Charlie's Ants

Charles Brown CharlesB at cncl.ci.detroit.mi.us
Wed Apr 24 13:59:48 MDT 2002


Charlie's Ants
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 11:15:51 -0400
From: GordThomps10 at netscape.net



^^^^^^^^

Charles: If they start ancestor "worship" , this could be a new sapiens species
- --------

Hi Charles:

I'm not sure of the distinctions between sentient, sapient, and homo
sapient; but, I suspect you have the cart before the horse. Following on
Joseph Campbell's finding of sacrifice as the oldest known basis of
religion, I would suggest that sapience arises from the development of
skill sets that are distinctly human, that ancestor reverrence arises as a
means of passing on accumulated intergenerational knowledge, and that the
sapience is therefore a precondition for religion, not the other way
around. Ancestor worship is then a mnemonic device, which arises in the
absence of a) rational explanations for how the skills develop and
function (they are seen as personal qualities of the Gifted One, which, if
you're lucky, might possibly grace your person should you stumble upon the
appropriate ritual of respect); and b) literacy skills that would allow
for a preservation of an accurate and detailed record of intergenerational
skills in hard copy.

By human skill sets, I mean skills that allow for the possibility of
self-directed intervention in the chain of cause and effect that
determines existence for non-human life forms.

^^^^^^^^^

CB: I'm not sure that we disagree. I put "worship" in quotes because I am precisely referring to the mnemonic and "means of passing on accumulated intergenerational knowledge " aspect and _not_ the religious aspect.

My position, which is also somewhere in the archives, is that the difference between humans and other species is our expanded sociality. It is expanded both within the living generation, and perhaps most importantly across the many generations.  Communication with ancestors is made possible by use of symbols/language/culture. The main significane and content of "sapience" is that it is "many heads in each individual head", including "heads" or the experience of dead generations.

These ants seem to have an enormous amount of sociality and communication within the living generation.

^^^^^^^



While I was rooting around in the archives the other day, I found
this quote from you:

Date: Fri, 04 May 2001 11:11:20 -0400

CB: -clip-

Charles, I have never seen it this way at all. I have seen this
entirely from the point of view of a dialectic materialist
understanding of how consciousness is formed. I've always read
'labour' in a more general sense of interaction with the environment.
Animals interact, but in an entirely random fashion: they are woken
up by the sun, they hunt if they happen to catch a scent, and so on.

^^^^^^^

CB: I'd say the critical difference in human labor is that it is social.

^^^^^

Humans are able to direct their activity - to break that chain of
cause and effect that binds all other life forms to the life style to
which their organic composition suits them.  It is at this point that
we begin to develop the capacity for abstract thought: in order to be
able to think ahead, we must be able to clearly picture in our brains
the entire chain of cause and effect. It is not the phantom in the
brain that comes first, it is the activity that gives rise to the
possibility for conceptualization that comes first.

^^^^^^^^

CB: Yes, activity/labor "comes first" gives rise to the "phantom in the brain". However, it is the activity/labor/experience of MANY OTHER PEOPLE that is reflected in one person's brain, not just the prior activities/labor/experience of the one person whose brain it is. There are no a priori truths in human individuals brains, only a posteriori or post experience truths. However, the experience that it comes after is usually not just the experience of the individual, but from many generations and many individuals. This is the key difference between humans and other species.  Symbols/language/culture allows me to share the experiences of many other humans, most of whom are long dead ( ancestors).

^^^^^^^



Now, here, I've always thought that the next significant development
was the new way of life made possible by the freeing of the hand
consequent to bipedalism, which turned tool usage into a life style
rather than an occasional curiosity as with other animals. This in
turn would allow for the input of a much larger and more diverse data
stream than would be possible in the old tool-less days. The sheer
quantity of data required the development of some method of
concatenation - symbolling, metaphor, whatever.

^^^^^^^^

CB: Again, I'd say the key thing in the development of tools is that one generation's experiences and learning with inventing and using tools are not lost with their deaths. Symbols/culture/language allow the passing on of that to the following generations.  The human difference is precisely that we don't have to reinvent the wheel, etc. every generation.

