Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The uniqueness of Being

During a recent drive into Manhattan, my daughter and I were pondering Being from the point of view of Heidegger, and the question of the strong and weak anthropomorphic principles.

Simply put, we agreed that the question of Being can't possibly be limited to man and his impact on the inquiry into Being.

Being is an independent force which arises with or without the (supposedly) unique ability of self-awareness displayed by human beings. Each creature which arises has a fully formed representation of Being which displays self-awareness appropriate to the existence of that creature.

This means that a worm, for example, has a fully formed expressiveness of being that includes a self-awareness appropriate to that creature and level. The worm's experience of its own world and its own being is as complete and exhaustive in terms of the range of impressions it takes in as our own is; and it has a full range of worm-like thoughts that, although quite alien to our own, constructs a world-view which is, relatively, just as complex and sophisticated as our own. Worm-world is just as complicated and exotic as the world that humans create; we're just unable to see into that world.

This hypothesis, if we allow it, extends itself across the animal and microbial kingdoms, and reaches down into the molecular levels. Let's take an example: DNA, which has its own indisputable form of agency, displays intricate abilities currently well beyond those of any living human chemist, and every strand performs countless millions of complex operations per second. DNA has, in its own right, an awareness—a Being—on the molecular level which we can't comprehend or intimate: yet it's there.

Each creature, therefore, represents an arising of Being, and Being itself need not be defined by our own being or level of consciousness in order to qualify as Being. Dinosaurs, to explore another example, did not suffer any deficit of awareness within the context of their own existence; they knew quite well that they were alive, and processed their own form of consciousness as well as we process our own.

The anthropomorphic sense of consciousness can't, as such, be cited as the sole validator of Being or consciousness; and it furthermore can't be cited as "special." It is simply unique unto itself; and since each creature's consciousness must by default be described as unique unto itself, no specialness can be conferred by it. We can demonstrate this further by supposing a human consciousness in a universe where no other creatures existed—impossible but for the purposes of this thought experiment, of course. In this instance, without other consciousnesses to measure it in relationship to, it could not acquire any "special" characteristics other than its uniqueness unto itself.

Each form of Being thus brings its uniqueness unto itself, which is its defining quality; and all other properties which arise in regard to relationship are consequential to that uniqueness, not to any subsequent artificial hierarchies which are superimposed by comparative relationships.

It's quite interesting to me to attempt to understand awareness from this point of view, since we are surrounded by creatures whose awareness is entirely uncontaminated by the very rich fantasy lives human beings so aggressively insist are real: real estate deals, stock markets, politics.

What would it be like to be alive and free of all those assumptions and artificial structures?

One wonders.


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