Simona Ginsburg

Simona Ginsburg is Associate Professor at the Open University of Israel, where she developed and headed the MA Program in Biological Thought. She and Eva Jablonka are coauthors of The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness (MIT Press).

  • Picturing the Mind

    Consciousness through the Lens of Evolution

    Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka

    Consciousness in all its possible human and nonhuman varieties, explored through words and images.

    What is consciousness, and who (or what) is conscious—humans, nonhumans, nonliving beings? How did consciousness evolve? Picturing the Mind pursues these questions through a series of “vistas”—short, engaging texts by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, accompanied by Anna Zeligowski's lively illustrations. Taking an evolutionary perspective, Ginsburg and Jablonka suggest that consciousness can take many forms and is found not only in humans but even in such animals as octopuses (who seem to express emotions by changing color) and bees (who socialize with other bees). They identify the possible evolutionary marker of the transition from nonconscious to conscious animals, and they speculate intriguingly about aliens and artificial intelligence.

    Each picture and text serves as a starting point for discussion. The authors consider, among other things, what it's like to be a bat (and then later, what it's like to be a bat in virtual reality); ask if the self is like a hole in a doughnut; report that women, children, and nonwhite men were once thought by white men to be less richly conscious; and explore what sets humans apart—is it music, toolmaking, cooperative parenting, blushing, sentience, symbolic language? In Picturing the Mind, questions suggest answers.

    • Hardcover $34.95
  • The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul

    The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul

    Learning and the Origins of Consciousness

    Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka

    A new theory about the origins of consciousness that finds learning to be the driving force in the evolutionary transition to basic consciousness.

    What marked the evolutionary transition from organisms that lacked consciousness to those with consciousness—to minimal subjective experiencing, or, as Aristotle described it, “the sensitive soul”? In this book, Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka propose a new theory about the origin of consciousness that finds learning to be the driving force in the transition to basic consciousness. Using a methodology similar to that used by scientists when they identified the transition from non-life to life, Ginsburg and Jablonka suggest a set of criteria, identify a marker for the transition to minimal consciousness, and explore the far-reaching biological, psychological, and philosophical implications.

    After presenting the historical, neurobiological, and philosophical foundations of their analysis, Ginsburg and Jablonka propose that the evolutionary marker of basic or minimal consciousness is a complex form of associative learning, which they term unlimited associative learning (UAL). UAL enables an organism to ascribe motivational value to a novel, compound, non-reflex-inducing stimulus or action, and use it as the basis for future learning. Associative learning, Ginsburg and Jablonka argue, drove the Cambrian explosion and its massive diversification of organisms. Finally, Ginsburg and Jablonka propose symbolic language as a similar type of marker for the evolutionary transition to human rationality—to Aristotle's “rational soul.”

    • Hardcover $50.00


  • Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

    Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

    Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt

    Empirical and philosophical perspectives on scaffolding that highlight the role of temporal and temporary resources in development across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.

    "Scaffolding" is a concept that is becoming widely used across disciplines. This book investigates common threads in diverse applications of scaffolding, including theoretical biology, cognitive science, social theory, science and technology studies, and human development. Despite its widespread use, the concept of scaffolding is often given short shrift; the contributors to this volume, from a range of disciplines, offer a more fully developed analysis of scaffolding that highlights the role of temporal and temporary resources in development, broadly conceived, across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.

    The book emphasizes reproduction, repeated assembly, and entrenchment of heterogeneous relations, parts, and processes as a complement to neo-Darwinism in the developmentalist tradition of conceptualizing evolutionary change. After describing an integration of theoretical perspectives that can accommodate different levels of analysis and connect various methodologies, the book discusses multilevel organization; differences (and reciprocality) between individuals and institutions as units of analysis; and perspectives on development that span brains, careers, corporations, and cultural cycles.

    Contributors Colin Allen, Linnda R. Caporael, James Evans, Elihu M. Gerson, Simona Ginsburg, James R. Griesemer, Christophe Heintz, Eva Jablonka, Sanjay Joshi, Shu-Chen Li, Pamela Lyon, Sergio F. Martinez, Christopher J. May, Johann Peter Murmann, Stuart A. Newman, Jeffrey C. Schank, Iddo Tavory, Georg Theiner, Barbara Hoeberg Wimsatt, William C. Wimsatt

    • Hardcover $67.00
  • Transformations of Lamarckism

    Transformations of Lamarckism

    From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology

    Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka

    A reappraisal of Lamarckism—its historical impact and contemporary significance.

    In 1809—the year of Charles Darwin's birth—Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published Philosophie zoologique, the first comprehensive and systematic theory of biological evolution. The Lamarckian approach emphasizes the generation of developmental variations; Darwinism stresses selection. Lamarck's ideas were eventually eclipsed by Darwinian concepts, especially after the emergence of the Modern Synthesis in the twentieth century. The different approaches—which can be seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive—have important implications for the kinds of questions biologists ask and for the type of research they conduct. Lamarckism has been evolving—or, in Lamarckian terminology, transforming—since Philosophie zoologique's description of biological processes mediated by "subtle fluids." Essays in this book focus on new developments in biology that make Lamarck's ideas relevant not only to modern empirical and theoretical research but also to problems in the philosophy of biology. Contributors discuss the historical transformations of Lamarckism from the 1820s to the 1940s, and the different understandings of Lamarck and Lamarckism; the Modern Synthesis and its emphasis on Mendelian genetics; theoretical and experimental research on such "Lamarckian" topics as plasticity, soft (epigenetic) inheritance, and individuality; and the importance of a developmental approach to evolution in the philosophy of biology. The book shows the advantages of a "Lamarckian" perspective on evolution. Indeed, the development-oriented approach it presents is becoming central to current evolutionary studies—as can be seen in the burgeoning field of Evo-Devo. Transformations of Lamarckism makes a unique contribution to this research.

    • Hardcover $55.00
    • Paperback $50.00