The Society of HumanKind


The boundary between the interests and conclusions of the Society and those of other intellectual disciplines is examined. No clearer distinction can be made than that the Society is solely concerned with the meaning and purpose of life and is to be judged by how it deals with those issues. Other areas of enquiry and interest are left to others.

There are areas and aspects of human life not covered by the founding books of the Society of HumanKind. Little or no space is devoted to the exploration of the dimensions of that domain. It is however, extensive and almost certainly vastly larger than the ground encompassed by the Principles.

However and inevitably, the founding books occasionally cross into that otherwise neglected territory. In particular, these Essays contain clear examples of unsupported adventuring beyond the warrant or scope of the Principles. In the Essay on Equality, for example, economic co-operation is said to be an essential prerequisite to the continuation of our species. In the Essay on the Family the presumption is made that stable family structures are indispensable to the survival of the human individual.

These are not necessarily minor matters. Those instances could equally be cited as an unwarranted intrusion of private opinions and beliefs into the founding literature of the Society. It could also be said that concepts and ideas from other philosophies and systems of thought have been smuggled into the works in order to conceal deficiencies in the thinking presented. Such behaviour might be regarded as harmless by some readers. Others would see it, if proven, as revealing fundamental flaws that invalidate the whole of the arguments presented in support of the Society. These are therefore, potentially profound and powerful criticisms deserving a careful response.

To lay a proper foundation for an examination of this problem, the position of the Society on a number of basic issues will be clarified. It is not the position of the Society that it is possible to divide our knowledge, or our mental life, into distinct and separate compartments, hermetically sealed off from one another. Neither does that conclusion follow from the Axioms and Dogma. The Society will recognise that at the edge of every field of human enquiry there will almost certainly be found an overlap with other intellectual disciplines and interests. That condition will apply to the exploration that has been made of the implications of the Axioms and Dogma in the founding books of the Society. For that reason the Society does not put an impermeable seal round its own ideas, nor does it wish to do so.

It does not, for example, assert that the Principles contain the whole of human wisdom as it relates to our existence in the universe, or that they have an exclusive right to deal with all aspects of our social and moral lives. To adopt that stance will be to depart from the uncertainty that underpins every aspect of the thinking of the Society. It would also leave no room for politics, economics, biology, psychology and all the rest of the human sciences. Or for physics, chemistry, geology, mechanics, mathematics and the whole of the natural sciences, including even philosophy, although it is, perhaps, safer to leave that discipline to define its own place in the world of human enquiry.

The oft-repeated premiss of these writings is that they are centred upon, and primarily concerned with, communicating to members of the human species the views and conclusions of the Society of HumanKind on the proper structure of our moral and social lives as it is derived from the Axioms and Dogma. Those views and conclusions are themselves merely a necessarily incomplete answer to some of the questions that arise from a contemplation of the origins, meaning and purpose of human existence.

Even within its own sphere of interest the Society will recognise that there are a number of extremely profound and complex issues relating to the nature, extent and structure of our knowledge left untouched by its writings. That is especially true of the possibility, only partially explored in the Treatise on Knowledge, that in all our ideas, and indeed in every field of human enquiry, there are interconnections and contamination with and from other intellectual disciplines, or from our mental and physical environment. As that Treatise predicts, some of those influences may be beyond our capacity to understand or even identify.

The Society will also accept that there may well be both an indiscernible interaction between the physical conditions of our existence and our thought processes, and an indefinable connection between the nature of our corporeal existence and the structure of our knowledge. These are issues that, in other systems of thought, have been subjected to prolonged, critical examination, and oft-times fierce debate. To round off this part of the Essay it should be plainly stated that the Society will not make any sort of claim finally to have settled any of these complex problems, and will accept that aspects of them emerge and remain unresolved throughout its founding books.

That series of negative statements clears some of the undergrowth surrounding this subject. It now remains to consider the question of the position of the Society of HumanKind on the issues with which this Essay began. What defence should the Society raise against the accusation that concepts from the external world of nature and science are both misused and abused in its founding books?

The Society will begin by pointing out that such intrusions can only be said to touch on the validity of the Axioms, Dogma or Principles if they raise doubts about the utility of those ideas in dealing with the questions to which they are actually addressed. The Society need only show that the ideas set out in its founding books provide an adequate and satisfactory meaning and purpose for our lives, and give rise to a sound and functional method of making our social and moral decisions. That is the test against which the thinking of the Society should be measured.

