Life, Culture, and the Modern Episteme
The evolution of life, values, the human mind, civilization, and academia
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of modern life is its specialization. There are as many hobbies as individuals to pursue them, as many different products as citizens to purchase them, as many job descriptions as employees to practice them, as many working financial models as successful businesses, and as many subcultures as can be realized. The sectors of society, to the extent that they are logistical, orient around maxing out the mind’s capacity for encompassing existence’s diversity, stretching the boundaries of thought towards assimilating as much information as possible, and differentiating our modes of behavior to any extent which proves practical for furthering the cause. Human industriousness generates so much data that the quantity of connections between internet links will soon exceed the hundred trillion synaptic connections in a human brain. We seem to be making our world radically complex, perhaps the consequence of each individual attempting to carve out a niche, mastering categories of minutia in ways distinguished and original enough to legitimize our identities, rendering ourselves significant in an environment that demands technical proficiency, social adeptness and independent initiative, where we must validate ourselves to well-educated and discriminating expertise every day.
Most have been living under these conditions their whole lives, so appropriate reasoning, speech and behavior are second nature in circumstances of the ordinary. We have our sphere of influence, our circle of contacts, a job, a neighborhood, a family, in essence predictability. We have personal histories affording us all kinds of anecdotes for entertainment, plenty of inside jokes and fun moments to look back on and sometimes share, even for those forced to bear misfortunes and misery. Only the direst of catastrophes can make it seem as if life is impossible or not worth living, and typically even the worst crises pass without destroying our psyches.
In the contemporary age, at least in the Western world, humanity’s ideological commitments are spread thin by specialization added to diversity amongst populations, and this arrangement leads to some relativism: I have my background, my views, my allegiances, and while we can wrangle if you like, I’m entitled to my position regardless of what you say, and if I change my mind, its from out of personal conviction, not submission. This differs from early antiquity, when it was customary for societies to convert to the religion of their invaders upon conquest, tens of thousands surrendering millennia-old traditions in unison. But in the West, everyone is expected to take care of themselves unless they have a good excuse, and opinions are like property; we have the freedom to choose our loyalties, and beliefs usually stand or fall via practicality for our own social life, charisma, financial security, and a sufficing amount of good fortune, the factors that make an incarnation of identity work for one’s private disposition. Relativism runs so deep that even relativism itself defies all exigency of collective principle: the concept of relativism, like all concepts, is a tool we learn to use aptly in various contexts of meaning, but which we are not typically obligated to defend and refute with directness or profundity. Western civilization with the majority of its values is an instrument for meeting the requisites of survival by income, otherwise in the service of an individual’s own preferences and actualization.
The necessity that citizens forge a persona capable of navigating civilization is not without obstacles. Everyone struggles during their teenage years to find a place in society, seeking a realistic image of what life will be like and then conforming dispositions to the facts, resigned to fleeting enjoyments in a trying existence. And of course there is the midlife crisis, when the psyche can begin to panic as declines of aging take hold, with one’s best years and peak performances on the verge of capitulation to eternal unconsciousness. Along the way there are major challenges, such as changes at work, new relationships, sustaining a family in the face of transition and crisis, health issues, all kinds of personal adversity, but we handle all of this with aplomb, for it is intrinsic to the human condition. We commune with ourselves and our contacts, carry out routines, either accepting the relativism of our world along with the ephemerality of life, or wasting away from an urgent sense that happenings are symbols of our identity, and often a rueful admixture of both. A single life is comic-tragedy, but a provocative and meaningful one, enough to motivate us despite impotence of the individual.
We do not have to wallow in tepid averages for too long, however, even though we are feeble relative to the scale of this universe, for bouts of cataclysm test our grip, at times requiring every ounce of strength to avoid being washed overboard, swept away to suffocated death, a membranous drop in the bucket. Much of life’s momentousness is not due to our intentions, but rather nature’s frenzies which demand full allocation of effort and maximum resolve. Hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, droughts, famines, diseases, wars, poverty, disgrace, all kinds of misfortune pummel the species until humans succumb to fate and give up the ghost. Yet though all terrestrial creatures are doomed as isolated entities, life has a trick for wiling its way to perpetuity, and this is of course reproduction, ceding some of our self for the sake of collective immortality.
