Sociality and the human mind

Authored by: Julian Kiverstein

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of the Social Mind

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138827691
eBook ISBN: 9781315530178
Adobe ISBN: 9781315530161


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The idea of humans as by nature social and political and animals can be traced back to Aristotle and was given a modern inflection by Hegel and Marx. These philosophers took sociality to be built into our very being. It is what defines us as human, distinguishing us from other animals. Yet how did we come to be this way? Chimpanzees live in groups, form alliances and they use simple tools such as sticks to fish for termites and stones to break open nuts. They have the rudiments of a social and political life. However, a gulf seems to separate their social life from ours. Humans created political and economic institutions. We developed elaborate systems of knowledge of our own history, and of the natural and physical world. We enrich our lives with artistic objects, each the product of a long prior history of making which these objects reflect back at us. We identify ourselves with groups and engage in the complex rituals and practices of those groups. We feel guilt, shame and pride when a member of our own group does something noteworthy. By contrast, we instinctively fear and often despise members of out-groups. Is there something in human psychology that might explain how people joined forces to become not just you and me but we?

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