Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Beware the "Big Story" …

 Civilisations and the undiscovered self – Mark Vernon.

What doesn’t occur to Harari is that these presumed fabrications must, also, apply to the story he is telling. He’s using language, too, so why should the science he celebrates be any less deluded than the information our ancestors transmitted? Why mightn’t it not be just the latest evolutionary adaptation, with the production of technology acting as social glue for us much as the building of temples is presumed to have acted as social glue for our ancestors?


  1. I tend to regard any Big Story as an interesting if oversimplified fiction, but Vernon seems to have read a very different version of Harari's Sapiens than have I. While it is certainly possible to object that Harari ignores the spiritual aspect of human nature, he is hardly as celebratory of science as Vernon claims: 'Science is unable to set its own priorities. It is also incapable of determining what to do with its discoveries.' (p. 305 in my pb edition)

    Nor does Vernon quite 'get' Harari's understanding of myth. There is nothing 'pejorative' about the way Harari regards myth. On the contrary: myths are integrative, rooted in people's collective imagination and enabling large-scale cooperation (loosely reworded from p. 30).

  2. Good points. I haven't read Harari. Maybe I should. Though the brevity of life is now a factor when it comes to reading

  3. Frank, it's a fun read, with some questionable BS (Big Story, not BullShit!) points--corporations as legal fictions, for example--but I quite enjoy his rather skewed and provocative take on certain broad questions. And since I love to gossip, it's refreshing to read his positive assessment of its importance in social cooperation and survival (gossip theory).