Guide Natural Body Natural Mind : Health, Ecology and the Human Spirit

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It explores how our modern enchantment with technology and unlimited economic growth creates a gap between our everyday actions and our true human potential. Tara presents a vision of how daily actions can create a world that works for everyone. The Living Earth.

The Authentic Self. Having or Being? The Question of Consciousness. Health and Sickness. He describes a mental and moral development in the child that begins with concrete self-oriented reasoning and progresses to social reasoning, then logical reasoning, and finally abstract reasoning see also, however, Flanagan , ; Gilligan ; and Lapsley An argument can be made that our individual mental and moral development recapitulates the evolutionary development of our mental capacities.

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It is interesting that, in a somewhat similar manner, F. Cornford in Before and After Socrates described classical Greek civilization as progressing from the concrete thought of Homer, to the social thought of Athens in the time of Pericles, to the logical scientific reasoning of the pre-Socratics, Hippocrates, and Thucydides, and culminating in the more abstract thought of the classical philosophers see also Finley The basic assumption of the ecological organic paradigm is that the four described cognitive capacities or mental functions were advantageous, adaptive coping mechanisms in natural and cultural evolution.

Because of their derivation in evolutionary development as capacities and their similar progressive appearance in individual psychological development related to experience, these cognitive categories are expected to have some universal applicability as a framework of analysis.

The interpretive capacity is integrative and it is thus not radically separated from practical perception and action, feelings, or empirical thought. All of the categories are perceived to be interactive and dynamic. The ecological inter-relationships described are only primary and not exclusive. Our many social inter-relationships extending from our family to our common humanity, for example, are related to a diverse array of social capacities which have broadly and collectively for the purpose of analysis been described as our social conscience.

Our social interactions, however, are also obviously affected in a dynamic way by our other attributes of appetite, reason, and interpretation. Charles Darwin wrote that "ultimately our moral sense or conscience becomes a highly complex sentiment -- originating in the social instincts, largely guided by the approbation of our fellow-man, ruled by reason, self-interest, and in later times by deep religious feelings, and confirmed by instruction and habit" b The cognitive function described as "interpretation" which is being correlated with metaphysics is to be understood as a broad category.

As a category of analysis, it is meant to accommodate both religious concepts of the soul and secular concepts of the self. The term "metaphysics" is also being used in a broad way as a general category.

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It is not being specified as either simply an order that we project upon the world or simply a natural order of the world that we perceive, intuit, or has been revealed to us. As a general framework of analysis the categories are meant to be inclusive. Broadly defined, the cognitive capacity for metaphysical interpretation is not only a part of human nature but it may be the most distinguishing part of human nature Mayr , In his book An Anthropologist from Mars; Seven Paradoxical Tales , Oliver Sacks suggests, "a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active.

The dynamics of this could be described better, however, by using the phrase "to construct and understand" a coherent self and world. The cognitive capacity of appetite is similar to the "appetite" described by Plato, the "reptilian complex" described by MacLean, and the id described by Freud. It represents the self-interested primal needs of the individual for such things as food, survival, and reproduction. Freud represented the id, it may be noted, as having little regard for problems of self-contradiction or coherence.

It is also understood that most societies, from an anthropological perspective, have not markedly distinguished scientific from metaphysical concepts of the universe. Freud in his psychological framework of analysis had only three categories because he combined logical, empirical reasoning that reasoning related to the reality principle and interpretive, integrative reasoning together within the category of ego.

The ecological organic framework, nevertheless, remains very useful for it can also clarify such points. An underlying premise of the modern ecological organic paradigm is that with the combination of natural and cultural evolution there is an interaction between an organism and its environment. Human beings are not perceived to be just a passive mirror of nature though we are a part of nature. One could argue from several perspectives for the fitness of the planet Earth for the development of life and also for the tremendous adaptive advantages of any kind of intelligence or cooperation for natural selection Henderson ; Axelrod One could also argue that the external natural world in which we live is indifferent to our particular fate.

One could also hold both positions. Another of the premises of the organic paradigm, however, is that at least by natural selection, through evolution, we are not indifferent to our fate. Being proactive and goal oriented has been an evolutionary advantage and it has been "highly effective. The long dependency of our childhood requires social abilities and we have the capacity for reason.

We have intentionality. We have a capacity to transcend our environment and, to a limited but significant degree, choose alternative futures. If one postulates the goals of human prosperity and posterity, then moral and political values become conditional factors for achieving these ends. Right reason is not the same as objective scientific reason. Natural Law is not the same as the law of nature Corwin Natural Law is not just descriptive, but normative and prescriptive.

