Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Sorokin Dialectic (part 3).

 The attainment of the modern mind did not end history, rather it marked the beginning of a new dynamic. It is with the modern mind, birthed of the axial shift, where ethical systems could be examined critically and competing worldviews became possible. A profound change in human cognitive skills now allowed us to entertain different notions of truth and ethics. We became philosophical beings. 

When ideas guide conduct they become social forces and the tensions between different philosophical world views act as a motive force undergirding history. These world views can be adopted as markers of different social groups, nations, religions, classes, ethnic groups, and so forth. They also have the power to create new social groups or to merge existing ones. Philosophical orientation, world view, has close links to human tribalism. Intensifying it in some instances and reducing it in others.

The struggle between different principles of explanation, epistemologies, and different conceptions of ethics can be characterized as a dialectic. Although imperfect, the most important empirical and theoretical discussion of this dialectic is found in the writings of Pitirim Sorokin.

 Pitirim Sorokin

The Russian born sociologist Sorokin had a different experience in Soviet Russian than Vygotsky or Luria. Before the revolution, Sorokin had been imprisoned by the Czar three times for his political activity. After the overthrow of the Czarist regime, he served as private secretary for Kerensky and was a leader of the Social Revolutionary Party. He was sentenced to death, but later exiled instead, by the Bolsheviks in 1922 . His experiences with war and revolution turned him away from his early optimism and belief in progress. 

Sorokin settled in the United States where he taught at Harvard and founded its sociology department. He was a prolific writer and researcher. An intellectual nonconformist, he became skeptical of all political establishments, including Western liberal forms. Despite his anti-sovietism, he did not become a cold warrior, and the FBI viewed him with suspicion. He became a Tolstoyan pacifist and an early opponent of the war in Vietnam. He was sympathetic to the Catholic Worker movement and corresponded with activists Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy. Civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Bayard Rustin read, and were influenced by, Sorokin’s writings.

Sorokin, following Tolstoy, believed that humans possessed a body, a mind, and a soul. The mind pursues knowledge and uses reason. The soul uses intuition to know about the supersensory realm, while the body is grounded in the senses. The interaction of these tendencies produce an individual’s orientation towards truth, an epistemology. At different historical periods different truth orientations would be dominant.

This framework led Sorokin to a cyclical theory of history and to question notions of linear progress. However, a review of Sorokin’s own data supports a more complex picture and gives evidence for both cycles and progress in history. In addition, especially in his later writings, Sorokin did come to endorse at least the possibility of progress.

His most important work, an overlooked classic, the four volumed Social and Cultural Dynamics, represented the culmination of an extensive analysis of the cycles of dominant ideas in Western civilization.

Reading Sorokin, one is struck by his methodological rigor and his commitment to empirical observation, but also by his willingness to include spiritual categories and intuitions as factors in cultural change. 

Sorokin employed the methodology of content analysis. Content analysis involves examining artifacts, such as texts and images, and making inferences from those sources. Sorokin’s project was massive. He and his associates examined Western art, architecture, music, drama, literature, philosophy, ethics, and law produced over thousands of years. Other researchers have found his data on philosophic trends the most tractable. It is this aspect of his work that has won the admiration of many contemporary researchers for its comprehensiveness and methodological rigor and I will focus on it here.

Sorokin’s method was to divide time into 20 year increments, identify the great thinkers in each of these intervals, then classify these thinkers into one of several epistemological categories. The thinkers were also rated on a 12 point scale for degree of influence. 

Sorokin came to see history propelled by the clashing influences of contrasting epistemologies. For Sorokin an epistemology is a system of knowledge and Sorokin identified six different schools:

1. Empiricism - sensory perception is the source of knowledge. 

2. Rationalism - truth about the world through reason, values logic and mathematics over experience

3. Mysticism - truth comes from superlogical intuition and experience 

4. Skepticism - Doubts the possibility of knowledge

5. Fideism - sees faith as a legitimate source of knowledge and accepts faith as its own justification. 

6. Criticism - Sorokin also calls this agnosticism and describes it as “a somewhat middle position between empiricism, rationalism, and skepticism.” that accepts accepts both empirical and rational knowledge, but rejects the possibility of any kind of transcendent knowledge. 

