Preparatory Notes towards a Dialectic of the Psyche : Part 4 – The Rise of Consciousness as the Transformative Element in the Origination of the Human Psyche.

Preparatory Notes towards a Dialectic of the Psyche : Part 4 – The Rise of Consciousness as the Transformative Element in the Origination of the Human Psyche.

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We need to attempt a very basic exposition of the developments in the rise of consciousness in Homo. All the following notes are preliminary and provisional and subject to alteration and qualification, etc. Any repetition is for purposes of self-clarification and re-affirmation in the course of the development of the exposition in these notes. We need to try to make a closer contact, relationship and reference with the wealth of empirical and theoretical scientific research in the area, Anthropology, Psychology, etc, in order to ‘enrich’ the somewhat abstract character of the notes. A deeper, more comprehensive study requires a thorough investigation of the relevant areas which are rich seams to mine and have become considerably richer since the publication of work by, for example, E. Ilyenkov and A.N. Leontyev. All this, of course, also applies to previous parts 1, 2 and 3 of these notes. Without this contact, they remain inadequate and lose any possibility of elaboration into a coherent conception.

The transition from the modes of life of ancestral animal primates to the earliest hunter-gatherer mode of life of humanity is marked by the origination of beings possessing conscious awareness and therefore the capacity to think consciously or reflect. The rise of human society is the rise of consciously-thinking beings, of human beings in social relation. The solutions to the problems imposed on pre-homo hominoids [1], stemming from their conditions of life, could only be found, increasingly, as these primates developed towards the Homo branch. In lower organisms the ability to successfully solve such problems is largely dependent on the appearance and subsequent selection of advantageous biological variations in a population. The capacity of primates to survive and thrive in variations in life conditions is always augmented by the learning and refinement of new skills added to the existing ones. However, it is undeniable that overspecialisation can often be a prelude to extinction, especially if the conditions of existence of the animal undergo catastrophic changes.

The most advantageous forms of adaptation are not merely an adjustment to existing conditions but are also, at the same time, an expansion of the animal’s abilities and of its potential to engage and survive a wider range of conditions. In this latter regard, adaptation therefore augments the animal’s ‘resources’ which are available in the struggle to survive. Overspecialisation can ‘funnel’ a species down a path towards extinction, especially if its niche is radically altered.

Humans have evolved from primates which both ‘adjusted’ and ‘expanded’ their capacities to encounter and survive a wider range of natural conditions. With such developments, what was not possible previously actually became possible. A continual expansion of the limits of ethological possibilities took place. New forms of interaction and relationships could be established and developed with the animal’s surroundings which hitherto had not existed. Adaptation therefore not only means ‘adjustment’ but also means ‘expansion’ and the positing of a richer repertoire of skills and abilities at the same time i.e. an augmentation of existing skills and the development of new ones for surviving a continuously varying and widening range of natural conditions.

Therefore, in the evolutionary development towards the Homo line, the ability of primates to survive and to propagate their kind becomes, increasingly, determined by their ability to develop existing skills and acquire new ones and to develop higher forms of behaviour. The need (necessity) to learn new skills and forms of behaviour continues to assert itself. Animals are characterised by the need to learn, in one way or another, in order to survive. However, the more closely does primate evolution approach the Homo line, the more central and important does the capacity and process of learning become and, accordingly, the less important the influence of biology and instinct. This, of course, does not mean that instinct becomes unimportant. It remains central. But a shift towards the developing importance of learning capacity takes place. [2]

The developing ability to intervene (sensuous activity implying the beginnings, at least, of conscious thinking and voluntarily-directed activity) and the attempt to counter the deleterious effects of natural processes becomes part and parcel of human life in the making. The transition to human society brings into primordial existence consciously-thinking beings which develop and cultivate the ability to acquire a conscious, direct, immediate, primitive knowledge of natural processes and of their environment. Utilisation of this knowledge enables humans to begin to challenge, at least in a most rudimentary way, the effects of deleterious natural processes on their lives. They take cover in caves, build shelters and windbreaks, make clothes, weapons for hunting, baskets for gathering; they harness fire for cooking, etc, so that food is more palatable and more easily digested. In other words, they increasingly start to make and deploy tools in their various activities. Nature becomes subject to manipulation and and modification – rearranged into simple forms – to meet needs. The materials which Nature furnishes can be manipulated and employed to counter the detrimental effects of specific natural processes on the life of Homo. With the rise and consolidation of the earliest hunter-gatherer mode of life of consciously-thinking and consciously-acting beings, and the further development of consciousness into higher scientific modes of thought in later societies, the law of natural selection itself ceases to have the same forceful, unconditional applicability as it did in the life of the animal primate ancestors of humanity.

In the evolution towards the Homo line, it was those primates with the most advanced learning capacities which tended to survive and pass on their acquired skills to offspring. Those pre-homo hominoids that learnt, assimilated and applied skills that gave them a distinct advantage in the struggle for life under specific conditions became more capable of securing their means of existence such as food, shelter, fending off predators, etc. The advantaged hominoids survived to pass on their skills to their offspring and, in so doing, created a widening ethological gap between themselves and their less able hominoid relatives. Those groups which failed to develop the skills – which would have been necessary in order to survive according to the altering demands of their changing conditions of life – inevitably declined and became extinct or continued on an evolutionary line towards the present day hominid (Hominidae) relatives of humans such as chimps, gorillas, etc*.

*[see Note 1, Mann and Weiss, Taxonomy]

In the most advanced group of primates, the development of higher abilities and skills – which could be utilised to solve the problems of survival in a more adequate and comprehensive way – must have given the group a distinct anatomical as well as ethological character which afforded it obvious advantages in the struggle for survival. Therefore, under the material conditions of their life, involving competition with other animals and related primates, the development of higher abilities must have given a definite group of incipient Homo a critical advantage in the fight for survival. The fact that such skills must have been learnt is highly significant. The ability to learn new skills (and build further on these abilities) in our pre-human ancestors contained, in undeveloped, embryonic form, the mediation of tradition (‘memes’, Dawkins*) and therefore the beginnings of a mode of life based on the actual transmission – in the course of learning, assimilation and elaboration – of new skills.

*[Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. (OUP, 2006)]

A mode of life not simply governed by, and at the unconditional behest of, the forces and laws of nature is one in which the potential has been posited for the further onward development towards consciously-organised material production and therefore of human society as a whole. The need to learn and develop new skills – imposed on our primate ancestors by their material conditions of existence – thus opens up the road to the existence of the different varieties of Homo, social material production, co-operation, language and the rise of consciousness and thus the human psyche itself as a totality. The problems presented to pre-homo hominoids by the nature of their conditions of life could only be solved through the learning and development of new skills and higher forms of behaviour, especially involving communal co-operation. In the course of the overcoming of these problems, the mode of life of these ancestral hominoid primates became transformed into the modes of life of the earliest forms of Homo and their possible immediate predecessors like the Australopithecines. Like Homo and Pan, the Australopithecines are classed as a subtribe of the Hominini and, thought by some, to be ancestral to Homo. However, it is still debated within Anthropology whether or not Homo has direct Australopithecine ancestry. [3]

The life of these early species of Homo must have been constantly characterised by the imperative : develop to a higher stage of existence (a more advanced mode of life) with a wider repertoire of collective skills and learning capacities or perish. The conflict (dialectics) between the need to expand existing capabilities in order to survive the impact of constantly changing conditions, on the one hand, and the existing level of skills of the group which had developed in relation to previous conditions and needs, on the other hand, had to be resolved and moved on continuously in order to move the group forward to avoid extinction. The lurking threat of extinction served to push early forms of Homo into higher modes of life with more advanced skills and behaviour which, in their turn, produced a firmer foundation for countering such a threat of extinction. [4]

The transition from quadrumanous* modes of life in ancestral, arboreal hominoids [Homo shares a common ancestor in the Hominoidea with that of the Hylobatidae (Gibbons) and, more closely in evolutionary terms, with that of the Ponginae (Orangs)] to bipedalism freed the forelimbs from the walking mechanism so that the first species of Homo could thenceforth utilise, develop and specialise the forelimbs as the organ of labour and, concomitantly, the hindlimbs as the organs of locomotion. Developments in the dexterity of the hand further increased the capacity of early Homo to cultivate new skills and bring them to a higher degree of perfection in the course of the development of the emerging labour process. ‘Inheriting’ definite skills from their primate ancestors, Homo began, at a very rudimentary level, to produce tools for use in the acquisition of their needs.

