Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [3] The Rise of Consciousness

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche 

[3] The Rise of Consciousness


[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae 

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae 

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions


Footnotes and Memoranda


[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae

We have seen in the previous section how the learning capacities and activities of ancestral, hominoid, animal primates formed the behavioural and neurological basis and preconditions for the emergence of the Hominidae. Existent capacities formed the ground for the development of new skills and forms of behaviour in descendants, including into the hominid line which emerged out of the modes of life of these ancestral primates (fm1). 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 variations in life conditions is always augmented by the learning of new skills added to the existing ones but without overspecialisation.

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 (repertoire of skills) and of its potential to engage and survive a wider range of conditions. Such forms of adaptation therefore increase 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 (fm2).

Humans have evolved from primates and succeeding hominids 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 became possible. New forms of interaction and relationships could be established and developed with the animal’s surroundings which hitherto had not existed. ‘Adjustment’ also meant ‘expansion’ at the same time, that is, an augmentation of existing skills and the development of new ones for surviving a continuously varying and widening range of conditions (fm3).

Therefore, in the evolutionary development towards the hominid line, the ability of primates to survive and to propagate their kind becomes, increasingly, determined by their ability to acquire new skills and develop higher forms of behaviour. The need (necessity) to learn new skills and behaviour that imposed itself on these ancestral pre-hominids introduced a fundamentally new element into their struggle to survive as they began to make the transition to hominid existence. Most animals are characterised by the need to learn in order to survive. However, the more closely does primate evolution approach the hominid line, the more central and important does the capacity and process of learning become.

Implicitly, in the evolution towards and within the hominid 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-hominids that learnt and assimilated 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, fending off predators, etc. The advantaged hominoids survived to pass on their skills to their offspring and, in so doing, created a widening ‘behavioural’ gap between themselves and their less able relatives (fm4). Those groups which failed to develop the skills – which would have been necessary in order to survive according to the demands of their conditions of life – inevitably declined and tended towards extinction.

In the more advanced group or groups of primates, the development of abilities and skills – which could be utilised to solve the problems of survival in a more adequate and comprehensive way – must have given the ‘favoured’ group/s a distinct character which afforded it/them obvious advantages in the struggle for survival. Therefore, under the material conditions of their life, also involving competition with other animals and related primates, the development of such abilities must have given a definite group/s a critical advantage in the fight for survival and propagation.

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-hominid ancestors contained, in undeveloped, embryonic form, ‘tradition’ (fm5) and the beginnings of a mode of life based on the learning, assimilation and elaboration of new skills. It was a mode of life not simply governed by, and at the behest of, biological inheritance but one in which the potential had been posited for the further onward development and enrichment of learning capacities.

The problems presented to our pre-hominid, primate ancestors by the nature of their conditions of life could only be solved through the learning and development of new skills and forms of behaviour specifically associated with changes taking place in the anatomy and physiology of these primates. In the course of the overcoming of these problems, the mode of life of these animal primates evolved into the mode of life of the very earliest hominids. The widespread use of tools in contemporary anthropoid apes indicates that the common ancestors of hominids and these apes may also have been tool users (fm6). However, both the direct line ancestors of hominids and those of modern anthropoids may have developed tool use independently as their common ancestor differentiated into two distinct lines.

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae

The sporadic, followed by the consistent, and direct use of natural objects available in the immediate surroundings as tools preceded the infrequent and later consistent and systematic production of tools. For example, to pull fallen fruit or dead animals from a river or lake, to fend off attacks from predatory animals, to drive them off a meat-laden carcase, etc. The simple fashioning of natural objects and their use for a given purpose is a characteristic of the most advanced anthropoid apes today. However, this purely non-conscious, infrequent use of tools in modern apes is not a systematic part of their mode of life. The earliest hominid ancestors of humanity (who shared, at the same time, many of the features of the ultimate form of ancestral, pre-hominid animal primate) probably made use of natural objects in this way and were, perhaps, very infrequent and sporadic makers of very simple tools. Hominids had not yet arrived at a systematic and consistent ‘culture’ of tool making which came later with more advanced hominid forms.

The sporadic use of natural objects as tools by ancestral primates followed later by the ability to make very rough, simple tools for the immediate use in attaining food, warding off predators, etc, was initially, without doubt, carried out inadvertently and under the direct pressure of immediate and impending 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 assimilated and refined by a process of learning. If any activity actually helped a primate to survive, that is, was advantageous in the struggle for life, then its incidental character would have become altered and adapted to a more permanent status as the primate encountered similar situations in the course of its life history. The regular use of a wide range of tools – even simple implements like unworked stones and wooden branches – became the starting point for the irregular, sporadic production of tools and later the transition to regular tool-making in the mode of life of later hominids.

Learning in those primates, immediately preceding the hominid lineage, must have reached the point where tool use was a feature, if only sporadic, of their mode of life and their learning capacities must have been advanced relative to that of other primates living at the time. The earliest hominids emerged out of these advanced, hominoid primates and, over time, started to develop more advanced forms of behaviour, even early forms of co-operation and group organisation. Such ‘co-operation’ we find today in anthropoid apes. For example, the working together of a troop of Chimpanzees in hunting other monkeys or driving off predators.

Hominid characteristics start to appear, paradoxically, in creatures which are still, in all essentials, animal primates (fm7). This movement towards hominisation is the commencement of the distinction between the animal primate per se and the very earliest hominids. The systematic, intentional and consistent use and manufacture of tools specifically characterises the modes of life of later, more advanced hominids. However, in this earliest of periods of hominisation, we can, perhaps, envisage a limited growth and diversification in the use of tools and perhaps a less sporadic character in their incidental creation which further enhanced survival.

The capacity to fashion simple tools for use in definite operations would have given an advantage under changing conditions (e.g. in a period of dearth or when under assault by predators. Chimpanzees today in the forest canopy use fruit as projectiles to drive away predators) and so enabled the earliest hominids to survive where other groups perished. The acquisition of the abilities by ancestral primates to make simple tools – when the objective demands of the situation were pressing and required their immediate use – was embryonic in opening up the road to later tool use and production in hominids. The rise of consistent, regular tool-making and use in later hominids becomes synonymous with the subsequent birth and rise of human culture itself.

The life of these early ‘hominids’ (who were still umbilically connected in their mode of life to their pre-hominid, animal nature), despite its precarious character, must have been serviced by a wider repertoire of collective skills and learning capacities in comparison to their immediate and distant animal primate ancestors (fm8). The conflict 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 continuously in order to move the early hominid group/s forward to avoid extinction. The lurking threat of extinction possibly served as a spur to the development of new skills and forms of behaviour and to push early hominids into modes of life beyond previous modes characterised by crises of one kind or another. The development of these new skills and behaviours served to resolve crises in favour of the evolving early hominid group/s. These ‘resolutions’, with relatively more advanced skills and behaviour, in their turn, served to produce a firmer and more stable foundation for countering later threats of extinction as and when they appeared as conditions altered.

