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Thought as a component of the physical universe
by William McGaughey
Matter, life, and thought coexist in the world of the “triple existence”. Since thought is invisible, it’s hard to see how this fits in.
Most obviously, the artifacts and products of human existence exist physically. If you sit inside a building, nearly everything you see is artificial. (For example, I am now looking at a screen attached to a computer that sits upon a desk.) That means it is a hybrid of matter and human thought or, in some cases, life and human thought. For instance, certain objects are made of wood or leather, life’s products. Metal objects, on the other hand, are made of pure matter.
The world built by technology is shaped by human thought. But it is not pure thought since thought is an interior awareness associated with the brain. The triple existence incorporates thought in its hybrid forms.
Therefore, in speaking of “thought”, I mean the product of humanity’s collective thought. I mean what technology has produced and, behind that, what human society has produced in its collective knowledge and through its economic and political organization.
If thought is humanity’s collective knowledge, then the story of its creation has to run through the mechanisms of human society that produced that knowledge. Therefore, the story of thought’s creation would also be the story of how human societies developed. It would be the story of mechanisms for projecting thought. These are the various communication technologies.
For that reason, the story of thought’s progress into a fully developed causal force is adequately told in the scheme of Five Epochs of Civilization in which the progressive stages of world civilization are reflected in communication technologies and in institutions of power within society. Collective human thought could not have existed had not humanity organized itself in cities and other larger political and economic units which communicate internally through language and language-enhancing technologies.
This system by which human beings organize themselves focuses knowledge upon communication centers (such as academic journals) where it can be utilized as if by a single mind. Science and technology therefore become part of humanity’s collective wisdom. From there, it becomes applied to the physical world.
What we have in thought, therefore, is a two-stage type of existence. First there is individual human thought which becomes universal as it is expressed in public and as it is organized in scientific or technological ways. Second, we have the application of knowledge as technology changes the physical world. Thought is the ultimate cause of the new object which has used existing physical materials to create something useful to man.
Is thought’s existence unique? Upon further thought, I think life also has a two-stage existence. The first would be the development of RNA or DNA molecules that encode information to create living organisms. These are a bridge between life and inorganic materials. The second stage would be the growth of cells into species of life. In eukaryotic cells, the DNA is contained in a separate sack within the cell. In the more primitive prokaryotic cells, the DNA is mixed with other elements within the cell.
Both life and (the products of) thought are comprised of matter. They have a substance built of chemical elements and molecules. In the world of the triple existence, life becomes a specialized being within the material world; and thought becomes a specialized being within the world of living creatures and the material world.
Thought is a being at the service of humanity. We can control it or, at least, its application. Let’s hope that Homo sapiens will be wise enough to use technology in a way that maintains life in utmost health and abundance. To do so, humanity will need to become organized to channel its collective thought in needed ways.
Thought as a component of the physical universe -- Projected through humanity’s collective knowledge and social organization - triple existence, collective human knowledge, two-stage existence, thought as a causal force.
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