Politics is Metaphysics (2)

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This posting (number 116) is 955 words.

Bottom-up political arrangements will never be broadly effective in any culture dominated by top-down metaphysics, because bottom-up political arrangements conflict openly with a top-down view of the world. Any system of reality that includes the idea of a cosmic moral reckoning such as karma, or any other reward and punishment after death, is top-down metaphysics, personification of nature on the grand scale. Platonic Ideal Forms or any other metaphysics ascribing primacy to some conception of eternal Being or a Great Chain of Being are also examples of top-down metaphysics. Bottom-up political arrangement will never be appropriately effective in cultures dominated by such ideas because conceptions of metaphysics are taken as templates for the proper assembling of social structures. Such ideas are meant to supply the framework in personal superego constructs, to effect the spiritual subordination of individuals, and as such they have to be dismissed for autonomous thinking to be possible.

“Halt”, you will say. “We can’t change metaphysics. The world is just made the way it is made, and we have to live in it as it is”. Well, metaphysics has been a guess at how the world is made, and the most influential guesses have all been wrong. They went wrong by accepting the form of structure commonly seen in human societies as a straightforward manifestation of the most fundamental structure of the universe. It was a political win for one side of a partisan contest between two gender clustered cultures of human interconnection.

Gender Politics

In the context of political ideology the crucial contest is between two opposing gender-clustered cultures (one of which has been astonishingly invisible to the intellectual community) representing two parallel systems of human interconnection operating simultaneously. One of those systems is roughly described in Thomas Hobbes’ social contract theory. It formalizes a masculine ethos in which it takes fear of the strongest among aggressive individuals to prevent continuous conflict of all against all for selfish personal gratification. Let’s call this political adulation of a commanding height “the patriarchy”, the core strand of conservatism. Look at Nazis and you will see this ethos of masculinity in a rigorously purified form. Values of conflict, command, rank order, obedience, violence, victories, and trophies are dominant. All concepts of the large scale structure of nature as a Great Chain of Being with perfect Being at the top and flawed or tainted whatever at the bottom are projections of the masculinist idea of the commanding height. This traditional top-down metaphysics was conceived as the legitimizing ideology of longstanding hierarchies of power inequality. However, there is another independent system of interconnection that can be described as first-language-nurture culture and centres on the nurturing and socializing of children, treasuring of every single one. It focuses on development of language competence as well as cultivation of human relationships that are mutually respectful. This indispensable bottom-up construction of social interconnectedness, without which civil society would cease to exist immediately, has been cultivated and practiced by women from time immemorial, almost entirely unacknowledged and unpaid. The effectiveness of the feminine culture of interconnection establishes that love (not fear) is the most important stabilizing force in human societies.

Although the masculine ethos has plenty of metaphysical speculation lined up to support it and formal academic theory romanticizing it, the operation of the feminine culture of first-language-nurture remains largely unidentified, and has no bottom-up metaphysics on offer in support of more effective bottom-up political arrangements. “But wait,” you will say, “isn’t metaphysics top-down by definition? What would a bottom-up metaphysics even look like?” Well, consider final causes.

Ordinary Transcendence: Final Causes

Final causes, an idea introduced by Aristotle, are non-actual but potential conditions or situations that cause the actual state of affairs to change so as to match or actualize the final causes. Aristotle thought that all substances include certain final causes as features of their being without requiring substances to be caring, sensitive, intelligent, or involved in creative planning. Instead they were a kind of in-built individual destiny. However, over the millennia since Aristotle, it has been discovered that the changes of substances as such can be understood without final causes. Final causes are not part of nature. Nature is defined as features of the world that are entirely explainable without final causes, explainable instead as kinds of falling, pre-determined chains of cause and effect within forces and structures such as mass, gravity, electrical charge, atomic structure, momentum, inertia, and entropy. Still, it is obvious that lots of the shapes and conditions in anyone’s experience were brought into existence only because a desire for them was conceived before they existed, because they existed first as non-actualities, pre-conceived by the kind of entity that cares about the future, and conceives a future shaped by enough probabilities and possibilities so that certain situations that do not already exist can be chosen as personal plans or intentional goals and actively brought about by effortful interventions in the pre-existing surroundings. So the existence of final causes as thoughts, ideas, or plans is obvious and undeniable. Since final causes are not part of nature, they are the bits of experience that count as metaphysical, transcendent, or spiritual. The final causes created by particular individuals are the only openings bringing unforeseeable shapes into an otherwise inertial and entropic world. Final causes are brought into nature by embodied spiritual beings, that is, by individual people creating their particular life and work. Transcendence is the intervention of us in nature, exercising agency sourced from our personally inventive spiritual flight. Taking these ordinary final causes as a key to transcendence is bottom-up metaphysics.

