From the concept of experience to its evolving structure and its impact on human culture
Experience is the way we get in touch with reality. In other words, the concept of experience is conscious participation. There are many varieties of participation: through the senses, via the imagination, through self-awareness, thinking, meditation, etc. Thus, experience is a domain with multiple dimensions. That is to say, the domain of experience is like a forest with many different kinds of trees.
Eventually, I discovered that humankind did not master all these dimensions from the beginning. Rather, they have only evolved step by step over time. Therefore, I wanted to know how the structure of experience has changed from deep history to the present day.
The 9 experiential turns
Ultimately, I found a total of nine experiential turns. The first three turns took place in Deep History: the transition from unconscious information processing to conscious perception, the unfolding of conscious imagination, and the discovery of a sense of order. Three more dimensions emerged during the Bronze Age and Antiquity: self-reflection, the Inner Eye of Reason, and a distinct approach to spiritual experience. Three more turns came about at the time of the Renaissance and modernity, adding creative imagination, consciousness, and the unconscious to the list of experiential dimensions.
The forest of experience has been growing for thousands of years. So the ”History of Experience” is a study in the tribal history of human experience, its gradual growth, and its impact on human culture.
Impact on Human Culture
These nine experiential turns affect all areas of human existence: the course of individual lives and of human history in general, the dynamics of culture as well as the evolution of political order. For example, it was only the conscious use of a vivid imagination that allowed humans to create art since the Upper Paleolithic. And from the conscious, creative imagination and the subsequent training of creativity came the continuous growth of innovation that is so characteristic of the culture of modernity.
I first began dealing with the History of Experience while working on my dissertation on Francis Hutcheson and in my later works on the concept of experience.
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