The physical and abstract worlds. What is the “abstract world”?

How did humans become the most evolved creatures on the planet?

One plausible hypothesis explaining how humans became the most evolved creatures is that at some point in human development, they had two competitive advantages that were not seen simultaneously in other animals. Humans united in large groups and responded quickly to changes in the physical world. Homo sapiens learned to accumulate human mass and direct energy into a common cause, from hunting animals together to the space program. Continuous progress in the number of people interacting and in the speed of adaptation has been made possible by the fact that humans have learned to communicate using signs (words, pictures, etc.). People invented letters, the alphabet, numbers, and more. Signs allowed humans to interact with strangers. Throughout history, people have invented words to describe the physical world. We can conventionally say that human beings invented another “world” — the world of abstractions.

Words are a form of reflection of human intellectual activity. Through intellectual labor, man has learned over time to better form descriptions of the physical world. The world of abstractions includes myths, legends, and beliefs, which have played a role in the development of civilization. Mankind invented complex intellectual concepts such as religion or god that are not found in the physical world.

With the help of the world of abstractions, there was and is a unity of people to achieve common goals. These goals are not always positive, though. But in the end, it became clear that humans were able to create a world of abstractions in order to better model the physical world. The human model of reality proved to be better than that of animals. Therefore, humans were able to create an advanced civilization.

The difference between the animal and human worlds

Animals live only in the physical world, the “here and now”. If you say to a monkey: give me a banana and I promise a better life after death or take $100 for a banana, the monkey will not understand it. There is no death and no afterlife in that world, even the dollar bill is only strong because mankind believes in it. People “know how to live” in both worlds, the physical and the abstract. And have learned how to link them together mentally. Man dynamically changes life around him, observing his surroundings and skillfully transforming the knowledge gained to meet his needs.

Humans, unlike animals, adapt differently to their external environment. The weak adaptability of humans to a specific environment compared to other animals turns out to be a strength of humans. Mankind is not confined to any specific environment, but through his skills, changes the biological and social environment. The urge to work hard and develop skills sets man apart from the world of living nature.

Human development is not limited to biology but affects abstract spheres — culture, science, technology, art, economics. These abstract concepts help man not only to describe and improve life in the physical world but also fill life with the meaning of infinite knowledge of the world. For the sake of dubious new knowledge, humans, in comparison with animals, can not only postpone pleasures but also risk their own lives.

There is a widespread belief in the world that each person has a different “picture of the world (perspective on reality, point of view in the world)”. Although a Neanderthal or an alien would hardly catch the difference between the world picture of an American and a Russian. On an intuitive level, all humans model the world in roughly the same way. Evolution has worked on this, sewing the same perception (modeling) of the physical world into everyone. Rain, snow, and weather phenomena, human emotion, or threat are all understood in the same way by modern humans. The human brain, like the animal brain, has a natural modeler that automatically recognizes (calculates) situations in the physical world and makes most decisions.

People’s distinction is influenced by those abstract pictures of the world that are downloaded into a person during life. First, a person learns words that denote what is present in the physical world. For example, lion, tree, boy, etc. Then one learns complex intellectual concepts. For example, happiness and love. Then more complex intellectual concepts - energy, mass, acceleration. Man came up with theories that describe reality. Scientific theories came with the scientific revolution, thanks to which, over the centuries, people have increased dozens of times, and production hundreds of times.

The formation of scientific knowledge is a never-ending adventure for humanity. The human brain is curious, willing to constantly consume information, constantly changing, adapting to the new reality. That is, man is intrinsically motivated to evolve and view life as a curious adventure. The plasticity of the brain gives unlimited prospects for endless development. It is important for the individual to choose his or her own path, and to do this, one must first learn to understand different pictures of the world. For example scientific pictures of the world.

Non-scientific pictures of the world — myths, legends, beliefs — have also played an important role in human development. Various ancient rituals and beliefs, religion, and incipient elements of art created order in people’s minds and helped them cope with inner restlessness. Shamans, priests, and artists did not need to achieve accuracy in predicting the real world and the processes occurring in it. The pictures of the world they conjured up were meant to create certainty, tranquility, or pleasure. Nevertheless, it is important for the active man of today, in addition to confidence and self-control, to have the skill to create successful systems and solve complex new problems.