Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition?

Discuss the February 2015 philosophy book of the month, The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson.
Post Reply
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4197
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition?

Post by Scott » February 1st, 2015, 12:42 pm

[This topic is about the February 2015 philosophy book of the month, "The Meaning of Human Existence" by Edward O. Wilson. Please refrain from participating until you have read the book.]

In describing the role the uncommon feature of eusociality played in human evolution, and the unique way human ancestors adapted this feature, Wilson seems to describe the evolutionary causes of what I think many would describe as the human condition. For instance, consider the following which Wilson provides as a succinct explanation of the 2 major opposing forces that played such a uniquely influential role in shaping human evolution (page 20 of my book):
Edward O. Wilson wrote:Within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals.
That distinction of course relates to what many would describe--absurdly equivocally in my opinion--as "moral goodness" and "evil". The scientific explanation for this prevalent conflict in humans that instead of pinning some humans against other humans actually pins each human against him or herself. We can thus say, using poetically simplified terms whose true meaning is backed by solid science, that the line between good and evil is drawn between the heart of every man. That latter maxim is something I have believed for a long time. I think Wilson does an excellent job clearly explaining the scientific reason for that inherent quality in humanity. And where there is reason there is a type of meaning, hence the title of the book. What do you think?
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

Alias
Posts: 2331
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Alias » February 2nd, 2015, 2:42 pm

It's the process by which we give ourselves meaning.

Yes, I think he's done a good job of explaining why we're all crazy: the struggle between selfishness and altruism (evil vs good, if you like to simplify) is only the beginning.

The bigger problem comes from storytelling. Group selection advantage lies in teamwork, which depends on communication, which requires empathy and constantly expanded and improved language. Observing, understanding, making sense of other people helps us communicate. But it also leads naturally into story-telling, and narrative needs cause-effect chains. And that opens the trap of turning all observed phenomena into a drama of which we are the star performer, and all events into a meaningful narrative of which are the central motivator.

So, now we have the unique story of each individual alongside/within/versus the shared story of the tribe alongside/within/versus the collective story of humankind. It's the shifting dynamic of that alongside/inside/versus relationship that gives rise to all moral and political theory.
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 921
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 7th, 2015, 12:18 am

Scott wrote:That distinction of course relates to what many would describe--absurdly equivocally in my opinion--as "moral goodness" and "evil". The scientific explanation for this prevalent conflict in humans that instead of pinning some humans against other humans actually pins each human against him or herself. We can thus say, using poetically simplified terms whose true meaning is backed by solid science, that the line between good and evil is drawn between the heart of every man. That latter maxim is something I have believed for a long time. I think Wilson does an excellent job clearly explaining the scientific reason for that inherent quality in humanity. And where there is reason there is a type of meaning, hence the title of the book. What do you think?
I like it. It may be a silly oversimplification, but the idea of the different evolutionary tendencies being the root of "sin and virtue" is certainly fun to think about.

I also like his idea that cooperation within the group, sacrificing of the individual, may have been an overwhelmingly powerful development.

The "meaning" part still presents a difficulty. Your "a type of meaning" is about as far as you can go. The title of the book is tongue in cheek, that's ok with me.

-- February 6th, 2015, 11:27 pm --
Alias wrote: The bigger problem comes from storytelling. Group selection advantage lies in teamwork, which depends on communication, which requires empathy and constantly expanded and improved language. Observing, understanding, making sense of other people helps us communicate. But it also leads naturally into story-telling, and narrative needs cause-effect chains. And that opens the trap of turning all observed phenomena into a drama of which we are the star performer, and all events into a meaningful narrative of which are the central motivator.
Why would this be? It seems to me the early narratives were about great warriors or gods.

-- February 13th, 2015, 11:15 am --

When I mention the book to friends, with its grand title, "The Meaning of Human Existence," I say, "it's a short book." They usually laugh and say, because there is no meaning! And they have it right. Wilson does not consider the "meaning" that most meaning hunters are looking for. Wilson closes down any idea of supernatural or teleological purpose early in the book.
fair to say

Madera
Posts: 340
Joined: April 25th, 2014, 7:53 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Madera » February 19th, 2015, 12:45 am

I am not sure how to reply but I believe the human condition is caused by our experiences in life from birth on. Experiences shape us one way or another. MAdera

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 921
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 19th, 2015, 9:49 am

Madera wrote:I am not sure how to reply but I believe the human condition is caused by our experiences in life from birth on. Experiences shape us one way or another. MAdera
Just thinking common-sensically, people are pretty similar no matter their life experiences. If we were blank slates at birth, each of us learning/making the human condition out of our personal experiences, there would be much more variance. There would be a Smith condition, a Jones condition, not a human condition.

