In Evolutionary Psychology, Brian Boyd reviews Jon Adams’ Interference Patterns: Literary Study, Scientific Knowledge, and Disciplinary Autonomy.
Adams objects to a closer link between literature and the sciences especially because he accepts Richard Rorty’s stress on the different questions that different disciplines ask. But neither consilience nor an evolutionary approach to literature imperils pluralism. Consilience requires only that all levels of explanation be compatible. A chemistry that asked only the same questions as physics would no longer be chemistry, but chemistry incompatible with physics would no longer be science. Neither Freudian psychoanalysis nor a biology-denying constructivism proves compatible with evolution or evidence, but within an evolutionary perspective on literature, the latter can be studied from many different angles, so long as they are compatible with other empirical disciplines.
We can study literature from anthropological, economic, political, religious or sociological angles, but with evolution’s power to explain multilevel selection and the complex interplay between competition and cooperation, we can explore sociality with far greater depth and range. Or we can study literature from neurological or psychological angles, using all the temporal and physical breadth of evolution and all the temporal and physical resolution of neuroscience. Or we can study literature as literature, as art, with all the expertise of human readers, scholarship and traditions and where appropriate with all the power of scientific method.