Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 1 of 22)

0389 The book before me published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.    The question?  What makes humans unique?  The approach is scientific.  Humans think differently than great apes, their closest biological kin. One way to understand that difference is to observe and measure the cognitive capacities of human newborns and infants, as well as the cognitive abilities of adult great apes.

This book belongs to a decades-long arc of inquiry by the author.  During much of this time, Michael Tomasello serves as co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. I cover two decades in my examinations.  Here is the fourth book in the list.

0390 What has this semiotician found so far?

First, from the very start of his journey, the content-level of Tomasello’s vision corresponds to the situation-level of Razie Mah’s hypothesis.  The ultimate human niche consists of the potential of triadic relations.

Razie Mah’s hypothesis applies the two-level interscope for Darwin’s paradigm to human evolution.

0391 First, the general Darwinian paradigm looks like this.

0392 In The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues), Razie Mah proposes that the ultimate human niche1b is the potential of triadic relations.

Tomasello’s hypothesis that joint attention2b and shared intentionality2b are behavioral and cognitive adaptations to the niche of sociogenesis1b reconfigures the situation-level of Darwin’s paradigm, resulting in what I call the “Tomasello-Mah synthesis”.

0393 Yes, fortune turns her wheel.  Tomasello does not know Mah’s hypothesis.  Tomasello’s arc of inquiry is underway in 1999.  Mah’s hypothesis first appears online in 2018.  So, Tomasello configures his insight, corresponding to the situation-level of the Darwinian paradigm, as the content-level of his vision.

Tomasello’s vision offers a way to bring a phenotype (of human ontogeny2c’) into relation with a foundational adaptation (of joint attention2a’).  But, according to Mah, phenotype and adaptation are two independent fields of evolutionary inquiry.  One does not situate or contextualize the other.  Rather, the two intersect.

Consequently, Tomasello’s vision resolves the internal contradictions of the intersection of genetics and natural history,by assigning the phenotype to the category of thirdness and the adaptation to the category of firstness, while maintaining the actuality of both.

0394 Here is a picture of Tomasello’s vision.

0395 Of course, this examination appears precisely 25 years after Tomasello’s vision is cast in 1999 AD.

His vision is maintained throughout his arc of inquiry.

Consequently, his conclusions carry an awkward emptiness.  The emptiness compares to the basement of a house.  The basement is dark, cool, foundational and ignored, until of course, one must seek refuge in a storm.

0396 The previous examinations of Tomasello’s works demonstrate that the house, the abode of his vision, is furnished with morality.

Tomasello can ignore the basement, haunted by immaterial beings called, “triadic relations”.  Yet, in that place, where a family might store potatoes, onions, smoked meat, along with luggage and Christmas ornaments, dwells something that Tomasello may safely ignore.  I call that ghost, “religion”.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 2 of 22)

0397 Tomasello’s book opens with a hypothesis.  Interpendence2 emerges from (and situates) cooperation1.  In terms of Tomasello’s vision, interdependence2 replaces human culture2b and cooperation1b virtually situates joint-attention2a as an adaptation to sociogenesis1a.  Cooperation1b may be defined as the potential of joint- and collective-attention2a.

0398 Of course, the other option is to consider cooperation2b as an actuality and interdependence1b as a possibility.

The option that I offer captures Tomasello’s claim that there are two forms to cooperation: mutualistic collaboration andaltruistic helping.  Classical philosophers discuss these two forms in terms of motives.  Mutualistic collaboration harbors a motive for justice (that is, the right, as in “righteous”).  Altruistic helping carries a motive for beneficence (that is, the good).  Yes, philosophers distinguish fairness from sympathy.  Each exhibits is own style of morality, where morality associates with the possibility of what is righteous and good1b.

0399 So, why say that cooperation1b is the potential1b of joint attention2a?

Joint attention2a holds the potential of justice and beneficence, the motives for cooperations1b.

Plus, moral dilemmas reside in the way that interdependence2b, the actuality emerging from (and situating) cooperation1b, plays out.

0400 Remember, the sociogenesis1a of teams entails competition (each member of the team is selected by all others) for the honor of cooperating (that is, manifesting the potential of joint attention2a).

Hominins compete to cooperate.

Morality plays roles in both competition and cooperation.

Ah, that must mean that morality is embedded in cultural selection3b.

0400 Tomasello intends to provide an evolutionary account for the natural history of human morality3b, as the normal context for unique forms of social interaction and organization of the Homo genus2b (that is, interdependence2b), emerging from the cultivation of fairness and sympathy1b (that is, cooperation1b).

