The Nature of Being
The nature of being and the orientation of human beings within social and natural realities have been considerations of humanity for generations, leading to origin stories, religions, philosophies, and sciences.
What is the nature of being? What does it mean to be? What does it mean to be conscious? To be alive? What does the interaction of beings and things mean? Are there beings and things? How are they, or are they, different?
Being includes existence itself, becoming, relationships, and understandings and interactions with reality. In the Western World, these considerations have generally been called ontology, which has traditionally been studied under the rubric of metaphysics, since central questions include what exists and what does not exist and does more than one realm of being exist? In addition, ontological practice has considered which qualities place things into which categories, if and how hierarchy exists, and why (leading to “top-down” and “flat” ontologies).
As a bottom line, all individuals and groups must decide the nature of their being in the natural and social conditions they find themselves in. With that determination, action is possible.
This course explores these questions through the lens of Humanism, from the ancient world to today, complete with an exploration of the institutions which make up the contemporary Humanist movement. Beginning with the non-theistic Jain and Carvaka movements in India, we will consider origin stories, religions, and philosophies, including the effects the Reformation on the concept of individual rights and freedoms. As participants clarify their ontological positions, we will consider contemporary challenges in ontology.