Posts Tagged relativity

How We Might Come to Know: In Tossing Away Our Species Blinders, We Relearn That Consciousness Is Infinite, Yes … but Fantastic as Well.

Understanding Our Limitations, We Approach the Mystical: Biologically Constituted Realities, Part Five: Paradigm Relativity and the Limitations of Science

In tossing away our species blinders, we approach a truth far beyond science, though not overturning science…. In doing this we see that it is the mystics and the consciousness researchers who are likely to have the most accurate angle on Reality.

Ultimately this means that now that we know that common sense materialism is simply a biological construct of the species human, we can relearn that it is Consciousness that is our only knowable Reality, but also that it is Infinite, yes, but Fantastic as well.

Summary: Our sciences have led us to learn that what we call reality is what we have found to be useful for us as a species, but that it is not necessarily what is True and is certainly not all that is true or real. So we find that the Reality of It All or the All That Is gets reduced down from what it is to the snippet of it that we have found to be biologically useful.

But if we wish to know not merely what is practical but what is actually True or Reality, we need to go way beyond the smattering of facts thrown up by our ordinary senses and the sciences that are extensions of them. There are levels of that diminution of Reality—from All That Is down through what the individual knows to be true. So to know what is True, we need to reverse those reductions in true understanding.

We find that in doing this reversal, some startling things are revealed. For example, from the perspective of each greater awareness, each more limited perspective becomes understandable and the different ones of those perspectives can be compared. For example, it is difficult for one individual to truly understand another. However, standing within a knowledge of psychology in general we have a better understanding of another and we can compare one individual’s reality with another and come up with meaningful and true conclusions, even comparisons and evaluations. That is, indeed, why we have the science of psychology in the first place.

But at the level of cultures, a similar thing happens. Anthropologists come necessarily to the conclusion that another culture cannot truly be understood by someone standing in a different culture. Just as one individual cannot exactly understand another’s reality, it is even more impossible for someone from one culture to be able to truly view the world through the lenses or worldview of those born into another culture.

However, here again, we can have a better understanding of each culture and can even compare cultures somewhat when coming from the perspective of our common human biology. For all cultures have to relate to the nature of our body and its abilities, senses, and capabilities. All cultures make constructions about, around, and from the particular biological frame that humans have, so cultures can be compared at least in relation to those commonalities of humans. This means more than just that cultures can be compared in relation to biological realities like birth and death, for it is even important and instructive to compare them to more basic realities of human biology such as pain, pleasure, happiness, liberty, and so on. All humans feel and have concepts about these things. However, we see how non-absolute these realities are as soon as we look at the realities or consciousness of life forms other than human. Can we truly say that a lizard has a concept about liberty or happiness? Can we say that an amoeba or bacteria feels freedom or the lack of it.

It follows that to understand truth beyond our biologically constituted realities … to be able to get an idea of what reality might be for entities and life in general and not just humans, we would need to stand inside a paradigm of understanding that would apply to all species—both known and unknown. We would need to take a stance on the foundation of a trans-species perspective—that is, what is true for all species, not just humans. This is what science says it is attempting to do, but it actually does not. Because we have found out that sciences can only look in areas that we as humans ahead of time have an idea that something might be. In other words, science is an extension of our senses. So to do more, we have to expand our imagination to include what might be the perspectives of other species … other planetmates. This is what we our doing with our planetmate consciousness … our Planetmate Views. It is what The Great Reveal is all about.

But, you say, how can we do that? How can we know the way another being or life form, other than human, might view Reality? We can’t. But the point is we are more likely to come up with something truer than what we already know when we at least try to do that. And trying to do that means starting with dropping the presupposition, the arrogance, that humans have a superior and more real understanding of Reality. And when we do that, simply that alone, we already find we have a much expanded understanding of what is really Real. For even what we are able to know about other species shows us some of the ways they see things differently than us. So simply by not assuming we are the pinnacle of creation and acknowledging that, for example, a dog really does have more accurate smelling ability and an eagle a greater ability to see, and imagining what that would mean for us or keeping that in mind, we come to an appreciation of ourselves as a part of Nature, not a ruler of Nature; just as in our understandings of the realities-subjectivities-feelings of other humans led us to know that we are not rulers of other people; just as our understanding of other cultures have led us to know that one culture is not better, superior to, or more dominant over another.

The conclusions from all this understanding is that our sciences are important in establishing facts and reality, but the ones they come up with are only relative to our species, not necessarily to any other species, and not necessarily do they give us a true idea of What Really Is.

You think this is irrelevant to know? Well, to give just one example, think of all our forays into space and our imaginings of other beings from other than this planet. If you take the perspective that I am encouraging here, you will notice how astoundingly naïve are our expectations and how crude the instruments we use to detect other life forms. For they all are built on an expectation of finding beings that are at least somewhat like ourselves. You say, no, our scientists aren’t assuming other beings of high consciousness would look like us. But you should know I mean that in our scientists saying what are the building blocks of life–water, and so on–they are showing a bias about “life” that it is something like what we know. Notice also that even the idea that a “higher” level of consciousness itself has its roots in this idea that a human consciousness is superior to other kinds we know of.

So these assumptions built into our science are laughable in their arrogance. Meanwhile, in understanding how limited and relative is our human perspective, we are able to imagine other possibilities for life and its variations. We begin to approach the perspectives of mystics. We begin to understand how it is not outside the realm of possibility that even what we consider non-life and inanimate to be somehow conscious or a form of consciousness, even if we cannot call it “life”—which is, we see now, itself part of our limited species interpretation.

So, in tossing away our species blinders, we approach a truth far beyond science, though not overturning science. What Is ends up not, as fundamentalists might think, opposed to science, rather inclusive of science … but including so, so much more. And in doing this we see that it is the mystics and the consciousness researchers who are likely to have the most accurate angle on Reality.

Ultimately this means that now that we know that common sense materialism is simply a biological construct of the species human, we can relearn that it is Consciousness that is our only knowable Reality, but also that it is Infinite, yes, but Fantastic as well.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Albert Einstein

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.” Albert Einstein (1945)

How We Might Come to Know 

In light of what I said earlier concerning the underlying “biological” rationale for the “real-world” information that is the usual purview of our sciences, I emphasize this point of Huxley’s on the criterion of usefulness in determining what is normally regarded as real and true . . . and especially this usefulness as being relative to biological survival.

The Levels of Reality Construction

The point I am making is that we may profitably consider each level of reality construction—from the levels of biologically constituted realities down through the various levels of cultural constructions of reality—as levels in the diminution of reality (cf., Adzema, 1991). This focusing on the specifics to the exclusion of more wholistic perspectives may have more “biological” usefulness. But the point is that any scientific endeavor that would seek to be anything more than merely pragmatic (and actually venture after truth) must undo or reverse that diminution—must indeed be aware of the self-constructed nature of the creations with which it is normally concerned.

Paradigm Relativity

The upshot of all of this is that the elements (“particles”) operating within any particular paradigm are closed to each other, “sealed.” On the other hand, standing on the basis of a “deeper,” or more encompassing, paradigm; translation, discourse, and transfer of information can truly occur. As an example, looked at from the playing field of culture, we come to the conclusion of epistemological relativism—i.e., that cultures are sealed from one another; no genuine dialogue is possible across their boundaries. However, looking at these same cultures within the playing field of the physical or biological (i.e., standing on those “brute facts”), we see that discourse, transfer, and translation occur once again. [Footnote 4]

For this reason also, we can see why it seems that biological anthropologists and primatologists are so much less bothered by issues of epistemological relativism than are cultural anthropologists.

But then, standing on these “brute” (i.e., biological) facts, we are confronted with a new relativism—that regarding the worldviews of one species over against another. We see that species are epistemologically sealed from one another and that a trans-species reality is seen to be as impossible as a transcultural one was while standing within the playing field of culture.

Thus, though each culture is epistemologically sealed in relation to reality, it is not so in relation to other cultures (at least in a relative sense—that is, relative to our separation from Reality as Such). For all cultures of humans exist within a common biological paradigm that is concerned with all that is related to biological survivability (though not to Reality as Such). It means that cultural paradigms can be compared in relation to common species-specific factors.

Usefulness and Limitations of Science

In this way we see why investigation of this Newtonian-Cartesian universe that we perceive with our senses and that we have constructed with the aid of our sciences is important. For it can provide additional data that has the possibility of being biologically useful.

Contrary to the conclusion from the total-symbolic-heritage view, science can be seen as more than “mere ethnoscience”—that is, science as being merely one more part of a culture and with no more claim to validity than any other view.

Levels of Usefulness, Paradigm Comparisons

It seems to me that science has a greater, though not ultimate, claim to validity to the extent it includes and integrates more experiential “facts” in its reality constructions . . . the degree of scientific validity—from good ethnoscience to bad ethnoscience—being the number of experiential facts it includes and integrates. Cultural constructions can therefore be compared, although such comparisons do not render any one of them, including science, Ultimate Truth, only “righter” in relation to the others, i.e., more correct.

What follows is that whoever accepts the “larger,” more encompassing, more inclusive perspective is necessarily the one who has more “power” ultimately, in that this one’s view allows for more accurate predictive and remedial power. That is why, eventually if not immediately, more inclusive paradigms and their proponents attain dominance.

That is not to say, by the way, that new paradigms do always include all facts that old paradigms include . . . just that they often include “more” experiential—thus, “objectively” true—facts. As just one example, many Amerindians’ views included some “facts” that were excluded from the paradigms of those that superseded them.

Paradigm Clash, The Force Behind Evolution

But to continue, since persons holding more inclusive paradigms are more “powerful,” eventually if not immediately they are more likely to predominate in that they would be chosen by natural selection. If we would slide back our anthropocentric lenses for a minute and attempt to view all other species as simply other problem-solving beings who, as measured by their success, were employing either better or worse paradigms (i.e., including more or less experiential “facts”), we might say that this is one way of appreciating the force behind continual evolution for all species.

So science has a claim to validity in relation to our species’s biological survivability. But as emphasized earlier it has no claim in relation to anything other than that. Its truth is but a limited one. Its truth is relative to a biological context, a specific one, that of Homo sapiens.

A Challenge to Know More

Indeed, this fact of limitation needs to be emphasized more heartily in science today. Anthropological thinking has created a legacy where we have been made fully aware of the relativity of culture and the limitations of culturally constituted facts—those “institutional facts” referred to earlier. It seems an equal and parallel effort is warranted—from the ranks of ecosophists, consciousness researchers, tranpersonalists, and others in the know—to point out the limitations and relativity of our species’s biologically constituted facts—those (not so) “brute facts” of Anscombe and D’Andrade.


4. It is much the same as saying that it is when we share our feelings and personal experience (no coincidence that these are to a greater extent physical and biological than “mental”) that we have the greatest chance of sharing across individual or cultural boundaries.

Continue with The Challenge to Know More: The New Evidence, Pouring Forth from Our Sciences, Has Made Our Common Sense Materialistic Assumptions About Our Reality as Obsolete as Our Flat Earth Ones

Return to The Doors of Perception: Each of Us Is Potentially Mind At Large… When Perception Is Cleansed, All Kinds of Nonordinary Things Happen

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We Can’t Know What We Can’t Know but We Cannot Unknow What We Are: Our Reality Is Species Determined and the Relativity of Science

Biologically Constituted Realities, Part Two: Our Reality Is Species Determined: Relativity of Science

Summary: What I’m saying in this part is that basically our sciences have shown they can not determine what is real,558008_447511325288521_2045342229_n let alone measure it, because they are extensions of our senses which are themselves imperfect. So we cannot really know what is real. Further, we find that just as culture creates our reality for us, that prior to that our biology creates the reality upon which culture can build. This means that we are able to understand what is human reality at least, though not ultimate reality, by looking at the only reality that all humans share—our biological one.

We will see shortly that means that the way we come into the world—our conception, womb life, and birth—create the foundations upon which all are other perceptions are built, and these being unique to humans mean that humans will be the only species seeing the world exactly the way we do.

bwv01aFurther, while focusing on our biology as a basis for understanding what is fundamental about humanness, we are able to compare cultures in relation to that biology, though not in any other way. What we will see this means is that while we cannot compare cultures for the most part—this is called cultural relativity—we can compare them in terms of certain things all cultures share which have to do with the fact that all humans have the same kind of body and biological history: an example of that would be the way cultures deal with birth, specifically the pain of it.


“Ultimately our physics . . . is going to demonstrate that essentially there is no such thing as matter. All there is is mind and motion.” – Armand Labbe


Relativity of Science

381068_2409354290062_410697896_nBut what of our science, one might ask, which can reputedly extend the range of our senses? Does it not provide accurate-enough “feedback” or “alternative”-enough perspectives to allow us a glimpse of what is , for truth, really real? Let us just look at what modern science tells us about the observations it makes on the world.

According to Zukav (1979), author of a widely read overview of the new physics, a major underpinning of modern physics is the realization and discovery that science cannot predict anything, as had been taken for granted, with absolute certainty. Relatedly, it informs us that there is simply no way to separate the observed event from the observer. That is to say that the observer is, her- or himself, an inexcludable variable and always affects the results of an experiment.313530_447511135288540_994262983_n In a very fundamental way, the perceiver influences what is seen in even the most “scientifically” pure observations and experiments: “The new physics . . . tells us clearly that it is not possible to observe reality without changing it” (Zukav, 1979, p. 30).

