A Living History of Human Experience

Anil Mitra, © SEPTEMBER 6, 2010. VERSION OF  September 10, 2010


Welcome to this exploration. We have at least two common interests—the exploration of what is fundamental in human life and consequent conclusions for conduct. What is fundamental in human life is perhaps the major concern of this gathering. Perhaps everyone present will agree that what is fundamental will include the quality of life—what the idea means; what is its sense and what explicit things make for quality; whether the thought should be explored and shared and people and groups left to make their own conclusions, take up their own paths of action; or whether there may be some program of implementation. Throughout the ages these questions have been emphasized—they have aesthetic (including ethical) and political dimensions. Some thinkers also find that exploration of the Universe and of human nature are important—in themselves and in relation to one another and to the aesthetic and the political

I think you will have a number of questions. I would. Why A History of Human Experience? What do I mean by experience and what, given that so much of that experience is forever lost, is the significance of the term history? I will make a preliminary statement: experience concerns every aspect and mode of psychic activity: sensation; cognition including perception and thought; feeling and emotion, pure experience, attitude, and action; conscious and less than conscious—including what has been called awareness without consciousness (but which may be falsely labeled as ‘without consciousness.’ Therefore it would be superfluous to rewrite the title as the one that I originally intended: A History of Human Thought and experience.) What are the ideas of aesthetics and politics? What constitutes exploration of the Universe and human nature—are these topics metaphysical or scientific or both? What are metaphysics and science? At once meta-questions arise—What do we mean when we ask ‘What is X?’ ? Is there one approach to this question of does it depend on the kind of thing or idea that X is? Given that some ‘X’ that we discuss are not concrete objects or even definite things—they may be elusive or they may be part of an ongoing creative process in the realm of idea or value—should we expect definitive outcomes of in attempting to answer questions… should we expect or even hope for consensus? And how can we approach the answering of questions and the validation of answers? Before which we may ask—Is there any validation of answers and to what extent does this depend on the kind of thing being investigated?

A dialectical approach to the answering of questions and similar activities is one in which we begin investigation from some point of view. If we have experience in such activity we may know of some initial questions and so on that are useful to ask. Early considerations lead to further concerns that include content (the topic or topics) and method or how to proceed. The dialectic continues and at the end we may have no definite conclusion but ideas and minds may receive illumination. Sometimes we may find definitive answers to questions of content and method; occasionally, then, a science arises out of dialectic. Perhaps the proper or best mode of presenting science is discursive

Perhaps there is no particular point that is the beginning of dialectic. I may focus at first on an individual thinker and a specific topic according to a prescribed approach. The individual reflects and may make progress in the dialect sense. In the process reflection may enquire of the approach and is broadened to include thoughts on method. The thoughts of others may be sought as a source of ideas and as part of the communal dialectic. Histories of ideas may be read so as to get further material and suggestion in the way of fruitful and counter-fruitful activity (we need not agree with what we read or hear: the point is suggestion rather than authority)

But ideas are ever in interaction with seeing (seeing may be seen as a kind of idea) and with human experience which includes transformation and change. All of the foregoing, from the individual concern and action to that of the group to history may be regarded as falling under A Living History of Human Experience