Re: Why do we seek to transcend ourselves?

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Mon Jul 15 2002 - 09:55:32 MDT

On Monday, July 15, 2002, at 10:40 AM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

>>> My hypothesis is that the modern human psyche generically contains a
>>> certain lack, a feeling of emptiness. Obviously this is far from an
>>> original idea! It's been called many things -- a feeling of
>>> aloneness, meaninglessness, purposelessness, existential angst...
>> Obviously a great many people feel this way. But why would the human
>> psyche generically contain it? Where does it come from?
> According to Freud, in his great book "Civilization and its
> Discontents," it
> comes from the fact that large parts of our brains want us to run wild
> as
> animals, yet civilization forces us to constrain our activities in ways
> that
> are "unnatural" to these parts of our brains.

Bleh, sounds like, as usual, Freud was starting to think about the right
things, but, because of the times and his own lack of rigor, failed to
reach a conclusion that matches up with what we now know about the human

> According to David Bohm, in "Thought as a System," it comes from the
> "fragmentation of mind" that modern culture has brought, as opposed to
> the
> "wholeness" of the primitive mindset and the greater wholeness of the
> animal
> mindset before it.

Bohm seems to have this a bit backwards. The human mind starts out very
fragmented and has to be cultivated towards wholeness, which is away
from the primitive mind.

> According to Indian religions, it's due to the "veil of Maya"
> preventing us
> from perceiving true nirvanic reality underneath...

Here are my thoughts on this. The human brain is programmed to be a
good reproducer. Better reproducers have been smarter and more able,
thus over the millennia humans have evolved to be smarter, faster,
stronger. But, why should that be enough? Within the individual
lifetime of a human, he can become even smarter, faster, and stronger
than he would be if he had an average life. If he had the ability, and
the need, to dedicate himself to something greater, he could become a
better reproducer than he was when he started out. Consequently, humans
with this need to be something greater (they feel like they are missing
something; like they are incomplete) are better reproducers (assuming
that they act on this desire) and, over time, out produce the slacker
humans. Ergo, we get today's situation: humans feel the need to be
something greater, so they join a cult, take up body building, or just
do something that they think will make them a better. As persons'
choices indicate, they don't always pick something that will actually
lead to greater reproductive ability, but this is most likely because
humans only evolved the desire to be better and never a system to check
if the actions to satisfy the desire are doing any good (of course you
can develop such a system, but it isn't hardwired so people make dumb

As for more primitive humans having less of this feeling (and this may
not be true; this could be stuff out of anthropology the pseudoscience),
they simply have less of this desire than more advanced humans. If they
had evolved with more desire to be better, they'd be more advanced and
we'd be the primitives or their peers. Personally, I suspect that the
level of desire for betterment is about the same in all humans and
primitive people only continue to exist for geographical and cultural

Gordon Worley                     `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty            said, `it means just what I choose                it to mean--neither more nor less.'
PGP:  0xBBD3B003                                  --Lewis Carroll

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