Despite the limitations of its perceptions, the human mind strives to make sense out of everything. It is not enough that we merely witness the goings-on of the world; we must understand, and for that we use our greatest sense that is reason. This facility primarily asks why and how in order to explain, predict, and ultimately create order out of the chaos in the universe. Our structuring nature springs from our innate ability to reason. But dare we ask, is the order that we construct any closer to the reality, and can we absolutely trust it?
Undoubtedly, structure has done a great deal in advancing the human species. Without our rigid laws and the government that formulates and enacts them, society would crumble to disarray. Without the structure of our institutions that serve our primary needs, we will not be able to sustain the large populations that crowd our cities, much less allow us to exist together in such confined spaces. Without the rational order of our enormous collective knowledge, we will not be able to make sense of it for its utility and advancement.
But before we subject it to scrutiny, we must first examine how we do it. Firstly, we classify objects and concepts according to characteristics, purpose, quality, amount, capacity, or any other measure of categorization that our reasoning can afford. Next, we place the objects or groups into hierarchy, so that some entities are placed at higher levels than others. Again, the order of ranking is as flexible as our intent – may it be by importance, value, time sequence, etc. Thirdly, we construct order by identifying causation in order to make sensible connections between seemingly disparate objects, groups, or agents. That pollination produces fruit, that certain microbes cause certain diseases, that increased consumption revitalizes the economy, that true and false equals false, are just some simplistic examples of the product of our reason in creating order out of this world.
Our structuring is largely supported by what our senses perceive. What we make from our perceptions is relegated to our brain’s interpretation, and herein lie the critical limitations. The great philosophers are divided in this area: on the one hand are the rationalists who contend that sense perception is unreliable and that only knowledge derived from pure reason is reliable; on the other are the empiricists who affirm that reason alone will not suffice; we must also rely on our senses to some extent to create knowledge.
Whereas reason may be the common denominator, we also have to question its integrity as it is just another facility that is as flawed as any other human implement. It therefore makes good sense to take a critical stance toward the structures that we create from our observations of the universe. The more powerful rationale in this thinking springs from the potential that it could unleash in being a catalyst for great changes for the betterment of humankind. It challenges the conventional thinking and the limiting practices that seem to forget that the method of our acquisition and building of structure, together with all our collective knowledge, is not absolute.
But first, we need to acknowledge the extent of this challenge. Structure becomes forcefully persistent when we unquestioningly abide by its dictates. It becomes institutionalized as every human action conforms to it and as the larger extent of society reflects it. The consistent success of its utility in achieving human intentions discourages advancement and new thinking as it is human nature to stick with what is deemed as unequivocally working. Structure then becomes a constructed reality automatically taken at face value in order to make sense of the world around us and to manipulate it to achieve our ends.
But when we realize that structure is a human construction and with humility, acknowledge that it is just as doubtful as any other human product, we begin to open ourselves to greater possibilities of improvement. When we begin to take notice that the large systems that we put in place serve only to reinforce in a closed loop the structure that we created as their framework, we start to question the root structure itself and consequently push us to think innovatively from the ground up. We start to resist the urge to place objects old and new into existing structures, and strive to discover that nature may not necessarily work as we normally perceive. This thinking encourages us to proactively seek for betterment by virtue of curiosity and rationality, not because of reaction to errors when encountered or only upon discovery of phenomena that contradicts the structure. Ultimately, we open our minds to greater possibilities that will enable us towards greater understanding, fulfilling our greatest potential as reasoning and intelligent beings.