2: The Tree of Knowledge

From Harari — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

At the end of the first chapter, the author asked one question, what was the Sapiens’ secret of success? The author tended to guide us to believe the answer to such question is language we used. Perhaps, or I should expect the following chapter would show us evidence or convince us that human being remained today, i.e. Sapiens, have a very unique capability, use of language.

The very beginning of chapter 2, by citing two encounters between Sapiens and Neanderthals, the author hinted that the victory of Sapiens in the second encounter which drove Neanderthals to extinction, came from revolution in Sapiens’ cognitive abilities, or the Cognitive Revolution. However, we are still not sure the cause of it. Attributing the revolution to genetic mutations introduce the term, the Tree of Knowledge, which is the title of chapter 2.

Now, coming back to the answer of Sapiens’ superiority to other human types, language. As the author posted, ‘What is so special about our language?’ Author then mentioned two theory. The second theory attracts my attention a lot. The assertion is that our language is for us to gossip. YES, gossip, gossiping is very important to us, as a social animal. Then a lot of elaborations about that assertion followed.

Next, the author the use of language is to enable Sapiens to talk about something imaginative… The comes the word “collectively”, to me this word is so important that it emphasizes the human being as social animal, need to do things together. Perhaps the words ‘language’, ‘collectively’, ‘imagination’, altogether summarize the uniqueness of Sapiens and differentiate it from other species. Capability to imagine enable cooperation among large number of strangers. Neglecting one of the three words would not achieve the complicate fabric of human society. Indeed the author tabulated the consequences of these three important features on p.41. I like this table.

I like the author’s writing style of asking questions throughout the text. Questions are good to present idea, to emphasize a statement to remind us there is always other possibilities, rather than than a simple conclusion, more importantly inspire reader to think and stimulate debate among each others. Besides, it sounds like a dialogue between the author and the readers which put readers into the context.

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