Ontology and Metaphysics of Anticipation: Relational Ontology



            My concerns in this essay are the following. One is that I have long had a genuine lay interest in the origin, sustenance, and end of the universe. The reading done for this essay has satisfied that lay interest. Two is that this area of scientific reflection often leads science to the position that any God worthy of believing would not order a world like this. This essay does not settle the question of God one way or the other, and for me, that is success. Three is that many devout religious persons find the scientific vision of the universe antithetical to religion. In reality, religious people have nothing to fear from the explorations of science.

            Ontology is nothing more than a description of the entities that are in the universe. The universe is our home world. This body is the only body we will have. This life is the only one that we will live. The life we describe with our language is the only real life we can live. Nothing is structurally wrong with human life. We are not in exile. Human beings emerged from this world. We have good reason to think that surviving and thriving species have the means to do so as the natural process provides. This world, in this body, and with this life, is the only home we have. Our faculties, our needs, and our capacities, enable us to function with reasonable happiness and wellness in this world. We discover our happiness when we accept ourselves as intimately woven into the flux of human life. Science is the means by which we are understand our home better and improve our sense of home on this planet. It provides a map or model of our physical world.

            The category of the whole is significant for science, although in an undifferentiated way. Space and time become unifying categories. Science has the categories of space and time to form the basis of its field objects. They are universal concepts, and not just intuitions. They have a categorical or unconditional character. The transformational equations for space and time in physics guarantee their homogeneity, which is the condition for all measurement. Modern physics would add mass and force, as well as law. The category of law is foundational for the theoretical context of modern natural science. Natural science brings homogeneity of space and time through law, thereby neglecting the individual occurrence. The natural sciences presuppose the equal validity and indifference of all individual appearances. This characterization of natural science distinguishes it at every level from the human sciences.

            Any metaphysics, if modernity is to take it seriously, can no longer claim the character of a definitive foundation, constructed of concepts, for being and knowledge. Metaphysical reflection must instead take on the form of a conjectural reconstruction in relation to its object, one that distinguishes itself from its intended truth while at the same time construing itself as a preliminary form of this truth. Its characteristic reflective form is that of anticipation, in contrast to that of concept in the sense of classical metaphysics. The philosophical concept reveals itself in the structure of anticipation.

            The anticipatory character of physical reality shows itself in that physical reality is a brute fact. Physical reality does not require human institutions or perception in order to exist. The ontological principle is simple: everything exists in some place and some time. Human beings experience their limits as they keep bumping up against it. Scientific theories, no matter how beautiful and attractive they may be, must work to be successful theories. A thing is what it is. Yet, a thing is also more than it is, for each thing relates to other things. Individual entities in the world do not determine themselves. Rather, they define themselves in relation to other entities. Each entity points beyond itself to other entities.

            One way to look at atoms and cells is as information systems that interact with other atoms and cells, and thereby in that interaction create the complexity and hierarchical levels that we see today. If atoms and cells never became communities of atoms and cells, we would live in a simple universe indeed. However, the fact that they attract and repel each other has made for increasing complexity. Simple systems give rise to complex behavior; complex systems give rise to simple behavior. The laws of complexity hold universally, caring not at all for the details of a system’s constituent atoms. Simple, deterministic systems could breed complexity; systems too complex for traditional mathematics could yet obey simple laws. The task of humanity is to understand complexity itself. A system is complex, in the sense that a great many independent agents or individual entities interact with each other in a great many ways. This interaction includes breadth and depth, and is that multi-dimensional and hierarchical. The richness of these interactions allows entities to adapt to each other in genuinely creative ways. Interaction generates organisms turning these adaptations to their unique and individual advantage. They must learn to cooperate with other organisms to make that advantage occur. Complex systems have discernable order, suggested by our ability to put the universe into mathematical equations. Yet, complex systems are also disorderly in the way entities cooperate and compete for advantage. Complex systems move toward the disorderly edges in order to resolve their most difficult problems.

            As an aside, among the temptations of science is to resort to determinism. Science can give the impression that no human action matters as far as concerns the end or purpose of the universe. The interactions of atoms and cells can appear in such a law-like form that it opens up the possibility that everything is, marches toward a pre-determined end. Determinism suggests that like causes always produces like effects; like effects necessarily follow from like causes. Indeterminism is the doctrine that not all events in the physical world are predetermined with absolute precision, in all their infinitesimal details. However, chance is not the only alternative to determinism. In principle, science can discover any entity that exists. Yet, the possibility that science will discover every entity is an illusion. Therefore, every theory has an anticipatory character. Science struggles to understand how such non-physical things as purposes, deliberations, plans, decisions, theories, intentions, and values, can play a part in bringing about physical changes in the physical world. The system has randomness built into it, given the cooperative and competitive nature of atoms and cells moving toward complex, hierarchical relationships. One cannot tell precisely what direction the system will go next.

            We can legitimately think of the architecture of reality, with various levels of interacting elements that increase in complexity. This architecture of reality, moving toward complexity, is an open system of change and movement. The character of anticipation in physical reality shows itself in that from the standpoint of the end, the essence of individual entities and of the way they define themselves in relation to other entities will reveal itself as present from the beginning.

            We do not have to possess knowledge of all the levels in order to use the level of knowledge we have to interact in the world. For example, we do not have to possess knowledge of the physical functioning of our brains in order to use them. The various levels of information in nature give us increasing complexity through relations between the various elements, much like we design computers with levels of information that eventually make the computer “user friendly.” We can view all forms of communication as the way we share the software we have developed with our minds. Physics and biology deepen our knowledge of that hierarchy, by which we explain reality by simpler versions of itself. When that complexity reaches the level of an organism that modifies its own behavior, and learns from other similar organisms in social and historical contexts, we have the arrival of conscious beings that arise out of inanimate interactions.

            One way to view the scientific project is that of constructing a map of physical reality, in the form of theoretical models. Such models are not simply mental projections, but inferences from the way in which nature actually works. The perfect model or map does not exist. The image of a map is better than that of “laws of nature” because it suggests that we can locate where we presently are on the map, that our knowledge of the terrain will increase with experience, and that it has boundaries or limits. Science does not summarize the totality of the human endeavor. The useful knowledge of the physical world with which science provides humanity has the potential to improve daily human life for the masses of the people of the world. Yet, this use of human knowledge from science requires consideration from other domains of human thought and experience. Thus, one could use scientific knowledge for the oppression of people just as easily as one can use it for improving daily life. In either case, the serious consideration of such models already involves us in the modern social world. One who refuses to make the move into modernity rejects the view that science has this responsibility.

            Verification in any field suggests that the hypothesis includes the relevant data, does so with a certain sort of simplicity, and proves fruitful in areas beyond its immediate concern. Even metaphysical assertions are hypothetical and anticipatory in that one who formulates them directs them toward reality as a whole. However, metaphysical reflection directs itself toward the structure of anticipations and toward their understanding of truth. Anticipations look forward to the occurrence of future experience and to the content of such experience. One wonders whether the anticipation remains external to the content toward which one directs it, simply because of the temporal difference between the anticipation and the anticipated experience.

            An example from theology might help. The fact that the resurrection of Jesus is an anticipation of the general resurrection of the dead anticipated in apocalyptic literature gives us a clue as to the relationship between the anticipation and the fulfillment of the anticipation. The final reality is present. Yet, the future that will reveal the truth about the present remains open and ahead of us. The truth proclaimed by Jesus hinges on a still absent future. Only if the future actually arrives was it in fact already present in the life of Jesus.

            We can only offer this totality of reason and reality as a thought, and not as knowledge, since it depends on the individual objects of possible experience bound together in reality. No experience has in fact grasped and comprehended the totality of possible objects of experience. Nevertheless, the idea of the totality of all reality is more than an arbitrary and subjective thought. This idea is the condition for grasping and determining all the individual objects of experience. The objects of possible experience are what exist finitely. These objects are components of the totality of objects.

            Anticipation is a real instance of something occurring in advance. The anticipated future is already present in anticipation. If the future does not occur, its anticipation will only be prophetic enthusiasm. Anticipation is always ambiguous. The true significance of any anticipation depends upon the future course of experience. Anticipation cannot guarantee the truth of its content.

            For religion, this means that all created life is a form of participation in the divine eternity. The length of time granted to each creature one can interpret as an anticipation of the completion expected from the future of the rule of God. One might even connect this expected future in Christianity with the highest human good as conceived by Plato, and thereby develop a significant contribution to a theology of history and the doctrine of God. One can view the concept of faith in Christianity as anticipation or prolepsis of future salvation. Faith becomes a knowledge that is already present before its final confirmation at the future completion through anticipation. Faith and knowledge are parallel in their structure. 

Field Theory and Anticipation of the Whole

            Analysis of individual motion can be the start for a new definition of the concept of substance. Motion is the natural condition of matter at the quantum level. The atom itself is a relational entity in constant motion. The atom is what it is in relation to other atoms. This relationship includes the accumulation of past relationships, the present relationship, and the anticipation of possible future relationships. This new definition needs to consider the viewpoint of time and becoming as the medium that constitutes the whatness of things. Things are what they are as substances retroactively from the outcome of their becoming on the one hand, and on the other hand in the sense of anticipating the completion of their process of becoming.

            This new definition of substance gives an adequate account of the individuality of natural entities. Ordinarily, the orientation toward typical and self-repeating forms represents a sufficient approximation, making this re-definition somewhat artificial. However, this re-definition of substances gives individual entities their due and incorporates time into our understanding of Being.

            The re-definition of substance requires clarifying the philosophical description of substance with the description of substance in modern science. Science does focus upon law-like relations within natural process, a fact that makes conversation between classical philosophical notions and science difficult. What I will explore here is the possibility that the field theory in physics will clarify the notion of substance. The concept of the field helps us to understand the overwhelming extent to which repetition within elementary processes serves as the basis for the formation of more complex forms. It also clarifies the formation of such forms themselves. It has similarity with the philosophical concept of Logos.

            This re-definition requires clarifying such a philosophical description of substance with the natural and scientific description. The key to this difference is that the natural and scientific description focuses upon law-like relations within natural processes. Philosophy seeks to clarify the question concerning the constitution of the essential forms of being. One might do this by overcoming the atomistic modes of description in science with the field theory in physics.

            The re-definition of substance I propose avoids atomistic modes of description in science. The atomic hypothesis is that all things are made of atoms. Atoms are little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into each other. Atoms like certain particular partners, certain particular directions, and so on. It is the job of physics to analyze why each particle wants what it wants. Astronomy discovered that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth. Motion, not rest, is the natural state of the universe.  We live in a world made up entirely of physical particles in fields of force. As much as science trends toward analyzing wholes into hierarchical parts until one arrives at the foundation of the whole, science needs continually step back and envision how the parts fit together in the whole they are.

