ART & ORGANISM
INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION
Since deep antiquity seekers of wisdom have been urged to “KNOW THYSELF”
But also, in one’s behavior, to express NOTHING IN EXCESS .
Arguably, REASON itself evolved as a result of this tension and the necessity for socialization to develop and contribute to self actualization. [recall that in our integrative biological version of Maslow’s hierarchy of motivational NEEDS, socialization preceded the individuation of “esteem” (being recognized by potential partners for your useful uniqueness)
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.
“Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.”
“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective. (excerpt from Elizabeth Kolbert’s essay review of The Enigma of Reason, by the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber: “That’s What You Think” By Elizabeth Kolbert The New Yorker Books February 27, 2017 Issue pp 66-71 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds