Underdog in the Transcendence Quarrel

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Posting 138, word count: 560.

In the year 1277 the Bishop of Paris published a condemnation of 219 propositions being taught in philosophy classes at the University of Paris faculty of arts. In that condemnation the arts masters “are specifically proscribed from asserting “that there is no more excellent state than the study of philosophy”…” *. Apparently the Bishop and his intelligence analysts recognized this proposition as an existential threat.

It may not appear so at first glance, but the proposition “that there is no more excellent state than the study of philosophy” was and is incendiary for mainstream ideology. It denies the primacy of property possession, for example, along with the validity of the rights, trophies, and glamour of the strongest. It also asserts the underdog side in an ancient quarrel that was crucial for any Christian Bishop.

From ancient times there has been an ongoing quarrel over transcendence. On one side is the idea of an external sovereign transcendence to be feared and placated, a cosmic teleological force who chooses local agents to impose the universal pattern of sovereign dominance and hierarchy. On the other side of this quarrel is the idea that the only real transcendence is in each and every individual’s teleological processes simply as such. A case can be made that the transition from religion to philosophy is the movement from the first to the second. The mental movement that is philosophical thinking reaches a eureka! of self-recognition as a thinking being, as ideality, with a very special sort of absolute self-sufficiency in thinking. Martin Luther is an example of someone with a clear sense of absolute autonomy as a thinking being (in spite of his belief that the specifics of divine predestination cannot be known). For philosophy to be possible it is necessary for an individual to evade the default enculturation of a personal value-identity assigned by an ambient hive mind, and the norms of social pragmatism based on trust of authority, a superego, sovereignty. The act of philosophical self-recognition is always an individual’s questioning, searching on a principle of relevance intrinsic to a sense of wonder. The philosophical answer is the questioning itself: self-recognition as the sort of being who questions spontaneously, a fountain of original ideality. The way of being of personality is fundamental because that way of being selects and shapes any possible experience.

Thinking, Waking, Self-Possession

Fichte asked: How can an act of thinking wake you from pragmatic getting along to the discovery of yourself as ideality, a creative subject rather than an object? ** A related question is this: Is there some specific thinking that can reliably bring a person to self-consciousness as creative teleological ideality, or is it always just luck or an accident?

Having to make an effort to think about thinking means that pre-philosophical thinking activity is often performed un-self-consciously. To think about thinking is to direct a certain unsatisfied curiosity at curiosity itself. It is to question both questioning and intuitions of what is relevant at a certain moment, and to consider the spiritual condition of readiness-to-recognize something new, how something is learned, to wonder about acts of changing the sensed framework of orientation by which effort is exerted teleologically in a chosen direction. It is to wonder at the teleological structure of the sense of the passing of time.

Notes:

* The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization, written by Jonathan Lyons, Published by Bloomsbury Press (2009), ISBN: 978-1596914599. (p. 195).

** Romanticism, A German Affair, written by Rudiger Safranski, translated from German by Robert E. Goodwin, published by Northwestern University Press (2014), ISBN 978-0-8101-2653-4. (p. 42).

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

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Did Science Make Philosophy Obsolete?

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Posting 137, Word Count: 501.

Before the scientific Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the world as a whole was perceived universally as personified, as a living Being. As such, intelligent teleology was thought to be the innermost reality of everything, of existence. That is religion, near enough. Remarkably, the eventful objective world was thought to be never-truly-real, a fleeting, deceptive, dreamlike, and unknowable shimmer, where everything soon becomes something else, always on the point of being different. Time itself was thought to be the genius of failure-to-be-real, and reality, properly identified, was conceived as eternal sameness, the One of Parmenides, a living, conscious, willing, and ideal, sameness. Metaphysics was the effort to identify features of that living ideality which could never change, subsisting without time, and so the stuff of absolute knowledge. In that effort, the transcendence of living intelligence, of personality, was conceived, for example, as logos, a rigidly structured willing that was eternally constant. However, such a removal of ideality from the eventful intervention of personality into actuality is a gross confusion and contradiction of ordinary experience. It completely misses the transcendence of ideality in its bearing toward newness, in the creative will to freedom in that intervention. Ideality is always experience for some personality, and personality is a kind of existence which must actively develop its identity by creating an oriented bearing into the non-actual next moment of embodied life in the world, a newness and incompleteness that can occur only as ideality, never something definite, always bearing into newness in the willing of freedom, and so within time as a technique of living existence. Since time requires some sort of presence of the non-actualities which are no-longer and not-yet, and the only presence other than actuality is ideality, and since ideality is always experience for some teleological personality, then time is a thing of personality and not of actuality.

Eternity is the world that doesn’t matter. Eternity is not transcendent or ultimate reality, and has no merit as the focus of metaphysics. The focus of metaphysics is transcendence, and the transcendent wonder is willful agency, teleology, which is ideality imposing novelty on nature by conceiving and imposing time. Since nature just falls, true becoming isn’t imposed on experience by material nature, but is imposed on material nature by personality in its willful agency.

Thinking of teleology in the narrow sense of goal-oriented movement, purposive action, or future-directed force, is too simple a representation of personality, the self-thinking idea. Of course, personality strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, which is the essence of creation and of teleology, but there is more. There is an effortful bearing into indefinite futurity within a broad learned and learning orientation involving both not-yet and no-longer, strict ideality making what sense we can of a largely indefinable situation, curious, caring, questioning. Personality is teleology, which must be ideality, the time-scape ideality of aspiration, expectation, intention, and desperate desire.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Human and Divine Personality

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Posting 136, Word Count: 923.