This also relates to posting 111, July 26, 2017, Politics is Metaphysics.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

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Superego and Social Attachment

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Disrupting the connection which the superego welds between an individual and the hive mind of a sovereign state is not disconnecting from human attachments. In fact, there are two parallel systems of human interconnection, operating simultaneously. One of them is the patriarchy, roughly described in Thomas Hobbes’ social contract theory. This system asserts that social cooperation and stability depend on enforcement from a commanding height, a sovereign. It institutionalizes a masculine ethos in which it takes the strongest among aggressive individuals to prevent continuous conflict of all against all for strictly personal gratification. The patriarchy is a prime example of authoritarian top-down social control, operating by force, the fear of force, and a general deference to power achieved through police and the edifice of laws, courts, lawyers, and prisons. Anyone’s superego is a commanding height construct, a structure of habits of deference to power. The other system of interconnection can be described as first-language-nurture culture and centres on the nurturing and socializing of children, including development of language competence, commonly practiced by women from time immemorial. The feminine process is bottom-up community building and the fact that women carry on their nurture culture is what actually accounts for the stability of human interconnectedness in societies, with people who can speak to one another and form mutual relationships. Disrupting the superego is discarding the commanding height patriarchy, the showy but minimally effective welds of human interconnectedness, preserving the really effective bottom-up sources of interconnection.

All concepts of the large scale structure of nature as a Great Chain of Being with perfection at the top and evil at the bottom are projections of the masculinist idea of the necessity of a commanding height. Assertions of the necessity of top-down control emphasize a certain view of human nature, a human nature tainted by original sin or other inherent vice, dominated entirely by self-gratification, often willing to do monstrous acts to get it. However, the monstrous acts of humans are consequences of acquired culture, not of impulses inherent to human nature as such. Whatever connects us to one another as spiritual entities is no Great Chain of Being ordained from on-high, or anything like it. Disrupting the superego is personally accepting primary agency, taking responsibility for making sense of things, taking on the authority to think autonomously. It is not the unleashing of monstrous internal impulses such as those included in the Freudian idea of “id”.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Postscript to Superego

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Anyone familiar with this blog will know that it is an ongoing meditation on thinking, the life of ideality or spirituality, and the potential for creative freedom present in the world through the agency of the individual person. Since every person is a self-thinking idea, then in that sense we are nothing but thinking. As the only fountain of unforeseeable possibilities creating the openness to an otherwise inertial and entropic world, the power to think is the really transcendent power, but thinking has vulnerabilities which normally result in a socially acquired self-blindness. Since interpretations of experience and the individual’s reach into futurity are typically colonized by an ambient social control structure, effective subjectively as a personal superego, there is another sense of thinking in which to think is to identify and disrupt that superego, using an original voice of curiosity to follow through on its own questions. Beyond the superego, thinking is the process by which consciousness comes to recognize and assert its creative freedom. Spirituality or intelligence is not any kind of substance, but instead, is a transcendent interiority, the interior of a person’s teleological time.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Superego

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The idea “superego”, from the Freudian model of subjectivity, identifies a learned force of personal orientation. In that Freudian model the vectors of force are the inherent id, bestial lusts for ecstatic pleasure, sparkly things, power, and esteem (the lower two-thirds of Plato’s model, on the Freudian view reducible to nature in the form of biological compulsions), and the acquired superego, representing authority figures from ambient society such as parents, teachers, priests, and police, internalized within each individual’s subjectivity by exposure to education, religion, and secular socialization. Many other social influences must also be included: representations by teachers or in media stories, for example, of certain people iconically enjoying pleasure, power, and status, intended to motivate imitation and so to influence career aspirations and style of life. There are also role models among peers influencing appearance, interests, and attitudes toward people with various ways of making a living. Everyone needs to be accepted socially, and so has to conform to some accepted style of life and of person. So the superego includes far more than personified authority symbols, because it encompasses the whole structure over which those figures exert authority, the whole surrounding social landscape in which any individual must make his or her way.

