Becoming Human

From Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology

Becoming Human

The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality

By Jennifer Greenwood

A novel, wide-ranging, and comprehensive account of how human emotionality develops, proposing a process in which “nature” and “nurture” are integrated.





A novel, wide-ranging, and comprehensive account of how human emotionality develops, proposing a process in which “nature” and “nurture” are integrated.

In Becoming Human, Jennifer Greenwood proposes a novel theory of the development of human emotionality. In doing so, she makes important contributions to the nature-nurture debate in emotion theory and the intracranialist–transcranialist debate in philosophy of mind. Greenwood shows that the distinction between nature and nurture is unfounded; biological and cultural resources are deeply functionally integrated throughout the developmental process. She also shows that human emotional and language development are transcranialist achievements; human ontogenesis takes place in extended cognitive systems that include environmental, technological, and sociocultural resources. Greenwood tells the story of how each of us becomes a full human being: how human brains are constructed and how these brains acquire their contents through massive epigenetic scaffolding.

After an introduction in which she explains the efficiency of the human newborn as a learning machine, Greenwood reviews traditional and contemporary theories of emotion, highlighting both strengths and limitations. She addresses the intracranialist–transcranialist debate, arguing that transcranialists have failed to answer important intracranialist objections; describes the depth of the functional integration of intraneural and external resources in emotional ontogenesis; examines early behavior patterns that provide the basis for the development of language; explains the biosemantic theory of representational content, and the wider cognitive systems that define it; and argues that language production and comprehension are always context dependent. Finally, in light of the deep and complex functional integration of neural, corporeal, and sociocultural resources in human ontogenesis, she recommends a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach for future research.


$42.00 X ISBN: 9780262029780 272 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Jennifer Greenwood's Becoming Human is an original and compelling account of how human emotional and cognitive development is scaffolded by cultural resources. She does this by making a persuasive case for the integration of neural, bodily, and cultural resources during development. This is an important contribution to our understanding of the developmental processes that result in complex, culturally mediated emotions.

    Richard Menary

    Associate Professor of Philosophy, Macquarie University

  • Greenwood's book is ambitious in its scope, linking evolutionary and developmental theories of emotion with work in situated cognition and cognitive scaffolding; it contains a great deal of interesting material, is well organized, and presents some truly original insights that are timely in terms of their fit with multiple literatures.

    -Daniel M. T. Fessler

    Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles