Imagined Orders: Science or Philosophy

Harari in his book Sapiens, describes the transitions Homo sapiens went through to become the humans we are today. About 70,000 years ago Sapiens’ passed through the cognitive revolution. This was a time that saw great leaps forward in sapiens mental abilities. Sapiens were now able to think, reason and communicate in ways that were unprecedented. This gave rise to the ability to collectivize and use ration to solve everyday problem, which in turn gave sapiens a commanding advantage above their neighbors. This then lead to the Agricultural Revolution. Sapiens during this period developed the ability to domesticate plants and animals. This domestication created large scale agriculture around which cultures, families, and eventually communities formed. This rise in cooperation and collectivization eventually lead to the rise of cities that created governments, which ultimately created the power and authority that we now see today.


Harari argues that as sapiens began to live together in these tighter communities, imagined orders were created to better organize society for what I would describe as utilitarian objectives. Imagined rules or beliefs gave sapiens the ability to remove confusion and conflict from their lives which allowed them to better maximize their societal abilities. Someone in the world of political science would describe this period without imagined orders as the “state of nature.” Many philosophers over the centuries have attempted to explain why we left the “state of nature.” Harari believes imagined orders drove humans from the “state of nature” to a world that was more organized and safe. Harari does make a compelling argument but I see him as just another philosopher trying to solve what is, in my view, an unanswerable question. Yes, Harari has the benefit of decades of scientific discoveries to rely on but his answers are still a mater of philosophy not science. I personally would like to think there is a more divine reason for sapiens becoming dominant but I can no more prove my theory to be correct than Harari can. Thus, I would choose to leave this debate open to the philosophers of the world.