I'm not sure I follow all the ways you or Agnes Callard are thinking about this, but I think her examples regarding anger and apology made something clearer to me about a high construal levels purpose within the mind and its functioning for social relations. Evolutionary Psychologist Aaron Sell talks about anger as a bargaining mechanism for recognition and maintenance of status. In the examples Callard gives where an apology is easy there is very clear differences in relations and probably status as well. An apology on public transport is to forestall enmity from a stranger with ambiguous status. The apology for uncouth behavior at a party is an instance where if the relational combatants do not apologize it would be putting themselves above the host of the party in importance, a further escalation and spiraling of status conflict beyond the boorish behavior of the public fight already exhibited. It seems one choking on their own words with regard to apology and longing for a "perfect" apology that may or may not be forthcoming is a facet of status ambiguity among coequal friends, usually. There seems to be a push within evolution to make things opaque to one's consciousness. But if you make your emotions too opaque this is a path to psychological disorders. Also, if one's emotions are too concrete and visceral this is also often a path to disorder. The high construal level and the emotional activation it engenders to group asabiyyah seems to more or less be the point of efficiently overcoming or reconciling the individual drive for status while still maintaining connection to ancient emotions that are needed to be evolutionarily fit. Perhaps this is all a banal statement of what you and Agnes already know and does nothing to change a high construal levels origins as an exaptation.

Aaron Sell on Nature & Nurture podcast:


Rob Henderson covering the same podcast (paywalled):


Expand full comment

"single party gives hostages to someone more powerful to signal their submission." People(rational actors) won't give something of value without an expeced pay-off. So it seems there are valuables expected from "signal their submission" like: "notice me and be aware of my allegiance" (so I won't be randomly attacked in the future; or offer me a place in your enclave). So this is still a two-way exchange, just, an exchange between unequal parties. Are there any contemporary examples of this? Admiration seems a bit different since the target of admiration need never know about the admiration.

Expand full comment

Collard's concept of a "social miracle" doesn't seem very coherent.

> appears to be a conceptual incoherence—something close to a contradiction—in the description you would give of what it is that you want

But none of the four examples Collard gives are incoherent or contradictions. What people want in those examples can all be explained and analyzed.

Expand full comment

> In order to apologize, you have to avow the offending action as your own

A lot of contemporary "apologies" aren't like that, but instead are for actions someone else took in the past (such as a prior generation).

Expand full comment