Origins, Control & Understanding

In response to another post, I ask – Is the debate really about the origin story and a human desire to ‘control’ all that is outside of them? I have been thinking about this, and I’ve come to think that the majority of research is human-centric, not because of our desire to control, but our desire to understand. The research carried out – even if we are looking at two non-human entities, is still being viewed through a human perspective. Through all attempts to be objective, research is still filtered through the ideology of the researcher, the methods selected by the researcher and ultimately, by determining the results – which, in the case of non-human actors, is an imposed meaning by the human researcher based on the tests, experiments, observations and readings.

I am struggling with this as much as I seem to agree with it. The argument that has been put forth to me is that non-human agents have (potentially) an identity of their own. But from my definitional understanding, identity is attributed meaning attributed. From my understanding, identity – like meaning, is a human construct. A rock is a rock (in all its physicality) whether I say it is or not. It exists outside of my human intervention of definition. But once I call it a rock, I ascribe meaning to its physicality, as the word rock has meaning behind it. So, another question is, is the rock’s meaning inherent in its physicality? Does an animal see the same meaning (definitionally speaking of course) as a human would? And how do other rocks see it? I know I am pushing the example a little far, as I know that when my friend speaks of non-human agency and interaction (and identity) she is not really speaking of rocks. But I am having trouble moving away from the idea that as long as it is a human looking at something, it will inevitably be, at its core at least, be human-centric – but not for control, but mere contextualized understanding.

If we, for a moment, forget about origin stories – are we starting in the middle? How far back does an origin story need to go before it blurrs (or spoils) the true phenomena that one is looking to understand? Maybe these questions are contextual? Different answers for the hard sciences and social sciences – since origins may have more meaning, more relevance in one or the other?

I am comforted by the fact that some of the great philosophers spent their entire lives never finding the answers.

*Note: If prompted, I could find references to contextualize some of this – at the moment, it is just an informed, personal ramble.


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