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Book: "Knowledge Processing Creativity and Politics"

About the book


How is it possible to have political order and peace at all? This is the key question we should consider.

This book, on the bases of biology, psychology and human experience, argues that our salient characteristic is creativity, the capacity to acquire, transmit and apply knowledge. Creativity is a precondition for morality, the best morality, therefore, is what facilitates creativity best. Agreement on morality is what resolves conflicts of interest and leads to the formation of political power and, thus, order. But how is agreement possible? Liberal democracy and ideologies, including religions, evolved to deal with moral disagreement. However, they evolve and develop differently, so they have shaped and will shape political history differently. Read on to see how.

The abstract

If we assume that we have evolved from apes, two phenomena would strike us as remarkable. Firstly, why should a descendent of apes adhere to morality even when that morality was detrimental? In the course of struggles for power, particularly dictatorships, it is not uncommon to realise that a decent politician loses to the criminally minded one. Machiavelli must have been well aware of this, and hence the counsel for his prince to be ruthless and manipulative. Secondly, why do we care about systems of beliefs like religions and nationalism, despite the fact they bring about misery for great numbers of people, including some of their followers? Answering these questions is essential for explaining history, because so many events in politics cannot be explained without considering the moral and ideological concerns of those acting. My involvement with these questions dates from 1982, when I wanted to write a short historical account of Iraqi Kurdistan. The book, Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics (, puts forward a view of morality and ideologies that can lend itself to the explanation of politics and political history that fits into Dawkins's Selfish Gene worldview. The book also tries to point out the psychological mechanisms and backgrounds for the concern with values in general which take into account the contradictions and inconsistencies of human moral concerns. Moreover, it demarcates the social contexts in which the selection for morality is likely to occur.

The Essential Characteristic of Human Nature

In a worldview argued for by Plotkin, adaptation can be seen as a manifestation of knowledge acquired heuristically by genes. The bodies of all organisms represent knowledge of what works in their environment. Humans can be seen as occupying the branch of the evolutionary tree where specialised structures - the brain, sense organs and mediums of manipulation, the hands and tongue - have evolved to actively incorporate abstract knowledge and capture it in memories or cultural artefacts. Accordingly, I suggest that human's salient characteristics is the greater capacity for knowledge processing - acquisition, transmission and application of knowledge propositions. Ideas, whether moral, ideological, economic, scientific, aesthetical or technological, can be seen as means for competition, in this worldview of adaptation-as-knowledge. Although it might be regarded as an unfamiliar view, science, nevertheless, can be seen as an institution that arbitrates and validates between competing ideas about nature. However, is there a parallel institution dedicated to competition between values or moral propositions?

Explaining politics

The necessary first step to explain politics is to identify the significance of moral propositions in social life. The book argues that moral agreement is the sole element that brings about political power - this idea is not as impossible to argue as it might sound. Yet it is obvious that political power can be used and abused as a means to obtain various resources, we should therefore expect competition over power and some of this competition can take place through competing moral propositions. This point underlines the difficulty of reaching moral agreement. That is why we will need to ask: How has the building of political power been possible and how can we explain the existence of states, and even the tribe or clan? If my previous premises were plausible, then the next step should be to assume that humans must have evolved certain institutions that provide unified sets of moral rules (USMR), and also deal with the challenges to these USMR. If so, what are these institutions and where are they?

If we try to devise theoretical models of institutions that can carry out the function of providing USMR, and also deal with disagreement over USMR so that political power is formed and preserved, we will come to think of two different approaches to achieve this. If we stipulate that no violence should be used in response to moral disagreement, we will come to realise that the argument that is likely to win is in favour of the an arrangement that we should adopt, on tentative bases, a set of moral rules that the majority of the group agrees upon, in which it is accepted as a principle that the majority might err, or that the majority changes its preference and thus further opportunities are offered to draw up new tentative sets of moral rules.

The other approach evolves when the proviso of non-violence is dropped. This model will adopt a set of moral rules and will permit suppressive methods to pre-empt challenges to the sanctioned set of moral rules. It is not difficult to find that these two methods have been and are being used by various institutions. Current liberal democracies, manifest, though not completely, the first approach. Religions, at least some of them if not all, are characterised by providing rigid moral rules and prohibition of challenging them. However, it can be shown that Marxism, illiberal nationalism and racism have some features matching or resembling religions (henceforth I call them the ideologies or ideological model).

To explain the political reality and history we can return back to the theoretical models and try to envisage the structures and policies that these models should acquire, so that they can carry out the task of providing and preserving moral agreement necessary for the existence of political power. It is not difficult to realise that the development, the likely evolutionary trajectory and the behaviour of the ideological model match very closely, if not completely, the actual political history and reality. Even the evolution of liberal democracy can be expected to happen at some stages in the evolution of the ideological model under certain conditions.


No doubt, to employ moral propositions in the way suggested above indicates having made certain assumptions about morality that can be at a variance with other views of morality. These differences can be highlighted if viewed along certain dimensions. Firstly, from the point of view of what forms morality takes, which is a question about ontology, we can distinguish two aspects for morality. On the one hand, it is evident that we have moral propositions. These are what people in general say when they prescribe, proscribe, approve of or disapprove of human behaviour and characteristics.

The other component of morality is the psychological capacity to interact with moral propositions. I propose the theory of emotional fitness. This theory suggests that owing to the fact that human actions are driven by emotion, a capacity can have evolved that makes emotions to interact with values or vulnerable to values that may be expressed through body-language or verbally. However, this vulnerability to values allows manipulation and exploitation through the use and misuse of social values, which can render us emotionally unfit and undermine our survivability in the Darwinian sense. In response, it is speculated that another capacity may have also evolved to restore or build emotional fitness.

The second dimension is that of evolution. Considering that human civilisation is a manifestation of creativity, which is enabled and supported by brain structures, and that these structures are coded for by certain genes, we can deduce that there must have been some selection in favour of the genes for intelligence, and particularly creativity which make morality possible. In line with Dawkins's the Selfish Gene, we can say that morality may be for the benefit of genes which prescribe morality or creativity.

Regarding the context of the selection for morality and creativity, I have suggested that humans enter various systems of interdependence, where we select each other. These include families, businesses, states, parties, etc.

Deontologically, we can easily infer that since morality will not be possible without creativity, then the best morality should be the morality that serves creativity best.

Epistemologically, the supposition here is that moral propositions can be seen as scientific claims of knowledge and be experimented with. Here I underline the difference between my approach and Dewey's. However, this assumption needs the drawing of attention to the differences between moral propositions and ideological proposition, and also with natural scientific propositions.


Buying the book:

1. For the USA market

2. For the UK market

The book is also available on amazon and

Showan Khurshid is the author of : "Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics: A Political Theory based on the Evolutionary Theory" which can be purchased here