The widespread use of tools in chimps and gorillas indicates that the common ancestors of Homo and these contemporary hominids may also have been tool users. However, we must not discount the possibility that both early Homo and the direct ancestors of chimps (Panini) and gorillas (Gorillini) – subsequent to their evolutionary split split from common ancestors, gorillas earlier than chimps (in the Homininae) – may have developed tool use independently as their common ancestors differentiated into distinct lines. It is thought that the common ancestors of humans and chimps split from their common ancestor with gorillas and only later did Homo and Pan split from their common ancestor with lines leading directly to humans and the chimps we see today. The scenario arises where the common ancestor (in the Homininae) of all three could have been tool using at least or that this practice only begins later as the ancestral tree branches out. The systematic production and use of tools is, however, a feature of the modes of life of Homo. It is thought that Homo Habilis or Homo Gautengensis was the first systematic tool maker of the Homo genus. [5]

*[In our arboreal ancestors, their locomotion was quadrumanous (not quadrupedal) i.e. the forelimbs and the hindlimbs in these ancestral primates were both adapted and specialised for performing both functions of arms and legs, hands and feet and, accordingly, were exchangeable as such according to the demands placed on them in their daily existence. Only later do we see the ‘polarisation’ and functional differentiation into organs which are distinctly specialised for walking and labour. Today, as an evolutionary echo of this bifunctionality, people without forelimbs can be helped to use their feet to function as hands as well.]

The regular use of a wide range of tools and their irregular production formed the basis for the transition to regular tool making in the mode of life of Homo. This systematic regularity of tool making and the beginnings of the social co-ordination of activities for this purpose, and their use, constitutes a characteristic which is fundamental and specific to Homo modes of life. With the emergence and establishment of a process – ‘culture’ – of consistent tool making, involving the social co-operation and activity of individuals and the group as a whole, the chances of surviving adverse conditions were enhanced. Furthermore, the establishment of these earliest forms of co-operation in early Homo contain, implicitly, the higher forms of social co-operation of the later hunter-gatherer existence of Homo which endured for thousands of years.

Engels, in his seminal work The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, writes that the production and use of tools (i.e. the labour process taken in its entirety) is the most essential condition for the emergence of human society out of its natural pre-conditions in the modes of life of ancestral primates. The transitional period between the ancestral, arboreal, animal primate hominoid and Homo Sapiens (millions of years) is characterised by a steady growth in the quantity, and a development in the qualitative complexity, of the labour functions. This growth is accompanied by anatomical and physiological modifications which serve to augment and refine these functions. Therefore, the origination of human society is, at the same time, both the onward development of this transitional process (negation) and yet its supersedence (positing, determination) into the higher relationships of human society. This supersedence is the affirmation of the fundamental role which labour did indeed play ‘in the transition from ape to man’. Indeed, so much so that in relation to human existence generally, Engels asserts that labour…

is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself. [6]

The use of natural objects and/or their simple fashioning for a given purpose is a common characteristic of the most advanced primates related to Homo. However, this purely non-conscious, infrequent use of tools in modern apes and chimps is not a systematically regular part of their mode of life. We also see the sporadic use of tools in other non-primate animals, including birds. Only when the Homo ancestors of modern humanity (who were, at the same time, the very highest form of pre-Homo animal primate) first began to systematically make tools (Homo Habilis or immediate predecessors) for a given purpose and started to pre-determine and began to become aware of the aim of their activities, did the real transition from a species still connected to its pre-Homo ancestry to Homo Sapiens proper commence.

The gigantic leap forward from the mere use of available natural objects to the systematic production of tools for pre-determined purposes marked a definite shift from the modes of life of the pre-homo hominoid to the determinate beginnings of the evolution of the Homo genus. It was an advance made necessary by the need to survive and overcome the impact and effects of definite conditions of life within and under which the most advanced pre-homo species (Hominini, Australopithecines) was struggling to survive. Henceforth, those skills learnt offered descendants specific advantages over their natural competitors in the struggle to survive.

The sporadic use of available natural objects as tools by ancestral hominoids followed over time, in succeeding species, by the ability to actually make rough tools for immediate use in attaining food, warding off predators, etc, was initially, without doubt, carried out inadvertently and under the direct pressure of immediate circumstances. But such actions, in enabling a primate to use tools to perform tasks that facilitated survival, would have become associated with advantageous results and become refined by a process of learning. These acquired skills would have become integrated into the behaviour of the primate group, enriching its repertoire of skills, and thus furthering its capacity to survive and reproduce itself.

The process of tool making in our ancestors was a form of learnt behaviour which afforded those groups which developed it an advantage in the struggle for survival under the given conditions of the time. As the tradition of tool-making was transmitted from one generation to the next and so on, it became, increasingly, a more sophisticated and efficacious process. With the development of tool making and the widespread use of tools for a variety of tasks, the conditions were generated within the relations of the group for the emergence of language and the rise of consciousness itself. Social co-operation in tool-making and use gave rise to the need for communication – necessitated communication – and therefore the need for language. In the beginnings of language is posited the germ of consciousness and the beginning of the emergence of the human psyche itself as a whole.

Tool making and the use of tools (i.e. the labour process) becomes the basis, the foundation, upon which the evolution of the Homo genus takes place. The more capable a group becomes in the production and use of tools, the more likely it is to overcome the obstacles that confront it in its daily existence. Groups producing a wider range of implements which were, at the same time, of consistently higher quality than those of their competitors would undoubtedly have possessed advantages over their competitors which did not incorporate tool making as an intrinsic feature of their mode of existence or which made tools of an inferior quality. The more adept toolmakers would have possessed a better chance of surviving the prevailing conditions and adapting to changes in them.

The development of such capacities not only facilitated survival under the given conditions but also, at the same time, equipped the earliest species of Homo to more effectively change these conditions in such a way that the possibility of surviving and propagating their kind became enhanced. The impact of changing demands and conditions would have necessitated the development of superior tools and this also must have meant the refinement of existing skills associated with their production and the development of novel skills. Implicit here is the development of the hand, sense organs and the neurology of the brain associated with these processes.

Migration to new areas and competition with other primates and animals must have been important in the totality of this process. Additionally, the chance discoveries which must have occurred as Homo experimented with new materials and objects would have become an important source of innovation in the tool-making process. Innovation enhanced survival and facilitated the propagation of the group. Those groups that failed to innovate and remained entrenched in ways more suited to past conditions and demands would have become more susceptible to extinction. Anthropologists now think that there were different species of Homo that simply died out at the terminus of an evolutionary branch rather than evolving into a higher species of the genus. Of course, our ancestors must have evolved in a ‘line’ from one species to the next, eventually resulting in us. However, this does not, of course, preclude a whole series of various branchings and terminations of one kind or another from the main lineage that actually led to Homo Sapiens. And this, of course, means extinctions.

However, the use and production of tools were not merely accidental processes, one following on from the other. The learning processes involved in the production and/or use of tools were directly related to the nature of the conditions of life prevailing in the different phases of pre-homo and Homo evolution. I think we must bear in mind that this very final, ultimate phase of pre-homo evolution must have been one of intense crisis which, under and due to the pressure of life conditions, must have necessitated a qualitative leap forward (transformation) from a purely animal pre-homo mode of existence [Australopithecine hominins (Hominini)?] to one in which Homo characteristics made their first appearance. Accordingly, it was in this ‘revolutionary’ phase of development that the ancestral Hominin species preceding Homo must have first started to exhibit characteristics which, by virtue of their Homo genus nature, distinguish this immediately preceding ancestral Hominin (Australopithecine) from its animal Hominoidal antecedents.

