Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Harari (Yuval Noah)
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Amazon “About the Author”

  1. Dr Yuval Noah Harari has a PhD in History from the University of Oxford and now lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specialising in World History.
  2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind has become an international phenomenon attracting a legion of fans from Bill Gates and Barack Obama to Chris Evans and Jarvis Cocker, and is published in nearly 40 languages worldwide. It was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and was in the Top Ten for over six months in paperback.
  3. His follow-up to Sapiens, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow was also a Top Ten Bestseller and was described by the Guardian as ‘even more readable, even more important, than his excellent Sapiens’.

  1. The author’s style is to make large claims with less than adequate justification. If you agree with him that is no-doubt fine; less so if you don’t. He’s very “black and white” in what he says. There are end-notes with references, but no audit trail of how the references justify the assertions in the text.
  2. The book is also very light on historical detail. This is disappointing, as the author is a historian, not an evolutionary2 biologist, philosopher or sociologist.
  3. A major claim that runs throughout the book is that all but concrete particulars are “convenient fictions”. So, limited companies do not exist. Nor do nation states and the like.
  4. Both the assertions in the Laws of Hammurabi and the US Declaration of Independence are myths, though we may prefer the latter to the former. The first claims a hierarchy (superior people, common people and slaves) and the other claims that all are equal, but neither is true, strictly speaking, and “rights” are fictions.
  5. He seems of the view that those few of us who would briefly exist as hunter-gatherers would be better off in that state. The benefit to humans of the agricultural revolution is that there are more of us. The lives for the majority – both human and domestic animals – go – or maybe went (for most of history) – worse as a result. All that sweat of the brow and worry about the future for humans, and brief brutalised lives for animals in industrial farms.
  6. He sneers at any thought of some things and practices being “natural”. The use of the mouth for anything other than eating is “unnatural” if anything is.
  7. He’s perplexed why most societies have been patriarchal, and rejects any suggestion that it was due to males being stronger and more aggressive, or women being preoccupied with child-rearing. He contrasts women’s roles and opportunities in ancient and modern Greece and notes that there has been no biological change in the last 3,000 years.
  8. There’s enthusiastic support for “cognitive dissonance”. Wanting your ducks in a row is a symptom of a “dull mind” apparently.
  9. To be continued …

In-Page Footnotes ("Harari (Yuval Noah) - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind")

Footnote 1:
  • Vintage; First edition (30 April 2015)
  • Recommended by Naomi
  • On loan to Nat

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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