Positing the idea of divinity (even Platonic ideas) removes from the idea of humanity the transcendent power of creation, which properly belongs with the ideality of any personality because personality is teleology. Both of these ideas, divine and human, are unquestionably instances of personality since only personality strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, which is the essence of creation and of teleology. Teleology anticipates conditions and objects which do not exist except in some person’s ideation, but which might possibly be made to exist if a specific anticipated agency is exercised through an increasingly remote and improbable future. Human persons do this all the time and, supposedly, so did the divine personality. This teleology of creation is the crucial identifier of personality, expressed as curiosity, caring, questioning, learning, and expressive voice or agency, all teleological postures.

Positing the Grotesque Bifurcation of Personality

The conceptual removal from humans of the power of creation results in two monstrosities. First is an impoverished conception of ordinary embodied personality. What is left here is the conservative vision of human nature as a deficiency that craves acquisition, consumption, and competition, a hollow pit to be filled with property acquisition and competitions for trophies. That is a human nature in urgent need of control and sovereign supervision because its default mood is envy. On that view, inherent deficiencies drive a compulsive egoism that is such a flaw or taint that people deserve and require sovereign supervision to dampen the inevitable war of all against all; in practice to reshape it into ‘good’ wars against other sovereigns. Supposedly, any sovereign is better than none. The second monstrosity is an imaginary disembodied super-personality with exclusive and total creativity, fountain of all existence, who naturally picks favourites to impose the required sovereignty. Once the bleak egoism of this hollowed out humanity is structured into political institutions it becomes difficult to question, even when the idea of divinity weakens and fades into the cultural background. The political results of this vision are always dystopian.

Humanity

Contrary to the conservative and consensus view, the crucial thing about ‘human nature’ or personality at the level of the embodied individual is creative teleology, the spontaneous creation of freedom through the ideation of alternative ways into the future. Ideas, and only ideas, are not restricted to what is actually the case at any particular time, and ideas are always features of the developing orientation of a personality in the temporal flight of agency. Personality isn’t a hollow pit but a fountain of ideas. Ideas fountain from personality, and fountains of ideas benefit from a different kind of interconnectedness than that ordered by sovereignty! The being of subjectivity is ideality, which is to say, the sense of orientation in time in a particularly embodied life in the world. Subjective ideality is an existence, the particular flight of such a life. Time as teleology is the self-creation of a particular life-in-the-world, the effecting idea of a particular life, a spiritual being, a person. Realty as engaged by any personality has two fundamental constituents: actuality and ideality or ideas, and ideality, entirely a feature of individual personality, often overrides what may seem to be dictates of nature. Actuality cannot be only and entirely an idea, but teleological time is entirely ideas.

Politics as the Test of Reality

The existence of teleological ideality (personality) is what is crucial politically because its existence, as the means by which freedom is created, is completely de-centralized, active independently in the consciousness of each embodied person. Human ideality will always make efforts to express its fundamental nature which is individual creative freedom. We orient ourselves with ideas about nature and other personalities, interpretations of experience, concepts created in the context of the teleological need to create an open-ended and interconnected future-life. Individual subjectivity has an important degree of creative freedom to conceptualize and re-conceptualize the structures of the world, and to intervene in forming and altering those structures by exploiting the fundamental instability of actuality experienced as the passage of time. The conceptions of subjective ideality and their cultural expressions are tentative and mutable under the force of new experience, deliberation, and creativity.

In the scientific conceptual system “subjective” is a dismissive pejorative, missing the fact that all knowledge, all conception and perception of the objective world is an accomplishment of subjectivity, spirituality. Without the caring spirituality there is just a pointless drifting of nothing that matters. Knowledge is a condition of ideality, which is to say, a condition of personality, of subjective orientation and the bearing of its agency. Qualities of ideality contribute more to what knowledge is than does strict actuality, and that means that knowledge is inherently ephemeral. Knowledge claims, claims to know things, mean that certain patterns have been stable in personal frameworks of orientation, but conceptions of knowledge don’t define actuality in any absolute way. They define an idea of actuality. Politics especially is far more shaped by ideas and human ideality than by nature. So far, the idea of the bifurcation of personality into human and divine has supported forms of political organization that obstruct the efforts of people to express fundamental humanity which is individual creative freedom. Acknowledging the existence of ideality requires acknowledging each person as a spontaneous creator of freedom, a transcendence, and the need for a social and political arrangement which respects the expression of every individual instead of supporting systems of macro-parasitism such as investor-supremacist capitalism and war-hungry sovereignty.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Getting Past the Political Right-Wing

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Posting 135, Word Count: 585.