It is at and from this point of transformation – between the Australopithecine and the first species of the genus Homo – that the process of the evolution of the Homo genus proper commences. Between the mode of life of the ancestral (if that is what they were) Australopithecine ‘tribe’ and the very first Homo ‘tribe’, a chasm opens up which marks a qualitative ‘nodal’ leap between the animal and the first species of Homo which would lead to modern man. Australopithecines themselves, as a taxonomically classified, distinct genus of the Hominini (Homo, Pan, Australopithecines), could have been the living embodiment of that transitional phase between ancestral animal Hominoid and the first species of Homo (see Note 1). The paradoxical character of such a species in this transitional period – exhibiting simultaneously the features characteristics of both the immediate animal predecessors of the Australopithecines and those of the succeeeding Homo genus – must have asserted itself. Thus, from this period onwards, the necessity for the consistent use, and later the pre-determined production of tools, originated and asserted itself. From this point onwards the specific culture of consistent tool-making of Homo began to emerge, establish and consolidate itself and, in so doing, became an intrinsic feature of, and inherent in, the mode of life of early species of Homo (Homo Habilis?). Further advances meant that some groups could outstrip others and eclipse them in their ability to obtain food and ward off predators, etc, as their tool-making capacities improved.

The increasing augmentation of the general learning capacities of the Homo genus enabled them to more adequately tackle the demands placed on them by their conditions of life. The forms of co-operative organisation in the troop necessary for the learning and development of higher skills amongst early Homo – involving tool use and production – contained, in latent form, a higher mode of life. The seeds of a higher human social culture had been sown and had started to slowly germinate.

The growth in the complexity of organisation and co-operation in these groups in later phases, as the development of Homo proceeded, was an outcome of the progression of tool-making and use to continuously higher levels of sophistication. The acquisition of their means of subsistence was gradually becoming less arduous in comparison to their hominoid ancestors. The historical gap between the Homo and the animal was widening with the development of tool making and the level and complexity of organisation accompanying it. [7]

Co-operation enabled the troop or group to more easily and readily secure its means of subsistence in the face of hostile natural conditions. All those forms of behaviour which facilitated or increased co-operation would have become assimilated as part of the evolving ‘culture’ of the Homo genus and refined according to the needs of their situation. Such forms of behaviour would have made the group more ‘successful’ and thus, either consciously or unconsciously, these forms would have become structured into the relations of their life process. The effects of more efficient and productive forms of technique on the one hand, and more highly developed forms of co-operation on the other, motivated and engendered improvement and innovation in both areas. Accordingly, co-operation became an indispensable part of the organisation of early Homo in its struggle to survive. The unity of tool making/use and co-operation formed the organisational basis for the evolution of the labour process and therefore for the origination of human society itself as a whole. Co-operation enhanced the capacity of early Homo to secure its means of subsistence. [8]

Out of co-operation grew the need for language and, accordingly, for the communication of knowledge and ideas in speech. This, in itself, implies the beginnings of conceptualisation and of the rise of consciousness. The labour process was the material basis upon which human society as a totality originated and has developed historically. This development of the labour process is synonymous with the development of the hand, the senses and the brain itself. Their evolution takes place together and in relation to each other, implying an evolutionary interconnection and mutuality.

The increase in the dexterity of the hand (especially the opposability of the thumb to the other fingers) and its modification to perform a multiplicity of operations and functions in the manipulation of natural objects and materials is a definite anatomical pre-condition for the further, and later, development of the labour process in human history. At the same time, the development of the human hand itself is a product of the history of this labour process. The changes occurring in the structure and manipulative properties and dexterity of the hand – side by side with the heightening of the tactile and other senses (and this implies neurological developments) – meant that the structure, properties and uses of natural materials could be more widely and deeply investigated so that existing techniques could be improved and new ones elaborated.

The human hand is both the organ and the product of labour. In the course of the evolution of Homo, it has become specialised for labour..

The specialisation of the hand – this implies the tool and the tool implies specific human activity, the transforming reaction of man on nature, production. Animals in the narrower sense also have tools, but only as limbs of their body: the ant, bee, the beaver; animals also produce, but their productive effect on surrounding nature, in relation to nature, amounts to nothing at all. [9]

But humanity has completely transformed the natural environment..

primarily and essentially by means of the hand……. But step by step with the development of the hand went that of the brain: first of all came consciousness of the conditions for separate practically useful actions and later, among the more favoured peoples and arising from that consciousness, insight into the natural laws governing them. And with the rapidly growing knowledge of the laws of nature the means for reacting on nature also grew; the hand alone would never have achieved the steam engine if, along with and parallel to the hand, and partly owing to it, the brain of man had not correspondingly developed.
With man we enter history. Animals also have a history, that of their descent and gradual evolution to their present position. This history, however, is made for them, and in so far as they themselves take part in it, this occurs without their knowledge and desire. On the other hand the more human beings become removed from animals in the narrower sense of the word, the more they make their history themselves, consciously, the less becomes the influence of unforeseen effects and uncontrolled forces on this history, and the more accurately does the historical result correspond to the aim laid down in advance. [9]

The labour process engenders, necessarily, co-operation which, in its turn, necessitates the emergence of language and the transformation of the non-conscious awareness of the animal pre-homo Hominoid into the conscious awareness of human beings characterised by the higher capacity of conscious reflection.

Co-operation in the labour process is fundamental and instrumental and the organisational basis upon which language and consciousness originate. The transmission of skills to later generations ensures the survival and propagation of the different and succeeding species of Homo. Language becomes an essential and indispensable medium for this transmission, for the passage of skills from one generation to the next; skills which have been consciously assimilated. It is the need to communicate in this co-operative process that becomes the mother of language.

Language serves to facilitate the learning, transmission and refinement of techniques and other abilities without the need to recapitulate the historical steps which lead up to the acquisition and refinement of these capacities. An intermediate period of millions of years may have elapsed between the first use of a sharp stone to fend off predators and the fashioning of a razor-sharp flint arrowhead for use in hunting. However, the ability to make the arrowhead does not require the condensed recapitulation of the history of the labour process leading from the stone to the flint arrowhead. The labour process of Homo had to emerge and pass through definite stages in order to develop and assimilate the skills necessary to produce the arrowhead. But the actual, temporal production of the arrowhead itself contains, sublated within this act of production, the history of the labour process that leads up to the dextrous ability of Homo to make such implements. An aeon of experience is distilled within the simple act of producing the arrowhead.

By the combined means of demonstration and language, skills can be learnt and transmitted in a relatively short period of time. In the course of the acquisition of such skills, individuals can absorb and assimilate the lessons of the experiences of thousands of years. The achievements and legacies of previous generations of Homo are ‘inherited’ and become modified and transformed by succeeding generations. The emerging and evolving ‘cultural’ heritage of the Homo genus becomes richer – involving higher and more intricate skills – as its evolution proceeds. With animals, the transmission of skills occurs genetically or by means of direct imitation i.e. through mimicry. However..

it is quite different with man. Man masters verbal speech and with its help he can assimilate experience accumulated over a thousand years of humanity’s history [10]

Language does not merely serve a communicative function. It is intrinsically necessary for the thinking processes and plays a central role in the regulation of behaviour. Thought itself is a silent inner form of speech. Perception, memory and the development of cognition are all associated with the ability to master and apply language from an early age. Verbal interaction becomes a means of regulating behaviour.

The origination of language presupposes a certain stage of development of the vocal organs of those ancestral hominoids immediately preceding the Homo lineage. However, in Homo, the emergence and development of language systematically developed those organs associated with, and necessary for, its articulation : the larynx, tongue, lips, volume and structure of the mouth cavity. In its turn, the development of speech simultaneously developed and cultivated the sense of hearing. Just as the arboreal existence of humanity’s quadrumanous primate ancestors necessitated the emergence and improvement of mechanisms of stereoscopic vision in order to correctly judge position and distance, so the development of language and speech became a spur to the improvement and refinement of auditory mechanisms.

