Application V: Health

How do we read ourselves? (Heeding “Know thyself”)

Five outstanding features of the human body (and of many other species as well) are its shape, its facing (forward, so to speak) of minding and moving capacities, the various “bi-” capacities for minding and moving, the involve x grasp capacities of mouth, hands and feet, and the adjacency of eyes to mouth. In humans a sixth outstanding feature is the triune brain, what appears to be an evolutionary growth in brain capacity from what was initially primarily a sensory capacity and is now further extended in operating capacity and verbal capacity.

All these features tell a similar story: Functioning – i.e., behavior – had a lot to do with the emergence of these bodily features. Slowly, over time, evolution (we say) produced these functional features. Not all the same bodily manifestations, but functionally similar. (The calcite eyes of the trilobite remind us that needed functionality calls for something, but not anything in particular.)

We, ourselves, did not have to work out the needed functionality for these body features to emerge. We waited a long time, however, for evolution to come through. And not all evolved capacities are optimum – nor are they equally distributed among humans (nor, obviously, across species).

The step has become even more consequential in the most recent millennia. That’s progress (increased functionality) of a sort, though some of the consequences belie progress as a judgment. Solving situational problems (: Psit) has produced that advance: ad hoc, without the benefit of a developed behavioral science, much like the early days of medicine. But many problems remain unsolved (: Sp, S-P, Ps, and P), in large part because we have not met the behavioral problem (: Pbeh) to develop the capabilities needed to complement (and extend) our capacities.

If we are to improve ourselves in step as well as body then we are going to have to work out the needed functionality, and then do something about our step making and taking. (Setting aside the android possibility, where another ["improved"?] kind of body might emerge. That possibility, as currently pursued, seems to depend more on a science of the artificial than on sciences of the possible – i.e., communication and cognition.)

Working out the needed functionality is, of course, what BFPS is trying to do, by identifying the general, persisting conditions of the Nature of Things and by specifying the behavioral imperatives and requisites (Topics VI to XI) which thereby follow as behavioral necessity – i.e., needed functionality– for behavioral entities given the Nature of Things.

How does this matter to health? In very obvious ways: People injure (by words and deeds) and kill each other. They kill themselves (e.g., obesity, smoking, environmental despoliation or some other suicidal means). Steps impact bodies as part of the dynamic relationship of bodies and steps (See : bodies impact steps too – as death reminds us).

Step making and taking are now abundant, but not proficient. We attend far more to the (minor) oughts of law and custom than to the (major) oughts of the Nature of Things. Statutes, manners, deportment and taboos constitute a negative theory of behavior. We also need a complementary positive theory, one which aids capability development, which helps us before the fact with what to do and not just with what not to do in and with our steps.

Figuratively speaking, we can design “death systems” and “life systems” in the service of better health. Constraints on behavior, such as statutes et al, provide one kind of protection against hard (i.e., injurious) collisions. Constraints on potentially injurious physical circumstances (e.g., highway dividers) provide another. So do physiological cures and repairs. Prevention too speaks to the aim of death systems, although its call for better step taking has not been answered all that well.

Death systems deal with body and step dysfunction. For all the help that may be rendered, their persistence owes something to the profit they show suppliers – who may respond to need with what they have to offer rather than with all that is needed. Perhaps even more critically, they deal with particulars, to the neglect of Everything’s qualities (: general persisting conditions and their implications for behavioral entities).

Our development of life systems has not progressed as well. We understand that strength confers something of an immunity. But our strength is more of body than step. (And in that respect we have a definite preference for power over strength.) If developed strength in step making and taking is to succeed along with prevention and cure as health care stratagems, then we have to bring the step totally into the picture, as an individual and community investment, equally with the body. We need cultivation of step strength as a strategy to go along with cure and prevention.

(And, as noted earlier [in Helping, App. I], we can expect cure and prevention to falter for lack of behavioral strength in doctor and patient. Their communication accidents and failures are epidemic.)


We have public health problems and we have personal health problems. What can we say, based on BFPS, about each?

Public health improved tremendously with sanitation. The damages from body wastes have been subdued – impressively, albeit partially. But what of step wastes (I: Ps, as in pollution)? What too about the kinds of thinking (: S-P; ) that contribute to murder, mayhem and madness?

Two kinds of solution suggest themselves: the Cow solution and the Catalyst solution.

The cow’s three stomachs digest so much better than other species that its wastes are less offensive (as a visit to the various animal pavilions at a state fair will demonstrate for the non-farmer) and are prized for fertilizer. The human step-editing function has not enjoyed such digestive distinction.

We have partisanship re issues (i.e., limited alternatives) instead of a focus on problems. We have criticism without analysis. We have false dichotomies (i.e., incomplete analyses, such as “genetics vs. environment”). We have tangential notions, such as “the underlying order of things.” We have an infinitely expanding cyberspace occupied by many unchallenged assertions. We have a failing journalism enterprise whose editing efforts have been dissipated by business interests, whose objectivity has succumbed to balancing of partisan comment (over fairness: i.e., accuracy and completeness) of report.

There is occupation to be had, to be sure, for more editors – if we would have them. But will we pay for them? And censorship is a risk. And how much, actually, have editors accomplished so far, thinking as they do? More and better editing is pretty much a death system approach.

A catalyst comes upon a scene of inaction or clouded action and transforms it. This is what a Nature of Things (as contrasted, say, with an order of things) perspective could do. With consequentiality in play, given the opportunity for us to make a difference – up to, and including, our own survival as a species, how important then is the question of body source (Creationism vs. evolution)? Isn’t there a problem here that we may be ceding responsibility, for lack of capability, this at the cost of opportunity – when, given the Nature of Things, our primary responsibility is to develop our capability (: Pbeh)?

A Nature of Things (BFPS) perspective might bring about what even an infinite number of editors could not. It could infuse life where there is not now life. And it would do it for individuals and community — and for their interdependent productivity.


Personal health desperately needs further cultivation of step strength. “All that it takes” applies to self-realization, to the behavioral problem (: Pbeh). And ATIT emphasizes agency capability in making and taking steps. Weakness there savages more lives than any other affliction. Support and help may be forthcoming – sometimes at a high price – and may mitigate some of the consequences. But the lost chance, for lack of early and continuing development of capability, is devastating.

Constructive capability confers a kind of immunity against many assaults on the individual, not just because of a practiced indifference to them, but because of a preparedness to formulate a response to them. Better that than the frustration, anger and naked aggressiveness (or perhaps even a surrendering withdrawal) of the unprepared.

The principles of BFPS offer peace to the troubled mind. (See : angst; also note that anxiety and apprehension may attend the inability of many to calculate and repair CN-CC, succumbing to a paralyzing CN/CC>1.) We are not then handicapped by an endless, fruitless search for the ONE in which (or in whom) to believe. Or even for relief from uncertainty, for uncertainty can be an optional affliction (yes, pun intended), an artifact of subscribing to decision making rather than problem solving as a personal coping metastrategy. The Nature of Things offers persisting consequentiality and partial order. It offers possibility. And if one develops needed capability (Topics V to XI), it offers more and more opportunity to be constructive – to fully realize one’s self.

Truly a life system: Constructive makes it positive, productive of better selves as well as better products. Principled makes it plausible. (Given partial order, principles applicable before the fact are at a premium.) Developed capability makes it possible.

For the economy and polity of the community, for the employment and engagement of the individual, a new, expanded sense of manufacturing might emerge: building communities and individuals and helping them in their constructive efforts. Tool production has been impressive, though often with dysfunctional consequences (e.g., deadly “accidents”). Procedure production has not been (e.g., representative government). (As presently conceived, an “information society” and/or a services economy will fall short of needed productivity.)

(ATIT also has a contribution to make to death system purveyors. Minimally, it can expand awareness of functional difficulties, for patient as well as for therapist or other helper. For instance, it distinguishes help from support. [They are often confused. "Care" can be ambiguous.] Support is typically needed, but the specialized provider may not offer it. However, this should not prevent the provider from asking about its availability and provision – demonstrating supportive care. [Think of ATIT as a helper’s checklist. See App. I.])


What about the dynamic relationship of body and step? Our conduct with respect to health is out of balance – just as it is with education (App. IV). Bodies command more attention and resources than steps (: B/S > l).

There is a tendency to limit functional analysis to existing behaviors of existing bodies. Indeed, we often define a body by its characteristic behaviors. That may work for bodies as they were and/or are, but it fails for bodies as they might be – and, especially, what they need and ought to be. (Thus are behavioral contributions from physiological studies limited.) It also violates the independence of body and step by setting them equivalent to each other.

The interdependency relationship of body and step yields four foci of concern, for therapy, prevention and/or development; they are: body; step; step => body; and, body => step. These distinctions are an important starting point, because step making and taking figure in three areas, yet there is no commensurate behavioral science underlying them to match the science underlying the body concerns.

Thus for instance, we might usefully distinguish three types of behavioral dysfunction, those involving the body => step relationship (e.g., structural deficiencies, chemical imbalances), the step => body relationship (e.g., smoking, drinking, eating), and the step itself as a relationship of relatings (e.g., accidents – especially those mischaracterized and treated as failures).

Formal therapy or informal helping may concentrate on one or another of these foci, treating them in a death system perspective. But the step and the step-body relationships are not just a matter of steps already made or taken. It is a matter of making and taking steps, of living more fully and responsibly in this World of Possibility.. For which the art and science of behavior, properly understood and applied in the community’s educational investment, are critical to our public and personal health.

(c) 2010 R. F. Carter