Are we our bodies or are we our minds?
Is the purpose of the human mind power over or power with? Is the direction of human thought up or down? Is abstract reason the only form of rationality? As the power of the human mind expands through history and technology, does it expand outward or inward? What is the language of the animal mind and the visceral brain of the human body?
There are answers to these questions to be found in what I call the somatic tradition of natural philosophy. Two books were published in 1543, the beginning of western modernity: one was mathematical and about nonliving objects, Revolutionibus by Copernicus. The other was organic and anatomical, about the interconnectedness of the living body, Fabrica by Vesalius.
We have mastered the mathematical tradition of natural philosophy, and have the seeming technological power of gods. But without the maturation of the somatic tradition of natural philosophy we do not understand the interconnectedness and interdependency of life.
It is understandable that the abstract and technological tradition of natural philosophy was simpler and easier to master but it’s dominance relies on the arrogance of the left hemisphere of the brain. There is a great deal of promise today for the maturation of the organic and somatic tradition of natural philosophy. I find it in the anatomical revolution of fascia, complexity theory and biophysics, somatic psychology, neuroscience and motor control theory.
We are starting to establish basic working principles like metastability and synergy, but we are still a ways away from a coherent unified theory of how living organisms self organize, self direct, self heal, and self reproduce.
This is the direction our theoretical effort must take, not upward into abstract possibility, but downward into the body, our own body here and now, standing upon and within the larger environmental context of the Earth and society.