We use personal functioning to consciously and unconsciously create a reality that is part subjective and part shared with others. It is a reality rather different from physical reality.
Philosophers call it a metaphysical reality. Popper refers to this reality as World-2 and World-3, leaving physical reality in World-1: download Popper's short account.
Terry Pratchett: "Take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet ... you act as if there is some ideal order in the world, as if there is some… some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged."
This non-physical and non-material but utterly real reality is constituted by meanings, intentions, feelings and such like. It is termed here the psychosocial world or psychosocial reality. Because this world emerges from our own functioning and the functioning of others around us:
● We can «know» it.
● We can «create» it.
● We can «call it our own».
Indeed we must do so in order to function as a human being, be our own person and live in communities.
Psychosocial reality is the medium of our existence. We cannot step outside it or look at it from a non-personal vantage point—because we cannot become non-persons. Even our best scientific theories are simply a manifestation of its operation.
It is evident that there can be alien impersonal psychosocial realities e.g. in other cultures or in local institutions that we cannot accept. Such social realities combine with physical constraints to form a socio-physical environment for our endeavours.
We all find ourselves thrust bodily into a physical and social world which we did not create or choose. Yet this is the environment within which we must live as persons.
Although driven by our biological make-up and constrained by a given culture, we discover that there is a sphere within which we can be creative. It is up to us then to design our personal life and social world, often with others in the same frame of mind.
So we find ourselves reshaping, for better or worse, impersonal socio-physical surroundings in accord with our psychosocial capabilities.
|Environmental World||Psychosocial World|
|Physico-chemico-biological forces and interactions||Psychological forces and interpersonal interactions|
|Impersonal/given social situations||Personal/meaningful situations|
|Instrumental mechanical, reflex activity||Deliberate, aspirational, identity-defining activity|
The idea of psychosocial reality largely under my control can become confusing because it gets mixed up with an environment not at all under my control.
Primal Nexus is the name that I give to that strange place where personal functioning and socio-physical reality interact. Until we are at the Primal Nexus, we can assert and create all sorts of fantastical things. Then socio-physical reality brings us to our senses.
Nonsense Exists: Even if our convictions are unconfirmed, we may still wish to deny external reality. We often distort our awareness in order to feel better. Spouting nonsense that everyone agrees with looks like evidence of sound judgement. In the past, religions organised agreement on what was to be taken as true, while the media and scientists fulfil this role nowadays. Idiosyncratic nonsense is labeled eccentricity or mental illness.
Awareness of the psychosocial realm is not new. Just the opposite: it has been the primary focus of philosophers and religious leaders for millennia. A surge of growth in awareness, known as the Axial age , developed all around the world between 800 BCE and 200 BCE.
In earliest times, prior to the Axial age, people had great difficulty in recognizing physical reality as distinct from their imagination. Simple statements of fact about the physical world led to burning at the stake only a few centuries ago. Disentangling the two realms is still difficult for many. Everyone finds themselves confused now and then.
Our wisest thinkers gave the distinction between personal and impersonal reality a variety of names. I do not suggest that all saw matters identically. However, it seems a matter of fact that distinguishing two realms was viewed as useful, even if it was difficult to make sense of it all.
Historical precursors seem to fall into two groups. The first group—Hume (the "is" v the "ought"), Schopenhauer (representation v will), Kant ("the scientific" v "the ethical")—appears to correspond to the present distinction between physical and psychosocial reality. The other group—Great Religions (Temporality v Spirituality), Hinduism (Prakriti v Purusha), Buddha (Reality v Appearances/Maya/Samsara)—appears more concerned with a distinction within psychosocial reality.
In modern times, Immanuel Kant effectively banished ethics from science i.e. science in the sense of investigation of the impersonal empirical world. Nevertheless it is possible to investigate the subjective or psychosocial world and find regularities akin to the laws of natural science. These metaphysical regularities necessarily lie in Kant's realm of ethics.
Both boxes describe worlds or realms containing objective realities—«things» or «entities»—that cause effects and can be referred to using names. Energetic interactions occur between things within each realm.
The environment contains social situations that affect us and are not personal. So they would be regarded as part of «actual» reality.
Personal functioning and psychosocial reality can be investigated empirically if we:
(a) accept that it exists,
(b) adopt an objectivist stance.
It can be confusing. For example, within psychosocial reality, personal entities seem subjective while social entities seem objective. For example: feeling and thinking seem subjective because no-one but ourselves would know about this, while achieving and governing seem objective because these are visible to others. However, both are matters of personal functioning.
In general, covert-private psychological processes—the «psycho-» in psychosocial reality—find counterparts in overt-public social processes and forms—the «-social» in psychosocial reality. And vice versa.
All of us seek continually to impose our will on our impersonal socio-physical environment in order to serve our needs and aspirations. We generate internal states, consciously and unconsciously, and then actualize these through interacting with our environment.
Within the psychosocial realm we can be transcendent—above and away from the hurly-burly and focusing on what we sense really counts. This is where we are free, where creation is powered, and where ethical potential resides.
However, to achieve anything of significance we must actualize what we determine in the transcendent state by interacting with our environment. As a result, we produce outcomes or make something that becomes external-impersonal reality for others—even while being part of our own psychosocial reality.
Whatever we do often exists apart from our experience and intentions. Our creation may even take on a life of its own. Ensuring sufficient alignment between the two realms requires precise and intense focus on our inner positions and a grasp of what is going on in our relevant outer world.
When actualization goes wrong … we do well to return to higher levels within the psychosocial realm, and get a perspective on how we may have contributed to the failure, perhaps by: wrong expectations, inadequate preparation, lack of technique, poor choices, inappropriate tools, distorted thinking, handling people wrongly, being arrogant—the list of possibilities is long.
More detail in the endeavour frameworks.
Originally posted: May 2010; Last updated: 22-May-2015.