7 The Freeing of Memory

Species and Ethnic Group

Since the eighteenth century philosophers have been divided between two positions on the relationship between animal and human societies-one that sees the animal and human worlds as essentially identical, and one that accentuates the disparity between them. Both outlooks actually form part of the same movement, which goes back to the very origins of philosophy: the perception of an opposition between the material and the mental. This perception has been cast in many ideological molds over the centuries, and the opposition of nature to culture, of the zoological to the sociological, has reemerged again and again from the earliest metaphysical thinking down to contemporary sociology. If we study the view of the animal world held by Australian aborigines or Eastern Siberians, we find that fundamentally there is no essential difference between animal and human, that both have received the same intellectual gifts, and that their reactions, as reflected in myths over the ages, admit of parity and of a possible continuity of relations between them. The same view is apparent in the traditional European fairy tale, where animals speak and behave like humans.

The attitude recurs today in literary form, whether it be traditional tales, the stories of Kipling, or the adventures of Mickey Mouse. The fact that this type of writing is regarded as "children's literature" in no way diminishes its significance. Between this attitude and that of the nineteenth-century naturalist confronted with the social life of ants, the difference is minimal. Anthropocentrism is at work in the search for the "language" of ants no less than in the many fairy tales in which a bear marries a human girl. And perhaps it is at work again in the efforts made to establish a radical separation between animal and human by opposing instinct to intelligence.

In mythological thought animal and human partake of the same essence, but their paths diverge at a certain point. The bear or the serpent are males, the bird maiden is a female, when each has shed its outer skin of bear, serpent, or wild goose. Dressed in that outer skin, they adopt the species behavior that goes with it, exactly in the same way as people assume the behavior of their ethnic group or social class when they assume its clothing. This attitude, likewise anthropocentric, reveals a perception of the division of the living world into sociological units with distinct habits, customs, and external attributes, in contrast with the identity of living beings in their natural state. This view is so spontaneous and so universal that it cannot but reflect a real fact, that of the separation between our physical self and our external social shell. It extends to the animal world something that is specifically true of us, but it analyzes the essential fact that we belong to two worlds, the zoological and the sociological. It also brings out another essential fact, namely that we are humanly significant only through the behavior peculiar to our group, and if we bear in mind that in myths animals are identified with actual ethnic groups, it leads on to the recognition of the determining character of ethnic differences.

In the scientific thought of the past two centuries the same attitudes are to be seen on two levels in the study of the respective functions of intelligence and instinct and in the search for the dividing line between the natural and the cultural. The first is concerned with animal psychology, the second with ethnology. Our earlier comments on the development of anthropoid societies by stages in which the link between the zoological and the sociological has become progressively more tenuous show that the problem can arise simultaneously at both levels, or rather that there is a possible third level that comes very close to our empirical picture of preliteral societies. Within the context of this third track, the problem of grouping would dominate the question of what is animal and what is human. Society of both animals and humans would be seen as maintained within a body of "traditions" whose basis is neither instinctive nor intellectual but, to varying degrees, zoological and sociological at one and the same time. To an outside observer the only thing that a society of ants and a human society have in common is the existence of traditions which ensure from one generation to the next the transmission of action sequences required for the social group's survival and development. We may argue over what is like and unlike in the two groups, but each survives thanks to the exercise of a real memory in which behaviors are stored. In animals this memory-peculiar to every species-is based on a highly complex instinctual apparatus, whereas in anthropoids the memory of each ethnic group rests on the no less complex apparatus of language.

