02. The Human Condition
Alfred Lang ——————————— 
—–University of Bern, Switzerland
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–-02. The Human Condition
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–––––Version 2007.01.25 08:56
02.01 The Human Condition includes everything of potential concern to ourselves and our future: whatever may condition humans and whatever humans can condition partakes of the Human Condition. I think we understand ourselves and our condition, in both senses, least of all we believe to understand. Not only are we creatures of the set of Evolutions bringing our world including ourselves along; we have also become a major factor or creating role (as Herder called it in the late 18th century) in the further evolutions on planet Earth. The Human Condition has two faces, one reaching into the past and one into the future. Humans are conditioned in the long history of their kind and the corresponding history of their environment, both natural and cultural or self-produced; at the same time humans have become a major condition of change in their environment and thus also of themselves. Indeed, human activities in the present times are threatening to disturb or destroy important if not essential conditions for human existence and, of course, much more. But also the kind of future we and our children can have, depends upon how we understand ourselves and our place in the world. So the most urgent need of all humans might well be to understand the Human Condition and thereby give their attempts at prevention and creative production a better foundation. This understanding should be as comprehensive as possible for any one individual or group and for all. Insofar we are making ourselves to objects of our wishes and desires or interests, especially of some of us instrumentalizing others, it appears that we are on the verge of annihilating our kind and more. Understanding the Human Condition realistically rather than by myth or interest is urgently important. I think the key to human existence and to sustainability of the rest of the world to lie in human self-understanding. Our Western tradition opposing humans to the rest of the world and attempting to master the latter by building on fixating presumptions is leading us into offside. Modeling exactly an evolutive world forever is impossible; we cannot know, how it exactly evolves, however good expectations as to what is unlikely or likely or impossible or not to be expected we can have. But we should no longer isolate things or ourselves from their respective contexts and model them separately, disregarding the many connections that can productively work among many of them.
    (02.01.01 Condition, both as a verb or a noun, is used in the broadest thinkable sense.
    02.01.02 The words creature and creator or create do not necessarily imply a religious connection today, although in Herder's time, who used these double word first. they may have had, perhaps not so much for him when he understood humans as the “first creatures let free”. I want to honor him so, while I could as well say: "generations and generators". The terms should emphasize the productive powers present in humans, both personal and collective and in passive and active respects.
02.02 An Evolutive Human Condition must be thought of as an open System, open under the particular restriction that we cannot know into what it is factually open, while we can know what may play what role for its change and while we can develop reasonable expectations and strategies as to the direction into its future. Things and their Relations we can know or think of belong to the Human Condition in degrees of pertinence and their contributions depend upon the Interaction among them. The possible in the form of symbols of our own making are reals too, in some sense at least, when they can have effects by way of our actions. But our words cannot interact with the things; only with other words and among ourselves and with special machines. Yet our symbols need good connections to the realities they are to present, if they are not to mislead us. By our shared imagination and valuation of what could be or should be or not be and by our furthering the former and hindering the latter we, singly and collectively, become responsible for the consequences of our actions.
02.03 Scientific analysis of and technical attempts at improving the Human Condition are actually piecemeal, split into a large number of often incompatible views or beliefs and endeavors. The religious and philosophical grand designs of the various Weltanschaungen are built on faith and assumptions that largely lack grounding in what we can observe. Our understanding of ourselves, forked into what is called our natural and our cultural world, is not good enough. The institutions that organize our understanding and educate our offspring have split to treat either this or that one of these two worlds keeping to either an attitude of, for example, homo faber or homo contemplans, both similarly loosing our middle. Their languages and undertakings cannot bridge the cleft. The split into “two cultures”, both in terms on scientific disciplines and in terms of deciding about vital issues in all what concerns us, is unsupportable. That schism demands to be changed, if we want not to allow one of these sides to destroying the ground on which we exist while the other side sways between lamenting the catastrophe and indulging in the little bliss left in extant illusions.
02.03 Seen by the scientists we humans are organisms built of matter and energy and thus subject the “eternal laws of all matter and energy”, in spite of the fact that we did change that world quite a bit. Yet the techniques based on the sciences are also about to change ourselves in addition to our world they have changed already so thoroughly. Seen by by the religions we are children of God and thus in other ways subject to “eternal law and destined to eternal bliss or misery”. Yet having taken our destiny in our own hands we have constituted our societies based on freedom and responsibility of any one individual and group in this world. “Splicing” the two kinds of law we have driven any one individual and all groups into a merciless competition to surpass all others in order to seek salvation down here instead of over there. The obvious result seems to be that living and living together has become the more precarious the more we strive to make if save and fail-safe. Thus both the ideal of lawfulness and the idea of freedom are doomed to backfire: to actualize freedom we are to enslave ourselves and to make ourselves believe in the laws we are often giving up freedom. Our strange history we are making of our own. To paraphrase Imre Kertész: If there is destiny or law, there is no freedom; if there is freedom, there is no fate. Fate is ourselves. Indeed, we humans ourselves are our fate. But if we do not attain to unite our freedom towards a history of ours in common, there will be no humanity.
    02.03.01 (ourselves) That humans are themselves their destiny has arrestingly been enunciated by Imre Kertész in the last pages of his novel Fateless (orig. 1975, engl. 1992).
02.04 Understanding ourselves in our world is a task of sorts. In fact it should be our prime task. Studying the Human Condition should, in appropriate ways, be at the center of any kind of human education; and our knowledge of everything should be in relation to that understanding. It is not. There are degrees of concern; but since the world is a system of largely connected entities, nothing can be excluded for sure; cultural Evolution can go almost anywhere. In fact, in the Western world, the science of humans is instituted and practiced as a natural science and has recently turned from an important science into a gigantic repair industry attempting to mend what humans have done to their kind. But it cannot be valid to treat the study of humans in the same manner as machines are maintained. This procedure can result in treating humans like machines, with or without research. What is wanting, indeed, is a way to bring those top down or rational and these bottom up or matter-energy engineering approaches to humans into sufficient coupling to make both efforts comprehensively realistic and really connected. Our need to understand and duty to care for the best possible Human Condition in any present is the only way to get rid of that anthropocentrism that has for two millennia governed human Western cultures and spread all over the globe. For whatever we do, it is not overstated to say: it may have effects on humans.
02.05 As I said in "01. About", my starting point of Semiotic Ecology has been the attempt to make psychology culture-inclusive. It cannot be done without abandoning dualism. SemEco has proven pivotal for Understanding Culturality as the differentia specifica the Human Condition while also bringing nature and culturality into narrow connection. It is the case that a number of animal species such as Apes, sea mammals and even some bird and rat groups also show a few cultural attainments. Yet  in humans Culturality is the key to become human and humane. Without, we humans are a species of animals in spite of the potential to become more. It is our enculturation that makes us humans.