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The Second Nature of Man. Human Being between Nature and Culture Cosmos, Nature, Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference Phoenix, Arizona - July 18–21,

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Presentation on theme: "The Second Nature of Man. Human Being between Nature and Culture Cosmos, Nature, Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference Phoenix, Arizona - July 18–21,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Second Nature of Man. Human Being between Nature and Culture Cosmos, Nature, Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference Phoenix, Arizona - July 18–21, 2009 Fabio Caporali 1, Ludovico Galleni 2, Silvana Procacci 3, Aurelio Rizzacasa 3 1 Dip. di Produzione Vegetale, University of Tuscia, VT, Italy 2 Dip. di Chimica e Biotecnologie agrarie, University of Pisa, Italy 3 Dip. di Filosofia, University of Perugia, Italy Etruscan Local Group - Italy

2 In what sense we can speak about a continuity/discontinuity between Nature and Culture? Is it possible to create a unitary vision that overlap the simplified distinction between Nature and Culture? Can Man and Nature re-discover their common root and their mutual destiny? Can the notion of culture evolution represent the basis for a philosophical biology? Questions

3 zWith this brief talk I want to present the research carried out by the ELG. zThis research is aimed at developing a new image of mankind and his relationship with nature, and it is inspired by the thinking of some philosophers like M. Scheler, A. Gehlen, H. Plessner, and P. Teilhard de Chardin, who sketch a new vision concerning the relationship between Nature and Man. zAccording to a trans-disciplinary approach, this research could offer the basis for a philosophical biology that overlap the dichotomy between Nature and Culture. The aim

4 zThis research joins together the contributions of philosophical anthropology, evolutionistic biology, holistic epistemology and new theology. zIt surpasses the reductionistic approach in favour of a trans-disciplinary study, where different disciplines converse with one another and co-operate in order to create a unitary vision of the world. zIn this contest, mankind and nature can re-discover their everlasting and common root and also their mutual destiny. The transdisciplinary vision

5 The antecedent: Scheler zAccording to the phenomenological anthropology of M. Scheler, human phenomenon acquires a double meaning: zThe external meaning concerns its classification in the hierarchy of the levels of the being and the shapes of the living. zThe internal meaning concerns the consciousness of mankind in his internal dynamics which determine the only and unrepeatable development of the private world. zScheler finds a hierarchy in the forms of life: mankind is placed at the top of this scale for the phenomenon of spiritual activity.

6 The philosophical biology of Plessner zPlessner adapted the idea of the intentionality of consciousness away from the need for a transcendental ego and, instead, he grounds it in the behavior of sensing organisms. zThe act of self positioning is realized by establishing borders which represent the point where the impulses or growth of organisms meet with their environments. zThese are the scopes of action and understanding that define consciousness and which at the same time ground it in the material world of nature.

7 zIn terms of plants, their self expression is completely open: their borders are only defined by very simple forms of feedback, and the plant has no ability to express intentional preferences regarding its environment. zAnimals, on the other hand, are aware of their own borders and are constantly pressed back within them, thus exhibiting a closed kind of intentionality trapped by its own borders, this is the limit of their expression. zFinally, humans alternate between open and closed intentionality, thus representing what we know as consciousness in its dialectical dance through our own expressiveness. The philosophical biology of Plessner

8 Man has a indirect directedness: he must always construct the world through cognition, in order to get closer to it. Man is an animal but at the same time he wants to escape from this animalism, through culture, he has obtained a positionalistic status, i.e. man is capable of distancing himself from himself, by treating himself as a subject performing certain functions and tasks. The philosophical biology of Plessner

9 The philosophical basis of Culture for Plessner zWhat is the base of culture? zFor Plessner, the spirit and its activities – heroism, spirituality and cultural expressions, cultivation of higher values – are the essence of human being, but they assume a biological significance. zBoth philosophical visions of Scheler and Plessner lead culture back to a naturalistic base making it an evolutionary instrument for guaranteeing biological survival. In this perspective culture risks being reduced to biological dynamics.

10 The philosophical biology of Gehlen Gehlen pointed out the fact that the human being overcomes the biological evolution and its conditionings through culture.

11 The philosophical biology of Gehlen zMan is a fully biological being but through the mind and language (the tools of culture) he is capable of compensating for his evolutionary deficiencies. zCulture is conceived as compensation, but also as a different space in which man encloses his biological urges in numerous symbolic expressions. zIn this situation culture superimposes itself over nature without negating it, thus justifying its passage with the phenomenon of hominization which characterises the passage from the biological world of the animal to the spiritual world of mankind.

12 Continuity/discontinuity of Culture from Nature zTherefore Gehlens theory goes beyond evolutionism through the vindication of the qualitative supremacy of mankinds culture which is dependent (but at the same time independent) from the natural evolution. Trough culture, humankind has continuity/discontinuity relation with the biological basis. zIn particular Gehlen defends the emergence of the world of the spirit in mankind with all its specific characteristics, in this way the original uniqueness of the human phenomenon does not give up its biological continuity with its natural world of animal life, but it establishes a new form of emergence (the spiritual) due to the phenomenon of culture.

13 Gehlen and the start of cultural process zThe mankind superiority is bases on his precariousness and fragility. Mankind lives in a hostile world where the incentive for achieving self-organisation is provided by the anguish of succumbing to aggression which is expressed by all living beings. zThus the weaknesses and solitude of mankind become the reactive condition through which mankind elaborates the instruments which guarantee his dominion in the world. These instruments allow the human individual to take advantage of everything belonging to the surrounding nature, thus obtaining the instruments available to him in order to prevail in unfavourable conditions.

