This essay makes the claim that the controlling theater of human evolution has been the emotions and motivations that comprise our mind. I first illustrate how a handful of ancient emotions and motivations break down into the symptoms of major mental illnesses. I then proceed to assemble these “emotional fossils” into an evolutionary narrative of the human mind.
Six million years ago, amid deteriorating climates threatening extinction, the target of natural selection decisively shifted from the fittest ape individuals to the most productive associations among human individuals. From the very beginning, the coordination of divided labor has been the crucial human adaptation. To permit the intimate engagement required for this teamwork to emerge and thrive, collective instincts for justice were evolved and refined.
Then 300,000 years ago, our own species evolved an intense motivation to be admired by—and to admire—one another. The self-sustaining evolution of this two way force of attraction has relentlessly drawn us into increasingly larger intercommunicating populations igniting the maintenance and natural selection of know-how across generations.
This 130-page essay provides an intuitive understanding, not just of the known science of mental illness and human evolution, but also of the motivations underlying our capacities for self-awareness and complex language. An optimistic and progressive vision of human nature emerges as deeply rooted in the legacy of justice from our ancestral species.