Scientific Innovations to Promote Greater Societal Understanding and Inner Awareness
We all want to know the truth about the world and about ourselves. We all want to know what is the nature of reality and what is our place in it so that we might find greater inner peace. The biggest obstacle in this is the realization it is nearly impossible for us to have peace in our lives if we live in a world in which there is so much animosity and distrust and where there are violent conflicts almost constantly. And so we can see that inner peace (that we seek within our own consciousness) and outer peace (that we seek with the outside world) are deeply interdependent. We not only want to find inner peace, but we also see the need to promote peace among the people that we encounter and that our lives depend upon. An important step toward this end is to better understand other people and how we can get along with them in the best way so that there can be more peace in our lives. Ideally, we would like to see other people understand each other at a deeper level so that there could be less conflict and more peace in the world. In an interconnected and globalized world, our lives and our peace depend on a lot of people also finding peace in their lives. And so we can recognize that we are seeking to promote higher levels of two things that are dependent on each other and are both necessary for peace: societal understanding and inner awareness. It is necessary for us to promote these not just for ourselves, but also for as many people in the world as possible.
This leads to the question: how is any of this possible? How can we promote the awareness and understanding that is necessary for peace? One possible answer is that we can recognize the power of modern science to lead our global society away from ignorance and toward enlightenment. Among the many systems of knowledge formation that have tried to answer some of the most important questions about life and the universe, modern science has proven to be quite reliable. Modern science has made much progress in allowing us to understand the world and ourselves and progress continues to be made every day toward these ends. While it may now seem that science is the best way of answering any question one may have about reality, there are nonetheless important areas of life that must be partially outside the domain of the physical, biological, and social sciences because they can only truly be known from first-person conscious experience and thus cannot be known objectively. The nature of conscious experience itself and the experiences that are dependent upon it, such as core values and a sense of morality, can only be fully understood from direct first-person experience, but they are nonetheless quite real examples of knowledge.
This is important because people can only understand each other and work toward peace if they realize that they have common values and a shared moral framework. If modern science is not up to the task of promoting greater societal understanding and inner awareness, then we need to develop an innovation that can get us there. If there are important areas of life that are outside the realm of our best physical, biological, and social sciences then we need a new paradigm through which these sciences can be integrated with a new science that would be focused on first-person conscious experience. Such a science would have to apply to our own subjective experiences, and it would have to allow us to better understand other people’s subjective experiences as well because this is the only way that any sort of commonality could be identified.
We will look to phenomenology, which is a disciplined approach to examining our experience, as the key to making this possible. Phenomenology is a diverse field and even the experts in this field sometimes struggle to find a concise and all-encompassing definition of it. Dermot Moran provided the following:
Phenomenology may be characterized initially in a broad sense as the unprejudiced, descriptive study of whatever appears to consciousness, precisely in the manner in which is so appears…This approach involves the practice of taking a fresh unprejudiced look – i.e. untainted by scientific, metaphysical, religious or cultural presuppositions or attitudes – at the fundamental and essential features of human experience in and of the world.
This ties into our greater purpose because if people can find a way of accurately describing to each other what appears in their conscious experience, then mutual understanding of this can be possible, and the subjective realm does not need to be so mysterious and impenetrable. This mutual understanding can then be used to build bridges between peoples and communities with different worldviews and different backgrounds in life.
The intent is to formulate a way of doing phenomenology whose results are reproducible and testable, similar to the way modern science works. We will develop a new integral scientific paradigm that would incorporate modern phenomenology along with contemporary physical, biological, and social sciences so that it will be possible to develop a more comprehensive and evidence-based worldview. Phenomenology needs to be central to the quest to avoid conflict and to work toward peace because it already has a proven track record in small-scale conflict resolution, wherein the participants are encouraged to frame the problem at hand in a way that is primarily based around the perceptions and feelings of each individual in the relationship. In other words, the phenomenal field focuses on how each party feels at the moment and has felt in the past and these facts are given special significance. This approach shows promise, but a methodology needs to be formulated that integrates phenomenology with the objective sciences so that it can be applied to a larger society-wide scale. The forthcoming book Seeking a More Enlightened Worldview will develop this innovative scientific paradigm that we hope can do just this by promoting greater societal understanding and inner awareness and that can eventually be used to avoid conflict, to promote peace, and to encourage higher levels of enlightenment for as many people as possible.
We want to hear from you. Phenomenology depends on introspection, but is introspection a reliable way of understanding the mind? Let your voice be heard in the forum.