To oppose instinct to language rather than to intelligence is legitimate only if there is true correspondence between the two terms so opposed, and that correspondence is what we shall try to demonstrate in this chapter. If it is true to say that the species is the characteristic form of animal grouping and the ethnic group of human grouping, then a particular form of memory must correspond to each body of traditions

Instinct and Intelligence

Countless studies have been devoted to the apparently insoluble problem of intelligence and instinct The debate, dominated by anthropocentric ideas until the early twentieth century, seems to have lost much of its vigor in the past generation Neither instinct nor intelligence can be regarded as causes: They are effects. instinct does not explain instinctive behavior; rather, philosophically speaking, it characterizes the accomplishment of certain complex processes of different origin. In the case of an individual, instinct may be said to be located at the intersection of the means specific to that individual and the external causes for deploying those means in action sequences. The external causes may be provided by education as well as by stimulation

The distinction between instinct and intelligence is of practical interest only at the extremes of the scale-in insects as well as in humans-and even there its real value is difficult to measure. The action programs of the lower vertebrates are closely conditioned by their internal environment and by external stimuli The active behavior of an amoeba or an annelid can be reduced to short sequences triggered or prolonged by causes unrelated to what might be termed "automatic intelligence" as opposed to "intelligence based on reflection" Therefore it is not possible to trace the supposed transformation of instinct into intelligence by starting at the bottom end of creation and proceeding to the higher animals. The only fact that emerges from experimental study of animal behavior is the plasticity of an individual animal's behavior in relation to its specific means. This must be interpreted as a liberation not from instinct, but from the fixed sequences established at the confluence of the individual's internal biological environment and the exterior. The question is thus one of nervous apparatus rather than of the existence of a property peculiar to the animal condition. More precisely, the nervous system is not an instinct-producing machine but one that responds to internal and external demands by designing programs.


Today the concept of instinct appears too vague. We have become aware of the complexity of hereditary behavior patterns. But the existence of species-related memory14 is difficult to challenge. It may manifest itself in action sequences resulting from the individual's gradual conditioning by external influences, to which it responds in the only ways for which it is hereditarily designed. The fact remains, however, that as one generation succeeds another the same sequences-or very similar ones-are reproduced from individual to individual. Instinct expressed as species-related memory is a reality only inasmuch as the resulting action sequences are constant in nature. Hence what is at issue is not the contrast between instinct and intelligence but only the opposition of two modes of programming, one of which- the insect mode-involves a maximum of genetic predetermination and the other- the human mode-apparently none at all. In fact the distinction is reflected in brain mechanisms which differ very widely between insects and humans, and the problem is less a matter of philosophy than of neurophysiology.

All living organisms can be divided into three groups in terms of instinct and intelligence. The first is that of the lower invertebrates with their very rudimentary brain system in which the programs take the form of short, stereotyped sequences of very simple actions reflecting the state of the balance between the organism and its environment. The memory of animals such as the earthworm, the slug, or the limpet can readily be compared to that of an electronic machine in the sense that (1) the animal is born with a determined range of needs and means of satisfying them, (2) its action sequences represent a struggle for balance between organic impulses and the external environment in a cycle where the action series is determined by physiological or external causes, and (3) the memory is incorporated in programs that determine the animal's conditioning. Nervous systems of this simple type have already been artificially reproduced, and the electronic apparatus employed in rocket control is already more complex than the brain of the lower molluscs or of annelids.

The second group is a good deal more problematic. It is represented by the bee or the ant, insects whose behavior appears to imply the presence of highly complex genetically recorded programs that go into operation at once and with disconcerting development in both the larva and the imago. The execution of these programs is today known to be less perfect than earlier authors had thought, but it would still be difficult to regard them simply as the interplay of external and internal environments causing the formation of a conditioned memory. In seeking to explain the insect's choice of plants or prey for its nourishment, its building practices, or its

activities pertaining to social cohesion, we are obliged to adopt the concept of a nervous apparatus with highly determined responses to visual, olfactory, and tactile impressions. Such hereditary determination implies the existence of a potential memory whose operations appear preconceived because only a minimal choice of possible responses is available. We can, however, imagine an artificial apparatus that might select impressions created by light or by chemicals-or else by vibrations- and channel them into complex action sequences. We could even envisage a system that would allow a certain indeterminacy, a possible choice between impressions perceived as being equivalent. If every internal chemical state produced a specific reaction to impressions received from the outside, the economy of such a control mechanism would be very close to an insect's.