These developments enabled those later species in the Homo genus – which had started to develop linguistic (as opposed to mere gestural) communication – to distinguish more readily and adeptly between different sounds, stresses and intonations. The origination of speech and language forms the increasingly social medium within which the rise of consciousness takes place. Thought develops as an inner form of speech (codified in language) whilst, at the same time, becoming expressed externally in the form of speech. Word and thought become identified as different aspects of the same cognitive process whose ground is the activity of Homo. But concepts are not merely the formalised representations of the relationships and rules of language. Language – and speech is practical language – serves to semantically articulate conceptions. The actual conceptual content and meaning of thought is expressed in language, so that the structure and origins of each are mutually related and inseparable from each other not simply formally but in their semantically-related articulation. Thought and language, taken in their semantic and symbolic unity, reflect each other and evolve together in their mutual relationship to each other. But all this linguistic-conceptual development is rooted in the evolution of the labour process in Homo. Thus Engels writes that…

First labour, after it and then with it, speech – these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man, which for all its similarity is far larger and more perfect [11]

Early Homo increased the populations of their groups by learning and developing new skills that became increasingly more sophisticated and refined in the regular production of tools for use in the procurement of their means of subsistence. This involved co-operation in the labour process which, in its turn, gave rise to speech and language and the creation of the social conditions necessary for the emergence and development of consciousness itself.

The tentative beginnings of tool use in pre-homo hominoids gradually became more regular and sophisticated and grew into the systematic production and use of tools which specifically characterises the modes of life of later species of Homo. The capacity of the more intelligent, ancestral, pre-homo hominoids to sporadically fashion simple tools for use in definite operations would have given them an advantage (e.g. in a period of dearth, when under threat, predation, etc) and so enabled them to survive where other groups perished. For example, if one of these ancestral species had learnt to use sticks or stones as projectiles to fend off predators whilst others had not, this would have conferred an advantage in the struggle to survive. The acquisition of the collective abilities of such primates to make very rudimentary, simple tools – when the actual demands of the situation required – was a primordial prefiguration of the regular tool production in the later Homo genus. The rise of consistent, regular tool making and use in Homo is synonymous with the rise of the conditions necessary for the emergence of human culture itself. Thus, Trotsky articulates his conception of culture on the basis of this creative activity, of Homo actively making and modifying its conditions of existence which are in a continuous state of evolution and, in this dialectic, actively forming and reforming itself as a species…

Culture is everything that has been created, built, learnt, conquered by man in the course of his entire history, in distinction from what nature has given, including the natural history of man as a species of animal. The science which studies man as a product of animal evolution is called anthropology. But from the moment that man separated himself from the animal kingdom – and this happened approximately when he first grasped primitive tools of stone and wood and armed the organs of his body with them – from that time there began the creation and accumulation of culture, that is, all kinds of knowledge and skills in the struggle with nature and the subjugation of nature.[12]

With the rise of consciousness, the human psyche as a whole begins to emerge as a distinctly and qualitatively novel form of development with its own, relatively autonomous, regularities of operation and development. [see Trotsky’s Notebooks. 1933-1935. Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism. pp.101-107. Columbia Univ Press, New York, 1986 ]. The ability of the hominoid pre-homo and Homo ancestors of Homo Sapiens to learn, develop and innovate higher, more complex skills and forms of behaviour constituted an essential pre-condition for the origination of consciousness itself. However, the actual process of the origination of consciousness proper only commences when the earliest species of the Homo genus (which are, at the same time, the final, highest point of development of the ancestral pre-homo line) have started to form relationships involving co-operation in toolmaking and thus have started to sow the seeds for the growth of a higher human social culture.

Therefore, consciousness itself can only be scientifically understood as a product of social development from its very earliest beginnings in the succeeding species of the genus Homo because the origination of consciousness itself is intimately associated with, synonymous with, the beginnings and origination of the sociality in these very species of Homo. The conscious form of awareness starts its long ascent as the transition from the very highest, pre-homo (australopithecines) hominoid stage of development to the Homo stages commences and continues to evolve to higher levels as the modes of life of the different, succeeding species of Homo advances in co-operative relations and technology.

The learning capacities of pre-homo species of the Hominini become elevated beyond themselves in the course of the transition to the Homo line. This ‘going beyond’ (transcendence) becomes expressed in the emergence of the very earliest, rudimentary beginnings of conscious awareness (as opposed to the non-conscious awareness of primate predecessors) in the evolution of the Homo genus. In this long ascent to human consciousness, the modes of life of the pre-homo hominoid primates – in their totality – are sublated (superseded) into the mode of life of humanity, Homo Sapiens. However, in so doing, the mode of life of the pre-homo animal primate is not absolutely abolished (annihilated) but only superseded (sublated). Accordingly, those elements of behaviour found in pre-homo hominoids, which remain absolutely necessary for the survival of human beings, become superseded and incorporated into the social relationships of humanity in the course of the transition from ancestral pre-homo species to the earliest human beings. Man is an animal and is distinguished from other animals by being this particular human animal and yet man remains an animal. The particular is the universal whilst maintaining and asserting its distinct particularity in the universal. Man is an animal (and, accordingly, man approximates and encompasses this universal ‘animal’) but Man is also this particular animal ‘Man’ with all his distinguishing characteristics and features which make him unique as ‘Man’, this particular individual animal. This dialectic of the universal and the particular is therefore operative in the identity of distinctives in the proposition that ‘Man is an animal’. (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, Volume 38 Collected Works, On the Question of Dialectics)

The non-conscious, pre-conscious awareness of the ancestral primates undergoes a process of transition to the conscious awareness of the human. This transition to consciousness signifies a passage from the modes of life of the ancestral primate to that of the human. The vanishing of one is simultaneously the arising of the other. But each is not the other at the same time. This dialectic is the motive force which drives the whole development. What is passing away is what is coming into being and yet in this identity what passes is not what is arising. What is very clearly implied here is that humanity’s distant communist future will be a re-animation of its distant ancestral past but posited at a higher stage of development in a different form will all the interceding, intermedating social evolution sublated and incorporated within these higher modes of communist human life. A return to the old which is yet an irreversible advance beyond it.

Each moment of change, each instance of movement, is an identity of emerging and vanishing determinations. These determinations are only distinct from each other and move in opposition to each other because they exist in a relationship of identity or unity with each other. This is why conflict arises out of the identity or unity of opposites. Any conflict in a given formation or set of relationship constitutes a source of development of the whole formation or set of relations.

Taken in its movement, any object is a unity of arising and vanishing moments: a movement that identifies a passage from existence to non-existence with a passage from non-existence to existence. A process simultaneously animated by and expressing itself in contradictory forms so that..

in-itself every point of time is the relation of past and future

[Hegel. Science of Logic (Vol. 1). (George Allen and Unwin, London, 1929) p.251.]

The future becomes a re-animation, in a different form, of the past. The old is reborn in the negation of its negation but the outcome of this negated negation (‘absolute negativity’) asserts its new content and distinctness, at the same time, from the original as a result of the supersedence within itself of the interim period of development. Indeed, Hegel maintains (somewhat formalistically) that….

this is the truth of time, that the goal is not the future but the past

and hence for each point of development…

The point proceeds towards a place which is its future, and leaves one which is its past; but what it has left behind is at the same time what it has still to reach: it has been already at the place which it is reaching. Its goal is the point which is its past.

[Hegel. Philosophy of Nature. (Clarendon, Oxford, 1970) p.43]

It comes about that each step in the progress of further determination in advancing from the indeterminate beginning is also a rearward approach to it, so that two processes which at first may appear to be different (the regressive confirmation of the beginning and its progressive further determination) coincide and are the same.

(Hegel. Science of Logic (Vol. 2) Op Cit, p.483)

Every something, in its movement, is a synthesis of that which is coming into being and that which is passing away. The appearance of new determinations in the life of the ‘something’ is inextricably connected to the disappearance of other determinations. In their relation with each other, these determinations exist in conflict with each other. It is this conflict which animates the movement of the ‘something’ as a whole. The movement from existence to non-existence is a passing away. The movement from non-existence to existence is an arising. Any moment of change is a unity of these opposed movements i.e. each moment of change in anything unites within itself these opposed movements. That which is coming into being is identified with that which is passing away and vice versa. However, at the same time, these movements are mutually distinct from, and opposed to, each other.

This relation is exhibited in the course of any transition. Transition itself mediates its own disappearance, containing and expressing its own negation. Therefore, in any transition, the identification of what is appearing (arising) and what is disappearing (vanishing) asserts itself in determinate form. Internal division and conflict gives the form its vitality whilst, at the same time, sending it towards its death.