Upon the emergence of lifeforms, perhaps the strangest paradox of them all materialized: organisms were compelled to survive and reproduce, but had no clue how to effect this outcome without inducing death. Biology became a prolific force on this planet by way of mutual destruction. The earliest predators were killing machines, foraging, hunting and eating plants and animals with no remorse, while their prey reciprocated by poisoning, trampling or otherwise endangering with no mercy. Animals chased each other around, avoided each other, mutilated bodies all day, collectively surviving by way of collectively annihilating themselves.
Animals killed and killed and killed some more; even symbiosis was at first a byproduct of killing. When bacteria fed on other bacteria, absorbing them for digestion, these organisms sometimes coalesced into arrangements of copropagation against the grain of their drives, the origin of eukaryotic cells and macroscopic species. Amoebas swallowed microbes which were then incorporated as organelles. Viruses added traits to eukaryotic genes, on occasion facilitating coevolution, but more often pathologies. Animals ate microscopic organisms which then had no option but to die in droves until adapted, often ending up with a role in helping their hosts digest. Insects protected plants by preying on those that foraged them. Animals ate plants, and this distributed seeds at some distance to filiate new populations, at which time plants evolved chemicals that made all of their matter but seed-containing fruits — a specialized sacrifice of flesh — inedible. But then something serendipitous happened: many animals with murderous intent failed in killing each other as they often tend to do, then perceived that the survival of all involved was fostered by this flop, not merely for reproduction or escape, but provisional of a shared existence. Organisms compelled by thousands of years of instinct to treat each other as enemies finally conceived each other as possible allies. Diversity became more than either indifference or a reflexive rupture in collectivity, but rather the forum for respect and even benevolence, a restraint compounded by trillions of separate events and the start of something great: purposeful reciprocation and reasoned empathy.
It was difficult at first to tell who was your friend or foe in this environment of nascent detente. As early animals with their primitive brains observed behavior, they sometimes slipped into a dull sense that other organisms likewise intended them no harm, or a vague aggravation at the simple, oft misinterpreted signs of supposed ill will, and over tens of millions of years, cognitive profiles in some lineages mutated towards not just perceiving pain in like organisms but a conceptual sociality of nuanced intentions and recognitions of intent, until the mind could skirt conflict in opposition to even strong impulses. Creatures that had lived as banes to those around them, interrupting each other’s autopilot by lashing out in aggression, gained the self-control to acknowledge possible danger while at the same time strategically mitigating it. By the time mammals and dinosaurs evolved, many thousands of social profiles had attained a stability such that these species could expect to abide each other in accordance with collective reasons despite real risk. Life was still harsh: predators hunted young prey with their lesser self-awareness, also small or slow prey who have less sensitive brains, as well as the weak or wounded, while the most intelligent prey developed methods such as circling or sheltering to defend themselves from what would otherwise be certain deaths, but there was enough communal predictability that organisms could often settle into even-keeled yet keen states of awareness for prolonged stretches, experiencing and reasoning recreationally.
Species sometimes used this recreational time to think more deeply, motivated by the individual pleasures of reasoning to themselves and the social pleasures of reasoning with each other. Channeling of their drives into brain activity provided the benefit of better executive function, syncing behavior to apprehension of the environment as well as establishing strong connections with other highly cognitive organisms, which countenanced mastery of ecological niches such that these creatures could experience moments of existential actualization, reveling in the exuberance of liberated proprioception, exteroception and affect. As ability of organisms to cognize and enjoy their existence increased, and when environments conduced, workings of the brain began to orbit autostimulation, with affect, perceptual awareness, and the newly evolving processes of advanced reason melded by this core of conscious selection pressure into an integrated self.
Cognitive selection pressures in lifeforms having the greatest levels of self and bodily awareness, an addition to the sculptive effects of environments on physique and basic perception that had differentiated species since the origins of life, were threefold. Reasoning, while addressed to differing particulars in different species, arose in probably all cases as a conjunction with discerning the three dimensional structures characteristic of macroscopic Earth, tailored for navigating a spatial body through likewise spatial surroundings and manipulating spatial entities, a kind of thought which anticipates and deduces relations of objects and object-linked phenomena. Conceptual socializing was founded on the principle of reciprocation, expectations of mutual intention, though with varying standards for behavior’s meaning amongst the relations of discrepant populations. And affect evolved beyond simple discharge of drive to become self-regulative in consort with reasoned sociality, part of a comportmental complex modulating and delaying urges in the service of long-term benefits, which in many species assumed forms that are sublimated enough to be what we call emotion.
Clever reasoning, reciprocative sociality and self-controlled affect contribute in some measure to the mentalities of all species with well-developed cognition, but in variant proportions. A textbook instance of greater emphasis on socializing and affect are bovine species such as oxen and cattle; they graze all day in placid herds, occasionally fighting with each other or stampeding due to revved up affect, but seem to lack much scrutiny of details or reflection. Octupi are a great example of a reasoning and affect combo, demonstrating improvisation and problem-solving, while also showing physiological signs of higher intelligence, brainlike matter located in each of their eight tentacles, also explosive affect when they must make an inky escape, but are often found dwelling and operating in relative isolation, certainly not what we would consider a humanlike or even bovinelike level of contact. And wolves, dolphins and anthropoids such as the great apes display higher reasoning and social bonds that defer affect to conceptualizings of communal purpose.
In species with affective states subordinated to reasoning and sociality, these sublimations can take a variety of forms depending on cooccurring factors of environment and physiology. Wolves evolved for cooperative hunting, with a physicality and sharp wit that supports packs by strategic food-acquisition and high speed chases, giving them unusually potent success rates in making kills, a lethal concord in small communities that are segregated from the rest of nature. Dolphins evolved a more fun-loving, pleasure-oriented profile, with plenty of hapless fish to go around and lots of recreational time to engage in communication by chatter and echolocation, an existence of much play and some eroticism in small pods, the idyllic hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They mesh well with other apex species, even having great fun with humans, who are the most dangerous animals of them all, if the nature of environments is suitable. Gorillas and chimpanzees form close, long-term relationships in smallish intraspecies groups, grooming and playing, but unlike dolphins they are not constantly on the move while scouring their surroundings, instead settled into sedentary communities. A rare amount of idleness coupled with high intelligence led them to extensively reason about each other’s status and motives, maybe too much for their own good. Power relations are central to their social arrangements: both gorillas and chimpanzees go through periods of turmoil during which they scheme and fight for dominance, and troupes of chimps get into tribalistic rivalries with other groups, much like human war. Bonobos seem to have sublimated their great ape intelligence and affective restlessness into eroticism, for power relations in larger and more peaceable societies are mediated via sexual behavior as status symbolism and a means by which to social climb.
It is clear from archaeology that hominins, the closest ancestors of humankind, had an at the time peerless capacity to reason about environments, mastering every Old World ecosystem. This was probably a result of facility with structural thinking and constructing objects, a cognitive adaptation molded by opposable thumbs and a standing posture, freeing up the hands to evolve for not only carrying loads but fine grasping, which codeveloped with the requisite that food-acquisition become technological, a creativity in crafting and using implements to compensate for deficient running speed on two legs. Paleontology of coeval species reveals a large decline in biodiversity throughout the hominin range due to skilled yet nonsustainable hunting. As hominin populations swelled and food grew scarcer from razing land of fruits, nuts and game, clans no doubt got into spats over territory. These precursor species of humanity must have practiced high levels of affective self-control with members of their own groups, but likely adopted a measure of ruthlessness with out-group rivals. Hominins were not artistic, leaving no traces of symbolic aestheticism in their tool-making, though certainly complicate in intention, capable of what might be called protoculture, an impressionability of the mind to changes in ecological and social conditions. Over multiple millions of years, supreme reasoning, a need to kill any animal within reach, and a milieu of feuding must have morphed their affective profile into a form advantageous for engaging in cold-blooded, gratuitous violence when called upon, the origin of situational cruelty as a comportment which for modern humans sublimates into hate.
The hominin mouth, throat and mind became reconfigured for the expressiveness of primordial speech. As this self-symbolizing behavior grew prevalent in the Homo genus, it evolved beyond projection of one’s own mental states and sensibilities for the sake of inducing indistinct pleasure, and into a medium of representation conveying experiences more precisely, whether introspections or external phenomena. Detail in expressiveness gained a popularity which of course persists today, and protoculture of technological invention transitioned towards protoculture of mimetic inventiveness consisting in symbolic utterances that had a structure disassociated from phenomena themselves, but which were woven into the meaning of perception via a conceptual realm of primitively abstract ideas.
What we identify as symbolic art was probably seeded by narrational expression, both talking and singing for purposes of storytelling, joking and additional forms of entertainment. Hominins must have had some kind of use and modest talent for expressing themselves symbolically, but the trajectory of Homo sapiens’ evolution was clearly a huge leap forward, for our own species eventually showed the first signs of symbolism as a staple of all behavior. At least tens of thousands of years ago, humans were integrating symbols into technological objects, clothing, housing and body decoration, just as hunter-gatherers and civilized cultures alike do today. Symbolic design had progressed into the locus of sociality and life.