This superego is a learned (as such internalized) model of reality which on one layer is a strictly pragmatic set of local markers that enable an individual to navigate social structures and economic arrangements in order to survive and achieve some personal goals. However, the presence of the active social system and its material infrastructure as a whole is impressive enough to be taken as a manifestation of transcendence, of some unquestionable force of God or nature beyond the grasp of human understanding, and it is especially the most low-definition and abstract symbols of sovereign authority which claim and invoke an origin in, and proximity to, transcendence. The most local markers of collective orientation, typical ways of acting and material culture, lend a readiness for easy acceptance, inspired by the immediacy of their functional utility and their apparent clarity of foundations, to the rest of the superego construct, all the way up to those most abstract symbols of authority which claim that a grounding in transcendence sanctifies their right of primary agency overriding and negating the agency of any individual.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Social Contract as Hive Mind (3)

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American exceptionalism (or British, German, European, white, Japanese) is a modern instance of a human-style hive mind. Even though there are positive consequences to predictability and stability in cooperative human effort, there are also striking negative consequences to the “hive mind” way of motivating stability. Most spectacularly, hive mind collectives become violently antagonistic toward one another and willfully instigate catastrophic destruction and instability on a vast scale, preparing for which they tirelessly devote great resources in advance. With all the advances in science and technology so celebrated over the last century, militant hive-mind-ism is not weakening and confidently controls all the dominant institutions of sovereign states. The persistence of this war fetish means that the collective situation has reached a condition in which the only way to deal with its problems is for individuals to abandon hive minds entirely. A kind of thinking is required which proceeds independently of the conceptual vocabulary internal to hive minds.

In Medieval Christendom it was taken for granted by those in authority that the majority of people would go mad, commit mass suicide and random acts of destruction, if it were known that the universe as a whole did not revolve around the Earth. Even though humanity survived the Copernican Revolution, there are even now many well educated and professional people of science who argue that it is not possible for humans to do without a socially and culturally constructed hive mind, that individuals would, if separated from hive mind, be in despair from total lack of personal identity, meaning, purpose, and the sense of having a place in the world. However, there is more to personal identity than what is assigned by the hive. There are resources in every individual’s experience to draw on and build with. After all, the markers of the collective/ hive often have the low definition of symbols, abstractions, and emblems, (flags, seals, anthems, titled officials, iconic historical events and personalities, monumental architecture), whereas personal self experience is the high definition of direct immediate involvement with the world. Even for individuals outside a hive mind orientation, human history is still human history, (profoundly misrepresented by the stories used to fashion any particular hive mind). Every individual still participates in that larger history that includes the whole collection of hive minds and what is also beyond them.

… continues.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Politics is Metaphysics

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On the subject of thinking, metaphysics is the first matter to clarify because the power to think is the only really transcendent power there is. This clarification of metaphysics isn’t speculation about anything, and not a matter of learning what text-book philosophers have claimed. Since everybody is drawing from the encounter with time, the crucial metaphysical datum, you don’t have to follow anybody else’s thinking. It isn’t necessary to think what nobody has thought before, but only that you not follow somebody else’s thinking in your own. It is entirely a matter of self-aware experience. To approach and clarify time it is only necessary to notice the bearing of consciousness that is not given as sensations. It is the most primary of primary research, thinking as acquaintance with original innocence, opening to let what is there be noticed.

Transcendent spirituality is ideality, but contrary to the classical Platonic conception of ideality as the perspective of eternity, radically removed from time, in fact ideality is inseparable from the personal sense of the passage of time. Ideality is the personal creation of transcendent freedom in conceiving teleological time, an open futurity. A spiritual person as an idea carries lessons (ideas) interpreted from no-longer and with them creates a personal reach into that not-yet.

What divides the political left and right is precisely metaphysics. Conservatives live in a world that is finalized in form and structure, which imposes on every individual the urgent imperative to conform to the eternal necessities of the Great Chain of Being. The conservative world is Platonic and eternal, determined from on high. Progressives live in a world with creative freedom, a world still being created, malleable, mutable, un-Platonic, and this political conception of creativity derives from an intuition of the temporal agency at the heart of any person’s consciousness.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Western History

