Human Concepts and Divine Ideas – Brain Theory

Last time I wrote about Levels of Being and the difference between consciousness and self-awareness. I have also written about mental maps and how we sometimes confuse our mental constructs (models of reality) with reality itself. I find it useful to think we have mental frameworks, but what do we actually know about how our mind creates concepts?

The answer is (like so much of what we think we know): Not much.

Science vs. Philosophy

Philosophy is the study of all knowledge about the essence of Reality and all that exists in it, including human beings. Science used to be called “Natural Philosophy.” It was a branch of philosophy that dealt with the physical nature of things. It is only very recently that the later term was dropped, and we call all things that we study about the physical world: Science. Further, it’s only since the early part of the 20th century that people began to think that science had developed far enough along that it could replace all of philosophy to explain all of Reality. By the time I went to college, philosophy was no longer a core subject of study. I think this is a mistake because without some understanding of philosophy it is difficult to formulate conclusions about what we see in the models and experiments that scientists conduct.  (See Bergson vs Einstein).

I believe that science can help inform other branches of philosophy, but when it comes to questions that border on the edge of our understanding, it helps to be familiar with the a broader philosophical approach that has developed over the centuries.  

What is a concept?

Philosophers separate the problem of concepts into 3 categories:

  1. Concepts as mental representations
  2. Concepts as abilities
  3. Concepts as abstract objects

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Levels of Being: Putting the Mystery Back Into Life

One hardly hears discussion of the kingdoms of the natural world anymore. It is introduced in the early grades of our public schools and hardly ever mentioned again unless one goes on to study one or more of the Kingdoms in college. Our secular culture is dominated by the ideas of science and yet so few of us spend any time engaged in the study or practice of science.

Our minds crave certainty and Science seems to fulfill this need. But while Science seems to function as a Culture (See Culture: Where Do We Go From Here?), in reality it falls short. To understand why this is so, let us look at the scientific categories of existence.

Since ancient times the natural world was grouped into four major categories or kingdoms: Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human. Each level has some element the lower level lacks. Each element is a necessary quality of that kingdom without which it would not exist.

The Elements: m, x, y, and z

The elements that separate the four kingdoms are: Matter (m), Life (x), Consciousness (y), and Self-Awareness (z). The letters in parenthesis in the previous sentences are a shorthand so that we can see more easily how each of the Kingdoms are composed This convention is proposed in a little book called A Guide for the Perplexed written by E. F. Schumacher.   

Writing each kingdom with its elements, we have a table that looks like this:

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Mind/Body/Soul: Essence and Existence

The concept of essence is so fundamental to how we view our individual existence that it not only affects our understanding of how we came into the world and how we will leave it, it also affects how we order and live our lives. How we arrived at this divide requires a look at the historical development of ideas concerning our experience of reality.

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