Re: reading a book

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 27 Apr 2005 - 23:17:36 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: reading a book"

    --- Dace <> wrote:

    > > From: Scott Chase <>
    > >
    > > I wouldn't go as far as Huxley in giving humans a
    > > designation of Psychozoa, but there's some serious
    > > emergent order that sets us apart from other great
    > > apes, although this is probably a major difference
    > in
    > > degree, not kind. Cumulative adaptions via
    > transmitted
    > > culture might be the key. Yet genetically and
    > > physically we aren't too different from chimps and
    > > bonobos at least. Think of all the hominid fossils
    > > that would have to be renamed to reflect our
    > taxonomic
    > > similarity to other great apes. We are apes with
    > cell
    > > phones.
    > It's difficult to define exactly where ordinary
    > animal mentality leaves off
    > and human mentality begins. As numerous researchers
    > have demonstrated,
    > chimps are aware of mentality. They reveal this
    > awareness via the fact that
    > they speculate as to what's on the minds of other
    > chimps and then try to
    > manipulate what these other chimps are thinking.
    > Only the great apes appear
    > to have this capacity. See *Machiavellian
    > Intelligence: Social Expertise
    > and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes and
    > Humans* edited by Dick
    > Byrne and Andrew Whiten, Oxford: Clarendon Press,
    > 1988.
    > Though apes can think about thinking, they don't
    > seem to exploit this
    > ability systematically. What distinguishes humans
    > is not our basic capacity
    > for meta-representation but simply the fact that we
    > follow up on this
    > ability. In essence, an ape is a body in
    > conjunction with a mind. A human,
    > on the other hand, is a mind in conjunction with a
    > body. Apes, despite
    > their mental self-awareness, are still animals,
    > while humans have evolved
    > into something fundamentally different-- Psychozoa
    > as J. Huxley puts it.
    > It's not enough to have reflexive mentality. Only
    > when the locus of
    > self-existence shifts from body to mind does a
    > self-contained realm of
    > culture open up, a mental environment in which memes
    > may compete for
    > dominance much as animals do in the physical
    > environment.
    You makee excellent points, but my main concern is that, given chimps are our closest kins, is anything they do remotely similar to transmitted culture? Some hardcore sociobio types might question the existence of transmitted culture in humans, going more for the possibility of thin veneer evoked stuff Aunger talks about. I Follow Aunger on this issue thinking culture transmits in humans, but does it transmit in chimps? Another barrier to cross theoretically is whther cultural stuff replicates in humans. And again the same question in chimps. I think Blackmore talked about how the tits opening milk bottles was more a case of local enhancement or facilitation, where an animal might see that another is doing something and thus have a greater chance of being in the same area and sort of learning how to do a similar act pretty much on its own, versus using the other animal's actions as a model to imitate. I think this is a valid critical point to reflect on when we attribute culture, cultural transmission and/or replication of behavior to non-humans.

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