            Atomism as a philosophy presupposes an encompassing unity if it conceives of atoms as unities at all. The totality of all other events conditions every individual event gives offers the possibility for individuality to find meaning in the context of the whole. The universe has meaning for the individual. We do not want to overestimate the degree of uniformity in the real world. However, the philosophy of atomism cannot treat individuality and wholeness with equal importance. We do not think of the phases of formation as temporally successive. Therefore, representing the occasion as a process of formation appears paradoxical to us.

            Temporarily successive processes suggest the goal of becoming for the form has always been present. The plant or animal is always this plant or this animal, although its specific nature comes fully to light only in the result of its formation. By way of anticipation, that which it will become is only in the process of its formation. By anticipating its essential form in the process of its own formation, the substantial identity of being links together with the notion of process. Anticipation means that the subject, constituting itself in the present, includes also its future relevance for others in the act of its self-constitution. This analysis illuminates processes that take place in time. The subjective aim of the process has to do with the actual, still-to-come future of each one’s own essential completion. The anticipation of one’s own essential completion in the future gains greater significance for the constitution of subjectivity. The latter depends on the whole of one’s own essential completion becoming a reality in each present. The independence of finite being and subjectivity can increase along with the complexity of forms. We can then combine the unity of the field from which actual occasions proceed together with the unity of the forms that appear in increasing differentiation on higher levels of natural process. Such a view of matter holds to the idea of an essential identity of that which continues to become throughout the process of its formation. The unity encompasses the whole process and so links the fundamental intention of the concept of substance with the process perspective.

            Einstein’s general theory of relativity does away with the need for a force of gravity. Time and distance rates depend on the place in space you measure time and on the time. In this theory, the effects of gravitation are local, not distant.  Nature does what is easiest.  In this case, objects in the universe simply respond to the contours of space in their immediate vicinity. The laws of physical phenomena must be the same for a fixed observer as for an observer who has a uniform motion of translation relative to him, so that we have not any means of discerning whether or not we are carried along in such a motion. Newton’s second law F=d(mv)/dt assumed that m is a constant. The mass of a body increases with velocity. The theory of relativity changes Newton’s laws by introducing a correction factor to the mass. The formula for relativistic mass says that the inertia is very great when v is nearly as great as c. The velocity of light is deeply woven into the fabric of the universe (e=mc2). The amount of energy contained in any chunk of matter is equal to its mass times the velocity of light squared.  Since the mass of an object would become infinite at the speed of light, and length would shrink to zero, we cannot accelerate to the velocity of light.  Matter is nothing more than frozen energy.  Space and time are relative to the observer.  The speed of light makes both space and time.  Experiments proved that light did not travel in space in a straight line.  As one advances toward the speed of light, time slows down.  The law of gravitation has an elegantly simple principle. Every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force that for any two bodies is proportional to the mass of each and varies inversely as the square of the distance between them. An object responds to a force by accelerating in the direction of the force by an amount that is inversely proportional to the mass of the object. Anything that has energy has mass. Even light has a mass.

            The map provided by Einstein is one quite different from the map provided by Newton. Space and time are no longer separate entities extending infinitely in all directions. Rather, space-time is curved. From the measured area of a sphere, we can define a predicted radius, but the actual measured radius will have an excess over this that is proportional to the total mass contained inside the sphere. This fixes the exact degree of the curvature of space-time. The curvature must be the same no matter who is looking at the matter or how it is moving. Particles move on straight lines in this curved space-time. Planets follow the path of least resistance through curved space.  The universe becomes finite, in that it contains a finite amount of space, and unbounded in that, as with any sphere, one can never reach an edge.  This suggests that we can map the universe only by going to four dimensions; that is, the universe is a four-dimensional hypersphere. Curved space is one in which the following types of geometrical errors occur: the sum of the angles of a triangle is different form 180 degrees; the circumference of a circle divided by 2p is not equal to the radius; the rule for making a square does not give a closed figure. The curvature of space can vary from space to space. We mean by curved space simply one in which the rules of Euclidean geometry break down with one sign of discrepancy or the other. The amount of curvature may vary from place to place. We do not have the slightest idea about the overall curvature of our universe on a large scale.

            The finitude of space-time suggests that the universe has a beginning. With the explosion that began the universe, space and time came into existence. Our difficulty is that we cannot imagine a reality without space and time. Rather than envisioning this explosion as happening within space and time, we need to think of it as happening, everywhere at the same time. George Smoot believes his team of researchers has discovered the slight fluctuations of the background radiation in the universe, which is an echo of this explosion that brought the space and time into existence. The universe continues to expand, creating new stars and galaxies. The energy set lose at the beginning continues to have its impact today. The early universe was in a state of high density and high energy, the “hot” theory. The inflationary hypothesis assumes that the expansion of the universe occurred at a speed faster than the speed of light.  Therefore, the laws that govern the observable universe would not apply to these opening moments of the existence of the universe. However, with this theory, science has concluded that space and time came into being 15 billion years ago. At about 10 billion years, planets formed. At about 12 billion years, microscopic life began. The universe is immense. We know that the speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum. To travel from the sun, 93,000,000 miles away, light takes about eight minutes. In one year, that light will travel 5.8 trillion miles.  It would take light one thousand years to travel through the Milky Way galaxy at its thickest point. The Milky Way has 100 billion stars. It is shaped like a flattened and luminous pinwheel bulging at the center. The diameter of the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years. The universe is two billion light years across.  Of course, scientists have not yet discovered why they explosion occurred, or, as Leibniz put it, why there is something rather than nothing. 

            Scientists now identify the hierarchy of the universe to have five levels. Such concentrations of mass exert gravitational force upon surrounding bodies. We can attribute the structure of the universe to quantum flux, a condition demanded by quantum physics.  This would mean random occurrence of high-density regions here and there in the primordial material.  The galaxy is the first level, of which most of us are familiar.  The second level is groups of galaxies.  Groups are a few million light years wide and consist of three to six conspicuous galaxies and a dozen or so smaller and dimmer ones.  The third level is the cluster, measuring 10 million to 20 million light-years in diameter and containing hundreds to thousands of galaxies.  Rather than allowing the general expansion of the universe to pull them apart, gravity holds the galaxies together.  The fourth level is the cloud, measuring 30 million light-years in diameter, often linked by filaments and spurs.  The fifth level is that of the supercluster, typically measuring 100 million light-years or more in diameter, containing something like ten thousand galaxies.  Scientists have also begun mapping great walls and giant voids that may form the largest structure of the observable universe. 

            Our own galaxy revolves around a center of gravity that holds our group together.  In about two billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will perform a dance, and then move away from each other.  Once again, even our galaxy is on the fringe of our group.

            At present, scientists do not know the end game toward which the finite universe moves. Scientists do not know if the present state of constant movement of the universe is one that continues forever. Another possibility is that movement will cease, and therefore space and time will cease. In either case, the present condition of the universe anticipates a future condition of which scientific theories can only dimly imagine today. Present theories anticipate an imagined future, based upon hints and clues understood today in the context of scientific discovery. The future will disclose the truth or falsity contained in those theories.

            Scientists also show the anticipatory structure of the universe at a quantum level. Quantum theory explains in principle how to calculate what will happen in any experiment involving physical or biological systems, and how to understand how our world works. Some effects that appear essentially capable of gradual increase or gradual diminution are in reality increased or decreased only by certain definite jumps.  It is as though one could walk at three miles per hour or at four miles per hour, but not at three and a half miles per hour.  There appear to be certain minimum amounts of energy that do not allow subdivision. There has been no great difficulty in comprehending what the quantum theory asserts.  The perplexity arises from the effort to fit the theory into the current scientific picture of what is going on in the molecule or atom.  We have to picture the atom as providing a limited number of definite grooves, which are the sole tracks along which vibration can take place, whereas the classical scientific picture provides none of these grooves.  The quantum theory wants trolley cars with a limited number of routes, and the scientific picture provides horses galloping over prairies. 

            Quantum description of particles allows scientists to understand how particles combine to form atoms. Quantum theory describes all of the fundamental forces-except gravitation-that physicists have found in nature. The forces that quantum theory describes are the electrical, the magnetic, the weak, and the strong. Physicists often refer to these forces as interactions, because the forces control the way particles interact with each other. Interactions also affect spontaneous changes in isolated particles.

            Quantum theory gives exact answers to many questions, but it can only give probabilities for some values. A rule in quantum mechanics says that one cannot know both where something is and how fast it is moving. It is not possible to predict exactly what will happen in any circumstance. We can find only an average, statistically, as to what happens. A probability is the likelihood of an answer being a certain value. Quantum mechanics is the description of the behavior of matter in all its details and of the happenings on an atomic scale. Things on a small scale behave like nothing about which human beings have any direct experience. They do not behave like waves; they do not behave like particles, or anything that you have ever seen. Because atomic behavior is so unlike ordinary experience, even scientists find it difficult to make the transition to intellectual comfort with the quantum level of the universe. It appears peculiar and mysterious to everyone.

            The complete theory of quantum mechanics that we now use to describe atoms and all matter depends on the correctness of the uncertainty principle. We can only predict the odds. This would mean that physics has given up on the problem of predicting exactly what will happen in a definite circumstance. Yes. Physics has given up. We do not know how to predict what would happen in a given circumstance, and we believe now that it is impossible.

            The central concept of thermodynamics is that of the macroscopic system, defined as a geometrically isolable piece of matter in coexistence with an infinite, unperturbable environment. The laws of thermodynamics describe the processes that govern how much energy is available. The state of a macroscopic system in equilibrium can be described in terms of such measurable properties as temperature, pressure, and volume, which are known as thermodynamic variables. Scientists can identify and correlate many other variables (such as density, specific heat, compressibility, and the coefficient of thermal expansion) to produce a more complete description of an object and its relationship to its environment. When a macroscopic system moves from one state of equilibrium to another, a thermodynamic process is said to take place. Some processes are reversible and others are irreversible.

            The first law of thermodynamics is a law of energy conservation. It gives a precise definition of heat, another commonly used concept. When an object meets a relatively colder object, a process takes place that brings about an equalization of temperatures of the two objects. This law identifies caloric, or heat, as a form of energy. Heat can turn into mechanical work, and it can be stored, but is not a material substance. Because energy cannot be created or destroyed-setting aside the later ramifications of the equivalence of mass and energy-the amount of heat transferred into a system plus the amount of work done on the system must result in a corresponding increase of internal energy in the system. Heat and work are mechanisms by which systems exchange energy with one another. We can state the law of conservation of energy in this way: a certain quantity called energy does not change in the manifold changes that nature undergoes.

