courses of action, and to imagine novel possibilities that are then enacted in reality surely enhance inclusive fitness not only by allowing people to engage in a wide variety of actions in response to environmental conditions but also by allowing them to render environments suitable for their needs. As contemporary psychologists (e.g., Duval & Wicklund, 1972; Carver & Scheier, 1981) have argued, the capacity to reflect back on oneself allows the individual to strive toward and monitor progress toward long term goals and thereby facilitates the attainment of such goals. But as Rank (1936) argued, consciousness is both a social and historical process, with increasing self-awareness over time, culminating in what Freud, Geza Roheim, Susanne Langer, Ernest 9
Mortality and CultureBecker (1973) and others claim is the most significant event in the evolutionary history of humankind: the explicit awareness of death as a natural and inevitable event, an awareness that threatened to undermine consciousness, intellectually and emotionally, as a viable form of mental organization. Intellectually, what an appalling and absolutely unacceptable affront for finely gene containers and conveyors (Dawkins, 1976) refined by billions of years of evolution developing a host of sophisticated physiological and behavioral strategies for keeping themselves alive, to learn by virtue of one of its most effective attributes (consciousness), that the most basic biological imperative upon which individual life is organized (staying alive) is bound to be thwarted! Emotionally, the awareness that death is inevitable gives rise to the potential for debilitating anxiety: As a naked fact, that realization is unacceptable....Nothing, perhaps, is more comprehensible than that people--savage or civilized--would rather reject than accept the idea of death as an inevitable close of their brief earthly careers. Susanne Langer, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling(1982, p. 87,103)Uniquely human awareness of mortality is thus a "natural" consequence of increasing self-consciousness, which otherwise provides human beings with remarkable adaptive advantages; but conscious creatures encumbered with unbridled awareness of mortality would be crushed by both the weight of the logical paradox (“I am therefore I die?”) and the emotional burden of death awareness -- to the point of behavioral paralysis, in which case consciousness would no longer confer an adaptive advantage:For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow....The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all...For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.