Here are two pictures of one situation-level nested form.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 3 of 22)

0401 Have Tomasello’s previous books laid the groundwork for an exploration into the natural history of human… or is it?… hominin morality?

So, remember to cross out the word, “human”, and write the word, “hominin”, where “hominin” is technically defined as a human ancestor.

0401 Recall, the natural history of human morality occurs in generations prior to the appearance of anatomically modern humans.  In previous works, Tomasello identifies three eras of intentionality.

Here is a picture.

0402 The era of individual intentionality shows interdependence with respect to family (5) and intimate friends (5).  The band (50) is not interdependent in the same sense of the word.  The band (50) is large enough to deter predators.

0403 The era of joint intentionality begins once bipedal “southern apes” collaborate in order to forage.  The advance is so productive that collaborative foraging becomes obligatory.  Obligatory collaborative foraging is conducted in teams (15).  Teams have more members than family (5) or friends (5) but less than the band (50).

0404 Teams cultivate the capacity for joint attention2a.  If joint attention2a is behavioral, then joint or shared intentionality2a is the corresponding cognitive capacity.  This cognitive capacity is what cognitive psychologists observe in newborns and infants in their experiments in human ontogeny1c.  This cognitive capacity2a embodies sociogenesis1a, where sociogenesis is more subtle than the mere naming of social circles.  Sociogenesis1a is the potential of um… an actuality independent of the adapting species.

0405 Cooperation1b requires participants in joint-attention activities2a to serve different roles while sharing the team’s shared intention2a… that is… purpose2a.

Is there a problem?

Free riders must be excluded.

Well, the solution turns out to be remarkably simple.  If an individual does not pull weight, for whatever reason, then the team meets without the slackard.  How simple is that?

Or, should I say, “How awkward is that, especially when the excluded individual discovers the secret that everyone else knows?”

Ah, members of a team respect one another.  They do not respect the grifter.

0406 Tomasello never says that morality is pretty.

Those who only appear to share the team’s purpose are dangerous to others, as well as themselves.  They lower the reproductive success of all concerned.  They are killjoys.  Each member of the team should move according to the team’s purpose.  Such movements are fair and good.  Yet, hand-talk words for “fair” and “good” do not exist.  What is there to picture or point to?  When do hominins figure out that they can smile or grimace, in order display approval or disapproval?

Yes, team activities are all about “me” and “you”.

Tomasello calls the natural, embodied, team-based morality of the era of joint intentionality, “second-person morality”.

0407 In the era of collective intentionality, hominin interdependence2b cultivates sociogenesis1a in band (50), community (150), mega-band (500) and tribe (1500).  Today, these correspond to neighborhood (50), church (150), farmer’s market and festival (450) and diocese (1500).  These larger social circles come into play because the domestication of fireincreases the number and diversity of teams.

The morality that characterizes teams infiltrates smaller social circles as well as larger.  Collective intentionality is no longer motivated by the slogan, “We work for food.”  Collective intentionality says, “We work for organizational objectives, that are based in righteousness and goodness.”  But, hand-talk cannot gesture the words, “organizational objectives”, “based”, “righteousness” and “goodness”.  These spoken terms are explicit abstractions.  Hand-talk facilitates implicit abstractions, characteristic of the exemplar sign.

0409 So what is a hominin, in the era of collective intentionality, to hand talk?

Can the hominin gesture, “The morality that characterizes the community and the tribe extends to the living, the dead and those who are yet to be born.”?

What fully linguistic gesture-words suffice?

Can the hominin gesture, “We belong to the one who gives, without us knowing why?”

[POINT to self][SWEEPING POINT to others][CAST EYES to SKY][CRADLE ARMS Then LOOK AT CRADLED ARMS as if receiving something from SKY][LOOK back up at SKY][SHRUG]

0410 Those who accept their gifts, their missions, their community roles, the mantle of tradition, their responsibilities and yes, their fates, are blessed with reproductive success.

But, enter the modern, who asks, “Does this associate to the term, ‘conformity’?”

How far have we fallen?

0411 Tomasello envisions a kind of cultural and group-minded “objective” morality.

The term, “objective”, is modern.  It means “independent of anyone’s particular judgment”.  The premodern Latin schoolmen use the term, “suprasubjective”, which means, “simultaneously encompassing and transcending our subjectivities”.

Here, in Tomasello’s selections of terms, this reader spies a bias towards the scientific.  Scientific facts and theories are “objective”.

