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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines whether all animals are existential animals to meaningful degree. Drawing on existentialist perspectives, it bridges contemporary research in psychological science with classic work in philosophy, specifically Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, and the animated series Masters of the Universe. The chapter first considers Nietzsche’s archetypes of the human essence: the Priestly masters of outwardly vigilant self-control and the Knightly masters of egocentric conquest. It then explores the neurocognitive structures underlying the divergent behaviors, motivations, and values manifested by Nietzsche’s Knights and Priests. The chapter shows how humans accumulate experiences that are modeled by brain structures into associative networks, which are in turn projected onto the environment as expectations for subsequent experiences. It also describes how an approach-oriented mode of being impoverishes our ability to understand others’ mental states (i.e., theory of mind) as our ego-centrism increases.

Keywords: egocentrism, existentialism, expectations, meaning, morals, motivation, self-control, theory of mind, Friedrich Nietzsche, human essence

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