Chapter 5
Mental representations of the world

In chapters 2 and 3, we saw what is inherent in human nature, namely generalized nepotism and cognitive dissonance. Then, in chapter 4, we illustrated how this naturally translates into the current decision-making mechanism. In this chapter, we will discuss the cultural aspect, namely how we represent the world. These representations influence our decision-making process just as much, but they are the specific result of our common history. They probably could have been quite different, and above all, they evolve over time.

A very brief history of humanity

In chapter 1, we indicated that we are coming to the second industrial revolution, that of computers as the amplification of our cerebral capacities for certain elementary tasks, the first having been that of the motor as amplification of our muscular capacity. This is a perspective on a historical scale.

If we now take a step back and move on to the scale of human history, we can see that we are also reaching a second revolution.
The first was the one that led to the emergence of agriculture, that is to say the transition from a nomadic lifestyle of hunter-gatherers to a sedentary lifestyle of farmers leading to the birth of villages. then cities. From this first revolution resulted on the one hand the organization in larger social groups, which made us switch from the family clan to the empires, and on the other hand the social organization in the form of the tripartition described by Dumézil, which we will present in this chapter.

The second revolution is that linked to the emergence of modern science, which began in the 17th century, and which will probably end in the 21st or 22st century. What characterizes this second revolution is that humans have acquired a technological level allowing them to exempt themself from the obligation to work to meet their basic needs. On the scale of humanity, the two industrial revolutions are therefore part of a single revolution, brought about by the emergence of modern science. This revolution will result in a second change in production methods to meet our basic needs, and as a result a second change in our social organizations. However, this social change has not yet taken place. Indeed, the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment, which we will also present in this chapter, has certainly produced democracies in certain parts of the world, but today clearly shows its limits. This second revolution will therefore come to an end when, on the one hand we have massified robotic production, and on the other hand we have adopted a new system of social organization whose balance is not based on mass work but on the optimum and reasoned use of our technological know-how, at the service of all.


Tripartition, or Indo-European tripartite functions, constitutes our cultural heritage over the long term. It is a concept of comparative mythology, advanced by Georges Dumézil, who asserts that the myths of Indo-European societies are structured on the basis of three functions, which translate into a social organization with three classes.
The first function, called priestly, corresponds, in the Old French regime, to the class of the clergy.
The second function, named martial, corresponds to nobility.
Finally, the production function corresponds to the third estate.

To be more understandable, the priestly function must be understood as containing beliefs, but also knowledge and reason.
The martial function includes action.
Finally, the production function includes abundance and love of neighbor.

We are not here trying to take a position on the level of universality or relevance of Dumézil's proposition. What interests us is that it makes it possible to include the cultural component, that is to say to clarify the widely shared mental representations. However even if they are not inherent in our nature, that is to say do not constitute invariants, like what we saw in chapters 2 and 3, it seems important to us to take into account the mental representations resulting from our cultural heritage. Indeed, this allows us to propose a social organization that produces as little cognitive dissonance as possible, therefore facilitates its acceptance. In other words, chapters 2 and 3, which presented social ambition and its consequence, generalized nepotism, then cognitive dissonance, dealt with characteristics of human nature identifiable by the modern scientific method. Conversely, the tripartition deals with a simple cultural heritage, made up of symbolic representations, which can therefore only be observed, and not demonstrated by the application of the scientific method, even if in chapter 1, when we have approached the philosophical question emanating from progress, we saw that the emergence of three social classes was probable in any agricultural society benefiting from favorable natural conditions.

To illustrate the importance of the three functions in our common perception of social organization, we will take the example of Christian mythology which supplanted Roman mythology in the fourth century. The starting point is Judaic monotheism. A prophet appears, Jesus Christ, who announces the imminent coming of the kingdom of heaven (1), and creates a sect which progresses rapidly in the empire, partly because the proposal of a paradise where one will find all his dead loved ones is very attractive. However, as Alfred Loisy shows in L'Évangile et l'Église, for it to get mainstream, the new religion had to become intelligible to the Romans (2), therefore include the three functions. The Holy Spirit is added to this end. From there, the new religion also becomes attractive and intelligible to the Roman elites. Indeed, God represents the priestly function. The prophet Jesus Christ represents the martial function in an inverted form, therefore easily assimilated, but weakened, which can be desired in an empire which has finished its expansion, therefore seeks to switch the main power from the military function to the priestly function. Finally, the Holy Spirit represents the production function.

