What Persons Do with the Reasons they find in Nature! “Dose 2”



(Reasons in Nature are then taken a step or two further by Persons: Natural Selection designed the Flying Javanese Cucumber and Northrop Grumman designed the B-2 Spirit bomber.  Both are “flying wings” that use their entire body to provide lift.  The seeds of the Java Cucumber are grown in gourds — seed pods — the size of a football.  When released they can glide hundreds of meters in the rain forest.  Photos and info from BU Bio-Aerial engineering course.)

Reasons in Humans

Humans have taken the Reasons in Nature and gone a step or two or three farther.  Of course, we started in much the same place as the plants and fishes, and still do, as children.

Much of what children do well, is still “competence without comprehension”, says Dan Dennett.  A child may use many words in simple situations — saying “doggie”, then  point and go to pet — but still not ‘get’ the bigger and more subtle distinctions and elaborations necessary for broad and  accurate use of that term.  They may “take” a cat for a “doggie”, and that is to “mistake”.  It’s our more sophisticated order of language pointing out and being misapplied, but heart-warmingly so.   Birds and fish are competent without understanding, and– from our point of view– we can also contend they occasionally “mistake”.

Dennett calls these competencies “know-how”.  They are “a way”, a way of doing or behaving based on a Design Approach.  They are “an informational structure”— some “relatively simple” such as a single word, others very complex such as a language — and in this sense they are similar to “a software app”, and what biologist Richard Dawkins has called “a meme”.  They are organized around a Reason in Nature, and they “cut nature at the joint”*, or at least cut into the more stripped-down and objective side of nature, in the way we do, to ‘see’ ourselves emerging from it.  It’s the way we ‘see’ and understand “lion”, for example, as existing as part of a world composed only of subatomic particles and laws of physics.  It’s like a complicated game of connecting the dots.

*”cut nature at the joint” is an old philosophy phrase, origin I do not know




(Leo the lion, or better Leona the lion, Emerging from the background.  It’s the particular way we humans—with the help of Mother Nature and Natural Selection — have come to cut up the more objective background of the world into more Person-like objects.  Of course, creatures from some other world will have somewhat their own way of doing it.  This astrological map is only an early attempt at connecting the dots of life by humans, an effort that continues today with more reasonable attempts.)

“Being of One Mind”

Memes start simple, as something Persons can copy and transmit relatively easily from one person to another, and then grow in complexity.  What this eventually comes to is that when a group of persons share the same memes, we can say these memes inhabit their brains and these people are now of one Mind.  These people now operate on many of the same presuppositions and in many of the same ways.  They function together and exhibit a design.   This is an explanation of Mind and Consciousness not as some new and mysterious kind of thing, but as a sociological and social psychological structure, an emergent property of groups of humans: “A Design for Enhanced Human Togetherness!”  

An interesting example of A Mind: a football team Functioning together according to a Design.  “There is no “I” in TEAM” but a little improvisation sometimes helps.

Know-How is Different from Knowing-That

This “Know-How” is very different from scientific knowledge, which we can call “knowing that” in this case.  We know how to speak our language, but that is not scientific knowledge of language, not knowledge “that” (as if pointing) certain parts of the brain are active or that certain neural patterns exist or certain neural signals are sent.  That is more Theoretical Reasoning; this is more Practical Reasoning or the knowledge of how to be a person and function with other persons.  Picasso certainly knew how to paint but was not in the least interested (I assume) in knowing that painting is associated with various neural processes and even must have some obscure relation to the laws of physics.

“Know-How” and Practical Reasoning are the knowledge of how to be a Person and function in coordination with other persons in their various traditions of acting (memes).

(The Providential Environments: settings in which we pass on the traditions — or Know-How — of Personhood.  Korean folk dance, elementary school, family fishing, music concert, Philippine folk dance, mother and daughter cooking.  All require Knowing-How, personal interaction and instruction, not Scientific Knowledge of Causes! )

Humans have honed providential environments (my phrase) to aide in the transmission, creation, acquisition and development of memes or know-how.  These environments are “providential” because being in sync with them is constructive of us as complex things—what we call “persons”.

A school or a university –a place for education and creativity– is one of these “enhanced” environments.  A family should be an environment that initiates the transmission of these memes of personhood: language, appropriate role playing, responsibility, common goals and  coordinated behaviors.  The arts, the crafts, sport — cooking — are all “know-how” and not primarily “knowing that”.  “Knowing how” involves understanding and acting by the rules and traditions of a procedure.  “Knowing that” is more objective; it can attempt to separate the doer from the object that is being worked on, and in that way can become what we call scientific knowledge.  So, “Science” is itself a human “know-how” that seeks “knowledge that.”   In that way, scientists can get philosophically confused about what comes first!

Wow, the traditions of Know-How.

The Traditions of Know-How (memes) are the Reason in Nature that distinguish us from other animals, plants, and the planets.  They are our unique Design of living together to create the Level of Complexity we call Being Persons!  When we Act According To Our Design, we act with a limited amount of Freedom, Responsibility and Reason.  We “act under the idea of freedom” is how  the great German philosopher, Kant, put it.

GWW: Feeling Free at The Nature                    Religion Connection.                  Drawing by MARTY
(Dose 2 is some Mind Food to Chew On!  That distinction between “Knowing How” and “Knowing That” is a killer.  Science oriented people often don’t get it: Our lives as Persons and Cultural Creatures, Intellectually Precedes the theoretical finding of our sciences!  Deep, Baby, Deep!  Thank you, Dan Dennett.  Stay tune for Dose 3. )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s