The simulation theory takes the theory of mind a step further. Instead of trying to guess what others are thinking, we humans put ourselves in the other’s shoes, as the saying goes, in order to feel what the other is feeling.
The Machiavellian Prince of Primates
Many other species are social as well, so why didn’t they develop sophisticated systems of symbolic communication? Primate societies developed language because of the exaggerated complexity of our manipulative social interactions. The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences says that “primate social relationships have been characterized as manipulative and sometimes deceptive at sophisticated levels” (Wilson and Kiel). Writes Kerstin Dautenhahn, biologist and professor of computer science, paraphrasing Frans de Waal, “Identifying friends and allies, predicting behavior of others, knowing how to form alliances, manipulating group members, making war, love and peace, are important ingredients of primate politics.” A hominid skilled at manipulation would be better suited than its more submissive counterparts to win resources, sex and power.
What distinguishes humans from the animals are statements like “What distinguishes humans from the animals . . . .” In other words, the only thing that separates us from animals is an ongoing narrative that says we are not animals. The human is the animal that pretends that it is not. Most of our social rules are designed to hide our animal natures from ourselves: shaving our beards, using deodorant, wearing clothes, buying prepackaged meat, using silverware, not fighting over food, not farting or fucking in public.
Edwin Landseer, Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream Continue reading “Narrative Madness: Humans are the Stories They Tell about Themselves”