Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

Linking History and Cognitive Science

Is the mind naturally given and universally fixed, or culturally constituted and historically contingent? The question points up a hermeneutic catch-22: a fixed mind anchors reconstruction but flattens historical change, a contingent one adds interpretative depth but threatens the intelligibility of the past. Historians who did not pass over the question rarely looked to the sciences for answering it, the latter treated mind as unhistorical. Recent decades have seen them converge, a ‘turn to science’ in historiography is matched by a renewed attention to culture and development in the sciences of mind and life. In spite of a shared commitment to collaboration, the old fault line continues to cast a divisive shadow over attempts to map out the biosocial landscape. The current tension between two alternative visions of the raison d’être and future of Cognitive History serves as a case in point. A closer look at the ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ suggests that cultivating this tension might be the only way of doing justice to both.

Book Chapter in Historians Without Borders: New Studies in Multidisciplinary History, ed. Lawrence Abrams and Kaleb Knoblauch, (S.l.: Routledge), April 2019.

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