            The second law of thermodynamics gives a precise definition of a property called entropy. Everything tends toward disorder. Any process that converts energy from one form to another must lose some as heat. Perfect efficiency is impossible. Entropy must always increase in the universe and in any hypothetical isolated system within it. The universe is randomness and dissipation. However, randomness with direction can produce surprising complexity. Dissipation is an agent of order. We can think of entropy as a measure of how close a system is to equilibrium; we can also think of it as a measure of the disorder in the system. The law states that the entropy-that is, the disorder-of an isolated system can never decrease. Thus, when an isolated system achieves a configuration of maximum entropy, it can no longer undergo change: It has reached equilibrium. Nature, then, seems to "prefer" disorder or chaos. In the absence of work, heat cannot be transferred from a region at a lower temperature to one at a higher temperature. This law poses an additional condition on thermodynamic processes. It is not enough to conserve energy and thus obey the first law. We would call a machine that would deliver work while violating the second law a "perpetual-motion machine of the second kind," since, for example, energy could then be continually drawn from a cold environment to do work in a hot environment at no cost. Scientists sometimes give this law as a statement that precludes perpetual-motion machines of the second kind. The law suggests the existence of an absolute temperature scale that includes an absolute zero of temperature.

            The third law of thermodynamics states that absolute zero cannot be attained by any procedure in a finite number of steps. Absolute zero can be approached arbitrarily closely, but it can never be reached.

            Relativity leads naturally to the quantum field concept. If I suddenly give one particle a push, the pushed particle produces a field, which carries energy and momentum through surrounding space and eventually hands some of it over to the neighboring particle. When one applies quantum mechanics to the field, we find that the energy and momentum must come in discrete chunks, or quanta, which we identify with the elementary particles.

            What we know as matter is an energy field. The particles of that energy field exerted influenced each other as the universe cooled. We also know that matter consists of atoms, developed around a nucleus that contains protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons.  Isotopes come out of chemical interactions where an element has the same number of protons but differing numbers of neutrons, some of which are stable and other unstable and therefore radioactive.  The vastness of our world, as well as the universe, arises out of such small energy particles.  As these energy particles cooled and attracted each other, suns and planets came into existence. We can also say that as we heat up matter today, we return it to its original state in cosmic history.  Such reflections help us to realize that matter is mostly space.  When we touch what we experience as a solid object, we now know is an electromagnetic field that repels similar fields in our bodies.  What we know as matter is the convergence of particles of energy at a particular space and time. This cluster of energy particles emerges out of the energy field that has shaped the universe as we know it today, and that in fact continues to create stars and galaxies. This field of energy explains movement in the universe, and the forces that cause that movement. The contribution of Einstein was that he demonstrated the geometric nature of this field of energy.

            The field of energy does not follow predictable patterns. Of course, the actual course of the history of space and time limits future possibilities for the universe. The past provides some continuity and predictability of the future. We do not know today where the unfolding drama of the emergence and convergence of new clusters of energy will lead the universe. This suggests that the future possibilities of the energy field have a greater influence upon the present than does the past. The function of the past fifteen billion years in that history is to provide the framework within which the future possibilities will become actual reality. A grasp of the unifying whole of reality can also maintain the integrity of the individual objects of the universe. Another way to say this is that the totality of the field of energy provides the unifying force from which clusters of energy emerge. The future of this process has a profound influence upon what the present becomes. Each object within the universe (or cluster of energy that emerges from the field of energy) has an anticipatory character, governed by the relational character of individual entities. They relate to the totality of the field and to the individual clusters within the field in unexpected ways. One could also expect that, as self-conscious life might emerge, and therefore responsibility and historical agency become part of the universe, one would heighten the indeterminate nature of the future.

Evolution and Anticipation of the Whole

            Life struggles on this planet. Evolution is a record of the on-going struggle of living entities to survive. This fact raises a question for any religion: How could God create a world that required so much suffering, death, and struggle for survival in for living entities to survive? In reality, this question is a scientific version of the ancient question of theodicy. Life emerged from natural processes. One must assume that living entities have the tools they need to continue re-producing. Those that do not have the tools to survive in every-changing physical and social setting will die. Living entities struggle for survival. In fact, we have a name for living without struggling: death. In this sense, the universe is not a hospitable place for life, even though the universe created the conditions for life. The earth is not a friendly place for life in general, and certainly not for the frail beings that human beings are. In order to protect ourselves from heat and cold, tornadoes and earthquakes, other animals, and diseases, as well as the evil we inflict upon each other, we have had to exert great thought and energy. The reason living entities struggle is that they represent a qualitative difference from non-living entities. Even though living things share a basic atomic structure with inanimate entities, the leap to genes and cells is a significant leap in the hierarchy of an entity. Communities of genes gather toward a threshold in which they pass into what we call life. Nature passes from inanimate to animate life. The complexity of the organized system reaches the creative edges of order and disorder, and life emerges.

            If struggle, suffering, and death provide the limit for determining the meaning of individual entities, God either does not exist or is sadistic. Yet, the struggle of individual living entities has its significance in the context of a larger totality. From the perspective of science, I want to suggest that both the field theory in physics and the theory of evolution provide ways to understand this totality. I will also suggest philosophy and religion have a role to play.

            A gene is any portion of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection; the smaller the gene the less likely it will be split. It replicates with high copying fidelity or longevity in the form of copies. It is unlikely that a single gene carries a specific trait that exhibits itself in the body it inhabits; rather, the interaction of the unique set of genes creates the body that houses the genes. Even at the genetic level, genes exist in interaction with other genes to create a whole organism. The collection of genes is an information system that needs to have certain chemical reactions in order to re-produce itself. Certain behavioral traits in animals have their source in a cluster of genes that have longevity. The gene has particularity and can have longevity (it is no more likely to die today that a million years from now, even if some genes last one generation). Genes compete and cooperate with other genes for survival. Ways of increasing stability and of decreasing stability of rivals became elaborate and efficient. Genes that survived cooperated with other genes from the gene pool to build one living organism after another in which to survive. This interlocking web of relationships controls embryonic development. Therefore, a single gene does not dictate a particular biological trait. Rather, this unique combination within this organism combines to make this unique organism. Natural selection, through inversions and other movements of bits of chromosome, thereby bringing genes that cooperate into closely linked groups. Genes that cooperate well with most of the other genes that it is likely to meet in successive bodies will tend to have an advantage. Well-integrated bodies, having the appearance of a unit instead of a community of genes, are the product of an evolutionarily stable set of self-interested genes. Self interest is quite proper within the organism, since this set of genes that makes this organism has never existed before. Although this self-interest can lead to moral questions of selfishness at other levels of human discourse, the fact that each organism is unique to history suggests proper care makes quite good sense and is a good stewardship of the brief time in which the organism exists.

            Evolution invites us to reflect upon the emergence of the novel and unpredictable within natural processes. Scientists take note of the being, becoming, and relatedness of entities and systems. The creative advance of the world is the becoming, perishing, and the potential of each entity in the universe. Although this process has a mathematical order to it, is not now, what it will be in the future. Evolution is not the realization of a plan given advance; the future does not overflow into the present, the complete execution of the plan awaiting some distant future, or even indefinitely. If chance is the operation of causes without design, evolution leaves the origin of species to chance. If life is the realization of a plan, it ought to show greater harmony the further it advances.  Instead, we find the origin of the universe and of life where the foundation of unity exists, given as an impulsion, rather than placed ahead as an attraction.  Harmony and unity are behind the universe, rather than in front. Science can speak of progress only in the sense of moving from simplicity and toward complexity of relationships.

            Evolution is a process of keeping features of an entity that work, while also providing innovation through mutation. This process ensures that some genes become more numerous and others less numerous in the gene pool. Natural selection concerns itself with the survival of the gene and the survival of a stable collection of atoms that is permanent enough or common enough to deserve a name. Certain collections of atoms form molecules, which may be more or less stable. If a group of atoms in the presence of energy falls into a stable pattern, it will tend to stay that way. This explains the survival of stable forms and a rejection of unstable ones. If within a species, there is variation among individuals in their hereditary traits, and some traits are more conducive to survival and reproduction than others are, then those traits will (obviously) become more widespread within the population. The result (obviously) is that the aggregate pool of hereditary traits within a species changes. As science reflects upon natural selection, one cannot help but note the staggering amount of suffering and death that occurs in order for a single, slight advance in the history of an organism. Often, this advance for one organism means its own survival and the suffering and death of another organism. Yet, an individual organism learns to survive through cooperative efforts within its species and between species as well.

            Some of these cells organize themselves into systems. Over long periods, certain types of living systems evolve in certain very special ways. Genes create living things. We can think of each gene as seeking its own reproduction, and thus primarily “interested” in its self-interest. Natural selection favors genes that can cooperate with other genes to make individual organisms in which to live. The fundamental unit of natural selection and self-interest is the gene, the unit of heredity. DNA molecules replicate themselves and supervise the manufacture of a different kind of molecule, the protein. Natural selection favored genes that could build embryos. Genes today are highly cooperative; the body is a highly cooperative community of genes designed to help genes survive. Plant and animal life contain the same core biological principle of life. Both must interact with the world in order to survive. The plant ended this interaction in the function of chlorophyll. The animal developed a nervous system and nerve centers. It took the human being, and in particular the development of the brain and language, to bring into being one who can intentionally direct attention away from self and toward others. At each transition in the increasing complexity of life, scientists find that collection of genetic material reaches a threshold that bursts forward into an organism of qualitatively different life. Thus, the difference between plant and animal, except in its transitional organisms, is a qualitative difference in interaction with the world.

            Animals evolved muscle, which allowed them to achieve rapid movement. Muscles use energy stored in chemical fuel to generate mechanical movement. Sexual reproduction has the effect of mixing and shuffling genes. The individual body is just a temporary vehicle for a short-lived combination of genes. The combination of genes that is any one individual may be short-lived, but the genes themselves are potentially very long-lived. Mitosis[1] and meiosis[2] create new cells. The products of the evolutionary process, organisms, are made of subsystems called cells, and some of these organisms develop subsystems of nerve cells called nervous systems. Some extremely complex nervous systems are capable of causing and sustaining conscious states and processes.

            Animal life has undergone immense changes in a relatively brief time, cosmically speaking. The dinosaur arose in the Triassic Period, about 225 million years ago. In this period, all of the continents were still huddled together. The dinosaurs were likely not large and showed little sign of becoming the dominant beings they would become. They gained dominance in the Jurassic Period, from 180 to 110 million years ago. It was during this time that Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Seismorsaurus (the largest, reaching 145 feet long), Stegosaurus, and Triceratops were dominant. It was during this time, around 135 million years ago, that the continents started to drift apart. The dinosaur is no longer viewed as a cold blooded, slow moving vegetarian and stupid. Rather, they probably traveled in vast herds and went on annual migrations. They may have cared for their young, and perhaps cooperated with others to protect them from predators. Predators were probably social as well and attacked others as part of a pack, like wolves today. They were probably more mobile than we have realized, at least when young and smaller. The Cretaceous Period went from 110 to 50 million years ago. At the end of this period, the continents formed as they are today. It was during this period that Tyrannosaurus (45 feet high) existed. It was about 65 million years ago that they were extinct.