Given the mass military and industrial mobilization against Nazism and Fascism in the multinational war of 1939-45, it is bizarre and mystifying to witness the popular reemergence of those movements within the same Euro-American societies which previously mounted all-out resistance based on cultural influences from the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. It is a mistake to define the historical Enlightenment as mainly the development of science and mathematical rationality. It is more accurate to think of Enlightenment as a reconceptualization of the human individual as a profound autonomy, freedom, and dignity, based on a universal innate rationality of personality. The broad sense of rationality involved had more to do with a cultural trend of increasing literacy and the unlimited ability to learn which came with it than it did with mathematics. The post-war complacency of both the political donor class and the intellectual class of these societies is to blame for our ongoing vulnerability to the superior-beings clubs, violently exclusive racial, religious, and trophy-collecting supremacists, because those social classes had the opportunity and yet failed to advance political thinking beyond ideas from feudal Christendom: a bleak conception of human personality (as improved by authoritative supervision, and largely controllable by incentives and rewards, fear of violence, and emotionally triggering messages); a starkly contrasting idea of divine personality as judge and tester of men, the model of sovereignty as absolute ownership over the less powerful; nature as ordered and determined by the divine personality or by rigid regularities (iron laws of economics) with the same effect; earthly trophies interpreted as markers of standing in the divine order of merit; a resulting divine right of the strongest to impose sovereignty over the lives and property of the weaker; and the nation or sovereign state as the local representative of divine sovereignty, a personified collective in conflict with others for standing and wealth. This conservative ideology is always the gateway to varieties of Nazism and Fascism, to the violence of superior-beings clubs, patriarchal colonizers of individuals for the purpose of human-on-human macro-parasitism. Home-grown patriarchy is no better than a colonizing foreign patriarchy. This being the state of political thinking, the idea of a clash of civilizations is valueless because civilizations are all still patriarchal, imperialist. Clashing with one another is what they were made for and the ones that were altered to some extent by Enlightenment ideas soon stifled further advances. The Enlightenment conception of human nature was murdered in the crib by traditional patriarchal practices expressing the old conception of reality.

Remaining within or breaking free of that conservative metaphysics comes down to a conception of personality. If we find it absurd that personality takes two starkly different and unequal forms, human and divine, and find instead that it has ever only had the form we are familiar with in embodied persons, recognizing in the ideality of that form the effective transcendence of creative freedom which had been artificially alienated by the old mythical bifurcation, suddenly the conception of human personality is not bleak, and the whole foundation of conservatism evaporates. There is no judge or tester of men, no divine order of merit, no supernatural model of sovereignty, no divine pre-determination of anything, and no merited rights of the strongest. Realty as engaged by any personality has two fundamental constituents: the actuality of nature and ideality or ideas; and ideality, the special being of personality, often overrides what may seem to be dictates of nature.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

From a Hill in the Labyrinth of Ideas

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Posting 134, Word Count: 442

A profound cultural change, which came from the rise to dominance of the scientific way of conceiving things, was a shift in the general presence of the world to people, a shift from having intelligent consciousness (personality) as the crucial presence of the world to having inanimate, inertial, objective matter or nature as the crucial presence of the world. In feudal Christendom, personality was indisputably the crucial presence, but in two starkly different versions and placements, displaying in fact a grotesque bifurcation. That conception of personality included the stark contrast between divine personality and human personalty, but the whole meaning and drama of existence centred on personality, specifically the relationship and interactions between the divine personality and human personalities as both individuals and collectives. Concrete nature was merely a trivial backdrop, a platform or staging for the drama. Both the divine and human were clearly instances of personality since only intelligence strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, which is the essence of creation. Human personalities do that all the time and, supposedly, so did the divine personality. This teleology of creation is a crucial identifier of personality along with curiosity, caring, questioning, accumulating orientation, and an expressive voice or agency.

Scientific Nihilism

By contrast, the scientific conception of the world completely excludes personality (teleology, abstraction, ideality, intelligent consciousness) from fundamental reality in rejecting the possibility of transcendent freedom. Personality gets placed on a list of phenomena to be completely explained as an illusion at some future time. This creates a deformed lopsidedness to the conceptual system of reality in modernity, which is something like an inverse of the lopsidedness of the Christian conception of the world. Science dismisses the creative freedom of personality as merely illusion, just as Christianity dismissed the world of concrete matter as trivial staging for the great drama of personality. Of course the grotesque bifurcation of personality into human and divine was another layer of lopsidedness in the pre-scientific conceptual system of reality, which removed the transcendence of personality from ordinary embodied individuals and projected it into a metaphysical monstrosity: disembodied personality as divinity. Just because personality is ideality, that is, immaterial, does not make it more perfect when disembodied! With the modern lopsidedness, science actually needs the continuing culture of personality from feudal Christendom because without it, with only scientific principles of explanation, nothing matters, since it is only to personality that anything matters. With only inanimate nature, we reach a complete nihilism, but people generally know better than to accept that. So, the lopsidedness of the scientific conception of reality prolongs the lingering of outmoded metaphysics and political ideology from feudal Christendom.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Time-Scapes of Ideality

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Posting 133, Word count: 1,601.

The global culture of intellectual inquiry is proud and happy to have finished the main task, content now with a post-heroic and workmanlike mopping up of loose ends and filling in little gaps. Any re-conceptualization of fundamental reality as a whole is next to unimaginable. The intellectual certainty of this era comes from faith in the comprehensive explaining power of science, universally celebrated. However, there is a problem, and the problem is politics in which ever increasing inequality warps and rips human interconnectedness, and violent conflict is threatening new extremes of catastrophic destruction and suffering because of weapons conceived and supplied by the community of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Science has proven itself unable to help in the creation of workable political systems that are able to treat everyone decently by cultivating everyone’s freedom.

