The following is a preliminary summary of a series of books to be published in the 2020s, based on Matti Puolakka’s historical-philosophical view.

Humans have history, animals do not. The history of the human genus is an organic whole; a development from moral to political evolution, and from political to ethical evolution.

Alongside the biological family tree, “a philosophical family tree of the human genus” needs to be drawn. Alongside, and as a continuation of, the biological theory of evolution, an evolutionary theory of human societal development is needed. It is built on empirical prehistoric sciences but relies equally on the history of philosophy, humanities, social sciences, and the greatest of fiction.

In other words, we need a new philosophy of history, a new Grand Narrative.

The question of evolutionary phases is essential when creating a philosophical view of history. This does not imply that all evolution means progress – human history is a complex, and often contradictory process, but the definition of each basic phase must reflect the same fundamental logic. In the following, we rely on a definition of human society that has not been previously presented in philosophical literature.

Our evolutionary psychological roots

Some animals have socially inherited reciprocal altruism (exchange of favours, ‘ethics of fair play’) in their herds and flocks.

The socially inherited reciprocal altruism that promotes herd and flock solidarity and cohesiveness represents (animal) moral evolution. It is a specific form of cultural evolution, which in turn means social inheritance of any behaviour.

Anatomically, humans descend from apes. However, biological evolution as such did not lead to the birth of the Homo genus. What was crucial was the change in organisation. The Homo genus has its roots in all animal species whose members influence their position in their community through reciprocal altruism. When this kind of behaviour is inherited socially it is a manifestation of animal moral evolution.

Moral evolution is a specific form of cultural evolution in animals. When, for example, animal parents teach their offspring the use of tools or specific methods of hunting, it is a form of cultural, but not moral, evolution.

Moral evolution has been observed in at least humpback and killer whales and bottlenose dolphins, ravens, magpies and New Caledonian crows, African grey parrots, African wild dogs and Asian dholes, vampire bats, as well as chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and macaques, to name a few.

Bands of the Homo genus

About 2.5 million years ago

The division of labour and the resultant distribution of food in the band require common rules and monitoring mechanisms for the compliance of rules. Therein lies the sprout of a society.

A colder climate in Africa created savannas. In the new conditions, some hominid populations began to utilise carrion for food, as shown by the first stone tools suitable for cutting carcasses.

The hunter-gatherer economy was born. The livelihood of the band members depended on the mutual division of labour and distribution of commodities. The distribution was done in a controlled manner at a shared encampment. Most important was that males had to share their prey with their potential male opponents. It was a new way of social organisation and therein lay the sprout of society.

For the Homo genus, surviving outside one’s band was impossible. Survival instinct – that is, an outside pressure – forced members to submit to the discipline of their group.

In terms of societal development, all representatives of the Homo genus, ca. 2.5 million to 60,000 years ago, belonged to the same species, including our anatomical equivalent, Homo sapiens. The anatomical differences were secondary from the standpoint of the hominisation process.

Organisational development also contributed to biological evolution, e.g. by increasing the size of the brain.

The band first became the primary unit of natural selection, and finally the only one.

This 2.5-million-year period saw the emergence of the gene pool that regulates individual and group behaviour in humans. It includes both the blind lust for power and the ability to adapt to the rules that restrict it – the ability to overcome oneself.

Hunter-gatherer tribes, the first human society

About 60,000 years ago

A society is an administrative entity whose members are subject to the same rules, even when they are not in direct cooperation with one another to make their daily living. Society created the sense of justice and modern humans. Political evolution began in society.

A society has three components: central administration, basic units, and individual members. The nature of a society depends on the power relations between its components.

As the natural conditions worsened, some populations of Homo sapiens entered into permanent cooperation. Hunter-gatherer tribes were born. We call them proto-societies.

In a tribe, work and commodities were distributed inside basic units (bands), not between them. The basic units did not depend on each other for their daily livelihood. But all the members of the tribe were subject to the same rules.

The sense of justice was born. There has lately been much discussion of “emotional intelligence” and “social intelligence”. These terms are justifiable. In our view, to explain human evolution, we need a new term meaning intelligence related to the sense of justice, “ethical intelligence”.