This modern term fails to capture what collective intentionality expects of us.  “Objective” morality is independent of anyone’s point of view.  “Suprasubjective” morality interpellates us to align our judgments, our species intelligibili, with the truth, the foundation of all human institutions that promote human flourishing.

Yet, as noted above, there is no hand-talk gesture-word for “truth”.

What is there to image or indicate?

0412 What does this imply?

Truth is built into the hominin brain and body.  We are on the lookout for signs of truth.  Truth is the foundation of the righteous and the good.  We know this in our heart and bones.  We ourselves are gifts of the one who gives, without us knowing why.

We, the living, and we, the dead, and we, the ones to come, constitute the tree of life.

[POINT to breath][PANTOMIME tree]


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 4 of 22)

0413 Tomasello proposes three interlocking movements to the natural history of human cognition.

Then, he discusses two steps.  First, there is the era of joint intentionality.  Second, there is the era of collective intentionality.

So, there is terminological confusion, leading me to number the era of individual intentionality as “zero”.

0414 My explanation for this incoherent nomenclature calls to mind Tomasello’s vision, where the phenotype of human ontogeny2c occupies the perspective-level actuality and the adaptation of joint and collective attention2a occupies the content-level actuality. Research into early human cognitive development2c must somehow connect with research into the cognition of great apes2a.  Tomasello projects the cognitive development of newborns and infants backwards, into evolutionary time, towards the last common ancestor (LCA), represented by cognitive research into the behaviors of great apes.

So, there are three eras and two steps, which does not sound bad, because not much happens in the first era.

But, there is another issue.

0415 On top of the incoherent nomenclature, Tomasello frames the era of joint intentionality as occurring after the appearance of the Homo genus, which occurs 1.8Myr (millions of years ago).  He starts the era of collective intentionalitywith the appearance of new species, such as Homo heidelbergensis, around 0.5Myr.  The first guess is not reasonable.  The second is more plausible.

How so?

0416 Consider the archeological record for artifacts.

0417 Two pairs stand out.

The first is the pair of Oldowan, then Acheulean stone-tool technologies.  These archaeological artifacts associate to one team among many.  Consequently, they represent the era of joint intentionality.

The second pair is intimations of the use of fire, and then, the domestication of fire.  These archaeological artifacts associate to the era of collective intentionality, for the obvious reason that cooking presents the opportunity for common meals that are not like the prior sharing of abundance from teams.  Cooking produces qualitatively different food sharing opportunities.  More teams means more food and a more varied menu.  Then, the hearth itself provides a site for parties to linger and tell stories in hand talk.  During this era, hand talk become fully linguistic.  General grammar evolves.

0418 To me, these two pairs associate to the two steps in human evolution that Tomasello identifies.

0419 Consequently, my associations to Tomasello’s eras does not coincide with his own.

0420 But, that is not all.

With this adjustment in mind, I would think that the natural history of morality would commence in step one.  But, Tomasello does not start in step one.  Chapter two, titled “Evolution of Cooperation”, points to step zero… er… the first era.

0421 Tomasello introduces the question, “Why sociality?”

The first and most primordial answer says, “Bands serve as protection against predators.”

But, safety in numbers comes at a cost.  Each member of the band competes for access to resources.  Hierarchies get established.  Alliances form.  Hierarchies and alliances are not the same.  Each bears its own actuality.

0422 Here are two nested forms.

0423 Power2 does not situate affiliation2.  Affiliation2 does not situate power2.

Both are in dynamic equilibrium.

0424 Such is life in the era of individual intentionality.

0425 Evolutionary anthropologists observe and measure the behaviors of great apes, who come as close to any creature to our ancestors living during the millions of years between the LCA and the bipedal “southern apes”.  Evolutionary anthropologists model ape-behavior by asking the question, “How does each strategy of group living contribute to getting one’s genes into the next generation?”

Strategies for success include kin selection, group selection and selection for mutualism and reciprocity.  I suppose the first item coheres to establishment3 and the latter items go with alliance formation3.  Group selection is the odd inclusion, due to the fact that neither establishment3 nor alliances3 can exclude one another, try as they might.  If establishment3dominates, then the group fails from passivity and free-riding.  If alliance3 dominates, then the group fails from internal conflict.

0426 What does this imply?

Ah, power2 and affiliation2 must constitute a single actuality2.

That actuality2, in this case, is a social circle, or a group, called “band”.

The technical term for this relational structure is “intersection”.  Two actualities intersect.

