Dark Matter of the Mind

The Institute of Art and Ideas


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Most linguists and anthropologists look to other cultures to try and discover something fundamentally ‘human’, and many think there is something fundamental in our genes, our language, or our myths that we all share.

In this course, revolutionary linguist Daniel Everett shares his lifetime’s experience with the remote Pirahã people of the Amazon, and makes the case that there is nothing essential to ‘human nature’- but rather that our genetics express themselves differently through different cultures.

In this course you will learn:

Why the ‘dark matter of the mind’ shapes our ideas and attitudes.
How epigenetics undermines the idea of genetic determinism.
The flaws in the thinking behind universal archetypes, language and myths.
Why neural flexibility is the key for our species’ success.
The evolutionary importance of our relationships with animals
How language functions as a cultural tool.
What it means to have a sense of self.
How we should imagine the mind as part of the body.

Important information

Where and when

Starts Location

What you'll learn on the course

Genetic Dererminism
Universal Archetypes

Course programme

About the Instructor
  • Daniel Everett

    Daniel Everett is an author and academic best known for his study of the Amazon’s Pirahã people and their language. Professor Everett is one of the world’s leading and most original linguists, having spent much of his life living with the Pirahã, arguing that their language disproves the argument for a ‘Universal Grammar’, instead suggesting that language is a cultural tool.

    Everett is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University, and is the author ofLanguage: The Cultural Tool, and Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle.

Course Syllabus
  • Part One: Mind and MatterWhat makes our minds unique? How do structures of knowledge and culture build on the brain?
  • Part Two: The Self and Non-SelfWhy do we experience a sense of self? Everett considers memory, culture, language and the body.
Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Daniel Everett as part of this course.

Explore Further

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