Along with the sense of justice, human consciousness was born. This is shown in the symbols, art, innovative technology, and the ability to adapt to different conditions. Even earlier signs of these features have been found (e.g. in South Africa about 120,000 years ago). But compared to the evolution during the past 2.5 million years, the change was so dramatic and quick that no random gene mutation could bring it about.

In a tribe, the rules were essentially human rights which protected the tribe members from each other. Humans needed society to protect them from their own nature.

The sense of justice separates humans from animals. It is, by its nature, a “judge’s ethics”, a willingness to think objectively – without prioritising one’s own interest – in situations of intensely conflicting interest.

The sense of justice requires an understanding of symbols and general concepts related to what is right and wrong, what is righteous and what is not. As a result, individual members of the tribe could unite to defend the values they considered important and build friendships and love relationships based on them.

The tribes were closed organisations. Other tribes were considered enemies. Against them, the tribal “us-spirit” was animalistic. The level of violence varied considerably.

Internal relations in the tribes were mainly non-violent. The chief’s position was not inherited. Chiefs were usually replaced peacefully.

The tribe was a political organisation – settling conflicts of interest in a society – and the formation of hunter-gatherer tribes marked the beginning of political evolution.

Stateless civilisations

About 10,000 years ago

In a civilisation, different modes of production were covered by the same administrative entity. The same rules applied to all. Production became socially organised.

As the number of people covered by the same rules increased, the division of labour expanded and diversified. The issue of commodity distribution became increasingly complex.

This applies to all different kinds of civilisations. However, two opposite paths emerged: egalitarian and peaceful on the one hand, exploitative and violent (aggressive) on the other.

Civilisations began to emerge towards the end of the prehistoric era. Some groups of people settled permanently in areas where natural resources were particularly abundant. The transition to agriculture was a major turning point. It led to a permanent division of labour and trade with, e.g., farmers, cattle breeders, fishers, and hunter-gatherers. The process was long-term and complex, and depended on the natural conditions.

All civilisations were outwardly open and sought to expand.

When internal relations were relatively egalitarian, expansion was peaceful. Peaceful civilisations arose where the basic units maintained their relative economic independence. They had differences in status and some signs of violence, but no evidence of actual exploitation and warfare. The best known are Catal Hüyük, the Indus valley civilisation (Saraswati culture) and Peruvian Norte Chico (Caral).

However, peaceful civilisations disappeared in time. Stateless, aggressive class societies took over the course of development.

In a typical case, multi-tribal alliances were formed on the basis of lineages and clan ties, with one lineage and its chief rising to a dominant position. They have been called chiefdoms. They were internally unstable and lacked administrative structures that would have allowed them to subject other areas to a permanent exploitation relationship. Warfare took the form of battles to control trade routes or farmland; sometimes it was road and sea piracy.

State societies

About 5,000 years ago

States are class societies where the rules that govern everyone are not based on tradition and custom, but on written laws. Instead of kinship ties, a separate class of officials and a professional army were created to enforce them.

The reason and purpose for the existence of states is to defend their interests over other states – ultimately, war.

Throughout history, opposing tendencies for self-destruction and self-knowledge, lawlessness and legality, and war and peace have existed within the same administrative entity. Both tendencies have become stronger. The development towards the unification of the human species began in state societies. Because the tendency for self-destruction still dominates, it is possible that the humanity “unites” in self-destruction.

The first city-states were organisations of exploitation and oppression, and a breeding ground for professional armies. They emerged independently in only a few regions around the world, but thanks to the new rule based on law and literacy, they were able to subdue foreign territories, nations and countries relatively permanently. Although empires rose and fell, the state structure spread almost all over the world during recorded history.

The state societies also launched an unprecedented development of science, technology and culture. It was fuelled by the struggle between opposing tendencies, which took place not only between different classes and layers of society but also within them.

