Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought (Waterloo">

Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996.

Leaving the Cave traces a current of thought identified as evolutionary naturalism, as it emerged in early Greek thought and was developed through the following centuries in the ideas of leading social-scientific thinkers. It involves two compelling beliefs. The first is that human beings are an aspect of the natural world and as such are subject to nature's imperatives of cause and effect, and thus amenable to scientific scrutiny. The second is that our species has evolved a symbol-using ability which made possible the emergence of a distinctively human self-consciousness comprising memory, a creative imagination, a yearning for meaning and truth, and an ability to select and strive for valued ends. And that all of these capacities contributed to the evolution of the scientific mode of inquiry as humanity's most powerful instrument for adapting to changing circumstance.

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The book is devoted to bringing to life a relatively few selected thinkers who appear to have made significant contributions to either the strengthening or undermining of this current of thought in human culture -- and to making their ideas readily accessible to the ordinary reader. Both the heroes and anti-heroes of the naturalistic and evolutionary orientation within the social sciences are presented in their cultural context, and in recognition of the giants on whose shoulders they were standing. This focus has meant that, along with the familiar names of Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Freud, Durkheim and Weber, readers will find a number of people who have not previously been considered of prime importance to the development of social theory: Harriet Martineau, Herbert Spencer, Pavlov, Dewey, Mead, Santayana, Julian Huxley, Jean Piaget, Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn, for example.

The major finding of this study is that there exists within social-scientific thought the outlines of a paradigm of great power and potential for integrating all its various and divergent schools and disciplines. It is a conceptual framework that is consistent with -- and informed by -- modern microbiology and the cognitive, social- behavioral and evolutionary sciences; and one that could in turn contribute to greater sensitivity on the part of biologists to the cultural aspects of human evolutionary processes. If we are ever to achieve the long overdue breakthrough into an effective social science, it will be the readers of books like this who will make it happen.

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