ON THE NATURE OF REALITY: A Theory of Everything There Is

Conceiving Reality: Wholistic Existential Anthropology by Harris W. Stern, Ph.D.

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Triads: Painting by Harris W. Stern, Ph.D. , 2011


Look at the following list of questions:

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I believe that a careful consideration and thinking about these questions, each and all, and what they “mean” in the broadest sense that we can conceive of the term meaning, will inevitably lead us to another question:

What is the nature of reality?

I also believe that the extancy (1) of the questions, the fact that Human beings can and do ask them, also reveals something about the “nature of reality” and what it means to ask that question as well as how it might be answered. In a certain sense, Human question-asking (and Human language, generally) “co-creates” “reality”.

I also believe that that another important aspect of “reality” that is “revealed” in considering the above list relates to the ”fact” that these questions and the “form” in which they are asked, are limited in “time” and in “space” to some Human Beings and not others. That is, the form and the content of the question and “the nature of reality” implied in their use will vary with the language and culture and historical era of the person asking the question. A group of humans living with preindustrial culture on a remote island or far north on the planet will probably not ask the question “who will win the World Series?” Perhaps these humans will not ask the question “What is this rock made of?”; they may have a creation “myth” or other story narrative , repeatable by most adults in the group, which tells where rocks came from and implies something about what they are thought to be made of. Most modern scientists probably will not ask “Why is the sea angry?” These variations in questions asked suggest something about the variation in the “meaning” of the “nature of reality”.

Human Beings who began calling themselves philosophers (lovers of wisdom) in Greece were asking explicit questions about the “nature of reality” and providing answers to the question over 2000 years ago. It appears that a Human Being named Lao Tzu asked the same question and provided a set of answers in China also 2000 years ago. Meanwhile philosophers and others have gone on asking and providing answers to the question through the ensuing centuries and up until the present day.

Along the way many “philosophical” problems have emerged in thinking about and defining the “nature of reality”. Many of the problems have been recurrent as a source of disagreement among people who are explicitly interested in exploring “reality”. There is the “mind/body problem”, the relationship between language, thought and “reality”, a clash between an exclusively “materialistic” view of “reality” and a purely “spiritual” or otherwise “non-material” conception of “reality”. There are issues related to solipsism, dualism, reductionism, and reification.

Rather than review the historical record of philosophical inquiry into the “nature of reality”, which I am not competent to do in any comprehensive fashion, I will offer here a theoretical structure, which is created to offer a particular way to explore the meaning of the question “What is the nature of reality?” My theorizing will attempt to create a structure which does address what I do know of the historical problems and dilemmas and even paradoxes in the philosophical effort to define the “nature of reality” In other writing I will attempt to show the power of the theory to address many of those issues in an explicit way. I am confident that the theory which I call Wholistic Existential Anthropology represents a unique perspective from which to create and discover new ways to move ahead in the Human journey toward increased knowledge and wisdom.


I am proposing that “reality” be thought of as an abstract, ideational, intellectual theoretical structure that is triadic, systemic, interactive, dynamic and wholistic. I call this theory, Wholistic Existential Anthropology.

A diagrammatic representation of the theory appears on the next page.

“Reality” is represented by the large circle and is understood to include “everything” there “is”.

The three smaller circles represent three “worlds of reality” as conceived within the theory. Each “world” is conceived to have a different “constituent”. Within “Physical World” of “reality”, the “constituent” is being called “MATTER/ENERGY””. Within “Phenomenological World” the “constituent” is called “MINDING” — further specified as “Human Experience”. Within “Theoretical World” the “constituent” is called “MEANING” which is further elaborated by the concept of “IDEALS”.

Each “world of reality” has a unique process for studying that “world” and for discussions of validity and “truth” within that “world”. These processes of study are indicated by the three rectangles labeled “Physical Science”, “Wholistic Existential Psychology” and “Intellectual Science”.


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Diagramatic Representation of “Reality” as a Systemic Dynamic IntegratedTriadic Whole: Wholistic Existential Anthropology

………………… Copyrighted by Harris W Stern, Ph.D., 2018………………..

Each “world of reality” has categories of differentiation within that “world” — for example “Microcosm”, “Macrocosm”, “Biocosm” and “Artifacts” — which can be thought of as categories of organized MATTER/ENERGY within “Physical World”. The categories of differentiation in “Phenomenological World” are “Thinking”, “Feeling” and “Willing” and these can be thought of as functions within MINDING. The categories of differentiation within “Theoretical World” include Myth/religion; Science; Arts/Humanities; and Law which are aspects of Culture within MEANING. All of these distinctions are “theoretical/intellectual” (ideational) and are proposed as potentially useful ways of conceiving the theoretical structure of “reality”. It is easy to see that there are subcategories which already considered to be extant within many of the proposed categories — for example, “philosophy” and “history” within Humanities.

I offer the following six propositions as a further specification of the way of conceiving “reality” within the “theory” of Wholistic Existential Anthropology.

1. Proposition One: Within this “theory” the term “Reality” is an “idea” that represents the systemic, articulated, differentiated, dynamic, integrated, gestalt that is everything.

2. Proposition Two: Within the theory it is conceptualized that three “worlds of reality” are all “real” and equally “real”.

3. Proposition Three: Within the theory the three “worlds of reality” are to be thought of as differentiated from one another, as well as embedded within the same, unified, dynamic, interactive whole.

4. Proposition Four: This triadic way of conceiving “reality” includes the “idea” that our way of studying, defining finding and demonstrating “validity” (or TRUTH) will be different as we “think” about each of three “worlds of reality”.

5. Proposition Five: This triadic, systemic (wholistic) way of “conceiving” or “theorizing” “reality” also includes the specification that each “world of reality” can only be “understood” by including concepts that show how each “world” contributes to and is essential to the understanding of the other two “worlds” and what is “meant” by “reality” as a whole. All aspects of the theory can be thought of as “co-creative” of one another.

6. Proposition Six: This “systemic” (“wholistic”) way of “conceiving” “reality” also includes the “concept” of HEALTH which is proposed to pertain to “all of reality as a whole” and to the relationships among all of the aspects of “reality” which are conceived. The “concept” of “HEALTH” is further specified as a “principle” to be called “BALANCE” which operates within a framework of “Stability” and “Change”.

Wholistic Existential Anthropology is being conceived as a “theory” and within my “conceiving” and “understanding” it is extant and “real” in “Theoretical World”. Also, according to my “conceiving” and “understanding” (consonant with the thinking of many others), “theories” are never absolute or ultimate “TRUTH” (see remarks in the concluding section immediately following).

Concluding Remarks

We can react to or make judgments about any theory including the theory labelled Wholistic Existential Anthropology based on whether we find it interesting or boring, useful or unappliable, understandable or confusing, coherent or inconsistent, logical or self-contradictory, beautiful or ugly, pleasing or distasteful, novel or trite. We might think of all of these dimensions and others as related to the worthiness of the theory — worthwhile to be written. Theories, by definition, are subject to exploration, testing, reformulation, modification, replacement, refutation, or abandonment.

Since I am proposing Wholistic Existential Anthropology as a “theory of everything”, I will address these and many other issues in future essays. Although I think that the theory is worth proposing and worthy of consideration by others as being worthwhile, I am not proposing that this theory is the only one that is worthy as an answer to the question “what is the nature of reality”. Just as an example, I am open to the possibility that a theory that conceives of “reality” as quaternal instead of triadic might be worthy. I will be doing my best to demonstrate that Wholistic Existential Anthropology is worthwhile.

Although questions about “reality” and any theory which is formulated to try to answer such questions are, as suggested above, ”philosophical”, “intellectual” and “abstract”, it is my understanding that some of the responsibility for current very practical, every day, “concrete”, problems in Human life grows out of limitations in how the “nature of reality” is conceived — by intellectuals and philosophers as well as by Human politicians and government officials, by business and religious leaders as well as ordinary people. In addition, I have a strongly held opinion that progress in the fields of “theoretical science” — physics, chemistry and biology — as well in the “applied physical sciences” -engineering and technology- and in the “non-physical applied sciences” of education, clinical psychology, economics, medicine and others, is being limited by the way in which thinkers in these fields “understand” or formulate the “nature of reality”.

“A Table is Real“; “Sadness is just as Real”; “Fairness is equally Real”

Black Holes are Real”; “Human Willing is equally Real”; “History is as Real as a Table is Real”


Footnote 1. The terms “extant” and “extancy” will be used in this and other essays when the terms “existence” and “being” might be more usual. Those terms “Existence” and “Being will be used only in relation to Human Beings.



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A non-technical philosopher and a practicing licensed psychologist/psychotherapist. I have a developing theory which I call Wholistic Existential Anthropology.

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