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

The transition from an arboreal, quadrumanous state of locomotion to ground dwelling led on to the specialisation of the forelimbs for labour and the hindlimbs for walking. Our arboreal primate ancestor walked on all four limbs, all of which were, at the same time, specialised for use as hands. The polarisation in the function of the limbs in this ancestor meant that the forelimbs became specialised as hands and the hindlimbs for walking. This lead, of course, to bipedalism. This must, at least in part, have been an adaptation to a mode of life which was becoming increasingly ground-dwelling. Although climbing itself has a tendency to encourage bipedal behaviour. Interestingly, our bodily frames still retain the capacity to freely climb and move around in trees and our feet can still be adapted as hands, for example, in people who have lost their forelimbs or use of their hands. This polarisation and adaptation was, according to Leakey,

so significant an adaptation that we are justified in calling all species of bipedal ape ‘human’. This is not to say that the first bipedal ape species possessed a degree of technology, increased intellect or any of the cultural attributes of humanity. It didn’t. My point is that the adoption of bipedalism was so loaded with evolutionary potential – allowing the upper limbs to be free to become manipulative implements one day – that its importance should be recognised in our nomenclature. These humans were not like us, but without the bipedal adaptation they couldn’t have become like us. [1]

Some anthropologists would disagree with Leakey’s characterisation as warranting the use of the term ‘human’ for all ‘bipedal apes’. However, his ‘point’ about ‘evolutionary potential’ cannot be denied. The freeing of the hand from locomotion meant that early hominids had the potential to cultivate established skills, develop new ones and bring them to a more comprehensive degree of perfection in the course of the development of the labour process (fm9). ‘Inheriting’ definite skills from their primate ancestors, hominids could, potentially and later actually, begin (with the polarisation of the functions of the limbs), at a very rudimentary level, to produce tools for use in the acquisition of their needs.

The hand itself becomes specialised as the organ of labour so that production later becomes the material basis of human life (fm10). The human hand is far more dextrous and versatile in its operational capacity than that of any ape. Anatomically…

The most obvious feature that distinguishes the ape hand from the human hand is the length of the thumb in relation to the length of the remaining digits and particularly the index digit. The ape thumb is much shorter in relation to the index digit than it is in humans and makes it difficult to oppose the pulp of the thumb to the tips of the remaining digits. This, together with the absence of asymmetry of the head of the third metacarpal and the inability to cup the palm of the hand, restricts the apes to primarily the hook grip and the pinch precision grip [2]

The evolution of the labour process is synonymous with the development of the hand, the senses and the brain itself (fm11). Their evolution takes place together and only in relation to each other. The increase in the dexterity of the hand (especially in the opposability of the thumb and forefinger) and its modification to perform a multiplicity of operations and functions in the manipulation of natural objects and materials is a definite 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 of the hand – side by side with the heightening of the tactile and other senses such as detection of pressure and temperature differences (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 (fm12). The development of an…

extensive manipulatory behaviour was facilitated by hands freed of locomotor functions, stereoscopic vision, increasing brain size and more effective hand-eye coordination. The selective pressure for extensive environmental manipulation probably grew out of increasing tool use, which was, in turn, related to increasing problems of survival. [3]

It was the emergence and development of the labour process in later hominids which necessitated social co-operation between individuals. But this, in its turn, gave rise to the need for spoken language, speech, as a means of communication. Hominids cannot produce tools as a group and co-operate systematically in various activities (hunting, foraging, firemaking, etc) without communicating with each other. And it was this ‘imperative need’ to communicate which necessitated the birth and development of language in hominids. This means that the real source of the emergence and development of human language is the labour process itself where hominids are producing and co-operating together and maintaining the integrity of the whole labour process by communicating with each other. The birth of language therefore serves an important social survival function in that it services co-operation in the production process of tools and material needs in the course of the later evolution of hominids.

As hominid evolution proceeded, the development of existing skills and the learning of new ones involving the group or troop as a whole necessitated  greater degrees of co-operation and communication. This, in its turn, gave impetus to the further development of language which, intrinsically, becomes associated with the rise of consciousness itself and the origination of the human psyche as a totality.

Contemporary palaeoanthropology does not always grasp the relations involved in the origination of language (and its practical expression in human speech) as a necessity arising out the need for hominids to communicate with each other. ‘Cognitive processes’ emerge coincident with or later subsequent to the origination of language. They do not arise prior to language and then become the ’cause’ of language. For example, Lewin writes that…

with the passage of time and the emergence of new species along the Homo lineage, stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly. [….] This increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture must [….] reflect an increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes that eventually involved spoken language [4]

The fact that ‘stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly’ implies co-operation, communication and, at least, the beginnings of language in order to socially structure a more ‘systematic and orderly’ way of making tools and organising other activities. Lewin cited here inverts the actual relation. An ‘increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes’ ‘reflected’ the ‘increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture’ and the associated origination of language itself. Lewin puts the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’.

Cognitive capacities and ‘processes’ could not have arisen without the emergence and development of language. Word and thought are different yet inseparable aspects of the same cognitive relation. The notion that ‘cognitive processes eventually involved spoken language’ implies the possibility that spoken language (speech) emerged subsequent to ‘cognitive processes’ which is clearly incorrect on the basis of our conception we are elaborating here. The following conception more correctly approaches the truth of matters when it touches on the difference between those who propose an ‘early’ or ‘late’ development of language in hominid evolution, implying ‘strong evidence for an ancient origin for language’….

The timing of language origins has important implications for the nature of mind. If it appeared recently – in anatomically modern Homo Sapiens – language was secondary to previous non-linguistic changes in the brain, possibly increased general intelligence, and there was not much time for it to influence the structure of the brain or vocal tract. If it appeared early in our evolution it probably passed through many different forms and had a major influence on the evolution of the brain and vocal tract. The multitude of language adaptations seamlessly integrated into human nature provides strong evidence for an ancient origin for language. Adaptations of early hominids to aid speech acquisition may still influence how we learn, use and understand language today. [5]

Language does not, however, merely serve a communicative function. It is intrinsically necessary for the process of thought itself and verbal interaction plays a central role in the regulation of behaviour. Thought itself is a silent form of inner speech whilst, at the same time, becoming expressed externally in the form of speech. Perception, memory and the development of cognition are all become associated with the ability to master and apply language.

The origination of language systematically developed those organs associated with and necessary for it: the larynx, tongue, lips, hard and soft palates and the volume and structure of the mouth cavity (fm13). These developments would have been impossible without all those primate neurological structures inherited from their animal primate ancestors. Hominid evolution…

has ‘recruited’ for language purposes brain structures that performed other functions in the non-human primates. In the process of recruitment they have become modified to meet different, and far more demanding, functional requirements. [….]

Although the basic organisation of human language areas has been borrowed from our ancestors, these language areas are many times larger than would be expected in a typical primate brain. Changes in the relative size of these areas has also changed their function by altering connections between structures […..]

Changes in the brain give intriguing clues about the nature and uniqueness of human intelligence. They suggest that the human brain has been shaped by evolutionary processes that elaborated the capacities needed for language, and not just by a general demand for greater intelligence. [6]

The brain of the ancestral animal primate becomes materially transformed, becoming further evolved to a new, more complex, stage of development in the course of hominid evolution under the direct influence and different consequences of the material and social relations of the labour process. The human brain is, therefore, essentially, a social product resulting from that transitional period of development between ancestral primate and human and the subsequent social modes of life of humanity. It continues to develop materially and its processes become more refined and better adapted to orientate and guide human social behaviour. The ‘plasticity’ of the brain’s processes does not end once humanity has separated itself from the animal. The detailed anatomy and physiology of the brain continues to be subject to alterations and modulations with the social evolution of humanity beyond the hominid transitional phases (fm14).