A first premise that can help define a moral system and that is compatible with the organic framework is that moral behavior is distinguished by an affirmation of life, even though this does not always mean preserving life at all costs. This premise refers, in general, to an affirmation of life that both attempts to overcome adversity and aspires to flourish.

This quality of moral concerns has been described as "depth" and it distinguishes morality from a "value neutral" ethics Kekes A second premise that can help define a moral system is the issue of inclusion or what has been described as "breadth" Kekes From the models that help define an ecological organic paradigm, it can be concluded that for a moral system to be what has been described as sufficiently "broad," it needs to be inclusive of each of the multiple dimensions of human nature and perspectives of the world in which we live.

Much of our discourse could be clarified by recognizing both "breadth" and "depth" in moral philosophy. There are, for example, two great moral traditions in Western civilization. The second concerns the equal dignity and worth of individuals as persons and is derived primarily from Judeo-Christian sources such as the golden rule and imago Dei and later Kant's categorical imperative. The concept of moral "depth", refers to an affirmation of life and a distinction of values that relates primarily to attributes and behavior. The concept of moral "breadth" extends this affirmation to the individual, the social community, our common humanity, concerns about the natural world in which we live, and metaphysical concepts of meaning and purpose.

For a moral system to have sufficient "breadth," for example, there needs to be a respect for persons and an affirmation of our common humanity. The two ethical systems are often confused in dialogue when there is no recognition of the difference between an equality of persons and a distinction of values that relates to attributes and behavior. In summary, by these definitions of a dimensional moral system of "breadth" and "depth" there are valid moral concerns if we affirm our individual selves, a premise of community, our common humanity, and a concept of causation and intergenerational continuity.

In addition, there needs to be an acknowledgment of some of the natural possibilities and constraints within which we live. Without making such distinctions and definitions moral discourse, in general, becomes very confused and ambiguous. Morality would thus be defined as having at least some parameters within the larger field of ethical discourse and inquiry.

The organic paradigm is compatible with an affirmation of life as the basis of a distinction of values or "depth. It provides some coherence, for example, for the ethical and meta-ethical categories. It provides a basis for accommodation or what John Rawls has referred to as an overlapping consensus ; see also Lippman , chap.

The questions What is obligatory? Deontological, normative, communitarian, and individual human concerns are all recognized. Recognizing the dynamic aspects of human nature and the world in which we live will not satisfy those in a quest for certainty, but it will be very valuable as a tool and framework of analysis.

A multi-dimensional understanding of human nature and the complex environment in which we live, results in the recognition of multiple ends and goals. It is important, therefore, that the procedure for choosing between such competing and sometimes conflicting goals attempts to do justice to the ends. The means need to do justice to the ends. In our individual lives this often involves the issue of integrity. Shirley Letwin described integration as part of the cultural characteristics of the gentleman in The Gentleman in Trollope; Individuality and Moral Conduct The term "gentleman" was for her not gender specific.

The gentleman is marked off by a conception of his own integrity and a concern for the coherence of his own life, thoughts and actions. He moves through life "constantly repairing the tears and gaps in the fabric of life caused by passion and misfortune" Minogue, This can be contrasted with a more dialectical Freudian view of the self-divided man perceived as being in conflict with himself. As a framework of analysis the EOP can recognize both the possibilities and the limitations of these views of human nature.

In a broader context, the ecological organic framework of analysis suggests that one could analyze and compare political philosophers or philosophies by placing them on a graph. One axis would represent a spectrum that would extend from the individual to society. The other axis would extend from science or materialism to metaphysics or idealism.

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One could also add a third vertical axis that would represent the degrees of coercive power in the system. There has been some reluctance in legal theory to consider an organic framework of analysis as this doesn't always lead to a clearly preferable answer, let alone one right answer, in the very difficult cases. As a framework of analysis, the EOP would correctly be perceived to be an umbrella term that can incorporate diverse tendencies in moral and political philosophy. At the bottom of our legal system we rely on the procedure of a vote by a jury to determine the facts in a case.

At the top of our judicial system we rely on the procedural vote of nine Supreme Court Justices to interpret the laws, which are sometimes conflicting. Yet, in explaining how the judges themselves decide these very difficult cases, Benjamin Cardozo in The Nature of the Judicial Process resorted to something very close to folk psychology or common sense philosophy. He wrote, "I can only answer that he must get his knowledge. Political philosophy and government by definition involve community, and government also concerns the use of coercive power.