In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History Hegel observe that 

"religion is the sphere in which a nation gives itself the definition of that which it regards as the True. A definition contains everything that belongs to the essence of an object; reducing its nature to its simple characteristic predicate, as a mirror for every predicate, – the generic soul Pervading all its details. The conception of God, therefore, constitutes the general basis of a people’s character.” 

This could equally apply to Sorokin’s epistemological categories. They help us understand the guiding spirit, “generic soul” of different historical periods. 

According to Sorokin, the six epistemologies could, in turn be clustered into two overarching categories he called mentalities or super-systems:

1. The ideational mentality, which incorporated rationalism, mysticism, and fideism. 

2. The sensate mentality which subsumed empiricism, rationalism (at least its non-religious forms), and skepticism.

The sensate/ideational distinction maps onto ages of science and ages of faith respectively and mirror the difference between flesh and spirit. 

Finally, Sorokin posited a third super-system he called idealistic that represents a synthesis between sensate and ideational approaches. 

As Sorokin saw it, none of these epistemologies by themselves could adequately describe reality. He wrote “no single system comprises the whole of truth; nor is it, on the other hand, entirely false." Each system of truth “is partly valid, yielding cognition of some important aspect of the complex of true reality.” While one school would dominate for a time, its deficiencies would eventually become obvious, and it would fade and be replaced by one its competitors. 

The dominance of any one school of truth did not mean that absence of the others. Even though our age is often characterized as secular and scientific, there is no shortage of spiritual alternatives. Many have predicted the end of religion with the rising prestige of science, the failure of this prophecy would not have surprised Sorokin.

For Sorokin, history could be understood as cyclical shifts between different dominant world views. His student, Talbutt  described this approach as “rough dialectics.” 

The word “dialectic” is most associated with the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, and Sorokin’s approach breathed new life into Hegel’s otherwise moribund speculations. According to Hegel, history is moved forward by a dialectical process where a thesis gives rise to its own antithesis, and eventually these contending forces create a new synthesis (the terms thesis, antithesis, and synthesis do not actually appear in Hegel, but were used by Fichte to describe Hegel’s philosophy).  

In and of itself, Hegel’s dialectic seems metaphysical and there is no ready explanation how this dialectic substantiates itself in the real world. Hegel is most known for his influence on Marx, who re-framed Hegel’s dialectic as contradictions in the system of production, and as the struggle between social classes.  But reading Marxist discourse, one is struck by the arbitrary way dialectics are deployed. Many Marxists claim dialectics as a form of reasoning akin to formal logic. But they have failed to provide a rigorous exposition of this logic that would allow one to reach consistent conclusions from the same premises. However, other Marxists use dialectics in a metaphorical sense to describe the struggle between contending social forces.

Sorokin’s dialectic explains history as the clash between rival schools of epistemology. Moreover, he provides quantitative evidence of this process.

Sorokin, working with the philosophers I. I. Lapshin and N. O. Lossky, searched a large number of encyclopedic references and identified the partisans for the different schools of epistemology. They measured the influence of each partisan by the number of scholarly monographs dedicated to each philosopher and used these values to calculate the fluctuating influence of the six epistemologies over the period from 580 BCE to 1920 CE.

There is a problem with Sorokin’s approach to assigning influence. The scholarly monographs were often written long after the the associated philosopher was dead, but the value was assigned to the period when the philosopher lived. In some cases, such as the ancient Greeks, centuries or even millennia might separate the lives of a philosopher and the publication of a monograph. Sorokin admits that “this naturally distorts, somewhat, the real situation.” Sorokin believed that this distortion was minimal.   

How well did Sorokin’s data support his model? Several scholars, experts in content analysis, have looked at his data set and have been impressed by the rigor of his procedure.  Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber, however, point out some possible limitations in the quality of Sorokin’s data for the period prior to 1500 CE, for example the scarcity of ancient texts and uncertainty about their dates (Coulborn and Du Bois made this same point in 1942). We can be certain, given events like the loss of the great library of Alexandria, that our knowledge of ancient philosophical discourse is incomplete. However, this criticism would not apply to the Sorokin data between 1500 and 1920. A period that roughly bookends the dominance of print technology in the West. Gutenberg invented movable type in 1439, while radio broadcasting became common in the 1920s. Mass commercial cinema also begins in the early 1900s. Thus, we can view the period between 1500 and 1920 as the the era when the printed word was the central means for discourse. 