This identity of arising and vanishing moments in which each is and simultaneously is not the other presents itself phenomenologically as a movement in which what is passing away is what is coming into being but coming to be in a different form so that every advance is a return to the old but at a higher level of existence. This arising of the other is simultaneously a return into what is being negated .i.e. the so-called negation of negation or ‘absolute negativity’ in Hegel. All process is therefore a transition in which the point of departure is not only negated but also re-affirmed but in its rejuvenation so that the whole of development presents itself as an irreversible advance which is simultaneously a return to a rejuvenated old.

In this relation of the one and its other is posited the contradiction which is the moving principle of the whole, is the ‘engine’ of the development. But also it is this very principle which gives rise to the contradictory relation between the one and the other so that contradiction is the source of its own positing in its ever changing forms. Contradiction is the source of all development and simultaneously itself arises out of development just as development therefore is the source of contradiction and therefore ‘self-kindling’. Development is contradiction manifest and contradiction is development manifest. What is arising is different from what is passing away; and yet each, in its movement, is the other. And it is in this contradictory relation that development itself consists and manifests just as all development is the living manifestation of real contradiction in Nature and Society.

Lukacs, for example, made a philosophical blunder of the highest order – in his ‘grasp’ of dialectics – when he boldly asserted (like the fool that rushes in where angels fear to tread) in History and Class Consciousness that..

It is of the first importance to realise that the method is limited here to the realms of history and society. The misunderstandings that arise from Engels’ account of dialectics can in the main be put down to the fact that Engels—following Hegel’s mistaken lead—extended the method to apply also to nature. However, the crucial determinants of dialectics—the interaction of subject and object, the unity of theory and practice, the historical changes in the reality underlying the categories as the root cause of changes in thought, etc.—are absent from our knowledge of nature

[Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin Press, 1968), p.24]

Of course, he was obviously seeking to emphasise the role of the subject in history but in doing so, he throws out the proverbial baby with the dirty bathwater. He was also wrong about Hegel’s so-called “mistaken lead” as well. A close study of the Naturphilosophie reveals that Hegel’s approach to Nature was, on occasions, coloured with a formalism which was generally absent in his exposition in the Logic. [see, for example, the Zusatz to 234., p. 291., Logic (Part 1, Encyclopaedia), Oxford, Clarendon, 1975]. What Lukacs asserts in the above quote does not invalidate the simple truth that Nature itself – in the infinitude of its inexhaustible forms and evolution – is immanently dialectical.The development which takes place in human history is merely one form (the socio-historical form) of the manifestation of the dialectic which does not deny, but rather re-affirms, its manifestation in Nature. The bifurcation in method to which Lukacs alludes is clearly ‘undialectical’. Nature does not require the presence of an ‘active subject’ to be dialectical unless, of course, we are merely seeking to replicate Hegel’ s pantheistic paradigm. It does not require permission to be dialectical. Even from Georg Lukacs. However, it appears that Lukacs actually repudiates this earlier position in his later 1967 preface to History and Class Consciousness* and in his Conversations**. Gramsci also criticised this separation of the historical dialectic from its natural-historical precondition in the dialectics of natural development***.

*[Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, Preface, p. xvii.]

**[Conversations with Lukács (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974) p.43]

***[Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (London: Merlin Press, 1971), p.448]

The process of sapienisation (hominisation) involves a movement away from the non-conscious, knowing awareness of the animal primate, based in its complex of instinctual and experiential conditioning i.e. by an awareness which possesses a purely knowing content, function and purpose relative to the mode of life of the animal primate. The animal is aware but not consciously aware. Consciousness arises as a higher mode of awareness which is specifically human. The pre-conscious awareness of the primate is superseded whilst, at the same time, its learning and instinctive capacities are qualitatively transformed by being raised to a higher level within the relations of the field of the human psyche. The transformative (‘revolutionary’) element is the rise of conscious awareness itself which simultaneously transforms instinct found operational in the pre-homo hominoid into the unconscious in the human. This unconscious – which is distinct from the mere instinctual in the animal – now becomes mediated by the the rise and establishment of conscious awareness i.e. by the very element that has actually created it out of the sublated instinct of the pre-homo hominoid. The intermediation of the instinctual and learning in the animal is replaced by that of the intermediation of the conscious and unconscious in the human. Accordingly, the relationship between learning and instinct found in the primate is, in the course of being superseded, raised to, and preserved at, a higher stage of development under conditions where conscious awareness has become posited.

The non-conscious, pre-conscious, exclusively knowing awareness of the ancestral animal primate is superseded with the elevation of this knowing awareness to the level of consciousness. The pre-conscious, non-conscious state is sublated with the knowing awareness being re-posited in a higher conscious form. The capacity to learn becomes the capacity of a conscious being and not simply an ability determined by the demands of the immediate conditions and the unconscious processes of nature. However, the most fundamental break which distinguishes the content of the human psyche from that of the awareness of its primate antecedents is to be found in the positing of those forms of thinking which leap beyond these simply knowing functions. With humanity, we see the emergence and development of imaginative and belief thinking, of artistic expression, fantasy, projectional ideation, dream, reverie, etc. In short, forms of thinking which do not directly express a knowing functionality.

And why? What are the sources and origins of this qualitative leap beyond mere knowing awareness? As genus Homo becomes specifically Homo Sapiens, conscious awareness is also awareness of the unknown, of what Marx refers to as the ‘consciousness of the transcendental’. The primordial awareness (‘sense of’) of the hidden, operative forces in Nature which manifest to sensuously active humanity in the course and unfolding of humanity’s activity in and relationship to Nature. And this, of course, reflected in Art [Werner Herzog, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams].

How is the transcendental to be explained by the earliest of consciously aware creatures? Through ideational and psychological projection arising out of the direct conscious experience of the phenomenal expression of these hidden, unknown forces in Nature. Herein lies the root of belief-thinking and the germ of its subsequent development posited over thousands of years. For example, thunder and lightning are not manifestations of kinetic and electrical forces in the Earth’s atmosphere but projected as creations of an indwelling ‘spirit’ just as the sound and the sparks of the process of making a flint axe are the result of the ‘spirits’ in the flint becoming manifest in the labours of men.

Later these atmospheric phenomena become the hammer of Zeus or Thor and then, with monotheism, become divinely mediated by the one and only Abrahamic deity. The roots of the ‘irrational’ to be found in man’s real, consciously-mediated activity in and relations with Nature. And the future of the human psyche in ‘deep communism’? A return to a psyche governed by a consciously knowing awareness but with all this richness of non-knowing otherness incorporated within it? With the beauty of Art, of the Imaginative, of the highest of human sensibility. And even with the beauty of reverie but with the dissolution of crass belief, religion as an alienation from man’s deep, sensitive and nurturing relationship to Nature, to the life from which the species has arisen and to which it has returned in a higher form of social existence. In…..

Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.

[Marx, Paris Manuscrips, section 3, Private Property and Communism]

The emergence of the human psyche as a whole is the positing of itself as an identity of different yet implicatively related forms and modes in which both conscious and unconscious processes are simultaneously at work and intermediate each other. Imagination, reverie and dream, for example, not only presupposes the reasoning capacities but can actually facilitate these latter functions. [the discovery of the ring structure of Benzene by the German chemist Kekule]. The human psyche is therefore this complex unity of knowing and other, not explicitly knowing, capacities. The human psyche necessarily incorporates these capacities to consciously acquire a knowledge of the world with those which serve more intrinsically human functions in the life of man as a specifically social species. For example, imaginative thought is specific for humanity but the ability to acquire a knowledge of external surroundings is not. Humanity acquires it in a specifically conscious way compared to the animal but the latter remains capable of acquiring it. Man can imagine but the pre-homo hominoid cannot do so. Both Homo and ancestral hominoid know the feline predator but in different ways.

The human psyche therefore emerges as a dialectical totality. Far richer and far more complex in its conscious functionality and psychic aspects than the simple awareness of its non-conscious, pre-conscious hominoid ancestors. All this conceptual and emotional content of the human psyche, its structures and relations, etc, are subject to a society-mediated evolution. A cursory glance at the evolution of religious belief illustrates how this is related to alterations in social relations and conditions and their attendant modes of human behaviour under specific historical conditions. But these changes in belief, for example, can also act a propelling spur to social changes and transformation.

