Abstract Details

Social Memory and The Origin of Human Nature  Anton Sukhoverkhov (Philosophy, Kuban State Agrarian University, Krasnodar, Russian Federation)   C6

Feral children have taught us that to be born as a human being does not mean to be a human. To have higher cognitive functions a newborn child needs social interactions through the physical and symbolic tools (L. S. Vygotsky) with other people who have that advanced 'human nature'. However, these social preconditions for the origin of human consciousness (a necessity for enculturation and socialization) create a paradox: to be human one needs society, but the formation of such society presupposes individuals that have ex nihilo this ready-to-use 'human nature'. This problem exemplifies paradoxical relationships between the parts and the whole that can be found in various biological and social systems. In this regard, the better is formed and developed society (system) the better is the progress of individuals who form and reproduce that society. Because social systems scaffold individual growth by creating 'developmental niches' (K. Stotz), it could be stated that it is not a particular human who has been developing in the course of evolution but society (systems) in general. Individual consciousness originates from and is mediated by transgenerational social consciousness. It is argued, that the theory of social memory and non-genetic inheritance ("extended inheritance", "soft inheritance", "inclusive heritability") theory could effectively explain the origin, maintenance and transmission of this collective consciousness. For instance, natural languages are both transgenerational products and producers of social memory that accumulate knowledge and exist relatively independently on particular individuals who utilize them. Natural languages function and maintained in society more in the form of actions that are based on distributed or shared memory than just in the form of symbolic tools or innate 'language faculty' (N. Chomsky). Also, as was shown by dual inheritance theory and some others, the studies of the origin of social (cultural) memory should be integrated and compared with researches in genetic inheritance (biological memory). Thus, the theory of non-genetic inheritance, distributed cognition theory, developmental niche construction theory and some other approaches that focus on system cognitive and informational processes should be used for the advanced analysis of the origin of social memory/collective consciousness and its role for the understanding of the origin of human nature.