Abstract thinking in evolutionary perspective

I am reminded of this again:

Abstract thinking, especially in it’s verbal form, is relatively new for humanity and for life in general. (I imagine the image form of abstract thinking is much older and shared with many other animals.)

And that’s perhaps we are having trouble with it. Why so many of us seem predisposed to believe our thoughts, and why we often are unable to take the long and big perspective even when it benefits us. Abstract thinking is a new tool for us. We are still trying to figure out how to use it, and how to relate to it in a more mature way.

It seems that reasonable that seeing thoughts as thoughts, not believing them, has an evolutionary advantage. When I believe a thought, it creates stress, drama and false perceptions. When there is more clarity around a thought, I can relate to it as a thought. I can use it as a tool if that seems helpful, and let it pass otherwise.

So humanity may, in time, evolve to not so easily believe thoughts.

Note: This is evolution in the ordinary, scientific sense. Seeing thoughts as thoughts may aid the survival and flourishing of individuals, which in turn supports the passing on of the genetic material predisposing us to see thoughts as thoughts. There are examples to the contrary, of course: some fundamentalists have lots of children, and monks and nuns tend to not. And yet, overall, it may still work out so it gives an evolutionary advantage and gradually change how humanity relate to thought. This happens in conjunction with a cultural “evolution” which appears to move in the same direction.


– abstract thinking, relatively new for humanity
– perhaps why we are having trouble with it, believing our thoughts etc. – still trying to figure out how to use it, relate to it in a more mature way
– not believing stories, may have evolutionary advantage
– humanity may, in time, evolve to not so easily believe thoughts

They are, after all, just abstractions, tools for aiding us in orienting and navigating in the world. They are not what they appear to represent.




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