^^^^^


Recent findings are showing, however, that paleolithic man got by with
only one all-purpose tool - referred to as 'the Swiss Army knife of the
paleolithic'- for a period of a million years. So, I guess the passing on
of intergenerational knowledge may have been what led to the need for
symbolling, and is also what marks the significant stage in the transition
from proto-human to human? So we hav e a two-stage theory of the
development of ape to man, rather than the one leap suggested by Engels.

^^^^^^^

CB: Some passing on from one generation to the next could be done by imitation (not symbolling).  But symbolling allows an explosion in the amoung of what is passed on. So, I agree that symbolling arises for this function.  I would call this explosion the origin of homo sapiens.

^^^^^^^




>>> Of course, there was "labour" going on, in the sense that every species
>has to carry out certain activities to live physiologically.  But that the
>upright posture, free hands, and opposable thumb necessary to be a
>"laborer of the hand"  (with tools) wa s the key in causing the explosion
>of difference between humans and their ape ancestors does not seem correct
>to me, even if it occurred first (although I think there is evidence of
>symbolling which equals increased sociality simultaneous with freed hands
>). <<

I don't think symbolling equals increased sociality; I think it
equals increased potency in communication. It is a means of packing
complex data into a concatenated form - like sending a zipped file
instead of a straight ASCII text.

^^^^^^^^

CB: Communication = sociality or better Communication = Communism.
Communication must be with someone else, therefore it is essentially social/communal.  This is exactly why symbolling is sociality in essence. The power of communication is that each individual in the communication becomes more social by the communication. An explosion of communication is an explosion of sociality. Symboling allows a social explosion, including a transgenerational increase in sociality. We can speak to future generations with symbols, but not through imitation.

^^^^^


Charles, there is no magic in sociability. We were born into life as a
species being and we cannot survive as individuals.  There is no
indication we were any less social at any stage in our development,
except, perhaps, in the distant past when we were blind voles living under
the foot of the dinosaur. Quite the contrary, today we live in much
smaller troops called nuclear families.

^^^^^^^

CB: My position is the sociability/communism is exactly our special human "magic". It is other species that are not as social as we are. The origin of expanded sociality is the origin of humanity. The definition of humans is that we are communists.

^^^^^^^^

Tribal ties *restrict* the social sphere of the individual to a
kinship group whose existence is entirely a matter of accident of
birth. It's the 'Love the Ones You're With' law of human governance -
from the old song, 'If you can't love the one you want, love the one
you're with.' As the anarchist in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
said, 'that is hardly a rational basis for sound government'.


^^^^^^^

CB: Actually, the incest taboo and marrying outside of one's section of the tribe is the rule ( See ,for example, _The Elementary Structures of Kinship_ by Claude Levi-Strauss). This widely existing and recognized ethnographic generalization supports what I am saying. Central focus on Kinship, sociality, a wide network of social connections is the distinction between ancient and modern society ( See Morgan _Ancient Society_ the difference between _societas_ of ancient society, and civilization; or Marshall Sahlins _ Culture and Practical Reason_)

^^^^^^^


There is also nothing magic about the ability to pass on information:
animals do this, as I've related in my endless dog stories. Monkeys
have a specific cry that is recognized by other monkeys as indicating
that a baby has fallen to the ground. The quality of the cry
expresses acute alarm; the circumstances in which it occurs are in
plain sight - the conclusion is obvious. Animals are just as capable
of putting two and two together as anyone, provided that two and two
both happen to exist within the animal's field of direct perception.

^^^^^^^^^

CB: No , language makes human "passing of information" qualitatively greater than any other species.

