Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being and Becoming II

Being and Becoming II
by Scott Bradley

"Nature's way is to be genuine. Man's way is to become genuine." — Confucius

Nature is what it is. This is genuineness. Human beings are somehow not what they are. Thus they must work to become genuine. Genuineness is not only expressed as this ultimate identity of essential and existential being, however. It is also expressed in the means by which humans become genuine; it is expressed in honesty about oneself and in the sincerity of one's effort to become genuinely genuine. This, I think, is essentially the Confucian position.

To say that we are not what we are, is, of course, an absurdity. This does not necessarily make it 'untrue', however. And as difficult as it might be to understand this, it is, nonetheless, quite simple to resolve it — we need only live. Just as life does not resolve to understanding, so also it resolves the paradoxes which understanding creates. We may debate ad infinitum free-will versus determinism, for instance, but actual living seems to me to obviate the need for the debate at all.

Is it in fact the case that human beings are essentially something other than what they existentially express? Is there an essential nature which we are (a buddha-nature, an original nature, etc.) but somehow typically fail to realize? I come down on the side of the negative; we are only this becoming. And this is because this becoming is all we know and all we experience. We need not make ourselves a 'something'. We need not posit some goal outside and beyond the becoming that we are. To be genuine ('authentic', in the language of existentialism) is to thoroughly identify with this becoming. And that necessitates, it seems to me, giving up the idea that there is some essential nature to become.

Still, I do subscribe to a sense in which we are what we are not and are not what we are. (This is Sartre's formula, though I mean it, I think, in a different sense.) What we are is One. What we also are is not-one. We are a not-oneness which can only necessarily be a Oneness. Not-one is also One. This is a belief. This is my belief. And it may be — no, it most certainly is — a load of rubbish. Even if 'true', it could not be understood or spoken. Yet, I find the need for a working paradigm, and this is mine.

Genuine human genuineness is thus not some static state of absolute realization of genuineness, but the very process of becoming genuine. And this is being genuine. If all this sounds to you like a lot of unnecessary intellection and gibberish, I can only admit to the same. So, let's just live.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. I think it may be because, as humans, we have some defect or flaw (or it may be a virtue) that makes us reflect on what we are and can become. I do not believe my cat thinks about what it is to be a cat; and in fact I cannot know what it is to be a cat, but I think about it, as well as my own humanness. Simply "to live" is enough, and yet, not enough. If we advance to a point where computers have consciousness, as we define it, will they contemplate what it is to be a computer? That's when we will reach true singularity. I am skeptical about artificial consciousness (but not artificial intelligence), but, as Fats Waller said, one never knows, do one?

  2. Assent we born genuine and learn to be fake.

    Hence the taoist emphasis on unlearning and simplification.

  3. Sorry that was a response to BR not the post.


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