We now reach the third part of our panorama of human dimensions: the Biological Dimensions . Each dimension is introduced, related to existing scientific disciplines and portrayed by potential questions it may entail to properly assess and address the situation at hand.
Nothing has more of an impact on all aspects of our life than our personal organism. Our genes, body and brain are the very origin of any endeavour we engage in, any state we experience, any vision we have. So having a fully external point of view on how these function and influence us on a daily basis is an impossible task, as our organism underlies our very ability to form any point of view. In a world where it can be customary to make the individual account personally for their successes and failures, it is necessary to understand the states and processes within the individual that unfold regardless of what they want or do, and see how they can accept and accommodate them. But our organism is not just a restrictive and hindering shell, it is also a formidable machinery that is filled with energy and potential to adapt and evolve if we care for it properly.
Genetic refers to the genome of the individual and the traits and characteristics that proceed from it. Genes not only define the entire biological composition of the individual prior to their birth, but it also influences how this individual will come to grow physically and mentally. To delimitate the extent of such influence is no easy task, and takes us into a Nature Vs Nurture type of debate which cannot be fully solved. However we do know that some physical properties like skin, eye, or hair colour, specific metabolic illnesses or handicaps, can be directly attributed to genes, while in other cases, genes may either hinder or favour the development of specific biological processes through the body as it grows or as it comes into contact with specific environmental triggers. This perspective is best explored by evolutionary biology, genetics and biochemistry.
What are the most salient physical traits of the individual that directly originate from their genetic code? How aware is the individual of such genetic origin?
How may the genetic make of the individual react to specific environmental triggers? What would be the consequences ?
How does the individual perceive and react to the effective and potential biological processes and states of genetic origin? How can they accept them and adapt to them?
Physical refers to the functioning of the individual’s body. The body is a major part of what and who the individual is. Some say that the individual “has” a body, others argue that the individual “is” a body. Either way it defines not only how the individual perceives and defines themselves, but also how they perceive and act upon the world. The body is the first and foremost mean of interaction with the outside world and so the individual’s impact upon it depends on height, muscle tone, metabolic processes, immune responses, the list is pretty much endless. Furthermore, as the individual learns to use the full potential of their body, they also learn about its limitations, and this understanding of limitations shapes their very perception of reality. For reality is shaped according to how the individual can act upon it, and so differences in bodies mean differences in perceptions. This point is vital as it shows that a greater body diversity implies a greater perspective diversity and thus, a better informed perception. Moreover, the body is an ever-changing organism, and so not only must the individual deal with how they body function, but also with how this functioning evolves through time. This perspective is best explored by Physiology, Medecine, ergonomics, and Health Psychology.
How does the individual perceive their body in regards to their identity and their power? Is it seen as a driver, or as a hindrance?
How does the individual adapt themselves to the unique characteristics of their body? How does this adaptation affect the way they perceive other bodies?
How does the individual understand the evolution of their body through time? Do they accept it or do they deny it?
Neurological refers to the functioning of the individual’s brain and neurons. Thinking, feeling, perceiving : these processes happen because of the brain. As such, the structure of the neurone network that makes this brain underlies all aspects of thought, feeling and perception unfolding within the individual. That does not mean that understanding the brain suffices to understand these essential processes, but it definitely is necessary. As with genetics, neuronal structure may in some case decide directly how psychological processes unfolds, and in others it may favour or hinder their occurrence depending on external triggers. This matter is very delicate as it leads the individual to reflect on what depends on their own personal intimate volition and what depends on their brain structure and neurochemical dynamics. Similarly, it leads them to think about how their perception of the world, despite its excellent accuracy, is actually flawed and incomplete. Just like the body, the brain and the neurons are ever-changing and evolving, and this plasticity may allow the brain to modify its structure to compensate for potential shortcomings or alterations. This perspective is best neurology, neuropsychology, and cognitive sciences.
How does the neuronal structure and neurochemical processes of the individual influence the way they think, perceive and experience emotions and feelings?
How does the individual perceive the influence that their brain has on their vision, their intention and their action? How dependent or independent from it do they feel?
How does the brain of the individual evolve over time? How does it adapt to the potential impact of external life events? Is the individual aware of such structural changes?
Understanding the biological part of our functioning is key to understanding at any point in time where the limits are and where the potential is. Furthermore, this understanding enables us to see how these limits and potential may change through time. And unlike socio-cultural groups or historical predispositions, we cannot just get away from our body and brain to have a moment of reflection in hindsight. They are part of us and we are part of them at all time, so we better get to know each other.
Next are coming the Internal Dimensions.