To the reader:

The aim of Who Are We? is to stimulate your thoughts about what it means to be an effectively participating citizen. That requires thinking about controversial subjects: politics, religion, ethics, law, and interactions among people.

Growing up is complicated; while you're doing it, it is hard to guess what information you'll need to master in order to be able to make good life choices. Schools try to provide help; so do religions and some other kinds of organizations. This book intends to contribute in its own way.

That "way" is to start with a simple question about being alive in the world (and so about how to deal with that fact), then to suggest a simple first try at an answer. The question-reply combination leads to one or more follow-up questions and suggested replies, and so on. The suggested replies are kept as simple as I have been able to make them, but the goal is not itself simple, so the replies cannot be truly simple. If they seem to become too complicated, put the book aside for a while and think about the question on your own.

Since life involves dealing with a continuing network of such questions and tentative answers, the book is brief and concludes after trying to establish a "small starting place to stand."

The particular path of questions here reflects some of my own sense of the world. Any given question-reply might suggest questions to you that differ from the ones I present. If so, that's good, and you'll want to see how far you can go in constructing your own questions and replies; then come back to the book and pick up where you were. That experience should be much richer for you than just reading what's here. I hope you will come back, because I think there are important questions you might miss (at least temporarily) if you don't.

After the main development of the book, I have included some suggested follow-up questions to help you go farther. Don't let the presence of these deflect you from independent thought, either along the way or when you've finished the main part. If and when you are interested in them, though, you can jump to them by using the button that follows each section. It looks like this (but this one doesn't take you anywhere!):

Who Are We? is very short, but the ideas range rather widely, something I found unavoidable. In particular, the questions about different kinds of life work should help you gain perspective on how we collectively organize our thoughts about life.

The tone may seem too simple at the outset (and the suggested answers perhaps too obvious); I wanted to start gently and yet to be as complete and self-contained as I could manage. I urge your patience.

Here is a sketched overview of the topics:

I begin by viewing a person singly in biological context; then as a resident of Earth; then as interacting with others; then as belonging to social groups and coming to need rules for interaction; then as devising special rules pertaining to formal rule-making (law-making); then as thinking about what constitutes a coherent life; then as organizing what we know and as taking on some kind of gainful occupation; finally, (but really all along) as accepting adult responsibility for what we have achieved (or haven't) and what we hope to achieve.

A glance at the Contents page should now make clear both the line of development and the brevity of the suggested responses (at least, the latter claim is true in the edition that has numbered pages!).

An Appendix considers how the fact that humans reproduce sexually relates to some other aspects of citizenship. It is separate in case any reader prefers for any reason not to get this kind of information from a source such as this one. I have no special professional qualifications in this area, but I have tried to write responsibly.

Robert E. Reynolds
Portland, OR
October 2007
© 2007 Robert E. Reynolds