The brain in hominid evolution is not simply a product of natural selection but is a social product of that evolutionary history. The human brain is not only larger than that of contemporary apes but is qualitatively more complex. These differences are a product of the hominid transitional period within which humanity’s social nature germinated and emerged. The human brain is the outcome of both this extensive transitional period of hominid ‘social’ development and of that of the ‘sapiential’ period subsequent to it. A complete development and transformation of the cerebral region of the primate brain takes place. The size and inner complexity of the brain as a whole changes so that all the other brain functions become modified as a result of this cerebral development which is a product of the transition taking place between ‘non-conceptualising’ primates and consciously thinking humans.

The development of speech simultaneously developed and cultivated the sense of hearing (fm15). Just as the arboreal existence of humanity’s primate ancestors necessitated the emergence and improvement of mechanisms of stereoscopic vision in order to correctly judge position and distance [7] (fm16), so the development of language and speech became a spur to the improvement and refinement of auditory mechanisms. Such developments in the hearing mechanism enabled hominids to distinguish more readily and adeptly between different sounds, stresses and intonations. But words are not merely symbolic representations of concepts.  The actual meaning of thought is expressed in language, so that the structure and origins of each are mutually related and inseparable from each other.  Thought and language, taken in their unity, reflect, mutually determine each other and evolve together in their reciprocality and their mutual relationship to each other. The origination of speech and language consequent on the evolution of the labour process forms the social medium within which the rise of consciousness takes place. This is why Engels writes….

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 [8]

Over time, hominids increased their populations 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. 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 superior quality than those of their competitors would undoubtedly have possessed advantages over their competitors whose mode of life did not incorporate tool-making as an intrinsic feature or involved making 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 hominids to more effectively change these conditions in such a way that the possibility of surviving and propagating their kind became enhanced (fm17). Leakey writes that…

When our ancestors discovered the trick of consistently producing sharp stone flakes, it constituted a major breakthrough in human prehistory. Suddenly, humans had access to foods that had previously been denied to them. The modest flake [….] is a highly effective implement for cutting through all but the toughest hides to expose the meat inside. Whether they were hunters or scavengers, the humans who made and used these simple stone flakes thereby availed themselves of a new energy source – animal protein. Thus they would have been able not just to extend their foraging range but also to increase the chances for successful production of offspring. The reproductive process is an expensive business, and the expansion of the diet to include meat would have made it more secure [9]

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, enhanced the chances of surviving adverse conditions confronting hominid groups. The impact of changing demands and conditions would have necessitated the development of superior tools. Migration to new areas and competition with other primates and animals may have been important in this process.  Additionally, the chance discoveries which must have occurred as hominids experimented with new materials and objects would have become an important source of innovation in the tool-making process (fm18). Innovation, once again, 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.

The transmission of skills from one generation to the next ensures the survival and propagation of hominid groups. Language becomes an essential and indispensable medium for this transmission. Communication through language enables hominids to transmit and exchange techniques and other abilities without the need to recapitulate the steps in the development of technique which lead up to the acquisition and refinement of these capacities (fm19)….

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

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 many generations. The achievements and legacies of previous generations of hominids are socially inherited and become modified and transformed by succeeding generations. The cultural heritage of hominids becomes richer – involving a wider range of, and operationally more intricate, skills – as hominid evolution proceeds. With animals, the transmission of skills occurs by means of inherent behaviour or by direct imitation, that is, through the learning involved in mimicry. However, with hominids and later humans, we have the emergence of verbal speech which enables the direct transmission and assimilation of knowledge and skills which have taken millenia of experience and practice to develop and refine.

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 delicate, razor-sharp, flint arrowhead for use in hunting. However, the ability to make the arrowhead does not require the recapitulation of the history of the labour process leading from the defensive stone to the flint arrowhead of the hunter.  The labour process of hominids had to pass through definite stages in order to develop and assimilate the skills necessary to produce the arrowhead. But the actual production of the arrowhead contains, subsumed within itself, the history of the labour process that leads up to the dextrous ability of hominids to make such implements. An aeon of experience is distilled in the simple act of producing the flint arrowhead.

The evolving material relations created by interacting with nature in the course of human activity become a source of real changes in human awareness and consciousness. The process of making a stone axe is not only mediated by, and further develops, an experiential knowledge of the techniques involved in the actual process itself. Moreover, with the later emergence of conscious awareness, such activities in themselves, at the same time, become the source of a whole range of notions stemming from the ignorance of those natural phenomena and material processes which are determining and mediating the production process of the axe itself. For example, the earliest, animistic notions of deity existent within objects and nature. The productive relationship between humanity and nature (labour process) continuously and simultaneously gives rise to and develops both technique and conceptions of nature.

These learnt skills would have become integrated into the practices and behaviour of the hominid group, enriching its repertoire of skills, and thus furthering its capacity to survive and reproduce itself. The process of tool-making and its diversification and refinement 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 (fm20).

Toolmaking had ‘knock on’ consequences. For example, striking a stone against a flint produces a spark when making an axe. Later it is discovered that such a spark can be used to make fire from its contact with dry tinder. Knowledge of fire-making creates the capacity to keep warm both outside and under shelter in winter and the ability to tenderise food in the process of cooking it. More easily edible and digestible food means the body can assimilate nutrients more readily. This must have been important in the evolution of hominid physiology, brain and activity in general. The immediacy of the direct interaction and experience of hominids with nature in the course of their labour activities gave rise to new discoveries and their integration into their modes of life.

Tool-making and the use of tools (i.e. the labour process as a totality) becomes the basis, the foundation, upon which hominid evolution takes place and evolves towards human relations. 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. [11]

The increasing augmentation of the generic learning capacities of hominids enabled them to more adequately tackle the demands placed on them by their conditions of life. This means that new forms of organisation which were intrinsic to, and necessary for, the learning and development of new and more complex skills amongst hominids – involving tool use and production – must have emerged and started to evolve. The growth in the complexity of social organisation in these groups, as hominid evolution proceeded, was, therefore, linked to the progression of tool-making to continuously new levels of sophistication and the resulting collective activities consequent on their use and deployment in various ways and in the course of the different activities of troops and groups in their struggle to survive. This made the acquisition of their means of subsistence less arduous compared to the activities of their ancestors. The historical gap between the hominid and the animal began to widen with the development of tool-making and use and the level and complexity of social organisation accompanying these activities in the labour process.

The evolution of hominids becomes characterised by a growth in the quantity, and a development in the qualitative complexity, of the labour functions. This itself implies the development of the hand as the organ of labour. The human hand, therefore, is both the organ and the product of labour. In the course of hominid evolution the hand has become specialised for labour. Indeed, so much so that the human hand itself implies the production and use of tools, labour, activity.

The sporadic use of available natural objects as tools was a feature of the modes of life of the animal, primate ancestors of hominids. But with later hominids (of the line ‘Homo’), after a lengthy period of transition, we find the systematic production of tools for pre-determined purposes, such as we find with Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, etc. It was an advance made necessary by the need to survive and overcome the impact and effects of the natural conditions under which these hominids lived. In other words, the labour process itself arises out of the need to survive and propagate under such conditions. Henceforth, all these skills and abilities learnt in the labour process offered descendants specific advantages in the struggle to survive and propagate their kind.