The conceptual contents of all systems of belief, of course, alter and evolve in relation to the evolution of human knowledge. The evolution of consciousness – and therefore implicitly the human psyche as a totality – contains this dialectical moment of the interrelation between the forms of knowledge and belief-thinking posited within its historical dynamic. Darwin, Marx, Einstein – their predecessors and successors – serve to undermine belief-thinking by a piecemeal process of eroding and removing its foundation stones. Ultimately, of course, this psychically emancipatory process is socio-historical in character and is not simply a question of a rationalistic demolition. Today religion survives in the midst of advancing scientific thought not because science is not scientific enough but because religion remains within the realm of social necessity as a consequence of the nature of the social relations of class society.
Religious forms of belief-thinking are complimented by secular forms. The historic tendency of their development implies the gradual, asymptotic disappearance of belief-thinking as a psychic form. Firstly, expressed in the disappearance of the religious forms as a whole and then followed later by the varied and multitudinous forms of secular belief-thinking. Can humanity live without belief-thinking in any form?

The pre-conscious awareness of the pre-homo primate is non-conceptual and hence is without such belief content. This form of thinking arises with consciousness itself out of the non-conscious, knowing awareness of humanity’s ancestral hominoids. It is distinctly human in either religious or secular forms. The sublation of the pre-conscious awareness of the ancestral hominoids [sapienisation] thus raises the non-conscious, knowing awareness of the primate forerunners of humanity to a higher conscious stage of development whilst, at the same time, introduces a novel and distinctly human content in forms of thinking such as belief, imaginative thinking, etc. The break with the awareness in the animal is expressed in the emergence of consciousness which is the transforming element that changes the awareness of the animal into the awareness of the human. The rise of conscious awareness actually revolutionises the ‘psyche’ of the animal into that of the human psyche which becomes a qualitatively higher totality with new features, structures, relationships and dynamics.

The relationship between learning and instinct found in the animal is transformed with the rise of consciousness. The mediation of instinct by emerging consciousness transforms the instinctive into the unconscious. An intermediation and opposition between the conscious and the unconscious arises with the transforming effects of the rise of consciousness on instinct. This intermediation (reflection determination) of each by the other constitutes an integration and conflict of opposites (the conscious and the unconscious) which thenceforth conditions the further onward historical development of the human psyche. Each side, in their mutual relation, conditions the other and, in so doing, affects itself. This dialectic which becomes posited – in which the origination of conscious awareness simultaneously transforms the instinctive into the unconscious – as the human psyche comes into being, forms a very deep, profound, organic connection between the animal prehistory of humanity and humanity as a product of its social prehistory and development. It is a most important consideration in any comprehensive theory of human development.

But this positing of the human psyche as a relationship between the unconscious and the conscious is one in which each maintains its discreteness within the continuous intermediation and opposition between them. Neither is transcended in their mutual intermediation and interpenetration with each other. Each posits itself simultaneously in the other so that each is itself and not itself in the psychical interrelation and intermediation. However, this very dialectic – its historical tendency of development – implies an actual transcendence of itself into a higher form of the psyche in which both are transcended, superseded moments. This is the psyche of humanity in deep communism; a psyche which has transcended this opposition and therefore comes to be as a form beyond this dialectic of the conscious and the unconscious. It is a psyche which leaves behind (sublates) this opposition and becomes posited as a supraconscious state of human awareness in which the opposition between the biological and the social is transcended. It is the psyche which emerges and becomes progressively deepened and enriched as it unfolds within the evolution of the ‘true realm of freedom’. It is the psychic destiny of communist humanity as a thinking-feeling being.

The self-activity and self-relations of Homo to Nature gives rise to conscious awareness which, in its arising, mediates and transforms the biological heritage which Nature has furnished; an interplay of the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the emerging psyche now takes place, conditioning the character of this nascent psyche and behaviour as a whole. The rise of consciousness is the fundamental determining process in the rise of the psyche itself as a whole.

The rise of consciousness gives the later human psyche a self-mediating nature (reflection, self-consciousness) not found in the awareness of the pre-homo hominoids. For example, in humans, the ‘fight or flight’ response to threat, found also in the animal, can become activated by specific forms of thinking in the absence of any immediate real threat. It is the transition to the human psyche which marks the alterations in the way in which the ‘fight or flight’ response to threat can become activated and operate. From simply being intrinsic to the non-conscious, knowing awareness of the animal (having evolved ethologically as a necessary direct response to real immediate and imminent threat), it dichotomises and takes on a two-fold character as the human psyche comes into being with the rise of consciousness. Firstly, it is retained as a necessary response to real direct threat (as in humanity’s animal ancestors) and hence as an intrinsic part of the human capacity to sense (i.e. to be knowingly aware of) imminent or impending danger. This must remain an intrinsic moment in all forms of the human psyche. Conscious awareness therefore affords humans the ability to be cognisant of – and therefore to predict – oncoming danger and thus orientate behaviour in a premeditated fashion to counter or avoid it. This, of course, is an obvious development from the function in ancestral pre-homo species but raised to the level of conscious awareness and within the realm of a consciously-mediated behavioural articulation in humans.

However, in the origination and positing of this psyche, the same ‘fight or flight’ response also becomes mediated and activated by other forms of thinking such as phobias, ‘irrational beliefs’, anxiety-inducing imaginative thinking, projectional thoughts, etc, which have nexus to but are, nevertheless, discretely distinct from its knowing functionalities. This relatively autonomous relationship between these epignostic thinking processes and those biological mechanisms which mobilise the animal to act under conditions of imminent threat is one which arises with the origination of conscious awareness itself as the revolutionary transformative element in the emergence and evolution of the human psyche. It integrates the instinctive capacities inherited from ancestral pre-homo species with reflective thinking which is not necessarily of a gnostic character. This relation, therefore, becomes posited as the integration of opposed biologically and socially generated psychic forms which become constituted as an intrinsic part of the dialectical dynamic between the conscious and the unconscious. This is one aspect (reflective, self-conscious) which arises out of the revolution in the non-conscious, pre-conscious awareness of pre-homo hominoids as a result of the rise and increasingly augmented and intense development of conscious awareness in Homo. The field of the pre-conscious in the ancestral pre-homo species is eclipsed by that of the rising conscious which, beyond a certain point of development, marks a qualitative leap, a break, from this non-conscious state to the state of conscious awareness in humanity in the making, coming to be.

The origination of consciousness goes beyond the simple, non-conscious, knowing awareness of the ancestral primates. Forms of thinking arise which do not simply fall within this category of awareness.
Consciousness is a social product of the brain with a historically conditioned, conceptual content. This content is, at any given stage, a sublation (supersedence) of the preceding history of conceptuality reflecting the entire history of human society from its primordial beginnings up to and including the prevailing stage at which human society has arrived in the course of its development.
For example, when a worker directs his attention and thought towards actually using a modern machine tool, he is replicating – in a higher form of thought and operation – the same basic structure of operation which his prehistoric ancestors employed when making, for example, a spear or a set of arrows for hunting and defence. This structure of operation of the earlier activity is found sublated – transcended yet preserved in a more developed form – in the later operation.

The human psyche has its own dialectic which is not independent of society but incorporates the history of society in the evolution of its actual conceptual content. It is, yet, distinct from these social relations. It is in continuous relationship with them but it maintains its discreteness and, accordingly, its own specific dialectical movement. Paradoxically, of course, it remains an intrinsic yet discrete part of the whole historical dialectic of human social development. However, to deny the neurological as being operative in the human psyche is like denying the technical character of the cinema projector as the material basis of the quality of the image projected onto the cinema screen and how this character actually influences the quality and clarity of the image produced as a result of its operation. As soon as we have the positing of this relationship between the neurological and the social, we have the creation of a discrete form of the dialectic which is distinct from, and yet an intrinsic aspect of, the history of society which presents itself as a ‘complex of complexities’; a dialectical totality of many such different forms of dialectic. The human psyche has its own intrapsychic dialectic [Freud, etc] – as part of a greater socio-historical totality – which conditions its self-movement and development whilst simultaneously conditioning this greater totality.

