Walter Truett Anderson's photo

Walter Truett Anderson

      . . . is a political scientist, a fellow of the Meridian Institute, and President of the American division of the World Academy of Art and Science. He writes regularly for the Pacific News Service. Dr. Anderson‚s books include Reality Isn‚t What it Used to Be, To Govern Evolution, The Future of the Self and The Truth about the Truth. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.




     Who are We Next?


Everyday people are experiencing a new reality. The fancy word is "post-modern." Whatever you call it, you'll find the new condition in the stories we are all living. This changing reality is part of a vast evolutionary change through which the human species is going, according political scientist Walter Truett Anderson. He draws from work being done from philosophy to linguistics to brain research.

      Dr. Anderson has been thinking about these things in public for over thirty years. He is a fellow of the future-focused Meridian Institute and the current president of the American division of the World Academy of Art and Science. He works internationally helping people use scenario planning to influence their futures and writes a column for the Pacific News Service. The titles of some of his many books are telling: The Truth about The Truth: De-confusion and Re-constructing the Postmodern World and The Future of the Self: Exploring the Post-Identity Society.

      Language is central the kind of animal we are, says Dr. Anderson. Our linguist reality shapes today's post-modern era the way it has shaped our entire species. The result is that philosophy is now everybody's work. Our globalized, multicultural, information society holds belief systems as varied as people's rules for reality, proof and truth. It leaves us all struggling with deep philosophical issues like "meaning" and "identity."

      It's time, Dr. Anderson believes, that we change our stories from the rigid one-dimensional tales about the self that start with "I am..." -- a story that too often ends in wars or genocide. Begin by thinking differently about the verb "to be." We are now all many things, he reminds us, as witnessed in the stories we absorb from the sports page, the Internet, the television and the theater, the school yard, the back yard, the board room and the coffee house. These stories are not about life, they ARE life. And they are no longer one-dimensional

      This experience is not as foreign as it may sound. Women, according to Dr. Anderson, are a kind of vanguard for postmodernity. Circumstance (if not biology) have positioned women to adopt a variety of roles, to adapt and bend to circumstances, to live along side perspectives they may or may not share.

      Our evolution is far from over, declares Dr. Anderson. We humans are going through an evolutionary knot-hole. Western philosophy's recent "linguistic turn" and recent discoveries by brain researchers are beginning help us come to terms with evolutionary ideas the Buddhists have been struggling with for 2,500 years. Enlightened consciousness is not something strange and inaccessible. It's right there in front of you. It's the way our brains work -- on many levels with widely different responses to a wealth of inputs.

      Look closely at what is going on in your own life and you will be looking at the post-modern era. Some people find the flowering of differences frightening, others find it liberating. That is a choice we all make. It's a choice which will affect our species' evolution.


Conversation 1

Walter Truett Anderson gives Paula Gordon and Bill Russell a glimpse of how big the biological and cultural evolutionary changes have been and continue to be for humans. He offers examples of how the whole evolutionary ballgame has changed, starting with language, continuing through agriculture into the present day, as humans change our own evolutionary paths and those of other living systems. He tells why he is confident we are about to be able to figure out what is really going on.


Conversation 2

Only time will tell if humans can handle the monumental changes we face, says Dr. Anderson, confident in our capabilities. He describes what happened when philosophy took "the linguistic turn," wrestling with how central language is to our very existence. He stresses the importance of grasping how thoroughly we live within language, how it shapes the kind of animal that we are. He sensitizes us to the verb "to be." That launches a consideration of the the idea that there is no permanent ãself.ä Dr. Anderson relates this idea to our everyday lives and calls us all to learn to wrestle with big ideas in public. He gives a glimpse of the multitude of ways ãphilosophyä impacts everyone, daily. He connects todayâs deep changes to linguistic issues. He shows how regular folks are unknowingly learning post-modern skills as we wrestle with big philosophical concepts like meaning and identity.


Conversation 3

Dr. Anderson suggests why the conditions of "post-modernity" matter -- a globalized, multicultural, information society in which rules of reality and proof and truth are less and less clear or consistent, where totally different belief systems live cheek by jowl. He describes a variety of ways people deal with this changed and changing condition. He gives a wide range of examples of the differences between the by-gone modern era (when there was conflict between belief systems) and today‚s post-modernity (when there is conflict within belief systems). He tells why he picks "about 1967" as the beginning of the post-modern era.


Conversation 4

Walt Anderson suggests that women are a vanguard of the post-modern era and tells why. He intersperses pragmatic examples with the ethical and moral assumptions on which they are based. He shows how stories dramatically demonstrate issues around identity. He explains how the original "Enlightenment experiment" failed to acknowledge how complex, multi-dimensional and multi-layered brain researchers are discovering the "rational thought" process is -- a chorus of voices rather than a right answer. He gives examples of how this way of thinking both frightens and empowers individuals.


Conversation 5

Language and the human brain seem to work in stories, Dr. Anderson observes, using examples. He points out that stories are not about life, they ARE life, they are what we are. He carries that idea into scenario planning, which he assures us anyone can do. He explains and applies the use of scenarios to business, public policy and technology. He cites evolutionary biologists who believe when human beings developed the capacity for speech, then writing, they opened a new path of evolutionary development. He shows how genetic evolution changed cultural evolution which now is looping back and changing the course of biologic evolution. He gives everyday examples, all the result of information. He makes a connection between telling stories in the course of the scenario process and in some kinds of psychotherapy.


Conversation 6

"Enlightenment" has at least three different meanings, each of which Dr. Anderson expands upon. He shows how important the changing idea of ãselfä is. He observes how these evolving ideas affect our entire species, giving us ways to develop the kind of language and acceptable context within which we can wrestle with the evolutionary knot-hole through which we are challenged to go.



In addition to having an e-mail address that goes all the way back to „The Well,š Walt Anderson is extraordinary as a gentleman as well as scholar. When we approached him to join us in conversation, he was open and curious. He accommodated our unruly travel plans and then was flexible with all kinds of changes. A man open to surprise, we found Walt Anderson to be an exemplar of the Postmodern Man. We thank him on all counts.

Related Links:

Walt Anderson's many books include The Truth About the Truth: De-confusing and Re-constructing the Postmodern World and The Future of the Self: Inventing the Postmodern Person/Exploring the Post-Identity Society . Both are published by , a Member of Penguin Putnam, Inc. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam


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