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Workshop on the Origins of Awe and Wonder

Sunday, April 3, from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm (public portion)

Invited speakers:

Schedule:

Professor Mary Lee Jensvold, Central Washington University, chimpanzee behavior

Public lectures: 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, Chemistry 033

Catered luncheon with open discussion: 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm, Georgian Room, IMU

Register here (maximum of 50 people for the catered lunch): http://goo.gl/forms/vg4t52lnVi

Professor Randall White, New York University, prehistoric art

Professor Jesse Prinz, City University of New York, philosophical perspectives

Description:

Wonder about the natural world is fundamental to the human condition, and to many intellectual endeavors. The goal of this workshop is to explore such questions as: Does a sense of wonder exist in other species? What archeological evidence is there of a sense of wonder in our early ancestors? What future work might be pursued that could lead to a better understanding of the role of wonder in the cognitive evolution of humans and other animals?

Detailed Schedule:

Morning talks, Chemistry room 033 (open to the public)

8:00 – 9:00 am: Coffee, tea, bagels etc.

9:00 - 9:30 am: Prof. Tom Schoenemann (Indiana University) - Welcome and introduction

9:30 - 10:30 am: Prof. Mary Lee Jensvold (Central Washington University) – “Signs of Art and Pretend Play in Chimpanzees”

10:30 - 11:30 am: Prof. Randall White (New York University) – “The invention of sensory illusion: expressive culture in the European Aurignacian

11:30 am - 12:30 pm: Prof. Jesse Prinz (City University of New York and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) – “How Wonder Transformed Homo Sapiens into Human Beings”

Luncheon with presentations and open discussion, in the Georgian Room of the Indiana Memorial Union (open to the public, but limited to the first 50 to RSVP)

12:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Afternoon roundtable discussion (by invitation)

3:00 pm to 5 pm

Workshop Goals:

The focus of this workshop will be on the evolutionary origins of the sense of awe and wonder. Wonder about the natural world is fundamental to the human condition, and to many intellectual endeavors. From an evolutionary perspective, wonder about the natural world might have been a crucial component of our species adaptation. It might have encouraged a desire to explore how the world works in a deeper manner, potentially leading to increasing technological innovation. Wonder would in fact seem to be a powerful motivating influence among scientists. The goal of this workshop is to explore such questions as: Does a sense of wonder exist in other species? What archeological evidence is there of a sense of wonder in our early ancestors? What future work might be pursued that could lead to a better understanding of the role of wonder in the cognitive evolution of humans and other animals?

The workshop will welcome three distinguished scholars to Bloomington to interact with members of the IU community interested the evolution of cognition: Professor Mary Lee Jensvold, from Central Washington University, has extensive experience with chimpanzee behavior.  Professor Randall White, from New York University, is specialist in prehistoric art. Professor Jesse Prinz, from City University of New York and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is a philosopher who has deep interests in the origins of wonder.

The workshop will include a morning session of public presentations by these invited scholars, a subsequent luncheon (also open to the public) during which a series of short (~10 min) presentations will be given by interested IU scholars, to be followed by an open discussion session. Finally, an afternoon roundtable involving the invited scholars and a core group of IU scholars will assess what conclusions might be made about the evolutionary origins and development of awe and wonder. If enough unanimity of agreement emerges from the roundtable discussions, a position paper will be produced for publication summarizing points of agreement.

This workshop has been made possible by a grant from Indiana University’s Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society, a consortium sponsored by the Vice President for Research Office. Additional funding has been provided by the Stone Age Institute.

Distinguished invited scholars:

Presenters%20abstracts%20and%20info/Mary%20Lee%20Jensvold/mlj1.jpegMary Lee Jensvold is Primate Communication Scientist at Fauna Foundation in Carignan, Quebec, Canada.  She is Senior Lecturer in the Primate Behavior & Ecology Program and Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA USA. She is the former director of the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute. She worked with the CHCI family of signing chimpanzees since 1986. In 1985 she received a B.A. in Psychology from University of Oregon, in 1989 a M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Central Washington University, and in 1996 a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from University of Nevada-Reno. She specializes in ethological studies of apes, animal intelligence, communication, language, and culture. Her studies include conversational behaviors, private signing, phrase development, chimpanzee to chimpanzee conversation, imaginary play, and artwork in chimpanzees. Other research includes caregiving practices, zoo visitor effects, and public education about chimpanzees. She is active in improving conditions for captive chimpanzees through research and advocacy.  She is on the boards of the Animal Welfare Institute, Fauna Foundation, and Friends of Washoe.  She was a Sigma Xi distinguished lecturer and has numerous publications on chimpanzee communication, behavior, and care.

Randall White is Professor of Anthropology in the Center for the Study of Human Origins at New York University. A leading authority on the arts and cultures of the European Upper Paleolithic, he currently directs excavations at the Aurignacian site of Sous-le-Roc in the Dordogne region of France. From 1994 and 2014, he excavated key art-bearing Aurignacian sites: Abri Castanet, Abri Blanchard and Abri Cellier. In the course of that work, White and his team have made major new discoveries and have increased the sample of Aurignacian decorated blocks by some 30%. As importantly, that team has provided precise 14C dating for many works. In parallel, White has contributed to our understanding of Paleolithic female statuary through his technical, experimental and microscopic analysis of figurines from France (Brassempouy), Italy (Grimaldi) and the Russian Plain (Kostienki, Avdeevo, Gagarino). Whenever possible he retreats to La Valade, his farm in the VézŹre Valley, accompanied by his wife HélŹne and their 8 year-old daughter Léa.

/Users/tom/Documents/Papers and Talks/Wonder and the natural world proposal/Presenters abstracts and info/Jesse Prinz/Jesse Prinz - Headshot 2016.jpegJesse Prinz is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of Interdisciplinary Science Studies at the City University of New York, Graduate Center.  His research focuses on the perceptual, emotional, and cultural foundations of human psychology.  He is author of over 100 articles and several books: Furnishing the Mind (MIT, 2002), Gut Reactions (Oxford, 2004), The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford, 2007), Beyond Human Nature (Norton, 2012), and The Conscious Brain (Oxford, 2012).  Two other books are forthcoming The Moral Self and Works of Wonder: A Theory of Art (both with Oxford).



Indiana University Organizers:

Tom Schoenemann (Anthropology, Cognitive Science Program)

Colin Allen (History and Philosophy of Science, Cognitive Science Program)

Kevin Hunt (Anthropology, Cognitive Science Program)

Kathy Schick (Stone Age Institute and Cognitive Science Program)

Nick Toth (Stone Age Institute and Cognitive Science Program)

 

Workshop sponsors:

Š      Indiana University’s Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society, a consortium sponsored by the Vice President for Research Office (http://www.indiana.edu/~csres/home.php)

Š      The Stone Age Institute (http://www.stoneageinstitute.org)

 

Abstracts of invited speakers:

Prof. Mary Lee Jensvold: “Signs of Art and Pretend Play in Chimpanzees”

Young chimpanzees who were cross-fostered by humans acquired signs of American Sign Language and other behaviors typical of Western human children such as drawing. The chimpanzees labeled many of their drawings. The chimpanzees’ use of two-way communication provides opportunity to ask questions about their drawings. Their drawings and paintings show individual differences in style between chimpanzees.  Some drawings show consistent schema among images with the same title such as cup. Aspects of aesthetics such balance, respect for boundaries, and threeness are explored in examples of chimpanzee artwork. The chimpanzees use behaviors and signs in ways that resemble pretend play in human children. Examples include animation, substitution, attribution of function, and word play.

Prof. Randall White: “The invention of sensory illusion: expressive culture in the European Aurignacian

We have lost track of just how magical and awe-inspiring the very first material representations must have seemed. Identifiable images of real-world subjects required the invention of visual illusion through complex technologies with complex rules. Tactile and auditory representations are dependent on the invention of techniques of surface alteration and sound control respectively. Examining in rich detail the expressive culture of the Aurignacian (43,000 to 28,000 years ago), the earliest modern human culture in Western and Central Europe, Randall White will focus on ornaments, images and sounds. The wonders of sites like Abri Blanchard, Abri Castanet, Grotte Chauvet, Hohlenstein-Stadel, Vogelherd and Hohlefels will hold pride of place in this richly illustrated and multisensory presentation.

 

Prof. Jesse Prinz: “How Wonder Transformed Homo Sapiens into Human Beings”

Wonder is, arguably, the most human emotion.  It plays a central role in three of our most distinctive practices: art, religion, and science.  These practices appear surprisingly late in our (pre)history, suggesting that they are not innate dispositions, but rather contingent developments.  If wonder is an impetus for all three, this raises the possibility that wonder, too, is a latecomer.  This talk explores these issues, offering an analysis of wonder and an explanation why wonder began to show it’s transformational impact long after we attained anatomic modernity as a species.  

 

Contact:

For more information, please contact Tom Schoenemann (toms@indiana.edu)

 

Image sources:

 

Font de Gaume: http://www.ethnotraveler.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/8288204126_4463e1f7e0_b.jpg

Chimpanzee: http://static.nautil.us/6521_5b80dc3087306fe93a4dca4faadaf71c.jpg