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Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

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  • William Benzon
    Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It s based on a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida. Bill B
    Message 1 of 15 , Sep 15, 2009
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      Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
      a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

      Bill B


      http://www.literatureandthebrain.com/index.htm
    • Jeff P. Turpin
      Good deal. I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent This is THE adaptive function of literature texts that have popped out recently. Stories
      Message 2 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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        Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

        Jeff P. Turpin, President
        Turpin and Sons Inc.
        Cultural Resource Management
        2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
        (512) 922-7826
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
        Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

         

        Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
        a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

        Bill B

        http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

      • Tim Horvath
        Holland s book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can t wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it? Jeff--Can you
        Message 3 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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          Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

          Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

          Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

          Best,

          Tim

          -----Original Message-----
          From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@...>
          To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

           
          Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

          Jeff P. Turpin, President
          Turpin and Sons Inc.
          Cultural Resource Management
          2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
          (512) 922-7826
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
          Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

           
          Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
          a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

          Bill B

          http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

        • Tim Horvath
          That should ve read, Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the
          Message 4 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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            That should've read,

            Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

            [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

            Tim

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@...>
            To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
            Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

             
            Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

            Jeff P. Turpin, President
            Turpin and Sons Inc.
            Cultural Resource Management
            2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
            (512) 922-7826
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
            Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

             
            Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
            a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

            Bill B

            http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

          • William Benzon
            I¹ve not read it but I¹ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it¹s full of ideas. As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that
            Message 5 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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              Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain I’ve not read it but I’ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it’s full of ideas.

              As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that Holland says much about it, that’s no where he’s coming from.

              I share Jeff’s skepticism about speculations on that score. Here’s a post in which I suggest that the Wilson/Carroll proposal is bad biology that seems to be based on Christian mythology.

              Paradise Lost, a Darwinian Dance to a Christian Tune
              http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/paradise_lost_a_darwinian_dance_to_a_christian_tune/

              Bill B


              on 9/16/09 11:17 AM, Tim Horvath at horvathon@... wrote:

               
              Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

              Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

              Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

              Best,

              Tim

              -----Original Message-----
              From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@...>
              To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
              Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

              Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

              Jeff P. Turpin, President
              Turpin and Sons Inc.
              Cultural Resource Management
              2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
              (512) 922-7826

            • Carroll, Joseph C.
              Here s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive functions. A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five,
              Message 6 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                Here’s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive functions.  A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five, though he tends to come down on “pattern recognition” as the biggie:

                 

                Perhaps the most important problem in evolutionary literary study concerns the adaptive functions of literature and other arts—whether there are any adaptive functions, and if so, what they might be. Steven Pinker has suggested that aesthetic responsiveness is merely a side effect of cognitive powers that evolved to fulfill more practical functions (524-43), but Pinker also suggests that narratives can provide information for adaptively relevant problems—an idea also championed by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Geoffrey Miller suggests that artistic productions serve as forms of sexual display. Brian Boyd argues that the arts are forms of cognitive “play” enhancing pattern recognition. Boyd and Ellen Dissanayake also argue that the arts provide means of creating shared social identity. In company with Dissanayake, E. O. Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides, Salmon and Symons, and Denis Dutton , I argue that the arts create “meaning.” They provide imaginative structures that give emotionally and aesthetically modulated form to the relations among all the features of our lives—natural, supernatural, individual, and social. The hypothesis of “meaning” subsumes the ideas that the arts provide adaptively relevant information, enable us to consider alternative behavioral scenarios, enhance pattern recognition, and serve as means for creating shared social identity. And of course, the arts can be used for sexual display. In that respect, the arts are like most other human products—clothing, jewelry, shelter, means of transportation, etc. The hypothesis that the arts create meaning is not incompatible with the hypothesis of sexual display, but it subordinates sexual display to a more primary adaptive function.

                 

                I went ahead and ordered the Holland book, too, though with some misgiving.  Back in the day, Holland did some of the flakier and more flamboyant Freudian readings.  I use his reading of “Kubla Khan” to illustrate Freudian literary criticism in courses on literary theory.  A demon love is like a father, so the poem is about Oedipal repression, etc.  The deep romantic chasm awakens sexually suggestive echoes for my male students, but then, they are very suggestible.  “Stare at this ink blot. Does it remind you of female genitalia?”  “Well, shoot, doc, everything reminds me of female genitalia.”

                 

                Joe Carroll


                From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Tim Horvath
                Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:20 AM
                To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                 

                 

                That should've read,

                Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

                Tim

                 

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                 

                Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt


                Jeff P. Turpin, President
                Turpin and Sons Inc.
                Cultural Resource Management
                2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                (512) 922-7826

                ----- Original Message -----

                Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM

                Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                 

                 

                Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                Bill B

                http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

              • Jeff P. Turpin
                Hi Tim. I don t want to call out any specific authors or approaches on a listserv, (especially when I may be on the job market soon!), but as I am finishing
                Message 7 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                  Hi Tim.  I don't want to call out any specific authors or approaches on a listserv, (especially when I may be on the job market soon!), but as I am finishing my dissertation I am revisiting a handful of books, both from evolutionary psychology and cognitive psychology, that essentially say "This [one or two reasons] is why we read or write or tell or listen to stories."  In my dissertation I discuss or formally advance at least a dozen different adaptive functions for story production and consumption.  I think the baseline thesis has to be that stories serve a large number of functions, and identifying those functions is a necessary part of discussing why and how.  As an archeologist I frequently find myself reading unitary explanations of this or that archeological feature, "This is THE purpose . . .," and occasionally this is true, but often it is not, because prehistoric peoples were efficient, and single-purpose adaptations might be wasteful . . . and the reductivism in these cases is retrograde to knowledge.  Some authors writing about Australian Aborigine Dreamtime songs (and other aboriginal tales from around the world) claim that the songs pass on knowledge about the local environment, and this is undoubtedly true . . . but they also directly serve to codify ingroup/outgroup distinctions, to establish claims to specific territory, to prop up the group's internal social hierarchy, to establish and maintain taboos, and even to creatively adapt to environmental changes, etc.  Claiming that they just pass on survival information from the local physical environment (where the water and food is, where dangerous places are, what the territorial boundaries are) is true, but reductive.  They do much, much more.  We more accurately describe adaptive functions, and strengthen our position, when we recognize and acknowledge this multiplicity.  Hopefully we'll all be able to flesh this out at a good adaptionist conference sometime soon (my faculty is encouraging me to apply for funding to host a symposium on literary Darwinism sometime in the next year or two). But right now I just want to finish my diss and read for pleasure again (a unitary function !?!).  jt

                  Jeff P. Turpin, President
                  Turpin and Sons Inc.
                  Cultural Resource Management
                  2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                  (512) 922-7826
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:17 AM
                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                   

                  Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

                  Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

                  Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                  Best,

                  Tim

                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                  To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                  Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                   
                  Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                  Jeff P. Turpin, President
                  Turpin and Sons Inc.
                  Cultural Resource Management
                  2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                  (512) 922-7826
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
                  Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                   
                  Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                  a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                  Bill B

                  http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

                • Jeff P. Turpin
                  Well put. Simply substituting the phrase one function for the function makes the point. Lots of tools in the kit. jt Jeff P. Turpin, President Turpin and
                  Message 8 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                    Well put.  Simply substituting the phrase "one function" for "the function" makes the point.  Lots of tools in the kit. jt

                    Jeff P. Turpin, President
                    Turpin and Sons Inc.
                    Cultural Resource Management
                    2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                    (512) 922-7826
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:42 AM
                    Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                     

                    Here’s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive functions.  A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five, though he tends to come down on “pattern recognition” as the biggie:

                    Perhaps the most important problem in evolutionary literary study concerns the adaptive functions of literature and other arts—whether there are any adaptive functions, and if so, what they might be. Steven Pinker has suggested that aesthetic responsiveness is merely a side effect of cognitive powers that evolved to fulfill more practical functions (524-43), but Pinker also suggests that narratives can provide information for adaptively relevant problems—an idea also championed by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Geoffrey Miller suggests that artistic productions serve as forms of sexual display. Brian Boyd argues that the arts are forms of cognitive “play” enhancing pattern recognition. Boyd and Ellen Dissanayake also argue that the arts provide means of creating shared social identity. In company with Dissanayake, E. O. Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides, Salmon and Symons, and Denis Dutton , I argue that the arts create “meaning.” They provide imaginative structures that give emotionally and aesthetically modulated form to the relations among all the features of our lives—natural, supernatural, individual, and social. The hypothesis of “meaning” subsumes the ideas that the arts provide adaptively relevant information, enable us to consider alternative behavioral scenarios, enhance pattern recognition, and serve as means for creating shared social identity. And of course, the arts can be used for sexual display. In that respect, the arts are like most other human products—clothing, jewelry, shelter, means of transportation, etc. The hypothesis that the arts create meaning is not incompatible with the hypothesis of sexual display, but it subordinates sexual display to a more primary adaptive function.

                    I went ahead and ordered the Holland book, too, though with some misgiving.  Back in the day, Holland did some of the flakier and more flamboyant Freudian readings.  I use his reading of “Kubla Khan” to illustrate Freudian literary criticism in courses on literary theory.  A demon love is like a father, so the poem is about Oedipal repression, etc.  The deep romantic chasm awakens sexually suggestive echoes for my male students, but then, they are very suggestible.  “Stare at this ink blot. Does it remind you of female genitalia?”  “Well, shoot, doc, everything reminds me of female genitalia.”

                    Joe Carroll


                    From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto:biopoet@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Tim Horvath
                    Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:20 AM
                    To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                    Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                     

                    That should've read,

                    Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                    [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

                    Tim

                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                    To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                    Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                    Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                     

                    Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt


                    Jeff P. Turpin, President
                    Turpin and Sons Inc.
                    Cultural Resource Management
                    2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                    (512) 922-7826

                    ----- Original Message -----

                    Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM

                    Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                     

                    Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                    a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                    Bill B

                    http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

                  • Jeff P. Turpin
                    Good. A provocative spin. But is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no
                    Message 9 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                      Good.  A provocative spin.  But is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively?  The distinctions are important, I think

                      Jeff P. Turpin, President
                      Turpin and Sons Inc.
                      Cultural Resource Management
                      2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                      (512) 922-7826
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:40 AM
                      Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                       

                      I’ve not read it but I’ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it’s full of ideas.

                      As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that Holland says much about it, that’s no where he’s coming from.

                      I share Jeff’s skepticism about speculations on that score. Here’s a post in which I suggest that the Wilson/Carroll proposal is bad biology that seems to be based on Christian mythology.

                      Paradise Lost, a Darwinian Dance to a Christian Tune
                      http://www.thevalve .org/go/valve/ article/paradise _lost_a_darwinia n_dance_to_ a_christian_ tune/

                      Bill B


                      on 9/16/09 11:17 AM, Tim Horvath at horvathon@aol. com wrote:


                       
                      Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

                      Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

                      Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                      Best,

                      Tim

                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                      To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                      Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                      Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                      Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                      Jeff P. Turpin, President
                      Turpin and Sons Inc.
                      Cultural Resource Management
                      2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                      (512) 922-7826

                    • Carroll, Joseph C.
                      I ll copy below the paragraphs that follow the quick summary of the various adaptive functions people have suggested. This is from an article on agonistic
                      Message 10 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                        I’ll copy below the paragraphs that follow the quick summary of the various adaptive functions people have suggested.  This is from an article on “agonistic structure” in Victorian novels—one specific structural feature.  The editors wanted some more elaboration on how far we generalize from this one feature to the question of adaptive function in general:

                         

                        In this current study, our central hypothesis was that protagonists and their associates would form communities of cooperative endeavor and that antagonists would exemplify dominance behavior. If this hypothesis proved correct, the ethos reflected in the agonistic structure of the novels would replicate the egalitarian ethos of hunter-gatherers, who stigmatize and suppress status-seeking in potentially dominant individuals (Boehm). Hunter-gatherers use spoken language to enforce an egalitarian ethos. Written narratives are of course merely a cultural technology extending the usages of spoken language. In hunter-gatherer cultures, language as a medium for articulating a social ethos is restricted to face-to-face interactions. With the advent of literacy, language could be used as a medium for articulating a social ethos on a national and international scale. In a literate culture, authors and readers who have never met and never will meet can form communities of shared values through the medium of written narratives. A basic presupposition in our study was that the novels do in fact form a medium of shared values. We hypothesized that on the average protagonists, in their motives and personality traits, would reflect values the authors approve and that they expect their readers to approve. Antagonists would reflect values authors and their readers do not approve. Approval and disapproval would be registered in the emotional responses of our respondents.

                        By using a wide, representative array of motives, personality traits, criteria for selecting mates, and basic motives, we created a “palette” of potential value structures that could have produced an almost limitless number of possible combinations. Focusing on the contrast between protagonists and antagonists made it possible to determine whether this array of potential values produced any strongly dichotomized contrast—whether the array of potential values could be understood as an opposition between “good” and “bad” characteristics. How does all this bear on the question of the adaptive function of literature and the other arts?  We concentrate on just one basic adaptive characteristic: the evolved human disposition for suppressing dominance and enforcing an egalitarian, communitarian ethos. If suppressing dominance in hunter-gatherers fulfills an adaptive social function, and if agonistic structure in the novels engages the same social dispositions that animate hunter-gatherers, the novels would, as a literate cultural technology, fulfill the same adaptive function that in non-literate cultures must be fulfilled through face-to-face interaction.

                        Assuming we can make the case that agonistic structure in the novels displays an ethos stigmatizing dominance behavior and promoting cooperative, prosocial behavior, how far can we generalize from that finding to all literature, in every period and every culture? Logically, it is possible that no other literary texts anywhere in the world display highly polarized differences between protagonists and antagonists or fulfill any adaptive function at all. Hypothetically possible, but not very likely. If our arguments hold good for this body of texts, they demonstrate that at least one important body of fictional narratives fulfills at least one adaptive function. It seems unlikely that in this important respect this body of novels is wholly anomalous.

                        In arguing that agonistic structure in these novels fulfills an adaptive social function, we do not suppose that we have isolated the sole adaptive function of all literature. Quite the contrary. Along with other evolutionary literary theorists, we strongly suspect that literature fulfills other functions. We argue that the social dynamics animating these novels derive from ancient, basic features of human nature. Such features would in all likelihood appear in some fictional narratives in most or all cultures. We would of course be interested to know whether the kind of agonistic structure we identify in these novels is in fact a human universal. If it is a human universal, we would also be interested to know how it varies in form in different cultural ecologies. (Marriage is a human universal but varies in form from culture to culture. We might expect agonistic structure, like marriage, to vary in form.) These questions would make good topics of research for other studies. Until those studies are conducted, though, the topics are only a matter for theoretical speculation. For this current study, we can positively affirm only the conclusions we think our data allow us to draw. Hence the limiting terms in our title: paleolithic politics in British novels of the nineteenth century

                         

                         


                        From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jeff P. Turpin
                        Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:57 AM
                        To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                         

                         

                        Well put.  Simply substituting the phrase "one function" for "the function" makes the point.  Lots of tools in the kit. jt


                        Jeff P. Turpin, President
                        Turpin and Sons Inc.
                        Cultural Resource Management
                        2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                        (512) 922-7826

                        ----- Original Message -----

                        Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:42 AM

                        Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                         

                         