Hominins had of course perceived the environment as dimensional, a rudimentary abstraction that deduced imagined proportionalities between objects. These species applied the ability in crafting tools as well as working out how to catch many kinds of prey. With the advent of linguistic vocalization, a linear type of thought developed to organize sequences of sounds, and by increments these cognitive sequences evolved into syntactical awareness, a sense for utterance’s structure which in the present day has been resolved into parts of speech. While the first crude language was not infinitely generative, for short-term memory had yet to mutate into its current form of limitless consecution, it was certainly a more open-ended “train of thought” than phenomenal ideas of dimension with their relationship to the causes and effects amongst concrete constituents of the material world.
Sometime between the origin of Homo sapiens and the first civilizations, with the most pivotal evolutionary step estimated at about 50,000 years ago, an extraordinary event occurred. Synesthesias materialized in the human brain which integrated modules responsible for syntax with those involved in dimensional perception. Abstraction was less and less differentiated into two types of imaginativeness, symbolic sequentiality and object dimensionality, but converted towards a type of introspection that hybridized properties of both. The open-endedness of syntactical abstraction and the proportionalized relativity of dimensional abstraction were combined as a conceptual substrate of inferentially structural form, a kind of system-building abstraction that is the basis for advanced reasoning, which would be developed and studied as applications of arithmetic, geometry, logic, algebra, and their derivations. Dimensionality was no longer constrained to its role in assembling objects, and syntax to its role in formulating expressions, but began to fuse as open-ended proportionality, with reflection and vocalization having an underlying mentality which performs deductions upon entities that are instantiated as concept and yet transcend the delimitations inherent in all palpable phenomena, an infinitely permutable, disembodied, pure form.
This was a huge evolutionary shift, for even prehistoric humans subsequently contextualized choice aspects of nature in technical systems. The species started experimenting with ecology to suit a variety of analytical goals, which gave rise to selective breeding and agriculture. Thinking in terms of flexible schemas of structurality, what can be called conceptual frameworks, provided much benefit to cognitive function even beyond the direct modeling of causes, for it enhanced memory as a kind of cognitive scaffolding to which experiential detail affixed, reinforcing the preservation and cumulating of encyclopedic knowledge. Expansion in mind and culture effected by communication of synthetic abstraction made social life a forum for the expression of rare, novel and challenging concepts, so that techniques among much else could progress faster. When the ice age ended around 10,000 B.C.E. and environments had become favorable, human ingenuity amassed a series of breakthroughs that made practicable an innovation-based lifestyle in enlarging villages. A few thousand years later, humankind had become competent to permanently settle some regions as civilization.
By late B.C.E. times, with ancient Rome the quintessential example, specialization was integral to culture, as commerce, the military, empire in general required division of labor, a large collection of professionals with skill in specific areas. At this stage of civilization, the transmission of technical practice was effectuated by on-the-job training. Private vocations were run by citizens in business for themselves, who took on apprentices that gained in aptitude and became assistants, promoted when higher ranking workers retired. Government was managed in much the same way to the extent that its positions were not nepotistic. Most individuals went about their daily business, doing what was necessary to make a living while leaving political connivances and decisions of large-scale significance to the prerogative of authorities.
Power was usually restricted to the upper class, though ordinary individuals could fast become wealthy landholders by way of resettlement in conquered territories. Before the globalization of Old World antiquity around the beginning of the first millennium C.E., much relocation of populations had taken place, and civilization as a whole was diverse in heritage, especially centers of academia and world trade such as Alexandria, Egypt, along with many Roman cities. There were Celts in the Middle East called the Galatians, Greeks in North Africa and Persian territory, Romans in Britannia as well as everywhere else in the West, and all kinds of ethnic groups had settled in new regions after nomadic migrations, especially many from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Most of these tribes entered into a peaceful coexistence of humble vocation after some warring to carve out a niche, but upper echelons of society were ambitious, looking to make a name for themselves, further their wealth and prestige, as well as keep commoners occupied and faithful by committing them to imperial invasions followed by a subjugation and defense of new realms, legitimizing the establishment via supremacy over foreign rivals.