0427 Kin selection favors establishment3H.

Selection for mutualism and reciprocity favor alliances3V.

Group selection contains the contradictions between power2 and affiliation2.

So, the group must be the single actuality.

0428 I wonder, “Do evolutionary anthropologists, such as Tomasello, implicitly (not explicitly) realize this?”

In other words, if the single actuality2, the group2, associates to one of the actualities in Tomasello’s vision, then I would say that it2 is neither shared intentionality2a nor human ontology2c.  Therefore, the group2 must associate to culture2b… I mean to say… interdependence2b.

Here is a picture.

0429 Why is the intersection so important?

Interdependence2b belongs to secondness, the realm of actuality, for both the nested form and the level.

On the content level, natural selection3a is the normal context where joint attention2a emerges from (and situates) sociogenesis1a (which turns out to be the potential of triadic relations).

On the situation level, cultural selection3b is the normal context where interdependence2b (starting with the either family, intimates or the band, in the era of individual intentionality) emerges from and situates cooperation1b (which is the potential1b of shared intentionality2a).

On the perspective level, natural selection (in milieu of culture)3c is the normal context where the hominin phenotype2cemerges from and situates the potential of ’embodying interdependence’1c.

0430 What factor is an evolutionary anthropologist to fixate on?

On top of that, interdependence2b exhibits the relational structure of an intersection.

An intersection is full of contradictions.

In the extreme, establishment3H without alliance3V produces the magnificent peacock and his fickle and easily seduced hens.   

In the extreme, alliance3V without establishment3H produces the ant, where each worker shares the genes of every other worker and the queen holds authority because she is the one who gives life to the colony.

0431 Weirdly, both the peacock and the ant serve as metaphors for hominin society.

If the group2 embodies interdependence2b, then specialized academic inquiry into human evolutionary history tends to focus on the trees, without regard to the forest.  Kin selection promotes establishment3H.  Selection for mutualism and reciprocity promotes alliance3V.  And group selection?  How on earth can group selection contribute to reproductive success for an individual?

0432 Computer simulations abound.

But, the resolution stands beyond mere calculation.


Intersections are inherently mysterious.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 5 of 22)

0433 Here is another picture of the intersection for the band, during Era 1, lasting between 7 and 3.5Myr.

Am I joking?

Put “family, “friends” or “band” in for “interdependence2b“.

0433 With this in mind, I examine the remainder of chapter two, starting with the subheading, “Great Ape Cooperation”.

The LCA, typical of great apes, is built for competition within a band.  Apes compete for food and nice places to nest.  Male apes compete for female apes.  Hierarchies get established and promote all sorts of Machiavellian cognitive traits.  Did I say Machiavelli?  Machiavelli titles one of his books, The Prince.  Does that title sound like establishment3H or alliance3V?  Hmmm, maybe it sounds like both.  Alliances are more than friendships and grooming partnerships, they contribute to conflicts in which the hierarchy may be challenged.  Alliances also diffuse the same conflicts.

0434 Machiavelli does not promote morality.  He does not counsel justice and fairness.  He promotes using the morality of others to advance one’s positional power.

0435 So, why would not everyone adopt Machiavellian principles?

One of the moments when Machiavellian individual intentionality does not apply occurs when one group (or band)threatens another.  Such a crisis may destroy established powers2H and affiliations2V.  An affirmation must be made.  Yes, there is justice in having a place in the heirarchy1H.  There is fairness in having others on my side1V.  So, in times of war, the artifices2H,2V of Machiavellian propositions fall away, and the potentials1H,1V that culture selects for3b, supporting the actuality of our interdependence2b, show their adaptive potential1b.

0436 The group2b adapts into the niche of cooperation1b, the potential of joint attention2a, by practicing ways of livingwhere each member has a place in the hierarchies1H and has others on his and her side1V.

0437 The group2 is a mystery.

The natural history of morality entails the evolution of the purely relational structure that characterizes the presence underlying the word, “religion”.

0438 Once again, here is a picture of Tomasello’s vision.

0439 Okay, the following segment may seem to be a distraction.

Yes, from here to point 0443 constitutes a distraction.

Are there lessons here that apply to our current Lebenswelt?

Today, at the conclusion of the Age of Ideas, there are psychics, scientists and sociopaths who portray themselves as beings of greater awareness and enlightenment2c.  These experts2c want to select3a for a new humanity1a.

On what basis?

0440 First, they2c consider all traditional civilized traditions2b to be social constructions, rather than evolved products of group selection.

