Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424

Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Sapiens Study Guide

Subscribe Now

One thing that Harari says separates us from the animals is a sense of community. We work together because, thanks to the development of language, we are linked in ways that other animals aren't. He says,

Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths. Any large-scale human cooperation—whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe—is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.

These myths and stories are something that allows us to bond as people and communities. That's something that separates us from the animals and allows us to create massive change as social groups.

Harari says, "You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven." Animals don't have an abstract understanding of things like Heaven, freedom, or independence. As far as we know, they can't sit down and discuss those ideas and therefore aren't brought together by them. That's one reason why other species haven't been able to develop further the way that we have.

Abstract concepts, he says, are all in our heads and something we've created together. Harari writes, "There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination." Those ideas that humans create are something that help establish communities and bind people together. That's why the development of language was so important. It allowed us to develop and communicate abstract ideas and then build groups around them.

One point that Harari makes is that the Agricultural Revolution actually made life worse for people. He says that "this is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions." He looks at each step forward in technology as something that isn't necessarily good, even though each one contributes to the human race being the dominant race on the planet. He thinks that people were happier as hunters and gatherers and that though more people were able to be in society, it wasn't necessarily for the best.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial


Explore Study Guides