Recent developments in evolutionary biology provide resources for overcoming the intellectual disconnection among human biology, the social and cultural complexity and diversity analyzed in social theory and the social sciences, and studies of human cognition and conceptual normativity. Human organisms and human evolution are most distinctive in the rapid and continuing changes to our developmental and selective biological environments. Complex and diverse forms of social practice, including capacities for language, empirical inquiry, and critical reflection, arose and continue as cumulative forms of niche construction that change the environments in which humans develop biologically and with which our lineage co-evolved. A book is needed to make this complex re-conception both accessible and compelling to researchers in multiple disciplines from biology, the human sciences, and philosophy. Although these scholars make indispensable contributions to this novel synthesis, they are mostly unfamiliar with relevant work in the other disciplines. Because the book must be understood by scholars who are not specialists in all of its constituent lines of reasoning, the book will thereby also become accessible to a more generalist audience interested in contemporary biology, social theory or philosophy.
I request a small grant from the John Templeton Foundation to provide partial released time from teaching and administrative duties at Wesleyan University and limited travel funding, spread over a three year period. This support will make it possible to finish writing this book and bring it to publication, in critical conversation with other scholars working in related areas. It will also allow me to discern how best to follow up on the book, further developing some of its most consequential or controversial themes, and bringing its implications into a wider range of public intellectual discussions.