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Something from Nothing: Seeking a Sense of Self

Lance Strate
ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 2003, 60.


"Julian Jaynes (1976) posited that theory of mind was a fairly recent evolutionary development. No doubt, our ancestors could have survived without it, as have other forms of life . Perhaps the Neanderthals lacked it, depending instead on skills such as memory and visualization . Perhaps they disappeared because their mind-blindness made them vulnerable to our own ancestors. It is possible that the development of theory of mind led to the creative explosion of art and ritual that occurred sometime between twenty and thirty thousand years ago (Pfeiffer, 1982), or it may be that it developed much earlier among our evolutionary ancestors (Dunbar, 1996) . Whenever it appeared, theory of mind would have tremendous survival value, as it leads us to make inferences about the mental states of others, and thereby predict their behavior ; applied to the natural environment as anthropomorphism, it even is an efficient form of theory-building, and therefore would be favored by natural selection (Baron-Cohen, 1995)."