Reality : An Exploration from a
Wholistic Existential Anthropological
point of view.






It appears to be true that the great majority of human beings who now inhabit the planet Earth can and do ask and understand the question (or some near equivalent): “What am I going to eat for dinner?”  Many human beings at some time in their lives ask the question: “What is the nature of reality?”  Very few human beings fully appreciate how complex this second question is.  Even fewer know that the first question, as simple as it appears, has imbedded in it many of the issues that create the mystery and difficulty which is involved in appreciating the meaning of the second question .  The underlying similarity in level of complexity is created by the fact that questions are a function of language and language rests on foundations that carry implicit views of reality.  For example the question about dinner, asked in English, has embedded distinctions between “I” and “not I”; “future” and “present”, “food” and “not food”.  

Serious efforts to find satisfactory answers to the question about the nature of reality have been limited to a relatively very small number of humans—those for whom the question is a central chosen life’s work (called philosophers in the Western tradition) and those who have been invited or forced to take on the question as they have worked deeply in their own fields of knowledge—physics, cosmology, linguistics, religion, psychology, biology, literature, art and others.   We can easily include the ancient lovers of wisdom (and the ones who named themselves “philosophers”), the Greeks, Aristotle and Plato, as well as the Chinese, Lao Tzu.  The list of later prominent Western philosophers who have looked into the question relating to the nature of reality includes Emmanuel Kant and John Locke, Rene Descartes and Soren Kierkegaard, Bertrand Russell and Charles Sanders Peirce. Those in fields other than philosophy who have seriously confronted the question of the nature of reality have included Alert Einstein and Jean Piaget, Noam Chomsky and Benjamin Lee Whorf, Ludwig Binswanger, Stephen Hawking, and Sigmund Koch.

I follow in the footsteps of a long line of workers in various fields who have been led on the journey in search of a foundation or “solid” beginning point for asking and answering questions in their areas of interest and who have (inevitably, it seems)found themselves at an unexpected destination, facing what may be the ultimate question. 

I began with the question “What does a clinician need to know in order to become an excellent psychotherapist?” This led to other questions such as: “what is mental health?”; “what is health in general?”; “How is a conception of individual health (and wellbeing) effected by societal health?”; and conversely, “How does individual health (and wellbeing) effect societal health or the health of the species?”.    Understanding what these questions mean and how they might be answered does, not surprisingly, lead  to a need to confront the question: “What is the nature of reality?”.

I am perhaps philosophically inclined by intellect and temperament. I am not a trained philosopher, and  not even a fully adequate academic psychologist. My grasp of the need to be able to address the fundamental issue of reality, as the necessary foundational starting point for obtaining the “best” answers to even very practical questions, has been present for me from an early age. I have now reached a point where my own theoretical thinking seems to me to have a certain amount of consistency, coherence and apparent power to help address those more practical and “applied” problems. With a mixture of confidence and fear, pride and modesty, I offer this theoretical writing. The fear comes  from my sense of how little I know, how relatively unread I am in all of the fields I am interested in, so that what I write could be entirely redundant or even already eclipsed. The confidence comes from a  growing trust in the power and value of my own thinking and my right to ask to be heard.

I also begin with a sense of the larger features of the broad landscape I want to paint, but not knowing how the details might look or fit together or what the finished painting will look like.  I am not certain about the best place to begin the journey and I can’t see the final destination.

What follows is a first chapter of an intended work that will propose a theoretical framework for exploring a particular approach to defining “reality” and an exploration of the usefulness of the framework.    This chapter will provide a propositional outline of the basic conceptual framework of the approach.  I plan to write following chapters which  will provide further refinements and specifications for the theory.  Then there will be chapters which will attempt to show how these ideas might address questions raised by philosophers and psychologists, physicists and linguists, and a few artists and other creative types.   Perhaps I will be able to offer some suggestions as to how this framework might usefully support an understanding of and even further progress in the work of some of these current others.  Finally, there will be chapters that will build on the theory to address the issues that motivated the thinking and writing to begin with: the effort to help people live their lives more fully (as in psychotherapy) as well as some wisdom about how to go about improving the human condition generally (by way of better social arrangements—in government, culture, economics).

