Darwin’s theory of “unconscious artificial selection” to the evolution of linguistic conventions, Daniel Cloud suggests a new, evolutionary explanation for the rich, complex, and continually reinvented meanings of our words.

The choice of which words to use and in which sense to use them is both a “selection event” and an intentional decision, making Darwin’s account of artificial selection a particularly compelling model of the evolution of words. After drawing an analogy between the theory of domestication offered by Darwin and the evolution of human languages and cultures, Cloud applies his analytical framework to the question of what makes humans unique, and how they became that way. He incorporates insights from David Lewis’s Convention, Brian Skyrms’s Signals, and Kim Sterelny’s Evolved Apprentice, all while emphasizing the role of deliberate human choice in the crafting of language over time. His clever and intuitive model casts humans’ cultural and linguistic evolution as an integrated, dynamic process, with results that reach into all corners of our private lives and public character.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s homepage

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new book – ‘Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind’ by Chad Engelland

November 9, 2014

Ostension

Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind by Chad Engelland (MIT Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Ostension is bodily movement that manifests our engagement with things, whether we wish it to or not. Gestures, glances, facial expressions: all betray our interest in something. Ostension enables our first word learning, providing infants with a prelinguistic way to grasp the meaning of words. Ostension is philosophically puzzling; it cuts across domains seemingly unbridgeable — public–private, inner–outer, mind–body. In this book, Chad Engelland offers a philosophical investigation of ostension and its role in word learning by infants. Engelland discusses ostension (distinguishing it from ostensive definition) in contemporary philosophy, examining accounts by Quine, Davidson, and Gadamer, and he explores relevant empirical findings in psychology, evolutionary anthropology, and neuroscience. He offers original studies of four representative historical thinkers whose work enriches the understanding of ostension: Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty, Augustine, and Aristotle. And, building on these philosophical and empirical foundations, Engelland offers a meticulous analysis of the philosophical issues raised by ostension. He examines the phenomenological problem of whether embodied intentions are manifest or inferred; the problem of what concept of mind allows ostensive cues to be intersubjectively available; the epistemological problem of how ostensive cues, notoriously ambiguous, can be correctly understood; and the metaphysical problem of the ultimate status of the key terms in his argument: animate movement, language, and mind. Finally, he argues for the centrality of manifestation in philosophy. Taking ostension seriously, he proposes, has far-reaching implications for thinking about language and the practice of philosophy.

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new book by Steven Pinker – ‘The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century’

September 30, 2014

The Sense of Style

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker (Viking, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A short and entertaining book on the modern art of writing well by New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.

In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.

Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.

Google Books preview:

Book trailer:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘The Risk of Reading: How Literature Helps Us to Understand Ourselves and the World’ by Robert P. Waxler

September 22, 2014

The Risk of Reading
The Risk of Reading: How Literature Helps Us to Understand Ourselves and the World by Robert P. Waxler (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

The Risk of Reading is a defense of the idea that deep and close readings of literature can help us to understand ourselves and the world around us. It explores some of the meaning and implications of modern life through the deep reading of significant books. Waxler argues that we need “fiction” to give our so-called “real life” meaning and that reading narrative fiction remains crucial to the making of a humane and democratic society.

Beginning by exploring the implications of thinking about the importance of story in terms of “real life”, The Risk of Reading focuses on the importance of human language, especially language shaped into narrative, and how that language is central to the human quest for identity. Waxler argues that we are “linguistic beings,” and that reading literary narrative is a significant way to enrich and preserve the traditional sense of human identity and knowledge. This is especially true in the midst of a culture which too often celebrates visual images, spectacle, electronic devices, and celebrity. Reading narrative, in other words, should be considered a counter-cultural activity crucial on the quest to “know thyself.” Reading literature is one of the best opportunities we have today to maintain a coherent human identity and remain self-reflective individuals in a world that seems particularly chaotic and confusing.

Each chapter takes up a well-known work of nineteenth- or twentieth-century literature in order to discuss more fully these issues, exploring, in particular, the notion of life as a journey or quest and the crucial relationship between language and our contingent everyday existence. Of particular interest along the way is the question of what literary narrative can teach us about our mortality and how stories offer opportunities to reflect on the ambivalent and profound meaning of mortal knowledge.

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