chapter  5
25 Pages

The Child in Mind

WithChristina Toren

This chapter is based on the premiss that what is wanted in the human sciences is a model of mind that is phenomenologically sound: that is to say, one that contains within itself the potential for acknowledging and explaining its own historicity even while it analyses the historicity of other ideas. 1 In this view a natural science model of mind cannot be viable for it allows no place for reflection on the conditions of its own genesis. Rather, because such a model takes it for granted that mind is 'an information-processing description of the functioning of an organism's brain', the problem for cognitive psychologists in general is to understand how mind works, while evolutionary psychologists want to explain further how mind works as a function of 'solutions to the adaptive problems that regularly occurred in the Pleistocene'. 2 As an anthropologist, I have been compelled by the evidence of ethnographic studies (my own among others) to develop a different approach, in which mind is characterized as a function of the whole person that is constituted over time in inter-subjective relations with others in the environing world (see Toren 1999). Because this perspective recognizes that all human ideas (my own included) are always the outcome of the microhistorical processes that characterize the constitution of mind over time in each and every one of us, it cannot help but challenge certain assumptions that are taken for granted by cognitivists of all persuasions (including cognitive anthropologists). It throws into relief the ethnocentricity of the natural science model of mind and in so doing suggests a way forward that does not rely on a claim to objectivity.