Important milestones in this include:

The birth of philosophy in ancient Athens. Philosophy – or the search for truth as an end in itself – was a significant turning point in the self-knowledge of humanity. It laid the foundation for a later scientific revolution. The debate over righteousness in ancient Athens is still one of the essential building blocks of a scientific view of human nature today.

The birth of the modern world. During the Middle Ages, Western Europe lagged far behind, e.g. from China’s high culture. However, the lack of a strong central authority allowed the development of independent local communities. Since the 12th century, especially in the Italian city-states, a democratic and imperialistic market economy (so-called capitalism) was born. It launched an unprecedented, but at the same time a very contradictory, development.

Production for the market required democracy and the rule of law within the ruling class. That is what separated the modern world from earlier class societies. The expansion of trade also led to the creation of international law based on the sovereignty of states.

Industrial revolutions initially led to working days of up to 16 hours on hunger wages, child labour, etc. The imperialist states carried out ruthless oppression in their colonies, sparking rebellions and movements for independence.

Under the conditions of the modern world, most of the population has increasingly had the opportunity to fight for democratic rights and equality before the law against economic exploitation and politically ideological oppression.

The past era. The rise and fall of the global socialist system and the communist world movement was the most significant event of the era. When evaluating it, one must consider what it was created against, i.e. the development stages of the so-called capitalism from colonialism to neo-colonialism and world wars.

The democratic market economy and the rule of law have proven to be the only sustainable foundation on which to build. On the other hand, without summarising the experiences of the past era and without a preserving negation (in a Hegelian sense) of Marxism, it is not possible to create a new historical-philosophical view of the path and the future of humanity.

Turn of the era. Speculative financial capital has become a global power. It includes forces that threaten the democratic structures of states. On the other hand, the information technological revolution offers completely new opportunities for every member of the human species to participate in the decision-making of their own lives and of humanity as a whole.

Global society

Modernity and future

A global society is not a state in the traditional sense because it has no external enemies. Like all societies, it is divided into three basic components: 1) Central power, i.e. the global alliance of states (e.g. the UN); 2) states, and within them, parties and other interest groups; and 3) ethical civil society from the local to the global level.

Humanity can only become united when there is a profound change in the nature of states. Ethical civil society is the driving force for this change.

The aim of the global ethical civil society is that the humanity as a whole will be protected by the same universal human rights based on the experiences of the history of the human species.

The human being as a species has become the unit of natural selection. To survive, humanity must unite on the basis of its self-knowledge, otherwise, it will destroy itself.

A global society has already started to gradually emerge. On a general level, it is possible to outline its features based on the history of societies and the conceptualisation of discernible trends in development, but, naturally, this is a process that lasts for several generations, and the details of it cannot be seen in advance.

The roots of a global society lie in the democratic rule of law and the development of international law.

Ethical civil society – networks of individuals aware of their rights and obligations – is a driving force for development in a global society.

Unlike previous insurgency movements, ethical civil society does not serve the interests of any class or interest group, but the general good of humanity.

Unlike previous insurgency movements that sought to repeal existing laws, an ethical civil society strives towards a “legal revolution” – for democratic market economies to abide by their laws and accepted international agreements. Legislation certainly also needs improvement. As and when it is possible, states begin to lose their imperialist character.

The struggle for social justice is ultimately a struggle for an honest debate culture. A wide educated worldview debate is the most fundamental means of promoting the decentralisation of ideological, political, and economic power on a national level.

Ethical civic media becomes a new type of “fourth estate” that meets the demands of the era.

In a global society, humanity enters the path of ethical evolution. Its fundamental principles are the basic lessons of the history of humankind:

  • Decentralisation of ideological, political, and economic power; and
  • “One must get paid for truthfulness, solidarity, and a sense of justice”.
Homo sapiens with both the anatomy and the consciousness of modern humans.

= social inheritance of cooperative behaviour based on reciprocal altruism in herds or flocks of animals, bands of the Homo genus and human societies.

= societal development while the human society and the actual modern human being were born.

= societal development in the future global society.

= the essential features of all the earlier stages in the evolution of the Homo genus can be seen in the behaviour and organisation of the modern human being.