Friday, 31 August 2007

Huxley’s Human Potentialities, Part 3: The Way to Realise Our Potential (2).

Those of us who, following Huxley, wish establish an environment that favours the actualisation of in-born potentialities face an uphill struggle. This is because the societies we inhabit not oriented toward that end, and are instead preoccupied by the maintenance and extension of their wealth. So as things stand we can only do what we can with what there is.

One tool we do have is language, a resource for ‘automatically converting the bewildering profusion of first-order experiences into manageable symbols’. Although language can be misused to bolster the status quo’s misguided aspirations (for more consumption and national aggrandisement), it can also be used to encourage realistic thinking and appropriate thinking, so that we can formulate better science, literature, philosophy, and ethics. Language can enable appropriate education, which in turn can support the realisation of potentialities. Specifically education, mediated by language, has the power to promote two principles which are vital to the realisation of human potential: the ‘…understanding of the nature and limitations of language and the … fact of human variability.’

Language is made up of symbols that never truly represent ‘reality’, or at the least only represent ‘reality’ by degrees. If education is directed towards helping people to recognise this it shows them, at the same time, that truth is constantly in question. They become less vulnerable to the sort of persuasive power – of advertising, nationalism, ideology, and religion – which is based on a zealous and seemingly exciting misuse of language: “To what extent would it help boys and girls to actualise potentialities which, if they had not received this kind of training, would be been buried under unexamined preconceptions and traditional notions of smothered by uncritically accepted propaganda?”

As for variability, Huxley advocates a ‘genetic realism’; an admission that our freedom to choose what will make us happy or fulfilled is to some extent constrained or determined by unique genetic predispositions or potentialities. Education in human variability, Huxley says, can prevent forms of ignorance that foster prejudice; it can prevent the truly tragic suppression of rich diversity and innovation; it can also help us extend our perception beyond our culture’s ‘arbitrary chose norm of right-mindedness and good behaviour’, and it can benefit communities: “For the sake of the community (for no community can afford to waste its most precious asset, the gifts, the fully actualised potentialities, of all its members) ... the enormous spread of human diversity should be recognised, respected and systematically made the most of.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my university thesis, thanks for your useful points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Laura