Sapient Nature

Bite-sized insights on the human condition.

Toward Greater Sapience

An intro post with more to come

Knowing one-self is like painting a self-portrait: one needs to take a careful look at oneself, and it is painstaking work

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If you are like most people, you have no doubt wondered, at some point in your life, about what it is that makes human beings unique. What is the nature of Homo sapiens? Or, put differently, what is sapien nature? Gaining a better understanding of our nature, including the ways in which we are different from other living things, is important. Only by understanding our nature can we hope to address one of life's most important questions: What are the determinants of a happy, fulfilling life?


I am going to argue-as you have probably guessed from the name of this blog (which is Sapient Nature, by the way, in case you missed that)-that a defining feature of human nature is the potential we have for being sapient. But what is sapient? Well, the dictionary defines sapience as "acutely wise." Sapience means: Discerning, someone who possesses keen insight.

That's a beautiful quality-to be insightful, wise, discerning, and to possess keen insight.

It is part of human nature to be sapient. More precisely, human beings have the potential to be sapient, which is to say that although we could all be sapient, not all of us are.

Hopefully, I am more sapient than the average sapien, but so hopes everyone else! We know from findings in psychology-on what is known as self-serving bias-that the average person thinks that he is better than the average person on most positive traits. If you think about it, this is statistically impossible, but that doesn't prevent people from engaging in the self-serving bias. As an example of the self-serving bias, the average person thinks he is kinder and more morally upright that the average other. Although I am unaware of any work that has examined whether people think they are more sapient than the average person, my hunch is that they do. Incidentally, the tendency to exhibit self-serving bias seems like a defining aspect of human nature too; I can't imagine that lower-order animals engage in self-aggrandizing attributions that would qualify as the conceptual equivalent of the self-serving bias that is so fundamental to human nature.

So, I won't spend time trying to convince you that I am more sapient that the average sapien-or, er, you. However, this blog is devoted to insights that I have gleaned from a variety of sources, from introspective inquisitions and discerning discussions to reflective readings, on human nature. The overarching purpose of my blog is to steer everyone (including myself, of course) toward greater sapience through gaining a better understanding of human nature.

Hence the name for my blog: Sapien(t) Nature.

I hope that all this leads to a happy and fulfilling ending. And in the process of co-evolving with you toward such an ending, I hope to hear from you, through your comments.

Let's toast to that-because, another defining aspect of human nature is to celebrate the start of journeys.

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Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor affiliated with the Department of Marketing at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.


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