The conceptual system of science excludes freedom from fundamental reality by excluding teleological ideality, which is to say, by excluding personality from fundamental reality, but without understanding personalities as points of freedom it is impossible to take politics beyond forms of imperialism and vicious factional conflict. The modern consensus still rests on the Hobbesian thesis, which asserts a rational need to submit to any effective sovereignty as the only way to dampen the war of all against all which lurks inherently in human nature as conceived since feudal Christendom.

Feudal Christendom

Euro-American modernity evolved from, and is still firmly in the cultural grip of a conservative longing for, feudal Christendom. Political conservatism is the surviving cultural remnant of, and nostalgia for, both the political ideology (patriarchy) and the religious metaphysics of feudal Christendom. The conservative devotion to symbols and pageantry of territorial states, along with the metaphysical assumptions of human nature as a continual grasping for definition and standing through competitions for property, are again remnants of feudal Christendom. Feudalism was a fundamentalist patriarchy, institutionalized sovereign rights of the father, expressing the principle that the strongest has sovereign rights over everyone else, rights to the property of the weaker, rights to the lives of the weaker, generally the right to be comprehensively parasitic on the weaker. Those assumptions grew out of the traditional family in which the father was the strongest and women and children were assumed to lack even a minimum competence. Implicit in the conservative world view is a belief that feudal patriarchy is the social and political structure predetermined by God or nature. Science has defined itself and directed its questions in such a way as to avoid confrontation with either the political ideology of patriarchy, including its conception of human nature, or its sanctifying religious ideology featuring a supernatural force of angry patriarchal will and consciousness (personality) at large in the cosmos, appeased only by submissive flattery, just like embodied patriarchs only on a grander scale.

Most scientific investigators have some family background of religious affiliation and so have a culture-based tendency to think about transcendence in terms of cosmic intelligence, cosmic personality. Some reject that kind of transcendence as absurd, which it is, but on that basis dismiss the very idea of transcendence and of personality as a fundamental principle of reality. Others accept cosmic personality as the truth of transcendence, a supernatural reality distinct from the one described by science, and knowable only through unquestioning religious faith.

The conception of personality in feudal Christendom contains a stark contrast between divine personality and human personalty. Divine personality is transcendently creative and free, the one and only instance of transcendent free agency, whereas human nature, human personality, is a meagre and degraded imitation of that divinity, hardly comparable at all, inviting a reductionist interpretation in which human personality is merely the working out of mechanistic and ‘pre-set’ appetites, drives, and responses to stimuli. That interpretation is easily compatible with scientific principles. Although science stipulates a single fundamental principle of reality, namely the physical ‘nature’ of actuality, the need for two principles of reality is demonstrated by straightforward considerations, as presented in The World that Doesn’t Matter. The principles could be described as ‘the world that matters’ and ‘the world that doesn’t matter’. The world that matters becomes something that matters only because it includes personalities with free agency. Without them, with only the physical nature of actuality, nothing matters in the least. It has often been asserted that removing belief in the supernatural force of divine will and consciousness (personality) in the cosmos would eliminate meaning and purpose from the lives of humans. As stated, it is a false claim, but what is clearly true is that without some personalities in the world for whom the living of a life matters, meaning really does disappear utterly from reality. The world with personalities is fundamentally and essentially different from the world without us, and the presence of personality is what makes the difference. That is the first datum of metaphysics.

Feudal patriarchy was and is a construct of metaphysical ideas: a bleak conception of human nature, a sharply contrasting idea of divinity, earthly trophies interpreted as markers of standing in the divine consciousness, rights of the strongest to sovereign immunity. Getting past the dystopian political systems built from those conceptions will follow only from better metaphysics, and science is unable to touch such issues.

Time-Scapes of Ideality

It is clear from these considerations that improvement in metaphysics is the only hope for building workable political arrangements because metaphysics can engage teleology and abstraction as fundamental reality, and teleology and abstraction are crucial to understanding freedom. (Teleology is what Aristotle called final cause.) Teleology is ideality (abstraction), rather than concrete materiality or actuality, because it anticipates conditions and objects which do not exist, but which might possibly be made to exist if certain actions are taken, if a certain agency is exercised through an increasingly remote and improbable future. This teleological ideality constitutes the special existence of, the living of, personality, subjectivity. In the brute actuality of nature, time is just inevitability, but for teleological personality time is a construct of opportunity for effective creation, free agency, because personality creates a time-scape of ideality from personal judgements about continuities and instabilities in the brute actuality of nature, judgments of probability and possibility, questions, negations, interests in certain pleasures and gratifications, in making an original mark, in making things right, empathic attachment to other personalities, impulses to nurture, to learn, to think, to teach, to arrange a sustainable life in the world. Within that time-scape of ideality which is a personality’s orientation and bearing in the world, the subject exercises agency by actively imposing (not always perfectly) its personal ideality on actuality, a power of embodiment. This recognition of human nature is opposed to, and far more realistic than, the conservative conception of a drive for self-definition through conflict. Everyone knows from the most immediate personal experience that the ideality of teleology exists in agency. This recognition of personality also removes the Christian/ Hobbesian absolute need for sovereignty. It means that individuals don’t need to submit to a sovereign or any other supervision to build stable human interconnections within which to develop mutually supportive free expression.

