Brian Boyd

There is behavioral ecology, which looks closely at the difference different ecologies make to behavior and other features of animals and humans. There’s evolutionary individual psychology, there’s evolutionary social psychology. In Darwin’s terms, evolution couldn’t exist without variation, and variation is important in behavioral genetics. And so on, and so on. There are so many instances in which evolution actually sharpens the precision, I think, with which one can find out the importance of differences. We’re interested in differences as well as commonalities.

“There is behavioral ecology, which looks closely at the difference different … Read More

Popper and Nabokov are very different people in some ways – and I’m ready to devote large chunks of my life to both of them. Popper didn’t think much of words but thought ideas mattered, and Nabokov didn’t think much of ideas, but words mattered, and so on. But both of them had a sense that this is a world of infinite discovery, unending discovery. That quest to discover more in any direction is what I think drives me, and what drives humans, when they’re doing the most interesting things.

“Popper and Nabokov are very different people in some ways – … Read More

If an artwork never gets any attention from anybody, then obviously it’s got problems. If it gains attention from a very small elite, then it’s presumably doing something. Finnegans Wake gets a lot of attention from certain people who become passionate about it, who are usually very good readers in general. Although – I often talk about costs and benefits – it seems to me the costs of reading Finnegans Wake are not worth the benefits, however many there may be. And it’s the same with the more arcane among poets, Zukofsky and so on.

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I think like almost everything in evolution, the old forms persist. New forms come along – not always, of course; there are species and whole lineages that go extinct – but basically novels and plays, and so on, will continue to exist. Jokes, as the lowest-cost form of narrative, will certainly continue to exist. They’re a bit like microbes in the biological world. They’re low-cost and they’re everywhere. They’re the most successful form of life, even though they’re not the ones we think about most.

“I think like almost everything in evolution, the old forms persist. … Read More

Art and literature need extreme sociality to a degree that even dolphins don’t have. We are the only large mammalian species that has such intense sociality. There are some small mammals that have become eusocial – the mole rats – but that’s a different thing. Humans are able to understand one another at very high levels, to cooperate in very large groups. Humans depend on one another in ways that are an absolute precondition to sharing the kinds of information that makes narrative possible.

“Art and literature need extreme sociality to a degree that even … Read More