I call my theoretical structure “Wholistic Existential Anthropology”. This title grows out of my encounters with the writings of Lao Tzu and the existential psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger.
Hopefully the reasons for choosing the words in the label will become clearer as the theory is outlined and discussed, and, eventually, the implied justifications for this choice of naming will be addressed more directly.

Some of the issues that are faced in these efforts cannot be meaningfully addressed without already using the theoretical framework that is being proposed.  A hint at the fuller problem that is entailed comes from the fact that that the word ”reality” is a theoretical concept but it is used to “refer” to something which is presumed to be other than a concept.  Let the writer and the reader be aware.

Foundations for a Wholistic Existential Anthropology

Most inquiries into the nature of reality use the word in its commonly understood meaning: namely “reality” refers to that which is material and exists independent of any knower. For example Wikipedia provides this definition: “reality is the conjectured state of things as they actually exist rather than as they may appear or might be imagined”.  Also see other definitions in the footer of this page.

These definitions all depend upon or imply a dualistic distinction. The distinction sometimes refers to a separation between a knower and what is known (reality), or between the psychological (the knower) and the material (what is known—i.e. “reality”). The duality is also present in discussions and inquiry into the Mind/body problem (see THE PHILOSPHY OF MIND) (again, represented by a conceptual separation of a psychological realm and physical or material realm). The definitions almost always imply that what is real is True, but what the knower imagines or thinks is true might not be.


Google: The world or state of things as they actually exist as opposed to an idealist or notational idea of them.

Webster’s II: 1, state, character, quality or fact of being real, existent, self-existent or genuine….. 2….the substance as opposed to the appearance or form of a thing;
5.philos: a. that which actually exists; that which is not imagination, fiction or pretense; that which has objective existence, and is not merely an idea. b. that which is absolute or self-existent, as opposed to what is merely apparent or phenomenal.

origins: Webster (real: from the Latin “res”=“thing” akin to Sanskrit, “ras”= “wealth” or” “property” { HWS: “real-estate”).
























In most discussions or definitions of “reality”, there is also either implicit or explicit endorsement of the idea that reality is material (and that the mind or the psychological is therefore, not real, or is not reality). This way of conceptualizing “reality” presents many logical difficulties (e.g., How and why is the “known world” “real” and the “knower” “not real”, or perhaps more accurately, the “knowing” “not real”?).
Wholistic Existential Anthropology suggests a different meaning for the word “reality”— embedding it in a different set of distinctions, with a different set of assumptions within a different conceptual framework. It proposes a triadic view of “reality”, with the three-fold distinction itself offered as primary rather than derivative or implicit.

In addition to the logical problems inherent in the materialist view of reality, it will be argued here that the dualistic model, which has been very productive in many ways, especially in relation to technological progress in the material world (engineering,  certain medical treatment of the body, production of goods), has been limiting when it comes to what it provides in the way of understanding of non-material aspects of human existence (interpersonal relationships, group organization in the political or governmental sense, supporting a meaningful existence that is happy, the support for ideals such as fairness in the distribution of wealth, non-violent resolution for disputes, etc.).

Lao Tsu tries to undercut the problems created in a dualistic view of reality, by pointing out that dualism is  inherent in the nature of human thinking and is not a feature of reality itself.  According to Lao,   the idea of Yin and Yang is created by human thinking and reflects the way human beings think, not the way reality itself is.   Lao believes that reality itself is not divided or separated or dualistic, it is unified, monistic, Wholistic.  This is what he calls “The Tao”.