                        Here’s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive functions.  A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five, though he tends to come down on “pattern recognition” as the biggie:

                        Perhaps the most important problem in evolutionary literary study concerns the adaptive functions of literature and other arts—whether there are any adaptive functions, and if so, what they might be. Steven Pinker has suggested that aesthetic responsiveness is merely a side effect of cognitive powers that evolved to fulfill more practical functions (524-43), but Pinker also suggests that narratives can provide information for adaptively relevant problems—an idea also championed by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Geoffrey Miller suggests that artistic productions serve as forms of sexual display. Brian Boyd argues that the arts are forms of cognitive “play” enhancing pattern recognition. Boyd and Ellen Dissanayake also argue that the arts provide means of creating shared social identity. In company with Dissanayake, E. O. Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides, Salmon and Symons, and Denis Dutton , I argue that the arts create “meaning.” They provide imaginative structures that give emotionally and aesthetically modulated form to the relations among all the features of our lives—natural, supernatural, individual, and social. The hypothesis of “meaning” subsumes the ideas that the arts provide adaptively relevant information, enable us to consider alternative behavioral scenarios, enhance pattern recognition, and serve as means for creating shared social identity. And of course, the arts can be used for sexual display. In that respect, the arts are like most other human products—clothing, jewelry, shelter, means of transportation, etc. The hypothesis that the arts create meaning is not incompatible with the hypothesis of sexual display, but it subordinates sexual display to a more primary adaptive function.

                        I went ahead and ordered the Holland book, too, though with some misgiving.  Back in the day, Holland did some of the flakier and more flamboyant Freudian readings.  I use his reading of “Kubla Khan” to illustrate Freudian literary criticism in courses on literary theory.  A demon love is like a father, so the poem is about Oedipal repression, etc.  The deep romantic chasm awakens sexually suggestive echoes for my male students, but then, they are very suggestible.  “Stare at this ink blot. Does it remind you of female genitalia?”  “Well, shoot, doc, everything reminds me of female genitalia.”

                        Joe Carroll


                        From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto:biopoet@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Tim Horvath
                        Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:20 AM
                        To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                        Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                         

                        That should've read,

                        Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                        [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

                        Tim

                        -----Original Message-----
                        From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                        To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                        Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                        Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                         

                        Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt


                        Jeff P. Turpin, President
                        Turpin and Sons Inc.
                        Cultural Resource Management
                        2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                        (512) 922-7826

                        ----- Original Message -----

                        Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM

                        Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                         

                        Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                        a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                        Bill B

                        http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

                      • Carroll, Joseph C.
                        Is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively?
                        Message 11 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                          Is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively? 

                           

                                          Option three is of course the correct answer.

                           

                          As indicated in the paragraphs on the adaptive function of agonistic structure, I envision human nature as an array of conserved “dispositions,” strong tendencies to act in species-typical ways.  All animals have evolved conserved dispositions, but the “higher” animals (dolphins, crows, chimpanzees, etc.) have some flexibility in behavioral patterns. Humans obviously have vastly more behavioral flexibility than animals of other species.  They are driven by strongly conserved passions (sex, survival, parenting, social interaction, etc.), but they also have an exceptional capacity for suppressing impulse and for organizing their behavior in accordance with complex, long-term plans. Those complex, long-term plans are regulated by imaginative constructions—images we hold of our own identity, our social roles, and the whole complex of relations (natural, supernatural, and social) in which we are always embedded. When I speak of literature and the other arts producing “meaning,” it is to those complex imaginative constructions that I refer.

                           

                                      If you think about it, all this is just common sense.  People have common, species typical impulses derived from genetically encoded anatomical, physiological, and neurological structures.  But they also have a uniquely rich cognitive and imaginative life.  The “human condition” consists in the interaction between those two things—powerful animal passions, and the power of creating abstract imaginative structures that regulate our passions.  It is because we can regulate passions that human behavioral patterns are so much more variable than the behavioral patterns of other animals.

                           

                                      Here are a few paragraphs on that topic:

                           

                                      To solve the puzzle of adaptive function, we have to satisfy three criteria: (a) define art in a way that identifies what is peculiar and essential to it—thus isolating the behavioral disposition in question; (b) identify the adaptive problem this behavioral disposition would have solved in ancestral environments; and (c) identify design features that would efficiently have mediated this solution. Various writers have formulated propositions that collectively meet these three challenges. We can define art as the disposition for creating artifacts that are emotionally charged and aesthetically shaped in such a way that they evoke or depict subjective, qualitative sensations, images, or ideas. Literature, specifically, produces subjectively modulated images of the world and of our experience in the world. The disposition for creating such images would have solved an adaptive problem that, like art itself, is unique for the human species: organizing motivational systems disconnected from the immediate promptings of instinct. The design features that mediate this adaptive function are the capacities for producing artistic constructs such as narrative and verse and emotionally modulated musical and visual patterns.

                          The core element in this hypothesis—the adaptive problem art is designed to solve—is formulated most clearly by E. O. Wilson in Consilience. Wilson directly poses the question also posed by Pinker:

                          If the arts are steered by inborn rules of mental development, they are end products not just of conventional history but also of genetic evolution. The question remains: Were the genetic guides mere byproducts—epiphenomena—of that evolution, or were they adaptations that directly improved survival and reproduction? And if adaptations, what exactly were the advantages conferred?

                          Wilson ’s answer to this question draws a decisive line between the mental powers of humans and other animals. Other animals are “instinct-driven.” Humans are not. “The most distinctive qualities of the human species are extremely high intelligence, language, culture, and reliance on long-term contracts.” The adaptive value of high intelligence is that it provides the means for behavioral flexibility—for generating plans based on mental representations of complex relationships, engaging in collective enterprises requiring shared mental representations, and thus producing novel solutions to adaptive problems. Behavioral flexibility has made of the human species the most successful alpha predator of all time, but achieving dominance in this way has come with a cost. Wilson speaks of the “psychological exile” of the species. To the modern human mind, alone among all minds in the animal kingdom, the world does not present itself as a series of rigidly defined stimuli releasing a narrow repertory of stereotyped behaviors. It presents itself as a vast and potentially perplexing array of percepts, inferences, causal relations, contingent possibilities, analogies, contrasts, and hierarchical conceptual structures. The human mind is free to organize the elements of cognition in an infinitely diverse array of combinatorial possibilities. And most of those potential forms of organization, like most major mutations, would be fatal. Freedom is the key to human success, and it is also an invitation to disaster. This is the insight that governs Wilson ’s explanation for the adaptive function of the arts. “There was not enough time for human heredity to cope with the vastness of new contingent possibilities revealed by high intelligence. . . . The arts filled the gap.”[1] If instincts are defined as stereotyped programs of behavior released automatically by environmental stimuli, we can say that in humans the arts partially take the place of instinct. Along with religion, ideology, and other emotionally charged belief systems, the arts form an imaginative interface between complex mental structures, genetically transmitted behavioral dispositions, and behavior.

                          High human intelligence is part of a larger, systemic structure of species-typical adaptations that include altricial birth, extended childhood, male-female bonding coupled with male coalitions, dual parenting, post-menopausal survival, longevity, the development of skills for the extraction of high-quality resources, an enlarged neocortex that enhances powers for suppressing impulses and engaging in long-term planning, symbolic capacities enabling identification with extended social groups (“tribal instincts”), egalitarian dispositions operating in tension with conserved dispositions for individual dominance, and the power to subordinate, in some degree, impulses of survival and reproduction to the formal dictates of imagined virtual worlds. . . . 

