This blog relates to a philosophical theory that I’ve been developing called ‘realisation as agency’. Very simply, this means that when we ‘realise’, as in, come to an awareness of, or creatively intuit, the current, dynamic systems we are enmeshed in, we become agents, to the degree that the realisation allows us to shift all the relationships, subtly but significantly, that we are involved in. This contrasts with our traditional view of agency, that it runs along the parallel lines of a dualistic set of events, involving a mental deliberation, leading to a physical action. I think this picture, or ‘narrative’ of our agency is a hangover from the Cartesian, dualistic understanding of the world, and without knowing that we do so, we still carry that picture of the world, or rather that paradigm, as the underlying structure of our understanding. We see ourselves as dualistic beings in a dualistic world and this sense of having a mind and a body, and sometimes even a mortal body and an immortal soul, colours our perception of every other relationship we have.
The most urgent among these relationships is the one we have with the ecological context (we normally call this the ‘environment’ but again, that gives a very ‘inside’/’outside’ view of the relationship, whereas we now know that this distinction is not a valid one). The conclusion of my thesis stated that if we understand our agency differently, we will begin to use the agency we have – realisation – and this will shift how we relate to the ecological context. In other words, dealing with the kinds of urgent problems we have – deforestation, desertification, exponential population growth, pollution, climate change, and so on – using the dualistic paradigm cannot address the problem. Realisation can.
Revising how we see ourselves in this way also affects how we relate to one another, including to those who take the polar opposite view to us, whether on issues like climate change, or on issues to do with politics, sexuality, or other areas where strong views emerge. Instead of being combative, the approach I describe is radically non-confrontational. We can still become enraged by issues of social injustice, but we can begin to see how they emerge as a result of cultural paradigms that allow us or, even more alarmingly, encourage us, to work hard not to think about certain aspects of our interactions. Only by drawing our attention back, through realisation, can we explore and, in doing so, shift how we relate in these contexts.