Many modern Western thinkers, such as  Carl Jung,  Rollo May , Ludwig Binswanger, and Alan Watts have been touched by the Eastern tradition and its ideas and have sought ways in which to understand the human condition that isn’t distorted by either/or thinking. The attraction of Lao’s thinking is that it suggests the interrelatedness and interdependence of all aspects of the world (or reality).  It is an ultimate “systems” philosophy, inviting awareness that all of “reality” is a Whole, with anything that happens in one region of reality effecting everything which happens in every other region or aspect. This idea counters the human tendency to see events in isolation, independent from one another, which is how people often proceed in every day individual and collective life and even in scientific research and in the applied technical development that grows out of science (for example in the often unrelated specialization in modern medicine which ignores the body or the person as a whole).

Although Lao’s position is extremely valuable in pointing out and addressing some of the problems that grow out of dualism, it still does not provide solutions to many of the problems created by dualistic formulations of the nature of Reality, and it is obvious that it has limitations of its own in this regard. Since anything that we say about “reality” is a reflection of human knowing (and its nature and limitations), we have no independent way of knowing that ultimate reality is monistic just as we have no independent way of knowing or proving that reality is ultimately, dualistic.  More will be said about this later.

Wholistic Existential Anthropology seeks to overcome problems found in dualism or monism by suggesting a triadic framework as a potentially more useful starting place to ask and answer questions about the nature of reality. It also explicitly acknowledges that an exploration of reality is impossible without a human knower so that this issue must be explicitly present throughout the endeavor.  This leads to proposition one.

Proposition One: Wholistic Existential Anthropology conceives reality as including Human Existence as a core feature


This proposition, as suggested earlier acknowledges a basic paradox or logical problem inherent in the question, “what is the nature of reality?” when reality is defined as that which exists independent of any (human) knower.  When asked this way, there can be no logically satisfactory answer because the nature of what is known (as well as the asking of the question itself) is dependent upon the knower as well as the “thing” to be known. Or, to say it another way, the question itself is a property of the knower who can and does ask such a question. This is a  problem that is inevitable in a dualistic system which begins with the assumption that there can be independence between the knower and reality.   Wholistic Existential Anthropology seeks to address this issue by beginning with the paradox as part of the inquiry process—that is, by assuming that the knower (a human being or human beings) is/are not separate from reality, but rather a part of it and that neither “side” of the distinction can exist without the other. There is nothing called “reality” without human beings, and human beings are always a part of reality.


Fig 2. Reality Includes Human Beings (The Knowers)





This way of seeing the problem also suggests that there can be no absolutely convincing proof of even the existence of a reality separate from human knowing. Again this follows from the fact that only a human knower can ask whether there is such an independent reality and only a human knower could provide an answer thereby making such “proof” self-contradictory because it is dependent upon the human knower.

This leads to the possibility that there might be a better starting point for the exploration of the nature of reality than dualism or monism. Accepting the basic paradoxes inherent in the efforts to conceptualize “reality” suggests that any number of alternative conceptual frameworks can be considered.

This “freedom” also brings up the epistemological question—how do we know when something is true? It seems likely that this question starts another circular path, because it probably has no meaning if considered without a concept of “reality”. Or perhaps the Truth question is just another way of asking, “what is reality?”

If , for the above cited reasons, neither a monistic or dualistic frame of reference could be proven to be ultimately or absolutely true, then it seems likely that a Triadic system (or any other) is subject to the same limitation. Then what can we appeal to justify the acceptance of Wholistic Existential Anthropology, or any other system?

A temporary way out of this circular trap is to adapt the criterion of usefulness as a way of thinking about truth. From this starting point, Truth must always be considered relative or tentative rather than absolute (or permanent?)    In fact, it appears that the persuasiveness of the dualistic view of reality, with its emphasis on the material nature of reality (the conviction that there is a physical world independent of the human mind), has been based upon its usefulness (as suggested earlier in this essay). The justification for exploring another approach to “defining” reality, as referred to above, is that neither dualism nor monism) appear to be very useful in relation to many very important problems of interest to human beings.

