Archives for posts with tag: The Social Construction of Reality

Present owes just as much to Reaction, if not more, as it does to Revolution
Ilie Badescu, PhD.

Newton had noticed  that everything, no matter how ‘inanimate’, reacts whenever ‘prodded’. And, maybe even more importantly, that the reaction is exactly balances the ‘prodding’.
Provided that the ‘prodding’ doesn’t actually ‘destroy’ the ‘target’, of course. But even then, some ‘reaction’ is always exerted against the ‘intruder’.
Walking, for instance. Whenever we walk on tarmac, our weight is fully supported by the pavement. When walking on dry, fine sand, our feet leave an impression. Our weight is eventually counterbalanced but not before some local ‘readjustments’ have been made. Finally, when walking in knee deep water, our feet completely ‘destroy’ the layer of liquid before reaching the ‘terra firma’ below. But not without having been met by some hydrodynamic resistance – which is far greater than the aerodynamic one we constantly overcome when walking on dry land.

Darwin had noticed that species either evolve – and survive, or ‘go under’ whenever something changes in the environment they had been accustomed to.
It’s a no brainer to remark that here the reaction is no longer as instantaneous nor as ‘equally opposed’ as in the first case.

Since Berger and Luckman’s The Social Construction of Reality it is tacitly accepted that our fate is heavily influenced by our actions.
Some of those inclined to entertain religious beliefs will now add that it is our actions which take us to hell or to heaven but since there have always been some ‘misunderstandings’ between the various currents …
Anyway.
My point is that in this third case, each specific ‘reaction’ is actively shaped by the individual ‘reactionary’. According to their own projections of the future, to the prevailing, socially adopted and individually internalized, rules and to the individual understanding of the until then discovered ‘natural laws’.

And that our future, as a species/civilization, is being shaped now.
By us.
Using whatever cultural heritage our ancestors have left us and, maybe more important, according to our limited understanding of the world.
And according to our wishes, of course.

It will be our children who will bear the brunt of our current decisions.

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ganditorul

OK, this guy’s stool has four legs… nobody’s perfect…

A few days ago, while talking with a good friend of mine – Lucian Stefanescu, we convened that God has a lot in common with a chair.
Three legged, four legged… take your pick.

Let’s imagine we are part of a thought experiment.
One which allows us to travel through time.

Some ten or twenty thousand years ago, neither ‘God’ nor ‘chair’ existed at all.
The concepts, I mean.

In those times, people were just as able to sit as we are now. And they probably did it. On rocks, on logs…. which ever happened to be around when they felt the need/had the time to rest their feet….
Until somebody had the bright idea of picking up a big enough boulder, carried it to the fire and sat on it. Effectively inventing the very concept of chair.

Same thing goes for God.
I have no way in which to ascertain whether God exists outside our minds or not. Or who of our ancestors had come up with this idea. Or when.
The point being that our faith in Him has been enough for God to produce so many consequences. For our version of God to become real. To shape the very world we’ve built for ourselves.

You see, ten thousand years ago, in pitch black darkness, no one could have stumbled upon a chair while walking through the cave they called home. They could have stumbled upon rocks which happened to exist over there… but not upon any chairs.
Until some of the rocks had been used as such!
Nowadays… it’s not so unusual to trip over a chair. Even in broad daylight. Simply because we’ve build so many of them.

Same thing goes for God.
Ten thousand years ago, we didn’t have the concept yet.
Now, we have to deal with the consequences of us having already ‘killed’ Him.

 

The scientists act on the assumption that their efforts to un-peel the  ‘onion’ will eventually bear fruit and that ‘the truth’ will eventually be found crouching behind the proverbial ‘last skin’.

The artists keep torturing their souls hoping that theirs will be the one blessed with enough sensitivity to feel the ‘ultimate’ experience and with enough talent to be able to communicate it to the rest of us.

The mystics keep entertaining the proverbially faithful ‘grain of hope’ that their soul will be blessed by their Maker with some ‘insider’ knowledge and with enough stamina to make the revelation known to the rest of the flock.

Meanwhile the rest of us, the ‘regulars’, keep altering the ‘onion’ – otherwise known as ‘The Reality’, sometimes beyond recognition.

Let me elaborate.

As of now it seems that there are a hard core reality – the one feverishly pursued by all those mentioned at the start of my post, a multitude of partial images of what that reality looks to each of us – the ones made up by each of us when trying to make sense of our perceptions about the (hard core) reality, usually without being aware that what we look at is a window dressing composed of the numerous patches pinned by by each of us on the original while acting according to what each if us perceived to be (the image of) the ‘reality’.

And it’s exactly this overgrowth that constantly changes the object of perception at which each each of us stares continuously and tries not only to understand it but alto to adapt to it. Constantly forgetting that our efforts not only adapt us to the (perceived) reality but also alter the reality itself, not only the image we perceive of it.

But hold on. I haven’t mentioned the really interesting part yet.
All of the above constitute the ‘innocent’ side of the whole thing. The natural process that would take place if all of us would act ‘up-front’.

In reality some of us have ‘ulterior’ motives.
Some of us consider that their understanding of the world is not only better than that of everybody else but also that they are entitled to act based on that understanding. Without asking permission from and sometimes even against the wishes of those who will bear the brunt of the consequences brought forth by those actions.

That’s why the ‘patches’ pinned by these callous people fit a lot less to the real reality than those attached by the honest ones among us.

And that’s the catch.
The ‘distance’ between the reality of a fact and our perception/action about it produces a certain ‘energy’. If the distance is small the energy corresponding to it is manageable. People can adjust to it and absorb its consequences.
But sometimes the distance is larger than what can be comfortably absorbed and this leads to the formation of social scars. And if successive ‘distanced’ patches are applied without enough healing time in between, then, eventually, wide ‘gaps’ will have to be dealt with.

And since ‘wide’ produces a lot of ‘energy’ and ‘a lot of energy’ leads to massive upheavals…

There are a lot of meanings attached to this concept.

Varying from “Karma is the law of moral causation” to Aaron Hapel’s “Belief in karma is the coward’s revenge.

Let me add another one.

Karma is about understanding the nature of the link between cause and effect.

Precisely the kind of understanding needed to break the vicious circle described by “The Only Thing We Learn From History Is That We Do Not Learn.”

My point being that history doesn’t play itself, over and over, mindlessly.

In fact “It’s us who play it again and again, until enough of us make enough sense of what has happened to be able to push the whole circus a little further down the road. And sometimes even that is not enough, a whole chapter becomes forgotten and we have to play it one more time….

Those of you who haven’t done so yet, try reading “The social Construction of Reality” by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman

“The work introduced the term social construction into the social sciences and was strongly influenced by the work of Alfred Schütz. The central concept of Social Construction of Reality is that persons and groups interacting in a social system create, over time, concepts or mental representations of each other’s actions, and that these concepts eventually become habituated into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalized. In the process of this institutionalization, meaning is embedded in society. Knowledge and people’s conception (and belief) of what reality is becomes embedded in the institutional fabric of society. Reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.”

ouroboros

Ever since people have become aware of their own awareness philosophers have entertained opposing views as to what is more important: matter or soul.

The materialists point out that everything, including us, is made of matter and, hence, nothing would be possible without it while the idealists maintain that everything that exists is nothing but a projection of our own thoughts.

As an engineer who had designed (material) objects before actually building them I find it strangely rewarding that both these fiercely opposing sides are, simultaneously, right.

Just as we are simultaneously made of flesh and animated by souls.

If you disagree, just pinch yourself.
Now tell me, ‘did it hurt?’.
Who felt it? Your flesh or your soul?
And who’s able to meditate about the whole experience? How come are we not only able to feel things but also to think about them? Then to communicate, efficiently, among ourselves about our relatively different experiences?
Surely, there must be something shared amongst us, something that constitutes not only a medium for our communication but also a common base for our experiences.

I’m going to use ‘reality’ to designate that commonality, irrespective of the fact that reality is a two tiered thing.

A material reality, something that exists per se – according to its own, natural, set of laws, and a social reality, something that we, the people, have agreed upon – either willingly or by omission to protest, efficiently, against it.

These two tiers of reality are no longer independent.

In fact they have never been. The social reality has grown, as a bud, ‘on top’ of the material reality. And this has happened according to an opportunity enshrined in the natural laws that govern the very existence of the material reality.

Now, after its birth, social reality has started to alter the material one.
In two ways.
By developing an ever more sophisticated understanding of the inner workings we gradually discover inside the material realm and, subsequently, by using various aspects of that (inherently limited) understanding in order to effect voluntary change.

I’m going to make a brief pause here.
Social reality is a human construct, one that came to life fueled by our own volition and shaped by the sum of the choices we’ve made during our entire history.
The mere fact that we are also ‘animals’ – and have changed the world around us by our mere, and long time unwitting, existence, is something else. Related to our social existence but nevertheless different from it.

What I’m trying to say is that by coming of age – by becoming aware of our own awareness, we are currently adding a third dimension to that Ouroboros thing.
The ‘serpent’ has been ‘eating its tail’ from the very beginning of the world. New stars have been born from the dust left after the older ones have exploded and decaying organic matter is what used to feed our crops until a few short years ago – and still does for the organic farmers.
But now, that we’ve become aware of the entire process – and of our contribution to it, we are in a position to influence its direction.

We can turn it into a vicious or a virtuous circle.

Which will it be?

who needs what

And please, please, don’t make this confusion.
People do, as for now at least, need ‘nature’ in order to lead what we call/feel to be a normal life.
But nature also somehow needs us. Otherwise it wouldn’t have allowed us to become what we are today.

Until now, during our development, we haven’t broken, not significantly at least, any natural laws. Otherwise we wouldn’t have reached this stage – according to Ernst Mayr’s interpretation of  Darwin’s teachings, anyway.
Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.
We’re not dead yet, are we?

Let’s keep it that way, lest we’re gonna be replaced.

Fast.

 

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