The third group would include vertebrates. Here the behavior of the lower invertebrates is reproduced in that the operating memory is largely conditioned by mechanical determinism, physiological impulses, and the demands of the external environment. Again, although ever less strongly as each branching achieves a higher degree of cerebral development, conditioning is connected with the existence of potential memory or, in other words, of automatic, "instinctual" behavior, which is the result of a genetic selection of possible responses. The vertebrate behaves as if following a preestablished program, an "instinct" whose consequences we may sometimes think absurd because it cannot adapt to situations not stored in the collective memory, whereas in fact it is producing a series of linked responses within the limits of its organic possibilities. Almost the entire behavior of the lower vertebrates (fish and reptiles) is of the first two types; we can imagine an electronic device that would, like the lizard, respond to phototropic or thermotropic stimuli, become more active with rising temperature, pursue any moving prey of swallowable size, reject any prey whose consistency or taste was recorded as being dangerous, and exhibit colored panels when visually or olfactorily excited. It should be added that actions performed for the first time by a process of trial and error would be recorded as programs in a series of memories whose interplay might subsequently trigger complex operating sequences, going so far as to cause a reversal of behavior during the performance of a sequence. What is conceivable in fish and reptiles is also, and to a much more complex degree, conceivable in birds, which demonstrate in profuse detail that the most elaborate part of automatic behavior is connected with reproductive activity. This is a general fact to which I shall revert in the chapter on "symbols of society" in connection with the relationship between aesthetics and the maintenance of group cohesion. In our present context we need only


note that the elaborateness of automatic behavior varies considerably between, on the one hand, actions performed for individual survival and, on the other hand, those taken to ensure the survival of the species.

The behavior of the lower vertebrates may form part of the memory of higher vertebrates and may indeed constitute its main bulk. But as we rise higher in the series we obsene a ne v element that suggests that the two earlier pictures may not be altogether complete. The characteristic feature of the individual behavior of mammals, at least so far as survival behavior is concerned, is the possibility of choice between aaion sequences, of checking the adequacy of each potential response to a given situation-a margin of control that varies from one species to another but is already very considerable in carnivores and primates. If we pursued the analogy with electronic devices, we should have to add to the apparatus for triggering responses and memorieS another mechanism capable of comparing and of orienting the device toward a particular response. Within the sweep of evolution, nervous systems in fact appear to have progressed in two opposite directions, some (those of insects and birds) toward behavior channeled more and more narrowly by the nervous apparatus and others (those of mammals and humans) toward a prodigious enrichment of the nerve pathways by connective elements capable of establishing connections between new situations and already experienced ones. The individual's memory, formed in the earliest period of life, then takes precedence over the species memory, which is merely the result of the hereditary arrangement of the nervous system.

Instinct and Freedom

One of the basic characteristics of humanity is the possession of a brain capable of making comparisons. Regulatory controls of elementary behavior are still present, however, in the lower stages of the human nervous system, and especially in the sympathetic system: The organism is subject to the same laws of balance between the external and the internal environment as that of the simplest invertebrates. The middle level, "instinct," is also present inasmuch as our operating behavior is molded by the genetic framework. Since sight and hearing are our predominant sense, our actions are genetically different from those of an animal whose chief references might be those of smell and touch. If instinct resides in the accomplishment of actions the implements for which are genetically conditioned, then a good deal of our activity is instinctual. In the short lineages that form within our constantly changing mass of humanity, genetically acquired intellectual or physical "gifts" represent the equivalent of the "instinctual" capital of animal lineages. The parallelism between

the innate aptitudes of human individuals and those of animal species helps us to understand the nature of instinctual behavior. In neither case are we dealing with mysterious programs transmitted by atavism and developing automatically under favorable circumstances, but rather with hereditary neurovegetative mechanisms that permit the constitution of a memory recorded in action sequences. Among a thousand individuals given a musical education, only one may be genetically conditioned to become a great performer of whom it could be said that he or she played "by instinct"; but among a thousand musically gifted individuals only one perhaps will receive a musical education-the others will never have a chance to form their memory for musical execution, and the connection between their genetic aptitudes and the demands of the external environment will never be established. Vocational guidance in modern societies is only the empirical search for the genetic aptitudes that exist in humans as they do throughout the animal world.

