Some time ago, the legal scholar, veterinary surgeon, and Homo sapiens Charles Foster spent a few weeks in the woods trying to live like a badger, a deer, a swift, an otter, and a fox, hoping to understand animal consciousness. That book, Being a Beast, now finds its unlikely sequel in Being a Human, in which Foster attempts the perhaps more difficult task of reconstructing the human consciousness of millennia ago. He settles on three pivotal turns in our history: the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras, and, far more recently, the Enlightenment. How does one escape the constraints of modern thought—of written language, digital technology, creature comfort—in pursuit of the origins of modern consciousness? Foster joins the podcast to report on his quest in the woods of northern England, and beyond.
Go beyond the episode:
- Charles Foster’s Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness, and Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide
- For another complicating view on humanity’s adventures in and out of agriculture, check out David Graeber and David Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything
- Thinking in words has its perks: read Emily Fox Gordon on “How I Learned to Talk”
- If our current era is an extension of the Enlightenment, as Foster argues, we might need to cling to our ideals of humanism a bit more in the struggle against social media, per James McWilliams in “Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie”
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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