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 .
And then about the dynamic balance between individuation and socialization seen in light of the differences between LONELINESS and SOLITUDE: read A&O notes on NEEDS for SOCIALITY and SOLITUDE
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 emergence of “esteem”–how one stood out from the group and being recognized by potential partners for your useful uniqueness. You might, for example, act in a way to evoke a critical thought in a potential reproductive partner: “I want those genes (and/or memes) in my babies.”
Consider in terms of the idea that our most urgent needs are often TO KNOW AND TO BE KNOWN
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question [about the evolution of reason]. 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
ARISTOTLE on the necessity to be social to be fully human:
“… if each individual when separate is not self-sufficient, he must be related to the whole state as other parts are to their whole, while a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficing that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god.” (from Perseus, an open educational resource for Greek and Latin)
SOCIAL and HISTORICAL FORCES
- “Before modern times, very few human beings lived alone. Slowly, beginning not much more than a century ago, that changed. In the United States, more than one in four people now lives alone; in some parts of the country, especially big cities, that percentage is much higher. You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone, but the two are closely tied together, which makes lockdowns, sheltering in place, that much harder to bear. Loneliness, it seems unnecessary to say, is terrible for your health.” Read excerpts from “The History of Lonliness.”