• hugh
    What governs what we do?

    I’m looking for a good book or some good articles about what we do and why. I have been reading psychology books about impulses and habits, but this isn’t quite getting to my question. I think perhaps the habits of society (living in houses, working, consuming, partying, creating, coupling up, telling stories, watching TV, etc.) is more what I am questioning when I ask, what do we do and why do we do it?

    I’m an architecture student questioning the functions of society (The Ethical Functions of Architecture by Karsten Harries doesn’t answer my question either). Any relevant reading material would be greatly appreciated.
  • tim wood
    You might get further faster by keeping a journal. And to the degree your attention is focused you might learn lots of things. People used to keep such things. Ah! Keep a journal yourself and research and read journals that others have kept (and that have been published). Be open to the need to read between the lines.
  • hugh
    Thanks Tim, good idea. I feel like I need an alien's view of the whole thing as well though.
  • unenlightened
    I need an alien's viewhugh

    That's called 'Sociology'. Marx, Durkheim, Weber for a start; perhaps Gregory Bateson, David Smail, Levi-Strauss, It depends what exactly you're looking for.
  • Bitter Crank
    Keep reading.

    When will you be finished and have a full understanding of how modern life unfolded from the beginning of making stone tools? If you chip away at the task in-between your other studying and life-living, you should have a fairly good idea by 2030. It depends on how fast a study you are. If you are very very fast, maybe 2021. If you dilly-dally around, 2050. It took me around 50 years to corral a good understanding of our long history (while I was doing lots of other stuff).

    From a Paleontological view, we started out as ground-dwelling, scavenging, simple tool-making primates (millions of years ago). By around 400,000 years ago (give or take 15 minutes) we had evolved into our present physical shape and were making stone tools, using fire, foraging, hunting, and the like. We traveled around, screwed around with our close relatives (Neanderthals, Denisovans...) and very gradually developed more elaborate culture. Culture is the key: otherwise, we do what other mammals do: forage, eat, sleep, breed, and loaf around when nothing else is required of us, and so on.

    We invented culture as a means of preserving the insubstantial knowledge accumulated from generation to generation. Culture, in turn, began to play an independent role--acting on us, as well as being our invention and means to a valuable end. (We do not and can not know a lot about the culture of people living 200,000 years ago.)

    As we get closer to the "modern era" of 25,000 years ago, we begin to see evidence of culture: carved statuettes or paintings on cave walls. What we see is recognizably cultural stuff.

    So, life has proceeded for thousands of years in such a manner: We meet our mammalian needs, and we deploy culture to enhance our chances at survival and enjoyment.

    We find ourselves today in an immensely cluttered environment, piled up with cultural artifacts and complex routines which seem to obscure the mammalian needs underneath it all.

    How to make sense of all this?

    I'd start reading about the last 12,000 years of our history -- from the period just before we started growing food (agricultural) and living in constructed housing. So, one book from Jericho (first city) to writing (10,000 to 5,000 years ago).

    Read another book or two on ancient civilizations. There are scads of books in this category, so a couple of good surveys should do the trick -- it's about 3,000 years of history up through the end of the Western Roman Empire when, In 476 C.E., the Barbarian German Odoacer replaced Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the west. Bear in mind that the "barbarians" didn't want to wreck Rome, they wanted to live in Rome.

    Because this is THE Philosophy Forum, I am required by law to recommend that you read a survey of ancient philosophy.

    Next do the years between the end of the western empire to about 1200. this 800 year stretch of the the Medieval Period (aka Dark Ages--which it wasn't) saw the gradual reorganization of life and culture in Europe. (Sorry, I'm Euro-centric.)

    At 12:00 Midnight, Central Standard Time, on the night of December 31, 1200, the Renaissance began. The ancient philosophy--which you read about in that survey--had been pretty much lost to Europe, but was found again. Universities were begun in Paris, Oxford, and elsewhere.

    About this time forward, the pace picks up as we head downslope to the present.

    ou might get further faster by keeping a journal.tim wood

    Good idea -- something else to add to your already busy, overburdened life. But sure, keep track of what you read in the journal, and what major points you come across.
  • Bitter Crank
    Don't forget Thorsten Veblen.
  • gloaming
    "Man's Search for Meaning," Victor Frankl.

    Matthew's Gospel in the Christian Bible, specifically, Ch 6, vs 20/21. Truer words were never spoken if you take the meaning about motivation and value-assignment, and forget the part about Heaven if you are wont. The Book of Job can teach us a tremendous amount about loyalty, focus, servitude, placement, endurance, forbearance, and humility...which I think a professor of architecture would want to inculcate in her learners.

    If you have the time, The Plays and Tragedies of Sophocles. You'll learn a great deal about humanity there.
  • Wayfarer
    Agree with Unenlightened. Sociology and anthropology, in addition to some of the classical works of philosophy - Aristotlean ethics and other classical ethical tracts. A great companion volume to Victor Frankl is Eric Fromm’s ‘Fear of Freedom’ [a.k.a. Escape from Freedom]. They’re all pretty dated references, but grist for the mill. Take some humanities units in addition to architecture if possible.
  • hugh
    Thanks for steering me onto the right track everyone. I'm daunted by the lifetime of reading, but much obliged.
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