Because they2c are devotees of postmodern science (which includes the natural and the social as well as the psychometric), they imagine that they can design3b novel establishments3H, based on their organizational objectives1c.  These bureaucracies3H will replace current unscientific and superstition-filled institutions2b and denature countervailing reactionary groups2b.

In short, the most certified among us2c propose institutional selection3b based on a type of cooperation1b, defined as the potential1b of everyone paying attention2a to the society that they want to create1a.

Another name for that potential1b is “legitimacy1b“.

Here is a picture.

0441 Second, their organizational objectives1c critique all traditions2b on the bases of power2H and race2V.  The term, “power”, entails an appointed position in any organization.  The term, “race”, is code for “tribe”, where “tribe” is defined by adherence to a particular organizational objective1c

Awareness1c of power2H is supported by a specific version of justice1H.  Individuals belonging to any of the designated “races” or “tribes” do not have a home in the any traditional hierarchy1H, even though they may be appointed to long-established institutional positions.  Fixation1c on power2H breeds resentment.  Resentment creates what is called, “resilience”, the tenacity of knowing that the expert is righteous and others are not.  James Corney calls it1H “a higher loyalty”.

Awareness1c of affiliation2V is supported by a particular version of fairness1V.  Individuals belonging to opposing “races” or “tribes” (that is, people who do not ideate the revelations of the psychometric sciences) cannot be on the side1V of the expert-designated “races” or “tribes”.  Fixation1c on affiliation2V breeds alienation1V (the conviction that the opposing “races” or “tribes” can never be fair, that is, “on my side”).  Alienation is followed by coalescence1V into a theoretically defined “tribe”.

Here is a picture.

“Interdependence2b” transforms into “dependence on us, the experts2b“.  But, both terms are too lengthy to fit into the above diagram.

So, the word, “group2b” must do. 

0442 Third, awareness-driven fixation on organizational objectives1c mandates the authority of the state to act on behalf of the enlightened beings2c ,who embody the union of power2H and tribalism2V.

State-promulgated social justice3c promotes programs of mandatory inclusion1b of tribal members2H into established positions of authority2H (without an oath of loyalty) and demands the recognition of the legitimacy1b of the academic postulates3b that contextualize the theoretical construction of novel “races”2V.  Indeed, to become an affiliate of any particular “tribe”2V, one must first suffer alienation followed by illumination1V.

0443 What am I talking about?

In order to see that Tomasello’s intersection of power2H and affiliation2V not only pertains to the era of individual intentionality, but also to the living world that academic elites currently strive to create, consider the blogs titled, Looking at Gad Saad’s Book (2020) “The Parasitic Mind”, by Razie Mah, appearing in the month of April, 2022.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 6 of 22)

0444 So, is the era of individual intentionality truly Machiavellian?

No, the adjective, “Machiavellian”, does not qualify.

For one, Machiavelli writes in our current Lebenswelt.

For two, the previous blog shows me that the behavioral and cognitive traits of the era of individual intentionality, when transubstantiated in our current Lebenswelt through a late-modern critique of power2H and affiliation2V, recast these terms into awareness2H and tribalism2V, thereby reallocating the two pillars of human morality (as noted by early-modern philosopher, David Hume), fairness1V and justice1H, into the expert-defined possibilities of alienation1V and resentment1H.

0445 “Reallocate”?

Yes, that is what postmodern theorists mandate the state to do.  Reallocate cooperation1b from historical foundations1a to late-modern, theoretically defined foundations1a.

0446 Hmmm.  That makes me wonder.

Where do Hume’s two pillars appear in the following intersection, applying to the era of individual intentionality?

0447 To me, ‘justice’ associates to ‘one’s kin as well as one’s hierarchical status’1H.  What?  Is that not a selection pressure identified by evolutionary anthropologists?  Yes, it is.  Note how well this selection pressure fits into the slot1Hotherwise labeled, “potential of place in hierarchy1H“.

Also, ‘fairness’ associates to ‘mutualism and reciprocity’1V.  Yes, that is another selection pressure identified by evolutionary anthropologists.  Note how well this selection pressure fits into the slot1V otherwise labeled, “potential of having others on my side1V“.

0448 What does this imply?

“Justice1H” and “fairness1V” are already values in the era of individual intentionality.  However, these values do not correspond to what people, in our current Lebenswelt, think that they ought to mean.  They correspond to selection pressures identified by evolutionary anthropologists.