Human operating behavior therefore draws upon a very extensive instinctual fund composed both of mechanisms for the regulation of deep organic impulses common to all individuals and of mechanisms capable of recording operating programs whose details may vary from one individual to another. This margin of individual variation, which is considerably wider than in even the most developed mammals, is an essential trait of human society. The "thinker," the inventor, the virtuoso, perform a crucial role in the dialogue between the physical entity and the collective organism that is society. We must realize that the presence of individual genius may be genetically normal in the human species and that progress is less a matter of personal genius than of a favorable collective environment.

That these facts are to some extent recognized is illustrated by the relative positions of spirituality and materialism in the ideologies of recent societies. In the great religions, and especially in Christianity, individual genetic aptitudes cannot cross the threshold of eternity, and hierarchy in those religions rests upon foundations that have nothing to do with such gifts. The saint is not necessarily a thinker nor an inventor or a virtuoso, but rather one who breaks out of the operating cycle and goes beyond and outside it. All great metaphysical philosophies are based upon this break which reflects our liberation from the genetic link and at the same time from the social one (at a different level, this reflects the homology of the species with the ethnic group). Materialist ideology-present not only in Marxist societies but, in pragmatic form, in all human societies-tends, on the contrary, to accentuate social efficiency. It emphasizes the importance of the genetic link by making a hero of the "gifted" individual. In capitalist societies the choice is made within the framework of a hierarchy divided into social classes, whereas Marxist societies tend to make use


of genetic possibilities through the institution of "heroes of labor" and the cult of personality, a linear hierarchy founded upon the efficacy of individuals.

The human problem cannot, however, be understood with the help of instinctual factors alone. The all-too-often forgotten share of the zoological in human behavior must certainly be taken into account, but if we failed to integrate the mind in the general biological process we should be dealing with the infrastructure alone. In chapter 3 we saw the results of destroying the motor areas of the cerebral cortex change in a most revealing manner from the dog to the monkey and from the monkey to human. In the dog ablation of the motor cortex brings about an inability to remember operating sequences acquired by learning; in the monkey the zones of association bordering on the main motor area must also be eliminated, and in the human only the destruction of a very large area indeed will produce the same result. Earlier these facts provided us with the means of tracing the main stages of development toward reflective motor function. In our present context they indicate to some extent the degree of freeing of the human brain. The increasinglywide aureole that surrounds the centers of voluntary motor function corresponds to intelligence in the strict sense, that is, both to the capacity to store large numbers of operating sequences in the memory and to the capacity to choose between sequences. Between the most highly developed monkey and the human being, the difference in terms of freedom of choice is qualitative. True, the most intelligent anthropoid ape can never compare between more than a limited number of programs and its comparisons must rely on a considerably smaller neuronic apparatus than the human's, but the difference is essentially a matter of quality because reflexion is closely connected with language.

In our most common operations, language does not seem to intervene at all. We perform many actions in a twilight state of consciousness not basically different from that in which animals perform theirs. But as soon as the operating sequence is governed by choice it requires the intervention of a lucid consciousness closely connected with language. Freedom of behavior is attainable only at the level of symbols, not of actions, and symbolic representation of actions is indissociable from comparison between actions. From the lower animals to the higher mammals, the reladve shares of conditioning acquired genetically and by learning are gradually reversed until a choice between simple operations becomes possible. But operating behavior remains completely rooted in lived experience, for projection can only take place once operations have been freed from their materiality and transformed into sequences of symbols. If we want to compare animal instinct with human intelligence, we must depart from the traditional meaning of each of those terms: We

must view instinct as a set of phenomena so complex that the word no longer has a precise meaning, and intelligence as the ability to project symbolic sequences. This is tantamount to regarding language as the instrument of liberation from lived experience. In a parallel manner the hand-tool could be seen as the instrument of liberation from the genetic constraints by which an animal's organic implements are tied to the zoological species. At the level of language therefore, as at that of the implement, human intelligence observes the relationships we have already described.

