Man, as science is able to reconstruct him today, is an animal like the others - so little separable anatomically from the anthropoids that the modem classifications made by zoologists return to the position of Linnaeus and include him with them in the same super-family, the hominidae. Yet, to judge by the biological results of his advent, is he not in reality something altogether different ?
Morphologicafly the leap was extremely slight, yet it was the concomitant of an incredible commotion among the spheres of life - there lies the whole human paradox ; and there, in the same breath, is the evidence that science, in its present-day reconstructions of the world, neglects an essential factor, or rather, an entire dimension of the universe....
Between the last strata of the Pliocene period, in which man is absent, and the next, in which the paleontologist is dumbfounded to find the first chipped flints, what has happened ? And what is the true measure of this leap ?
...Biologists are not yet agreed on whether or not there is a direction (still less a definite axis) of evolution; nor is there any greater agreement among psychologists, and for a connected reason, as to whether the human psychism differs specifically (by 'nature') from that of man's predecessors or not. As a matter of fact the majority of 'scientists' would tend to contest the validity of such a breach of continuity. So much has been said, and is still said, about the intelligence of animals.
If we wish to settle this question of the 'superiority' of man over the animals... I can only see one way of doing so - to brush resolutely aside all those secondary and equivocal manifestations of inner activity in human behaviour, making straight for the central phenomenon, reflection.
From our experimental point of view, reflection is, as the word indicates, the power acquired by a consciousness to turn in upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed with its own particular consistence and value : no longer merely to know, but to know oneself ; no longer merely to know, but to know that one knows. ["Non plus seulement connaître, mais se connaître; non plus seulement savoir, mais savoir que l'on sait".]
By this individualisation of himself in the depths of himself, the living element, which heretofore had been spread out and divided over a diffuse circle of perceptions and activites, was constituted for the first time as a centre in the form of a point at which all the impressions and experiences knit themselves together and fuse into a unity that is conscious of its own organisation.
Now the consequences of such a transformation are immense, visible as clearly in nature as any of the facts recorded by physics or astronomy. The being who is the object of his own reflection, in consequence of that very doubling back upon himself, becomes in a flash able to raise himself into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, anxieties and dreams of love - all these activities of inner life are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed centre as it explodes onto itself
Admittedly the animal knows. But it cannot know that it knows: that is quite certain.
--Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Translated by Bernard Wall
The Empire of Time — A Philosophical Angle - The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy. It is derived, no doubt, from love of home and desire ...