Does everyone think in the same way? Until recently most 20th-century authorities would have answered 'Yes: though what we think varies enormously, the processes of thought are the same.' Here Don LePan challenges this assumption through an ...
examination of a particular mental faculty - expectation. The book is broad-ranging, focusing on historical and anthropoligcal as well as literary developments. What the evidence in all these areas suggests, LePan concludes, is that certain forms of expectation simply did not exist in in the minds of most medieval people - any more than they do in the minds of children or those of adults in many primitive societies even today. LePan shows that the more complex forms of expectation depend on a person's having developed ways of thinking in probabilities rather than certainties, and ways of projecting multiple chains of cause and effect - often unravelling simultaneously in different places - into a hypothetical future. Today this sort of projection seems like second nature to us, but such abilities are not innate; though the potential to develop them may be, that potential is realised only as fomal education becomes widespread and as societies invent or become familiar with such things as clocks, calendars, and complex economic systems. An acceptance of the notion that human cognitive processes may vary among different peoples and different eras has profound implications, not only for the study of our own history and literature, but also for our approach to other contemporary societies. The deeper understanding of our own ancestors may also help us to understand better the differences that separate the developed and the less-developed world today. Don LePan is the author of "The Broadview Book of Common Errors in English".
Number of pages: 304
Date of publication: 05/01/1989
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