Being on Earth: Practice In Tending the Appearances

Georg Maier, Ronald Brady & Stephen Edelglass

We present here the full text of an important new book, Being on Earth: Practice in Tending the Appearances, written by Georg Maier, Ronald Brady, and Stephen Edelglass. The book is a project of SENSRI, a sister organization of The Nature Institute located in Saratoga Springs, New York, and co-founded by Edelglass and Nature Institute affiliate researcher Michael D’Aleo. After the untimely death of Edelglass and Brady, The Nature Institute joined the project, and now the book’s publication is a joint venture of SENSRI and the Institute.

The subtitle of the book has two meanings: The reader is being offered practice in tending to – looking after and heeding – the appearances. The reader is also invited to intend the appearances. The meaning of “intend” is illustrated every time you make a choice.

The book was conceived as a phenomenological approach to knowledge – that is, a study of the world in terms of its immediate phenomena. Since the sciences, as they are presently constituted, are moving further and further away from sensible perception – chemistry, for example, may now be taught by computer without a laboratory component – the question arises, What is lost when knowing is separated from experience? In the academic classroom the answer to this question can sometimes appear to be “nothing”, but in actual practice, particularly in the field, researchers will often put stress on the need for a hands-on apprenticeship before the new member of the team can even read the field manual properly. Practice as opposed to theory, still demands perceptual experience, but in stated theory there is no account of the component that only experience can provide.

In attempting to give such an account, the authors concentrate on three aspects of experience. The first is the mental activity by which we attend to a particular phenomenon – the activity by which we understand and pick out the phenomenon for consideration. The second is the aesthetic organization of phenomena. Phenomena are unified wholes rather than mere collections of parts, and the recognition of wholes is an aesthetic activity (as you can readily understand when you try to grasp the unity of a great painting). The third aspect of experience the authors investigate, is its ability to motivate the experiencing individual. Moral responsibility needs to be grounded in the meaning of individual experience, but this requires a recognition of meaning – hardly possible when the scientist is preoccupied with abstract, universal laws to the exclusion of those particular events that comprise our biographies.

The following downloads are available: Ganzes Buch [pdf format, 1.84 MB]


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Materialien zu den Arbeitstagen für Physiker 2014