                           

                          “Human nature” means that humans share species-typical dispositions: basic motives tied closely to the needs of survival, mating, parenting, and social interaction. Cognitive and behavioral flexibility are part of human nature, but they have not eliminated the underlying regularities in basic motives. In different ecologies and different forms of social organization, the elements of human nature combine in distinctive ways, but “culture” cannot build structures out of nothing. It must work with the genetically transmitted dispositions of an evolved and adapted human nature. The arts give imaginative shape to the experiences possible within any given culture, reflecting its tensions, conflicts, and satisfactions. One chief aim for evolutionary studies in the humanities is to analyze the way any given culture organizes the elements of human nature, evaluate the aesthetic, emotional, and moral qualities inherent in that organization, and probe the way it influences—by conformist pressure or antagonistic stimulus—specific works of literature. . . .

                           

                          Consider the reality of our experience. We live in the imagination. For us, humans, no action or event is ever just itself. It is always a component in mental representations of the natural and social order, extending over time. All our actions take place within imaginative structures that include our vision of the world and our place in the world—our internal conflicts and concerns, our relations to other people, our relations to nature, and our relations to whatever spiritual forces we imagine might exist. We live in communities that consist not just of the people with whom we come directly into contact but with memories of the dead, traditions of our ancestors, our sense of connection with generations yet unborn, and with every person, living or dead, who joins with us in imaginative structures—social, ideological, religious, or philosophical—that subordinate our individual selves to some collective body. Our sense of our selves derives from our myths and artistic traditions, from the stories we tell, the songs we sing, and the visual images that surround us.

                          We have all had moments in which some song, story, or play, some film, piece of music, or painting, has transfigured our vision of the world, broadened our minds, deepened our emotional understanding, or given us new insight into human experience. Working out from this common observation to a hypothesis about the adaptive function of literature requires no great speculative leap. Literature and the other arts help us live our lives. That is why the arts are human universals. In all known cultures, the arts enter profoundly into normal childhood development, connect individuals to their culture, and help people get oriented to the world, emotionally, morally, and conceptually.

                          If it is true that the arts are adaptively functional, they would be motivated as emotionally driven needs. The need to produce and consume imaginative artifacts would be as real and distinct a need as hunger, sexual desire, maternal and filial bonding, or the desire for social contact. Like all such needs, it would bear within itself, as its motivating mechanism, the pleasure and satisfaction that attend upon the fulfilling of desire. That kind of fulfillment would not be a parasitic by-product of some other form of pleasure, nor merely a means for fulfilling some other kind of need—sexual, social, or practical. Like all forms of fulfillment, the need for art could be integrated with other needs in any number of ways. It could be used for sexual display or the gratifications of sexual hunger or social vanity, and it could be used as a medium for social bonding. Nonetheless, in itself it would be a primary and irreducible human need.

                           

                           


                          From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jeff P. Turpin
                          Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:04 AM
                          To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                           

                           

                          Good.  A provocative spin.  But is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively?  The distinctions are important, I think


                          Jeff P. Turpin, President
                          Turpin and Sons Inc.
                          Cultural Resource Management
                          2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                          (512) 922-7826

                          ----- Original Message -----

                          Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:40 AM

                          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                           

                           

                          I’ve not read it but I’ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it’s full of ideas.

                          As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that Holland says much about it, that’s no where he’s coming from.

                          I share Jeff’s skepticism about speculations on that score. Here’s a post in which I suggest that the Wilson/Carroll proposal is bad biology that seems to be based on Christian mythology.

                          Paradise Lost, a Darwinian Dance to a Christian Tune
                          http://www.thevalve .org/go/valve/ article/paradise _lost_a_darwinia n_dance_to_ a_christian_ tune/

                          Bill B


                          on 9/16/09 11:17 AM, Tim Horvath at horvathon@aol. com wrote:


                           
                          Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

                          Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

                          Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                          Best,

                          Tim

                          -----Original Message-----
                          From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                          To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                          Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                          Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                          Jeff P. Turpin, President
                          Turpin and Sons Inc.
                          Cultural Resource Management
                          2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                          (512) 922-7826

                           



                          [1] E. Wilson , Consilience, 224-25. Also see Peter Swirski, Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory ( London : Routledge, 2007), 68-95.

                        • Tim Horvath
                          Joe and others, Perhaps I spoke sloppily, as that s precisely the sort of panning out I was referring to, where an author adduces various explanations and
                          Message 12 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                            Joe and others,

                            Perhaps I spoke sloppily, as that's precisely the sort of panning out I was referring to, where an author adduces various explanations and synthesizes them, also infusing his/her own original conception. I think Boyd does this masterfully in his latest--and not just explanations, but subcomponents and precursors of those explanations (like play and event recognition, etc.). Perhaps it is natural, then, to elevate one as the explanatory linchpin?

                            I'm curious about something else in Joe's post. He's  framed the problem of adaptive function as "the most important problem in evolutionary literary study," I'm wondering what others on this list might think are the other most pressing problems in the field. For me, here are a deuce:

                            -the relationship between neuroscientific finding and evolutionary thinking. How can study of the brain and evolutionary analysis inform each other best? This is why I am so excited about Holland's book. Based on his talk on metafiction from a couple of years ago, I don't anticipate this being steeped in traditional psychoanalysis at all, though I note that it does have a section on neuropsychoanalysis. His discussion of metafiction was well-grounded in neuroscience, though, with nary a nod in Freud's general direction.

                            -consequences of these findings for today's creative writers. The stakes are highest here for me because this is what I do. I saw James Wood speak last night, and he cited a conversation w ith a well-known writer (whose anonymity he preserved) who felt that neuroscience was going to revolutionize fiction writing and render much of the fiction of the past obsolete. Wood was mystified and somewhat appalled by this view. Of course it's possible, which seemed to get lost in the shuffle, that neuroscience could revolutionize writing without diminishing any of the literature of the past, the latter part akin to what Jonah Lehrer argues in Proust is a Neuroscientist.

                            Anyway, these are two of the big fish for me right now. And, taking in these recent releases and this exchange, I'm thinking - time for a conference, yes?

                            Best regards,

                            Tim 


                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: Carroll, Joseph C. <jcarroll@...>
                            To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                            Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 11:42 am
                            Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                             
                            Here’s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive=0 Afunctions.  A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five, though he tends to come down on “pattern recognition” as the biggie:
                             
                            Perhaps the most important problem in evolutionary literary study concerns the adaptive functions of literature and other arts—whether there are any adaptive functions, and if so, what they might be. Steven Pinker has suggested that aesthetic responsiveness is merely a side effect of cognitive powers that evolved to fulfill more practical functions (524-43), but Pinker also suggests that narratives can provide information for adaptively relevant problems—an idea also championed by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Geoffrey Miller suggests that artistic productions serve as forms of sexual display. Brian Boyd argues that the arts are forms of cognitive “play” enhancing pattern recognition. Boyd and Ellen Dissanayake also argue that the arts provide means of creating shared social identity. In company with Dissanayake, E. O. Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides, Salmon and Symons, and Denis Dutton, I argue that the arts create “meaning.” They provide imaginative structures that give emotionally and aesthetically modulated form to the relations among all the features of our lives—natural, supernatural, individual, and social. The20hypothesis of “meaning” subsumes the ideas that the arts provide adaptively relevant information, enable us to consider alternative behavioral scenarios, enhance pattern recognition, and serve as means for creating shared social identity. And of course, the arts can be used for sexual display. In that respect, the arts are like most other human products—clothing, jewelry, shelter, means of transportation, etc. The hypothesis that the arts create meaning is not incompatible with the hypothesis of sexual display, but it subordinates sexual display to a more primary adaptive function.
                             
