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Sapiens? Happier in houses or in animal hides?


In his recent tome Sapiens Yuval Noah Hariri has delivered a forceful and fascinating case for humanity's main exception as denizens of the animal kingdom being our ability to share in things that are imaginary. Examples include mathematics, governments, states, corporations, gods, social castes, and money.

Further examples the praxeologist could add society as an aggregate concept*.

Hariri employs the concept of the inter-subjective to explain how people, not just one person, accept these fictions over time and then employ them in day-to-day life. Inter-subjective means exactly what it sounds like, the meeting of one human-being's subjective reference frame with the equally subjective reference frame of another human-being. In other words it's the phenom that is studied by sociologists - or at least real ones.

When ideas can spread amongst people the incentive to increase linguistic articulacy increases and before long we have deities, shared cultural norms, dispute resolution and large-scale - compared to what other homo species can manage - organisation, for example in planning and making farms, cities and war.

Hariri posits that this may be why Homo Sapiens tribes defeated Homo Neanderthalensis bands and conquered the Middle East and Europe wholesale. The inter-subjective society of the neanderthals was simply too primitive to organise grand strategies

However, Hariri himself writes for the Guardian asking whether we were happier in the stone age. Of course the flippant answer would be that none of us lived then, we live now. In all seriousness, however, we have - according to new research published in Nature - changed inside in response to creating private property, farming, fishing, forestry and urbanity.

Science Alert informs me that people's skin colour, eye colour and height changed dramatically in response to the adoption of agriculture

Strictly speaking the paper does not dissent from Hariri's reading of history. I am bringing it up to make clear that increasingly there is evidence that our constitutions have adapted to our sedentary new lives, and that in fact to assume away improvements in well-being is grossly disingenuous, nd amounts to the beginnings of eco-socialism through the back door.

I don't know if Hariri considers himself an eco-socialist but his analysis in that Guardian article arouses my suspicions since the Guardianistas and Independantes are known to be biased toward eco-socialism. All this 'you could be better off with less' rhetoric is all very well but unless somebody actually decides that they are, who am I to impose consumption-puritanism?

* I have no truck with the use of the term society to refer to 'a society' when talking about all of the people in a given space and time, but it must be remembered that it's only social (inter-subjective) bonds between real individual human-beings that have any objective reality, not the aggregate of a people.

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