The frame of reference proposed here, has no more credible claim to being “provable”, or absolutely or ultimately true, than the dualistic framework, or Lao’s proposal of a unity framework. This triadic system is still subject to the same issues, if one were to try to claim that it is valid independent of the humans who create, evaluate, or might accept it.

The relativistic nature of usefulness as a criterion for Truth can be easily demonstrated. For example, consider the question of whether a hydrogen bomb is useful?  Is pornography useful?  Is the Mona Lisa useful?  A fuller exploration of this issue will need to be taken up at a later point, after the analytical framework developed within the current model is more fully elaborated.

Another foundational issue which is present in any theoretical construction has to do with the persuasiveness and logic of the system being proposed. This issue is also complex, since logic and mathematics as areas of human thinking, raise their own questions about reality and truth and usefulness. Ultimately, it seems that non-logical criteria, such as elegance, and parsimony, and beauty, as well as “consistency” and rule following are used to judge the construction of mathematico/logical systems, before the issue of their usefulness is assessed. All of these considerations will apply to the conceptual framework proposed for Wholistic Existential Anthropology.

The justification for developing the conceptual framework called Wholistic Existential Anthropology lies in the hope that it will prove useful in promoting a better understanding of and better outcomes for Human Existence— especially in relation to the realms where so far we often think of ourselves as doing very poorly (see references in the introduction to group and individual relationships, creating meaning for living, pursuing human ideals).


(??There is also the hope it will even play a part in generating criteria other than usefulness or elegance as ways to evaluate the truth value of theories of reality??).

There is also the possibility that what we mean by “reality” must always include indeterminacy, uncertainty, paradox, and ongoing mystery. I don’t know enough to be certain or precise, but I have the impression that this kind of uncertainty is present even in mathematics—and that the math can be useful even if not fully resolved conceptually.   Acceptance of uncertainty seems to  be a principle of modern physics’ understanding of the world. For example, the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty suggests that we can’t both know the location and movement of a particle at the same time.  Einstein faced the apparent contradiction that light is both waves and particles (at the same “time!?).  He concluded, if I understand correctly, that light must be accepted as being both. (see Marcus Du Sautoy's recent "The Great Unknown" for a wonderful discussion of the issue of what might be the limits of human knowledge in certain areas).

Lao Tsu also seemed to understand the need to accept (logical) paradox. Lao clearly saw that the proposal that reality is unified and not divisible employs language and that language itself functions by creating categories of separation and duality (like Yin and Yang). Lao attempted to resolve this problem through using poetic (rather than logical) language-- for poetry can embrace paradox in a way that logic can’t. Thus, his statement, “the Way (Tao) that can be talked about is not the true Way (Tao)” is itself paradoxical—or indicating awareness of the paradox.

The use of artistic “knowing” and communication can include imagery as a way of exploring ideas (and reality) in addition to poetic and or literary aspects of language.  Einstein reports that his thinking by way of images was a crucial aspect of how he pursued truth about the physical world, and looking at Stephen Hawkings’ books (and their revised editions)—A brief history of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell --indicate how graphic representation is an essential feature of cosmological exploration and the human imagination that underlies it.  Such representation will also be important in the development of the Wholistic Existential Anthropological view of reality.

Figure 3. “The Tao”     by Harris Stern



Proposition 2: Wholistic Existential Anthropology proposes that human existence be thought of as lived in relation to three worlds: a Natural World, a Phenomenological World and a Theoretical World.


The Natural World is the world which is assumed (supported by inferential evidence, but not “proof”) to be existent independent of Human knowing.  Human beings are theorized to belong in this world as well as “animals”, “rocks”, stars, “rivers”.

The Phenomenological World is conceived to represent the everyday experiential world of individual human beings. It is based on sensations and perceptions and the basic universal aspects of human psychology, elaborated by memberships in groups, shared linguistic and other cultural wisdoms, memories, and images, etc.  At its core are human functions like awareness, consciousness, self-consciousness. 