Zukav (1979) takes, as an example, that a condition is set up to perceive an event: If it is designed to find waves in light, it discovers waves; if it is designed to find particles, we get particles—in supposedly the same “outside world” . . . and regardless of the fact that logically light cannot be both a particle and a wave (pp. 30-31). That is the classic example, of course. The structure of the experiment, designed by the observer, determines what will be found.

What is this saying if not just what I have stated above: that we determine ultimately, because of our specific biology, what we sense; that we therein determine the “world” we experience.

In line with Anscombe’s (1958) terminology of “brute facts,” Searle (1969) claims a distinction between “brute facts” and “institutional facts.” D’Andrade (1984) explains,

Not all social-science variables refer to culturally created things; some variables refer to objects and events that exist prior to, and independent of, their definition: for example, a person’s age, the number of calories consumed during a meal, the number of chairs in a room, or the pain someone felt. (p. 92).

528519_447511581955162_2026388883_nFrom what I have been saying, we can admit that these “brute facts” may not be culturally constituted as D’Andrade asserts, but they certainly are biologically constituted. They are species-specific facts—”brute” only in relation to our particular species.

Thus, the new-paradigm answer to the age-old philosophical question is clear: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Absolutely not. Sound is as much species-relative as the practice of polygamy is culturally relative. In other words, there are species for which sound does not exist. Similarly, the event that 578797_2214324854448_756151266_nwe perceive as sound-tree-and-forest-interacting may be “perceived” as something quite different with different and/or more kinds of “senses” or, one might say, from a different vantage point.

Removing our anthropocentric blinders in this way we must conclude that the world, as experienced, is created of realities that are not only culturally constituted; there are also biologically constituted realities. The “brute facts” to which D’Andrade refers are—nothing brute about them—biologically determined facts. Indeed, there are biologically determined facts, bioculturally determined facts, and culturally determined facts—all existing on a continuum.


So do we then, indeed, create our own reality culturally, of which Sahlins (1976) writes. Yes, I believe we do. But I believe we do much more than that. I believe we create it biologically too—that our reality is species determined.

Relativity: Cultural and Biological

So what does this say about cultural relativity, of which so much is made in anthropological circles? 255366_2258372155603_1546714044_nI agree with Sahlins’s position on the total and symbolic nature of culture and the resulting extreme cultural relativism. As D’Andrade (1987) put it, Sahlins’s view is extreme enough that it undermines even science’s claim to validity (p. 5). But I do not imply by my agreement that I believe reality is only culturally determined by any definitional stretch of the term cultural that Sahlins, even from his “total heritage” perspective, could have had in mind. I intend to go further.

10-emergence-440_thumbHow so, then, could I claim, at the outset, that I believe both positions can be true? How can reality be so thoroughly “created” (not only culturally but biologically as well) and yet there be universal commonalities on which to base analyses and cross-cultural understanding? Where I disagree with Sahlins and emphatically agree with D’Andrade is where D’Andrade (1987), in referring to a quote from Sahlins, writes

I think I agree if . . . [he] . . . means that people respond to their interpretations of events, not the raw events themselves. 1However, if this means that culture can interpret any event any way, and that therefore there is no possibility of establishing universal generalizations, I disagree. I believe that there are strong constraints on how much interpretative latitude can be given to biological and social events. While the letters “D,” “O,” “G,” can be given any interpretation, pain, death , and hunger have such powerful intrinsic negative properties that they can be interpreted as “good” things only with great effort and for short historical periods with many failed converts. ( emphases mine, p. 6)

two_thousand_ten_ver1-2010crpd_thumbWith this statement of D’Andrade, I enthusiastically agree also. I believe that there are “intrinsic” (biological) determiners of cultures, which create a basic underlying structure. Where I feel I take issue with D’Andrade is in contending that these “intrinsic” determiners are intrinsic to the species, not to the events themselves. This is as important to point out as it is important in physics to keep in mind that particles and waves only exist in relation to an observer. 224754_3983661984328_1661313711_nIn this regard, as Armand Labbe (1991) put it at a Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness conference, “Ultimately our physics . . . is going to demonstrate that essentially there is no such thing as matter. All there is is mind and motion.” At any rate, I contend that this biological “infrastructure” results in biocultural, species-specific, and hence transcultural patterns of thought and behavior. Further, these transcultural patterns create transcultural patterns of social structure, “external culture,” sociocultural behavior, and so on.

Continue with We Are What We’ve Experienced and The Perinatal Paradigm: Our Conception, Gestation, and Birth Create Our Windows to the World

Return to Creating Worlds: Biologically Constituted Realities, Part One

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