Book Review: The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning by Jeremy Lent

The book argues that how we organize our thoughts and view the exterior world influences what actions we take as nations and what follows. Jeremy Lent goes over different cultures and their thinking patterns, and how those patterns might have influenced their position in the world and their policy-making. I think he is right, that the way we organize our cultures, what we view as essential, and what we value influence our actions. It is not only about guns, germs, and steel, especially why Western thoughts dominated our world and the industrial revolution started from here. The book reasons that those three things play their part, but Jeremy Lent wants to look past that.

The book’s central thesis is that the way we see personhood, humans and their interactions with the world, and how we view information and how it should be obtained have been formed through our cultural history. And those things influence how we are living now and what choices we make, especially towards our environment. Jeremy Lent argues that the pattern of thoughts and values we have created highly influenced the environmental destruction and why the Western way of thinking accepts it on such a massive scale and doesn’t take action. He praises the Chinese philosophies and their view on how an individual is an integral part of not only the community they live in but also the environment they occupy. He disputes reductionism and the views of nature and human minds as machines. Two thought patterns that in his view cause harm to our appreciation of nature, selfhood, and how everything is interconnected.

I can’t say I disagree with Jeremy Lent, but what gets to me is the attacking, idealistic, one-sided judging ethos. Somehow it takes away the reading experience. Somehow it lessens the argumentation power. Somehow it makes the book more simplistic than it is. Yet, I would say that book has a lot to offer, despite its many flaws: introducing just the basic history, not going too deep into the ideologies he discusses about, and the biased and judgmental tone. But can you really argue against what he proposes? That how our brains are organized and how we pattern those thoughts in our cultures matters to our values and actions we take.

Thank you for reading ❤ Have a beautiful day!

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