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  • [Music] all right so I suggested to you last

  • class that human beings world as a place of action through the lens of their

  • social cognitive biological sub structure and I made that argument on

  • the basis of the supposition that our primary environment was actually other

  • people and I mentioned to you I believe that those other people are arranged in

  • hierarchies of influence and authority or power or dominance which is often how

  • its construed and that the dominance hierarchy as a structure is at least 300

  • million years old which makes it older than trees and it's

  • for that reason that you share the same neural biology to govern your

  • observations of your position in the hierarchy as lobsters do which is a

  • remarkable fact you know it's a remarkable that the lobster uses

  • serotonin as the mechanism to adjudicate its status position and that modifying

  • the serotonin function in the lobster can produce changes in its behavior can

  • can / help the logs to overcome defeat for example which is very much

  • equivalent to what happens to a human being when they take antidepressants you

  • know it's it's it's a good example of the conservation of biological structure

  • by evolution and another a good illustration of the continuity of life

  • on Earth it's really amazing but the other thing it is a testament to is the

  • ancient nature of the social structure now we tend to think of the social

  • structure as something other than nature right because society is I suppose

  • mythologically opposed it's opposed in a narrative way cultures opposed to nature

  • it's the town in the forest but the town has been around a long time so to speak

  • and the structure of the town is also part of nature in that the dominance

  • hierarchy is part of and because it's so ancient you have to

  • consider it as part of the mechanism that has played the role of selection in

  • the process of natural selection and so roughly seem what seems to happen is

  • that there is a plethora of dominance hierarchies especially in complex human

  • communities and many of them are masculine in structure in that their

  • dominance are keys that primarily men compete in or that has been the

  • historical norm and that some men rise to the top based on whatever the

  • dominance hierarchy is based on and they make their preferential mates and it's a

  • good strategy for women to engage in because why and many sorts of female

  • animals do precisely this is they let the male's battle it out and then pick

  • from the top and or often the dominant males there's no choice on the part of

  • the females it's the dominant males just chasing away the subordinate males but

  • with humans it's usually the case that the females have the opportunity to do

  • at least some choosing and so we have if you think about that what that implies

  • is that we have evolved to climb up dominance hierarchies and then I would

  • say it's not exactly that even because there are many different dominance

  • hierarchies and so the skills that you might use to climb up one might not be

  • necessarily the same skills that you would use to climb up another and so

  • then I would say what we have all evolved for instead and I'm still

  • speaking mostly on the masculine edge of things historically speaking is the

  • ability to climb up the set of all possible dominance hierarchies right and

  • that's that's a whole different idea it's like the averaged hierarchy across

  • vast spans of time and I think it's for that reason that we among others that we

  • evolve general intelligence because general intelligence is a general

  • problem-solving mechanism and it seems to be situation in depend

  • so to speak and of course there's been an arms race for the development of

  • intelligence between men and women because each gender has to keep up with

  • the other and women have their own dominance hierarchies there's certainly

  • no doubt about that and of course now men and women more

  • increasingly compete within the same hierarchies and we don't exactly know

  • how to sort that out yet because it's an extraordinarily new phenomena but in any

  • case because of the the permanence of the dominance hierarchy it has come to

  • be represented in fundamental narratives because human beings and this is

  • something that we share everywhere it's the thing the Wall Street bankers shares

  • with with the kalahari Kung Bushmen who are among the genetically speaking they

  • seem to be very close to what the original most original human beings were

  • like in Africa before the Diaspora about fifty thousand years ago but you know

  • both of those people despite their vast differences live in

  • communities that have a hierarchical structure that are composed of

  • individuals that are embedded in a natural world you know the world outside

  • of the dominant Sarki and so that's the standard human environment I would say

  • and so stories that rely on the representations of those environments

  • and their interactions are what you might describe as universal stories and

  • that's why people can understand them and I would say further and this is

  • drawing substantially on say derivation of the work of Carl Jung because I think

  • he delved into this more deeply than anyone else so a lot of this stuff is

  • quite Union in its in its origins we the commonality between human beings so you

  • know you have to have commonalities in order to communicate right axiomatic

  • commonalities because otherwise you have to explain everything and so there's

  • many things that human beings don't have to explain to one another we don't have

  • to explain anger we do have to explain jealousy we don't have

  • to explain fear we don't have to explain pain we don't have to explain joy we

  • don't have to explain love etc those are built into us and so there are

  • predicates of being human and you could say that those human predicates and the