The books are therefore, merely a means to communicate the Society's conviction that the Axioms and Dogma provide a ground on which it is possible to construct a full and satisfying answer to all those questions that relate to the purpose of our existence and the meaning of our lives. Whether or not any reader of the founding books, or observer of the Society, is convinced by the answers given can only be a matter for the individual concerned. For its own part, the teachings of the Society specifically preclude it from making any attempt to influence that personal decision.

The first stage of the answer to those who would criticise or reject the founding writings of the Society because they are contaminated with concepts from other sources can now be set out. The Society will agree that pollution from other intellectual disciplines is present and evident in many places in its founding books, as is probably true of every other contribution to every field of human enquiry. It will then argue that such intrusions are only significant to the extent that their presence raises doubts about the programme of the Society in the mind of the reader.

On that issue the Society is content that anyone unwilling to follow the line of argument and accept the conclusions about the meaning and purpose of human life reached in the founding books should reject the whole of the thinking presented in them. The Society will conclude in those circumstances that its Axioms cannot meet the needs of the reader in this respect, and that he or she should look elsewhere for an answer to their questions. That is the only response the Society can make while remaining true to its Principles.

Having dealt with the problem of the importation of other ideas into these writings, it is still necessary to deal with the opposite aspect of the problem. The Society must be prepared to defend itself against the accusation that the founding books trespass on what some might regard as the province of other fields of human knowledge, and in particular on the domain of the natural sciences. It cannot be denied, for instance, that the Axioms make presumptions about the origins of our species and our world that must have the effect of dismissing some explanations of our origins and characteristics as untenable or impossible.

The answer of the Society of HumanKind to this kind of criticism is simple and direct. It is not, and was never, the intention of the founding books to set out any full account of the nature or origins of ourselves, of our universe or of any of its processes, nor to lay any basis for such an endeavour. On the contrary, the Axioms are essentially negative statements about humanity as a species and its universe as an environment, and are in any event as much subject to uncertainty as any other of the ideas of the Society, as the Treatise on Tolerance and the Essays on Evangelism and the Origins of the Universe clearly show.

The defence against any accusation of a trespass on other fields of knowledge in the founding books of the Society is to point out that the books are at pains to make it clear that the Axioms are no more than a starting point for a new approach to the problem of giving meaning and purpose to our existence. The stance of the Society in relation to the accusation of intellectual trespass is that, until they are refuted, the Axioms and all that flows from them remain a tentative hypothesis on which we may order our moral and social life, but only if we so choose. They leave other fields of human knowledge and experience unchallenged.

Insofar as they affect other aspects of our intellectual lives the views and conclusions of the Society are no more than a private opinion, to be used or rejected within those fields of enquiry as each individual may choose. In that connection an aside on this subject in the Discourse to the 'Foundations' is of interest. Almost at the end of the process of writing the founding books, and after years of solitary work by their author, he discovered that a principle of uncertainty had been identified at the leading edge of the theories of quantum mechanics in the discipline of physics, that prince of the natural sciences.

This Essay should not end without reinforcing its most important premiss. The Society cannot, and will not, entirely dismiss the possibility that some future genius may destroy the Axioms by conclusively demonstrating their invalidity. If that does happen then the whole structure of the thinking of the Society will be swept away at once, bringing down the Society of HumanKind and its entire works at the same moment. The reader should however, make no mistake. On that day the Society will be as joyful as the rest of our species in that triumph of humanity over its problems.

Pending that momentous development however, the position taken by the Society and explored in these founding writings, is that it does not believe that particular apocalypse will ever happen, which is the basic statement of its faith in the Axioms. Perhaps more importantly, the conviction of the Society is that it is perfectly possible to construct a valid and effective social and moral life on the basis of faith in the Axioms, and in their capacity to provide us with an opportunity to discover a means to extend life beyond death and then to grant that new immortality to every past, present and future member of our spieces.

In a sense then, this Essay is an attempt to clarify what the founding books are not about. It draws a distinction between the questions that can properly be answered from the Principles and those that cannot. In summary, that necessarily broad and diffuse boundary lies around the issue of the meaning and purpose of our lives. That is a province which, in any event, every other intellectual discipline will, no doubt, be delighted to leave to the Society and its competitors.

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©Lawrence Thornton Roach
2000-2002 AD