The Theoretical World is the accumulated abstracted knowledge of human individuals and groups and the species.  It includes technologies (pre-industrial, industrial and post- industrial),  everything written down and preserved, scientific knowledge and theories, art,  philosophies, history, economics, engineering, religious practices and theologies, etc.

These three “worlds” represent the triadic theory of reality conceptualized in Wholistic Existential Anthropology. In this conceptual framework, the Natural World, The Phenomenological World, and the Theoretical World are all equally “real”.




In the context of Wholistic Existential Anthropology, the "realness" referred to in the previous sentence does not imply that these three worlds exist independent of Human knowing.  “Reality” is a human cognitive construct.  In the triadic framework for thinking about “reality” proposed by Wholistic Existential Anthropology, it is the system of thinking that is real.   Within this system of reality, there is a cognitive construct, a theory which designates one aspect of reality as a “natural world” that theoretically (in the reality of human thinking) can or might or probably has an existence outside of the reality of human theorizing and experience. But  as suggested previously, there can be no proof of that independent existence, only evidence  collected, created, evaluated by the human knower and groups of human knowers, limited by qualities of those knowers at a given moment, and potentially refined or made more precise or more useful as the powers of knowing themselves change or develop (or perhaps less precise and less useful if those powers deteriorate).

The above paragraph may sound repetitious in relation to previous statements in this document.  The nature of the project is such that there can be need for, and opportunity to,  expand and make more precise the intended meanings as more details are added to the structure of the conceptual framework being proposed.   In addition, great care is required to think clearly and communicate clearly when there are so many reflexive interactions among the concepts and planes of reality being proposed.   This seems to be why this kind of framework is required or might be useful, but there is great potential for confusion and straying from the desirable path.      Paradoxes, ambiguities, excursiveness, ambiguities, finding the proper starting points and the best and most useful order of presentation all contribute to the need for restatements and reiterations, if not repetitions.    


This is another reiteration:  Objects are Real          Experience is Real       Beliefs are Real.    It is important to specify  how each is not real in the same way.  








Figure 4.Reality from a Wholistic Existential Anthropology point of

View:   The Three Worlds



An elaboration and further exploration of the relationships among the three hypothetical worlds of reality, will be undertaken in  chapters to follow.  The next proposition gives a further specification of how the worlds are conceived. 


 Proposition Three: Wholistic Existential Anthropology  proposes that
reality be defined as having a physical aspect, a psychological aspect, and a spiritual aspect.  The Natural World will be said to be physical.  The Phenomenological World will said to be psychological.   The Theoretical world will be said to be spiritual.       


                    ASPECTS OF REALITY












  1. In the dualistic system, the fundamental distinction is between “reality” which is physical and the being who knows (about that) reality. From that point of view it is the physical world which is real.  This view of reality can also lead to a “materialist monism”   which says that the knower is only physical.   One of the major motivations for developing Wholistic Existential Anthropology is my perception that this kind of reductionism is intellectually bankrupt, represents an impoverished view of Human Existence and leads to very limited usefulness in most spheres of human affairs.


In the Wholisic Existential Anthropology view of reality, it is accepted that any statements about the nature of reality are tentative (theoretical) embedded in human knowing and cannot be considered to be independent of that knowing or that (human knower).  It is, from this point of view, meaningless to say that “reality is physical” or that “the natural world is physical”.  We can say that it is useful to think of the natural world as physical and there is evidence to support this claim of usefulness.   Wholistic Existential Anthropology therefore states as a propositional assumption, as a definition, that the Natural World will be considered to be Physical.   Or, to say it another way, When we use the term Natural World, we are intending to point to that aspect of reality which we are defining as physical.  Or, to say it another way, when we say that something exists physically, we are talking about that aspect of reality which we are calling the Natural World.