Let us finish the story of the evolution of the three functions to the present day.
Throughout the Middle Ages, in the West, as a result of the switch that took place in the Roman Empire, the priestly function is the most powerful, symbolically at least. As proof, the king is sacred by ecclesiastics. Likewise, it is often the monasteries which organize the initial economic development of the territories.
The situation began to change in the 15th century with the great discoveries, which were financed by nascent capitalism, which thus reinforced the martial function. The industrial revolution marks the shift of dominant power from the priestly function to the martial function embodied by its economic component which is capitalism, and the new dominant class which is the bourgeoisie. Capitalism has thus gone from the conquest of resources, initially gold, to the conquest of markets: the term "conquest" characterizes well its warlike nature. In addition, it gradually emancipated himself from priestly supervision, then from political supervision, to finally become self-justified in the form of the economic system presented as the most effective. Witness the famous phrase "The state cannot do everything" pronounced by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 1999, which concede in France the switch of the pre-eminence from the political to the economic.
At the same time, the French Revolution marks a rise in power of the third estate, whose mythology will become the Marxist class struggle.
In the end, the twentieth century saw the collapse in the West of the priestly function in its ecclesiastical form, so that we switched from tripartition to a binary system. On the one hand, "the right" represents a coalition of priestly and martial functions, with a hegemony of martial function in its capitalist form. On the other, "the left" represents the production function, with the class struggle as mythological support. The priestly function was therefore somehow absorbed by the other two.

However, during this same period, we can see the so-called "far right" nationalist ideologies as an attempt to restore priestly function in the form of the myth of races and nations, which shows that even when the political system seems to have switched to bipartisanship, tripartition remains very strongly anchored in our mental representations.
In the same way, in the first chapter, we saw that the main practical heritage of Marx's thought expressed in The Capital is social democracy. However, at the level of popular representation, Marxism is the class struggle. This comes from the fact that the notion of class struggle is a mythological notion, and that it has been adopted as a priestly substitute by the production function.

The philosophy of lights

In very few words, we can see the philosophy of enlightenment as the upheaval of mental representations induced by the emergence of modern science.
At the level of the tripartite organization of the society of the old regime, the rise of science, and of the rationality which characterizes it, comes to undermine the bases of the priestly function based on dogma, by nature irrational, and increasingly seen as an unacceptable arbitrariness. This results in a rise in power of the other two functions. The martial function first, via the rise of nationalism which will be at the base of the wars of the 20th century. The production function then, via the primacy which will be gradually granted to the economic.

To fully understand the philosophy of enlightenment, and its evolution to the present day, we invite you to listen to the remarkable courses entitled Legal Figures of Economic Democracy, given by Alain Supiot at the Collège de France in 2016, and available on the Internet (3) . He shows us the birth of democracy in Greek Antiquity, then its slow maturation in the Church and free cities in the Middle Ages, its conceptualization in the Age of Enlightenment, and finally the evolution to the present day.
The central point of the democracy of the Age of Enlightenment is emancipatory education which must, on the one hand allow access to independence in terms of work and the associated decent incomes, and on the other hand give the capacity to exercise fully one's role as a citizen at the level of deliberative assemblies. It is therefore not surprising that this representation emerged at the time when the birth of modern science brutally raised the social prestige of knowledge to the detriment of belief.
Then, Alain Supiot shows us how the industrial revolution of the 19th century brutally brings back to the center of the scene the question of the danger that the excessive concentration of economic power creates for democracy. The same problem had already arisen in ancient Greece, and had been resolved by forced redistribution. It had also posed in certain Italian Republics of the Middle Ages and had led to the election of a strong man, and ultimately to the end of democracy. This danger is recalled by Roosevelt during his speech concerning the state of the union of 1938: "The freedom of a democracy is not guaranteed, if the people tolerate that the private power grows so much that it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself." (0)
However, after having been at the center of the debate for more than a century, this question was settled at the end of the 20th century, with the advent of ultra-liberal globalization: not only all the legal obstacles limiting the concentration of the economic power where thrown down, but in addition the ideal conveyed by the philosophy of lights has changed. The goal is no longer the emancipation of citizens: only the freedom to undertake remains, which obviously only addresses people who are best endowed by nature in terms of personal capacity or heritage. The others "[The workers] give up their freedom for economic compensation". The role of the State and the intermediary bodies is no longer the organization of this emancipation and the animation of public debate but the simple collective defense of the price and the duration of work, wage earning having become the norm.
Finally, Alain Supiot notes that this deviation from the ideal of lights is accompanied by a profound transformation of mental representations, which consists in seeing everything as a market, even what was initially not commercial, be it non-profit missions like unemployment insurance, or even the public debate that becomes the market for ideas. By the same movement, the citizen finds himself largely restricted to his consumer status.


This is double translation, from english to french, then back, so please, take it with care.

All mythologies predict some kind of life after death. What is specific to the message of Jesus Christ is to predict the imminent advent of the kingdom of heaven, that is, the imminent end of historical times. In this sense, his message can be qualified as millennialist, and is closer to that of current Jehovah's Witnesses than to the message of the Roman Catholic Church.

Alfred Loisy speaks of “hellenization of the Christian doctrine” p134

Several factors contribute to making these courses remarkable. First of all, having chosen as a central point of social organization the way people work together. Then, the use of legal texts to factually illustrate the changes in society seems to us much more interesting than that of wars or the lives of great men. Finally, the clear formulation of mental representations, and especially of their evolution, which lead to these laws.
In the end, from our point of view, if the objective is to allow young citizens to fully exercise their responsibility as voters, a simple explanation of the first course would advantageously replace the whole program of initiation to the economy given in 10th grade, and all of these courses would advantageously replace all or part of the history courses given at the high school. In particular, course 8 describes very well the ideological shifts which reshaped the conception of democracy at the end of the 20th century.