Supersense by Bruce M. Hood opens with a provoking question: Would you wear a killer’s sweater? The rational part of me wants to say, Of course I would, but mostly to prove that I can ignore the vague sense of unease that idea gives me. The part of us that creates that unease is what the author calls “supersense.”
Essentialism is the belief that every individual and every object has something unique that defines their true nature. This essence remains the same throughout an individual’s life no matter how their body changes. This leads also to the belief that some of this essence can connect or be transferred to other individuals.
Thus, in homeopathy, no matter how much you dilute the solution the essense is still there. Essentialism is the core of sympathetic magic and belief in the contamination of sin. People want to own possessions of famous people just as much as they avoid wearing the clothing of the dead. Conversely, since we are a wicked and perverse people, some relish the idea of owning a killer’s sweater, or the house where Jeffrey Dahmer grew up.
When it comes to why we have a supersense, the book largely sets aside pattern setting and essentialism, and considers how the supersense improves the coherence of groups, from families to nations. The supersense enhances our feelings of connection to each other and the world around us. The supersense is what decides some things define the unique essense of a group. These things are sacred values that can’t be measured or bought. Protecting those values protect the group, and the sense of sacredness means people will do anything to protect them.This book makes a lot of sense.