This project builds on the Co-PI’s collaborative research in anthropology and theology, focusing on the search for material and behavioral clues and patterns in the evolution of wisdom. To date, the scientific study of wisdom has defined it in terms of cognitive capacities and an investigation and analysis of current psychological characteristics, rather than in terms of its evolutionary history and processes. In the humanities and social sciences, wisdom is often said to be an inner capacity that serves to ensure the quality of community function. This project seeks to investigate the basic parameters, and processes, in an evolutionary origin of human wisdom. Wisdom is defined as the pattern (and ability) of successful complex decision-making in navigating social networks and dynamic niches in human communities. We intend to analyze the evidence in the paleoanthropological record for (a) specific shifts in the characteristics and patterns of symbol making and use and (b) the development of domestication, where (a) and (b) are proxies for examining core elements in the emergence of a distinctive human wisdom. Theological wisdom entails (1) practical forms of wisdom and (2) speculative, transcendental forms of wisdom in human communities. We anticipate that the former would precede the latter in evolutionary terms. We suggest that the proxies (a) and (b) will give important clues about the evolutionary emergence of both forms of wisdom and contribute to our understanding of human evolution and a distinctive human niche. We will test out these ideas through a focused research program involving the PIs, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and a working group at Notre Dame, two international workshops and a culminating conference. The anticipated results will be published in research articles in peer reviewed journals and edited book volumes. The project is a transdisciplinary study leading to a significant shift in research questions in both fields.
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