My new quibble is with myself. I have realized that I misnamed this blog when I started it around 2 years ago. Instead of “Biological Roots of Humanity,” which refers more to the origin of our species, I would have done better to name it “The Biological Roots of Our Humanity.” This would refer to our human qualities and abilities, sort of like the biological roots of dogginess as opposed to wolfishness. A small difference but a significant one that I have figured out after only 2 years (I never claimed to be quick, or at least not recently). There is not much argument any more outside of fundamentalists’ circles that our species arose through evolution, i.e., that we have biological roots. So my argument is that whatever it is that composes our humanity, e.g., art, religion, governance, science, etc., has biological roots (in this facet I stand with the sociobiologists), and this brings me to my old quibble now with Mr. Jourdain in his book, Music,The Brain, and Ecstasy, that I mentioned in a recent previous post or two.
Consider this passage on page 307: “An organism must be able to look far into the future, and to remember far into the past, to make possible the give-now-and-receive-later calculus of cooperation. Only the symbolic minds of human beings are up to the job.” Oh my, this is exactly what I have written against here these past two years and talked about for 45 years. Peruse past posts and you will see plenty of cooperation evidenced by other species. We have been aware of our commonalities here at least since Darwin, if you are not blinded by the mythic uniqueness of humanity (the species). It would be perhaps more accurate to say that only humans, with their special symbolic capabilities, manage to kill so many of our own kind with incredibly destructive weapons over cultural differences and not over resources. But cooperation? Read this blog; even better read books often mentioned here by Frans de Waal for a true glimpse into the capacities of other animals.
in the last post I passed over the insufficiency of Jourdain’s discussion of ‘meaning’ in music. That it is insufficient may be traced to the distorted lenses of humanity’s (our qualities) special abilities that have arisen without precedent. I will also add that any discussion of our humanity must include not just the usual focus on our symbolic capabilities but also our empathic ones, and that goes double for any discussion of aesthetics.
Now it is time for me to travel on.