Human neurophysiology contains all those material mechanisms necessary for mediating the various forms of thinking and the many forms of psychic activity. However, it would be incorrect to simply label the psyche as a material process; thought is not simply a material process as latter-day neurophysiology would have us believe. In so far as human social relations are involved in its historical and personal formation and development, this, in itself, negates this crude, ‘vulgar’ medicalised ‘materialism’. Society is the real source of its animating conceptual content but this content cannot be animated without the mediating neurophysiological relations of this same psyche.

For example, a man cannot feel fear without these biological mechanisms but the activating source of this fear is not any supposedly autonomous operation of these mechanisms but rather the experiences in process of being made socially. In other words, the source is not human physiology independently of relation to the humanly-created world of society. Rather, it is the specific character of the social relations at which human society has arrived in the course of its development. It is these relations which are the source of the conceptual content of the psyche and of its mental and emotional states corresponding thereto.

The self-mediating character of the human psyche means that this content can serve as the intrapsychological point of origin of a wealth of neurophysiological effects which are subjectively registered in ‘feeling’ and ’emotion’ (‘mood’). These, of course, are not separable from mode of life-activity. An individual’s moods may fluctuate or alter according to the specificities and relationships of their particular mode of life-activity. But these psychic fluctuations in mood will be mediated by conscious or even sub-conscious forms of thinking in one form or another. This ‘autonomous’ psychic capacity as a discretely internalised source of specific emotional-feeling-mental states (‘mood’) can only subsist – in regard to the specificity of any given state – in so far as the specific conceptual content of definite forms of psychic activity itself arises out of the character of definite social relations which are the mediating ground of this content. Human phobias, for example, are essentially social in origin and remain intrinsic to human psychology as long as the character of social relations forms the ground for the origination of the conceptual content out of which such phobias arise psychologically.

Conscious awareness in humanity’s primate ancestors could only begin to arise when the awareness of the immediately-preceding ancestral primate of the genus Homo (pre-homo Australopithecines?) had reached a stage which necessitated a development in the whole character of this pre-conscious awareness. A movement beyond it. Learning in these primates must have reached the point where tool use (and tool making was at least sporadic but certainly not systematic and intrinsic as with later Homo) was a regular feature of their mode of life and the learning capacities of these pre-homo species must have been advanced relative to that of other primates living at the time. The earliest forms of Homo emerged out of these advanced primates and started to step onto the road of developing higher, more advanced forms of co-operation and group organisation which formed the basis upon which consciousness itself further originated and developed.

Consciousness originates in the transcendence of the pre-homo, exclusively knowing, non-conscious awareness of the ancestral primate. This supersedence abolishes the exclusivity of this knowing awareness in pre-homo primates by positing new forms of psychic activity which do not fall within the category of ‘knowing awareness’ yet are mediated by it. The knowing awareness of the ancestral primate is both preserved and abolished : it is abolished in the sense that it is raised to the level of conscious awareness out of the ground of its non-conscious form and yet is preserved and continues as a form of knowing awareness with its attendant knowledge-conceptions. This is the transformative element in the origination of the human psyche out of the simpler non-conscious awareness of the animal primate. The non-conscious in the ancestral animal primate becomes transformed into its opposite in the form of the conscious awareness of the human psyche which, taken in its totality, becomes the expressed identity of the conscious and the unconscious. In this regard, even the non-consciousness of the antecedent form of primate awareness becomes transcended and preserved within the unconscious of the human psyche. The process of the origination of the human psyche is entirely sublative and not annihilistic.

Co-operation facilitates the assimilation of innovations in technique and the transmission of knowledge of tool production and use to the troup as a whole. The communal character of human relations at these early stages also means the emergence and development of the oral tradition of transmitting ideas and thoughts to succeeding generations. As soon as human beings or their Homo ancestors have started to speak to each other, this tradition – implying the beginnings of conscious thinking at least, its articulation in speech and memory – starts to grow. Such co-operation facilitates the survival and propagation of the troup as a whole. But innovation in technique also facilitated the acquisition of new forms of practical knowledge which, in their turn, could be applied to improve established techniques and develop new ones.

Necessarily, a primitive level of technique was accompanied by a deep ignorance of the natural basis and underlying laws governing its usage. Accordingly, the human psyche was, as it emerged from the animal, characterised by a profound depth of ignorance of Nature and its laws.This inevitable ignorance of the laws of nature at the dawn of human existence constituted the cognitive, perceptual and psychological arena within which the forces and phenomena of nature confronted the earliest humans as things essentially unknown, awesome, chaotic, alien and without order. This relationship between humanity and Nature was the ground for encouraging and acquiring a greater knowledge of Nature. However, at the same time, it was the ontological ground for the origination of the earliest forms of animistic religious thinking. These forms of thinking were the outcome of humanity’s relationship with these hidden forces of Nature. They were the product of, mediated by and expressed in humanity’s ‘consciousness of the transcendental’ [Marx, German Ideology]. Humanity’s relationship with this ‘transcendental’ in Nature therefore stands as the source of its ‘irrational’, belief-conceptions. The origins and evolution of imaginative thought are inseparable from this human relationship with the transcendental in Nature. This form of thinking originates and evolves in the closest organic relationship with animistic religion. They emerge and evolve co-existentially and in dialectical interconnectedness with each other.

The different aspects of the human psyche – and especially its modes of thinking – do not originate and evolve independently of each other. The human psyche is implicately ordered. Each aspect affects and ‘develops’ the other and this implies the movement of the totality. Each aspect is discretely related and intertwined with all the other aspects within the continuity of a developing whole. Alterations in human knowledge affect belief-conception and even imaginative thought itself. The genre of ‘Science Fiction’, for example, has emerged on the ground of developments in scientific knowledge. Darwin has undermined monotheism, creationism, etc. Conflicts emerge within its conceptual content which necessitate alterations and new ‘syntheses’. Men could not imagine living on other planets, under different conditions and travelling through interstellar space without all the pre-foundational developments in the sciences. And yet an understanding of the chemical structure of Benzene and therefore Aromatic compounds was established with the help of a dream in which Kekule saw a swirling snake swallowing its own tail. Benzene has a hexagonal ring structure. Formerly it was postulated as an open-chain structure. [13]

If the origins and historical development of the psychological are inseparable from the social, then the stage at which the human psyche has arrived in the course of this evolution is inseparable from the history of these social relations inclusive of those presently mediating the relations of this psyche.
The dialectic of the ground and the grounded operates in the unfolding of this history. This does not disregard the internal relations and dynamic of the human psyche which has its own discreteness independently of – but not in isolation from – these social relations founded upon a given stage of technical development. Here we relate conceptual content as having a socially-originated content and, of course, not neurologically-originated.

If we consider our understanding of the contents and systems of thought of any particular epoch, its science, philosophy, mathematics, art, its vernacular and popular forms, etc, we recognise the unity of the different forms within their historical conditions of existence. But we also recognise the universal within the particular; the transhistorical within the historical which implies the ‘enduring element’ – which is inherited from the previous, and transmitted to the next, social formation – within the specificity of the prevailing social relations.

The individual who inscribed thoughts to an absent lover on a wall in ancient Rome – “I thought about you last night but you were not with me” – was articulating the loneliness of absence which men and women have felt for many centuries before and after these words had been written in stone. The specific forms of social relations change historically – hunter-gathering, tribalism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, etc – but if the historically transcendent (‘transhistorical’ within this historical specificity ‘Memes’? – Dawkins) which underpinned definite forms of psychic activity are transmitted and replicated from one epoch to another, these psychic articulations also persist. In the example given, love, attachment and devotion, often exclusively so, of one for another (monogamous love).

All those characteristics of human relations – reflected in the workings of the human psyche – which are underpinned by the continuation of the rule of private property continue to persist under different historical forms of private property. But those which are specific to any given form of private property are abolished in the transition to the new form. This transition simultaneously transmits the general (generic) forms which are characteristic of the domination of private property in general. Hence, the process is one which abolishes the specific whilst simultaneously preserving and developing the general (the universal) in the higher forms of private property. Otherwise it would simply not be a higher form of private property.