                            I went ahead and ordered the Holland book, too, though with some misgiving.  Back in the day, Holland did some of the flakier and more flamboyant Freudian readings.  I use his reading of “Kubla Khan” to illustrate Freudian literary criticism in courses on literary theory.  A demon love is like a father, so the poem is about Oedipal repression, etc.  The deep romantic chasm awakens sexually suggestive echoes for my male students, but then, they are very suggestible.  “Stare at this ink blot. Does it remind you of female genitalia?”  “Well, shoot, doc, everything reminds me of female genitalia.”
                             
                            Joe Carroll

                            From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto:biopoet@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Tim Horvath
                            Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:20 AM
                            To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                            Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                             
                             
                            That should've read,20
                            Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                            [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

                            Tim
                             
                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                            To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                            Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                            Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                             
                            Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                            Jeff P. Turpin, President
                            Turpin and Sons Inc.
                            Cultural Resource Management
                            2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                            (512) 922-7826
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
                            Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                             
                             
                            Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                            a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                            Bill B

                            http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm
                          • Jeff P. Turpin
                            Tim--The longer I view Joe s adaptive functions claim, the more seductive it becomes, if you include what, how, and why in that claim. But I think your two
                            Message 13 of 15 , Sep 16, 2009
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                              Tim--The longer I view Joe's "adaptive functions" claim, the more seductive it becomes, if you include what, how, and why in that claim.  But I think your two points relate more to questions of analysis. 
                              Earlier I advocated a general approach broken down into What (the various adaptive functions), Why (what need do they or did they address), and How (obvious, but at least tangentially related to neuroscience), all of which delta out into a variety of questions, but I think your two fall mostly into the How category, with a bit of Why. 
                                  In my stuff I treat cog psych and ev psych as complimentary, and I would include neurology as either cog psych or a third compliment.  Much work across time suggests that reading and/or writing (their effects certainly overlap) can affect brain structure.  I'd bet two beers and a bucket of mussels that Aha! moments in literature help form, strengthen, and maintain certain neuron pathways (my terminology will be inexact), and leaves them in place for later imaginative demands, thus improving our adaptive fitness. 
                                  It is easiest to seque into your second point by saying society selects creative writers and texts that do just that (not forgetting the multiple other functions of stories, which culture is also selecting for at the same time), but you kind of have to cycle back to Geoff Miller's claims (whoa), and, more importantly, James Pennebaker's research on health narratives, and ask what the function of the story is for the writer?  This could be physical or social.  Writing could obviously exercise imaginative capacities in the brain (1 function), could affect inclusive fitness by providing extra-special mental exercise for relatives (in a restricted prehistoric environment), could plausibly affect group competitiveness for the same reason in a larger social environment, could advertise the creative intelligence (or lack) in the writer, making him or her "sexy," could improve physical and mental health, per Pennebaker or, per Pinker and Zunshine, be sort of masturbatory, exciting parts of the brain that were adapted to other excitements but, hey, what the heck . . . 
                                  Good writers are good evolutionary psychologists (I think) and determine audience needs, and nuance their work to provide those needs, as well as to provoke other needs.  In a free market economy (Yeah, right) this would work very much like the evolutionary process, with "good" writers encouraged and rewarded by the market, with the paying culture benefiting from consuming literature that efficiently serves a bunch of functions, and the writer getting lots of dough and mates for the effort (along with the posited neural/physical benefits above).  Good writers from the past were, I believe, expert at this, and because of the intricacies of ToM and experience and genetic legacy their work would be hard to replicate, let alone render obsolete. 
                                Excuse the pretentious signature below.  It's my work computer, not my academic one, and, yes, I am wasting company time . . . ;- ). jt

                              Jeff P. Turpin, President
                              Turpin and Sons Inc.
                              Cultural Resource Management
                              2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                              (512) 922-7826
                              ----- Original Message -----
                              Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:39 AM
                              Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                               

                              Joe and others,

                              Perhaps I spoke sloppily, as that's precisely the sort of panning out I was referring to, where an author adduces various explanations and synthesizes them, also infusing his/her own original conception. I think Boyd does this masterfully in his latest--and not just explanations, but subcomponents and precursors of those explanations (like play and event recognition, etc.). Perhaps it is natural, then, to elevate one as the explanatory linchpin?

                              I'm curious about something else in Joe's post. He's  framed the problem of adaptive function as "the most important problem in evolutionary literary study," I'm wondering what others on this list might think are the other most pressing problems in the field. For me, here are a deuce:

                              -the relationship between neuroscientific finding and evolutionary thinking. How can study of the brain and evolutionary analysis inform each other best? This is why I am so excited about Holland's book. Based on his talk on metafiction from a couple of years ago, I don't anticipate this being steeped in traditional psychoanalysis at all, though I note that it does have a section on neuropsychoanalysis . His discussion of metafiction was well-grounded in neuroscience, though, with nary a nod in Freud's general direction.

                              -consequences of these findings for today's creative writers. The stakes are highest here for me because this is what I do. I saw James Wood speak last night, and he cited a conversation w ith a well-known writer (whose anonymity he preserved) who felt that neuroscience was going to revolutionize fiction writing and render much of the fiction of the past obsolete. Wood was mystified and somewhat appalled by this view. Of course it's possible, which seemed to get lost in the shuffle, that neuroscience could revolutionize writing without diminishing any of the literature of the past, the latter part akin to what Jonah Lehrer argues in Proust is a Neuroscientist.

                              Anyway, these are two of the big fish for me right now. And, taking in these recent releases and this exchange, I'm thinking - time for a conference, yes?

                              Best regards,

                              Tim 


                              -----Original Message-----
                              From: Carroll, Joseph C. <jcarroll@umsl. edu>
                              To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                              Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 11:42 am
                              Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                               
                              Here’s a paragraph from an article in press, on multiple adaptive=0 Afunctions.  A lot of people identify various functions. Boyd usually gets in four or five, though he tends to come down on “pattern recognition” as the biggie:
                               
                              Perhaps the most important problem in evolutionary literary study concerns the adaptive functions of literature and other arts—whether there are any adaptive functions, and if so, what they might be. Steven Pinker has suggested that aesthetic responsiveness is merely a side effect of cognitive powers that evolved to fulfill more practical functions (524-43), but Pinker also suggests that narratives can provide information for adaptively relevant problems—an idea also championed by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Geoffrey Miller suggests that artistic productions serve as forms of sexual display. Brian Boyd argues that the arts are forms of cognitive “play” enhancing pattern recognition. Boyd and Ellen Dissanayake also argue that the arts provide means of creating shared social identity. In company with Dissanayake, E. O. Wilson, Tooby and Cosmides, Salmon and Symons, and Denis Dutton, I argue that the arts create “meaning.” They provide imaginative structures that give emotionally and aesthetically modulated form to the relations among all the features of our lives—natural, supernatural, individual, and social. The20hypothesis of “meaning” subsumes the ideas that the arts provide adaptively relevant information, enable us to consider alternative behavioral scenarios, enhance pattern recognition, and serve as means for creating shared social identity. And of course, the arts can be used for sexual display. In that respect, the arts are like most other human products—clothing, jewelry, shelter, means of transportation, etc. The hypothesis that the arts create meaning is not incompatible with the hypothesis of sexual display, but it subordinates sexual display to a more primary adaptive function.
                               
                              I went ahead and ordered the Holland book, too, though with some misgiving.  Back in the day, Holland did some of the flakier and more flamboyant Freudian readings.  I use his reading of “Kubla Khan” to illustrate Freudian literary criticism in courses on literary theory.  A demon love is like a father, so the poem is about Oedipal repression, etc.  The deep romantic chasm awakens sexually suggestive echoes for my male students, but then, they are very suggestible.  “Stare at this ink blot. Does it remind you of female genitalia?”  “Well, shoot, doc, everything reminds me of female genitalia.”
                               