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Government, in one view, can be considered a monopoly of coercive power Weber [] , It arises in part, as Hobbes pointed out, from the need to avoid anarchy. Rousseau noted, however, that even the strongest are not strong enough to rule without converting obedience into a sense of duty. It is the self-imposed moral foundations of government that change mere obedience to the coercive powers of government into a sense of consensual responsibility for a moral duty, a just order, the common good, and human rights.

The modern organic framework that has been described can be used for the purposes of general political analysis.

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The ecological organic paradigm can also be used to analyze considerations of "breadth" and "depth" in moral philosophy. The framework of analysis considers the assumptions concerning the individual, society, nature, and metaphysics. It incorporates what we may understand and do, based on our cognitive capacities of appetite, social conscience, reason and interpretation.

The organic framework in its hierarchical Platonic form, along with such other metaphors as The Great Chain of Being, was used primarily to support the prevailing social structures and institutions of the times. For years such metaphors helped to provide support for the hierarchy in the Church and the State.

King James I of England understood the importance and spectrum of such paradigms of thought when he was reported to have said "No bishop, no king" Roberts and Roberts , The Scientific Revolution challenged the assumptions of the past and the Renaissance and the Reformation placed increased emphasis on the dignity and worth of each individual. The organic paradigm was thus eventually replaced in moral and political philosophy primarily by the concept of the social contract, which begins with the premise that all persons are born free and equal in a state of nature.

The Stoic concept of equality, that we all have sufficient reason to understand a natural moral order, was always burdened in its challenge to hierarchy because the populace was illiterate and because in the Platonic framework of human nature reason was also used to justify hierarchy. The hierarchical social structures were more successfully challenged by Judeo-Christian concepts of equality based on ethical monotheism and love of one another with the best examples occurring when the particular religious beliefs were in a minority position.

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Moral and political concepts of equality, however, have been most widely accepted when they have been based on a concept of human rights that can be understood at the level of self-interest. Moral theory also became more secular in what came to be widely perceived as a mathematical and mechanical universe. This view of an orderly world was also often accommodated and appropriated by a more natural theology. Such changes, it was thought, might also make possible a utilitarian determination of human well-being, not by seeking such uncertain principles as truth, goodness, beauty, and virtue, but by an egalitarian calculation of the consequence of actions in the terms of pleasure and pain.

Currently there are several reasons, however, why an organic paradigm should be reconsidered. Developments in the biological sciences and medicine in the past one hundred years would tend to place a greater emphasis on a more balanced concept of human nature. Current scientific thought now considers feedback mechanisms and a system of checks and balances to be almost an essential part of the definition of a living organism. One example of a more balanced concept would be what Claude Bernard called the "internal milieu.

Another example from medicine would be a current model used to evaluate pain American Medical Association , The basis of even a utilitarian calculation of the greatest good, based on pleasure and pain, can thus be seen to depend on the categories of the older organic paradigm and folk psychology. These categories are compatible with those of a modern ecological organic paradigm and the framework need not necessarily be hierarchical. As will be shown in an extended example to follow, the framework of analysis of the organic metaphor is even instrumental to a historical and analytical understanding of the social contract, the primary paradigm that replaced it.

The general categories of the organic framework, but not their earlier hierarchical form, are instrumental to an understanding of the several aspects of equality on which United States constitutional democracy, as a social contract, is founded. A central problematic or political issue of our time is the accommodation of pluralism.

The ecological organic paradigm recognizes the multiple dimensions of human nature and, therefore, does not aspire to certainty or necessarily support any singular ideology. It does, however, provide a framework that at least has a capacity for accommodating pluralism. Recognizing even very broadly the multiple potentials of human nature can provide a rational basis for at least a threshold of values and conditions for the realization of those potentials as well as a basis for moderation and balance.


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A barrier to learning in the past has often been the unavailability of information. A barrier to learning in the near future will be the difficulty of both selecting from an overabundance of information and associating such information in a meaningful way. A modern organic paradigm should be reconsidered because it can provide a useful framework for understanding the dynamics of moral and political philosophy.

Folk psychology as an equivalent of the ecological organic paradigm has survived because it has provided some coherence. The ecological organic paradigm does not attempt to describe the specific anatomical mechanisms of perception and cognition. It provides coherence because it describes in a general way those cognitive functions that have progressively developed as coping mechanisms in both natural and cultural evolution. A new Darwinism, which recognizes both natural and cultural evolution, rejects the false exclusionary dichotomies of nature versus nurture, fact versus value, and nature versus free will Arnhart If facts are not related to values, for example, the phrase "political science" is an oxymoron.

