The fundamental divide between right and left is the clash between the role of the individual vs. the role of the collective. The right wins this argument because, in a post-Darwinian world without religion, the very existence of a collective will is in question—it has been made an orphan in Darwin’s age bereft of evolutionary roots. That is the vacuum that my work intends to fill.

Collective Will

The most obvious evidence that the collective sphere has independent agency is the brute fact that human language is founded on shared intentions. The words you read in this sentence exist in a collective realm. By contrast, any information that an animal communicates that is not manipulative, is unintended. That is because animals are naturally selected only to benefit themselves as individuals.

Evolutionary biologists have spent the last 45 years trying to demonstrate how our collective sphere could have evolved from the natural selection of individuals. Their answer is right out of the political right’s playbook: NEPOTISM and TRANSACTIONAL RECIPROCITY, in other words, family values and business deals are responsible for all human cooperation.

This belief is 1) rank cynicism and . . . . . . . 2) incorrect

In my work, I establish that the most parsimonious causal evolutionary narrative consistent with the facts of paleoanthropology is that the evolution of all our hominin ancestral species predominantly adapted to a social environment comprised of collective emotions-and-motivations; and this is the most distinctively human part of who we are. I argue that this social environment evolved according to the laws of natural selection separately and apart from individuals, in a manner analogous to a cohabitating, symbiotic organism.

Just as our bodies are infused with a biosphere of micro-organisms upon which our individual health depends, our minds are infused with a macro-organism upon which our collective health depends.

A Liberal Theory of Human Nature - Part III
The human adaptation

To support the proposition that the collective coordination of divided labor (the invisible hand) is the principal distinctively human adaptation, I refer to the writings of economist Adam Smith (1723-1790). In his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith recognizes justice as the one virtue that is indispensable to productive social engagement.


Because justice is the collective human instinct that was naturally selected to allow the benefits of productive social engagement to take root and blossom.

An essay of the entire narrative is linked here.

ThA Liberal Awakening - Part III

The Human Instinct

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2 Comments on “The Roots of Our Collective Will”

  1. John, I think you’re dealing with key concepts–the individual will and individual dominance, contrasted with the collective will and community cooperation. I saw an interesting documentary tonight, the last film in a local Asian-American film festival (DisOrient), of which I am a sponsor. Its title is INVENTING TOMORROW, which will be shown on PBS’s POV soon. We see high schoolers in various countries around the world working cooperatively on ecological problems. Their collaborative projects culminate in a contest, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The contest is competitive. We see collaboration and competition, individual initiative and group cooperation, working side by side. There is balance, and perhaps that’s an important human value in its own right.

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