Human beings

We are animals and yet we have a recurring tendency to forget that fact and assume the whole living system on earth is for our benefit.

Environmentalists have sometimes tried to humiliate us into a better attitude toward the earth, by saying things like we are no more important than a stone, but the better path is to respect our particular powers and embrace our collective responsibility for the future.

As social animals we have a complex set of inner motivations that give shape to much of our social lives. We negotiate these by constructing stories. Our personal stories are our ongoing theory about our lives, answering the most basic questions of our existence, like ‘Who am I? Whom do I belong to? Why am I doing that?’ etc.

Human beings have brains which are structured so as to be able to perceive the world in two quite different ways. One is the way of focussed attention by which we try to construct a view of the world as the sum of its parts. The other is a holistic attention which attempts to wrap up the whole of our experience, including our feelings, values and relationships into one coherent expression. Both are vital to our existence, but the holistic viewpoint has been suppressed in Western culture. Ian McGilchrist describes this in detail.