Friday, May 10, 2013

Illusion of Individuality Pt. 4


The general consensus seems to be that an individual is both a single human body and the mind linked with it.[i] Clearly both of these exist in a way, but they cannot be removed from the dynamic network they are part of. Thus the idea that somewhere deep inside the individual that there is a free will that by its very nature is able to operate free from the chains of cause and is without influence from the world is a dangerous misunderstanding.[ii]
To begin, let’s examine how the concept of the body as an individual is flawed. From the time I have spent learning about the nature of what food is as well as the environment and the systems within it that make human life possible it seems to me there are many obvious contradictions in traditional concepts of the individual as a physical entity that is separate from other physical entities. For starters, the body is totally dependent on things otherwise considered separate from it. The obvious example is water and food; minerals, vitamins, calories that form the building blocks of a living human. Less so are the many single celled organisms on our skin or in our stomachs that the body is as equally dependant upon.[iii] Much less intimate, but still valid is the entire biosphere – can’t very well live without atmosphere, and that food “stuff,” i.e. plants and animals. Therefore if one is to consider the body in terms of either its construction or its function, it is only an individual as far as a “body count.” Beyond that, since the body cannot survive without all of these external inputs and assistances how is it constructively or functionally separate from them? Quite simply, it’s not.
This discourse between what is commonly perceived and how integrated life systems are partially stems from the misconception that both the mind and its body are somehow separate from the rest of existence. But in the past few decades humans have begun to discover that the body is fundamentally just a tiny organ in planet sized living creature that we can both illustrate and prove.[iv] One of my favorite processes that reinforce this idea is that of biomagnification. 
Biomagnification is the process of and element or compound (e.g., Mercury in building up in Tuna) working its way up the food chain while increase in toxicity.[v] Energy and materials circulate through the entire biosphere in ways remarkably similar to those of the human body. It would behoove the human race as well as the rest of the biosphere if we would start to see bodies not as individual and separate from the environment, rather as a nub or a capillary on a much larger fractal that is all life on this planet.

[i] Howard Robinson, "Dualism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (accessed April 16, 2013).
[ii] “Free Will,” (accessed April 16, 2013).
[iii] American Society for Microbiology, “Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health?.” ScienceDaily, (accessed April 16, 2013).
[iv] Mathis Wackernagel, and William E. Rees, Our Ecological Footprint (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 1996), 4.
[v] “Toxic Substances Hydrology Program,” USGS, (accessed April 16, 2013).

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