(This physical world is often said to be the world of objects, but this is imprecise, because, strictly speaking, there are no objects without human knowing (that is there is nothing called a “rock” if humans don’t label it as such).  Moreover, many objects are man-made—for example a table.  Even if we use a rock as a table, it is human thinking that has added the “tableness” to rock.     At this point it is not being asserted that physicality is the only aspect of the Natural World, nor the only concept useful for specifying the nature of the natural world.   This issue will be made clearer below.

  1. The Phenomenological World is here considered to be psychological.    It was said that human experience, with awareness and consciousness are the core functions out of which human beings construct all three worlds for themselves, but there are other functions and structures useful for thinking about the Phenomenological World (for example sensation and feeling) and these will be specified, elaborated and examined in another chapter of the current work where the focus will be psychological.  How this new way of conceiving reality, from the Wholistic Existential Anthropology perspective, impacts understanding of the relationships among these knowing functions and the other worlds (including, for example, as they have appeared in relation to discussions of mind and body and discussions of the relationship between flesh and spirit) will also be discussed below.


It should be noted that the Phenomenological World, the world of experience is intended to include the notion that this is the world of the individual   It is not that the world of others does not have strong interrelationships with the world of the individual, but Wholistc Existential Anthropology holds that the framework for thinking about reality is likely to be more useful when it defines psychological reality as being a construct defined as centered in the  individual human being.

  1. The Theoretical World is considered to be Spiritual.   The term spiritual is used here to indicate the world that is beyond and above and larger than the individual and his or her psychological, Phenomenological World.  The aspect of reality intended to be defined by referring to a Theoretical World can only make sense in terms of processes that are collective rather individual.   Language belongs to a group and a culture; writing develops as a form of communication and storage of information between individuals and within groups.   These technologies also transcend the here and now that is at the center of the phenomenological world of experience, connecting the individual to pastness and futurity.    In the Theoretical World the expansion of reality goes as far as the infinite and the eternal.  The Spiritual World has qualities of unboundedness and expansiveness that do not belong to our conceptualization of the individual as he or she exists in his or her phenomenal world.  

The choice of the word spiritual to characterize the Theoretical world, also implies that this World addresses the issue of Meaning in relation to Human Existence.


                          Fig 5. Reality from a Wholistic Existential Anthropology point of View:   The Three Worlds  and Their basic Qualities























  1. It is important to remember that the nature of reality, as formulated by Wholistic Existential Anthropology, is human centered.    Human beings are related to the creation of, and exist in, all three “worlds”.   In fact, the possibility of being able to usefully specify and explore the relationships among the three worlds as they relate to Human Existence, is one of the main reasons for the way in which the theoretical structure of Wholistic Existential Anthropology is being formulated.    


Here is a preliminary example of the kind of exploration of the interactions among different aspects of reality that this triadic and human centered view of reality can support.     The experience of time by an individual human being is centered in the Phenomenological World of that human being.   Out of the phenomenological experiences of time of many individual human beings, time becomes a word and a concept in the Theoretical World.     The elaboration of the concept of time in the Theoretical World becomes the subject of artistic, logical, and mathematical thinking and conceptualization—it becomes group knowledge,  shared, sharable, being available in the future and able to be developed and “improved” (made more useful?) in that future .  This elaboration includes expansion into complex questions and formulations about the nature of time—such as more complex conceptions of past and future time.   Can time move backwards as well as forwards?  Does time have a beginning or an end?  Is time eternal, in the future or in both directions?


Stephen Hawking addresses many of these questions and there are places in his work, “A brief History of Time and The universe in a Nutshell” where he is clearly aware that human thinking, and its structures have to be a part of our understanding of the questions and how we might answer them.   It seems possible that Wholistic Existential Anthropology will provide a framework to support a fuller and more precise inclusion of this human dimension in the efforts to explore those requirements, insights and possibilities that Hawking is glimpsing.  The attempt to do so will be made in a subsequent chapter.     Modern physics might find solutions for some of its basic problems, as well as an enchanced understanding of those problems themselves by having a a solid theoretical framework that includes psychological reality as well as physics itself (which belongs to the theoretical world in Wholistic Existential Anthropology) as foundational aspects of REALITY.

