Dan Sperber’s blog

Easy pieces on hard issues

Believing Maurice Bloch on doubting, doubting him on believing

My friend Maurice Bloch and I have been arguing since even before we first met in the 70s. What makes it worthwhile is that there is much we agree on, and, once in a while, one of us causes the other ...

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Innocents fornicating and apes grieving

In his novel Abbé Mouret's Transgression (La faute de l'abbé Mouret, 1875), Emile Zola has a young priest, Serge Mouret, and a teenage girl, Albine, fall in love with each other ...

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Varieties of disbelief

On March 15, the Washington Post website put a link to a small ethnographic study by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola entitled "Preachers who are not Believers." In this remarkable piece, ...

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Block and Kitcher review What Darwin Got Wrong by Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini

Given the strong reservations that most social scientists have towards evolutionary biology, they might welcome Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini's new book, What Darwin Got Wrong ...

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Jingle Bell – Punjabi Tadka

When we started this blog, we hoped that anthropologists among our readers would be willing to contribute 'pictures of the week', photos (or videos) that would illustrate in a suggestive ...

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Language faculty? Semiotic system? Or what?

To what extent does the use of language involve a language-specific ability, to what extent is it subserved by a more general symbolic or semiotic system? This is an old and ongoing controversy to ...

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Grieving animals?

Chimps line up to watch as Dorothy, who died of heart failure, is wheeled away. Picture: Monica Szczupider, in the National Geographic Magazine (Nov. 2009) The National Geographic Magazine ...

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Proper names in mind, language and culture

Proper names are a standard topic of anthropological research, focusing on the variety of naming systems across cultures and on the role of names in social relationships and verbal interactions (for ...

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Inverse correlation between norms and behaviour?

We know, of course, that people don't strictly abide by the norms they publicly express: the flesh is weak, and so on, but, from an anthropological point of view, it would be surprising to ...

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Evolutionary psychology under attack

Since yesterday, a new thread of email exchanges is circulating among evolutionary psychologists under the title "Newsweek attack on evolutionary psychology." Geoffrey Miller informs us: ...

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In memoriam: Nicola Knight

We mourn Nicola Knight who died this Tuesday, June 9, at the age of 33, from a heart attack. He was an active member of this Institute, a friend, a colleague, and a former student of many of ...

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Truth among the…

(Ten year ago or so, Maurice Bloch and I started discussing a basic issue in folk-epistemic, the variety of notions of truth across cultures, and we ran several workshops in Paris with psychologists, ...

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