Researchers also noted limitations in Sorokin’s data analysis. Sorokin tended to present his data as descriptive statistics in the form of tables or figures. As Simonton pointed out: “the reader is frequently requested to ‘eye ball’ massive tables of numbers in order to ‘see’ the predicted relationships, the expected relationships are by no means obvious however.” 

A more appropriate approach to Sorokin’s data would be a modern time series analysis. Time series analysis is a kind of correlation research where the variables of interest are regressed against time as the independent variable. Typically the behavior of the independent variables can be decomposed into several components. These include 1) long term, sometimes called secular, movements, this would mean longterm directional change, 2) cyclical variation, these would be wave like oscillations, and 3) a random variation or error component. Long term positive movement would be evidence of progress, while cyclical variation would be evidence for Sorokin’s hypothesis. It is important to note, that the first two components are not mutually exclusive, it is possible to have both long term directional change and still have cyclical change around the directional trend line.  

The first person to point out that Sorokin’s data might contain a linear trend was the sociologist Hornell Hart. In a 1939 review, Hart took the trouble to count the times Sorokin denied the existence of any evidence of progress in his data (at least 19). Yet when Hart reviewed the same data, he found clear evidence of progress. He noted “Sorokin’s inability to discover any long-time trends in human culture is a source of major distortion in his conclusions.” 

Similarly, the sociologist Paul Horton found that Sorokin was so committed to a cyclic view of history that he failed to see trends even when they appeared in his data. Horton found that “Sorokin avoids discovering any trends among his volumes by following a simple formula - if there are any fluctuations, then there is no trend.”  Horton charged Sorokin with escaping “refutation by defining trends out of existence.” 

In their reanalysis of Sorokin’s data, Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber  found a combination of trend and fluctuation. At least since the Renaissance there was a linear trend towards increasing empiricism. The correlation between time and the influence of empiricism was r = 0.739. This finding counts against the hypothesis of no directional change. A figure on page 137 in the second volume of Sorokin’s Social and Cultural Dynamics, shows the phenomenal upswing in scientific discoveries and inventions since the middle ages. This upswing is consistent with the findings of Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber and inconsistent with Sorokin’s hypothesis of no progress. 

Another criticism of Sorokin is the Eurocentric focus of his work. Sorokin freely acknowledged that his work might not generalize to other civilizations. But he did suggest that the main currents of Asian thought might be analogous to those at work in the West. 

For example, in East Asian civilization we could frame the dialectic in terms such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism (Shinto in Japan). The philosopher John Plott who wrote a multi-volume global history of philosophy occasionally used the sensate and ideational distinction in his description of Asian philosophies. 

And, as we will see, the ideas of some Asian thinkers, including Gandhi, caused Sorokin, late in his career, to re-evaluate and see some possibility of progress.

In 1937, the philosopher John Herman Randall wrote a scathing critique of Sorokin’s antiprogressivism. He noted, not unfairly, Sorokin’s lack of understanding of and sympathy for science. Talbutt made a similar observation, locating it in Sorokin’s reliance of Tolstoy’s skeptical view of the physical sciences.

Randall points out that Sorokin’s misunderstanding of science led him to equate Greek science with the science of the enlightenment. Seeing modern science simply as the cyclical recurrence of ancient science.  But, according to Randall, Greek science was largely separate from technology, while post-enlightenment science was closely integrated with application. Greek natural philosophers were a class apart from the artisans. Thus, their science stagnated because of its isolation from practical concerns and its reliance on untested speculation. Nor did the ancients have a clear sense of scientific method. Bacon’s writings really do represent a revolution in human thought.

This too close equating of ancient science with modern science may explain the large cycles that Sorokin saw in his data. For if you think Greek science is identical to modern science then you are likely to see a bump in science in Greek Antiquity and its fall off with the decline of classical civilization. Only to rise again with the birth of modern science. 

And Sorokin persistently, even maddeningly, failed to note the differences between ancient and modern science. While he labeled both as sensate, he failed to note how they diverged.

In his reanalysis, Hart  makes a telling observation. Using Sorokin’s data Hart was able to distinguish between sensate philosophers who were primarily materialists and those who were empiricists. Hart wrote, “according to Sorokin’s data, the ancient wave was primarily materialistic in philosophy and secondarily empirical in method. The wave rising for the past nine centuries is primarily empirical in method and only very subordinately materialistic in philosophy.” 

