Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Science - 358 pages
15 Reviews
In 1838 Charles Darwin jotted in a notebook, “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Baboon Metaphysics is Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s fascinating response to Darwin’s challenge.
            Cheney and Seyfarth set up camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where they could intimately observe baboons and their social world. Baboons live in groups of up to 150, including a handful of males and eight or nine matrilineal families of females. Such numbers force baboons to form a complicated mix of short-term bonds for mating and longer-term friendships based on careful calculations of status and individual need.
           But Baboon Metaphysics is concerned with much more than just baboons’ social organization—Cheney and Seyfarth aim to fully comprehend the intelligence that underlies it. Using innovative field experiments, the authors learn that for baboons, just as for humans, family and friends hold the key to mitigating the ill effects of grief, stress, and anxiety.
            Written with a scientist’s precision and a nature-lover’s eye, Baboon Metaphysics gives us an unprecedented and compelling glimpse into the mind of another species.
 “The vivid narrative is like a bush detective story.”—Steven Poole, Guardian
 
Baboon Metaphysics is a distillation of a big chunk of academic lives. . . . It is exactly what such a book should be—full of imaginative experiments, meticulous scholarship, limpid literary style, and above all, truly important questions.”—Alison Jolly, Science
 
“Cheney and Seyfarth found that for a baboon to get on in life involves a complicated blend of short-term relationships, friendships, and careful status calculations. . . . Needless to say, the ensuing political machinations and convenient romantic dalliances in the quest to become numero uno rival the bard himself.”—Science News  “Cheney and Seyfarth’s enthusiasm is obvious, and their knowledge is vast and expressed with great clarity. All this makes Baboon Metaphysics a captivating read. It will get you thinking—and maybe spur you to travel to Africa to see it all for yourself.”—Asif A. Ghazanfar, Nature
 
“Through ingenious playback experiments . . . Cheney and Seyfarth have worked out many aspects of what baboons used their minds for, along with their limitations. Reading a baboon’s mind affords an excellent grasp of the dynamics of baboon society. But more than that, it bears on the evolution of the human mind and the nature of human existence.”—Nicholas Wade, New York Times
  

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Review: Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind

User Review  - Jan Underwood - Goodreads

This delightful book examines in minute and hilarious detail the complex social lives of Okavango Delta baboons and catalogs the authors' carefully devised tests to tease out the inner workings of the ... Read full review

Review: Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind

User Review  - John Wylie - Goodreads

A simply wonderful book that clearly demonstrates that primates fully understand every detail of their complex social ecology, and all that information is packed inside each of a mere fourteen verbal expressions. Read full review

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Contents

1 The Evolution of Mind
1
2 The Primate Mind in Myth and Legend
16
3 Habitat Infanticide and Predation
35
Competition Infanticide and Friendship
50
Kinship Rank Competitionand Cooperation
62
6 Social Knowledge
90
7 The Social Intelligence Hypothesis
120
8 Theory of Mind
146
9 SelfAwareness and Consciousness
199
10 Communication
217
11 Precursors to Language
248
12 Baboon Metaphysics
273
Appendix
285
References
294
Index
329
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About the author (2008)

 

 

Dorothy L. Cheney is professor of biology and Robert M. Seyfarth is professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. They are the authors of How Monkeys See the World, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

 

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