14 zThe process of self-organization and self-construction of suitable structures for converting weakness into strength proceeds for trial and error. zTherefore the human world is cultural in principle since it determines the superimposition of culture over nature through which mankind guarantees his survival. zTherefore technique accompanies the human phenomenon from its origins, and culture represents the condition of existence of humanity in the long period of our history. Gehlen and the start of cultural process

15 The interior and the exterior zHuman consciousness is formed through its cognitive and creative functions, bearing in mind both the biological aspect and above all the interior spring which makes development possible. zSo mankind contributes to his development as an active agent of a dynamic matter in continual transformation.

16 In synthesis: what is cultural evolution? zCultural evolution can be considered as the most significant characteristic of human identity. zCultural evolution has an adaptive role: acquired experiences can be cumulative and transmitted orally or in symbolic forms from one generation to the next, constituting an evolutionary system infinitely faster, more selective and more efficient that genetic evolution.

17 Cultural Evolution zAccording to Teilhard de Chardin, it is cultural evolution that establishes the evolutionary specificity of mankind. zMan becomes himself by creating culture. As Teilhard points out, for man the cultural evolution becomes the extension of the natural. Through culture, the natural evolution forms a new sphere of complexity, called the Noosphere by Teilhard. The notion of cultural evolution requires a re-visitation of the Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theories (vertical transmission/horizontal transmission).

18 The Noosphere as the product of the cosmic process from Matter to Spirit (P. Teilhard de Chardin)

19 The Noosphere: the nervous system of Humanity zThe Noosphere (or reflected sphere) is formed by all different consciousnesses and cultural products joined together. zIt forms a planetary organism in which the means of connection and information create the true nervous system of humanity, which carries on the work of biological evolution.

20 The Noosphere: the nervous system of Humanity zThe Noosphere has an own structure whose anatomy reveals the existence of: 1) hereditary apparatus, formed by the collective memory of humanity, handed down from one generation to the next through educational and social life (horizontal transmission); 2) mechanical apparatus, since the mechanical instruments made by man form the biological prolongation of his ability of action; 3) cerebral apparatus, which does not come from the simple sum of the single self-consciousness, but from their mutual interaction, amplified by technique.

21 The post-human: the Omega Point zThe Noospere is like a neurological network, with a centre, a unison thinking that is unimaginable for us now, a sort of brain of brains comparable to a collective mind, with a physical base of implementation. zThe Noospere has a collective memory, thought is more and more rapidly transmitted through a network of nerves which will envelop the entire surface of the planet, allowing a common vision to emerge. zThis centre of the collective mind is also the centre of love and not only of information: a universal consciousness forming a superhuman centre of a spiritual nature or Omega Point.

22 The post-human: the Omega Point zFor this reason the Noosphere will not only be a thinking wrapping, because each element, which will grow in personalization tends to feel, to desire, to suffer the same things of all the others put together. zThe Noosphere will form a new organism, in which the innumerable grains of thought will be hyper-conscious and hyper-centred.

23 The post-human: the eschatological vision zThe ultimate vision is an eschatological vision: super- human tends towards Beyond-human, which nourishes and attracts him. The definition of Omega remains a problem. zThe Omega Point is composed of a double face, one characterised by the super-human or Noosphere, the other characterised by a divine or transcendent dimension. There is no real scientific description or rational human comprehension for Omega. Teilhard can only say that it is very different to any phenomenal representation, and it is ready to declare that it belongs to another ambit, that of faith.

24 The post-human and the dialogue with theology zNowadays the human being has the power to modify him/herself both physically and genetically and can also modify the environment not only of the present generation but also of the generations to come. zShould we say this is an evil? Or can we find some theological meaning that could also refer to the will of God? If we follow the philosophical suggestions of Plessner, Gehlen and Teilhard de Chardin, we may consider the Cultural evolution as the so-called second causes of creation.

25 The post-human and the dialogue with theology zIn the future man could extend beyond his identity, he could create new beings like the bionic man composed of some mechanical prosthesis inserted into a human body but also to some new living entities like engines or robots who are able to feel sentiments or something similar to them. We cant say if this power is good or bad in absolute.

26 Conclusions 1 zCultural evolution gives humankind the power to modify his being and the environment. zThis power gives considerable responsibility towards Being which is not always able to respond positively, but in another way makes it similar to God. zTherefore the difficulty does not concern the violation of an unchangeable nature according to certain philosophical and a priori categories so much as the consideration that man is simply not God, and therefore he is not able to grasp the totality and fully distinguish good from evil.

27 Conclusions 2 zSo the problem can arise when mankind becomes too proud and thinks he is able to completely manage the surrounding nature. zThis explains the need for dialogue with theology. This discipline is necessary for reminding man of his creatural nature, dependent and limited not only for his physical appearance, but even more for his moral and cognitive nature. zThis acknowledgement is the presupposition for an opening towards faith and transcendence.

28 Essential bibliography z Duffy, K The texture of the evolutionary cosmos : matter and spirit in Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard Studies 43. Lewisburg, PA: American Teilhard Association. z Dyson, G Darwin among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence. Reading, MA: Perseus Books. z Gehlen, A., Man in the age of technology, Columbia University Press, 1980 zKauffman, S At Home in the Universe: the Search for Laws of Self- Organization and Complexity, Oxford University Press, New York. z Teilhard de Chardin, P. 1955/2002. The Phenomenon of Man. Trans. B. Wall. New York: Harper Collins. zTeilhard de Chardin, P. 1959/2004. The Future of Man. Trans. N. Denny. New York: Doubleday. z Wiker, B From Darwinism to transhumanism. National Catholic Register. 6 July Reprinted on the Discovery Institutes website.


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