Co-operation enabled the group to more easily and readily secure its means of subsistence in the face of hostile natural conditions. Co-operation enhances the capacity of hominids to secure their means of subsistence. For example, in gathering activities and in the course of hunting. All those forms of behaviour and skills which facilitated or increased co-operation would have become socially assimilated as part of the ‘culture’ of the hominid group and refined according to their needs. Increases in the size of the group or troop would also have facilitated learning and the transmission of skills from one generation to the next. As Mithen remarks…

especially significant for hominids with their reliance on stone tools and capacity for strong social learning, is that as group size increases we should expect the opportunities for social learning (of whatever form) to increase. [……..] Consequently, the relative role of social to individual learning will increase. Similarly the rate of cultural transmission will increase. Individuals will be able to observe the actions of other individuals, such as their manipulation of objects more frequently and in more detail when living in large groups, due to the importance of intense kin-bonding, coalitions and the high frequency of visual monitoring and social interaction in general. This increased opportunity for observation will increase the extent of stimulus enhancement, true imitation and emulation. It may also increase the probability that individuals will engage in instructed learning [12]

Such forms of behaviour would have made the group more successful and these forms would have become structured into the relations of their social life. The effects of more efficient and productive forms of technique on the one hand, and more highly developed social co-operation on the other, motivated and engendered improvement and innovation in both areas (fm21).   Accordingly, co-operation became an indispensable part of the organisation of hominids in their struggle to survive. The unity of tool-making and co-operation in hominids formed the organisational basis for the evolution of the labour process and later for that of human society itself as a whole.

Hominids, in altering their conditions of life through the labour process in the course of the development of their interactions with nature, push themselves forward, further along the hominid line towards Homo Sapiens. We now know that different hominid species, and even different human species, emerged and which, for whatever reasons, later became extinct. Rather than the Hominidae being a ‘line’ of descent, it was more like a branching ‘tree’ of evolution in which some branches ended in extinction and the favoured one eventually made its way through the ‘tree’ to give rise to us, modern human beings. There were different intermediate forms which came and went in the course of hominid evolution, some forming part of our lineage and others ending in extinction at the termination points of their respective ‘branches’.

Thus, we can see that the labour process necessarily gives birth to wider forms of social co-operation in hominids and this, in its turn, necessitates the need for communication and the emergence of language (speech is ‘practical language’) which mediate this co-operation. As soon as language starts to originate, we have the beginnings of the communication of knowledge and ideas in speech. This, in itself, implies the beginnings of conceptualisation and of the rise of consciousness. The later emergence of humanity is, at the same time, the re-affirmation of the fundamental role of labour in the origin of human culture and the human psyche; that is, in the essential role it has played in the ‘transition from ape to man’

This was the principal, the quintessential complex which formed the basis for the transformation of the non-conscious awareness of the animal pre-hominid into the conscious awareness of human beings. Co-operation in the labour process therefore forms the driving social organisational basis upon which language and consciousness originate. In the beginnings of language is posited the germination of consciousness itself and the beginnings of the emergence of the human psyche itself as a whole (fm22). Hominid relations become increasingly subject to mediation by language and nascent forms of conscious awareness, by ‘consciousness in the making’.

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

The rise of conscious awareness is synonymous with the rise of the human psyche as a whole as a historically new, distinct form of motion. The ability of the pre-hominid ancestors of humanity to learn new skills and forms of behaviour constituted an essential pre-condition for the origination of hominid modes of life and later for conscious human life. However, the actual process of the origination of consciousness proper only commences when hominids have started to form relationships involving co-operation in toolmaking and other activities. Consciousness, therefore, can only be scientifically understood as a social product from its very earliest beginnings. Marx writes that….

Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all. Consciousness is at first, of course, merely consciousness concerning the immediate (Marx emphasis in bold) sensuous environment and consciousness of the limited connection with other persons and things outside the individual who is growing self-conscious. At the same time it is consciousness of nature, which first confronts men as a completely alien, all powerful and unassailable force, with which men’s relations are purely animal and by which they are overawed like beasts; it is thus a purely animal consciousness of nature (natural religion) precisely because nature is as yet hardly altered by history – on the other hand, it is man’s consciousness of the necessity of associating with individuals around him, the beginning of consciousness that he is living in society at all. This beginning is as animal as social life itself at this stage. It is mere herd-consciousness, and at this point man is distinguished from sheep only by the fact that with him consciousness takes the place of instinct or that his instinct is a conscious one. 

[Marginal note by Marx: We see here immediately: this natural religion or this particular attitude to nature is determined by the form of society and vice versa. Here, as everywhere, the identity of nature and man also appears in such a way that the restricted attitude of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and their restricted relation to one another determines men’s restricted relation to nature]

Marx continues….

This sheep-like or tribal consciousness receives its further development and extension through increased productivity, the increase of needs, and, what is fundamental to both of these, the increase of population. With these there develops the division of labour, which was originally nothing but the division of labour in the sexual act, then the division of labour which develops spontaneously or “naturally” by virtue of natural pre-disposition (e.g. physical strength), needs, accidents, etc, etc. Division of labour only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears. 

[Marginal note by Marx: The first form of ideologists, priests, is co-incident] 

From this moment onwards consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real; from now on consciousness is in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the formation of “pure” theory, theology, philosophy, morality, etc. [13]

The insight and profundity of Marx’s analysis here must be noted, written, as it was, at least thirteen years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species and twenty-five years before his Descent of Man.

The capacity to learn becomes the capacity of a conscious being and not simply an ability determined by the demands of immediate circumstances and by the unconscious processes of nature. The learning-instinct relations and complexes of the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral primate are adequate and necessary for its purely natural relationships and mode of life. However, they become inadequate and outmoded for the emerging social relationships of hominid and, later, human modes of life.

We have seen how language and the associated beginnings of conscious awareness originate in the need for hominids to co-operate in the labour process and other activities such as gathering, hunting, firemaking and even play. But what is the nature of the transformation which takes place (on the psychic level) as the non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid becomes transformed into the conscious form of awareness of humans over a very long period of transition, in truth, over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years? This is a long, drawn out transitional period of transformation and not a process which can be thought of in terms of centuries or even millenia.

We have presupposed that the non-conscious form of awareness in the ancestral animal primate is a complex (synthesis) of the instinctive and the learnt, that is, simple conditioned learning. This serves to sensuously and actively orientate the animal in the course of its life activity within its natural conditions and environment. Within this context of natural relations, it struggles to acquire its means of life in order to survive and propagate its species.

As conscious awareness originates, it comes into relation with those instincts which have arisen and evolved in the entire evolutionary prehistory of humanity’s animal ancestors. This collision of the ancient pre-human instincts, found in the non-conscious state of awareness of the animal, with an emergent conscious awareness constituted the protoconscious arena within which the first seeds of the human psyche were sown and started to germinate.

The mediation of the instinctive by emerging conscious awareness 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 conscious awareness on instinct. This intermediation of each by the other constitutes an integration of opposites (the conscious and the unconscious) which, once arisen, thenceforth later conditions the further onward historical development of the human psyche. Each side, in their mutual relation, conditions and determines the other and, in so doing, affects itself.

