Cultural Longevity: Morin on Cultural Lineages


Biology & Philosophy 2016 31(3): 435-446

Final draft

doi: 10.1007/s10539-015-9506-y (Subscription Required)



Morin has written a rich and valuable book. Its main aim is to isolate the factors involved in maintaining behavioural lineages over time, and to understand how these factors might interact. In doing so, it takes issue with the abstract and idealised models and arguments of dual-inheritance theorists, which are alleged in this account to rely on an overly simplistic notion of imitative learning. Morin’s book is full of ethnographic, anthropological, and psychological research, and there is much to commend in it. However, Morin’s arguments against the dual-inheritance theorists are less convincing when put under scrutiny, and his positive picture which includes appeals to ostensive communication, intrinsic appeal and cultural attraction has some difficulties. I argue that when we contrast dual-inheritance theorists and Morin, we find that there may be fewer differences and greater commonalities than Morin’s book might suggest.