            An asteroid more than 5 miles in diameter slammed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico. It sent a lethal wave of searing vapor ripping across the continent. Scientists have discovered most of the fossils in North America. The more interesting question may be why they dominated the surface of the earth for so long. At that time, the continent was home to many types of huge dinosaurs, from the toothy hunter, tyrannosaurus rex, to the 36-ton vegetarian Apatosaurus. Giant lizards browsing in prehistoric America first saw death as a dark cloud approaching rapidly from the southeast. Within minutes, it hit -- a wave of superheated, molten glass that scorched the Earth and helped end the 150-million-year reign of the dinosaur. The giant vapor cloud moved at 13,000 mph. It would have killed any animal in its path. The destructive force of the meteor 65 million years ago allowed new life to emerge. The heated cloud would have touched off forest fires and probably burned anything on the surface of North America. The fires could have continued for weeks and weeks, filling the air with smoke and gas, blotting out the sun and chilling the air. Animals throughout North America would have been hard-pressed to survive.

            Some of these living systems have evolved consciousness. Conscious states always have content. Human beings and modern African apes descend from common ancestors. African chimpanzees and gorillas share more than 99 percent of their DNA with that of human beings, comparable to the genetic kinship of horses and zebras or dogs and foxes. We do not know how far down the evolutionary scale consciousness extends. Yet, the difference represents a qualitatively different form of life. The difference yields beings that communicate with symbols and language with a degree of complexity that no other animal approaches. Language creates a clearing or space that represents a qualitatively significant difference with the rest of life.

            Archeologists have discovered the remains of human skeletons from archeological sites that go back to 2.5 million years to 700,000 years. They are associated with Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon, and Homo erectus. They worked primarily with stone tools, such as axes. They developed small sculptures and large paintings on walls. The function of the art is in dispute, some seeing a simple desire for fertility, and others seeing more religious significance.

            Homo sapiens started about 200,000 BC. These people had primitive cultures that revolved around small stones adapted as tools, development of cave paintings, fire, and son on. Early humans had primitive cultures that revolved around small stones adapted as tools, development of cave paintings, fire, and so on. The dangerous conditions of life on the planet made for an animal-like existence. Before 8000 BC is the Paleolithic Period or Old Stone Age. From 8000 to 4500 BC is the Mesolithic Period or the Middle Stone Age. The stone tools become polished. The hunters of this period became more efficient. 6000 to 4500 is the Neolithic Period or the New Stone Age, where there was manufacture of pottery, living in small villages, and building shrines. Their religion became shamanism. They developed an ancestor cult. The fertility of the seasons often became associated with human and or animal sacrifices. Artistic expressions focused on genital areas. As we developed the ability to use metal tools, our civilizations became increasingly complex. This began the rise of the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, the Amrateans in Egypt cultivate the Nile, known as the Ghassulian Period in Palestine.

            The emergence of human culture has a parallel in the human body. Bodies are the home of a set of genes that survive in a self-interested way, but do so in a way that brings them into a community of genes in this particular body. In a similar way, individual human beings exist because of the gift of cooperation and community. The nearest source of that gift physically is the parents and those who raise the child. It requires much nurturing and time to bring a human infant to the point where the infant can live independently. Yet, each individual also receives the gift of life from ancestors and the training of a culture and its traditions. Such gifts assist the individual in the relatively course of one’s life. Individuals survive best as they learn both to compete and to cooperate with other individuals. Culture itself becomes self-selecting in favoring individuals who best fit into the social order. Individuals learn the forms of life that best fit this ancestral family and this culture.

            The investigation of the human brain suggests the importance of its structure for the emergence of human community. Approached from a biological perspective, the brain is the way genes created the conditions for their best opportunity for survival. Certain big collections of nerve cells (brains) cause and sustain conscious states and processes. It contains about 100,000,000,000 nerve cells or neurons, each a few millionths of a meter wide and connecting to other nerve cells by thousands of endings. A single neuron can respond only by way of firing or not firing. We still do not know what the electric patterns mean. Scientists still do know how the circuits were put together and for what purpose. It has 3,195 distinctive genes, 50% more than any other organ or tissue, with the total of the entire human genome being 50-100,000. The brain grew four times between the first human fossils three million years BC and when the first Homo sapiens emerged around 200,000 BC. In evolutionary terms, this is rapid growth. Much of the growth occurred in the area of the brain that involves language and its symbol-based product, culture. In fact, every human being has a brain that has a similar organization of material for creativity, speech, memory, speaking, seeing, body sensory area, and so on. Further, every human brain has the same neural wiring. Each neuron stores a symbol, either of class or of an instance. The firing of the neuron gives rise to the high-level traffic of symbolization that we recognize as consciousness. The question for artificial intelligence is whether the high level of symbolization is embedded in the brain, or whether it is a software matter that could be lifted out from the hardware of the brain and utilized in a different context. Note that the collective behavior of the neurons is what produces what we know as intelligence and consciousness, a “whole” that is truly greater than the individual parts. This means that we store knowledge spread about throughout the neural system, rather than in a local packet.

            The new brain is divided into left and right brain. A body of fibers or white matter, corpus callasum, connects these two hemispheres. The left brain is our deductive brain. It is the analytical brain, with ability to take wholes and break them up into pieces. It is abstract, dealing with particulars in general and theoretical terms. The right brain is primarily inductive reasoning. It is intuitive, with the ability to take pieces and make wholes out of them. It is concrete, dealing with particulars in their material form. We have the ability to learn both of these types of thinking. In fact, we will improve our thinking if we use both parts of the brain.

            Science supports the understanding of the following process of learning through its exploration into the human brain. We have a larger brain, compared to body weight, than most other animals, the exceptions being whales and dolphins. We divide the brain into three parts. The old or reptilian brain is at the top of our spinal cord. We have an elongated bulge that we call the medulla oblongata. The nerve centers in the part of the brain monitor physiological needs, such as controlling our respiration, heart rate, sleep, appetite, and other very basic functions. The midbrain is larger and more complex. The nerve centers govern and produce emotions. Neurosurgeons have mapped this part of the brain. Through electrical stimulation, neurosurgeons can produce emotions like anger, euphoria, and even depression. The new brain consists of the cerebral cortex. The biggest difference between animals and us is the size of this part of the brain, and specifically the frontal lobes. Human evolution has been primarily the growth of the frontal lobes. 

            I would like to begin discussion of the philosophically problematic concept of human nature. Human nature consists in our openness to reality.  The standard social science model of human nature, that it barely exists and does not much matter, is not sufficient. Although human nature is quite open to the physical and social world, that openness occurs in the context of its biological structure. Human nature is embryonic development of rules by gradual change, the hereditary regularities of mental development that bias cultural evolution in one direction as opposed to another, and thus connects the genes to culture. The most widely distributed traits of culture confer advantage on the genes that predispose them. A large part of the shaping of human nature is cultural, rather than genetic or physical environment.

            The freedom of humanity, the openness of humanity to the future, makes us inexact objects of study. The study of humanity is a matter of self-knowledge.  Unlike other species on this planet, human beings have vast individual and group variety.  Ancestral history, local community, and culture, shape individuals in such a variety of ways that it far surpasses the influence upon individuals in other species. Membership in the human race does not lead to the sameness that exists in other species on the planet.  Humanity has a specific human nature and all human beings have the same nature. Ontological differences between the genders or between races do not exist.

            The brain may have an innate system of intellectual organization. Cognitive science, neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary psychology suggest that every human being has innate drives toward certain activities. The most significant is the emergence of consciousness as intentionality.

            Consciousness arises out of such sterile, inanimate components, all of which obey the same laws that govern the rest of the universe. Neurobiological process causes the rise of consciousness and is as much a part of the natural biological order as any other biological features. Consciousness is an evolved phenotype trait of certain types of organisms with highly developed nervous systems. The key to consciousness is the patterns that can come to exist inside the stuff of our brains. The brain stores bytes of information in the nerve cells as electrical impulses. The only decision the cell has to make is to fire or not to fire, thereby releasing or withholding its information. Each nerve cell becomes part of a cluster of cells that form various levels of thinking and interacting with the world. These bytes of information translate upward in parallel architectural structures in symbols triggered by experience in the world. The various languages of the brain become increasingly complex, until it develops symbols that we can understand. The cooperation and competition of these cells provide us with a sense of self. Brains are media that support complex patterns that mirror the world, of which our brains are denizens.

            Self-consciousness arises when the brain’s simulation of the world becomes so complete that it must include a model of itself. Self-consciousness liberates the body from the genes. Genes become largely passive in the body of human beings, allowing the predictive capacity of the brain to ensure their survival, even to the point of going against the message of the genes. In a sense, the brain may have modified the biological process of natural selection. When we are conscious, we are conscious of something, though not always with intentionality. Intentionality suggests we are usually, though not always, conscious of something. Intentionality involves aboutness. Something exhibits intentionality if its competence is in some way about something else. We contain a representation of something else within us. The point is not recognizing an object in front of us; intentionality occurs when we recognize the object as something we have known before. All consciousness is from a point of view, whether conscious or unconscious. Every intentional state has a subjective shape. Only a being that could have conscious intentional states could have intentional states at all, and every unconscious intentional state is at least potentially conscious. The unconscious is neurophysiology capable of generating the conscious. All mental states are accessible to consciousness. Our notion of the unconscious could not develop without the awareness that these mental states are potentially conscious. Whenever we perceive anything or think about anything, we always do so under some aspects and not others. Mental states are not unconscious, waiting for us to give them consciousness by perceiving them as if they were objects, as in Freud.

             The relation between figure and ground is an important aspect of consciousness and intentionality. Our perceptual experiences come to us as a figure against a background. The background is the capacities, abilities, and general expertise that enable our mental states to function on the other. Every belief and desire we have is part of network of beliefs and desires that we develop with intentionality. The background can be committed to the truth of a proposition without having any intentional state with that proposition as content. This background provides the territory within which we develop theories. Our immediate, normal, instantaneous understanding of utterances is possible relative to a background. There is no action without perception and no perception without action. Intentionality occurs in a coordinated flow of action and perception, and the background is the condition of possibility of the forms taken by the flow. Intentionality tends to the rise to the level of the background ability. Intentionality reaches all the way down to the bottom of the ability. We show the background when we have intentional content.

            The sense of self is a new level of the hierarchy of the brain called a subsystem, a constellation of symbols, each of which can be separately activated under the control of the subsystem itself. It has its own repertoire of symbols that can trigger each other internally. It actually functions like a large symbol. It communicates with the rest of the subsystems and symbols, keeping track of what symbols are active. Awareness is the monitoring of brain activity by a subsystem of the brain. It would be a glaring hole in the symbolic structure of the brain not to have a symbol for the physical object that houses it. The only way one could make sense of the world surrounding a localized animate object is to understand the role of that object in relation to the other objects around it. This necessitates the existence of a self-symbol. The step from symbol to subsystem is a reflection of the importance of the self-symbol. This is what we call consciousness.

            Although human beings have instincts, like other animals, they do not always govern human behavior to as great a degree. This fact allows for the emergence of freedom in human behavior that represents a significant departure from other animals. The fact that human beings often hesitate before they act suggests a complexity of reasoning that introduces a qualitative difference with other animals. This hesitation and consideration is the reason human behavior is far harder to predict than the behavior of other animals is. The combination of freedom and large frontal lobes enables people to learn throughout a lifetime. Given that people do not rely as much upon instinct, people must have a much longer period of childhood in order to give them time to learn. Human beings need that time of mentoring before they can go into life on their own. Good parenting at that involves training children how to learn and think on their own. If they did not receive good training as children, they can re-train themselves as adults.

            The connecting link between biology and culture is consciousness and intentionality. Institutional structures have a special feature, namely, symbolism. The biological capacity to make something symbolize something beyond itself is the basic capacity that underlies not only language but all other forms of institutional reality as well.

            Our possession of a rich system of consciousness, intelligence, capacity for language, capacity for extremely fine perceptual discriminations, capacity for rational thought, are all biological phenomena like any other biological phenomena. It gives us greater powers of discrimination than other living organisms; it gives us greater flexibility, sensitivity, and creativity. These features are phenotypes.

            At this point, I would like to list some of the other components of what we might consider human nature. I offer this list tentatively, with no suggestion of completeness. Further, I recognize that human interaction with nature and with the social world provides the content of each of these components.

            One is a tendency to keep track of objects in the world. In the human sense of space and physics, the brain may have an innate perception of line, angle, and motion. These objects occupy one place, exist for a continuous span of time, and follow some pattern of motion and force. Here is the foundation for the discipline of Physics.

            Two is temporality; we experience objects as of temporal duration. This familiarity makes it possible for us to order our conscious experiences. Conscious experiences come to us as structured. We have the capacity to see elements of similarity in different objects, and the capacity to distinguish between similar objects. Memory has replaced the gene in the modern social world, as we learn from brain to brain through imitation. An idea is a memory that one individual can pass to another. Memory lives in the brain. At our death, we leave behind our genes and memory of us.

            Three is some sense of the qualitative difference between animate and inanimate objects, in which some principle of life exists in some objects and not others. Here is the foundation for the modern discipline of biology.

            Four is some sense of using tools to accomplish a goal. Individuals have a sense of designing objects for a purpose. Here is the foundation for engineering.

            Five is the attempt to engage the minds of other persons. Other people are part of the background of all forms of collective intentionality. Persons are different from inanimate objects and other living things. Here is the foundation for psychology and sociology.

            Emotions are the executioners of genetic strategy, such as social status, age of spouse, number of children, their ages, outside opportunities, and so on. Feelings are genetic weapons. The genetic payoff of having two parents devoted to a child’s welfare is the reason men and women can fall in love with each other.

            Kin selection is an important aspect of engaging the minds of others. Human beings are a pair-bonding species. Males and females appear to be born to form unions with each other, with marriage the norm and the family as the “atom” of social organization. One can note a vast array of biological processes that go into this engagement. Kin selection is a special instance of gene selection.

            For example, the emergence of feeling, especially altruism and nurture, first arises in the context of family. Individuals naturally care for those whom one has the closest genetic link. One might say that our genetic disposition is to care for those persons who hold the most likelihood of having similar genes. Natural selection will favor certain types of genes. Thus, persons willing to give a high degree of parental investment in their children will gain advantage. In particular, men willing to spend time with children will tend to be the favorite choice of women. Children will compete with each other for parental investment in them, being self-interested. Yet, this self-interest has a limit, for siblings need to survive as well, since the family shares the largest similar genetic components.

            One way to analyze differences between genders is to consider the biological connection to the smaller and more numerous sperm of the male and the less numerous, larger, and more nourishing egg of the female. Males have evolved to compete for scarce female eggs; females have evolved to compete for scarce male investment. Mating strategy is influenced by the cardinal fact that women have more at stake in sexual activity than men, because of the limited age span in which they can reproduce and the heavy investment required of them with each child conceived. The extent to which this strategy prevails varies from species to species.

            Many of the gender stereotypes arise from this necessity. For example, sexual jealousy, the theory of Darwin predicts, male jealousy will focus heavily on sexual infidelity (because of uncertainty of paternity) whereas female jealousy will focus more on emotional involvement (because that could signal loss of resources).

            In studies of human culture, women preferred husbands older than themselves; but there was not a single society in which men wanted older wives. This difference reflects the evolved preference of the woman for men with status (because status could deliver resources for dependent offspring) and men’s preference for women with high reproductive potential. For the same reason, women universally tended to value men’s financial prospects (resources in modern guise) more than men valued the resources of the woman; and men universally cared more about women’s physical attractiveness than vice versa.

            Many female stereotypes arise from the historical reality that throughout most of human history, the woman has more risk involved in a pregnancy. The female will tend to look over the males and identify qualities that suggest fidelity and domesticity. Feminine coyness is common among animals. The female is inherently precious by virtue of their biological role in reproduction, and the resulting slow rate of female reproduction. Coyness was the result of natural selection. Women can afford to be more open-minded about looks as she reflects more about who will provide for the kids. Females place more emphasis than males on a potential mate’s financial prospects.

            Many of the stereotypes of men also arise, from the biological interest in spreading broadly their genes. It appears that male ambition, egotism, and opportunism is natural. Status becomes a resource available to the individual. Some evolutionary pressure exists toward males investing less in each child, and having more children by different wives. Males will trend toward being more promiscuous than females. Males can have sex with almost anything that moves; they are more selective when it comes to making parental investment. Males prefer younger mates. In some societies, for example, when the wife can no longer have children, the male can take a younger wife without divorcing the first wife, if he can afford to support them. Most men are better off in a monogamous society, and most women are worse off. It gives underprivileged men opportunity for a supply of women that would otherwise drift up the social scale. If upper class men hoard the women and children, it leaves masses of men without sex or children, which creates a potentially explosive social situation. Inequality among males is more social explosive in ways that harm both men and women than is inequality among women. Natural selection will favor males good at deceiving females about their future devotion. The female can become a victim of deception, although natural selection favors females who can see through this. Natural selection will keep large-scale deception at a low level. The better one side gets, the better the other side gets. It is a vicious spiral of treachery and wariness. The optimal male course is that although long-term investment is their main aim, seduction and abandonment can make genetic sense, provided it does not take too much of their resources from offspring in which the male does invest. Promiscuous women are welcome as short-term sex partners, and preferable in the sense that they can be had with less effort. However, they would make for poor wife material. The male actually encourage the early sex for which he will ultimately punish the woman. This leads men to shower devotion on the sexually reserved woman in whom they want to invest.

            The legitimate fear is that such diversity of biological drives between men and women leads to justifying unjust social arrangements. However, we need to remember the genuineness openness of human beings to their culture. Evolution involves the success of a genetic strategy in terms of its survival in a physical and social world in which the individual lives. Thus, although some of the biological drives remain strong, differences will change what partners value in each other, and therefore will change the direction of gene selection. Culture can actually shape the direction of kin selection and therefore gene selection. Human beings do not mindlessly live out biological instincts. Although biology provides a context for human behavior, it does not determine such behavior. Society has a far more significant role than biology in determining the content of the roles men and women play and the relationship they have with each other.

            Six is a sense of space to navigate the world and keep track of where things are.

            Seven is a sense of number, dealing with counting quantity and amount.

            Eight is a sense of probability, where we keep track of relative frequency of events.

            Nine is some sense of reciprocal exchange, benefiting self in exchange for benefiting others. Here is the foundation for economics.

            Ten is some sense of logic. We represent ideas and infer new ideas from older ideas. Here is the foundation for common sense.

            Eleven is language, organized around vowels and consonants into words, phrases, sentences. Language is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains. Language is a complex, specialized skill that we develop without awareness of its inner logic. Language is the biological adaptation to communicate information. Language is a classification and arrangement of the stream of sensory experience that results in a certain world order, a certain segment of the world that is easily expressible by the type of symbolic means that language employs. One acquires knowledge of a language’s grammar only by an organism that is "preset" with a severe restriction on the form of grammar. In order words, language is not a cultural construction in the way that marking time, proper dress, economic behavior, and political functions are. This innate restriction is a precondition, in the Kantian sense, for linguistic experience, and it appears to be the critical factor in determining the course and result of language learning. Children cannot know at birth which language they are to learn, but they must know that its grammar must be of a predetermined form that excludes many imaginable languages. Having selected a permissible hypothesis, they can use inductive evidence for corrective action, confirming or disconfirming his choice. Once they sufficiently confirm the hypothesis, children know the language defined by this hypothesis; consequently, their knowledge extends enormously beyond his experience and, in fact, leads them to characterize much of the data of experience as defective and deviant.

            Twelve is a system assessing danger, normally accompanied by fear. One might add: pleasure and its lack, fun, enjoyment, pain, exasperation, annoyed, amused, bored, ecstatic, nauseous, disgusted, enthusiastic, terrified, irritated, enchanted, happy, and unhappy.

            Thirteen is a system for assessing contamination, normally associated with an emotion like disgust.

            Fourteen is a moral sense, usually accompanied by a sense of ought, guilt, and surprise as we reflect upon our behavior or the behavior of others. Moral reflection has its source in the “shudder” test, that which repulses. Freud recognized the paradox of the human social animal, in that we primarily have our self-interest at heart, but has to live civilly with other human beings, fulfilling our self-interest through cooperation, compromise, and restraint. The mind is a place of conflict between animal impulses and social reality.

            Game theory suggests that reciprocal altruism (you scratch my back, I will scratch yours) is a winning social strategy; daily human life rests upon reciprocity and a common foundation of feelings like sympathy, gratitude, affection, obligation, guilt, dislike, and so on. Studies of game analysis suggest that niceness and forgiveness are winning strategies in terms of generating offspring. Reciprocal altruism leaves the impression that we have helped; the impression alone is enough to bring the reciprocation. Of course, moral reasoning would still need to give good reasons for any of these emotions.

Natural selection, through our genetic structure, that our happiness is important; this is our inner gyroscope. By pursuing goals that promise to make us happy, we will maximize proliferation of our genes. Organisms are things that act as if their welfare were more important than the welfare of all other organisms. Our happiness is designed to interfere with the happiness of others; it exists to inspire preoccupation with it. We are designed to think of ourselves as good, and our behavior as defensible, even when biology makes this illusion harder to buy.

            Status in rank, class, or wealth sums up a large part of the catalogue of human social behavior. Social status is a human universal; equality has never existed. The people at the lowest end of the social hierarchy continue to play the game, giving respect to those higher up the scale. Natural selection has a tendency toward deception and self-deception: organisms present themselves as whatever it is in their genetic interest to seem like. Natural selection does not care about truth or deception. We deceive ourselves in order to deceive others better. Human beings try to discern the motives and pattern of thinking of other human beings. The beliefs and desires of others influence their behavior, and so it becomes important to engage them. Some individuals will exploit the communication system for their own end. We must expect deceit when self-interest of individuals diverges. Our brains may have evolved out of this need to deceive others and to detect the deception of others. Individuals of the same species impinge on each other directly, in terms of both potential mates and making a way of life with limited resources. Aggression is one form of potential behavior in this context. Yet, aggression toward the same species has costs. Among the benefits of life together is that association reduces the risk of being killed or eaten by others.

            Humility has its roots in the social hierarchy; there are times when it makes good sense to have a genuinely low opinion of yourself and to share that opinion with others. People do not ascend the social scale along; a common first step is to forge a bond with someone higher in social status, and this involves an act of submission and profession of inferiority. We feel genuinely in awe of people before whom we might profitably grovel. Our gauging of the worth of people reflects the place they occupy in our social universe at the time. Self-serving behavior does not necessarily involve conscious calculation. We have an evolutionary desire to please people.

            Retribution is a self-serving message from our genes, helping us to solve the cheater problem that any moral system faces – people who are seen to take more than they give are thereafter punished. We dislike people because it is not in our interests to like them; liking them will not elevate our social status, aid our acquisition of material or sexual resources, help our kin, or do any of the other things that during evolution have made genes prolific. The basic genetic selfishness underlying an impulse is morally neutral; the aura of rightness surrounding so many of our actions may be delusional.

            Reciprocal altruism and social hierarchies evolved as an aid to the survival of individual genes. Cultural values are expedients to social success; people adopt them because other people admire them. Moral diversity among cultures suggests the power of social approval and disapproval. Cultures demonstrate variety in what they will find pleasing. The worst parts of human nature are always near the surface, ready to rise when cultural restraint weakens. We are not blank slates. We are organisms whose more egregious tendencies can be subdued, given the flexibility with which we seek status. We will do almost anything for respect, including not acting like animals.

            Fifteen is that human beings have a teleological pull as well as drives that push them. Bodies that can simulate the future are one jump ahead of bodies that can learn because of overt trial and error. This integrative and holistic dimension of human experience is not content with isolated functions of human behavior. The pull toward unity is part of a unified sequence of events. Individual neurons cooperate with each other to form clusters of ideas and memories. These individual clusters may also compete with each other. The mental activity of this competition determines the sense of self we have. If we examine this tension within the brain closely, we cannot help to focus upon disunity; if we focus upon the whole person, we focus upon the product of that cooperation and competition within the mind. This pull toward integration is the source of the human quest for a sense of meaning and place in the universe. Here is the foundation for the religious quest.  

            Culture results from the human drive to adopt the innovations of others, combined with the vicissitudes of geography and ecology. Reciprocal altruism leads to the virtue of friendship. Social status leads to social cohesion. Kin selection leads to love. Retributive punishment leads to the virtue of justice. Culture becomes a pool of technological and social innovations that people accumulate to help them live their lives. The place of culture is the practical activities of daily life, where it evolves under the stress of competing goals and other competing cultures. Cultures compete with each other as better and worse ways of getting things done from the standpoint of the peoples themselves, as they cope and aspire amid the realities of life. Genes prescribe embryonic rule development by gradual change, which are the regularities of sensory perception and mental development that animate and channel the acquisition of culture. Culture helps to determine which of the prescribing genes survive and multiply from one generation to the next. Successful new genes alter the embryonic rules developed by gradual change that exist within populations. The altered embryonic rules change the direction and effectiveness of the channels of cultural acquisition.

            Humanity is part of nature, but a unique part. Humanity as it exists today is the product of a long evolutionary history and retains a powerful legacy from that past. However, humanity is also has creative abilities and potentialities without parallel among the species of the earth. Human beings are biological organisms, while at the same time responsible selves. The similarity of humanity with other forms of biological life should enhance the worth and dignity of others parts of nature rather than deny human dignity.

Time and Being

            The emergence of a sense of “I” is out of a field of perception or a world of experience. We are conscious of objects of experience before we have a sense of ego or self. Self-consciousness has the task of integrating, in each moment of its experience, all the elements of its self with the past integrations of the ego that are present through its memory. However, this integration is not an action. One accomplishes this integration more in the feeling of being everything that we were and will be in the future in each moment of our self-consciousness. One way to describe our participation in eternity is by the fact that in self-consciousness the whole of our being is present at every moment.

            Further, we need to move toward a psychological interpretation of historical events. Historicity constitutes a description of the process of the experience of the individual. The totality of life, which one does not complete within the history of a life, serves as the basis for the meaning of all individual experiences. The meaning of a life changes over the course on that life history. Heidegger used this insight as the basis for his new construal of the meaning of Being in general.

            The eternal is the whole of life. The emergent self participates in the eternal through expectation of its wholeness and the wholeness of all that is. The concept of self is a limitation on the Infinite. The idea of the ego presupposes an intuition of the Infinite that lies at the basis of the forms of intuition. We must already view space and time as specific forms of this intuition of the Infinite. The striving of all finite individuals is wholeness that the individual experiences in the future.

            The path to this future is time. In short, when we orient the theory of time toward the eternal totality, the consequence is a primacy of the future for the understanding of time. The totality of existence is possible only from the standpoint of its future, a fact that grounds the primacy of the future. The link between the emergent self and time connects the finite self to eternity. The act of experiencing the present is one in which we hold ourselves in the present through the memory of the past and the expectation of the future.

            We find examples of this sort of time-bridging present in the understanding of spoken discourse and in listening to music. We articulate spoken discourse within the flow of time. Yet, we grasp it as a whole when we comprehend the unity of a sentence. One can hear and sing a song insofar as the whole of the song is already present to me before it begins, and insofar as what has already sounded remains in my memory.

            The basis of the act of experiencing a time-bridging present lies in an extension of the self beyond the momentary now. Expectation is the means by which we experience the unity of the time-bridging present, which one directs toward what has been and what will be. To the extent that expectation can pull together that which time separates, and which advances moment by moment, into the unity of one particular present, we experience duration. Duration is a picture of eternity, a sense of and participation in eternity. We find time as duration not only within the self, but also in every ordered series. However, one experiences time only within the self. The extension of the self synthesizes what temporal moments have separated. Therefore, we can define time as duration. Further, we can tie the being of all finite things to their duration. If we understand eternity as identical with the being and life of God, we can also understand how every finite being has its ground in its limited participation in the divine eternity. Our concern here for establishing the totality of the being that makes its appearance within temporal duration re-affirms the primacy of the future.

            This analysis suggests that the death of finite things does not provide a proper context for comprehending our consciousness of time. Knowledge of and anticipation of death does not disclose our authentic future. Death discloses the broken and fragmentary of finite life. Consequently, the possibility of individuality fining wholeness points beyond whatever death makes of that life. Death does not bring life to wholeness, fullness, or completion. This also suggests that death is not foundational for our experience of time. Analysis of time needs a connection with eternity. We can then understand the possible wholeness of human existence as participation in eternity. We must understand this wholeness as the wholeness of a finite being. The finitude of human existence entails the distinction of future from present and past, because duration as the time-bridging present is never able to grasp and maintain in itself the whole of human existence.

            Peculiar to the future is the ambivalence of possible completion on the one side and of possible failure and destruction on the other. The leading role in our consciousness of time belongs to the future understood as the source of possible completion. We can then interpret the present and the past as participating in the future totality, or as falling short of it. As long as the future is the source of the possible wholeness of an individual human existence, its future determines the essence of an individual. The significance of life as a whole depends upon its temporal end. We might also wonder whether we are to conceive beings as the anticipation of their essences. This would mean that everything that exists is what it is only as the anticipation of its future, in which the wholeness of each being might be established. In the course of time, its end remains before it. Still, it is what it is always in anticipation of its end and from its end. We conceive the primacy of the future for individual existence through its participation in eternity. This means that the presence of being as duration appears as a limited participation in eternity. As the future of finite beings, eternity represents the possibility that they will find completion and that they will end. The passage of time appears as a series of temporally moments each of which is participation in eternity and all of which are timed together again by memory and expectation into a unity.


            One of the great scientific insights is that space-time figures into our scientific calculations of the physical world in which we live. We must also consider the ways in which our experience of time influences our knowledge of the world.

            Historians cannot escape their time and place because the development of historical understanding does not admit systematic objectification. Mathematicians and scientists have formal constructions that carry out elaborate reasoning or experimental verification. Historians find their way in the complexity of historical reality by the same type of reasoning as everyone employs in everyday living. Historians are finite, they select data that have variable conditions, giving rise to different standpoints. The thought of universal history drives us toward seeing connections between these events. Yet, the need remains to honor singularity. The thought of truth moves the historian toward approximation of it. Yet, if we could write a universal history, humanity would have reached the end of history.

            Progress in history can occur in an instrumental way. Technology or the equipment improves in the context of a culture. This is the rational element of history, where it follows a pattern. However, when the historian seeks to develop a narrative, we encounter the ambiguity of history. Historians legitimately identify crisis, epoch, period, apogee, decline, and so on, because a variety of civilizations have existed. Civilizations hang together with progress within the limits of that civilization at a technological level. Yet, the meaning of history remains hidden.

            The ambiguities of historical time mediate between lived (human) time and cosmic time. History is an open-ended, incomplete, imperfect mediation, a network of interweaving perspectives of the expectation of the future, the reception of the past, and the experiences of the present. Therefore, history is not an actualizing of its end. We must explore broken-off perspectives as they come together in a sort of pluralistic unity as we bring them together under the idea of a reception of the past, pushed to the point of becoming a being-affected by the past. The idea of the historical present receives heightened significance as we build toward it. Present does not mean full presence. Rather, the deposit, suspension, and interruption of the history already made occur in this present as initiative. Further, the dream of history yet to come is present in responsible decision.

            The key to the problem of re-figuration lies in the way history and fiction offer the reply of a poetics of narrative to the ambiguities of time brought to light by phenomenology. The classical problem of reference is knowing what is meant when we say that historical narrative refers to events that really happened in the past. I want to revive this concept of reality. Everything takes place as though historians knew themselves to be bound by a debt to people from earlier times, to the dead. Philosophical reflection must bring this connection to light. Does fiction relate to the real in a way that we can say it corresponds to or stands for something else? Both history and fiction refigure time. Such re-figuration occurs at the level of human acting and suffering in both history and fiction. They borrow from each other. Historical intentionality becomes effective by incorporating into its intended object the resources of fiction stemming from the narrative form of imagination. The intentionality of fiction produces its effects of detecting and transforming acting and suffering only by symmetrically assuming the resources of historicization presented it be attempts to reconstruct the actual past. The inter-weaving of history and fiction gives us human or narrated time. History designates some collective of singular reality, one that encompasses the two processes of totalization that are under way at the level of historical narrative and at that of actual history. What I have written has an Hegelian flavor. This hermeneutics aims at directly articulating on the level of common history of the future under the sign of the horizon of expectation, the past under the sign of tradition, and the present under the sign of the untimely. With this analysis, we will complete the work of re-figuring time by narrative. The text is incomplete without the reader, the world of text and reader come together in application. Text and readers are both familiar and unfamiliar. Hermeneutics must renounce its universality claim if it is to preserve a regional legitimacy. Yet, ideology raises a new claim to universality.