It is the impact of emergent conscious awareness on animal primate instinct which presents the emerging psyche as dichotomising (diremption) into the unconscious (which contains superseded within itself the instinctive capacities of ancestral primates) and the conscious (which contains superseded within itself the learning capacities of these primates).The relationship between learning and instinct found in the animal is transformed and superseded with the rise of conscious awareness.

This conflict (between these pre-hominid instincts and this emergent conscious awareness) could only be resolved with the positing of the unconscious as the psychic opposite of the conscious. In the process of this synthetic resolution, the unconscious thereby comes into relation with its opposite in the form of the conscious which had itself brought the unconscious into being through its mediative relationship with the ancient instincts of ancestral hominoids. The resulting synthesis, in positing the relation between the conscious and the unconscious, supersedes the relationship between instinct and learning found in the ancestral primate animal. Accordingly, the learning capacities of the animal primate are qualitatively transformed and raised to a conscious level.

This ‘fusion’ (synthesis) which takes place – in which the origination of conscious awareness simultaneously transforms the instinctive into the unconscious – as the human psyche starts to come into being, forms a very deep, organic connection between the animal prehistory of humanity and humanity as a product of socio-historical development. It is a consideration which cannot be neglected in any comprehensive theory of human development, especially in its psychological aspects. The social transformation of the biological legacy, which has been furnished by our primate ancestors, takes the form, within the psychic arena, of the relationship and interplay between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche.

The rise of consciousness is the fundamental determining agency in the process of the transformation of the non-conscious, pre-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate into that of hominids-becoming-conscious and later human beings. This emergence of conscious awareness gives the human psyche a self-mediating character (self-consciousness) not found in the awareness of pre-hominid ancestors. This self-mediation of the psyche also becomes integrated with the transformed biological legacy bequeathed by humanity’s primate ancestry.

The rise of conscious awareness therefore transforms the instinctive in the animal pre-hominid into the unconscious in humans as a result of the mediation of instinct by an emergent conscious awareness. An intermediation between the instinctive and the emergent conscious takes place (fm23). In affecting and transforming the instinctive in this way, the earliest forms of conscious awareness (protoconscious forms) are themselves affected and fed by the streams of instinct becoming the unconscious.

The unconscious is, therefore, that realm of the human psyche which arose as a result of the rise of conscious awareness itself with the consequent sublation and incorporation of the instinctive capacities of humanity’s animal ancestors and posited in the form of the unconscious. Since the unconscious is the supersedence of instinct, it must contain the instinctive absorbed and incorporated within itself. The psychodynamic which is the intermediation of the unconscious and the conscious becomes a fundamental dynamic in the history of this human psyche. The unconscious is integrated into the total life of the psyche so that these sublated capacities are not separated from, but are active in, the life of this psychic totality as a consequence of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness in the hominisation process.

The wholeness of the psyche means that the life of the unconscious is always being registered and expressed, in one form or another, in the field of consciousness. Reciprocally, what is taking place in consciousness is constantly mediating the whole arena of the unconscious. The intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious constitutes the life of the psyche as a singularity. Each mediates the other and cannot subsist without being in relation to the other. Each, in being the negation of the other, simultaneously and continuously reposits, determines and reaffirms the other and, in so doing, reaffirms itself and thus its own essential nature.

This becoming of the unconscious out of the transforming of instinct by emergent conscious awareness, determines and continuously reaffirms its conscious opposite in this primaeval psyche. Therefore, in creating its psychical opposite out of instinct in the form of the unconscious, this emergent conscious awareness simultaneously reasserts and reaffirms itself as the pivotal, inner ‘revolutionary’ agency in the transformation of the awareness of the animal primate into that of the hominid and later that of humans. The rise of conscious awareness thereby transforms the non-conscious awareness of the animal into the totality which is the human psyche.

The outcome of this process actually represents the transformation of one totality into another. The totality which was the pre-conscious, non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid (animals are aware but not consciously aware) is completely transformed into the totality which is the conscious form of awareness of humanity (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), that is, into the human psyche as a unity of the conscious and the unconscious.

The human psyche thus arises as an identity of the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious originates as the psychic opposite of the conscious which gives rise to the former in the course of the genesis of conscious awareness out of the non-conscious forms of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid. Thereafter, the conscious and the unconscious exist and evolve in opposition to each other within their mutual interrelation. In their identity and opposition, they constitute the most fundamental relationship of the human psyche which becomes the ‘exponent’ of its interrelated and intermediating conscious and unconscious sides and aspects.

The intricacy and complexity of the human psyche is, in this totality, the outcome of its entire social history and biological prehistory. For example, if we take the biochemical processes which govern the human ‘body clock’ which regulates biological activities on a 24 hour cycle, we can observe the same biochemical mechanisms in all animals, even the very simplest multicellular animals. This means that the biochemistry of these ‘body clock’ mechanisms evolved at the dawn of life itself, is very ancient indeed, was ‘selected’ and dates back many millions if not billions of years ago when life forms first established themselves on the planet. These mechanisms remain, intrinsically, part and parcel of the life of the human organism today.

What humans have inherited from their animal ancestors (what has been ‘passed down’ the ages) have either become vestigial or still continue to serve vital or important functions in the life of human beings. All those aspects found in the life of animal ancestors (biochemistry, physiology, even behavioural traits, elements, etc), which are still advantageous or remain necessary for human survival, have become assimilated (not absolutely abolished) into the human organism in the course of the evolution from animal primates. The biochemical mechanisms of ‘body clock’ given above are just one example of this legacy but many more could be given which we have inherited from our distant animal ancestors stretching back many millions if not billions of years. The neurological, biochemical and physiological processes which underlie the ‘fight or flight’ response (fear, ‘stress’, anxiety) is another example.

Consciousness originates and develops as a distinctly and specifically human form of awareness which arises in the unfolding and evolution of the hominisation process over millions of years. The emergence and further development of conscious awareness is, as we have proposed in this brief study, the revolutionary agent in the origination of the human psyche as a whole (fm24). According to Trotsky, writing in his notebooks on evolution and psychology in the 1930s…

Consciousness is a quite original part of nature, possessing peculiarities and regularities that are completely absent in the remaining part of nature. Subjective dialectics must by virtue of this be a distinctive part of objective dialectics – with its own special forms and regularities. [14]

The human psyche originates and evolves as a distinct form of motion which arises and becomes posited as a higher synthesis of the neurobiological and the social. Developing historically, it becomes subject to change in both its conceptual content and in its internal ‘structural’ relations according to alterations and transformations in social and historical conditions.

The rise of consciousness marks the rise of the human psyche as a whole because the origination and development of conscious awareness completely transforms all the capacities and inner relationships of the pre-hominid, non-conscious forms of awareness in the animal primate. It raises these capacities – in the course of superseding them – to a new, higher level in the form of the conscious awareness of human beings. The emergence of consciousness implicates ‘conceptual content’ and the structuring and relations of this ‘content’. This conceptual content does not originate in the material sphere of neurobiology or within the unconscious itself. Rather it is society’s own creation, the conceptual content of thought arises ‘externally’ within the realm of social relations, their registration and reflection. The image in the mirror (or the moving imagery of a film) does not originate in the materiality of the mirror itself but rather in the object which this materiality reflects. The image cannot be formed without the materiality of the mirror but the actual content, relations and significance of the image has its origins in the object itself external to the mirror.

This content of thought mediates, and is mediated by, the neurophysiology of the unconscious. The interrelationship between thinking and the perceptible ‘registration’ which is ‘feeling’ (mood and emotion) involves the intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious (the interpenetration of the conceptual and non-conceptual). A detailed analysis of the origins of human emotion and mood is beyond the scope of this brief study. However, in passing, it should be mentioned that the emotions, and mood, are not simply neurological phenomena but are actually related to, and originate within, the nature of human social experience and life and the interpersonal relationships and behaviour constituted and developed therein (fm25). The changing nature of humanity does not preclude the possibility that certain emotions (and even moods) which characterise the human personality in the present epoch may even disappear in later epochs on the basis of social relationships which have transcended the epochs of the reign of various forms of private property and all those psychosocial phenomena which arise on the basis of this reign.

The interrelationships of thought and feeling (emotion, mood) – and the subjective registration of these in the individual – actually expresses the identity of the neurobiological and the social in the psyche. One cannot ‘feel’ at all, be a ‘feeling being’ (Marx) so to speak, without a real connection and mediative relationship existing between our thinking (which is ‘external’, social, in origin) and our internal neurophysiology. If I feel ‘anxious’, ‘calm’, ‘angry’ or ‘depressed’, etc, the given state of mind (mood) corresponds to a real neurological and bodily state actually existing inside of me, which I register subjectively as a specific ‘feeling’, ’emotion’ or ‘mood’, with all the complexity of its physiology and biochemistry involved in its manifestation and perpetuation. But as much as I may try, I cannot separate the ontology of my moods and emotions from my real social experience and the manifestation and reflection of this in my thinking and behaviour which are, respectively, intrinsically linked to the psychogenesis and outcome of these moods, etc.

The origination of beings acquiring and developing the capacity to think marks the rise of the human psyche itself as a totality. In becoming ‘conscious’ of nature and of ‘man-in-the making’, this same ‘man-in-the-making’ becomes conscious of itself and, therefore, necessarily a self-conscious being. ‘Man-in-the making’ becomes a ‘reflective being’ capable of ‘self-consciousness’. The consciousness of men of themselves in their life-activity becomes, simultaneously, a self-consciousness. A conscious being becomes conscious of itself and so simultaneously becomes a self-conscious being. Consciousness originates as self-consciousness where humans possess the ability to reflect on both nature and themselves. Self-consciousness as a psychological process is itself ‘internally dialogued’. This structurally replicates, ‘internally’, the social communication which takes place between people. The actual ‘dialogues’ between people form the basis for the existence of both the content and structure of the ‘internal dialogues’ of consciousness. Generally, social relations underlie all the ‘higher functions’ of the human psyche fm26).

The animal form of awareness found in non-human primates is ‘non-conscious’ whereas the human form is ‘conscious’. The animal is aware, is a sentient being, but not conscious and therefore not self-conscious, not ‘self-aware’. As conscious beings, humans are conscious of, and can reflect upon, themselves, their environment and each other, their capacities, thoughts and feelings. This ability to reflect on thought itself, to consider mentally the concatenation of thoughts and the passage of their contents into each other, their relations, meaning and significance, demarcates human beings psychologically from the animal ancestors from which they evolved. These characteristics distinguish the conscious awareness of the human being from the non-conscious awareness of the animal.

Humanity’s growing awareness of ‘living in society’ is itself a reflection of humanity’s association and struggle (activity) in order to survive and propagate itself. This awareness of ‘living in society’ becomes negatively expressed in humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature which ‘confronts men as a completely alien, all-powerful and unassailable force’ (Marx). Humanity living in nature distinguishes itself from nature as ‘other’ in the course of its transforming activity of nature. This is why it becomes ‘conscious’ of ‘living in society’. Marx understands 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  [15]

And this implies the transcendence of the ‘alienation’ of ‘man in nature’ (of humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature and, implicitly, of the sense itself of ‘living in society’?) Communism as ‘the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man’ implies the transcendence of the identification of nature as ‘otherness’ and therefore of the transcendence of the age-old sense of humanity, ‘living in society’, being distinct from nature, being ‘other’ in nature.

This sense of the ‘otherness of nature’ arises out of humanity’s subservience to, impotence in the face of, nature. Where this ‘subservience and impotence’ ends, in the ages beyond capital, lies the freedom in which humanity neither distinguishes itself from nature nor distinguishes nature from itself. Therein exists neither ‘society’ nor ‘nature’ as such (in humanity’s separation and alienation from nature) with the transcendence of this relationship of alienation but only the oneness of humanity immersed indissolubly in nature in which the ‘otherness of nature’ and the ‘otherness of socialised humanity’ has become resolved and transcended. Within this unity, this identity, this singularity, is transcended humanity’s conceptual differentiation of itself from nature and of nature from itself. Accordingly, there will be no self-identification of humanity by humanity as being ‘human’ and of ‘living in society’ and, likewise, nature is, accordingly, no longer identified by humanity as being ‘nature’.

The establishment of the relationship between the altering character of the prevailing social relations and existent forms of consciousness means that the conceptual content of human consciousness becomes subject to change and transformation on the basis of the evolution of the socio-historical process. Henceforth, the human psyche itself as a whole evolves historically in its intrinsic relationship to the development of social relations. For example, the thinking of the Neolithic farmer is animated by concerns and thoughts which are both similar and distinct from that of the modern capitalist farmer engaged in agricultural production for profit. Concerns about changing weather, disease in crops, livestock, pests, storage, etc, all preoccupied the Neolithic farmer as they do the capitalist farmer today. But the former was not concerned with the balance of the ledger book and whether rent or tax obligations can be met in the coming season because the property forms and the social relations of the two epochs are totally different. The transhistorical identities are differentiated by the specific character of distinct property forms and corresponding social relations and this dialectical relationship between the transhistorical and the historical is reflected in the different forms and modes of thought which are specific to the differentiations which distinguish and demarcate one epoch from another.

Consciousness evolves as an intrinsic, organic, mediating part of the whole socio-historical process. The historical development of the psyche – in its conceptual content, relations, structure, functions, inner complexity, etc – necessarily reflects and is reflected in the history of human society. However, at the same time, in its inner character and dynamic, it subsumes both the social and the biological within itself, incorporating them into a new psychological synthesis in the course of its psychohistorical formation and development (fm27).

Conscious thought actively mediates socio-historical relations and these relations mediate thought. There is an intermediation. The rise of consciousness (and its transforming effect on the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate) was therefore necessitated by the emergence of the social nature of hominid and later human relations. Accordingly, it started to emerge and commenced its ascent in the period of hominisation, that is, in the transition period from ancestral animal primate to human.

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions 

The purpose of this final section is to raise some questions and tentative propositions on the question of the future of the human personality beyond the capital era and in the evolution of the global commune.

We proposed in the previous section that the most fundamental relationship within the psyche itself is between the conscious and the unconscious. Can we envisage a resolution of the opposition between these two sides of the psyche into a higher synthesis, transcended into a higher form of the human psyche with a relatively more advanced form of awareness? The negation of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious is the positing of a higher human personality beyond both the conscious and the unconscious and their intermediation? The conscious and the unconscious become ‘superseded moments’ in the life-process of this higher order of the psyche?

Why should the evolution of the global commune encourage and facilitate this psychological resolution? Why should it become the social basis for this resolution and transcendence?

Does consciousness itself have a transhistorical role and, if so, what is this role in the history of society and the human personality? To prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of a higher form or order of the human psyche in the aeons succeeding the global epoch of capital? For the emergence of the higher human personality of post-capital societies? The emergence of this higher human personality, this advance, is also a ‘return’ to a naturalism beyond the alienation and artifice of previous epochs? A reconciliation of all the former development, both socio-historical and natural? Where ‘fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism’ ? (Marx, Paris Manuscripts, 1844) The ‘interim’ prepares the ground and conditions for the ‘return’ which is also simultaneously an irreversible advance?

The relationship between the conscious and the unconscious perhaps conceals the secret – revealed and manifest by social development in the ages beyond capital – to the future of the human psyche. Why? Because this relationship, in its dialectics and development, mirrors the changing and transforming character of the actual relations between Man as a social being and the natural legacy which Man has inherited as the outcome of all of pre-human evolution in its fullest sense and meaning. How this relationship alters, becomes transformed and even superseded will be determined by – and serves further to determine – the character and the evolution of the future relations between people in the post-capital aeons (the ‘social individual’ as opposed to the ‘private individual’ of bourgeois society)? This new type of human being (the ‘social individual’) will stand as the outcome of human activity taking place in the course of the social development of centuries subsequent to the negation of the capital system globally.   

A most (if not the most) fundamental question that we must address concerns the nature and quality of the subjective life of the human individual, that is, active humans as ‘feeling’ beings. ‘Feeling’ is the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves. If I am an exploited, abused, oppressed being, how does that make me ‘feel’? How does this manifest in me internally, psychologically, subjectively? And if I am free of all this, what sort of a ‘being’ am I? And what sort of relations are established between people if this becomes universal?

If I engage in activities alone or with other people which I find pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable but my subjective experience of these activities merely serves to psychologically displace my own internal pain (mental, not directly physical) whether I am conscious of this or not, then these activities merely articulate the continuation of alienation in social relations. If I drug myself with alcohol and narcotic substances because it drowns my sorrows and smothers the subjective registration of my oppression and dejection then the ‘consolation’ which I may find in such activity is a consolation which merely serves to transmute and express my alienation as an individual in a different guise. It does not transcend it but simply reaffirms it in a new form and therefore the existence of alienation as a continuing feature of social relations in general. It means that my ‘enjoyment’ is determined by and contaminated with my pain and therefore not enjoyment unmediated by this pain. Enjoyment which ceases to be mediated as such is not the crude, painful ‘enjoyment’ as bourgeois man experiences it but of a totally different and qualitatively higher order. An enjoyment which only people freeing themselves from (or free of) the alienation of bourgeois society can truly experience. Not an ‘enjoyment’ which can possibly be known to bourgeois man in the truncated crudeness and debilitating alienation of his relationships. The enjoyments of socialised humanity are of a different nature and order to that of ‘bourgeois man’.

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived  [16]

If, in societies beyond the epoch of capital, social relations no longer serve as a source of anxieties and fear, how would this transform interpersonal relationships and human behaviour in general? How would this transform the way people feel about themselves and their fellow men and women? Surely it would transform the whole of human life into a realm which we today in bourgeois society would find unrecognisable and totally ‘alien’?

If I have never experienced the anxieties, fears and alienation intrinsic to bourgeois relations then I can have no awareness of their presence or absence. I am a totally different individual to that formed by these relations. The relations within which people live their lives are totally beyond the nightmare world of pain and suffering we live in and experience today Indeed, I can have no concept of these experiences, and what they mean, because they have been superseded historically in the course of social development beyond the epoch of capital. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and is not aware of being free precisely because s/he is truly free.

It would mean the end of aggression and cruelty between human beings and a complete transformation in our relationship with both living and non-living nature in all its manifold and beautiful creation. Moreover, would it not totally alter the whole interpersonal character of sexual relations and the actual subjective experience of joy and pleasure itself? And when the ‘artificial appetites’ [Marx] and desires created by bourgeois relations lose their grip on human relations? When the commodification of our desires and pleasures ends? These alien, reified and idealised ‘things of thought’ in the epoch of global capital no longer plague the human personality?

There is an element of truth – when specifically re-contextualised socio-historically beyond its ‘ideological form’ in Buddhist thought – in the identification of ‘suffering’ and ‘desire’. How suffering breeds desire and desire contains suffering latent within itself. Yet impossible to transcend this relationship under the conditions of the current epoch. But in later epochs?

The seeking of pleasure unconsciously motivated by pain, its realisation followed by its disappearance as the re-emergence and repositing of pain in the psyche. Pleasure as the negation of ‘pain’ and, simultaneously, as its reaffirmation in its opposite form. Pleasure and pain as the mother and offspring of each other mediated by desire? The continuous re-positing and reaffirmation of pain in its negation by pleasure and vice versa. Their dialectical movement into each other. The ‘fetishisation’ of pleasure and pain as ‘things of thought’ in the current epoch of bourgeois relations? When pleasure becomes a ‘thing of thought’ (desire) does not this relation contain within itself the ‘pain’ of its non-realisation? And, moreover, the ‘pain’ of its loss after its realisation?

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction.  Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature [17]

And what of the ‘fight or flight’ response inherited from our animal ancestors? This must and will be retained so it can be activated in response to real, imminent, extra-human threat to prepare people to respond to the presence of real danger in their relations with extra-human, natural conditions of life. But its presence in the social and interpersonal relationships between people will become redundant. Why? Because those relations and forms of behaviour [such as violence, abuse, aggression, threat, war, etc] which have mediated its activation in previous societies will be transcended. With the advance of human knowledge, science and technology, even the possibilities of natural threats and disasters tend to increasingly diminish. If we understand scientifically the geological genesis, onset and effects of earthquakes, for example, then we are capable of developing the technology to intervene to prevent them, or to minimise their impact, and build structures which can resist the death and destruction which they cause.

The rationalist asserts that ‘where knowledge of natural processes has been demonstrated, religious notions and superstition about these processes are  rendered obsolete and unnecessary’ (Dawkins, etc). Yes, but why do people still cling to their religious sentiments, with all the social division implied, in the age of advanced bioevolutionary theory, biotechnology, particle physics and the high speed computer? In an age where belief, ignorance, religion and superstition have been driven from one refuge after another? Of course, education can serve as a lever for liberation and emancipation from religion and, indeed, does for many. Yet many millions still cling to their ideological ‘comfort blankets’ in an age of suffering, oppression and despair despite all the scientific and technological advances.

The need for consolation is only necessitated in and where human relationships are characterised by ‘suffering’ and ‘loss’. And if there is, diminishingly, no longer any ‘loss’ or ‘suffering’, what then? Moreover, if men no longer assert control and power over the lives of other men with all the coercion, threat, violence and aggression implied in such relations, how must this alter human relationships and their reflection in the psychology of people? An ‘unfettering’ of human potential in which humanity becomes free to socially develop its capacities without these hindrances, unrestricted by oppressive social relations and the fear engendered by them?

The psychological transformation of people only starts to take place in the transitional period as capital is being progressively dislodged from the social metabolism. This is the start of the coming-into-being of the higher communal individual, the ‘social individual’, the individual of the global ‘realm of freedom’. The realm where both private and state forms of property have been superseded and the new communal realm has established itself irreversibly on a global basis, developing and maturing on the social ground of its own self-created foundations. This is the realm of human beings no longer touched by the psychosocial legacies, in their various forms, of bourgeois relations and untainted by the memory of their impact and effects on people. When the very notion of ownership itself vanishes (because the Earth and the creations of human activity is truly without owners), this must serve as a liberating drive in the development of the human personality.



( given in square brackets thus [  ] )

[1] Leakey, R. The Origin of Humankind. (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) p.13

[2] Aiello, L. and Dean, C. An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy

(Academic Press, Elsevier Science, 2002) p.379

[3] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) p.21

[4] Lewin, R. Principles of Human Evolution (Blackwell, 1993) p.462

[5] Deacon, T.W. Biological Aspects of Language, Chapter 3.4 in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.133

[6] Deacon, T.W. The Human Brain.  (Chapter 3.2) in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.123

[7] See McKee, J.K. et al, Ibid, on the fossil evidence and adaptive function of stereoscopic vision originating in ancestral arboreal primates. pp.115-116

[8] Engels, F. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.357

[9] Leakey, R, Ibid, p.40

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

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

[12] Mithen, S. Social Learning and Cultural Tradition: Interpreting Early Palaeolithic Technology. (Chapter 7) in ‘The Archaeology of Human Ancestry. Power, Sex and Tradition’. Steele, J. and Shennan, S. (eds) (Routledge, 1996) p.217

[13] Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 5. (London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1976)  pp.44-45

[14] Trotsky, L. Trotsky’s Notebooks, 1933-1935. Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism. (Translated, Annotated and with Introductory Essays by Philip Pomper, 175 pp) New York, Columbia University Press, 1986. p.102

[15] Marx. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1959. p.43

[16] Engels, F. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.605

[17] Marx. Wage Labour and Capital, Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.83


Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

(fm1) The conflict between the existent capacities of a primate in its ‘struggle for existence’ and the demands and pressures placed on it in the struggle to survive under impacting conditions. Survival may depend on the ability to learn new skills and forms of behaviour. The consequences of not doing so resulting in extinction.

(fm2) Examples of overspecialisation and extinction in the evolution of primates or hominids. Hominids with a highly specialised diet and related dentition?

(fm3) References to this concept in Primatology and Paleoanthropology.

(fm4) The ‘radiation’ (branching) of the hominid lineage and the extinction of various branches and sub-branches.

(fm5) ‘Tradition’ meaning, in this respect, to hand down skills to succeeding generations by means of a process of mimicry and learning. From the Latin, tradere, to give up or transmit.

(fm6) Examples of the fashioning and use of simple tools in contemporary Pongidae.

(fm7) The commencement of the hominisation process in the literature

(fm8) Examples of intense crises in hominid evolution which served to accelerate the evolutionary process?

(fm9) Engels in The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man

(fm10) Engels, Ibid.

(fm11) Engels, Ibid.

(fm12) The development of the hand in hominid evolution and associated neurological developments.

(fm13) How the emergence and evolution of speech (practical language) in the Hominidae modified the structure of the vocal organs, mouth, tongue, etc.

(fm14) On the ‘plasticity’ of the human brain and the alterability, reformability and deformability of its neurological structures and processes. The learning process itself involves neurons creating new pathways and networks and making new connections.

(fm15) Changes in the size, structure and complexity of the brain as a result of the hominisation process and the effects of these developments on the development of the sense organs, eye, ear, smell, taste, sense of touch/temperature/pressure, (tactility), etc.

(fm16) Studies and literature on the origins of stereoscopic vision in arboreal primates.

(fm17) Tool making provides the basis for the survival and propagation of the hominid group. Those cultivating superior skills of tool making are at an advantage and invariably are more likely to survive than less advantaged hominid groups when subject to similar ‘survival pressures’.

(fm18) Any examples of chance discoveries in tool use/making by contemporary Pongids.

(fm19) See Luria and Vygotsky on the role of language in the cultural transmission of knowledge and technique.

(fm20) Evidence, references, citations for this in the anthropology literature.

(fm21) The ‘revolutionary’ role of the innovation and development of technique and co-operation in hominids.

(fm22) ‘Psyche as a totality’ is more complex and implicated than mere ‘consciousness’ alone. ‘Consciousness’ is not absolutely identical, without difference, to ‘psyche as a totality’ which embraces the former within this totality. The human psyche embraces conscious thought but, considered as a whole, this psyche is a qualitatively more complex phenomenon than conscious thought alone. The capacity to think is an intrinsic part of the psyche but this psyche is not simply identical to thinking per se. We must recognise that the psyche possesses an animal prehistory which predates it. This animal prehistory is sublated and becomes incorporated into the human psyche with the rise of conscious awareness in the transition from the animal to the human.

(fm23) The fundamental dialectical relationship in the human psyche between the conscious and the unconscious arises in the course of the origination of the human psyche itself from the mediation of animal instinct by the emergent conscious in our ancestors. In this way, the unconscious is really the outcome of the emergent conscious, of its mediating impact and affect on the instinctive legacy of our animal ancestry.

(fm24) In this study, hominisation is understood as the broad and lengthy evolutionary process through which ancestral animal primates developed into hominids (Hominidae) and ascended to modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens). Anthropologists differ in their estimation of the point of ‘arrival’ of ‘modern man’. However, the partial ‘integration’ and extinction of the Neanderthal line is generally thought to indicate the pre-eminence of ‘modern man’. Recent studies suggest that Homo Sapiens Sapiens emerged in Africa approximately 200,000 years BP and migrated outwards into Asia and Europe, that is, into areas which were already populated by other ‘Homo’ species such as Neanderthals. The start of the hominisation process indicates the most primaeval beginnings of conscious awareness itself and therefore the later rise of the human psyche as a totality.

(fm25) For example, the non-existence of jealousy and greed amongst prehistoric tribes and those discovered in the Amazon, etc, in modern times.

(fm26) The concept of the ‘internal dialogue’ is associated with Vygotsky’s studies in psychology. We can describe ‘internal dialogue’ as the mental process through and by which individuals ‘converse’ and ‘commune’ with themselves within the sphere of their own thinking. When people verbally ‘talk to themselves’, this is an open manifestation in speech of this internal dialogue. In the internal dialogue, individuals monitor the unfolding and progression of the conceptual content of their own thinking and feeling. The dissociation of this internal relation of thinking monitoring itself is important in the psychogenesis and development of those mental states which the psychiatrists refer to as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’, etc. For example, when one ‘side’ of the dialogue identifies the other as an external other outside the thinking subject, this can manifest, for example, as hallucination, ‘hearing voices’ as ‘external’ to self, etc, in the resulting mental state.

(fm27) The psychological in this study is understood as the synthesis of the neurobiological and the social but not within the sense and parameters of the bogus scientistic doctrine known as ‘Evolutionary Psychology’.


Shaun May

November 2018