Human technical behavior, with its consequences for the headlong development of the instrumental apparatus of society, needs to be considered at three levels: species-related, socioethnic, and individual. At the species-related level, human technical intelligence is connected with the degree of development of the nervous system and the genetic programing of individual aptitudes; certain proportions aside, nothing distinguishes it fundamentally from the behavior of animals, especially as regards its obedience to the extremely slow rate of species development in general. At the socioethnic level, human intelligence behaves in a wholly particular and unique manner in that, transcending both individual and species-related limits, it creates a collective organism with astonishingly rapid evolutive properties. For the individual the degree of socioethnic constraint is as imperative as the zoological constraint that causes one to be born Homo Sapiens, but the terms of the former are different from those of the latter to the extent that, under certain conditions, they admit of the possibility of a certain degree of individual liberation.

At the individual level the human species is equally unique because, having received from the human cerebral apparatus the ability to compare between situations translated into symbols, the individual is capable of freeing him or herself symbolically from both genetic and socioethnic bonds. This enfranchisement forms the basis for the two complementary situations between which human reality is lived: one in which comparison between different operating sequences leads to material mastery over the organic world, and one in which enfranchisement from the organic world takes place through the creation of the intuitive situations in which human spirituality consists.

Social Memory

In primates hereditary operating behavior is increasingly influenced by an individually constituted memory; in humans the problem of operational memory is dominated by that of language. Although the role of genetic conditioning and con-


ditioning through individual experience remains considerable, it is completely overlaid by education, through which human individuals receive the whole of their operating behavior. Individually construned memory and the recording of personal behavior programs are entirely channeled through knowledge, whose preservation and transmission in all ethnic communities is ensured by language. This creates a genuine paradox: The individual's possibilities for comparison and liberation rest upon a potential memory whose entire contents belong to society. In insects memory is vested in society only to the extent that the latter represents the survival of a certain genetic combination in which the individual's possibilities of comparison are practically nil. But the human is both a zoological individual and the creator of social memory, a fact that may shed light upon the manner in which species-related and ethnic factors affect human behavior and that uniquely human two-way traffic between the innovative individual and the social community that makes for progress.

The most important consequences of the transfer of ethnic memory outside the zoological species are the individual's freedom to transcend the established ethnic framework and the ability of ethnic memory itself to progress. When we compare human societies with insect ones, we sometimes forget that in the latter genetically recorded behavior is dominant and imperative: Each individual must possess the entire capital of collective knowledge, and the society can evolve only at the rate of the paleontological drift. No really well-founded term of comparison between the two kinds of societies is conceivable because humans are free to create their own situations, even if these are only symbolic. Rapid and continuous evolution could apparently be achieved only by breaking the link between species and memory, an exclusively human soludon. That being so, human sociedes can never become imprisoned in behavior comparable to that of insects. Their way and ours have been completely divergent all along. Paleontologists have often pointed out that our specialization consists in preserving the very general nature of our apUtudes. This applies far beyond the purely physical context. It is true that we run less quickly than the horse, cannot digest cellulose like the cow, climb less well than the squirrel, that our whole osteomuscular mechanism is superspecialized only in remaining capable of doing all of those things, but the most important fact is that the human brain has evolved in such a way that it remains capable of ~inking everything-and that it is virtually empty at birth.

Individuals at birth are faced with a body of tradidons that belong to their ethnic group; a dialogue takes place, from childhood, between the individual and the social organism. Tradidon is as biologically indispensable to the human species as

genetic conditioning is to insect sociedes: Ethnic survival relies on routine, the dialogue taking place produces a balance between rouhne and progress, routine symbolizing the capital required for the group's survival and progress the input of individual innovations toward a better survival.