It is always problematic to bleed qualities of either side of the ideal/ actual dualism into the other side, to think of ideality as some kind of substance or thing, for example, no matter how ethereal. To sever personality from embodiment is to conceive it as a substance, a body, which it is not. Also, problems arise from attributing qualities of personal ideality, such as caring and planning, to the concrete world of brute actuality, to inanimate objects or nature at large. Such manoeuvres always create metaphysical monstrosities such as the idea of divinity as an omniscient cosmic consciousness, claims of divine favour for some particular political faction, for some established sovereignty or for a claimant to sovereignty, always resulting in dystopian political arrangements. For any hope of workable political systems able to treat everyone decently, it is crucial to have a strong metaphysics of freedom, to acknowledge both sides of the dualism and to keep the boundaries of the duality clear and distinct, with personality embodied in beings who breathe and have an individual voice.

Science banished personality entirely from basic reality, but personality is the transcendent fountain of freedom. The existence of personality, the being of a personal consciousness with expectations, aspirations, and agency, is the only reason anything matters, and ideality is the existence of personality. Science directs attention to predictability, and unfree materiality is absolutely predictable whereas the creative ideality of personality is not. Science cannot conceptualize freedom, creative unpredictability, and so cannot conceptualize the transcendence of ideality, spirituality. The scientific attitude fits perfectly with the politically conservative effort to stifle any evolutionary process of culture that might disrupt the feudal justifications for social hierarchy dominated by sovereign immunity, evolutionary processes that most certainly spring from the unpredictable creativity of ideality and override what may seem like the dictates of nature. This being the case, there is urgent need for another re-conceptualization of fundamental reality as a whole to upgrade, restore, and re-locate personality (spirituality, ideality) in the process of reality. Neither politics nor reality can be understood without the time-scapes of ideality which are personalities. Reality has a temporal dimension of ideality that transcends brute actuality. It is a growing, a building, a choosing to become, a moment by moment self-creation, as much as it is a falling or a pre-determined inevitability. However, there is no institutional preparation for any such thinking, certainly not in corporate, academic, or scholarly discourse.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Life after Hive-Mind

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Posting 132, Word Count: 1,454.

It has been asserted as self-evident that individuals need, as part of a general need for felt supervision or authority, a dominant collective attachment, emotional and cognitive identification with the master narrative of a collective entity, something like a home hive, as a crucial element of personal identity and sense of meaning. That assertion is supposed to account for the fact that each modern sovereign state is still, in spite of liberal influences, a personified territorial power demanding reverent patriotic devotion, worship, sacrifice, and obedience enforced by an iron fist of law, tax, and lethal military force. Each state has its edifice of pageantry and symbolism to invoke the unity and sacred grandeur of the collective: flags, monuments, and anthems, oaths and pledges, officials and military officers encrusted with exotic glitter, august regalia and titles; state uniforms and weapons laden with national symbols and emblems; theatrical ceremonies of remembrance and renewal of devotion invoking the sacred and obscure “us against them” mission of the hive, synchronized movements in processions, special word formulas to be spoken in mass unison. Such things are not intended to encourage creative or rational thinking but rather to replace thinking with passive embrace of an orthodox official story line, a standardized hive-mind. The supposed necessity of hive-mind belonging is used routinely to justify nationalist propaganda and censorship.

The Enlightenment idea of human nature as having no intrinsic need for sovereign authority is now an old idea, the real core of liberalism, and it always went against the conservative dogma, from religion, that everyone needs supervision structured within the symbols, pageantry, and authoritative superego of collective solidarity and belonging. The historical endurance of the state as sovereign authority shows that the enrichment of the idea of human nature from the Enlightenment was effectively smothered by that pre-existing culture. That pre-existing culture of authoritative supervision was an entrenchment in institutions of the traditional rights of the father, an overt expression of the principle that the strongest has sovereign rights over everyone else, rights to the property of the weaker, rights to the lives of the weaker, generally the right to be parasitic on the weaker. These cultural assumptions grow from the traditional patriarchal family in which the father is the strongest and women and children are assumed to lack even a minimum competence. The Enlightenment and liberal conception of human nature was murdered in the crib by traditional patriarchal practices, and that is what accounts for the hive-mind efforts of modern states.

It is now clear, however, that there are multitudes of people with very elastic and insubstantial attachments to collective entities. For example, the globalization of capital has fostered an internationally educated and mobile professional and business class. Academics, engineers, medical practitioners, business and financial professionals are all educated in an international context and trained to have a cosmopolitan outlook, quite detached from any specifically national or territorial master narrative which is the normal core of hive-mind. Additionally, the loyalty and national belonging of the investor class generally evaporates instantly upon election of a socialist government, so is always largely a pretence. Yet, these groups and individuals conduct lives they find meaningful. They are not without a cultural framework of orientation, but it is more a culture of trophy property as primary value. A focus on possession of property always includes fear for the security of possession, requires protection by at least the readiness of force, and so includes a culture of reverence for intimidating strength and power, control of taxes, laws, and war, the organization of violence, all still core features of patriarchy. Obviously this property-based cosmopolitan framework still has a stake in maintaining the institutions of nation-state sovereignty, especially police, military, and intelligence agencies, but strictly as service providers, supplemented or replaced by private suppliers when convenient.

The cosmopolitan perspective of these factions shows that there are experiences of gratification, identity, and meaning, which make identification with a national collective completely unnecessary. Gratification from symbols and pageantry of collective identity, embedded in the narrative of national peril and exceptionalism, is not necessary for a meaningful life, as demonstrated by the contented lives of the masses of people with scant engagement with such things. Gratification from property possession is still part of traditional patriarchal culture, inextricably invested in organized force, and by far the most culturally dominant and celebrated gratification experience, but there are others. Nurturing children (or nurturing animals, even plants), socializing them into the linguistic community and having ongoing conversations with them as they develop is inherently gratifying. This nurturing sociability is an independent non-property based source of profound value, meaning, and sense of identity, in fact the most important source for most people, although studiously unrecognized as such. Still another realm of gratification experience is thinking, often in the form of ‘scribal’ ideality. Philosophers have frequently asserted that the greatest human pleasure, the most fun, is thinking. A great deal of human fulfillment is derived from following personal curiosity, learning, reading, writing, and synthesizing ideas, interrogating history and the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, between subjectivity and subjectivity. This gratification is individually interior, the model of spiritual autonomy, although always with some important relationship with sociability, communication, and human interconnectedness. Yet again, craftsmanship is another source of value experience, expressing and performing creativity, knowledge, and skill in working with tools and materials, actualizing a previously conceived shape in observable objects. There can also be pleasure in experiencing any skillful power of the human body, but assigned donkey work is boring, dirty, sweaty, energy sucking, exhausting and that is why a ‘working’ class does not have an independent culture of value experience, whereas ‘homemakers’, certain kinds of scribes, and craftspeople certainly do.

The culture of property possession as primary value is part of a conception of human nature as a painful emptiness craving to be filled, a sucking pit of needs for definition and gratification from outside itself, a deficiency that grasps for acquisition, consumption, and competition; determined by biological and material laws. However, the importance of gratification from nurturing, from performance of creative craftsmanship, and from scribal ideality clearly refutes the claim that human nature is a consuming emptiness. The ubiquitous practice of nurture shows human nature as a fountain of empathy and compassionate caring. The intrinsic gratification in practicing craftsmanship shows creativity in projecting shapes from personally interior ideality into material actuality. Intellectual activity, a cultivation of ordinary thinking, is a fountain of personal curiosity, questions, directed impulses for relevant exploring, researching, learning, discovering, original conceptualizing, writing, reading, and synthesizing ideas. Every personality is a fountain of such goods, of spontaneous creation of curiosity, questioning, inspiration, and caring, a gusher of impulses to shape the environment and construct interconnections with others. These self-sourced experiences of value are profound enough to build lives upon, and many people do exactly that. In this light, each personality is a self-constructing idea of a life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself into the world. This recognition of human nature as self-creating from interior ideality eliminates the primacy of competition and conflict, as well as hierarchical rankings and trophy collections derived from competitions, crucial features of possession of property as primary value. It also means that individuals do not have any inherent dependence on experiences of belonging provided by hive-mind sovereign states or any similar collective entity.

The entire conservative conception of the human predicament, featuring an intrinsic grasping emptiness of human nature, property possession as essential identity definition, inevitable competition and conflict for scarce goods, celebration of strength and violence, the necessity of a sovereign authority to dampen the lethality of conflict (civilization), and the rights of the strongest to be sovereign and parasitic, all supposedly pre-determined by natural law, is a bogus and toxic cultural legacy, a mythical metaphysics to make the world exciting for aspiring heroes in their romantic dreams of a cosmically ordained struggle for dominance. This old mythology is a dystopian nightmare for most people. The way out is cultivating the gratifying activities which express personality as a fountain of ideas for interventions-in-actuality. That creates the alternative experience, acquaintance with a human nature that can trust itself in the complete absence of authority or any vestige of patriarchy, in the absence of any controlling hive-minds projecting sovereignty of the strongest, with no need for the kind of identity and meaning assigned by a controlling collective. There is a far better life after re-orienting outside nationalist hive-minds and also outside any other rat race for symbolic markers of self-worth and identity. Hive-minds make war and are made for war.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Spiritual Existence and Freedom

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Posting 131, Word Count: 663.

The dual principles of reality are 1) nature, which falls, and 2) personalities, which create and build in a great scattered multiplicity, each one surfing on the falling wave of nature *. Personality is ideality embodied at a locality: teleology, willing, orientation/ bearing, curiosity, caring, gusher of creativity and questioning, impulses to make a personal mark, to form interconnections with others. All of these are completely alien to the brute actuality of nature.

The category of existence of ideality and personality is spirituality, and spirituality is the transcendence in experience. Spirituality is always personality and personality is always self-creating, in its inherent agency, into some new configuration of agency. Spiritual existence is existence as agent-beholder, perceiver and learner, surveyor and delineator, interpreter and recorder of the fall lines of actuality, accumulator and builder of an orientation of intent within the features of actuality. Personality has the existence of living a life in the world of nature, culture, and other personalities, but internally it is existence in the form of the interior ideality of a personal flight through time. We are all familiar with recognizing personality in others and with our own private ideality: future bound aspirations and intentions, and their context of evaluations and lessons learned. The only bodies with interior essences are the ones which breathe and have a voice expressive of personality. The essence is the spiritual, transcendent, force of directionality toward a completely non-actual futurity. Essence is personality.