More recent work by Clark  shows that the overall trend of technological progress since antiquity has been positive. While the rate of technological improvement was very slow before the industrial revolution, it was both incremental and positive. Contrary to the the common view, European medieval technology was more sophisticated than classical technology. 

Sorokin failed to see that the rise of modern science was a revolt against the authority of the ancients, not a recapitulation of their dogmas. The rigorous empiricism of modern science did a better job of describing the world than its competitors and its increasing dominance marked a real shift in human consciousness.

Sorokin had predicted that after 1908 the pace of scientific discovery would decline, a consequence of his cyclic view of history. But by the late 1950s, he grudgingly conceded that his he was wrong on this point. 

In Hart’s critique of Sorokin, he noted several more limitations. In addition to his failure to distinguish between ancient and modern science, Hart found that Sorokin’s categorization of systems of truth was not quite right, and suggested another category called “authoritarian,” which based truth on appeals to tradition or authority. An example of this would be believing something because it was in a sacred text. Hart also postulated the existence of “commonsense” worldview, which engages all the systems of truth. In all cultures most people have operated using commonsense. But Hart granted Sorokin his larger point, “intellectual leaders in various epochs have been dominated to varying degrees by the various methods of truth-seeking, and the cultural consequences have been momentous.” 

Cycles Fluctuating along the Line of Progress

 Once we mathematically extract the linear component from Sorokin’s data, clear evidence for cycles in the systems of truth emerge for the period since 1500. Cycles for systems of truth average about 148 years. Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber, noted that these cyclic patterns are similar to cycles they observed in American and British political discourse.

As we have seen Sorokin’s data seems to provide some support for both his cyclical view of history and for a trend related to scientific progress. But we have also seen the limitations in his research. There are reasonable doubts about his the representativeness of his data prior to 1500, his Eurocentrism, his measure of influence, and the analytic categories he employed. Given these limitations, can we be confident in the Klingemann and colleagues interpretation of Sorokin’s work; a dialectic of competing world views, superimposed on a trend towards greater scientific knowledge and technical sophistication?

One test for any hypothesis is to look for consilience with other observations. When different sets of facts all converge on the same conclusion, we say that the hypothesis is supported by consilience. An example of this would be evolution, where evidence from diverse disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics, embryology, and comparative anatomy all support the fact of life’s common descent. Similarly, we would like to find evidence outside of Sorokin’s original analysis. 

One such data set is material collected by Sorokin’s student William Boldyreff, who classified all the individuals with entries in the 1849 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as ideational, senstate, or mixed. His method of measuring the influence of each person was more straightforward than Sorokin’s, he simply counted the number of lines the encyclopedia dedicated to each individual. This seems like a reasonable, if imperfect, measure. It is important to note that Boldyreff’s assessment was made independent of Sorokin’s. At the time of his analysis Boldyreff was unaware of Sorokin’s findings. 

Once again, limiting ourselves to the data from 1500 to 1849, we see that there are clear trends in the data, matching the findings of Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber. A rising tendency towards the sensate world view and a decline in ideational points of view. Unfortunately, because the data set ends at 1849, there are only seven data points since 1500, limiting the meaningfulness of additional analysis.

Outside of Boldyreff, no one has directly attempted to replicate Sorokin’s analysis with more recent or more comprehensive data. However, a better test would be something other than content analysis. We should look to see if Sorokin’s findings are consilient with research using other methodologies and other data sources.

If we examine the findings of the World Value Survey we find evidence to support Sorokin’s central contention of a struggle between ideational and sensate world views. 

The World Value Survey has been administered since the 1980s to samples in over 90 countries. It has one big advantage over Sorokin’s research project in that it is a direct survey of people using representative samples. It allows us to make inferences about the actual value orientation of populations. This is clearly better evidence than Sorokin’s content analysis of elite discourse.

The World Value Survey was designed to study differences between the cultures of nations. Many claims are made about national differences in culture. For example, some nations are said to be more collectivist and others, more individualist. The idea here is not that everyone in a particular culture is the same, but that there are average differences between nations and that these differences can have consequences. In the past, such assertions were made based upon anecdote and speculation. Political scientists Welzel and Inglehard created the World Value Survey to explore these claims empirically.

