The Instinctual System

The male and female genitalia make it evident that human beings have evolved among one another, not in isolation.  Sexuality is typically social yet has an evolutionary basis.  Here, we will briefly address how phylogenetic orders pertain to the socialization of succeeding generations. Procreation, of course, as a particular manifestation of human sexuality, has typically brought about the agents who have participated in this process.

The human capacity for language and communication is a key component of the process of socialization.  What the well-known linguist Noam Chomsky has termed the ‘language acquisition device’ is a phylogenetic potential that anticipates a social environment and which allows children to rapidly acquire the language of their given social environment. By analogy, one can understand the more elaborate culture acquisition device (Stevens 1983, 220) that anticipates a pre-existing network of knowledge (beliefs) and preferences (values) and that allows children to quickly absorb this surrounding culture. This inherited ability to take over the social stock of knowledge and preferences through the process known as primary socialization (Berger and Luckmann 1967, 129-147) is what gives social agents the capacity for cultural tradition.

A closely related manifestation is the family.  Via the meaningful actions of parents or appointed guardians, knowledge and preferences pass between generations. To be sure, the family has become more fluid in modern society; it no longer strictly corresponds to the phylogenetic form.  However, even where it has departed from its phylogenetic form, the family still facilitates human development through childhood and adolescence.  Hence, it remains a significant agent of socialization and mediator of cultural traditions.  As children grow older they also often acquire well-differentiated stocks of knowledge through educational institutions outside the family, presumably through secondary socialization (Berger and Luckmann***), but my aim here is to focus on the function of phylogenetic orders.

Still, the developmental process points to the closely related phenomenon of the life cycle, which in its ideal form consists of (a) childhood, (b) adolescence, (c) maturation, and (d) old age (Norton 1976, 158-215).  The life cycle constitutes the deep-structural level of individual biographies, and it thereby functions as an overarching constraint.  Like the family, the life cycle can be manifested in countless variations, according concrete conditions and decisions.  It is in this sense that one speaks of individuation.

Together, the culture acquisition device, family, and life cycle structure the socialization of succeeding generations—a primary subfunction of the general system of action.  These phylogentic orders constitute the deep-structural background for lifeworld dynamics as general, psycho-physiological constraints.  They do not completely or mechanistically determine human actions, yet they naturally condition them through bodily changes and affectual motivations.  In this sense, phylogenetic orders are actualized through human action, but not merely via human design.

[References forthcoming.]

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