Spiritual Existence is Political

Spiritual existence is political because it is inherently a creation of freedom at the level of the embodied individual, but certain conditions of its existence make the freedom of individuals contestable. Although individuals are inherently sociable and establish profound interconnections with others by, like sponges, soaking up the culture we see and hear around us, including language, the lesson of individual embodiment is self-possession. Transcendence, in the form of creative ideality and agency, still exists entirely at the level of the embodied individual. Embodiment and the self-transparency of existence as ideality make individuals vulnerable to accepting mistaken claims about basic reality, claims which assert bogus rights of command, of sovereign ownership. Patriarchy, institutionalized sovereign rights of the father, for example, is overtly an expression of the bogus principle that the strongest has sovereign rights over everyone else, rights to the property of the weaker, and rights to the lives of the weaker. This illustrates how politics is shaped far more by ideas and human ideality than by nature, since rights are ideas and not features of nature.

Philosophy and Freedom

Philosophical thinking is encountering the relationship between subjective ideality (consciousness, why something matters) and objectivity, between your particular sense of the passing of time and brute objective actuality. To think is to occupy, to dwell in, the transcendent moment of ideality: the personal tilt or bearing beyond now and beyond no-longer, toward the open not-yet that waits to be created. Subjective ideality is time, and the subjective ideality of time is the creation of freedom. The personal experience of spiritual transcendence in the ideality of time is an encounter with metaphysical reality.

You might say, “Well, this is all very abstract.” It certainly is! If you need concrete then you get only half of reality, the brute actuality of nature.

* Posting 90) Freedom, Surfing, and Physics (Monday, January 25, 2016)

Metaphysics occurs as a scattered multitude of distinct individual eruptions, each personally entangled in the duality of physics and spirituality. Each spirituality is self-aware as a flight (variably desperate) into a semi-obscure future as the form of the most personal incompleteness and newness. In contrast to every instance of spiritual flight, the surroundings of physics does not care, anticipate, aspire, or evaluate. It merely falls like an ocean wave utterly frozen in timeless uncaring; and we scattered eruptions of metaphysical time stand tilting fall-ward on the tsunami of actuality and each carve a personal mark, surfing the entropic descent.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

How Aristotle Placed Personality

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Posting 130, Word Count: 1,368.

If we think of Aristotle as depicted in the fresco The School of Athens (by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, painted between 1509 and 1511 in the Vatican, Apostolic Palace, and now widely reproduced) we have to say that his hand gesturing downward toward the familiar world is not a denial of metaphysics, not an assertion of scientific materialism as understood now. The gesture would have to mean that metaphysical reality is located, is at home, in ordinary objects and bodies, not only in the bodies we observe in the sky; and perhaps it might mean also that the distant skyward heights are not the Platonic heaven of free-floating (unanchored in things themselves) immaterial prototypes of the image-things that furnish and fashion our experience.

For Aristotle, the visible motions of skyward phenomena revealed nested layers of heavenly spheres in motion around the Earth, each sphere moving from a purposive will internal to itself, bearing into eternal futurity, and so alive, sensitive and teleological, a mothership senior intelligence, a being of ideality and personality. It was specifically this agency from an interiority of willing, the living ideality of personality placed at the top of the cosmic structure, that seemed to confer meaning on the world and the lives of individuals. Personality placed in that way seemed to give the skyward spheres transcendent purpose and creative power so that aligning a human individual’s bearing with them expressed the sense of a kinship or commonality between the purposive ideality of the individual and that of a sovereign aliveness.

Plato famously claimed to separate ideality from personality, but it can’t really be done. In Plato, Ideas retain a creativity that can only be understood as a borrowing from the creative will of personality, a purposive push or bearing, but in Plato’s work, with ideas presented under the aspect of eternity, there is a removal of all other vestiges of personality. That removal was meant to deify ideality by moving it from temporality to eternity. However, metaphysically, personality and ideality are inseparable. As soon as bits of ideality (such as immateriality or creativity) are separated off from personality of the ordinary embodied sort then the conception of reality gets weird and twisted, assembled from mismatched shards like the monster of a certain Dr. Frankenstein. Many people prefer such a conception of the world.

The Two Principles of Reality

The two fundamental principles of reality are the principle of falling, inertial and entropic nature; and the principle of creative teleology or purpose, creating shapes within actuality through personal agency, enacting intentions from the ideality of a particularly conceived future. These principles are sometimes called objectivity and subjectivity. Subjectivity is personality. In the crucial sense these principles are precise opposites of each other. The principle of falling is a single vast continuity in some sense. The principle of purposive agency is a multiplicity of separately localized (embodied) individuals. There is no freedom in the principle of falling but ideality has freedom and creativity. Purpose is inconceivable as anything other than ideality because futurity, where purposes have their places, is categorically not an actuality. Purpose is temporal and temporality is necessarily a quality of ideality since it reaches beyond brute actuality. Purpose is willing, a movement of personality. Purposive bearing requires ideality, and ideality is always personality.

