I first began teaching LGST 196 in Winter Quarter, 2014, and I have taught the course every year since then. As I teach it, the class is focused on the topics of "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom."
This time around, I will probably teach the course a little bit differently, given that it will be online, but students can still expect to be discussing government surveillance, facial recognition, social media, "big data" and its impact on politics, biometrics, the "Internet of "Things," and how privacy is protected in our Bill of Rights through William O. Douglas' famed "penumbra theory" (See Griswold v. Connecticut).
The "Law of Gravity" is my go-to example (but all the laws of Nature operate in the same way). You can't disobey the law of gravity, or any of the other Laws of Nature. "What goes up must come down," and it will come down according to a law that perfectly describes what will happen.
The fact that the laws that govern the World of Nature cannot be broken, and that they inevitably and exactly tell us what will happen when certain things are done, is the reason that we can be sure that the continued combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, according to our current practices, will ultimately heat the Earth to the point that our human systems (dependent on the World of Nature) will fail, and that human civilization will (probably) come to an end, along with mass extinctions and physical changes in the World of Nature that will remind us (just in case we persist in denying the obvious) that we are ultimately dependent on that World of Nature, and that the World of Nature is governed by laws that we cannot ignore, without experiencing the consequences.
#3 - Law In The Human World
All that is pretty glum news, perhaps (since we keep ignoring the laws that apply in the World of Nature), but there is another kind of "law," too. That is the kind of "law" that applies to the human world that we create ourselves, by human action. Human laws, unlike the Laws of Nature, are not descriptions of what must and will happen in various circumstances. Human laws are prescriptions. They are written-down instructions that we give to ourselves, telling ourselves what we think we ought to do (not what we must do).
A human law tells us to stop at red lights, but we can run right through them. If we ignore our own laws, there may or may not be a penalty to be extracted. You can run a lot of red lights before you either kill somebody or are killed yourself. Maybe that's why human beings get in the habit of thinking that all laws are like that, and that maybe we can get away with ignoring the law. Human laws, yes! You can ignore or defy them, and maybe even get away with it. The Laws of Nature, though, are not subject to avoidance or evasion. What goes up, must come down!
#4 - Changing Our Human Laws
We are not inevitably constrained, in other words, by any existing realities, within our human world. Again, this is quite different from our situation in the World of Nature. In the human world, what "goes up" does not necessarily have to "come down." We can change the rules. Since our laws are "prescriptions," that means that if one prescription isn't working we can write ourselves another one.
#5 - Possibility And Inevitability
Because we can change the laws that direct and govern human behavior, and by doing so change what our human activities will accomplish, "possibility" is the key operative category in the human world that we create. To the extent that we can bring ourselves to change the prescriptions that govern our behavior, we can completely change any aspect of the human world. At least, that will be the effect of changing the laws if we then actually follow them. As I say, this is quite a piece of good news! Within our human world, nothing is "inevitable," and anything is "possible." That does include, of course, both our most wonderful dreams and our most horrible nightmares!
#6 - Human Observation
#7 - Actors Not Observers
Because we are, as humans, born "observers," and because the World of Nature is a reality that exists outside our own existence, and is a world that we have not created, it is a common mistake to attribute an absolute "reality" to the things we "observe." That may be fine as we study aspects of the World of Nature, but that doesn't work very well in the human world, because the human world is not something that exists outside of our own actions and activity - much of the action and activity having taken place in the past, of course. Human beings have created and can recreate the human world. Therefore, while it is good to know what human realities exist, as we observe them (and those human realities run from greed to goodness and from racism to reconciliation), we must always understand that our human world will be what we "make" it to be, and that the human world is the product of our "action," and that what we see is not a definition of what can exist. Observation is only helpful to us if we do not equate what we "see" and observe in our human world with a message that what we see is what must inevitably exist.
Because "possibility" is the key category for understanding the human world, which exists as it does because human beings have created it that way, then we will also understand that whatever we "see" in the human world can be changed.
#8 - Individuals
There is another important realization that can help orient us to our situation in the human world, and to how we should conduct ourselves within it. We need, always, to be very much aware of the "I," and of our individual existence - of how important and powerful each one of us is. In fact, each one of us is an independent and individual human being, and every human reality has begun, or begins, within the mind, and heart, and spirit of an individual human being. Our individual ability to act, to create, to do something unexpected and new must never be forgotten.
#9 - We Are Not Only Individuals
However, it is equally important to realize we are not just individuals. Thinking always from an individual point of view is a perspective error. While each one of us is an individual, we are also, inevitably, bound up with others, and are part of a larger community. We are in this life "together." No one can exist individually and independently. Our lives depend on others, and as we are more and more learning today, we are inevitably connected to, and are part of, every other human being in the world. To the degree that we have two political parties in the United States - which is the typical way we tend to think of it - we have a party that clamors to make sure that no one forgets that the "individual" is where everything begins, and that the ability of individuals to act is supremely important. The other party tends to emphasize the collective nature of our lives, and that we must, as a community, provide support and assistance to any individuals who need that.
Both/And! That is the truth.
#10 - Putting The Formula To Work
If the human world is something that we create - and not through a bunch of individual and separate actions added up, but through a collective effort - then we are talking about a world that we create through "politics." As the title of this daily blog asserts: "We Live In A Political World." While we are individuals, we are inevitably a community, too. We need to debate and discuss what to do. We need to celebrate the conflict and contention that reflect the fact that we have different ideas of what we should, in the end, decide to do (together).
The overall process by which we decide what we need to do, together, is called "government," and in the United States, our process is called "self-government," a process in which we all know that we can be, and need to be, involved. That is how we govern ourselves and create the human world we want. And, of course, we can change our minds, because in our human world, the "Political World" that we most immediately inhabit, anything is possible. We can decide what to do. Should everyone have health care? Should public lands be opened up for oil development? In the human world, everything is possible, and noting is either "necessary" or "inevitable." We debate, and then we decide. Here is the "formula" that describes this process. After the debate, there is a decision. We make a "law," a prescription that tells us what we think we ought to do. That is how we govern our human world:
(2) - https://knowledgeworkx.com/articles/three-colors-of-worldview