  • standard human environment produce standard narratives and then you could

  • say even further and this is more of a leap I would say is that those who act

  • out the role of the victor in those standard narratives are precisely the

  • people who attain victory in life and I would say biologically defined in that

  • they make more attractive partners but also I believe that there's an alignment

  • between human well-being which is a very weak word and participation in these

  • meta narratives that drive success because well do you want to be a failure

  • or a success well you know it's hard to be a success you have to adopt a lot of

  • responsibility and so you might be willing to take your chances as a

  • failure but I can't exactly I'm not going to make the presumption that

  • that's going to put you in a situation other than one where you experienced a

  • lot of frustration anger disappointment depression pain and anxiety at the

  • bottom of the heap and so generally that's not what people are aiming for

  • although under certain circumstances if people don't like responsibility and are

  • willing to take their chances they might take the irresponsibility and it's

  • apparent freedoms over the necessity of thinking things through the medium and

  • long run anyways we stop here I suggested to you that one of the primary

  • narrative representations was the known or culture or order I think those or the

  • explored territory or the dominance arc I think those things are basically

  • interchangeable from from a representational perspective and you

  • know in the movie The Lion King that's represented by Pride Rock which is the

  • central place of orientation founded on Raw

  • which is the sort of thing that people embed their memories in that's why we

  • make sculptures and gravestones and that sort of things rock stands for permanent

  • and to have rock under your feet as to be on a solid foundation and that's a

  • pyramid in some sense in that movie and the pyramid has topped by you know the

  • king and queen and they're their offspring so that's that's the divine

  • couple that's one way of thinking about it and Simba of course is the newborn

  • hero and you know you extend that even though it's lions and drawings of lions

  • at that and animals are acting it out it's completely irrelevant to you that

  • those characters happen to be animated and that what you're watching is a

  • fiction so and I would say to you with regards to fiction you know you might

  • say well is fiction true or not and the answer to that is yes and no it's not

  • true in that the events portrayed in fiction occurred in the world they

  • didn't but they're fiction is true the same way numbers are true I would say

  • like you know if you have one apple and one orange and one banana the common

  • analogy between all of those three is one and you might say well is one as

  • real as one fruit is the abstraction one as real as one fruit and I would say it

  • depends on what you mean by real but representing things mathematically and

  • abstractly gives you incredible power and you could make the case that the

  • abstraction is actually more real than the phenomena that it represents and

  • certainly mathematicians would make that case they would say that mathematics is

  • in some sense more real than the phenomenal world and you know you don't

  • have to believe that mostly it's a matter of choice in some sense but you

  • can't deny the fact that an abstraction has enough reality so that if you're

  • proficient in using it you can really you can change the world and in and in

  • insanely powerful ways you know I mean all the computational equipment you

  • people are using or depending on the abstractions one and zero

  • essentially and I mean look at what emerges from that and so I would say

  • with regards to fiction if you take someone like Dostoyevsky oh I think it's

  • a favorite of mine by the way I would highly recommend that you read all five

  • of his great novels because they are unparalleled in their psychological

  • depth and so if you're interested in psychology Dostoyevsky's the person for

  • you Tolstoy is more of a sociologist but

  • Dostoyevsky man he gets right down into the bottom of the questions and messes

  • around transformative reading anyways Dostoyevsky's characters this character

  • named her skull in the Cobb is a character in crime and punishment and

  • Raskolnikov is a materialist rationalist I would say which was a rather new type

  • of person back in the 1880s and he was sort of taken by the idea that God was

  • dead and took and convinced himself that the only reason that he that anyone

  • acted in a moral way in a traditional way was because of cowardice they were

  • unable to remove from them the restrictions of mere convention and act

  • in the manner of someone who rose above the norm and so he's tortured by these

  • ideas he's half starving he's a law student he doesn't have enough to eat he

  • doesn't have much money and so you know he's not thinking all that clearly

  • either and he's got a lot of family problems his mother's sick and she can't

  • spend him send a much money and his sister is planning to engage in a

  • marriage that's loveless to someone who's rather tyrannical who he hopes

  • will provide the family with enough money so that he can continue in law

  • school and they write him brave letters telling him that she's very much in love

  • with this guy but he is smart enough to read between the lines and realizes that