Specifically the survey was designed to examine national differences in norms, beliefs, and values. When we look at the definition of these variables we can see some overlap with the categories of interest to Sorokin. According to Welzel and Inglehard, beliefs are “what people think is factually right or wrong,” Values are “what people think is morally good or bad,” and norms are “behavioral guidelines that are socially sanctioned.” 

 By analyzing responses to the World Value Survey, Welzel and Inglehart identified two dimensions that capture cultural differences between nations; 1) sacred versus secular values, and 2) survival versus emancipative values. The first variable, sacred versus secular values, seems a reasonable proxy for Sorokin’s sensate versus ideational systems. The fact that the sacred - secular factor emerges as a polarity provides support for Sorokin’s interpretation. There is a dialectic between these two ways of thinking.


While Sorokin presents (but dismisses) evidence in his work for trends in the history of civilization, we can find ample evidence that trends do exist. Horton, for example, lists a number of long term trends:

1. Increasing knowledge about the physical world

2. Increased ability to record and share information

3. Improvements in technology

4. Increasing magnitude of cultural interaction

5. Increased socialization of functions once performed by family or kin group

Horton notes that while the movement of these trends have not always been linear, there have been fluctuations and revisions, their increase over the long run is unmistakable and undeniable. 

Many of these trends are related to the growth of scientific knowledge and technical skill and, as I have noted, even though he failed to notice it, this trend is observable in Sorokin’s own data.

Moral Progress

Sorokin research on conflicting schools of morality also show no change over time. But frankly, this may be more the consequence of deficiencies in Sorokin’s research. Here he distinguished between three ethical systems, the ethics of principle, the ethics of love, and the ethics of happiness. But this system of classification is deeply problematic. The divisions are not clear and many moral philosophies fall outside of his categories. For example, rule utilitarianism combines ideas from both principle ethics and happiness ethics. More significantly, philosopher Peter Singer, echoing Sedgwick, makes the case that the best measure of moral progress would be the expansion of our circle of moral concern and Sorokin’s analysis does not really get at this issue. 

Steven R. Smith  has attempted to model Singer’s expanding circle by looking at the 25 most populous nations and plotting when each adopted particular social protections. The protections he looked at were; 1) the abolition of slavery, 2) woman’s suffrage, 3) unemployment benefits, and, 4) abolition of capital punishment. All of these variables showed clear tends, all with an upward slope.

Any notion of progress needs some explanation of its motive force. It is not enough to point to some trend line and extrapolate that it is bound to continue. Singer  explains the progress of ethics as a consequence of reason. Given a certain set of assumptions (such as the assumption that ethics must entail equal consideration of every person), reason has to be constrained by those assumptions as mathematics is constrained by a set of axioms. Science too, is constrained by certain facts and regularities in the physical universe. As Luria’s research has shown, our capacity to reason abstractly, is linked to larger social transformation. As  access to education and interaction with scientific concepts increases, so does the human capacity for moral reason. 


As previously noted, Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber  discovered cycles in Sorokin’s data.  They point out that the cycles revealed in Sorokin’s data resemble cycles discovered in other content analytic research, particularly studies of American political party platforms and British political. Consilient with these observations is a large literature, particularly in political science of cyclical ideological shifts.

 Sorokin believed that these cycles were the result of competition between imperfect epistemologies. The reign of any one epistemology was always unstable because each could not encompass the whole of truth. Klingemann, Mohler, and Weber  argued that these transitions were effected by generational shifts. They pointed out that individual conversions, while they do take place, were unlikely to occur at a high enough frequency to account for the changes. Rather, they wrote:

“we believe that the cycles observed in Sorokin’s data reflect population replacement, in which one cohort holds some epistemological theory quite strongly. Each succeeding cohort holds this theory less strongly, until attachments to the theory are so weak that a new theory rises to supplant the old.” 

The Sorokin dialectic presents an important opportunity to examine the relationships between social, religious, ideological, economic, and psychological change. It forces us to integrate our understanding of how individuals changes their minds with our understanding of societal level shifts in world views. 


A stage can be understood as discontinuity in history, a sharp break with what has gone before. Such a break would clearly not be cyclical. It may or may not be part of a monotonic trend. It is also possible that stages could be part of a trend that we cannot discern, either because our sample of such discontinuities is too small, or that we are simply unable to discover the pattern.

