Why man needs approval


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Justly given love and admiration is one of the coins of realm. People need to see their virtues reflected in the eyes of others who are capable of understanding virtue.

It all comes down to the fact that homo sapien is a sociable if not social animal.

Aristotle identified the well being of the realm or city (polis) with the virtue of its citizens. Plato also did.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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  • 10 months later...


Some of the thoughts about sociality and intelligence in §II Animal Company, of Marsha Enright's 1991 "Why Man Needs Approval," have received some confirmation and large elaboration these 20-plus years later:

A Natural History of Human Thinking.

Michael Tomasello (Harvard 2014)

From the publisher:

Tool-making or culture, language or religious belief: ever since Darwin, thinkers have struggled to identify what fundamentally differentiates human beings from other animals. In this much-anticipated book, Michael Tomasello weaves his twenty years of comparative studies of humans and great apes into a compelling argument that cooperative social interaction is the key to our cognitive uniqueness. Once our ancestors learned to put their heads together with others to pursue shared goals, humankind was on an evolutionary path all its own.

Tomasello argues that our prehuman ancestors, like today's great apes, were social beings who could solve problems by thinking. But they were almost entirely competitive, aiming only at their individual goals. As ecological changes forced them into more cooperative living arrangements, early humans had to coordinate their actions and communicate their thoughts with collaborative partners. Tomasello's "shared intentionality hypothesis" captures how these more socially complex forms of life led to more conceptually complex forms of thinking. In order to survive, humans had to learn to see the world from multiple social perspectives, to draw socially recursive inferences, and to monitor their own thinking via the normative standards of the group. Even language and culture arose from the preexisting need to work together. What differentiates us most from other great apes, Tomasello proposes, are the new forms of thinking engendered by our new forms of collaborative and communicative interaction.

A Natural History of Human Thinking is the most detailed scientific analysis to date of the connection between human sociality and cognition.


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  • 11 months later...

“Chimpnanzees Produce the Same Types of ‘Laugh Faces’ when They Emit Laughter as when They Are Silent”

Davila-Ross et al. (6/10/15)

In this study, there is some evidence towards the following conclusion:

Laughter must have had, therefore, an increasingly significant role in positive social interactions after the common ancestors of chimpanzees and humans, as this behaviour became more detached from the play context and emerged into a fundamental tool of language and emotional intelligence in humans.

As many before me, I have thought of humor in humans as being explained by our rationality. That is, one fairly distinctive trait of humans, humor, is explained by another distinctive trait, rationality. Along the lines of Rand’s epistemology and others before hers, rationality is taken for the essential characteristic of humans because it explains other distinctive characteristics of humans (and it has that merit to a greater degree than would any other distinctive characteristic’s explanatory power). Traditional thinking of our humor-ability, or risibility, as explicable in terms of our rational nature has been rather vague so far, as I recall. Scientific evolutionary studies such as the present one can help flesh out, I think, the relationships between humor, sociability, and rationality.

Other characteristics distinctive of the human would be ability to draw, build, and make music. Evolutionary research may also inform our understanding of their relationships to rationality. Language ability is the premier distinctive overt ability of humans, and by most accounts to the present day, it is part and parcel of rationality. Scientific research, with an evolutionary frame, has helped greatly in fleshing out the relationship of rationality, language, and sociability. Terrence Deacon’s The Symbolic Species is a watershed vista of research in that area.

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That said, alone on an island, how does Robinson Crusoe survive without the approval of other people?

He has Mr. Wilson...

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  • 4 months later...

In her 1991 essay “Why Man Needs Approval,” Marsha Enright reported concerning language acquisition:

Speech does not emerge simply from hearing it. There must be interaction. A boy with normal hearing but with deaf parents was exposed to television every day so that he would learn English. By age three, he had become fluent in the sign language of his parents and their associates. He neither understood nor spoke English (Muskowitz 1978, 94–94B).

Muskowitz, B. 1978. The Acquisition of Language. Sci. Amer. (Nov):92–108.

Check out the summary in Science News of the recent results from Judy Deloache: “DVDs Poor at Teaching Kids Words.” In study, toddlers learned most effectively from their parents.

Patricia K. Kuhl (2013)

Baby Talk

Patricia K. Kuhl

(Sci. Am., November 2015)

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  • 8 months later...

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