MAR 29

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19: MAR 29


  • Henrich, Joe. "The Dark Matter of History" The WEIRDEST People on Earth. (469-489)

Report from consultation on determinism

  • Science is predictive and, so, inherently deterministic.
  • Quantum theory is open to interpretation, but genuinely "open futures" are not a live possibility.
  • Quantum theory doesn't change the basic intuition behind Laplace's demon. (S(0) --> S(t))
  • One can hold out hope in various ways: perhaps the laws of nature don't cover everything. (?) perhaps free will is "emergent" (as in the naturalist account).
  • Options:
  • WEIRD free will and moral responsibility are cultural phenomenon that are tied to a "package" of adaptations. There can be a mismatch between (assumptions behind) a cultural idea and physical reality, but the efficacy of cultural ideas is not determined by this mismatch. (Other examples - love, faith)
  • We might try to develop "mixed intuitions" - seeing people as both free and determined, without assuming a metaphysical difference between these accounts. So, determined to be free. We could then judge the "mismatch" in light of the coherence of these mixed intuitions. Here's what that might look like:
  • A free persons looks like a self-regulating and self-repairing "system" or "machine".
  • A person might lack freedom for internal or external reasons. Lacking the internal conditions for freedom is like being a broken thing. Failures of responsibility might be viewed as breakdowns.
  • Cultures that promote freedom also promote ways of "fixing" broken things. Doctors, therapists, friends. Or just controlling them. Police, jails and prisons, hospitals.
  • An implication: We are not all equally free (even if we are treated as if we were equally free).

Henrich, Joe. "The Dark Matter of History" The WEIRDEST People on Earth.

  • This chapter summarizes The WEIRDest People in the World by J. Henrich.
  • "The cultural evolution of psychology is the dark matter that flows behind the scenes throughout history."
  • Basic story: kin-based institutions emerge from sedentary agriculuture (clans, cousin marriage, corporate ownership, patrilocal residence, ancestor worship). With the emergence of cities, universalizing religions created "variations" in social life that favored the emergence of WEIRD psychology, modern market morality and penal institutions.
  • Church's "marriage and family plan" was a hit! Some features of it relevant to MR and FW:
  • Individualism, self-focus
  • Impartial rules and principles
  • Intentional morality (focus on guilt and responsibility)
  • Guilt culture over shame culture (also and internalization of morality).
  • Individual centered law (no family guilt for crimes).
  • Connection with Jared Diamond and "biogeography" - Diamond explains global inequality up to 1,0000 - 1,200ad, but effects of early ag diminish after that. Henrich thinks the effects of emerging WEIRD cultural start to kick in by then.
  • Diffusion of WEIRD culture: examples of cultures that copied more easily than others. Japan, S. Korea, and China vs. Egypt, Iran, and Iraq (which have more developed kin based institutions).
  • Affluence & Psychology - little reason to think wealth was a driver of change.
  • Genetic change vs. Cultural Change (psychology and behavior)
  • gene/culture coevolution (example of lactase production) - cultural selection pressure.
  • Example of genes going one way, memes another -
  • Natural selection seems to be reducing genes that would predict schooling (by 8 months), while cultural selection drove up schooling by 25 months and raised IQs.
  • Urban graveyard effect - urban life reduced fitness, but culture drove us to cities. Only recently did urban life predict better life outcomes.
  • Interesting point: A WEIRD world favors learning from cultural peers rather than genetic parents.
  • Colonialism as a "mismatch" between WEIRD and non-WEIRD cultures.

Drawing inferences from the culturalist/naturalist approach

  • 1. The naturalist account of culture is predictive and deterministic.
  • 2. We can find our specific cultural concepts of FW and MR in this account.
  • 3. The Catholic church's MFP profoundly altered culture and psychology. Our specific concepts of FW and MR emerge from this development, even though we apply them in secular jurisprudence.
  • 4. On a naturalist account, the philosophical problem of MRFW changes from establishing the essential conditions for MR or FW, to critiquing the actual operation of our evolved psychology in relation to cultural goals for "surviving and thriving". Note: The level of cultural analysis may be "rock bottom".
  • 5. Cultural evolution gives us "degrees of freedom" over genetic evolution. Freedom evolves.