Imperialism stoked the flames of some foibles in human nature. Demographics were victims of mob actions that disrupted or even decimated their communities. Most human beings of antiquity nonetheless viewed piety with solemnness, and awaited supposed consent from deities or religious authorities before partaking in acts of aggression. In Europe and elsewhere, violence was a core facet of culture all the way up until modernity, and still threatens to inundate nations today, despite promotion of self-control by education systems coupled to institutional regulation of behavior.
During most of civilized history, especially prior to the European Enlightenment, much of the population has conceived no alternative but unrest to advocate for its interests, with a long string of rebellions, civil wars and coups stretching all the way from antiquity to the present day. But incidence of civil disorder has been reduced, and this is probably due to the origin and spread of rationality. Rational values began with individuals such as Confucius of China, Siddhartha Gautama of India, and the ancient Greek philosophers, who did not merely seek to fulfill conventional obligations of spirituality and public life nor force their will upon nature and social adversaries when operable, but quested to fashion the best way of life, founded upon knowledge of reality and a complementary appropriateness of action in harmony with existence’s essence purveyed as optimal truth. These movements which pursued an enlightened mind at first often adopted asceticism in cults, sects and other coteries, set apart from mainstream society as small communities that renounced millennia of tradition, but their sense of truth matured over the centuries until real intellectual integrity had arisen in multiple locales, an endeavoring to incorporate the most reasonable, justifiable beliefs and practices into an ideal ethic and culture responsible for maximizing collective potential by way of theory and method. This was the commencement of academia.
Academia has a long history in the West, institutions sponsored by government, religion and wealth. After the 10th century Medieval dark age, academic life got up and running again in Europe with ‘universitas’, groups of students and a single teacher who at first met wherever they could find space, in churches, residences or otherwise, learning the classical disciplines by studying great books. Liberal arts curriculum developed into seven areas: the trivium provided a basic foundation in grammar, logic and rhetoric, while the quadrivium was an upper level of arithmetic, geometry, music theory and astronomy, culminating in the designation “master of the arts”, usually a six year program. Many students went on to high level study in law, medicine or theology, and along the way stress was placed on physics (a kind of protoscience also known as natural philosophy), metaphysics and moral philosophy. The official Christian church got involved to augment education of its clergy, and universitas became cathedral schools, which moved their proceedings to major cities, increasing in popularity and prestige until by the Early Modern 17th century, universities funded by both religious and secular interests were the keystone of an upsurging subculture of great minds such as Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.
Liberal education reached grand heights in the 18th century with the European Enlightenment, aspiration towards a comprehensive philosophy upon which to ground the pursuit of knowledge. The movement promulged reasoning as the primary organ of understanding, and sought a holistic theory of this faculty, also an elaboration of the methods and practices by which reason can generate a coherent view of the universe, such as those of logic and incipient science, as well as a literary exemplification of reason’s proper use and an integration of the philosophy of reason into political structure and institutions generally. It was intuited by these intrepid thinkers that the universality of reasons for the human race was as Benjamin Franklin put it “self-evident”, and a commitment to apt reasoning was the ultimate ideal, in principle holding the potential to unite humanity behind a systematic comprehension of nature, furthered by social equality granting every individual access to the best reasons for holding beliefs and consenting to organizational strategies, as well as the opportunity to participate in crafting this common fund of intellectual currency, optimizing the erudition and brilliance of every human being.
The Enlightenment had a positive effect on many aspects of culture, but was an especially strong stimulus to academia, for many Europeans delved deeply into researching all kinds of phenomena — economics, politics, ethics, metaphysics, natural philosophy — and university study began to differentiate into the academic departments as we know them today, with a large array of subspecialties. Public schooling was introduced to equip the general population for assimilating discoveries, and a cutting edge of epistemic progress developed into the centerpiece of civic life. This accelerated humanity’s advancement, seeding civilization of high technology and a whole new era, the 21st century Information Age.
As academia diversified knowledge’s scope, the immensity of information became overwhelming. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, the histories of all, and the philosophies of each which were perpetually revolutionizing, altogether swamped humanity’s capacity to formulate a unified image of reality. But many made some famously aborted or flawed attempts at synthesis.
An instance is 19th century European psychologism, which wanted to found progressing knowledge upon a theorizing of evolutionary history, with particular stress on the origins of humanity’s cognition as focal point of the enterprise. But at the time, academia lacked sufficient neuroscience, archaeology and paleontology to draw theoretical conclusions about human nature, while colonialism fomented corruption of this movement with stereotypes about ethnicity and culture. These shortcomings were such a thorn in objectivity’s side that Europe banned philology, a supposed archaeology of the human mind via written records, and exponents of a resurgence in abstract analysis within logic and mathematics gave scathing critiques of psychologism’s inclination to amplify prejudice while being unable to do more than obtusely conjecture about most of its subject matter.
