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The Bridge to Humanity

How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene

Walter Goldschmidt

Publication Date - July 2005

ISBN: 9780195179668

176 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Transforming the debate on nature versus culture to one on nature and culture, renowned anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt presents a fresh look at how human biology and culture fit together.


The Bridge to Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene explores the relationship of biology and culture in the evolution of human behavior. Building upon several of the theoretical issues he first addressed in Man's Way, renowned anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt presents a unique look at how human culture functions through biological mechanisms that have evolved from our distant past.
"Affect hunger"--the need for affective expressions from others--underlies nurturance and mutuality. Goldschmidt contends that affect hunger--in combination with other factors unique to the human species--in effect "trumps" the selfish gene and is therefore the essential missing key to understanding human behavior. Employing discussions of primate behavior, ethnographies, cognitive studies, psychological research, and hormonal and neurological studies, he demonstrates how affect hunger not only provides a reward system for learning language and other cultural information, but also remains a motive for social behavior throughout life. Transforming the debate on nature versus culture to one on nature and culture, The Bridge to Humanity provides a fresh perspective on the ways that biology and culture fit together. Indeed, in this book Goldschmidt reinterprets anthropological knowledge, profoundly affecting all students concerned with human behavior and reaching far beyond the discipline's borders.


"Finally, a cultural anthropologist who understands biology! Graced with the gifts of clarity and brevity, Goldschmidt has contributed the best short book on human nature and culture that has appeared in many years."--Melvin Konner, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

"An exceptional book. To my mind, it should be required reading for all anthropology majors and incoming anthropology graduate students. Goldschmidt provides a sophisticated appraisal of the biological and cultural components that underlie human evolution and behavior."--Robert Sussman, Washington University

"Dr. Goldschmidt is both an extremely sharp and original thinker and a very, very respected 'elder' in our tribe. He knows the field as do few, if any, others. . . . An amazingly original and insightful book."--Eugene Anderson, University of California, Riverside

"My students and I enjoyed the book immensely. Goldschmidt offers a truly insightful synthesis of the influence of genes and environment on behavior. He demonstrates a keen awareness of and appreciation for our genetic predispositions for and constraints on learning. His insight into the need for what he terms "affect hunger", and the early influence by caretakers on molding personality and culture-specific behaviors is enlightening, even after years of learning and thinking about the enculturation process." - Barbara J. Welker, SUNY Geneseo

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1. Nature and Nurture
    The Confrontation and Its Background
    Public Interest in the Issue
    Toward a Resolution of the Conflict
    Chapter 2. Heritage from the Distant Past
    The Issue of the "Selfish Gene"
    Fundamental Elements for Humanity
    Our Ancient Heritage
    Chapter 3. Tools for the Transition
    The Evolutionary Gamble
    The Relevance of Human Speech to Tool-Making
    On the Origin of Language
    Language and the Brain
    The Emotions
    Psychological Miscellany
    Chapter 4. Affect Hunger
    The Ethology of Infancy
    The Chemistry of Affect Hunger
    The Brain and Affect Hunger
    Affect Hunger and the Social Order
    Chapter 5. Revolution in the Nursery
    Summary of Our Heritage
    The Nature of the Revolution
    "Intrinsic" Indoctrination of Personality
    An Unanticipated Experiment
    Affect and Adulthood
    Chapter 6. Culture
    Definition of Culture
    Language as Communication of Cultural Understanding
    Ritual as Communication of Cultural Sentiment
    Cultural Adaptability
    Chapter 7. Cultural Evolution
    The Nature of Cultural Evolution
    The Search for Eden
    Ecological Adaptations
    Belonging and the Self: Kinship
    Urban Transformations
    Possessions and the Self
    Affect Deprivation
    Chapter 8. Body and Soul
    The Ontology of Reality
    The Soul and Culture
    Chapter 9. A View of the Bridge
    Affect Hunger
    Communicating Feeling
    Cultural Worlds
    The Symbolic Self
    Affect Hunger and Cultural Evolution
    Self and Other
    One Final Thought
    References Cited