Paradigms of Philosophy

1c. Paradigms of Philosophy

The world that we believe we live in is fundamental to how we see ourselves. It determines how how we place ourselves in this world. There are many different ‘sets of belief’ here, often called paradigms. If you believe that the world is a hostile place, your reaction to it is very different to people who think that the earth is abundant and joyful. Paradigms change over time, like the impact of Galileo’s work on disproving the flat-earth theory or Copernicus’s heresy that the Earth moves round the Sun. These new ideas met a great deal of resistance from existing philosophy but eventually gave rise to a changed perception of the world we live in.

We live now in a time of ‘paradigm shift’ which creates fundamental changes in our assumptions about the world. For example, our physical sciences have discovered that the whole universe is made of energy. But in the new fields of quantum reality Western medical science is lagging behind in a world of mass vaccination by injection, and interventions based on drugs and surgery (although there are also many vested interests at work here).

How we perceive the world is central to how we perceive our role in it. There are different perceptions of the world at work in the world speaking incompatible languages. These paradigms have deep roots in our philosophy. Here are three paradigms formative to Western social culture:

Paradigm 1: The Mechanistic View

This paradigm can be traced back to Descartes and other scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton. ‘The universe is a vast machine and we are all cogs, all with our part to play in its function’.

The healthy body in a clockwork universe is a well made clock and if it goes wrong we simply take it apart and tinker with the insides until it goes again.”

Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) was a central influence on the 17th century revolution that began modern science and philosophy. His ‘Method of Doubt’ was published in 1637:

I resolved to reject as false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, in order to see if there afterwards remained anything that was entirely indubitable”.

The philosophy of ‘Cartesian Dualism’ became part of our science, where the mind and the body are seen as essentially separate. The ‘self’, the conscious being that is ‘me’ was seen as essentially non-physical. Misguidedly (it was not Descartes intention) this philosophy contributed to the mechanistic and rational philosophy of the universe adopted by our culture. Descartes was one of the first people to suggest that phenomena could be understood by breaking them down into constituent parts and examining each minutely.  His view of the human body as a machine functioning within a mechanistic universe took prevalence within the ‘Age of Reason’.

Paradigm 2: The Anthropomorphic View

This paradigm is central to the philosophy of Darwinism and others who helped set humans as ‘apart and above’, or at the head of other life forms. Humanity is the supposed crown of creation, we are created to lord it over every other creature as ‘head of the food chain’, the Big Ego.

Let us make mankind . . . rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God in Genesis 1:26.

The planet is ours to dominate and exploit to our own demands. We must conquer every mountain and battle against disease. We are the most evolved and dominant species in a process of natural selection. We exist for no purpose and have just evolved through sheer luck. In this world our media fantasy industries create amusing stories for us where pigs and fish can talk human to entertain us. Animals are anthropomorphised through culture to have the same needs, desires and dreams as humans. The animals, forests, oceans and environment around us exist purely for our convenience. This paradigm is human self-centred and exploitative to the environment and to ourselves. There are many of people whose whole belief systems are still based within the above paradigms.

Paradigm 3: The Gaian View (an emerging, integrative paradigm)

This paradigm started with Einstein and the science of energy. Its inception defines an age when we saw the first images of the Earth as a whole entity from space. James Lovelock and his search for life on Mars is a central figure in its development through his identification of the Gaia Hypothesis regarding Earth.

This planet we inhabit is a self-balancing, homeostatic system similar to our own as single biological entities. It still maintains the optimum conditions for life (apparently despite our best efforts to pollute it). Our bodies are a miracle of biology, constantly flexible and adaptive but easy to harm. ‘Anything we do to it or each other, we do to ourselves as we are part of the same ‘web’ or ‘circle’ of life.’ We are part of an evolving cycle of life, a happening miracle. Ourselves, and the environment in which we live are inseparable. Our bodies are a self-healing mechanism given the right environment.

Once again, much of our society seems stuck in the earth-abusing first and second paradigms. Those of us who see that everything is connected seem to be speaking a different language. Presently the values associated with the first two paradigms above and a perception of Gaia seem utterly opposed.

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