We're actually not even that different from primates in our social structure, motivations, empathy, altruism.

What this says to me is that there is a strong genetic component to the human condition.
fair to say

Madera
Posts: 340
Joined: April 25th, 2014, 7:53 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Madera » February 19th, 2015, 1:06 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Madera wrote:I am not sure how to reply but I believe the human condition is caused by our experiences in life from birth on. Experiences shape us one way or another. MAdera
Just thinking common-sensically, people are pretty similar no matter their life experiences. If we were blank slates at birth, each of us learning/making the human condition out of our personal experiences, there would be much more variance. There would be a Smith condition, a Jones condition, not a human condition.

We're actually not even that different from primates in our social structure, motivations, empathy, altruism.

What this says to me is that there is a strong genetic component to the human condition.
Yes, there is a strong genetic component to the human condition, but, it all depends on the individual, Genes can be altered in many ways, the foods we eat can alter the genetic component, life styles can alter it. Take identical twins can that change as they grow. Our emotional outlooks due to our experienced can change them.

Alias
Posts: 2331
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Alias » February 20th, 2015, 2:40 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Alias " The bigger problem comes from storytelling. Group selection advantage lies in teamwork, which depends on communication, which requires empathy and constantly expanded and improved language. Observing, understanding, making sense of other people helps us communicate. But it also leads naturally into story-telling, and narrative needs cause-effect chains. And that opens the trap of turning all observed phenomena into a drama of which we are the star performer, and all events into a meaningful narrative of which are the central motivator." Why would this be? It seems to me the early narratives were about great warriors or gods.
Those are some of the earliest stories carved in stone forever. The earliest story each person tells goes something like: "I woke up. There was light. I was hungry. Hunger is unpleasant, so I cried. Mama came and picked me up and made those shushy-mushy noises and hugged me and fed me."

By story-telling, I don't just mean the literature that's written down by civilized societies - I mean, all the narratives we're telling ourselves and one another, every minute of every day, waking and sleeping, since we invented the words to do it with. The stories use language and also build language, use observation and mimicry, and also expand our ability to observe, intuit and interpret. The next chapter of that earliest story might go: "Waking up made the light. Feeling bad made me cry. Crying made Mama come and cuddle me." Interpreting things that happen concurrently or sequentially as related in a cause-and-effect chain. And that can lead to some very inaccurate conclusions, in which we have too big a personal investment.


-- February 13th, 2015, 11:15 am --

When I mention the book to friends, with its grand title, "The Meaning of Human Existence," I say, "it's a short book." They usually laugh and say, because there is no meaning! And they have it right. Wilson does not consider the "meaning" that most meaning hunters are looking for. Wilson closes down any idea of supernatural or teleological purpose early in the book.[/quote]
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 921
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 20th, 2015, 9:56 am

Alias wrote:Alias " The bigger problem comes from storytelling. Group selection advantage lies in teamwork, which depends on communication, which requires empathy and constantly expanded and improved language. Observing, understanding, making sense of other people helps us communicate. But it also leads naturally into story-telling, and narrative needs cause-effect chains. And that opens the trap of turning all observed phenomena into a drama of which we are the star performer, and all events into a meaningful narrative of which are the central motivator."
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:Why would this be? It seems to me the early narratives were about great warriors or gods.
Alias wrote:Those are some of the earliest stories carved in stone forever. The earliest story each person tells goes something like: "I woke up. There was light. I was hungry. Hunger is unpleasant, so I cried. Mama came and picked me up and made those shushy-mushy noises and hugged me and fed me."

