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The evolution of imagination – the role of mythopoetic cognition in phylogeny and ontogeny 

December 11, 2020 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm CET

Virtual Event
€7.00 – €17.00

 After WWII, archaeologists Henri and Henriette Frankfort proposed the theory that pre-Axial-age mind was mythopoetic. A mythopoetic paradigm or perspective sees the world primarily as a dramatic story of competing personal intentions, rather than a system of objective impersonal laws. More recent work of literary Darwinism has updated and strengthened the claim that narrative thinking is universal, natural, and adaptive. Extending the phylogeny to preliterate and even prelinguistic Homo, Asma (2017) argued that our contemporary imaginative cognition is evolutionarily conserved –it has structural and functional similarities to premodern Homo sapiens’ cognition.

Offering a consilience of inductions, this article will (i) outline the essential features of mythopoetic cognition –a broader adaptive epistemology of symbolic formation, which subfields like literary Darwinism, religious studies, anthropology, and value theory (aesthetics and ethics) have glimpsed and articulated ex parte; (ii) delineate the adaptive socio-cultural advantages of mythopoeticcognition, often invisible in a post-Enlightenment (disenchanted) paradigm; (iii) explain the universal ontogenetic mechanisms that give rise to human mythopoetic mind (i.e. genetically endowed simulation and associational systems that give rise to diverse symbolic systems); (iv) show how mythopoetic cognition challenges contemporary trends in rational-agent social science, and artificial intelligence research.   


Stephen Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, and member of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture. Asma is the author of ten books, including The Emotional Mind (Harvard Univ. Press). He writes regularly for the New York Times, and Aeon magazine. Asma was a Fulbright scholar in Beijing China, and Visiting Professor at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is recipient of the Henry Luce Foundation grant, Public Theologies of Technology and Presence at The Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley CA.


December 11, 2020
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm CET
€7.00 – €17.00
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MIND Academy
030 290 476 58


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