  • his sister is just planning to prostitute herself in you know in an

  • altruistic manner he's not very happy with that and then at the same time as

  • all this is happening he becomes aware of this pawnbroker who he's you know

  • pawning his last possessions to and she's a horrible

  • person and not only by his estimation she pawns a lot of things for the

  • neighborhood and people really don't like her she's grasping and cruel and

  • deceitful and and resentful and like and she has this niece who's not very bright

  • intellectually impaired whom she basically treats as a slave and beats

  • all the time and so Raskolnikov you know involved in this mess and half starved

  • and a bit delirious and possessed of these strange new nihilistic ideas

  • decides that the best way out of this situation would be just to kill the land

  • let the pawnbroker take her wealth which he all she does is keep it in a chest

  • free the niece so that seems like a good idea so remove one apparently horrible

  • and useless person from the world free his sister from the necessity of this

  • loveless marriage and allow him to go to law school where he can become educated

  • and do some good for the world you know so one of the things that's lovely about

  • Dostoyevsky is that he you know when sometimes when one person is arguing

  • against another or when they're having an argument in their head they make

  • their opponent into a straw man which is basically they take their opponent and

  • curricular their perspective and try to make it as weak as possible and and

  • laugh about it and and then they come up with their argument and destroy this

  • straw man and feel that they've obtained victory but it's a very pathetic way of

  • thinking it's not thinking at all what thinking is is when you adopt the

  • opposite position from your suppositions and you make that argument as strong as

  • you can possibly make it and then you pit your perspective

  • against that that strong iron man not the straw man and you argue it out you

  • battle it out and that's what Dostoevsky does in his novels I mean he's the

  • people who stand for the antithesis of what dust is dust is he actually

  • believes are often the strongest smartest and sometimes most admirable

  • people in the book and so takes great moral courage to do that and

  • you know in risk Olenick oov what he wanted to do was set up a character who

  • had every reason to commit murder every reasonable reason philosophically

  • practically ethically even well so risk Olenick off goes and he kills the old

  • lady with an axe and it doesn't go the way he expects it will because what he

  • finds out is that post murder Raskolnikov and pre murder Raskolnikov

  • are not the same people at all they're not even close to the same people he's

  • entered an entirely different universe and Dostoevsky does a lovely job of

  • describing that universe of horror and chaos and and and deception and and and

  • suffering and terror and all of that and he doesn't even use the money he just

  • buries it in a and an alley as fast as he can and then doesn't want anything to

  • do with it again and anyways the reason I'm telling you all this is potentially

  • to entice you into reading the book because it is an amazing amazing book

  • but also because you might say well his risk is what happened to Raskolnikov

  • true are the stories in that book true and the answer to that is well from a

  • factual perspective clearly they're untrue but then if you think of

  • Raskolnikov as the embodiment of a particular type of person who lived at

  • that time and the embodiment of a certain kind of ideology which had swept

  • across Europe and really invaded Russia and which was actually a precursor a

  • philosophical precursor to the Russian Revolution then Raskolnikov is more real

  • than any one person he's like a composite person he's like a person

  • who's irrelevant sees have been eliminated for the purpose of relating

  • something about the structure of the world and so I like to think of those

  • things as sort of meta real meta real they're more real than real and of

  • course that's what you expect people to do when they tell you about their own

  • lives about their own day you don't want a factual description of

  • every muscle twitch you want them to distill their experiences down into the

  • gist which is the significance of the experience and the significance of the

  • experience is roughly what you can derive from listening to the experience

  • that will change the way that you look at the world and act in the world so

  • it's valuable information and they can tell you a terrible story and then that

  • can be valuable because that can tell you how not to look in the world look at

  • the world and act in it or they can tell you a positive story you can derive

  • benefit either way which is why we also like to go watch stories about horrible

  • psychopathic thugs you know and and hopefully we're learning not to be like

  • them although there are additional advantages in that you know someone you

  • might be some say that someone who is incapable of cruelty is a higher moral

  • being than someone who is capable of cruelty and I would say and this follows

  • young as well that that's incorrect and it's dangerously incorrect because if

  • you are not capable of cruelty you are absolutely a victim to anyone who is and

  • so part of the reason that people go watch anti heroes and villains is

  • because there's a part of them crying out for the incorporation of the monster

  • within them which is what gives them strength of character and self-respect

  • because it's impossible to respect yourself until you grow teeth and if you

  • grow teeth and you realize that you're somewhat dangerous and let or maybe

  • somewhat seriously dangerous and then you might be more willing to demand that

  • you treat yourself with respect and other people do the same thing and so

  • that doesn't mean that being cruel is better than not being cruel what it