Primitive man probably thought very much as a young child thinks, that is to say, "In a series of imaginative pictures". He conjured up images or images that presented themselves to his mind, he acted in accordance with the emotions they aroused. So, a young child does today.
Systematic thinking, is apparently, a comparative late development in human experience. It has not played any great part in human life until within the last 3,000 years, and even today those who really control and order their thoughts are but a small minority of humankind. Most of the world still lives by imagination and passion. ‘A Short History of the World’ H.G.Wells.
There is no sort of savage so low as not to have a kind of science of cause and effect. But, primitive man was not very critical in his associations, of cause, with effect. He very easily connected an effect, with something quite alien to its cause, "You do so and so", he said, "And so and so happens. You give a child a certain berry and it dies. You eat the heart of a valiant enemy and you become strong". There we have two bits of cause and effect association, one true, one false. We call the system of cause and effect, in the mind of a savage, fetish. But, fetish, is simply, a savage science. It differs from modern science, in that it is totally unsystematic and uncritical, and is more frequently wrong. H.G.Wells.
"When we see man 20,000 years ago, having completed the colonization of the Six Continents, which had begun a million years earlier, it is time to look back and survey his position. How did these people think? Almost universally, they must have had a primitive mind. The prelogical or semi-rational mind that fails to separate the individual from the group, and which pursuing causes with misguided zeal argues post hoc ergo propter hoc. (after this, therefore on account of this, the after-so-because – fallacy).
Our civilised societies have never excluded the primitive mind. There are a proportion of people in all societies who see no sense in the definition connections and inferences, which their teachers hold to be self-evident. Indeed, in all societies there is more prelogical thinking than we like to admit.
Civilization we may say has advanced only at the cost of a struggle between science and superstition, working on the intelligence of the participants. A struggle of whose progress the legal status of torture and the social status of astrology, might serve as indicators. Advanced societies, therefore, are so stratified as to keep the primitive mind in a subordinate position. In this way individual responsibility and the rules of evidence, allow with fluctuating success, the development of law and the organisation of knowledge, and all that follows from these practises. ‘The Little Universe of Man’, Professor C D Darlington.
"Western civilization is a thin and precarious crust, erected by the personality and the will of a very few, and only maintained by rules and conventions skilfully put across and guile fully preserved". Lord Keynes, Economist.
"It is probably true that in general, the higher the education of individuals becomes, the more their views are differentiated. If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards, where the more primitive and common instincts and taste prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards, it merely means that the largest group of people, whose values are very similar are the people with low standards. It is, as it were, the lowest common denominator, which unites the largest number of people". ‘The Road to Serfdom Professor’ FA Hayek. Nobel Prize Economics.
"Anomy signifies the state of mind of one who has no standards, but only disconnected urges. He derides knowledge, education, and values. His only faith is the philosophy of denial and derision. He lives on the thin line of sensation, between no future and no past, responsive only to trivia". ‘Life Chances’ Professor Darendorf.
With regard to all the basic questions of existence, a great section of our culture has just one function to befog the issues. One kind of smokescreen is the assertion that the problems are too complicated for the average individual to grasp. On the contrary, it would seem that many of the basic issues are very simple, so simple in fact that everyone should be expected to understand them.
To let them appear to be so enormously complicated that only a specialist can understand them, which tends to discourage people from trusting their own capacity to think. The result of this is twofold.
A scepticism and cynicism towards everything, which is said or printed, and a childish belief in anything which is told with (any) authority. This combination of cynicism and naivete is typical of some modern individuals. Its essential result is to discourage him from doing his own thinking and deciding. George Orwell.
Another way of paralysing the ability to think critically is the destruction of any kind of structuralised picture of the world. Facts lose the specific quality, which they can have only as parts of a structuralised whole, and stay abstract and inert, quantitively unmeaning, each fact is just another fact and all that matters is whether we know more or less. The media does have a devastating effect on this score, with the sometimes disregard of any scale of importance between life and death struggles between people, and the importance given to trivia. This can hamper our judgement. Eventually our attitude to what is going on in the world assumes a quality of flatness and indifference, life loses all structure. It is composed of many little pieces, each separate from the other and lacking any sense as a whole. The individual is left alone with these pieces, like a child with a puzzle. The difference, however, is that the child knows what a house is and therefore can recognise the parts of the house in the little pieces he is playing with. Whereas, the adult does not see the meaning of the whole, the pieces of which come into his hands. He is bewildered and afraid, and just goes on gazing at his meaningless little pieces. The Fear of Freedom. Dr Erich Fromm.
In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening, are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. George Orwell.
NB. My Mother asked the question, "How did ancient man think"? My Dad’s reply.