                              Joe Carroll

                              From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto:biopoet@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Tim Horvath
                              Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:20 AM
                              To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                              Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                               
                               
                              That should've read,20
                              Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, but as readers, when we pan back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                              [the word "collectively" didn't make much sense there]

                              Tim
                               
                              -----Original Message-----
                              From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                              To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                              Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                              Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                               
                              Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                              Jeff P. Turpin, President
                              Turpin and Sons Inc.
                              Cultural Resource Management
                              2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                              (512) 922-7826
                              ----- Original Message -----
                              Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:49 PM
                              Subject: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain
                               
                               
                              Norm Holland has published a book on Literature and the Brain. It's based on
                              a graduate seminar he taught over several years at U of Florida.

                              Bill B

                              http://www.literatu reandthebrain. com/index. htm

                            • maya lessov
                              Joe, I really like the first two paragraphs below. The first two long paragraphs. I didn t quite think of the imaginative functions as there to regulate
                              Message 14 of 15 , Sep 19, 2009
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                                Joe, I really like the first two paragraphs below.   The first two long paragraphs.   I didn't quite think of the imaginative functions as there to regulate the primal.  Although they certainly do, I think sometimes they can stimulate  primitive behavior.  That is, if we mean by "regulate" to subdue and constructively control for the benefit of a conformed society, I don't think imagination always obliges.  But still, I do see it now as a layer, there to mitigate, stimulate, control, augment and synthesize the body's more immediate thoughts and experiences.  Very succinctly put.
                                No news with me.
                                Just hanging out, working. 
                                 
                                 
                                 
                                ----- Original Message -----
                                Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:24 AM
                                Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland, Literature and the Brain

                                 

                                Is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively? 

                                                Option three is of course the correct answer.

                                As indicated in the paragraphs on the adaptive function of agonistic structure, I envision human nature as an array of conserved “dispositions,” strong tendencies to act in species-typical ways.  All animals have evolved conserved dispositions, but the “higher” animals (dolphins, crows, chimpanzees, etc.) have some flexibility in behavioral patterns. Humans obviously have vastly more behavioral flexibility than animals of other species.  They are driven by strongly conserved passions (sex, survival, parenting, social interaction, etc.), but they also have an exceptional capacity for suppressing impulse and for organizing their behavior in accordance with complex, long-term plans. Those complex, long-term plans are regulated by imaginative constructions—images we hold of our own identity, our social roles, and the whole complex of relations (natural, supernatural, and social) in which we are always embedded. When I speak of literature and the other arts producing “meaning,” it is to those complex imaginative constructions that I refer.

                                            If you think about it, all this is just common sense.  People have common, species typical impulses derived from genetically encoded anatomical, physiological, and neurological structures.  But they also have a uniquely rich cognitive and imaginative life.  The “human condition” consists in the interaction between those two things—powerful animal passions, and the power of creating abstract imaginative structures that regulate our passions.  It is because we can regulate passions that human behavioral patterns are so much more variable than the behavioral patterns of other animals.

                                            Here are a few paragraphs on that topic:

                                            To solve the puzzle of adaptive function, we have to satisfy three criteria: (a) define art in a way that identifies what is peculiar and essential to it—thus isolating the behavioral disposition in question; (b) identify the adaptive problem this behavioral disposition would have solved in ancestral environments; and (c) identify design features that would efficiently have mediated this solution. Various writers have formulated propositions that collectively meet these three challenges. We can define art as the disposition for creating artifacts that are emotionally charged and aesthetically shaped in such a way that they evoke or depict subjective, qualitative sensations, images, or ideas. Literature, specifically, produces subjectively modulated images of the world and of our experience in the world. The disposition for creating such images would have solved an adaptive problem that, like art itself, is unique for the human species: organizing motivational systems disconnected from the immediate promptings of instinct. The design features that mediate this adaptive function are the capacities for producing artistic constructs such as narrative and verse and emotionally modulated musical and visual patterns.

                                The core element in this hypothesis—the adaptive problem art is designed to solve—is formulated most clearly by E. O. Wilson in Consilience. Wilson directly poses the question also posed by Pinker:

                                If the arts are steered by inborn rules of mental development, they are end products not just of conventional history but also of genetic evolution. The question remains: Were the genetic guides mere byproducts—epiphenomena—of that evolution, or were they adaptations that directly improved survival and reproduction? And if adaptations, what exactly were the advantages conferred?

                                Wilson ’s answer to this question draws a decisive line between the mental powers of humans and other animals. Other animals are “instinct-driven.” Humans are not. “The most distinctive qualities of the human species are extremely high intelligence, language, culture, and reliance on long-term contracts.” The adaptive value of high intelligence is that it provides the means for behavioral flexibility—for generating plans based on mental representations of complex relationships, engaging in collective enterprises requiring shared mental representations, and thus producing novel solutions to adaptive problems. Behavioral flexibility has made of the human species the most successful alpha predator of all time, but achieving dominance in this way has come with a cost. Wilson speaks of the “psychological exile” of the species. To the modern human mind, alone among all minds in the animal kingdom, the world does not present itself as a series of rigidly defined stimuli releasing a narrow repertory of stereotyped behaviors. It presents itself as a vast and potentially perplexing array of percepts, inferences, causal relations, contingent possibilities, analogies, contrasts, and hierarchical conceptual structures. The human mind is free to organize the elements of cognition in an infinitely diverse array of combinatorial possibilities. And most of those potential forms of organization, like most major mutations, would be fatal. Freedom is the key to human success, and it is also an invitation to disaster. This is the insight that governs Wilson ’s explanation for the adaptive function of the arts. “There was not enough time for human heredity to cope with the vastness of new contingent possibilities revealed by high intelligence. . . . The arts filled the gap.”[1] If instincts are defined as stereotyped programs of behavior released automatically by environmental stimuli, we can say that in humans the arts partially take the place of instinct. Along with religion, ideology, and other emotionally charged belief systems, the arts form an imaginative interface between complex mental structures, genetically transmitted behavioral dispositions, and behavior.

                                High human intelligence is part of a larger, systemic structure of species-typical adaptations that include altricial birth, extended childhood, male-female bonding coupled with male coalitions, dual parenting, post-menopausal survival, longevity, the development of skills for the extraction of high-quality resources, an enlarged neocortex that enhances powers for suppressing impulses and engaging in long-term planning, symbolic capacities enabling identification with extended social groups (“tribal instincts”), egalitarian dispositions operating in tension with conserved dispositions for individual dominance, and the power to subordinate, in some degree, impulses of survival and reproduction to the formal dictates of imagined virtual worlds. . . . 

                                “Human nature” means that humans share species-typical dispositions: basic motives tied closely to the needs of survival, mating, parenting, and social interaction. Cognitive and behavioral flexibility are part of human nature, but they have not eliminated the underlying regularities in basic motives. In different ecologies and different forms of social organization, the elements of human nature combine in distinctive ways, but “culture” cannot build structures out of nothing. It must work with the genetically transmitted dispositions of an evolved and adapted human nature. The arts give imaginative shape to the experiences possible within any given culture, reflecting its tensions, conflicts, and satisfactions. One chief aim for evolutionary studies in the humanities is to analyze the way any given culture organizes the elements of human nature, evaluate the aesthetic, emotional, and moral qualities inherent in that organization, and probe the way it influences—by conformist pressure or antagonistic stimulus—specific works of literature. . . .

                                Consider the reality of our experience. We live in the imagination. For us, humans, no action or event is ever just itself. It is always a component in mental representations of the natural and social order, extending over time. All our actions take place within imaginative structures that include our vision of the world and our place in the world—our internal conflicts and concerns, our relations to other people, our relations to nature, and our relations to whatever spiritual forces we imagine might exist. We live in communities that consist not just of the people with whom we come directly into contact but with memories of the dead, traditions of our ancestors, our sense of connection with generations yet unborn, and with every person, living or dead, who joins with us in imaginative structures—social, ideological, religious, or philosophical—that subordinate our individual selves to some collective body. Our sense of our selves derives from our myths and artistic traditions, from the stories we tell, the songs we sing, and the visual images that surround us.