In the first half of the 20th century, the new movement of analytic philosophy attempted to construct a paradigm which would root scientific progress on the principles of logic, and contrive a technical language applicable with universality to all theoretical frameworks. This motivated much progress in the field of logic, probably a forerunner of electronics and computers, but the campaign was diluted by efforts to superficially parse scientific research’s domains, methods and propositions according to relative objectivity or subjectivity without adding anything of substance to their contents, and fizzled out from an absence of empirical or speculative relevance.
In the latter half of the 20th century, physicalism came to prominence as the explanatory power of physics and chemistry in the life sciences grew apparent. This paradigm wanted to base all knowledge on a theory of fundamental matter, the subatomic constituents of substance which when sufficiently theorized would result in a “theory of everything”. Its weakness was that it downplayed the significance of subjective experience in favor of the hard sciences, expecting to translate all phenomena into materialistic concepts and render personal psychology obsolete for research purposes. Even analytic philosophy was not buying this radical reductionism, and a large quantity of its publications championed the utilization of technical logic in thought experiments aimed at shedding light on qualitative consciousness’ elements, termed ‘qualia’. Physicalist essentialism is influential, and fortunately has thus far failed in excluding the humanities, though some defunding takes place.
In the 21st century, information theory is emerging as the predominant paradigm, a perspective that views the universe as a gigantic data system, with the mind allegedly composed of computational processes. Commitment to quantifying our image of reality has merits, for the interpretation of phenomena into informational forms will help us reach a deeper understanding of nature as we use computers to solve large-scale conceptual problems. However, its drawbacks are tremendous, as it seems to impel a beeline towards artificial intelligence, discouraging consideration of the possible catastrophic effects for humanity’s culture and future of manufacturing what would likely be billions of sentient, independently evolving virtual organisms. It also does not at present capture the facts of introspection that well, for the qualitative mind is not particularly analogous to a system of logic gates, and we should not expect a 21st century computer that learns and evolves to of necessity think like us or even respect human beings no matter how much we try to make ourselves the model for its structure and function. We will have to be cautious with information theory, for it has the potency to cause much destruction via theoretical and ideological fallacy.
So while some have set about the task of integrating knowledge within a single paradigm, this has largely fallen short. The faultiness of these movements accompanied by massive amounts of new information and the variegation of academic subdisciplines has led to infusion of the public’s relativism into even the most intellectual undertakings within which some of the greatest polymathic geniuses in the world are active. Academics select a specialty, then engross themselves in its minutia, heedless of the episteme’s overall course. Implications beyond one’s own career are dismissed as overly idealistic, serious professionalism gives way to a system based around kissing ass and finagling one’s path to petty credit, while special interests fund research such that it disperses in a thousand contradictory, myopic directions.
But a synthesis seems like it should be possible. Anthropology does much to clarify the nature of human psychology; sociology and psychology coordinate in an accounting for the dynamics of human individuals in cultures; biology and chemistry deeply contribute to our comprehension of all life and its evolution, with quantum physics likely to have a huge impact on microbiology of the future; and all of these fields’ insights have ramifications for the subject matter of philosophy, especially significant in relationship to epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of history, and ethics. The psyche, behavior, physiology, material science, evolutionary and cultural history are richly adorned with incisive theories, and we all have robust intuitions of how many concepts interconnect, but a comprehensive picture has not been constructed. It would be fantastic to meld the entirety into a self-consistent whole such that interdisciplinary implications become more readily visible, but without succumbing to essentialist illusions which limit academic knowledge’s appeal by defying common sense while inducing much confusion and controversy.
Can we achieve valid holism, forging an integrated episteme that is realistic about where we are and suggestive of future possibility, while avoiding rhetorical disingenuousness and the doctrinaire, repudiating the morasses of orthodoxy? As can be seen from the foregoing, it may be possible for academia to combine an understanding of evolution, the epistemology of modernity, the nature of consciousness, the ethics of culture, and the origins of the contemporary world among much else, spinning divers filaments of knowledge into an apex conceptual framework, a single hypothetical system of stable foundation and many advancing fronts, which can evolve rationally.