By story-telling, I don't just mean the literature that's written down by civilized societies - I mean, all the narratives we're telling ourselves and one another, every minute of every day, waking and sleeping, since we invented the words to do it with. The stories use language and also build language, use observation and mimicry, and also expand our ability to observe, intuit and interpret. The next chapter of that earliest story might go: "Waking up made the light. Feeling bad made me cry. Crying made Mama come and cuddle me." Interpreting things that happen concurrently or sequentially as related in a cause-and-effect chain. And that can lead to some very inaccurate conclusions, in which we have too big a personal investment.
But on balance, those interpretations are a plus survival-wise, no? Cause and effect. How is this "the bigger problem"?
fair to say

Alias
Posts: 2331
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Alias » February 20th, 2015, 1:10 pm

3uGH7D4ML wrote: But on balance, those interpretations are a plus survival-wise, no? Cause and effect. How is this "the bigger problem"?
On balance? The ability to communicate is pro-survival of the species... up to this point. But, at what cost? Much of the story-telling in civilization, and even pre-civilization, has resulted in very bad local outcomes.

"We, Spaniards, are obviously the pinnacle of God's creation. We possess His true Word and ultimate expression. Therefore, those painted savages in America would benefit greatly from conversion to Christianity, though it may be necessary to make them earn it by forced labour. If they disagree, they deserve extermination. Either way, we have a God-given right to the gold."

And at this point, the meanings we give to our collective narrative may determine the survival or extinction of more than just a few species and tribes. Could be the whole enchilada. That's the big problem.
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

Madera
Posts: 340
Joined: April 25th, 2014, 7:53 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Madera » February 20th, 2015, 1:31 pm

ACCORDING TO NEWSMAX MANY WILL PERISH.in 6 months. ww3 atomic bombs will be fired and without warnings.

User avatar
3uGH7D4MLj
Posts: 921
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 3:39 pm

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 20th, 2015, 8:47 pm

Alias wrote:
3uGH7D4ML wrote: But on balance, those interpretations are a plus survival-wise, no? Cause and effect. How is this "the bigger problem"?
On balance? The ability to communicate is pro-survival of the species... up to this point. But, at what cost? Much of the story-telling in civilization, and even pre-civilization, has resulted in very bad local outcomes.

"We, Spaniards, are obviously the pinnacle of God's creation. We possess His true Word and ultimate expression. Therefore, those painted savages in America would benefit greatly from conversion to Christianity, though it may be necessary to make them earn it by forced labour. If they disagree, they deserve extermination. Either way, we have a God-given right to the gold."

And at this point, the meanings we give to our collective narrative may determine the survival or extinction of more than just a few species and tribes. Could be the whole enchilada. That's the big problem.
We do have a bloody history. I wonder if dolphins tell stories. It would probably have been better to stay in a dolphin-like form rather than telling stories, realizing cause and effect, etc. I see what you mean.
fair to say

Alias
Posts: 2331
Joined: November 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Terry Pratchett

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Alias » February 21st, 2015, 12:22 am

So long, so long, so long, so long, and thanks for all the fiiish!
Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities. - Voltaire

User avatar
Universal Melody
New Trial Member
Posts: 1
Joined: February 12th, 2014, 8:56 am

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Universal Melody » March 9th, 2015, 5:58 am

Eusociality positively in evolution Hmmm I do believe in universal connectedness and consciousness behind form.

Beyond words and the unnecessary choice of duality (eg good and evil) lies an energy of wholeness

Anthony Edgar
Posts: 150
Joined: July 9th, 2016, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Paula Haigh
Location: Forster NSW Australia

Re: Evolutionary Source Of Meaning Shows The Human Condition

Post by Anthony Edgar » July 9th, 2016, 9:49 pm

According to the theory of evolution, human beings are the product of a mindless, purposeless process called evolution. Evolution has no consciousness, nor intelligence. It does not plan or design or think.
This means all living things are merely collections of molecules that accidentally came together to form complex biological machines. The same process (evolution) produced biological machines of varying complexity; from single-cell organisms to human beings.

This being so, one can conclude that:
1. Human beings are as meaningless and purposeless as the process that produced them.
2. The life of human being has no more meaning or importance than that of a virus, cockroach or rat.
3. The only difference between mud and a human being is complexity.
4. There is no after-life. When a human being dies, he is demoted from glorified mud to just ordinary mud.
5. Since human beings are the product of a mindless, meaningless process, there can be no meaning to life. Assigning meaning to life -according to evolution - is irrational.
6. Feelings and emotions don't equal meaning and they don't change the implications of evolution.

Post Reply