                                We have all had moments in which some song, story, or play, some film, piece of music, or painting, has transfigured our vision of the world, broadened our minds, deepened our emotional understanding, or given us new insight into human experience. Working out from this common observation to a hypothesis about the adaptive function of literature requires no great speculative leap. Literature and the other arts help us live our lives. That is why the arts are human universals. In all known cultures, the arts enter profoundly into normal childhood development, connect individuals to their culture, and help people get oriented to the world, emotionally, morally, and conceptually.

                                If it is true that the arts are adaptively functional, they would be motivated as emotionally driven needs. The need to produce and consume imaginative artifacts would be as real and distinct a need as hunger, sexual desire, maternal and filial bonding, or the desire for social contact. Like all such needs, it would bear within itself, as its motivating mechanism, the pleasure and satisfaction that attend upon the fulfilling of desire. That kind of fulfillment would not be a parasitic by-product of some other form of pleasure, nor merely a means for fulfilling some other kind of need—sexual, social, or practical. Like all forms of fulfillment, the need for art could be integrated with other needs in any number of ways. It could be used for sexual display or the gratifications of sexual hunger or social vanity, and it could be used as a medium for social bonding. Nonetheless, in itself it would be a primary and irreducible human need.


                                From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto:biopoet@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Jeff P. Turpin
                                Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:04 AM
                                To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                 

                                Good.  A provocative spin.  But is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively?  The distinctions are important, I think


                                Jeff P. Turpin, President
                                Turpin and Sons Inc.
                                Cultural Resource Management
                                2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                                (512) 922-7826

                                ----- Original Message -----

                                Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:40 AM

                                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                 

                                I’ve not read it but I’ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it’s full of ideas.

                                As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that Holland says much about it, that’s no where he’s coming from.

                                I share Jeff’s skepticism about speculations on that score. Here’s a post in which I suggest that the Wilson/Carroll proposal is bad biology that seems to be based on Christian mythology.

                                Paradise Lost, a Darwinian Dance to a Christian Tune
                                http://www.thevalve .org/go/valve/ article/paradise _lost_a_darwinia n_dance_to_ a_christian_ tune/

                                Bill B


                                on 9/16/09 11:17 AM, Tim Horvath at horvathon@aol. com wrote:


                                 
                                Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

                                Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

                                Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                                Best,

                                Tim

                                -----Original Message-----
                                From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                                To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                                Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                                Jeff P. Turpin, President
                                Turpin and Sons Inc.
                                Cultural Resource Management
                                2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                                (512) 922-7826



                                [1] E. Wilson , Consilience, 224-25. Also see Peter Swirski, Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory ( London : Routledge, 2007), 68-95.

                              • Carroll, Joseph C.
                                Thanks, Maya. Yes, I mean regulate in just the way you do: mitigate, stimulate, control, augment and synthesize the body s more immediate thoughts and
                                Message 15 of 15 , Sep 19, 2009
                                • 0 Attachment

                                  Thanks, Maya.  Yes, I mean “regulate” in just the way you do: “mitigate, stimulate, control, augment and synthesize the body's more immediate thoughts and experiences.”

                                   

                                              Slogging along here—just turned in the manuscript for the first volume of The Evolutionary Review, going over the copyediting for the anthology Brian, Jon, and I edited, doing the daily work for classes and committees, reading tenure and promotion dossiers and writing reports on them—the usual sort of thing.  My hard drive (60 gigs) filled up yesterday and refused to budge.  I had to go buy an external hard drive and move a bunch of stuff over to it.  Now, if I could just buy an external hard drive for my own brain, I’d be in good shape.  Instead, I’ve started turning down requests for articles.  Just too damned much to do.  Eventually, maybe next summer (once the current queue of backlogged tasks is cleared off), I’ll start another book.  Meanwhile, though, I’d like to spend at least three of four months just catching up on reading.  Haven’t had time to do any reading for over a year now.  Starting to feel a little like Greta Garbo.  (“I only want to be left alone.”)  Of course, if people had really left her alone, she might have begun feeling neglected.

                                   

                                  Joe

                                   


                                  From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto: biopoet@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of maya lessov
                                  Sent: Saturday, September 19, 2009 3:06 PM
                                  To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                   

                                   

                                  Joe, I really like the first two paragraphs below.   The first two long paragraphs.   I didn't quite think of the imaginative functions as there to regulate the primal.  Although they certainly do, I think sometimes they can stimulate  primitive behavior.  That is, if we mean by "regulate" to subdue and constructively control for the benefit of a conformed society, I don't think imagination always obliges.  But still, I do see it now as a layer, there to mitigate, stimulate, control, augment and synthesize the body's more immediate thoughts and experiences.  Very succinctly put.

                                  No news with me.
                                  Just hanging out, working. 

                                   

                                   

                                   

                                  ----- Original Message -----

                                  Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:24 AM

                                  Subject: RE: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                   

                                   

                                  Is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively? 

                                                  Option three is of course the correct answer.

                                  As indicated in the paragraphs on the adaptive function of agonistic structure, I envision human nature as an array of conserved “dispositions,” strong tendencies to act in species-typical ways.  All animals have evolved conserved dispositions, but the “higher” animals (dolphins, crows, chimpanzees, etc.) have some flexibility in behavioral patterns. Humans obviously have vastly more behavioral flexibility than animals of other species.  They are driven by strongly conserved passions (sex, survival, parenting, social interaction, etc.), but they also have an exceptional capacity for suppressing impulse and for organizing their behavior in accordance with complex, long-term plans. Those complex, long-term plans are regulated by imaginative constructions— images we hold of our own identity, our social roles, and the whole complex of relations (natural, supernatural, and social) in which we are always embedded. When I speak of literature and the other arts producing “meaning,” it is to those complex imaginative constructions that I refer.

                                              If you think about it, all this is just common sense.  People have common, species typical impulses derived from genetically encoded anatomical, physiological, and neurological structures.  But they also have a uniquely rich cognitive and imaginative life.  The “human condition” consists in the interaction between those two things—powerful animal passions, and the power of creating abstract imaginative structures that regulate our passions.  It is because we can regulate passions that human behavioral patterns are so much more variable than the behavioral patterns of other animals.

                                              Here are a few paragraphs on that topic:

                                              To solve the puzzle of adaptive function, we have to satisfy three criteria: (a) define art in a way that identifies what is peculiar and essential to it—thus isolating the behavioral disposition in question; (b) identify the adaptive problem this behavioral disposition would have solved in ancestral environments; and (c) identify design features that would efficiently have mediated this solution. Various writers have formulated propositions that collectively meet these three challenges. We can define art as the disposition for creating artifacts that are emotionally charged and aesthetically shaped in such a way that they evoke or depict subjective, qualitative sensations, images, or ideas. Literature, specifically, produces subjectively modulated images of the world and of our experience in the world. The disposition for creating such images would have solved an adaptive problem that, like art itself, is unique for the human species: organizing motivational systems disconnected from the immediate promptings of instinct. The design features that mediate this adaptive function are the capacities for producing artistic constructs such as narrative and verse and emotionally modulated musical and visual patterns.

                                  The core element in this hypothesis—the adaptive problem art is designed to solve—is formulated most clearly by E. O. Wilson in Consilience. Wilson directly poses the question also posed by Pinker:

                                  If the arts are steered by inborn rules of mental development, they are end products not just of conventional history but also of genetic evolution. The question remains: Were the genetic guides mere byproducts—epiphenom ena—of that evolution, or were they adaptations that directly improved survival and reproduction? And if adaptations, what exactly were the advantages conferred?