These conceptual elaborations of time in the Theoretical World, which are a collective achievement, become a part of the psychological reality of the individual and affect his or her experiential, phenomenological reality. Thus, the individual and his or her psychology is the initial source of the theoretical, but the theoretical becomes influential within the phenomenological psychological world of the individual.  There is an ongoing circularity of relationship.    These theoretical conceptions of time, also develop in relation to explorations of the Natural World.   We experiment to see how well the theoretical constructions of time usefully fit that aspect of reality that we are calling physical.   Scientists collect data or evidence that is used to develop and refine our theoretical (knowledge) concept of what time means.




Proposition Four: Wholistic Existential Anthropology proposes that each World be conceived as having a basic and unique constituent.   The basic constituent of the Natural world will be called Matter.  The basic constituent of the Phenomenological World will be called Mind.  The basic constituent of the Theoretical World will be called Meaning.

Earlier it was suggested that in the theoretical construction that is  Wholistic Existential Anthropology reductionism of one World of Reality into another would not be permitted.   Proposition Four emphasizes that each of the three worlds in the Wholistic Existential Anthropology view of reality is equality real and not reducible to any other.   This is a system that in its basic conception denies a reductionist view of reality.

The basic tenants of materialism, or the reasoning from the assumption that matter is ultimate reality, also includes thinking that collapses considerations that are assigned to the two non- material worlds formulated by Wholistic Existential Anthropology into the world of matter.   In materialistic dualism psychological reality, or Mind, is seen as reducible to matter (making the brain and mind the same).   In the study of the Natural World by scientific methods there is often an exclusion of spiritual matters or considerations of meaning altogether.  In theology or in religious practice there is often an exclusion or derogation of the psychological aspect of reality, and/or a great deal of confusion about the differences between the spiritual world and the material world and the different kinds of knowledge and power they each have.

The framework for understanding the nature of reality proposed by Wholistic Existential Anthropology is built upon the assumption that the three worlds it suggests are all part of reality, that each world is real, because by definition they define what the system means by reality.  Reductionism is not permitted.   Recognizing that each “world” plays a part in our understanding of what reality is (both phenomenologically and theoretically and in terms of what we “know” relating to the natural world) will hopefully contribute to the usefulness of Wholistic Existential Anthropology. 

The recognition of the fundamental relationship among the three worlds of Wholistic Existential Anthropology is expressed by saying that Mind is an epiphenomenon of matter and that meaning is an epiphenomenon of mind.   This implies that the Wholistic Existential Anthropology framework for thinking about reality proposes that there would be no Phenomenological World without the body and is intimately related to it.  It also endorses the tenet that there would be no Theoretical World without the (human) mind and that there is an intimate relationship between them. 

Fig 6.  Reality from a Wholistic Existential Anthropology point of View:
The Three Worlds  and Their basic Qualities



The exploration of these interrelationships, the ways that we can productively keep them separate and also can always consider their systemic, wholistic, monistic aspects, is a major potential for the way of understanding the nature of reality proposed by Wholistic Existential Anthropology and will be a major focus of later chapters of this work.  It is hoped and intended that the theory will then have provided a useful way of addressing the practical questions that has led to this theoretical inquiry in the first place—how might we meaningfully address the questions “what does it mean to talk about improving the human condition?   How might we take action that can or could improve the human existence?



Proposition Five : In Wholistic Existential Anthropology Inquiry relating to the Natural World will be called Physics.  Inquiry into the Phenomenological World will be called Psychology.  Inquiry relating to the Theoretical World will be called Philosophy.  The overall study of reality will be called Anthropology.