Necessity is an illusion. Freedom consists in the sense that we could have left undone what we did.


Cosmic Time

The vast expanse of cosmic time and the vast expanse of the universe make human life appear insignificant.


Historical Time – The Future and its Past

            Historical time has certain reflective instruments. One is calendar time, which has a cosmological basis.

            I will use the concept of horizon of expectation, for it is broad enough to include hope and fear, what is wished for and what is chosen, ration calculation and curiosity, the future become present, turned toward the not-yet. The horizon indicates the power of unfolding as much as of surpassing that we attach to expectation. This opposition between gathering and unfolding implies that experience tends toward integration, expectation tends toward the breaking open of perspectives. We cannot derive expectation from experience, for the previously existing space of experience is not sufficient for the determination of the horizon of expectation.

            I will use the concept of the space of experience and the horizon of expectation to relate how historical time mediates between cosmic time and lived time. This concept has ethical and political implications that are important, even though what I present here is not an exploration in political thought. We recognize the tension between experience and expectation only at the moment when it is breaking point is already in sight. Utopian thinking actualizes expectations to the point where the tension becomes a schism. We must resist the seduction of purely utopian expectations. Our expectations must be determined, finite, and modest, if they are to give rise to responsible commitments. We have to keep our horizon of expectation from running away from us. We have to connect it to the present by means of a series of intermediary projects that we may act upon. Every expectation must be a hope for humanity as a whole; humanity is not one species except insofar as it has one history. We cannot identify this task with the building of a universal civil society administered in accord with the right. Today, we have multiplied rights. The right to be different counterbalances the threats of oppression linked to the very idea of a universal history if we come to view that universal history as the dominance of one society. The task of making unpleasant human beings more pleasant remains an important one, given the modern realities of torture, war, and oppression. We must also resist narrowing the space of experience to what was done, unchangeable, and past. We have to re-open the past and enliven its unaccomplished (slaughtered) possibilities. We must make our expectations more determinate and our experience less so. Only determinate expectations can have the retroactive effect on the past of revealing it as a living tradition. Our critical meditation on the future calls for the complement on a similar meditation on the past.

            The wholeness of existence is not attainable by us who are subject to the process of time. Our present state differs from the future and the past. Knowing that, we rise above the narrowness and transitory nature of the present. By this knowledge we are also more deeply than other beings differentiated from what is not yet or no longer. The difference between our present and the future prevents us from definitively achieving the totality of our finite existence. We can anticipate this totality through our duration and identity of existence in the process of time. Our becoming in time is a finite existence that can stand independently before God. In passing through time, we have an end that is outside ourselves. The end of existence is death. Death is not external to our existence. The end that has yet to come casts a shadow in advance and defines the whole path of life as a being for death in the sense that our end we have not integrated into our existence but threatens each moment of our living self-affirmation with nothingness. Our finite lives are under the shadow of death.

            Death is the last enemy of all things. Fear of death pierces deep into life. It motivates us to unrestricted self-affirmation. It also robs us of the power to accept life. Life is present for us as we sense it in its indefinite totality. This presence of the sensed totality is vague when considered in isolation.[3] Sensed totality is constitutive for a temporal sense of duration.[4] It acquires definite contours by means of recollection and expectation. Expectation takes precedence, for the future completes life and defines life. As an analogy, we grasp the totality of a song only as we think ahead to the ending that has not yet come.[5] Anticipations look forward to the occurrence of future experience. They also look forward to the content of such experience. However, given the temporal difference between the anticipation and the anticipated experience, does not the anticipation remain external to the content toward which it is directed? In that case, anticipation would not have a form appropriate to its own content. The concept of anticipation unites both the identity with the thing and the difference from it. Temporality determines the relationship between identity and difference, in that anticipation is Not Yet identical with the anticipated thing; it remains exposed to the risk of untruth or of a failure to grasp. Yet, in the anticipation the thing is already present. Further, the form of anticipation must correspond to the peculiar character of whatever it is that we claim we grasp in anticipation and we can only grasp. In reality, the anticipatory form of knowledge corresponds to an element of the Not Yet within the reality toward which we direct human knowing. Given the limits of finite knowledge, anticipation is not just a preliminary stage in knowing. Further, the identity of things themselves is not yet present in the process of time. Even the events and things that we experience change with the alteration of the context over the course of time. Initially, this is a matter only of their meaning for us; we cannot equate the essence of things and events with their meaning for us. Events and things stand within contexts that change over time; the essence of events and forms within the natural world change over time. What they are changes. Only at the end of their movement through time could anyone decide what actually makes up their distinctive character or essence. One would have to maintain that this had been the essence of the thing in question from the beginning. The decision concerning the being that stands at the end of the process has retroactive power.


Historical Time – Being Affected

            The succession of generations, as in contemporaries, predecessors, and successors, has a biological and sociological basis. Archives, documents, and traces (a mark left by a thing) compose a third reflective instrument. Historical time mediates in a way that is open-ended, incomplete, imperfect mediation. Historical time demonstrates the network of interweaving perspectives of the expectation of the future, the reception of the past, and the experience of the present.

            The trace helps us reckon with time, gives of duration in time, and moves us toward a public view of time as over against a purely private experience of time. We understand the past through the same, the other (different), and the analogous (hidden anticipations).

            I want to speak of the space of experience, in that it has the character of acquisition that has become habit, as well as the image of a stratified structure assembled like a pile of sheets of paper.

            We are affected by the past. We are the agents of history as we suffer it. The victims of history undergo history more than they make it are the witnesses to this major structure of our historical condition. This is the work (action) of history upon us. Yet, this is not an apology for tradition, where we debate the concepts of the continuity and discontinuity of history. We rather need to explore a transformation rule that draws upon some discursive apparatus characterized both by structural coherence and by unexploited potentialities that a new event in thinking will bring to light. What we have is a dialectic of innovation and sedimentation. The theme of a living, continuous, open history is the only way to join vigorous political action and the memory of snuffed out or repressed possibilities from the past.

            Our understanding of being affected by the past cannot escape the matter of authority and the legitimacy of traditions that ideology raises. The incomplete nature of all human understanding is where we must begin. As we develop a prejudice toward certain positions, we place our thinking before the tribunal of reason. It must submit to the better argument, as over against simple submission to its authority. Yet, we cannot expect a non-ideological, non-historical, perfect truth tribunal characterized by consensus arising out of the process of argumentation. We must attempt to discern the signs of truth in the anticipations of understanding at work in every successful communication where we have the experience of a type of reciprocity of intention and recognition of this intention. The transcendence of the idea of truth has to be seen as already at work in the practice of communication. When so re-installed in the horizon of expectation, this dialogical idea cannot fail to rejoin those anticipations buried in tradition per se.

One way to look at tradition is that it designates a style of interconnecting historical succession. This view of tradition designates a formal style of interconnectedness that assures the continuity of the reception of the past. It designates the reciprocity between effective history and our being affected by the past. It speaks of the notions of a horizon of expectation and a space of experience. Its dialectic proceeds from the efficacity of the past that we undergo and the reception of the past that we bring about. It recognizes temporal distance traversed, a process of mediation staked out by the chain of interpretations and reinterpretations.[6] Time is the supportive ground of the process in which the present finds its root. We find ourselves in a situation that opens on a vast, but limited, horizon. If the situation limits us, the horizon presents itself as something to be surpassed, without ever being fully reached. The fusion of horizons occurs every time we test our prejudgments in setting out to conquer some historical horizon, imposing upon ourselves the task of overcoming our tendency to assimilate the past too quickly to our own expected meanings.   We set the problem of the relation between past and present in a new light. The past reveals itself to us through the projection of a historical horizon that is both detached from the horizon of the present and taken up into and fused with it. This dialectic is between a temporal horizon as something that is both projected and separate, distinguished and included. Effective history is what takes place without us. The fusion of horizons is what we attempt to bring about. The work of history and the work of this historian assist each other. The temporal distance that separates us from the past is not a dead interval but a transmission that is generative in meaning. Tradition is an operation that can only make sense dialectically through the exchange between the interpreted past and the interpreting present.

            A second way to look at tradition is its contents, which can only result in traditions. The contents of traditions bear meanings. They set every received heritage within the order of the symbolic and within a language and textual tradition. Traditions are proposals of meaning. Traditions remind us that we are not absolute innovators, but rather in the situation of being heirs. The communication of the content of traditions occurs through the structure of communication in general and its language-like character. We understand the things already said as transmitted through chains of interpretation and reinterpretation. We cannot ignore the dialectical character of this view of tradition. The things said in the past and transmitted to us by a chain of interpretations and reinterpretations add a material dialectic of the contents of traditions. The past questions us and calls into question before we question it or call it into question. Text and reader become familiar and unfamiliar. The past questions us to the extent that we question it. It answers us to the extent we answer it.

            A third way to look at tradition is as an apology for traditions. As an instance of legitimacy, it designates the claim to truth (taking for true) offered argumentation within the public space of discussion. The truth claim of the contents of traditions merits being taken as a presumption of truth, so long as a strong reason or better argument has not been established. Confident reception by which we respond to any proposition of meaning, any claim to truth, because we are never at the beginning of the process of truth and because we belong to a domain of presumed truth. This is the bridge between the incompleteness of all understanding on the one hand and the validity of the idea of communicative truth. Every proposal of a meaning is at the same time a claim to truth. What we receive from the past are beliefs, persuasions, convictions, ways of holding certain things as true. This claim to truth creates the tensions of prejudice, authority, and tradition. The claim to truth does not proceed from us; to presents itself in traditional texts. Tradition has the authority and status of custom; we recognize its superiority; it carries us along before we are in a position of making intentional decisions about it. Traditions preserve the possibility of hearing the extinguished voices of the past. Traditions bind us to things already said and to their truth claim before we submit them to research. We do not have the option of taking a distance or freedom concerning transmitted contents. We find ourselves already situated in an order of meaning and possible truth. Research is a partner with traditions in this sense in as much as it presents its own truth claims. Such research creates distance between traditions and us, in the sense that, belonging to a pluralistic society, we cannot escape rival traditions. Research exposes us to the internal crises, interruptions, dramatic reinterpretations, and schisms within traditions that at appeared to us as one instance of truth. The dialectic between familiarity and strangeness with which we deal in hermeneutics becomes real. In this way, hermeneutics sifts through traditions, separating that which dead from that in which we continue to recognize ourselves. We do not understand better; we understand in a different way, with humble acknowledgment of traditions.[7] Hermeneutics makes use of the filtering action of temporal distance between self and traditions.