In practice our perception of the facts usually has a very significant influence on our moral and political decisions. A more accurate description of the relationship would be that what we perceive to be the facts is not the sole determinant of our values. As a metaphor the ecological organic paradigm will remind us of the interrelationship between the character of the people and the character of the state. In his First Inaugural Address, George Washington stated that it was imperative "that the foundations of national policy be laid in the pure and inimitable principles of private morality.

Our individual and social moral character has perhaps become the most significant factor in the survival of ourselves, our society, our environment, and intergenerational continuity. Ecology changes. We live in a nuclear age that has seen defense strategies of mutual assured destruction and response times measured in minutes.

We will be facing the moral problems of genetic engineering and population control under the conditions of limited resources and a threatened environment. Technology has markedly increased the possibilities of both totalitarianism and terrorism. Yet we live in a century that coined the word "genocide" and a century that will be identified with individual alienation. The general concern has been that our technological development may have exceeded the parameters of our biological adaptive mechanisms and our moral development.

We also live in a time of pluralism in our own culture and in what is increasingly becoming a pluralistic global community. As the sociologist Max Weber described, this degree of pluralism usually requires societies to be based on legal authority, rather than traditional kinship-descent or charismatic social organization Weber [] , These conditions point to the need for moral and political structures that both affirm life and can accommodate pluralism.

They illustrate the need for limitations and moderation, but also the need for a model with a capacity for synthesis. A modern version of the organic paradigm should be reconsidered because it can provide a framework that has the capacity for affirmation, accommodation, moderation, adaptation, coherence, and synthesis. The recurrent interest in a naturalized epistemology perhaps began in with a paper by W. Quine, "Epistemology Naturalized", in which he wrote that, "epistemology goes on, though in a new setting and a clarified status. Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science" , Psychology, however, is related to and needs to be understood in the context of the other biological sciences as well as the humanities and from the perspective of behavioral ecology.

Toward the end of the Origin of Species Darwin wrote, "In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on the foundation. Our cognitive capacities, our consciousness and ability to know, have in the past developed and continue to develop as part of an interaction with the complex world in which we live.

The ecological organic paradigm can help to clarify the primary assumptions on which our thoughts and actions are based and take into consideration the contexts in which they occur. Post states that "philosophers have tended to develop an image of themselves and their enterprise as largely independent of whatever the sciences might turn up. Post then writes, "But what happens when we consider concepts, language, and meaning not from the point of view of how they seem to us on reflection from within, but from the point of view of how they appear from without, in particular to biological science?

By biological science I do not mean any of its possibly reductive subdisciplines, such as molecular biology or neuroscience, and certainly not any sociobiology. I mean the nonreductive, holistic biology of historically evolved living organisms in relation to their normal environments and to each other. For example, the proper function of the heart is to pump blood; to be a heart is to pump blood. Post objects to language-game irrealism because it means that we who play the game are in charge only because of the rejection of relevant external constraints Post , The ecological organic paradigm takes the concept of "selection" seriously, but at the human level applies this both ways in the interaction between humans and their environment.

The framework is based in the biological sciences, but it also retains a place for interpretation and metaphysics broadly understood. Two examples will be used to illustrate the usefulness of the ecological organic framework of analysis in moral and political philosophy. The first will be an analytical and historical consideration of equality which Jefferson, 10 Madison, 11 Tocqueville, 21 and Lincoln 13 all considered the primary moral concept of United States constitutional democracy.

For Jefferson the concept that "all men are created equal" was a moral assertion. This assertion is the first premise of the Declaration of Independence which is argued in the manner of Euclidean geometry. It thus puts everything that follows, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, into a moral context. For Jefferson the phrase was an affirmation of his own and our common humanity and it could thus be called a self-evident truth.

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The second example will use the ecological organic analytical framework to consider the several dimensions of the contemporary moral and political issue of abortion from the perspective of the physician. The ecological organic framework of analysis helps to clarify the several different dimensions of the moral and political concept of universal equality.

Within Western civilization there developed several sources of moral authority for law and several corresponding ethical and legal systems. Canon Law, Roman Law, English common law, and the social contract theory associated with constitutional law each had a different primary source of moral authority. Each of these systems of law was, consequently, based on a different type of ethical system, and each focused primarily on a different facet of human nature.

