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Aragno, A. (2005). THE FIRST IDEA: HOW SYMBOLS, LANGUAGE, AND INTELLIGENCE EVOLVED FROM OUR PRIMATE ANCESTORS TO MODERN HUMANS. By Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., and Stuart G. Shanker, D.Phil. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Press, 2004. 504 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 74(4):1154-1164.
(2005). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 74(4):1154-1164
THE FIRST IDEA: HOW SYMBOLS, LANGUAGE, AND INTELLIGENCE EVOLVED FROM OUR PRIMATE ANCESTORS TO MODERN HUMANS. By Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., and Stuart G. Shanker, D.Phil. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Press, 2004. 504 pp.
Review by: Anna Aragno
Undoubtedly, it was the title of The First Idea and its intriguing subtitle, How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans, that drew me to this book. Unusual in our field and welcomed, leaps from psychology or psychoanalytic studies to their broader implications in the understanding of human evolution are both brave and bold. But if the old adage to “judge not a book by its cover” contains time-tested, cautionary wisdom, the same may apply to book titles. Given the sweeping ambition of its heading, the promise this holds, and the remarkable claims of its authors, it is not surprising that a book that aims so far might fall a distance from its mark.
Written by two prolific authors from disparate quarters—Stanley I. Greenspan, a supervising child psychoanalyst at Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, and Stuart G. Shanker, a research professor at York University, Toronto, their collaborative effort is based on expertise in developmental studies and a joint belief in the central thesis of this work, namely, that neither language nor symbolization, although unique to our species, is genetically given.
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