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What makes the history of the Euro-American cultural system interesting is not the west’s imperialistic dominance of the world at large, and it isn’t the development of empirical science and technology which contributed so much to that imperialism. It isn’t even the economic developments that present such a wealth of consumer goods and services and generally improved health, longevity, and leisure, making modernity the age of abundance driven by competitive materialism and reliable capital gains. Instead, and contrary to the story of human history presented to students in high schools or STEM programs, the decisive theme of western history has been a contest over the legitimacy of systems of sovereignty. This is most clearly evident in the historical spiral of revolt which began in Europe with John Wycliffe about thirty years after the Great Plague of 1348-50 and culminated in the French Revolution of 1789-99. In response to the attempt by the ruling factions of Medieval Christendom to perfect the strictest uniformity of collective hive mind, there blossomed the most profound resistance, critique, and assertion of alternatives. Universal literacy, mass education, a research imperative, and some democratic influence (elections) on institutions of sovereignty are all conspicuous consequences of the ongoing opposition to perennial oligarchic dominance, and of the central place in western history of an ongoing series of challenges to the legitimacy of such sovereignty. This is the real treasure of the west.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Spirituality, Time, and Ideas

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Spirituality is ideality, but contrary to the classical Platonic conception of ideality as the perspective of eternity, radically removed from time, in fact ideality is inseparable from the personal sense of the passage of time. Ideality is the spiritual creation of transcendent freedom in teleological time. A spiritual person as an idea carries lessons (ideas) interpreted from no-longer and with them creates a personal reach into not-yet.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Found Buried in the History of Philosophy

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tags: transcendence, spirituality, dualism, hive mind, philosophy, history, religion, thinking, freedom, Immanuel Kant

A thing to be found in the history of philosophy, a thing which has been carefully avoided, is the fact that the thinking of a series of people who did philosophical work progressed through a slow development from ancient times and finally became confident in a fundamental breakthrough, the essentials of which are present in the work of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) along with plenty of contradictory and distracting material. The breakthrough is substantially this: the message of personal spirituality is not subordination to an eternal and infinite disembodied spirituality (caring), but instead is individual creative autonomy, an active transcendence at the level of the embodied individual: transcendent individualism.

The Transcendence of Local Spirituality

Philosophical spirituality is not obscure. It is your personal experience, intelligence, or consciousness, but the word “consciousness” implies something impossibly passive, and impossibly “here and now”. Without there, there is no here. Without then, there is no now. The there and the then are always brought to the here and now spiritually by a person’s intelligence intervening in the here and now. Ordinary mental intervention that includes perception of here and now must also include ideation, abstraction, memory, caring, lessons learned, expectations, and aspirations in effortful progress within the sense of the passage of time. It is creative activity, a thought or idea of temporal opening that is thinking itself into the world. Philosophy is (often) a descriptive exploration of that local and temporal spirituality, a recognition of its transcendence in spite of its everyday familiarity. This transcendence is orientation (existence as intelligence) within a continuous newness, with invention, creation, and the openness of alternative and devised possibilities, which is more or less the ordinary sense of being alive, of consciousness. By contrast, in the world of materialism, without transcendence, there may be cycles and variations on similar kinds of events but all within a world that is fundamentally formed and bounded, completed, closed, in something like an unalterable Great Chain of Being. The difference is between a closed world of determinism or an open world of ongoing creation. Normal experience always includes openness, but an openness that must assert itself against the world’s tendency to go closed. The transcendence of the opening is always part of a dualism with closed determinism as its surroundings. That transcendence is the only way in which everything does not have to be as it is. The loss of transcendence carries the implication that everything has to be just what it is. So, philosophical spirituality is a recognition of transcendence at the level of individual embodied intelligence.

What is Religious Spirituality?

This highlights the fact that there are two main contesting concepts of spirituality: the religious and the philosophical. Among religions, there is a widespread assumption that spirituality is inseparably connected to a guilty conscience supposedly inherent in every human, and, from that guilt, a reaching out in surrender to a higher being for forgiveness, healing, and release from the taint and disgrace of being-part-of this world of trouble and strife. The guilty conscience and certain events are considered to be deliberate messages to humans from a supernatural parallel universe containing personified entities of caring with effective power over our world. Those entities and their world cannot be known otherwise, so the behaviour of humans toward them demands belief without evidence, faith in the legends of their mysterious power, and demonstrations of fear decreed by those legends. (faith, fear, guilt, surrender, transcendence of disembodied intelligence) The mystical version is an overwhelming sense of release from guilty individuality through spiritual uptake into the absolute, primordial, and eternal unity of everything. Almost everybody is brought up under the influence of some religion or other, emphasizing obedience to divinely proclaimed rules, with guilt and punishment for disobedience; but hardly anybody learns anything about philosophy as a different (breakthrough) encounter with spirituality.