A purposive will includes caring and freedom, aspects of spiritual ideality, which is to say, the subjective consciousness of personality. Rocks and rivers do not care, but merely fall. The World that Doesn’t Matter highlights the incongruity between the presence of subjective ideality and that of objective actuality. These are different modes of existence. The question is: what kind of existence can subjective ideality, purposive consciousness, have that is so not objective actuality? That is a core metaphysical issue, somehow locating (or maybe just denying) ideality. Perhaps the most long-enduring description of ideality has been as a personal interiority, as already mentioned above, but not an interiority that can be specified strictly as a location in space. This idea of spirituality as an interiority goes back (at least) to Aristotelian essences and final causes. Aristotle seems to have thought that everything that exists has, as part of its form, a metaphysical interiority, an essence, in addition to a strictly spacial or material interior. On that view, every object has an essence that contains and drives crucial features of its arc of existence and destiny, changes it has undergone and will undergo, just as the ‘interior’ ideality of an embodied person bears the memory and future intentions of that person. (Compare Leibniz’ monads.) The analogy at work is clear since every person knows from the most immediate experience a personal interiority of non-perceivable intentions and their context of reasons-why from a personal no-longer, all an interior ideality. That is our direct acquaintance with the existence of spiritual ideality.

Part of the reconceptualization of the objective world made by Descartes and others of his historical period involved rejecting the Aristotelian idea that inanimate objects are driven by an essential metaphysical interiority. On the modern view, an object’s changes are caused by strictly external forces. The fact that bodies that breathe and have voices generally display and utter expressions of an individual caring and freedom was crucial in ancient times, and the interiority of ideality was sometimes described specifically as a kind of breath. The breath analogy is unsustainable as an illumination of ideality, but as we discard the idea of bodies having a metaphysical interiority, we have to stop at bodies that breathe and have voices because, as one such body, every one of us has immediate knowledge of our personal interiority of intentions and reasons-why: our subjective ideality or purposive consciousness.

Does this analogy, a special interiority, help with the question of what kind of existence is to be attributed to ideality? In the Aristotelian sense, ‘interiority’ means that ideality is effective in the world, an indispensable part of reality, without being tangible or having an appearance, without being an actuality. The Aristotelian idea of final causes gives us more, invoking the idea of willing, and has much in common with Brentano’s description of intentionality as presented in Brentano’s Gift. It is a reaching, but not merely a reaching toward objects, instead a purposive reaching toward the future of an embodied life-in-the-world in the context of what has already been lived and is actual no more. There is also a tilting or instability in actuality, a continuous falling in the mode of mass, momentum, inertia, and entropy, but the tilting of the willing of ideality is very different from that instability, the tilting of ideality is not a falling but a creative leap (Luther), a flight or bearing. It is tempting to think of ideality as images, but that isn’t sustainable either. Ideas are not images but structural features of a person’s bearing into the future, of a framework of specifically oriented agency.

It is also crucial that ideality, personality, as an aspect of its freedom, exists precisely by evading final particularity, just as time does. (Sartre’s existence before essence.) Ideality has the same mode of existence as time in that sense: an always newness and incompleteness. Caring requires futurity and possibility, the flight of time. Caring is possible and conceivable with the experience of engagement in creating a mutable future world and a life in that world, with freedom and creative power. Living is, first of all, ecstatic caring within the context of freedom. The reality of caring and freedom is self-evident, but neither could be possible on materialist assumptions. They become conceptually possible with the recognition of transcendent ideality at the level of the embodied individual. And it isn’t just the existence of an immediate caring encounter between a person and the surroundings, but also the learned ideological framework that any ideality applies to every moment of that encounter, an ideological framework anchored in history and the history of languages and authorship and inseparably connected to a great historical stew of ideas. Again, that stew of ideas must not be shattered off from the ideality of ordinary embodied personality. It has its existence in the living of people.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.

Two Quick Notes on Culture

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Posting 129, Word Count: 430.

Language is a Playground

Speaking a particular language can be a kind of hive mind, but language is independent of patriarchal structures, and is always evolving from bottom up. New words, meanings, and expressions bubble up all the time without any input or influence from authorities. Teenage girls in the San Fernando Valley have fun playing around with language (I was like, “What-ever!”) and the English language embraces and incorporates the novelties. Philosophers are another example of people who frequently introduce new expressions. Any living language is changing constantly, just like living culture generally, if not artificially hampered and frozen by self-appointed authoritarian enforcement. Language has been adored by various philosophical theorists as a definitive model of a rigidly structured universe, governed by imperious rules, but in fact it is an open and inclusive play of expectation and surprise, imitation and originality, a barely-supervised playground. Novelty and surprise are essential to language, and the source of novelty is individual people exercising their creativity in play with others. New words, meanings, and expressions can and do bubble up because the orientation (thinking, sensibility) of every individual goes far beyond language, as geography goes beyond the streetcar tracks.

History and Culture

There has been a conservative meme equating history and culture, demanding that cultures be preserved as precious artifacts and sacred relics so that history or the ancestors are appropriately honoured, the lessons of history appreciated. However, learning from history is not the same as preserving culture. History as an idea is everything that happened in the past, but most of what happened does not deserve to be honoured, although the more history that can be generally known accurately, the better. Uncritically honouring the ancestors, the forefathers, a selectively edited look backward, is another conservative meme, but only a thoroughly romanticized, redacted, and glamorized interpretation of history would find the acts of the ancestors mostly worthy of honour. Communications of history must represent complex context, normally in books which report on large swaths of detailed records and memories, recognizing patterns of relevance and influence formed by individual lives, actions, and events. (the hermeneutical zoom) Historians are human and always work with incomplete and often biased records, and personally interpret those records through the lens of their own and their community’s biases. So, history, even as reported in a scholarly way, must be approached critically. Publicly installed monuments as a sort of historical record always separate some simple icon from its actual historical context, and so are always romanticized history, decontextualized. Living culture is changing constantly and needs to change.

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.