Cover: Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures, from Harvard University PressCover: Numbers and the Making of Us in PAPERBACK

Numbers and the Making of Us

Counting and the Course of Human Cultures

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$18.95 • £15.95 • €17.00

ISBN 9780674237810

Publication Date: 04/22/2019

Trade

312 pages

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

7 photos, 1 illus.

World

Carved into our past, woven into our present, numbers shape our perceptions of the world and of ourselves much more than we commonly think. Numbers and the Making of Us is a sweeping account of how numbers radically enhanced our species’ cognitive capabilities and sparked a revolution in human culture. Caleb Everett brings new insights in psychology, anthropology, primatology, linguistics, and other disciplines to bear in explaining the myriad human behaviors and modes of thought numbers have made possible, from enabling us to conceptualize time in new ways to facilitating the development of writing, agriculture, and other advances of civilization.

Number concepts are a human invention—a tool, much like the wheel, developed and refined over millennia. Numbers allow us to grasp quantities precisely, but they are not innate. Recent research confirms that most specific quantities are not perceived in the absence of a number system. In fact, without the use of numbers, we cannot precisely grasp quantities greater than three; our minds can only estimate beyond this surprisingly minuscule limit.

Everett examines the various types of numbers that have developed in different societies, showing how most number systems derived from anatomical factors such as the number of fingers on each hand. He details fascinating work with indigenous Amazonians who demonstrate that, unlike language, numbers are not a universal human endowment. Yet without numbers, the world as we know it would not exist.

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America, by Beth Lew-Williams, from Harvard University Press

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Part II

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re showcasing titles that document the Asian American experience. Our second excerpt comes from Beth Lew-Williams’s prizewinning book The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America, which historian Richard White describes as “a powerful argument about racial violence that could not be more timely.” Monday night, Gong was asleep in his tent when the vigilantes returned