The peculiar character of social memory emerges at another level as well. The creation of the first art)ficial tool by the first anthropoid put technics outside the scope of zoological realities and outside the multimillennial course of evolution, and at the same time made the social memory capable of adding to itself at a rapid rate. We have seen in earlier chapters that cerebral evoludon before Homo sapiens remained incomplete and that technical evolution seemed to follow the very slow development of what humans still lacked in order to acquire an adequate apparatus for making comparisons. We have also seen that from the moment of the disappearance of the prefrontal ridge, a characteristically human evolution led to the birth of a technical world that drew upon resources outside the confines of genetic evolution. From the emergence of Homo sapiens, the constitudon of an apparatus of social memory dominates all problems of human evolution; in chapter 9 we shall see by what means, up to and including the creation of an artificial brain, sociedes have attempted to record and preserve their uncontrollably growing capital of knowledge.

Once again, the dichotomy between the material and the moral becomes apparent. The theme of "man outstripped by his techniques" emphasizes the disparity between the evoludon of technology and that of society's moral apparatus: In the course of thousands of years, we have acquired the technical means that have helped us to achieve an individually balanced mastery over the material environment, yet at the same time we continue in a disordered manner to employ a major part of those means in satisfying our predatory tendencies which hark back to times when humans were fighting the rhinoceros. This apparent inability to constitute a "lived" moral behavior on the level of our technical behavior has nothing abnormal or particularly distressing about it. It has, we hope, been demonstrated clearly enough that human evolution did not begin with the brain but with the feet, and that higher human qualites were able to emerge only in so far as the basis for their emergence had been constituted much earlier. For thousands of years individuals have had access to concepts of moral equilibrium quite as advanced as those achieved in technology. Societes have enshrined these concepts in their great moral and religious laws, but the genetic behavior of the mass of individuals who constitute society has not been freed from its fundamental constraints, which remain essendally pred-


atory. Must we then conclude that tens of thousands of years must pass before a human brain more developed than that of Homo sapiens puts into effect the contents of moral memory? That is far from obvious; on the contrary, we believe that progress in this field, although strongly hampered by our incomplete liberation from biological constraints, nevertheless benefits from the means offered by technology for the collective arousal of our consciousness. The means of channeling and orienting our species-determined aggressivity may come from a clear perception of biological laws. Its total disappearance would probably mean the end of the human species, but conscious control of the link between thought and our physiological apparatus offers an optimist/c prospect of the future.

Operational Memory

The forming of operational sequences raises, at its various stages, the problem of the relationship between the individual and society. Progress is achieved through the cumulative effects of innovations, yet group survival is condidoned by the recording of a collective capital presented to individuals in tradidonal life-sustaining programs. Operational sequences are formed as a result of interaction between experience, which conditions the individual by a process of trial and error identical to that of animals, and education in which language occupies a variable, though always decisive, place. We have seen earlier that human operation al behavior comprises three stages. The first takes place at a deep level and is an automatic form of behavior directly connected with our biological nature. This stage provides the basis upon which education eventually imprints the data of tradition. Physical attitudes, eating habits, and sexual behavior rest upon this genetic base, their modalities being strongly marked by ethnic nuances. The second stage is that of mechanical behavior and includes operation al sequences acquired through experience and education, recorded in both gestural behavior and language but taking place in a state of dimmed consciousness which, however, does not amount to automatism because any accidental interruption of the sequence will set off a process of comparison involving language symbols. This process leads on to the third stage, that of lucid behavior, in which language plays a preponderant role, either by helping to repair an accidental interruption of the sequence or by creating a new one.

These three stages succeed one another at each level of human behavior in varying proportions and in direct relationship with the survival of the social mechanism.

Mechanical Operational Sequences

Like any attempt to divide a continuum, the division of operational behavior into these three stages is arbitrary, but it coincides with the psychologists' categories of the unconscious, the subconscious, and the conscious, which in turn correspond to three levels of operation of the human neuropsychological apparatus. This distinction is certainly more important than one that might be drawn between insdoct and intelligence in that it separates strictly insdnctual, genetically channeled acdons from sequences in which language and consciousness do not intervene in an ordered manner and do not express themselves through symbols. Psychological terms could no doubt be applied to technical operations, but they carry all kinds of implications that itwould be best to avoid in the present context. In speaking of operational sequences, we therefore propose to use the terms "automatic," "mechanical," and "lucid" or "fully conscious."