^^^^^^^


>>> Engels does call it social labour. But I think the "social" is more key
>than the "labour".  The main difference between human labour and ape
>labour is the degree and quality of sociality, not the fact of engaging in
>material , physiological self-provi sion.  I read Engels as emphasizing
>the latter, of course, especially in contrast with the big brain that the
>idealist paleoanthropologists would have been pushing. In other words, the
>materialism/idealism philosophy debate is reflected in Engels speculat ion
>here. Engels is speculating that material practice is prior to thinking in
>differentiating humans from apes.
>
>However, the critical new aspect of the brain of the genus homo and their
>"ideas" was that they are the bearers or "tools" of an explosion in social
>connections in quantity and quality. The qualitative difference is
>especially made by the fact that "ideas " or symbols allow enormous
>transgenerational communication and therefore, essentially, expansion of
>the social connections across generations. More concretely, by using
>symbols and systems of symbols which are customs, a living generation
>shares the expe riences of many dead generations, making their "labour" ve
>ry, very SOCIAL. <<

Charles, you cannot have social relations with dead people.

^^^^^^^^

CB: This is exactly my critical point that we do.  As I say, anytime we ride in a vehicle with wheels we have a social relation with the dead people who invented it. Language/culture/symbols is the basis for this communication and social connection.

Or when someone does calculus, they have a social connection with Newton and Liebeniz.

^^^^^^^^



They are dead.
The bulging of the eyes signals a liquifaction of the brain.  The weak
electrical field generated by that brain has dissipated, and the wave
pattern has deteriorated beyond repair and become an unrecognizable plasma
hovering out around Alpha Centauri somewhere. There is nothing left of the
dead people but memories.

^^^^^^^^^

CB: And messages from them  in the forms of symbols and culture. Every word we speak here was invented by people who are now dead long ago. This constitutes a relation with them.

^^^^^^^



Fossilized memories. The Ways of the Ancestors are written in stone;
Revealed Wisdom exists in Sacred Time. Custom - the
full weight of the dead hand of tradition - acts as a brake on human
innovation. In animals, imposed group conformity is conservative; in
humans, it is reactionary.

^^^^^^^^

CB: Most of the human constructed material existence of any generation is in the form of accumulated innovations from past generations. It is not thereby "reactionary" . The vast majority of our material "advantages" over other species consists in this accumulation of past innovations , not the relatively few innovations that the living generation makes.

The full weight of the dead hand of tradition is what gets us over like fat rats.  If we were to discard tradition, we'd be in big trouble in terms of survival.  ( See Carrol's discussion of the overestimation of the importance of originality).

^^^^^^^



The living culture is in the current generation, reproducing what
went before, but not exactly, because the human memory is not exact.
The social aspect of labour is located in the living generation,
acting in concert, and brainstorming to the best of their ability,
given the religously imposed sanctions against critical thought.

I've always understood the visceral relationship of creation as being key
to the development of human consciousness in general, and key to the
difference between the consciousness of the creative class - the producers
- - and the parasitic class. These latt er have transcended material
reality; and they're not a pretty sight.

The brainstorming part is what gives the dialectic 'magic' to social
labour of sentient beings.

The symbolling gives an added ability, probably unique to humans.
Symbolling allows for the re-arrangemnt of received data into an
endlessly rich variety of new patterns, giving the possiblity of the
imputing of new significance to old content. Sort of like a
kaleidoscope. If new meaning arises out of all this playing with the
data, that is purely a matter of chance.

^^^^^^^^

CB: See above.


>>> So it is the social organization and relations of production that the
>new brain and ideas permit, not just "working with your hands and with
>tools" that is the big difference.  The development of the tools is based
>on sociality or communism too.
>
>I'm basically saying that the leap from apes to humans is based on
>COMMUNISM or human community as a qualitatively and quantitively greater
>sociality than that of the apes. <<

I'm suggesting that the leap from apes to humans was made possible by
the sheer quantity of data made possible by the adoption of
tool-making as a way of life, giving rise to a need to preserve that
data. This need was solved by the development of primitive communism,
as a mechanism of preserving the Received Wisdom.

^^^^^^^^^

CB: There is nothing obvious about toolmaking as a way of life that gives rise to more "data" ,

^^^^^^^

Nowadays, we preserve data digitally. We are confined to little
cubicles and are less sociable.


No Name Ned
>


~~~~~~~
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