I have over time arrived at a number of what might be called ‘basic premises’ for studying the human condition, whether from the vantage point of sociology or many other natural, life, behavioural or social sciences. They will be contentious, but I cannot for the life of me see why or how. I will broach them under simple rubrics, expanding just enough.
- Habitats: having certain powers of reflexivity, we are aware that we occupy a habitat with parameters. For want of a better characterization, we dwell on landmasses on one planet among many, and one with a number of constraining properties. We may live day-to-day courtesy of a complex network of social structures, processes, cultures, conventions and so on, BUT: we live on the land, and on its surface at that, cannot fly unaided and must excrete regularly.
- Another species: we are one species on our planet among too many to count (for all that we are killing off others exponentially). Our sense that we boss it may be a function of our bounded reflexivity. Even some of our own experts put their money on the likes of earthworms and spiders in terms of survival.
- Humanism: there are no grounds for believing that, say, mollusks, even chimpanzees, look to what we call ‘gods’ or divinities. Best to presume – no much more than that – that humans are JUST another species that finds itself cohabiting on Earth. Notions of supernatural intrusion continue to furnish us with comforting narratives, but this can be their only warrant and justification: far better to jettison them. Recognition that no purpose resides outside of us invites collective concentrate.
- Biology of sociability: many species exhibit patterns of behaviour consonant with (a) intrinsic and (b) extrinsic reproduction (my, doubtless crude, terminology). In other words, oriented to their survival (a), but more than this (b), also towards – what? – ‘equilibrium/wellbeing’.
- And of morality: surely there are patterns or currents of behaviour that are basic to species continuance (4 (a) and (b)). I would go a little further than this. Independent of time and place we presuppose in all our dealings with others a degree of trust and reciprocity. How otherwise could we live in their company? Truth, justice and authenticity sit here. They are institutionalized across all social formations from the hunter-gatherers on.
- Social differentiation: modes of social organization up to and through agrarian states and stretching to today’s western financial capitalism have all witnessed the colonization of people’s day-to-day lives by powerful vested interests, and often dynasties or lineages. Truth, justice and authenticity are obscured. Ideologies are the means of disguise, stunting and ‘closure’. It has long been in the interests of the many to expose the ideologies of the few.
- Structures: agency and culture are alike ‘structured’ (but never structurally determined). Humans are jigsaws comprising pieces (abling or disabling ‘potentials’) from genetics to anthropology, with – crucially – a few pieces missing to represent agency and contingency or happenstance: the jigsaw can never be completed.
- Being: these structures (biological, psychological, social), like humans, exist. They cannot be erased via reductions to what human gatherings posit as ‘knowledges’. Being stands proud from knowing.
- Knowledges: what people (think they) know varies by time and place but is always open to interrogation, and interrogation outside and beyond ideological parameters. We can be wrong about anything, but this does not give succour to either the skeptic or the relativist.
- Reflexivity: when we talk to ourselves there exists (note the choice of word) an avenue of escape from structuring, a hint of light at the end of a long narrow tunnel. Often we back off, ‘opting’ to run along the tracks. But stabs in the dark have ever been possible; and out of the – brave, impetuous – taking of such opportunities can emerge different ways of life for the many over the few.
Well, what is to be said? Is this just a personal series of metaphysical speculations? Or am I right? Tuck in, and in the spirit in which 1-10 are advanced get stuck in.