Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

On the Mechanisms of Moral Development in Evolutionary Historical Psychology

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

On the Mechanisms of Moral Development in Evolutionary Historical Psychology

Article excerpt

J. Piaget (1997) and his followers (Volovikova, Rebeko, 1990) have demonstrated a positive link between individual intellectual and moral development. The ethnographers' observations have empirically verified the "conflict-enculturation hypothesis": the downward course of violence with increasing age was revealed both in Western and other cultures (Munroe, et al., 2000; Chick, 1998). The American psychologist L. Kohlberg (1984) tried to apply the notion of moral development to human history as a single progressive process, but his optimistic conclusions are still subject of criticism, even by the social evolutionists.

In this article, we expound on some cross-disciplinary results carried out lately by the Russian scientists. Insights from archeology, comparative history, social psychology, cultural anthropology, ecology and biology have been synthesized. A synergetic (i.e. chaos-theory) view of society as a sustainable non-equilibrium system and of culture as a complex anti-entropy mechanism served for data integration.

Trying to discover common mechanisms and causal links, certain regularities are noted that may throw new light on two points thoroughly discussed in historical sociology and psychology. One is whether or not "panhuman history" may be reasonably construed; another is whether or not there may be observed any kind of evolution in human mentality.

In chaos-theory terms, human history and prehistory is the story of one "self-similar" system, which exists on a scale of 2.5 million years and has been successively transforming itself to maintain sustainability. Retrospective analytical procedures have shown at least five mainstreams of consecutive global transformations: increases of world population, of technological power, of organizational complexity, and of mental information capacity, and perfection of cultural regulation mechanisms.

The first three mainstreams are inferred as "empirical generalizations" that are easily illustrated with figures. The fourth and the fifth require particular arguments (Nazaretyan, 2004). It is argued that the perfection of cultural regulation mechanisms in conformity with developing instrumental intelligence has been a basic condition for all the other mainstreams.

The model of techno-humanitarian balance

Zoologists have gathered substantial evidence concerning ethological balance: that is, the more powerful species' natural killing power, the stronger the inhibition of intra-species aggression. Summing up remarkable observations in his brilliant book about aggression, Lorenz (1981) noted that we ought to regret not having the 'nature of the predator'. For had humans descended from lions instead of biologically harmless Australopithecus, he explained, we would have a much stronger aggression-retention instinct preventing warfare.

Meanwhile, comparative calculations have demonstrated that lions (and other strong predators), relative to their population, kill each other more frequently than humans do (Wilson, 1978).

This result looked sensational. First, it is true that lions, unlike humans, have a strong instinctive ban on killing conspecifies. Second, lions' natural population density differs tremendously from that of human communities, whereas concentration usually increases aggression among both animals and humans. Third, 'killing facilities' are incomparable: the assaulting lion's sharp teeth meet the enemy's strong pelt, while mutual killing among humans who are armed if only with stones, is technically very easy, and since the Stone Age, weapons' 'progress' has been enormous.

The Australian ethnographers received another interesting result having compared wars among the aboriginals with World War II. Out of all participants, only the USSR lost more human lives in relation to population numbers than primitive tribes usually did (Blainey, 1975).

According to our calculations, from 100 to 120 million people perished in all the international and civil wars of the 20th century [1]. …

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