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Apes, Language, and the Human Mind Hardcover – June 18, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0195109863 ISBN-10: 0195109864 Edition: 1st

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Apes, Language, and the Human Mind + Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195109864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195109863
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,004,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

Kanzi, a male bonobo (an ape sometimes called a pygmy chimpanzee), has been under the care of language researcher Savage-Rumbaugh since infancy. Over a period of 18 years, he has learned to communicate his wants and to respond to spoken English by means of pictorial symbols called lexigrams. His communicative capability is about equal to that of a two-and-a-half-year-old human child. The first third of the book presents Savage-Rumbaugh's clear and entertaining account of Kanzi's upbringing. The remainder, largely written by the other two authors, is an argument in academic prose addressed primarily to critics who "insist that no ape has ever developed truly linguistic skills." The authors declare their "shared belief that the Kanzi research presents a serious and effective challenge not only to scientific thinking about the cognitive and communicational capacities of nonhuman primates, but also to received knowledge concerning the possession of those capacities by humans."

Review

...enormously entertaining... -- The San Francisco Chronicle, Theodore Roszak

This book is worthwhile reading. It is provacative and entertaining. The issues it raises are fundamental. Are we different and above all other species? The authors scream 'NO'. You be the judge. -- Roger L. Mellgren, Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I wonder if the reader from Austin, Texas, read the same book as I did! I could find no trace of any personal attacks (nor personal glorifications, for that matter) in this highly original, provocative and exceptionally well-argued book. Interdisciplinary collaborations on complex themes are notoriously difficult to pull off, but this team has succeeded admirably. The philosophical analysis of the significance of the bonobo ape research for our currently dominant ways of thinking about language, communication and animal capacities is strikingly original. Certainly, these authors do not hold back from exploring the wider significance of their proposed interpretations, but there is a wealth of well-documented and rigorous argument here to support their contentions, and not a shred of evidence of -animus- against those whose views they dispute. A serious and significant book for everyone interested in animal cognition.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a rewarding book, especially in its middle two chapters. After the scene-setting of ch. 1, in which we learn just what the Bonobo ape Kanzi can do as far as communicating with a human is concerned, ch. 2 gives us a protracted survey of the Cartesian tradition of thinking about the 'mental' and hence communicative lives of animals, showing the degree to which writers like Pinker, and indeed many of us, are, largely due to an outmoded view of ourselves, caught up in a fallacy about the status of animals vis-à-vis humans which needs to be replaced with a saner outlook. In ch. 3 we are given an insight into the rhetorical strategies of those who perpetuate the Cartesian view, and shown to what extent such strategies may be motivated less by a search for truth than by the socio-politico-economic imperative of our exploitation of the animal world. The authors then proceed to show that arguments which have been used to bolster the 'existential gap' view in fact are incapable of supporting the notion that humans themselves have the exclusive and proprietary capacities which Cartesian thinkers have attributed to them. That is, (a) the evidence which such thinkers use purportedly to prove the existence of various capacities in humans is shown to be equally in evidence in at least one kind of animal, but (b) the evidence which is used purportedly to disprove these capacities in animals is shown in fact to be inadequate to prove the existence of those capacities in humans. In other words, as is further suggested in the final chapter, we have no logical or evidential basis for maintaining the Cartesian view, and the implications for our own human behavior are accordingly far-reaching.
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38 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If you liked Savage-Rumbaugh's "Kanzi" stay away from this book. I don't mean that there is nothing interesting here. To the contrary, three smart people with interesting analyses of non-human thinking and linguistic abilities wrote the book. The first chapter is a charming and (typical of Savage-Rumbaugh) insightful discussion of life with Kanzi and research that has led to the powerful claims that Savage-Rumbaugh and her colleagues make based on Bonobo research. There are cute pictures and it displays little of the paranoia that permeates the rest of the book. The first chapter is exclusively written by Savage-Rumbaugh. The other chapters are, we are told, a joint effort. Chapter two is undoubtedly spearheaded by philosopher Stuart Shanker and chapter three by linguist Talbot Taylor. The final chapter bears stronger signs of all three. Each chapter takes a slightly different perspective and, if Oxford University Press had provided a competent editor, each c! hapter would have been a delight to read--full of focused and insightful commentary. But, lacking an editor with good sense, this was not to be.
The problems start in the philosophy chapter, but remain and grow throughout the subsequent chapters of the book. The first serious problem is the vilification of any opposition. It is not that the authors disagree with the opposition: they resort to name calling and mean-spirited denigration of anyone who does not simply accept Savage-Rumbaugh's work as revolutionary. Such skeptics are biased, anthropomorphic, dogmatic and, by the last chapter (entitled "Beyond Speciesism") ultimately bigotted (in its most evil sense).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stanley R. Palombo on January 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This brilliant and original book demonstrates that symbolic representation is the basic substance of language, and shows once and for all that language is not an exclusively human achievement. Savage-Rumbaugh's serendipitous discovery that the critical period for language acquisition in bonobos is in early infancy renders all earlier language experimentation with apes obsolete. Contrary to Chomsky and Pinker, grammar is a high level embellishment to language, rather than the foundation of communicative skill. The philosophical commentaries on Savage-Rumbaugh's work by Shanker and Taylor bring out the revolutionary implications of her findings, and provide a new and more sophisticated point of view on the continuities and discontinuities between ourselves and our nearest relatives. It's good to see contemporary science finally replacing the 17th century perspective of many linguists.
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