Sorokin does acknowledge the existence of at least one discontinuity in history, the birth of Christianity. This occurred in his writing on the cycles of moral and ethical thought. 

Here, Sorokin is quite clear, he believed that the ethics of love begins only with the advent of Christianity and his tables show no evidence for a love based ethic prior to 100 CE. One is tempted to see this as a kind of special pleading on Sorokin’s part for his Christian religious views. In any event, even if Sorokin was correct about the exceptional nature of Christian ethics, it would seem to undermine his notion of a purely cyclical history. Indeed, we can regard this as an admission that history may contain stages.

The notion of stages has proven persistent, especially in the field of developmental psychology where stage theorists like Piaget and Kohlberg remain widely influential. These models have criticized by those who view development as more continuous, claiming no sharp breaking point. But the evidence suggests that while some developmental changes are continuous, such as a child’s reading ability which improves over the course of schooling, others such as a child’s ability to recognize the conservation of volume shift suddenly and irrevocably. 

In history there are a number of candidates for stages. For example, the rise of moralizing gods (see the writings of Norenzayan), the axial age, the invention of settled agriculture, and the industrial revolution  can all be seen as profound transformations in both the way people live and in the way they think. Yet these facts do not seem to enter into Sorokin’s view.  Of course his data set includes only data after the invention of settled agriculture and the advent of literacy, so we should not be surprised that he does consider their importance. On the other hand, the beginning of the axial and the associated cognitive shifts noted by many scholars also does not appear in his findings. Here we might defend Sorokin by noting that his findings were reported prior to the publication of Jasper’s book and Sorokin could not be expected to test a hypothesis of which he was unaware. In addition, given the already noted limitations of his data prior to 1500, we might not expect him to see the signature of the axial age in his findings. 

But certainly, the industrial revolution and its many consequences should somehow be reflected in his data. As we have observed, Sorokin’s findings show an upward trend in scientific knowledge, and it seems likely that this trend is linked to the rise of industrial society.

Sorokin and the Future

In his writings Sorokin often seems pessimistic, he dismisses the notion progress and sees history as an endless repetition of cycles. In his early work, after his encounter with Bolshevism, he was skeptical about the possibility of human equality. Later, he predicted the falling away of our sensate culture. At times he expressed a nostalgia for the middle ages and complains about modern music.

Yet, later in life there was a shift in Sorokin’s thinking and he held out some hope for the world. Two factors seemed to have occasioned this change. First, his realization of the destructiveness of modern weapons, which, in turn, led to his activism for nuclear disarmament. If humanity now possessed the power to destroy itself, then the survival of the species depended on some means of reducing of human violence. The tension between worldviews needed to be mitigated or, at least, made non-violent.

Thus, late in his career, Sorokin became interested in the how we might increase altruism and he founded a center at Harvard for the study of altruism, where he held conferences, conducted research, and published books. 

Second was his contact with Eastern thought, in the 1940s he comes under the influence of Sri Aruobindo and Aurobindo’s student Chaudhuri. From Aurobindo, Sorokin adopted the concept of integralism.

Chaudhuri, also a professor of Asian studies, defined integralism this way:

“An integral vision of reality implies two things: first, immediate contact with the inmost nature of existence in its manifold richness of content; second, an integration of such different provinces of experience as common sense, science, art, morality, religion, and the like, in the light of one’s immediate insight int the heart of reality.” 

In 1965 Chaudhuri published a short volume titled Integral Yoga: The Concept of Creative Living. The book carries a foreword by Sorokin, who praised the work as significant for “Western psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, and moral leaders.” Chaudhuri was a perennialist, he saw all the religions of the world as having a common core. He wrote “being is the ultimate ground of all existence which different metaphysical systems and religious faiths try to explain in different ways.”  Moreover, he saw the possibility of integrating spirituality with scientific humanism. And he believed that integration would be made possible by a “Copernican revolution in the field of consciousness, i.e. by a transition from the egocentric to the cosmo-centric outlook.” 

If we understand “cosmo-centric outlook” to mean the expansion of human altruism to include all sentient, including future generations, then a vision of the future becomes possible. The synthesis of these two forces, the advance of scientific understanding and the transformation of individual consciousness, may finally resolve the Sorokin dialectic and move us to a new stage of history. 

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