Verbs, Bones, and Brains
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature
The last few decades have seen an unprecedented surge of empirical and philosophical research into the evolutionary history of Homo sapiens, the origins of the mind/brain, and human culture. This research and its popular interpretations have sparked heated debates about the nature of human beings and how knowledge about humans from the sciences and humanities should be properly understood. The goal of Verbs, Bones, and Brains: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature is to engage these themes and present current debates, discussions, and discourse for a range of readers. The contributors bring the discussion to life with key experts outlining major concepts paired with cross-disciplinary commentaries in order to create a novel approach to thinking about, and with, human natures. The intent of the contributors to this volume is not to enter into or adjudicate complex philosophical issues of an epistemological or metaphysical nature. Instead, their common concern is to set aside the rigid distinctions between biology and culture that have made such discussions problematic. First, informing their approach is an acknowledgment of the widespread disagreement about such basic metaphysical and epistemological questions as the existence of God, the nature of scientific knowledge, and the existence of essences, among other topics. Second, they try to identify and explicate the assumptions that enter into their conceptualizations of human nature. Throughout, they emphasize the importance of seeking a convergence in our views on human nature, despite metaphysical disagreements. They caution that if convergence eludes us and a common ground cannot be found, this is itself a relevant result: it would reveal to us how deeply our questions about ourselves are connected to our basic metaphysical assumptions. Instead, their focus is on how the interdisciplinary and possibly transdisciplinary conversation can be enhanced in order to identify and develop a common ground on what constitutes human nature.
"This is a landmark volume for those fostering collaboration between the sciences and humanities. It shows the fruitfulness of a mutually respectful and yet rigorous approach to cross-disciplinary engagement. The editors and contributors are to be congratulated, not only for clarifying areas of common and contested ground, within and among the participating disciplines, but also for clearing the ground for future transdisciplinary inquiry on human nature." —William Storrar, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, NJ
“Human nature is a difficult topic: it has major relevance to many social debates raging today, and writers in anthropology, psychology, history, and philosophy have long wrestled with it. Each of these fields is represented here. . . . The collection is fascinating, well organized, and well edited, and its interdisciplinary nature led the contributors to define key terms, a benefit to lay readers.” —Choice
"Agustín Fuentes and Aku Visala have produced a benchmark collection of essays on the contemporary understanding of human nature. Their work engages very different fields of study, from biology and anthropology to theology and philosophy, yet the authors clearly convey the idea that they are dealing with a shared set of questions while making the case for this transdisciplinary approach to the problem. Engaging and accessible, the volume opens up many opportunities for further exploration." —Robin W. Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics emeritus, Southern Methodist University