Psychologically, the man of ancient Rome (based on slavery and the extraction of tribute) and the man of New York City (based on the rule of capital) are alike yet different. Each, for example, may feel the fear of being mugged and robbed in a dark, unlit street, of losing his property and life at the end of a blade. This is a psychic articulation of the transhistorical aspects of the reign of the social relations of private property. Both societies are class societies based on exploitation, the poverty of the majority and each enforced by oppression and this engenders the pickpocket and the mugger. A Roman plebeian shopkeeper and a New York office worker might equally meet their bloody fate in a backalley at the hands of a predatory Mac the Knife after a night out ‘on the town’. Do not drunkenly wander off, out of public sight, for a piss, down a dark backalley, in the early hours, after a night out ‘on the town’. Two thousand years of human experience suggest that it is not wise to do so. The possibility of being ‘jumped’ remains, not despite but because of the subsequent two millenia of development of private property.

Of course, the implication is that the notion of ‘human safety’ within a social context is entirely a function of the ‘unsafe’ character of social relations. The very notion of ‘social safety’ will be inconceivable for global communist humanity. Likewise the relation between rights and duties, freedom and determination, moral and immoral, etc. Men will not assert that they are living in communist society. They will not state that “this is my right” or “we are free” or “that is unethical”, etc. In the ‘true realm of freedom’, the very notion of freedom will disappear. A truly free human being does not have and cannot possibly have any concept of freedom. Such a concept is grounded in the various forms of social enslavement.

So the socialite New Yorker and the tavern-frequenting Roman both fear the late-night knife of the robber but these fears are of a different degree of intensity in regard to aftercare. In ancient Rome, a deep knife wound – if survived immediately and if blood flow could be stemmed – was often a prelude to a long and agonising death as a result of infection and gangrene. In downtown New York, such a wound can be treated with stitching, antibiotics, steroids and blood transfusions. A week later, you are back to your normal socialising self. Assuming, of course, that an ambulance is available and that it arrives on time.

All those characteristics of human relationships which are peculiar to and have persisted throughout the reign of private property – approximately between 5,000 and 10,000 years – are therefore attributable to those transhistorical aspects of specific historical forms of private property which have been transmitted down the ages. In the epochs before the rise of private property – many thousands of years – human relationships and their psychic articulation were totally different on this transhistorical level. The rise of private property introduced new ‘transhistorical’ elements which have characterised social relations since human beings produced the first agricultural surpluses which formed the foundation for the rise of class societies based on private ownership.

The same human affectations and fears which we find in ancient Rome we find today in the age of globalised capital but presented in different magnitude, social forms and articulated in different psychic conceptual forms. Many fears are the same but merely posited in different form but others are different because they are historically specific and not found in the different societies. For example, in ancient Rome, there was a constant, widespread fear of building collapse and fire in the closely and densely erected apartment buildings, tenements (insulae). Tenements (up to seven storeys high, rising to seventy feet) were very poorly constructed and access was limited by the narrow streets of the time. The poorest lived on the upper floors. By the middle of the second century BC, there were roughly 50,000 such tenements in Rome. Fire in such tenements meant rapid spread and poor access prevented the fire from being extinguished. The absence of street lighting serviced the high crime rate, especially at night, so that stepping out onto the street after sunset was precarious. There are still places, in the major cities of the world, where fear of building collapse and fire persists but generally, with legal regulations, appropriate building materials and ease of access of fire brigades, this fear is not ubiquitous as it was in ancient Rome. [14]

The phenomenal manifestation of the transcendental, hidden forces in Nature confronts emergently-conscious beings as something ‘other’, as unknown, mysterious, as a source of awe, wonder and fear. This coming-to-be of conscious beings (sapienisation) involves a becoming aware of these transcendental forces in Nature, positing simultaneously the need to explain them in animistic terms. Herein lies the primordial origins of religious belief in general. This animistic consciousness contains a possibility contained within itself. If the phenomena of Nature are the purposeful manifestations of the actions and wishes of the gods and spirits of place, then the very principle of a formal causality itself is posited in this conception. A relation and connection exists in the psyche of early humanity between the manifestation and its underlying impulse in Nature. Divine causes are necessarily attributed but the structure of a formal causality, at least, is there in the relation. The possibility is seeded of coming to know these forces of Nature in the epochs that follow. The first forms of religious thought were psychic negations of the transcendental, unknown forces of Nature. A primordial attempt at explaining these forces. For early human beings, the spirits of the trees and the waters were really existent deities responsible for the life-process of these phenomena. They could not be seen but they were really there as manifest in the flow of the river or the blossoming of the trees in spring. This very process simultaneously creates and develops imaginative thinking in Man and this feeds into artistic creativity.

Becoming consciously aware is simultaneously the process of becoming consciously self-aware; an awareness of being aware. A self-involution of awareness itself in its conscious form. This is impossible with the non-conscious awareness of the animal. This novel ‘self-relation’ or self-mediation is exclusive to human consciousness and is not found in animals. The animal is aware but not consciously aware; and thus it is not aware of being aware. Humans, as a result of the emergence and evolution of consciousness, develop the capacity to reflect. The animal does not possess this capacity. Human awareness is a conscious awareness. As conscious beings, humans are conscious of, and can reflect upon, themselves, their capacities, thoughts and feelings. ‘Self-Consciousness’ emerges as an intrinsic aspect of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness as a whole.

With self-consciousness, we enter the realms and capacities of conscious reflection. Conscious awareness enters into relationship with itself; into a self-relatedness. The ability to reflect on thought itself, to consider mentally the concatenation of thoughts, moods and feelings and the passage of their content into each other, their relations, meaning and significance, demarcates human beings psychologically from the animal ancestors from which they evolved. These characteristics distinguish conscious beings (the conscious awareness of the human being) from the non-conscious, simple awareness of the animal.

The emergence of consciousness is therefore not simply a revolution in the mode of awareness but a complete transformation involving the most profound structural changes. But these changes – whilst resolving antecedent contradictions in order to come to consciousness – simultaneously posit new forms of paradox. The contradiction between the conscious and the unconscious comes to mediate the life-process of the human psyche. In the unfolding of the future ages of humanity to come – if it survives and goes beyond the present one – this contradiction itself must become resolved into a higher psychic synthesis in which the men and women of that age “will be as gods” to those of the current epoch.

The inner contradictions of the human psyche in its present form propel it towards its own transcendence and its re-creation in later ages in a higher form not simply in terms of its conceptual-emotional content but in the character of its actual structural relations. The structures and relations of the present form of the human psyche are no more eternal than the current social structures and relations. They come into being in a process of evolution and they contain the internal ‘seeds’ of their own dissolution into higher forms.


[1] I use the taxonomy of Mann and Weiss as a guide in these notes. Humanity and its bipedal ancestors (Hominina) are classed in a ‘tribe’ (the Hominini) with chimps (Panina) on the basis of a common ancestor.

[2] Frank E. Poirier and L. Kaye Hussey. Nonhuman Primate Learning: The Importance of Learning from an Evolutionary Perspective. Anthropology & Education Quarterly Vol. 13, No. 2, Anthropology of Learning (Summer, 1982), pp. 133-148. Wiley,

[3] Szpak, P. Evolution of the Australopithecines. URL :

[4] Walker, A. Extinction in hominid evolution, Nitecki MH, Extinctions, 1984, 119-152.

[5] Ignacio de la Torre. The origins of stone tool technology in Africa: a historical perspective.

[6] Engels. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.354.

[7] Gauri R. Pradhana, Claudio Tenniec and Carel P. van Schaika. Social organization and the evolution of cumulative technology in apes and hominins. Journal of Human Evolution 63 (2012) 180-190.

[8] Agustın Fuentes, Matthew A. Wyczalkowski, and Katherine C. MacKinnon. Niche Construction through Cooperation : A Nonlinear Dynamics Contribution to Modeling Facets of the Evolutionary History in the Genus Homo.

[9] Engels. Dialectics of Nature. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) pp. 330-331.

[10] Luria, A.R. The Mentally Retarded Child. (Pergamon Press, London, 1963) p.150.

[11] Engels. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. op cit. p. 357.

[12] Trotsky. Problems of Everyday Life and Other Writings on Culture and Science. (Monad Press, New York, 1973) p. 227.

[13] Kekule’s Dream. URL :

[14] Wasson, D.L. Roman Daily Life. Ancient History Encyclopaedia.


Shaun May

April 2014



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