Ethnology ignores automatic praaices because it is more interested in what makes cultures different from one another than in what all humans have physiologically in common. Racial anthropology attaches some importance to identifying differences in the physical functioning of different races, and has even attempted to establish something like a racial psychology. But practically nothing is known about what is genetically significant; most of the differences observed belong to the cultural superstructure. Literature on the subject of "wolf children," strongly tinged as it is with legend, yields hardly any scientific information as to what a human being living exclusively off the genetic fund might be like. Although the role of our anatomical and physiological heritage is undoubtedly decisive, we must finally conclude that spontaneous behavior in the human species is overlaid by behavior acquired through the social community. Within the perspective adopted in this book, however, we must not fail to attach due importance to spontaneous behavior. The problem will be taken up again later in the context of gesture and of aesthetic categories.

Although data on the automatic aspeas of operation al behavior are scarce, praaices whose roots are to be found in colleaive life offer opportunitiesof observing the influences exercised reciprocally by the individual and the environment. Every aaion performed by an individual forms part of his or her operational behavior, but it does so in different forms and with different degrees of intensity depending on whether the practice is elementary and recurrent on a daily basis, occasional or exceptional. The programs involved presuppose different levels of intelleaual aaivity and different relationships between the individual and society. Elementary pracdces are the individual's vital programs. They include all those daily actions that affect


one's survival as an element of society: bodily constitution, dietary and hygienic habits, actions performed in the exercise of one's profession, actions involved in one's association with family and friends, and so forth. These programs, drawn from an unchanging fund, are organized in sequences of stereotyped gestures whose repetition ensures the individual's normal balance within the social environment and his or her own psychological comfort within the group. Elementary operational sequences are acquired early in life through training by imitation, experience by trial and error, and verbal communication. The individual's integration in society depends upon the smooth performance of these operation al sequences in normal life. Most of the sequences we perform between waking and going to bed require only slight conscious intervention; they take place, not in a state of automatism where consciousness would be nil, but in a psychological twilight from which the individual is aroused only by some unforeseen occurrence. In the gestures we perform when washing and dressing or eating our meals or writing , the return to full consciousness is exceptional but it is decisive, and that is why I prefer to speak of "mechanical operational sequences" rather than of automatic, unconscious, or instinctive ones.

Mechanical operational sequences form the basis of individual behavior; they are our essential element of survival. Under the condidons of human life they take the place of "instina" because they imply a high level of potential cerebral aaivity or "cerebral availability." Operational behavior requiring constant full consciousness is anually unimaginable, just as is completely condidoned operation al behavior in which full consciousness can be dispensed with altogether-the former because every gesture, including the least significant, would have to be reinvented, the latter because it would presuppose a completely preconditioned, and therefore inhuman, brain. The human brain is so designed that it can reserve a part of its availability by creating elementary programs that guarantee freedom of behavior under exceptional circumstances. These elementary pranices, whose sequences begin at birth, place the strongest ethnic imprint upon the individual. The gestures, attitudes, and ways of behaving in humdrum day-to-day situations form that part of our link with the original social group from which we never free ourselves even when transplanted into a different class or ethnic environment.

Today's polidcal readjustments and the general process of "planetarization " currently taking place are causing serious problems in this respea. For the individual, the divers)fication of ethnic groups and the emergence of operational praadces common to fairly large social units are a matter of psychological balance. In our particular zoological group the ethnic unit replaces the species: human individuals dif

fer ethnically as animals do in terms of their species. At the level of elementary practices, this specificity is perceived only by contrast: Certain gestures that I perform are felt to be peculiar to my group only by contrast with those of strangers. Ethnic practices are thus a source of differentiation, though, by the same token, also of comfort and intimacy among members of the same group, and they make individuals isolated in a strange environment feel even more uprooted. Completely interchangeable individuals would no doubt benefit society, in its role of consumer of individuals in the name of social progress, but to what extent would society still encompass members if they ceased to be ethnically diverse? Whatever the answer to that quesdon may be (we shall revert to it later), mechanical operation al sequences form the fund of individual behavior common to members of the same ethnic group. They are performed at a deep level of colleaive memory and involve language only to a limited extent. Not until a very advanced stage of organization of colleaive consciousness do we find the social or professional gesture written down in books on edquette, "how-to" books, or textbooks on ethnography. The transmission of elementary sequences is essentially conneaed with the organization of social cells of limited size and, in particular, of families or groups of children or adolescents. Games involving imitation of adults play an important role in this process.