Constitutional democracy integrates aspects of these four ethical and legal systems as they relate to universal equality and the coercive powers of government. Metaphysics and Interpretation : Canon Law, for example, was based on the authority of God and related primarily to what it understood to be the soul of man.

Its ethic is deontological, deon meaning "duty" in Greek. That is, it is based on a universal duty "to love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and they neighbor as thyself" Lev , Deut , Lk , Mk This also happens to be an example of a use of the organic framework in a Judeo-Christian context.

Canon Law contains universal ethical principles based on a reverence for God and reciprocity towards one's fellow man. The equal dignity and worth of all persons in this religious system derives from a belief in God and that man and woman were made in God's image Gen Equality is intrinsic and not derived from one's individual attributes, but from the relationship between God and humanity. Nature and Reason : Roman Law, on the other hand, incorporated significant aspects of natural law based on the authority of a perceived natural moral order in the universe. Such a natural moral order could be understood by all persons, it was believed, because all humans share a capacity for right reason, an ability to know right from wrong.

All of the various people within the vast Roman Empire, for example, could be expected to learn and know that it is wrong to steal. This ethical system of natural law is primarily normative based on norms or ideals. Universal equality in classical civilization is based on all human beings having a capacity for right reason and also on a concept of reversibility a reversal of position or fortune which requires a rational imagination. Aristotle, in his Poetics , described reversibility as one of two major elements in Greek tragedies.

The second element is catharsis, part of which is a realization that we all, even heroes and kings, have character flaws and are also subject to fate, both of which can lead to a reversal of fortunes. The more recent concept of justice as fairness as described by John Rawls in The Theory of Justice , with an original position in which one does not know either his or her fate or circumstances in life's game, is an extension of the concept of reversibility.

Society and Social Conscience : Common law in English feudal society derived its moral authority from yet another source -- not from God or nature, but from social custom and tradition. This was primarily a communitarian ethical system. It related to the social conscience of the people based on their concepts of rights and responsibilities in society. Traditional English rights progressively became a basis of communal solidarity.

The Individual and Appetite : Finally, the social contract theory associated with constitutional law derives its moral authority beginning with the individual in a state of nature concerned primarily about his own safety and happiness. Its very premise is not only that all are free and equal in a state of nature but that everyone is also endowed with natural rights that they are entitled to defend. Such a theory is based on individual concerns and contract. The universality of social contract theory as it applies to democratic processes and constitutional law, however, makes it also essentially a humanitarian ethic.


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  • It contains an ethic of universal equality based on what we now refer to as human rights and a just claim to resist the violation of those rights. American constitutional democracy integrates and balances these four ethical perspectives as they apply to the several aspects of universal equality and the coercive powers of government. The accommodating common moral concept is not just a deontological ethic, with concepts of reverence and reciprocity, relating to God and a person's soul; nor is it just a normative ethic, based on concepts of right reason and reversibility, relating to a perceived moral order in nature and our capacity to understand that order with our reason; nor is it just a communitarian ethic, with concepts of social rights and responsibilities, as they relate to the several aspects of society and our social conscience; nor is it only an individual ethic, with a concept of human rights and the right to resist tyranny, relating to the individual and our fundamental human needs and desires.

    The accommodating or unifying moral concept is universal equality, which can be derived analytically, and has been derived historically, from each of these sources of authority and aspects of human nature Rutherford Universal equality achieves some moderation when the concept of the dignity and worth of the individual is understood as a matter which requires the consideration and balancing of at least four different capacities and perspectives.

    Consider, for example, that our government was founded for the declared purposes of providing for the general welfare legislated needs , establishing justice adjudicated social conscience , maintaining domestic tranquility executive order and securing freedom for ourselves and our posterity non-coercive meaning and purpose. In attempting to achieve institutional accommodation of these objectives on the basis of equality, our system of government does leave the question of meaning and purpose to the individual.

    This is what Jefferson, following Aristotle, meant by "the pursuit of happiness," which is quite different from the pursuit of pleasure as we understand it. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Get access to the full version of this article. View access options below. You previously purchased this article through ReadCube.

    Institutional Login. ESA Members. Log in to Wiley Online Library. Purchase Instant Access. View Preview. Learn more Check out. Abstract Indigenous people view both themselves and nature as part of an extended ecological family that shares ancestry and origins. Citing Literature. Volume 10 , Issue 5 October Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer.