What is the mind?
Phil Roberts, Jr.
philrob at ix.netcom.com
Fri Dec 18 18:19:08 EST 1998
Here is the second post I believe Dan is responding to:
Daniel Howard wrote:
> Phil, you have not address my evolutionary explanation. I am arguing that
> all these unselfish or repressive individual behaviours and all those
> feelings of worthlessness as you describe can be explanined with evolution.
> In order to come up with inventions and predictions, the brain developed the
> capability of "projection", i.e. we can put ourselves in another person's
> shoes. So this very powerful feature of the advanced brain is rampant (we
> are always projecting). So it is no doubt that a great many of us misplace
> these projections, i.e. into something less advantageous to us, for example
> wanting a cat more than a son, or loving God and becoming celibate.
Your absolutely right of course. I agree and was just saying something
of the same thing in slightly different language. This projectiion
business is probably at the very core of the matter, and is chiefly responsible,
not only for our placing more value on the wants and needs of others
than is survivalisitically expedient, but also allows us to have a
much more objective view of ourselves, much too objective, IMHO.
However, what you have to be very careful of here, IMHO, is maintaining
a distinction between what seems normal and natural from the perspective
of being a member of the human race, and what we have a right to expect
of ourselves according to the theory of natural selection. This is
what I mean by my contention that we are a species which is currently
a little too rational for our own good. Its from a "gene's"
For example, my guess is that the guy who took the little girl's place
on the last lifeboat aboard the Titanic survived physically, but spent
the rest of his life in deep depression, alcholism, and suicide by
neglect rather than as an overt act. In other words, we are a species
which simply "sees" a little too much for our own good. And this
projection thing you have brought up is right at the heart of the
matter. So, yes, yes, yes. And sorry I didn't focus on it a bit
more, but sometimes we self-centered humans get a little too
caught up in our own crusades, blah blah blah.
> Although these things are rampant in society, you cannot say that ALL of us
> have this problem. The real winners have less of this problem. They have
> less feelings of guilt for example.
Ahmen. But the real issue here is why nature hasn't weeded out ALL of
the quilty feelings in us. Perhaps you are claiming it is CHIEFLY because
guilt is more adaptive than not. I am saying it is CHIEFLY because
nature is manufacturing valuative objectivity faster than she can get
rid of it as a MOSTLY unwanted byproduct of the evolution of intelligence --
the projection thing. It helps here to remember Hume's little dictum
that 'all reasoning is simply comparing'. It doesn't take much
imagination to understand how such a process would have the projection effects you
have mentioned IRRESPECTIVE of the overall "desirability" in
> So it CAN be explained in terms of evolution. You must couple to this the
> fact that some of these non-selfish projections are not damaging. For
> example, the artist who refuses to make money in order to pursue his
> artistic dreams, and then suddenly his art is appreciated by similar minded
> people or art collectors and he becomes rich.
Yes, it is a bit of a mixed bag. What I am saying is that the Albert Schweitzer's
and the self-endangering Greenpeacers are wildly off the scale in terms of the
cost benefit equations, and that once you are able to "explain" them in
terms of your projection idea, you will begin to see a lot of other features
which you previously thought were present because they were adpative but which
you now come to realize are probably present, not because they are
survivalistically expedient, but because they are psychodynamically necessary.
> So what I am saying to you is that there is no clear way to measure a winner
> so that you cannot discount the theory that evolution can explain these
Our best and our brightest in sociobiological circles actually don't agree on
this point (to say nothing for the fact that your point doesn't even BEGIN to
address the issue of feelings of worhtlessness, the really tough nut to
The identification of individuals as the unit of
selection is a central theme in Darwin's thought.
This idea underliees his most radical claim: that
evolution is purposeless and without inherent
direction. ... Evolution does not recognize the 'good'
of the ecosystem' or even the 'good of the species.'
Any harmony or stability is only an indirect result of
individuals relentlessly pursuing their own self-interest
-- in modern parlance, getting more of their genes into
future generations by greater reproductive success.
Individuals are the unit of selection; the "struggle
for existence" is a matter among individuals (Stephen
_With very few exceptions_, the only parts of the theory
of natural selection which have been supported by
mathematical models admit no possiblity of the
evolution of any characters which are on average to
the disadvantage of the individuals possessing them.
If natural selection followed the classical models
exclusively, species would not show any behavior more
positively social than the coming together of the
sexes and parental care (W. D. Hamilton)
Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have
survived, in some cases for millions of years, in
a highly competitive world. This entitles us to
expect certain qualities from our genes. I shall
argue that a predominant quality to be expected in
a successful gene is _ruthless_selfishness_ [meta-
Even with qualifications regarding the possibility
of group selection, the portrait of the biologically
based social personality that emerges is one of
predominantly self-serving opportunism _even_for_
_the_most_social_species_, for all species in which
there is genetic competition among the social co-
operators, that is, where all members have the chance
of parenthood (Donald Campbell).
The notable exceptions are the social insects, but
that's because the workers are dependent on the queen
for their DNA perpetuation. Yep.
By the way, there is an article in the Behavior and Brain Sciences
which is about a resurrgence of the group selection idea (1994 - 17).
Dawkins, Dennett, and Campbell are unanimously unimpressed. That
doesn't mean they are right, but it certainly should give one
pause, don't you agree?
Phil Roberts, Jr.
Feelings of Worthlessness and So-Called Cognitive Science
More information about the Neur-sci