Dimensions of Existence: Being Human and Being a Thing

Warren Kinston 31. March 2012 18:00

Dimensions of Existence

I mentioned, in a recent blog, the need to formulate the dimensions of our existence.  I want to pursue this mystery about 'being human' now.

The existence of two realities is weighing on me every day in every way.  Do you remember C.P. Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture (and later book)?  That Science v Humanities debate came and went because it was targeted at UK society of 1959: over half a century ago.  In any case, the sciences are now doing fine, in the UK and everywhere.  The PR machine has been cranked up and is doing a fantastic job. 

However, there is now a conflict as to which reality is to be scientifically investigated.  It's fundamental to understanding being human, and it is emerging as a battle for pre-eminence.  I call the two realities: Psychosocial Reality and Empirical Reality. The one you bring into being by your choices, and you have the power to alter.  The other exists independently of your choices and you only have  the power to alter it and use it, usually to your best advantage but sometimes because you think goodness is important.  This reality that you create is where you can be fully human.

Psychosocial things exist in empirical reality.  You build a house according to your ideas, which are converted to actuality and become part of empirical reality.  You sell, and move to another country but that house remains.  Your feelings during the construction and your sense of loss after the sale are all part of psychosocial reality.

Empirical reality is backed by the scientific establishment and seems to be utterly dominant.  Your feelings are reduced to neurophysiological changes in the amygdala and limbic system.  Although psychosocial reality is in charge (not the amygdala which is but an infrastructural mechanism), its supporters are scattered.  Insufficient effort is going into conceptualizing psychosocial reality.  It's like scientists are fish swimming in the sea of psychosocial reality without being aware of it.  Cut funding and just watch them scream!  THEE is about providing the laws and structures that predict their screaming and govern psychosocial reality more generally.  So I will keep coming back to this missing awareness again and again.  But can someone else please step forward and work on this notion?

To orient ourselves, think of physical reality where you have time, space, mass-energy.  These are not "in" the physical universe.  They are the physical universe.  If these things did not exist then, there would be no physical universe.  What is time?  Well, it depends on motion because there has to be a before and an after.  Probably it will all be unified in motion.  You ask: what moves?  Well, motion will move, and from the moving of motion you obviously get space as well as time, and I guess mass and energy too.  But we are getting off the track—let's leave this to the physicists playing with their multi-billion dollar toys.

Start with Time.

Time in psychosocial reality is created by us and is clearly of four types.  There is linear time which mimics physical time.  It is the time of our personal endeavours.  Being our creation, a humanly meaningful physical time may be experienced as either very short or very long depending on non-physical factors.  In this website project, for example, I'm finding that the years are short, while the days are long, and the weeks are but a blink of the eye.  There is also cyclical time corresponding to our experience of the seasons.  We create cyclical time when we go round and round in circles, keeping coming back to the same psychological place, but in a more developed way.  Perhaps this is the mindset of people after their 5th divorce.  Then there is the permanent present, where gurus so preciously enjoin us to live and work—ignoring the havoc that would result from neglect of the other forms of time. Finally, there is eternity–timelessness where our values, ideas, mathematics and divine beings reside, and which we dip into regularly.  So there we are: easy!  4 varieties of time in psychosocial reality.  Discovery made—no Large Hadron Collider lookalike required—no multi-governmental billions needed. But that suggests time may not be fundamental.  I expect that one day these four times will turn up in the 4 tetrads of a structural hierarchy.

Space exists in psychosocial reality as well.  In our reality, space seems to be the equivalent of similarity: e.g. religions urge you to be «like» God because, if you are, then you will be «near» to God.  You must have noticed that when you get «close» to someone, you start to become «like» them.  It is a natural tendency—which is why it is such a great idea to associate with good people and distance yourself from bad or weak people.  It's the only free-riding that hurts no-one.

I leave you to think about the psychosocial creation of mass and energy.  The point is that space, time &c. do exist "in" psychosocial reality, but the terms refer to something rather different from physical reality.  There is no confusion here: and I am not using metaphors either.  

But: neither space nor time seem to constitute psychosocial reality.  If they do not, then what does constitute it?

It's hard to think about, but looking into the various «purposes of life», I found it rather natural and necessary, for the first time, to refer to «planes of existence» within which we can and must be human.  These have to be planes of psychosocial reality.  But if they are planes, then they will have dimensions.  And we must share those dimensions so as to live—function, operate, transact with each other—on those planes.

So I am on the path.

But don't forget my request: the distinction between these realities needs someone to work on it more seriously.
Get it started by adding your ideas via comments.  What does being human mean to you?



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Warren Kinston is the creator of the THEE-Online website as an open forum for the further discovery and development of THEE. He writes this blog as an escape valve for the excitement and frustrations of the work. More info here.

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