Struggles between power2H and affiliation2V play out among family (5) and friends (5) within a band (50).  The band2b is the group selected for in a tropical environment and ecology3b in order to afford protection from predators1b.  Each individual can forage on his or her own.  But, to go off alone is a death sentence.

0449 Here is a picture.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 7 of 22)

0450 The era of joint intentionality begins with bipedalism as an adaptation to a changing environment and ecology.  In eastern Africa, tropical forest gives way to mixed forest and savannah.  The individual “southern ape” is less likely to successfully forage alone.  So, for some lineages, collaborative foraging offers an option.  Then, it becomes a preferred option.  Then, it becomes the only option.

The team2b is the group that is culturally selected for in the environment and ecology of mixed forest and savannah3boperating on the potential of  ‘obligate collaborative foraging’1b.

0451 Here is how the era starts.

0452 Chapter three is titled, “Second-Person Morality”.

0453 Here, a key insight from British anthropology comes into play, as delineated in Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).  With speciation to Australopithecus (transliterated “southern ape”), bipedalism frees the hands and enslaves the feet.  The feet do the walking.  The hands do the talking.  At this point in hominin evolution, adaptations into the niche of triadic relations enter into the picture.

Social circles differentiate.  Love and affection characterizes family (5) and intimate friends (5).  Joint attention and shared intentionality typifies teams (15).  Teams are the active agents for obligate collaborative foraging.  Avoidance of predation underlies bands (50).

0454 What does that imply?

The groups of interest for the era of individual intentionality are family (5), intimate friends (5) and band (50).

The group that is of interest in the era of joint intentionality is the team (15).

0455 I ask, “Is a team2b the intersection of power2H and affiliation2V?”

Yes, and no.

Yes, if the meanings of the words change.

No, if the meanings of the words remain the same.

0456 According to Tomasello, second-person morality develops as “you” and “me” act in concert as a “we” (team).  “We” have the motivations and skills required to pursue a joint goal, guided by shared intentions.  Joint attention structures individual perceptions of others’ actions.  Joint attention calls for judgment.  Habitual perceptions and judgments define “roles” in team activities.

0457 Roles are not pre-defined slots, arranged into organizational charts.  “Roles” label recurring patterns of habitual perceptions and judgments of one’s teammates.  These perceptions and judgments are in flux. However, they tend to fall into a stable pattern, making accommodation easier.  Individuals with perceptions and judgments that cannot be accommodated by other team-members are not invited to participate in team actions.

Say what?

0458 Hominins compete to cooperate.

0459 A team is a web of you-me relationships that perform as a single agent towards a single goal.  Power2H and affiliation2V are bound to a social contract that appears present to a disinterested observer, but cannot be pictured or pointed to by the hand-talking participants.  Indeed, power2H and affiliation2V are explicit abstractions that paper over the living collaborative “we” in the slogan, “We work for food.”

0460 Do early hominins collaborate in joint-attention activities for purely practical reasons?

Surely, “we”, this web of “you-me” relationships, with each “me” accommodating each “you” in order to say… gather much more food than any one of us could gather alone, cannot possibly be… may I say it?… fun?

0461 Practical reasons dictate that each “you-me” relationship is powered by productivity2H.

At the same time, fraternal enjoyment dictates that each “you-me” relationship is affiliated with a certain savoir faire.  Having fun2V is more than getting along2V.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 8 of 22)

0462 If an evolutionary anthropologist from today could go back in time to Homo habilis, she would be shocked at the things that our ancestors ate.  Homo habilis and its next of kin, Homo erectus, are on the lookout for any food that other species ignore or cannot get to.  They compete with giraffes, who specialize in getting food that is high up, and zebras, who specialize in getting food growing out of the ground.  They also compete with baboons, hyenas, large cats and other dangerous critters.

So, where is hominin food supposed to come from?

0463 Neither giraffe, zebra, hyena or baboon can find food that is not edible, but becomes edible after being hidden.  Decay is like digestion.  Bugs can do the work, if the bugs are themselves edible.  So can fungus.

In mixed forest and savannah, food is always abundant, at the right location and not for long.  So, mixed forest and savannah selects for teams that forage when the time is right.  In addition, many teams figure out how to store… er… hide food after sharing with other teams in the band.  How is today’s evolutionary anthropologist supposed to figure out the diverse ways of obtaining, preparing, sharing and hiding food?

Even more incredibly, over generations, each successful team gets better and better at whatever they figured out, because a successful team leads to one’s genes getting into the next generation.  Neuronal tracts sensitive to whatever a successful team figures out are laid down in order to make team actions more and more intuitively natural, innate, and more likely to be spontaneously discovered under novel environmental and ecological conditions.

0464 Yes, today, if we even glanced at a menu composed of what these folks ate, we would immediately barf.

0465 Fortunately, Tomasello’s topic is morality, rather than culinary magic.

Tomasello sees team joint-activities as supporting an inclination to help one another.

Is this the first expression of what we call, “sympathy”?

He relates this expression to three sets of psychological processes, (1) a network of “you-me” relations, (2) partner choice and control and (3) self-regulation.  The first (1) constitutes the “we” of the team.  A team is not simply 15 “me”s.  A team is composed of over 100 “you-me” relations.  The second (2) claims that deservingness1H and mutual respect1V are crucial for a coherent team.  The third (3) suggests that everyone innately knows (1) and (2).  Indeed, all three psychological processes are observed in the cognitive development of newborns and infants.

0466 In teams, power2H entails productivity2H.

Affiliation2V goes with having fun2V.

The team has a slogan, declaring, “We work for food.”

But, hand-talk cannot explicitly abstract the word, “work”.  So, maybe the word, “do”, will suffice.  We do food?   Okay, I am sticking with the first team slogan.

0467 Here is a picture.

Note how the intersection maintains continuity.  The normal contexts remain the same.

Note how the constituting actualities and their associated potentials change.

Cultural selection3b favoring obligate collaborative forgaging1b alters the character of the intersection2b, from power1Hand affiliation1V to productivity1H and having fun1V.

0468 We work for food2b is the primary actuality2b undergoing cultural selection3b for nearly three million years, from the start of bipedalism (around 3.5Myr) to the start of the domestication of fire (0.8My).  The Homo genus, the intention of humans, is conceived and born in the era of joint intentionality.

0469 Here is a list of significant archaeological markers for this era.

0470 In the subsection titled, “Collaboration and Helping”, Tomasello calls the emergence of the Homo genus, “self-domestication”.

Self-domestication weaves three strands into one rope.

First, human pair-bonding is recognized as productive, thereby formalizing the role of father (and assuring his paternity of his mate’s children).  The slogan, “We work for food.”, extends to “We work for one another in the family.”

Second, new subsistence strategies evolve.  The Oldowan and Acheulean stone tools serve as an example.  Oldowan stone tools are made rapidly and on location.  Acheulean stone tools require preparation.  They are made at one location then carried to another.  The Oldowan and the Acheulean stone-tool teams are one among many.  Successful teams become better and better over generations as the neural architecture that supports the relevant behavioral skills and cognitive capacities evolves.

Third, cooperative childcare becomes a style of teamwork, in addition to collaborative foraging.  Childcare teamworkbroadens the nature of “you-me” relationships into new arenas of joint attention.  Shared intentionality becomes more and more…what is a good word for it?… ah… “domestic”.

0471 Tomasello envisions these three strands weaving together into a metaphorical rope that tames hominins.

Hominins self-domesticate.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 9 of 22)

0473 In the subsection titled, “Joint Intentionality”, Tomasello explores the nature of agency for a team.  The team is aweb of “you-me” relations.

Here is another picture of the team as a social circle.

0474 The team is not a thing.  The team is a being.  The team is a purely relational structure composed of “you-me” relations.  Each pair is a site of joint attention.  It is also the occasion for joint agency.  Each one of a 15 member teamjuggles 14 “you-me” relations.  I estimate the number of unique relations to be over one-hundred.  No wonder predators get confused.

0475 Each herd animal is only concerned with self and maybe a youngster.  So, even though there are many animals in a herd, the trajectory of each can be reliably calculated.

Not so a team of hominins.  No single predator can calculate the trajectory of one because the trajectories of the otherswill change in response to a predator pursuing one.  They are bound by multiple “you-me” relations, making their behaviors difficult to predict.

Plus, these hominins carry rocks.  Some carry sticks as well.  These rocks and sticks present additional dangers that are difficult to anticipate.

0476 So, may I say that each “you-me” relation is a joint agent?

Each joint agent works towards a single end.

May I call this end, “an organizational objective”?

0477 Tomasello endeavors to discern the common ground underlying each joint agent.

Does the word, “trust”, suffice?

What about adding the word, “normative”?

Does that help?

0478 What does “normative” mean?

If I know that you are slow at throwing your rock at a predator, then I throw my rock a little earlier than I otherwise would, certain that your slowness will achieve good timing if I do so.

Tomasello explicitly abstracts these accommodations using terms, such as “roles” and “perspectives”.

Do Tomasello’s spoken words suffice?

0479 How should one describe the team?

Each team member serves as a node in a web of dyadic relations.  Each dyad is a “you-me” relation.  Each dyad operates within one web, the “we” of the team.

Tomasello struggles with explicit abstractions.  Are these dyads “social contracts” or “extensions” or “second-person bonds” or what?

0480 Plus, there is another difficulty.

Which is more important, productivity2H or having fun2V?

By focusing on one, the researcher tends to neglect the other.

This difficulty explains the two titles for “team”.  “We work for food” emphasizes productivity2H.  “Web of ‘you-me’ relations” highlights having fun2V.

0481 Plus, there is the lure of further explicit abstraction.  “Roles” and “perspectives” are gateways to “collaborative role-ideals” that become archetypal attractors for “you-me” arrangements.  Examples include explorer-supporter, teacher-mentor, pusher-go along, leader-follower, daring-cautious, and so on.  Each team activity contains its own suite of archetypal attractors.  Can I go on to philosophize about how the principle of other-self equivalence applies?

How many rabbits of explicit abstraction can one pull out of the hat labeled either “we work for food” or “web  of ‘you-me’ relations?

Read for yourself.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2016) “A Natural History of Human Morality” (Part 10 of 22)

0482 Tomasello chops a good deal of philosophical wood.

His labors are complicated by the fact that the word, “team2b“, is constituted by two actualities, productivity1H and having fun2V, causing the single term to polarize.  The two poles are captured in two slogans, “we work for food” and “web of ‘you-me relations”.

Here is a picture of the polarization of the intersection of team2.

0483 In order to visualize the roots and the branches of Tomasello’s task, consider projecting  the polarization of the teamback in time from the era of joint intentionality to the era of individual intentionality.

The results are remarkable.

0484 Tomasello’s woodpile is now starting to look like it is full of explicit abstractions that will demand further explicit abstractions that will demand further explicit abstractions.

Did Tomasello axe for this complicated mess?

0484 On top of that, if one substitutes the underlying potentials for the constituting actualities, within the paradigm of polarity, then the explicit abstractions that Tomasello chops in the first session transmogrify into a pile of philosophical wood ready for a second session.

It may take a second to figure out the two preceding diagrams.

Just saying.

0485 With the difficulties embedded within Tomasello’s woodpile now visualized, I turn to the subsection titled, “Second Person Agency”.

The initial challenge of the era of joint intentionality concerns good and fun collaborative partners choosing good and productive collaborative partners.

The axe comes down and this log splits into guilt (for when one denies mutual respect to others) and responsibility (for being productive).  What about labels for when one provides others with mutual respect and when one is not so productive?

Uh-oh.  Now, Tomasello has two more logs to chop.

0486 Adding to this philosophical woodpile, consider the question of how joint intentional activity arises in the first place.  

Here, Tomasello offers a figure, depicting two cooperating individuals facing an elevated gray triangle, emblazoned with the words, “Joint commitment to role ideals”.  To me, that means “we”.  We encompass our joint commitment to well… whatever the team is supposed to do.  From the bowels of the triangle, an arrow descends, bearing the words, “legitimately self-regulate”.  The arrow terminates, hitting the ground (so to speak) with the words, “according to our responsibility”.  Then, the impact of the arrow spreads to the feet of the cooperating individuals, and emerges from each head as an arrow returning to we, the embodiment of a joint commitment to role ideals.

0487 Here is my parody of Figure 3.1.  

Hmmm.  Tomasello’s stick figures have turned into meditative circle-heads.

0488 Why depict the individuals as circle-heads, weighed down by explicit abstractions that characterize “we”, “legitimate”, “self-regulate” and “responsibility”?

These spoken labels are not available to team members collaboratively foraging in the era of joint attention.  What is there to picture or point to using hand-talk?  Instead, whatever these spoken labels refer to are adaptations that end up as phenotypic traits, expressions of hominin neural and physiological architecture.

The meditative figures reflect the two minds of Tomasello. One is committed to the role ideal of evolutionary anthropologist.  One is devoted to concocting explicit abstractions in accordance with that ideal.  These two guide Tomasello’s philosophical axe in order to chop purely relational beings into label-worthy fragments.

0489 Towards the end of chapter three, concerning the era of joint intentionality, Tomasello launches into a subsectiontitled, “The Original Ought”.

What is moral psychology?

What is second-person morality?

The answer, of course, depends on how one defines these labels.

Or, does it?