The uniqueness of humanity: a philosophical discussion (video)

The Uniqueness of Humanity examines the human condition through the lens of evolutionary theory. Darwin's work appears to ally evolution with advance, and we are often compelled to place humanity at the top of a hierarchy. Is evolution teleological in any sense? And could we have transcended our animal nature, or is this a dangerous illusion?

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Comment by James Adams on December 27, 2013 at 11:31pm

Dear Keith, 

Thank you for sharing this video, as I found it both interesting and of great importance. It seemed to mirror a discussion that my friends and I have had recently on determinism vs. agency. The analogy being, humanity and culture have transcended their animal nature to become an independent selective force in much the same regard as the individual transcends culture and society to become an independent agent with free will. To me, complete transcendence of any fully encompassing system presents an inescapable problem; but one that, following Bourdieu, can perhaps be addressed with compromise.

I find myself aligning with Eva the most as she explicates the fact that human biology and culture have evolved together, each affecting the other. This resembles practice theory in that culture has acquired an ability to fulfill its own values (capital) by adapting its present societal embodiment (habitus) to the selective pressures of the environment (field). The actual behaviors of society that embody these values restructure the environment, thus altering its selective pressures, in favor of societies current state.

To bring this back around to the the questions Keith put forth, this analysis suggests that evolution does not necessarily suggest a hierarchy nor a teleological bias, except for those biases of those whose behaviors are actively shaping selective forces. As for human being's transcendence of their animal nature, that would also be an illusion based in humanity's extreme success in the restructuring of selective pressures in their own favor. This restructuring, not being transcendence, but rather more like a unification. I realize that this is an extreme over simplification, but I don't really intend to prove any grand theory here as much as to add my perspective on the topic at hand. 

Thanks again Keith,


Comment by Keith Hart on December 19, 2013 at 12:44am

Thanks for the wisdom, Nold, and bonnes fetes to you too. I hhad a recurring dream once that I would become famous for digging up a 2 mn years-old fish in the Connecticut River valley which proved that human beings are closer to the sea creatures than the apes. Unfortunately it hasn't happened yet and I am losing faith that it ever will.

Comment by Nold Egenter on December 18, 2013 at 5:00pm

Sorry, the end escaped:

Warm regards and Happy New Year


Comment by Nold Egenter on December 18, 2013 at 4:54pm

Dear Keith,

the "Uniqueness of Humanity"? There is a book which came out this year (February): Axel Wagner: The Animal within You ("Das Tier in Dir"! I looked for an English edition but could not find any). About one billion years! The similarities of present-day organisms - including humans! - with reconstructed examples of evolutionary relics are highly surprising! An absolutely crazy reading!

Implications for anthropology? We must definitely question the spatially absurd "civilizational factor"  (Assyrian kings!*) in our Western conventional theories (see Bollnow). This is what I am trying to do by reconstructing culture on the non "astralized" tradition of YinYang philosophy of Japanese agrarian highly complex (not at all "primitive") village traditions still strongly characterized by neolithic principles.

*see translations ed. by Hugo Winkler 

Comment by Cecilia Montero Mórtola on December 3, 2013 at 6:57pm

Thanks Keith to gave us this link..

...they didnt speak about incest,.. they have mention something about how animals eat anothers, but less more my view this is a key which the interdiction of incest become a big law to organize the society, as Lévi- Strauss indicates, that is evolution ? that isnt mention on the video,

maybe that it the key is transcended our animal nature and fight with that every day?

and that it is in fact the prectice that indicate a re-production different and the continuity...but they dont say nothing about it..something that for me it is not a surprised because the tabu is around always..;)

another aspect I picked up from the video very important to analyse is the concept of loose and re- plication...well..


I will listen again



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