chapter  12
21 Pages

Continuities and discontinuities in human evolution

WithJonathan Marks

This chapter explores the patterns of continuity and discontinuity that have resulted from human evolution. These patterns coexist, but are either overemphasized or underemphasized in different intellectual traditions, serving different rhetorical purposes. It begins with culture and kinship, the two earliest concepts in anthropology, and discusses their different usages in ethology, which emphasizes continuity with the apes. The chapter then distinguishes intelligence (as rational problem-solving capabilities), which is continuous with the mentality of apes, from wisdom, which incorporates features like insight and profundity, and whose adaptive value is more indirect. In parallel, the chapter differentiates primate submissiveness from humility in social behaviour, and altruism from grace. Like kinship, the emergence of behaviours or states of humility, grace, and wisdom involved forms and properties of knowledge that are not immediately utilitarian or adaptive. Their gradual emergence in human evolution was intellectual, emotional, social, and largely fictive.