Our development as individuals involves differentiation: developing our uniqueness from otherwise shared characteristics. But as social animals we also need to do this in a social context.  Between congenital and acquired qualities of your SELF,  How much of you is YOU, and how much OTHER PEOPLE (real or idealized):  These apparent alternatives are (or should be) in DYNAMIC BALANCE (an “essential tension”); look also into “listening angels.”   An “essential tension” was originally described by Thomas Kuhn as a state of balance or reciprocity between tradition and innovation … it involves CHANGE – sometimes perceived as an inexorable drift toward a different state of being, but also often perceived as a “maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal.” (Berman).   BUT IS “BEING YOURSELF” the same as “KNOWING YOUR SELF” ??  Read

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




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