                                  Wilson ’s answer to this question draws a decisive line between the mental powers of humans and other animals. Other animals are “instinct-driven.” Humans are not. “The most distinctive qualities of the human species are extremely high intelligence, language, culture, and reliance on long-term contracts.” The adaptive value of high intelligence is that it provides the means for behavioral flexibility—for generating plans based on mental representations of complex relationships, engaging in collective enterprises requiring shared mental representations, and thus producing novel solutions to adaptive problems. Behavioral flexibility has made of the human species the most successful alpha predator of all time, but achieving dominance in this way has come with a cost. Wilson speaks of the “psychological exile” of the species. To the modern human mind, alone among all minds in the animal kingdom, the world does not present itself as a series of rigidly defined stimuli releasing a narrow repertory of stereotyped behaviors. It presents itself as a vast and potentially perplexing array of percepts, inferences, causal relations, contingent possibilities, analogies, contrasts, and hierarchical conceptual structures. The human mind is free to organize the elements of cognition in an infinitely diverse array of combinatorial possibilities. And most of those potential forms of organization, like most major mutations, would be fatal. Freedom is the key to human success, and it is also an invitation to disaster. This is the insight that governs Wilson ’s explanation for the adaptive function of the arts. “There was not enough time for human heredity to cope with the vastness of new contingent possibilities revealed by high intelligence. . . . The arts filled the gap.”[1] If instincts are defined as stereotyped programs of behavior released automatically by environmental stimuli, we can say that in humans the arts partially take the place of instinct. Along with religion, ideology, and other emotionally charged belief systems, the arts form an imaginative interface between complex mental structures, genetically transmitted behavioral dispositions, and behavior.

                                  High human intelligence is part of a larger, systemic structure of species-typical adaptations that include altricial birth, extended childhood, male-female bonding coupled with male coalitions, dual parenting, post-menopausal survival, longevity, the development of skills for the extraction of high-quality resources, an enlarged neocortex that enhances powers for suppressing impulses and engaging in long-term planning, symbolic capacities enabling identification with extended social groups (“tribal instincts”), egalitarian dispositions operating in tension with conserved dispositions for individual dominance, and the power to subordinate, in some degree, impulses of survival and reproduction to the formal dictates of imagined virtual worlds. . . . 

                                  “Human nature” means that humans share species-typical dispositions: basic motives tied closely to the needs of survival, mating, parenting, and social interaction. Cognitive and behavioral flexibility are part of human nature, but they have not eliminated the underlying regularities in basic motives. In different ecologies and different forms of social organization, the elements of human nature combine in distinctive ways, but “culture” cannot build structures out of nothing. It must work with the genetically transmitted dispositions of an evolved and adapted human nature. The arts give imaginative shape to the experiences possible within any given culture, reflecting its tensions, conflicts, and satisfactions. One chief aim for evolutionary studies in the humanities is to analyze the way any given culture organizes the elements of human nature, evaluate the aesthetic, emotional, and moral qualities inherent in that organization, and probe the way it influences—by conformist pressure or antagonistic stimulus—specific works of literature. . . .

                                  Consider the reality of our experience. We live in the imagination. For us, humans, no action or event is ever just itself. It is always a component in mental representations of the natural and social order, extending over time. All our actions take place within imaginative structures that include our vision of the world and our place in the world—our internal conflicts and concerns, our relations to other people, our relations to nature, and our relations to whatever spiritual forces we imagine might exist. We live in communities that consist not just of the people with whom we come directly into contact but with memories of the dead, traditions of our ancestors, our sense of connection with generations yet unborn, and with every person, living or dead, who joins with us in imaginative structures—social, ideological, religious, or philosophical— that subordinate our individual selves to some collective body. Our sense of our selves derives from our myths and artistic traditions, from the stories we tell, the songs we sing, and the visual images that surround us.

                                  We have all had moments in which some song, story, or play, some film, piece of music, or painting, has transfigured our vision of the world, broadened our minds, deepened our emotional understanding, or given us new insight into human experience. Working out from this common observation to a hypothesis about the adaptive function of literature requires no great speculative leap. Literature and the other arts help us live our lives. That is why the arts are human universals. In all known cultures, the arts enter profoundly into normal childhood development, connect individuals to their culture, and help people get oriented to the world, emotionally, morally, and conceptually.

                                  If it is true that the arts are adaptively functional, they would be motivated as emotionally driven needs. The need to produce and consume imaginative artifacts would be as real and distinct a need as hunger, sexual desire, maternal and filial bonding, or the desire for social contact. Like all such needs, it would bear within itself, as its motivating mechanism, the pleasure and satisfaction that attend upon the fulfilling of desire. That kind of fulfillment would not be a parasitic by-product of some other form of pleasure, nor merely a means for fulfilling some other kind of need—sexual, social, or practical. Like all forms of fulfillment, the need for art could be integrated with other needs in any number of ways. It could be used for sexual display or the gratifications of sexual hunger or social vanity, and it could be used as a medium for social bonding. Nonetheless, in itself it would be a primary and irreducible human need.


                                  From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com [mailto: biopoet@ yahoogroups. com ] On Behalf Of Jeff P. Turpin
                                  Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:04 AM
                                  To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                   

                                  Good.  A provocative spin.  But is the Wilson/Carroll argument that humans no longer have instincts, or that we no longer rely on them at all, or that we no longer rely on them exclusively?  The distinctions are important, I think


                                  Jeff P. Turpin, President
                                  Turpin and Sons Inc.
                                  Cultural Resource Management
                                  2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                                  (512) 922-7826

                                  ----- Original Message -----

                                  Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:40 AM

                                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                   

                                  I’ve not read it but I’ve read early drafts of most of the chapters. Yes, it’s full of ideas.

                                  As for the adaptive function of literature, I doubt that Holland says much about it, that’s no where he’s coming from.

                                  I share Jeff’s skepticism about speculations on that score. Here’s a post in which I suggest that the Wilson/Carroll proposal is bad biology that seems to be based on Christian mythology.

                                  Paradise Lost, a Darwinian Dance to a Christian Tune
                                  http://www.thevalve .org/go/valve/ article/paradise _lost_a_darwinia n_dance_to_ a_christian_ tune/

                                  Bill B


                                  on 9/16/09 11:17 AM, Tim Horvath at horvathon@aol. com wrote:


                                   
                                  Holland's book looks like a trove of good ideas. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly, based on the table of contents. Has anyone read it?

                                  Jeff--Can you cite one or two of the books to which you're referring, or their theses? I'm just curious.

                                  Perhaps we are predisposed to come up with unitary explanations as individuals, and collectively, but as readers when we back and take a look at the array of evolutionary explanations, we get something more accurate--a multiplicity?

                                  Best,

                                  Tim

                                  -----Original Message-----
                                  From: Jeff P. Turpin <jpturpin@gvtc. com>
                                  To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
                                  Sent: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 10:51 am
                                  Subject: Re: [biopoet] Norman N. Holland , Literature and the Brain

                                  Good deal.  I hope it is less monolithic than some of the recent "This is THE adaptive function of literature" texts that have popped out recently.  Stories are impressive tool kits, with multiple functions, and analyses that under-estimate this multiplicity are burdening my bookshelf.  Thanks. jt

                                  Jeff P. Turpin, President
                                  Turpin and Sons Inc.
                                  Cultural Resource Management
                                  2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake , TX 78133
                                  (512) 922-7826



                                  [1] E. Wilson , Consilience, 224-25. Also see Peter Swirski, Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory ( London : Routledge, 2007), 68-95.

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