A painting of Lord Byron dressed in an Albanian costume. (See Byron’s Letters.)
Last week’s post was the first for my third anniversary summing up of what I’ve learned by maintaining this blog. It focused my the main psychological lesson: the great break between apes and us is that humans have voluntary control over their attention, enabling us to think about things. In fact, a working definition of thinking might be the voluntary shifting of attention in an effort to understand (i.e., know more about) a topic. This week I want to look at how that psychological discontinuity produces a sociological discontinuity, leading to a decisive break between ape societies and human communities.
- We can think because we can voluntarily redirect our attention.
- We can talk because we can voluntarily direct our attention.
- Dogs can’t talk because they can’t think well enough [voluntarily direct their attention] to talk [voluntarily direct their attention].
- Songbirds teach their young how to sing;
- Lion mothers teach their cubs how to kill;
- Macaque monkeys show their young how to floss their teeth(!!). (video here)