Notecard: On ants and humans

Cajal met Forel on a trip to America in 1899, where they both delivered lectures at Clark University, and they may have talked about ants along the way. Forel hoped to model the human mind on the “psychic powers” of ants; he was specifically interested in the difference between instinct and intelligence. “The resemblance in a society of ants and a society of men is no mere matter of appearances,” he wrote. In ants, he encountered lessons of humanity. When he attempted to mix species in ant colonies, he saw the politics of Switzerland play out in miniature, including approximations of religious tensions and tensions between cantons and the national government. After some initial “quarreling,” Forel observed, supposed enemies worked together, which led him to believe that Switzerland, with its many languages, traditions, and cantons, could achieve similar harmony. Every nation-state, he concluded, should be organized like the fourmilliére, or ant colony. He later renamed his home La Fourmilliére.

- from I Have to Admit, I Have a Very Low Opinion of Human Beings via

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