Reflections on Axiality:
Evolutionary Legacy or Historical Consciousness?

Eugene Halton’s book makes a significant contribution to scholarship on the Axial Age. Halton provides a summary of the alternative formulations of the Axial Age thesis by John S. Stuart-Glennie, Lewis Mumford, and D. H. Lawrence that considerably corrects the current Jaspers-centric bias of scholarship. Halton’s consideration of Stuart-Glennie’s articulation of panzooinism opens up a more nuanced and differentiated appreciation of the human evolutionary legacy that precedes the Axial Age. However it is unclear how this evolutionary legacy is effectively active within historical consciousness. Further, in conceptualizing this legacy Halton overlooks the degree of violence of hunter-gatherer tribalism, and overestimates the viability of their life-style as modeling sustainability. Insofar as the world religions overvalue the Axial Age, Halton’s laudable goal of contributing to a sustainability revolution will prove ineffectual by comparison to Jaspers’ thesis, the difference between them turning on the question of evolutionary legacy vis-à-vis effective historical consciousness..

Peet, Christopher. (2018). “Reflections on axiality: Evolutionary Legacy or Historical Consciousness?,” Existenz: Journal of the Karl Jaspers Society, 13/2, 79-86.

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