            The condition of being affected by the past forms a pair with the intending of a horizon of expectation. It illuminates the dialectic internal to the space of experience. It affects the consequence for the meaning of our relation to the past. It opens up the forgotten possibilities, aborted potentialities, and repressed endeavors of the supposedly closed past. It leads us back to those times in the past where the future was not yet decided, where the past was itself a space of experience open to a horizon of expectation. Further, the dialectic of the same, the other, and the analogous receives a new significance as we view it the context of the efficacity of the past. This dialectic runs the risk at each of its stages of turning into a dream of power exercised by the knowing subject. In each case, we perceive in the background the effort of a constituting consciousness to master the relation of the known past to the actual past. The past escapes the search for mastery. This hermeneutical approach begins by acknowledging this exteriority of the past in relation to every attempt centered upon a constituting consciousness; it shifts the problematic from the sphere of knowledge into that of being affected by (the sphere of what we have not made). The idea of a debt concerning the past adds a considerable enrichment to the idea of a tradition. The idea of a heritage can be interpreted as the fusion of the ideas of a debt and a tradition. Without the dialectic of the same, other, and analogous, this fusion does not come about. This seed grows when we submit the idea of tradition itself to the triple filter of reenactment, differentiation, and metaphorization: dialectics of the near and far, familiar and alien, temporal distance and fusion of the horizons. This inclusion of the dialectic of the same, other, and analogous is what preserves the notion of tradition from succumbing to the charms of Romanticism.

Tradition has a deep affinity with the concept of the trace. Between a trace left behind and followed, and transmitted and received, there is a deep-lying affinity. As left behind, the trace designates the exteriority of the past, its inscription in the time of the universe. Tradition accents a different kind of exteriority, that of being affected by a past we did not make. We also note the correlation between the significance of the followed trace and the efficacity of transmitted tradition. The trace left behind in documents becomes part of tradition; through the document, the trace is already part of a tradition. We cannot separate the criticism of documents from the critique of traditions. The network of generations, of contemporaries, predecessors, and successors is a symbolic order as well as a biological one; it provides the chain of interpretations and re-interpretations with a basis in life, as well as in the continuity of the living. All of this occurs within the realm of calendar time; effective history becomes marked on the calendar and encompasses our lives; founding events occur as the axis of calendar time in such a way that tradition and its transmission links us to that event. The efficacity of a past surpasses all individual memory. Calendar time provides our traditions with the framework of an institution based on astronomy, while the efficacity of the past provides calendar time with the continuity of a temporal distance that is traversed.

            The historical present is the space in which the space of experience and a horizon of expectation come together under the concept of initiative. We must bring together the notions of making present and initiative. The notions of action and causality overlap.

We must think of the essence of things as constituted by the process of history, and hence finally by the future of its consummation. When we speak of essence, we would then speak of the fulfillment of all things. The essence of all things is already present in history. Already on their way to fulfillment, they are what they will be, though only in anticipation. We already are what we are on the way to becoming in our history, but only by anticipation of the future of our fulfillment. Things have duration in time through the assumption of the future developing presence of their identity, of their essence, which the end of history will show in their fullness and final form. The future of consummation is the entry of eternity into time, for it has the totality of life and its true and definitive identity that characterizes eternity but that is lost in the disintegration of time. The future is the basis for the lasting essence of each individual that finds manifestation already in the allotted duration of its life and yet will achieve its full manifestation in the saving future. The statement that it does not yet appear what we shall be in I John 3:2 applies to all of us: we are still on the way to becoming ourselves, and yet all of us are in some sense already the persons we shall be in the light of our saving future. All of this assumes an understanding of self-consciousness, the ego, and the self.


Lived (Human) Time

            If tradition in the sense of formal interconnections of the past (the first option above) constitutes the space of experience, the present is where this space comes together, expanding or contracting. Human (lived) time stems from this interweaving in the situation of acting and suffering, rather than a new vision of the past (retrospection) or future (anticipatory resoluteness). To begin is to give a new course to things, starting from an initiative that announces a continuation and hence opens something ongoing. The mediator of the lived experience and the order of the world becomes the body, the center of the I can. The flesh defies the dichotomy of the physical and psychical, of cosmic exteriority and reflective interiority. The I can provide an appropriate framework for taking up those analyses that have been done regarding the field of the theory of action. By doing anything, we learn to isolate a closed system from its environment and discover the possibilities of development inherent in the system. We interfere in the system at the point where the powers of us as agents and the resources of the system intersect. Action and causality overlap.[8] Causal relations are relative to segments of the history of the world that have the aspect of closed systems. The capacity for setting a system in motion by producing its initial state is a condition for its closure. Action finds itself implied in the discovery of causal relations. This is the most appropriate epistemological basis for our understanding of the lived present.  Every speech initiative makes me responsible for what is said in my saying it. However, if every speech act implicitly commits its speaker, some types do so explicitly, such as with commissives, by which we promise. Commitment has the strong sense of speech that binds me. This constraint that I impose upon myself is noteworthy in that the obligation posited in the present engages the future. To promise is to say that I shall keep my promise. To speak up is to make my initiative have a continuation; to make this initiative truly inaugurates a new course of things; to make the present the beginning of a continuation. Through the I can, initiative indicates my power. Through the I do, it becomes by act. Through interference or intervention, it inscribes my act in the course of things, thereby making the lived present coincide with the particular instant. Through the kept promise, it gives the present the force of persevering and enduring. By this last trait, ethical signification clothes initiative, announcing the more specifically political and cosmopolitan characterization of the historical present.

            The space of experience and the horizon of expectation condition each other. Why should the present not be the time of initiative, the time when the weight of history that has already been made is deposited, suspended, and interrupted, and when the dream of history yet to be made is transposed in a responsible decision?

            The historical present is the lived through present (not point-like) and the sphere of initiative. Calendar time and the succession of generations (biology) find their connection in the present. Since the promise places the speaker under obligation of doing something, an ethical dimension is present. The political plane engages us as we reflect upon the public space within which the promise takes place. The promise is not solipsistic; I promise to someone. The rule of fidelity precedes any individual promise, governed by the social contract in the public space. We commit ourselves to our preference for discussion over violence and the claim of truth and the rule of the better argument over force. Truthful discourse takes precedence over other forms of behavior toward each other.[9] Here is the foundation for an ethical and political philosophy in light of which we could insert individual initiative into a project of reasonable collective action. A question: has the present age withdrawn from the horizon of expectation and narrowed the space of experience? If so, the present becomes a time of crisis in the sense of judgment and decision. The present is a crisis when expectation takes refuge in utopia and when tradition becomes only a dead deposit of the past. Initiative consists in the incessant transaction between these two tasks, by which we understand the force of the present. The strength to refigure time arises from the strength of the present. It makes the difference between a master and a slave.[10] We need a certain iconoclasm against history to refigure time. We need to suspend time and space to the point where they lose their weight and their meaning for us who think. This sense of withdrawing gives us a certain experience of homelessness in space and time. We need to hold time in suspension if our intentions directed to the future are to have the force to reactivate the unaccomplished possibilities of the past, and if we carry effective history by still living traditions. I speak here in metaphor as the realm of the mental experience of lived time. Cosmic time and historical time do not have gaps. Lived time lives in this gap between past and future, the time of initiative.

            The attempt of incomplete persons to base the identity and totality of their own lives on the Now of the present of the I, and on the earnest attention with which we may make the past and the future present, is bound to fail because in the flux of time each Now is replaced by another Now. The extension of the present beyond a given Now becomes a stretching on the one hand and a disintegration into many things on the other. The I that is tied to the passing and changing Now of the flow of time cannot base its duration and the totality of its life on its own momentary present.[11] The independence of individual duration comes into being only as the reintegration of what is distinct. However, any instance of the achievement of individual independence is at the same time a new form of the overcoming of variety by integration into a type of duration that is a form of partial participation in the divine eternity. The complex forms of this integration build upon the simple. The yearning for eternity finds expression in duration.

            All individual and independent beings desire a totality of life that they do not possess. Our becoming in time means that our wholeness is still ahead of us. The wholeness that we seek cannot be our own act, for death is not our own act. We have to suffer it. Death comes upon us. The independent existence of individuals has the form of duration as an overarching present, by which they are simultaneous to each other and relate to each other in the distinction of space. Since they do not exist in themselves, their present is distinct from their derivation as their past. Their existence as duration refers to eternity as the future of the good that gives duration and identity to individuals. However, as individuals, they distinguish themselves by their independence from their origin in eternity; their future is outside themselves. The future toward which creative forms move in the duration of their existence has an ambivalent face. Individuals have little control over that future. The future also threatens to end and dissolve their independent form. This timeless quality is the clash between past and future, in which eternity becomes a boundary situation in that the collapse of temporal dimensions is unthinkable.

            Uniformity is also the basis of the development of new and complex forms in nature. Only in the process of time can a finite being act and show itself as the center of its own activity. In our sense of time, we can grasp the totality of our life only as we reach out to the past and the future, and then only fragmentarily in a restricted form. We stand now in the presence of the eternal, but we do so looking ahead toward the end. Time contributes to eternal life in each of its moments. Eternity is a coming from, going ahead, and rising to for every moment of time. By the attention with which we hold fast to that which sinks into the past and anticipate the future, does not constitute the duration of our existence.

            If the future is already in hidden form the present, we have an answer to the question of the identity of what is present with the future of its consummation. If everything returned to some conceived unity, creation would be pointless. The highest love is not union, but removing alienation from individuality and community. This future does not meet the present reality of individual or social life as a different reality. Present life itself is a form of manifestation and a process of becoming for the essential form that our saving future reveals. The relation between eternity and time mediates the relation of the essential reality of things to their present appearance. The essence of things is the totality of their manifestation in the form of simultaneity but purged of all the traces and consequences of evil in the achieving of independence. At this point, theology would link sin, death, and the hope for God to bring the universe to its fullness.


[1] The normal division of a cell into two new cells, each one receiving a complete copy of all 46 chromosomes.

[2] This occurs in the production of the sex cells, sperms or eggs; instead of containing 46 chromosomes, they contain only 23, convenient when they fuse in sexual fertilization to make a new individual.

[3] See Pannenberg, Anthropology, p. 243ff, esp. 247ff.

[4] See Bergson, Creative Evolution, 1-8, 210-12.

[5] See Augustine, Confessions, 28.38.

[6] The past is not just gone and abolished, nor can we attain the complete contemporaneous mentality as Romantic philosophy envisioned. We can be satisfied with a distance from the past that we cannot traverse or with annulling the distance between present and past.

[7] Hermeneutics distances itself from the critical superiority of ideology.

[8] Determinism makes the mistake of extrapolating to the total system of the world regular sequences we have observed.

[9] This account differs radically from Heidegger and his view of resolution in the face of death, which does not transfer from one person to the next.

[10] The present is not the eternal present of Hegel and his philosophy of history.

[11] Aristotle, Phys. 219b1-2 refers to the idea of the soul as subject of the counting. For Augustine the duration of the human soul does not have its basis in itself but in God. In Kant, the result is the factual absolutizing of the human ego that Hegel rightly criticized. Heidegger severs the grounding in eternity of time by basing it not only on a general structure of transcendental subjectivity but on the concrete living out of one’s own developing existence in time.