Kim Sterelny

Deputy Director

Kim Sterelny is a philosopher who has spent his professional career in Australia and New Zealand, working mostly at the interface between philosophy and science. In the last fifteen years or so, his focus has been on the evolution of human social life and the cognitive capacities that support that life, with his interests ranging from the lifeways of the first bipedal hominins of the Pliocene to the Neolithic transformations of the last years of the Pleistocene and the Holocene. He is currently in the earliest stage of a collaborative project with Peter Hiscock, on a new synthesis of the archaeology of Sahul, aimed at replacing Hiscock’s earlier Archaeology of Ancient Australia. He has just completed a monograph on the transition to hierarchical societies (beginning late in the Pleistocene), and another, jointly with Ron Planer, on the evolution of language.

Prof Sterelny can be contacted via email.

Research area/theme
Colonising Sahul
Holocene revolutionslead
Relevant publications


From Sign to Symbol  (with Ron Planer). In press, MIT Press.

The Pleistocene Social Contract: Culture and Cooperation in Human Evolution. Oxford University Press, ISBN9780197531389, 2021.

Journal Articles

“A Paleolithic Reciprocation Crisis: Symbols, Signals, and Norms”, Biological Theory, 9, 1, pp 65-77, 2014

 “Cooperation, Culture, and Conflict”; British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 67, 1, pp 31-58, 2016.

.“Optimizing Engines: Rational Choice in The Neolithic?”; Philosophy of Science, 82 (July) pp. 402–423, 2015.

“Neolithization in Southwest Asia in a Context of Niche Construction Theory” (with Trevor Watkins); Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25:3, 673–691, 2015, together with a “Response to Critics” pp 700 – 705

 “The extended evolutionary synthesis: its structure, assumptions and predictions” (with Laland KN, Uller T, Feldman MW, Sterelny K, Muller GB, Moczek A, Jablonka, E, Odling-Smee J.); Proceedings of the Royal Society, B,  282: 1019;; 2015.

“Cumulative Cultural Evolution and the Origins of Language”; Biological Theory (2016) DOI 10.1007/s13752-016-0247-1

“In defence of story-telling.” (with Adrian Currie); Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A (2017).

“Artifacts, Symbols, Thoughts”; Biological Theory, 12(4), 236-247, DOI 10.1007/s13752-017-0277-3 (2017).

 “Cultural Evolution in California and Paris” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C, 62, pp 42-50 (2017)

 “Religion re-explained.” Religion, Brain & Behavior; (2017): 1-20.

 “From Code to Speaker Meaning”, Biology and Philosophy, December 2017, Volume 32, 6, pp 819–838

“Religion: Costs, Signals, and the Neolithic Transition”; Religion, Brain and Behavior, 2019.

“The Origins of Multi-Level Society”; Topoi (2019).

 “Innovation, Life History and Social Networks in Human Evolution”; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B (2019) https://doi. 10.1098/rstb.2019.0497

“Demography and Cultural Complexity”; Synthese, (2020),

Veiled agency? Children, innovation and the archaeological record”; Evolutionary Human Sciences. (2021) 3 (e12): 1-9. doi:10.1017/ehs.2021.9

Book Chapters

“Language: From How-Possibly to How-Probably?” In Richard Joyce (ed) Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy; Routledge, Oxford, pp 120-135 (2018).

“Culture and the Extended Phenotype: Cognition and Material Culture in Deep Time”. In Albert Newen, Leon de Bruin and Shaun Gallagher (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Cognition: Embodied, Embedded, Enactive and Extended (2018) pp 773-792.

“Adaptation without Insight?” In Robert Boyd’s A different kind of animal? How culture made humans exceptionally adaptable and cooperative. With responses from Ruth Mace, Paul Seabright, Kim Sterelny and Allen Orr. Princeton University Press (2018) pp 135-151.

“Norms and Their Evolution”. In T. Henley, E. Kardas, & M. J. Rossano (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology: A Psychological Framework. London: Routledge.  Expected publication August, (2019). 

“The Archaeology of the Extended Mind”. In Matteo Columbo, Elizabeth Irvine and Mog Stapleton (eds) Andy Clark and His Critics; Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 143-160 (2019).

“Michael Devitt, Cultural Evolution and the Division of Linguistic Labour”. In Bianchi, A. (ed) Language and reality from a Naturalistic perspective. pp. 173-189. Philosophical Studies Series 143. (2020).


Review of Billy Griffiths’ Deep Time Dreaming; Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 3, 2020, pp 163-166

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