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Proposal: The foundation of reason [Mar. 5th, 2006|12:42 am]
Napkin Philosophy
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I've recently been thinking about the evolution of humans and the development of our ability to reason.

Ryan and I have talked about this in the past, and, to his credit, thought of the evolution of the uses for the frontal lobe (and the cerebrum in general). The other day, in philosophy club, a fellow named Matthew and myself discussed this issue further and came to a few conclusions.

The development of memory and reasoning

What evolutionary purpose did memory serve originally? We speculated that memory allowed primitive man access to his past - at will, even. This was a huge progression from the animal brains that could only be conditioned and had very simple past-data, such as basic recognition.

Now, it is important to note that the development of memory had to precede the development of the ability to reason. This is because reason cannot function without having data to refer to in the first place.

Basically, reason affords us the power to predict the future. We can use deduction and induction (and abduction: reasoning to the best explanation) due to the very fact that we can both.

1. Remember past events
2. Discover patterns and regularities

We use the knowledge of the sun always coming up to inductively conclude that it will, in fact, come up tomorrow. We use our knowledge of taxonomy to deduce that whales and kittens are both mammals. We utilize our memory to conclude what is most likely the cause of some event.

The basic idea is, to reiterate, that memory came first, then the ability to reason.

Why did these even develop at all, though?

The evolutionary benefit of reasoning

The purpose for these developments is, naturally, hunting!

The power to remember what the elk did last time you were hunting it, coupled with the ability to assume this knowledge will apply in future cases, afforded primitive man a HUGE advantage over his prey.

The rest is history.

The application of primitive reasoning for modern humans

What do we use memory and reasoning for these days? Science, engineering, philosophy, art, etc.

Is it just a coincidence that our hunting advantage now applies to much more abstract ideas and concepts?

I think not. Perhaps our ability to predict the weather, solve differential equations and program in Java are nothing more than a figurative "hunt."

Does this mean that there must be some kind of "prey" that we're after? Or is it just that we would gain pride and superiority from a successful hunt and, therefore, we now try to get these same things from our daily "modern" hunting?

Future work

This is a napkin philosophy proposal because I wish to develop this theory. The future work for this is:

1. Formalize it using either mathematical modeling, logic, or some other format
2. Correct errors to insure that it is, in fact, correct - and not missing any important details
3. The role of primitive women and how that applies today

[User Picture]From: fractuality
2006-03-05 07:25 pm (UTC)
Breeding is just as important as eating. Eating is part of surviving on an individual level, breeding is part of letting genes survive.

And on a different note (since men are involved in breeding just as women are), primitive women had a number of roles. They gathered food, raised and protected the young, helped with cooking and building shelter, lots of stuff. And many of them may have been somewhat out of commission for at least 6 months out of each year, trying to have babies since it was harder to survive and survival by numbers was one strategy. (Plus, sex is fun, and there was no birth control.)
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