This last proposition is intended to provide continuity with intellectual and theoretical history and to help establish a framework that will help to make it easier to keep the proposed worlds of reality separate and the study of their relationships clear and less confusing.                                                                                                                               

Anthropology which is being used to refer to the study of the entire system of reality with its three worlds, is not being used in its conventional sense.  As indicated in the introduction, the useage is consonant with Ludwig Binswanger’s use of the term. Without human beings there is no “reality” so that the study of reality is also the study of human existence.  The full or comprehensive study of man must begin with considerations of the nature of reality.  In having a special “discipline” for the study of the “whole” this usage also honors Lao Tzu’s conception that we must accept reality as monistic, systemic and wholistic. 

Thus, the meaning of the term “Anthropology” in Wholistic Existential Anthropology is intended to embrace the need to consider reality as both unified and differentiated.




Fig 7. Reality from a Wholistic Existential Anthropology point of View: 









First Chapter Concluding remarks

The presentation of the basic structure of the theory that is Wholistic Existential Anthropology has not been easy to write and, no doubt, it is not so easy to read.  Is it likely to be worth the effort?  

I can say something about where I hope and think the work may be going next.     My intention is to write a psychology chapter, a physics chapter, and a philosophy chapter.  This will represent an attempt to provide further theoretical structures to guide thinking related to the three worlds of human reality, hopefully in a way that will address problem issues from the past, at the theoretical and practical level.   Whether there will be a separate Anthropology chapter focusing on the system as a whole and the interrelationship among the three worlds and how they fit together in the world of human practical affairs, isn’t clear to me yet.  It is possible that this interactive, wholistic, systemic piece will have to be included in the discussion of each separate realm, or perhaps there will still be a need for a more comprehensive, monistic exploration as well.

The hope would be that within these theoretical chapters, issues such as the mind/body problem, which includes the relationship between mind and brain, and the mind/meaning problem, and the language/ thought problem, and issues such as physical time, psychological time and theoretical time will be addressed.

Ultimately I hope that all of this theorizing will open paths or avenues to explore issues such as how human beings can educate themselves, how to understand the implications of human individual differences for what a well-functioning and healthy human society requires, what can we hope for in group life, how should we relate to technological potential (for good and evil) and what balancing forces of systemic thinking and various aspects of meaning can guide our behavior.      

If I can and do write the subsequent chapters that I envision, these concluding remarks will no doubt be removed from a longer version of the product.  I learned many useful things from artist and art teacher Marianne Mitchell, among them the idea that once you’ve started a painting, the creative process must include the influence of the emerging work.  You have to look at and listen to what the painting is saying as well as to whatever impulse or idea started you painting in the first place.  This idea is also suggested by Nathan, in the movie Ex Machina, when he says that Jackson Pollock could never have started the painting that Nathan and Caleb are looking at, if he had to know in advance why he was painting it.  I think I know why I am writing about Reality, but I am not certain how the writing should end or how well I will able to achieve what I think are my goals.






    1. Harris Stern  If you don’t mind I will; Anxiety from Wholistic Existential Psychology point of view
    2. Ludwig Binswanger
    3. Lao Tsu   The Tao Te Ching
    4. Alan Watts   Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life
    5. Rene Descartes  Pensees ??
    6. Charles Peirce  Collected writings
    7. Sigmund Koch   Psychology:A study of a Science     and lectures in class on philosophical psychology   1962
    8. Carl Jung
    9. Philaosphy of Mind—Piaget and Chomsky and Hilary?? who glimpses social aspect
    10. Stephen Hawking  A Brief History of Time    The Universe in a Nutshell
    11. Ex Machina
    12. Benjamin Lee Whorf
    13. jerome bruner
    14. Albert Einstein
    15. Aristotle
    16.  Plato
    17.  The Great Unknown (seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science). Marcus Du Sautoy. 2016 Viking Press, Penguin Random House, New York