Thus active individuals orient the major part of their andvides with the help of programs established in the course of their ethnic group's development and recorded in their motor memory by education. They perform these anion sequences or "chains" in a state in which full consciousness intervenes in order, as it were, to adjust the links of the chain. To put it more precisely, lucidity follows a sinusoidal curve whose troughs are mechanical series and peaks represent adjustments of those series to the operation's specific circumstances. This is already a characteristic of the intelligence of higher mammals. In us it is so intense as to be one of the decisive charaaeristics of human behavior. Conscious intervention, conneaed as it is with the ability to compare, not only orients the operational process but also enables us to cope with accidental situations-that is, to rectify the operational process by adjusting the appropriate links of the chain. The possibility of reaifying, of making improvements both in the field of social relatdons and in that of technology, is the invention facor: It reasserts the role of the human individual as inventor in the general course of progress. The charaaeristic capacity of human societies to accumulate and preserve technical innovations is connected with the collective memory. Our role is to organize our operational sequences consciously toward the creation of new processes.


Periodically Recurring or Exceptional Operational Sequences

In the case of operations that go beyond mechanical sequences-seasonally recurring agricultural activities, giving a feast, building a house, group fishing or hunting-the collective memory is organized differently. The role of the mechanism that records the operational series in the collective memory varies in importance depending on the length of the interval at which the operation is performed. In each case language intervenes as the medium for the actions to be performed. All societies without writing possess a range of means of preservation in the form of proverbs, precepts, or recipes, often stored in the memory of only a few individuals. Periodic operations, especially long-term ones, require more than mechanical storage and represent one of the traits that most radically distinguish human society from the rest of the zoological world. In animal societies there are operations that occur seasonally or only once in the lives of individuals, triggered by the succession of seasons or by physiological maturing. The animal will' then perform new sequences within the channel of its genetic preconditioning, or it will pick up the thread of operations already experienced under identical conditions. Much of the human attitude toward periodic operations is also connected with the seasonal cycle and with physiological maturing: The same collective operation is lived differently depending on the individual's age and experience, but the process is traditional rather than genetic and is maintained in a set of verbal formulations that forms part of the ethnic capital.

Operational Behavior as a Whole

Human operational behavior, although apparently forming a single whole, thus involves several highly complex processes. It is of course closely connected with social life, but it cannot be circumscribed either by crudely contrasting human intelligence with the bee's instinct or by concluding that because both insects and human beings live in society, their societies are essentially the same.

The human in fact is both closer to the animal world than the traditional dichotomy between instinct and intelligence would have us think and much further from it than might be inferred from the striking similarities between the social structures of all animals with an organized collective life. We seem to have lost nothing of what may have been our remote kinship with the trilobite or the earthworm. Every element of psychological organization that the vertebrate needs for its vital balance we need too. But all these elements are the steering wheel that steers our vegetative activity behind what is particular and peculiar to ourselves alone: our symbolizing faculty, or to put it more generally, that property of the human brain that consists in

maintaining a distance between lived experience and the organism that serves as its medium. The problem of the dialogue between the individual and society, which has come up in connection with the question of intelligence and instinct and which will come up again and again in the rest of this book, is nothing other than this capacity human beings have of distancing themselves from their environment, both external and internal. This detachment, which expresses itself in the separation between tool and hand and between word and object, is also reflected in the distance society creates between itself and the zoological group. The whole of our evolution has been oriented toward placing outside ourselves what in the rest of the animal world is achieved inside by species adaptation. The most striking material fact is certainly the "freeing" of tools, but the fundamental fact is really the freeing of the word and our unique ability to transfer our memory to a social organism outside ourselves.

This twofold distancing-of tools and of the memory-will form the subject of the next chapters.