The problem now is that, culturally, we lost a sense of transcendence during the nineteenth century in an onslaught of scientific materialism, which also had a decisive, and in some ways helpful, role in Enlightenment politics, having gone a long way to undermine the political power of institutions deriving their credibility from the religious story of transcendence. However, we are still wallowing in the metaphysical slough of pre-Kantian materialist determinism. The credibility of the old religious transcendence has been in steady and terminal decline, but is still clung to desperately by many people who remain unaware of any alternative, and who recoil from nihilist materialism. In its combination of scientific denial of transcendence and a clinging to discredited religious conceptions of transcendence, the cultural hive mind that is made available to us in the Euro-American cultural system of the early twenty-first century is debilitating and toxic. What is required now from philosophy is a metaphysics of transcendence in personal spirituality, but that metaphysics has existed for a long time already as the spirituality and transcendence of ordinary consciousness.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Social Contract as Hive Mind (2)

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tags: western history, hive mind, Christendom, Roman Empire, social construction, spooks, mass media, legacy culture, dystopia, romanticism

The social construction of hive mind is not new. The historical background of our modern hive minds is Christendom, the way European society conceived itself from, say, the year 800 until Henry VIII’s break from Roman authority in 1534. Christendom was a strenuous and effective attempt at constructing hive mind, based on collective terror of spooky spirit-world angels and demons. Europe was a largely rural-agrarian and illiterate society dominated by a centrally organized Church and a de-centralized military/ propertied aristocracy from the ranks of which emerged regional dynastic monarchies. The Church altar and pulpit were the mass media of Christendom and gave the Vatican an edge over other social elements in arranging uniformity of attitudes and loyalty across vast territories, in fact, a theocracy. The thoroughness of the hive mind engineered throughout Europe by ideologues and agents of Christendom, mainly within institutions connected to the Vatican, established an historically new standard of monumental collective commitment, uniformity, cohesion, and rigidity; a romanticized idea of hive solidarity that continues to plague subsequent societies. Roman Church orthodoxy was a superlatively elaborate and uniform message, having appropriated useful chunks of Plato, Aristotle, and Stoicism. Unquestioning assertion of the resulting construct was policed viciously by the inquisition from around 1184 and by military crusades for larger outbreaks of dissent, offering crusaders complete immunity, forgiveness of sins, and all the loot they could manage. The ongoing use of Latin as the language of Church institutions, including universities, is an indication of the small “r” romanticism at the foundation of that hive mind. As far as the Vatican was concerned, Christendom was still the Roman Empire, with all the traditional authority of the Roman Imperium, carrying the weight of Rome’s entire historical imprint on the world: material, military, intellectual, institutional, legal, and spiritual. Prior to Christendom, the Roman Empire was arguably the most effective hive mind in all of human experience, for centuries imposing a heavily armed Roman peace over the Mediterranean world system. The medieval Roman Church did its best to expand the ancient Imperial legacy. A case could be made that it was the grotesque scope and intensity of Christendom’s hive mind that gave Europe its aggressive edge in subsequent encounters with other world cultures.

In the transfiguration from Medieval Christendom to modernity, the centralization of social supervision characteristic of the theocratic hive mind was not demolished but merely fragmented into a number of less all-embracing hierarchies, which learned to cooperate and compliment one another. There is a fundamental identity between old-time religious hive mind construction and the mind control managed by supervising institutions in contemporary societies. Spooks continue to be useful in the form of awesome personified abstractions commanding patriotism and fear such as the U.S.A., the British Crown and Commonwealth, China, the Dear Leader, Capitalism, Islam, IBM, Microsoft, or even the Free World. Modern societies are largely a landscape of mountainous commercial organizations producing profits for investors. Every corporation is a mini-Vatican with its own brand-myth and corporate culture which includes company-spirit and a star-system of corporate celebrities. Every employer expecting brand loyalty and competitive spirit is creating a hive that is structured as a cell within the superstructure of city, nation state, and international capitalism. Indeed, every high school is a training mini-Vatican with its religion of school spirit and sport team troops, its heroes and enemies; patterns downloaded from university collegiate culture. We are trained to hive mind from an early age.

As presented in part 1, the context of these observations is this: There are some clearly positive consequences to predictability and stability in cooperative effort. The question is, are there also negative consequences to this way of creating stability, and is it possible to do anything about them if there are? How might it even be possible to re-orient outside the influence of an ambient hive mind?

… continues.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.