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Sticks, Stones and the Origins of Sapience
In Squeezing Minds from Stones: Cognitive Archaeology and the Evolution of the Human Mind, Frederick L. Coolidge and Karenleigh A. Overmann (eds.). New York: Oxford University Press
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While sticks and stones have broken countless bones and helped provision thousands of generations of hominins, patterns underlying tool making and use may have had profounder consequences. This chapter explores the conjecture that tool use helped lay the foundations of key properties of modern minds: our propositional meaning system; wisdom and intuitions about meanings with their ineffable qualities and links to emotion; and our ability to walk, talk and think about meanings at the same time. We need to react to similar things with similar thoughts and behaviours (generalisation) while reacting to different things with different thoughts and behaviours. Differentiation within the behavioural systems of our precursor species (actions and vocalisations within their physical and social worlds) must have advanced in tandem with differentiation of their mental and neural systems. Tool use clearly contributed to that differentiation. Such differentiation creates new challenges for grasping what mental states underpinning perception, the control of vocal and physical actions, and bodily reactions all have in common. The emergence of two meaning systems in a specific architectural arrangement (Barnard & Teasdale 1991) is one plausible evolutionary response to those challenges that can account for how we think about meaningful abstractions, innovate and multitask.