Rudiments of Thinking

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In the search for transcendence there is no longer any plausibility in a gaze toward far horizons, and finally we must recognize that transcendence is only in the gaze itself.

posting 119, word count 1,919.

There is no way to prevent the formation of neighbourhood street gangs exercising competitive team spirit when team spirit and competitions between team-spirit-bonded collectives is universally glorified and modelled at all levels of social organization, from school sports teams to nations in violent conflict, all expressing the manly culture and value system of “us against them” for the glory of winning trophies.

The large scale team-spirit-bonded collectives such as the USA, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, for example, are conspicuous examples of collective hive minds (and not the only ones). The broad national acceptance of American exceptionalism and the civic religion of militaristic American patriotism reveals that for many Americans there is nothing to be gained by knowing other orientations, other forms of interconnection, discoverable, for example, in other people and in the history of ideas, and so they remain ignorant of world history at large, and, like North Koreans, swallow the steady stream of carefully de-contextualized, edited, and slanted stories of history, ideas, and current events flooding mass media, propaganda that glorifies and terrorizes them through their identification with national institutions and symbols. No one would deny that modernity is an age of scientifically engineered messaging, of corporate, political, and ideological efforts to control public opinion, streamed pervasively through mass media, all at the command of the small group with the ability to mobilize great wealth.

Truth to the Masses

Elected officials with their advisors and assistants spin out narratives based on a perceived duty to mediate between factions with established power and the ordinary majority of people. The message that serves the purpose of politics will always be what seems most likely to reconcile a mass audience to the expectations or whims of the most powerful. The narrative that best supports the most powerful people and factions will always seem the most responsible and realistic. So it is that trying to be a responsible journalist, for example, often prevents a determined search for, or presentation of, fully contextualized truth. The danger of telling truth to power is a cliche, but politicians, academics, and journalists face real risks telling truth to the masses, and the masses are not the source of the danger.

Hive minds all work the same way, cultivating in every member a personal orientation to look up to authorities, to a commanding height, for a declaration of the personal/ collective situation, for updates on the story which defines the situation of everyone personally and of collective institutions. It is an orientation of cognitive and emotional dependence on the narration from a commanding height, or, in other words, it is patriarchy. In terms of individual psychology the orientation toward commanding height is the superego. A superego which you have been socialized to accept without question strictly limits your thinking. To begin to think autonomously you first have to recognize that much of your orientation was provided culturally with intent to immerse you in the hive mind story, and that important features of reality, of history for example, have been distorted or edited out to construct your orientation, so that your impression of reality is very unlike actual reality. It is possible to reconnect with reality, as illustrated in Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, through a certain kind of self-directed re-education with a component of philosophical thinking (because metaphysics is crucial).

Two claims are made for the necessity of patriarchal sovereignty, and both are false. The first claim is that only the manly force imposed by the patriarchal hierarchy maintains social order against centripetal forces of self-interest, against the “state of nature” which would be a war of all against all (Thomas Hobbes). The problem with that claim is that it isn’t the the top-down power structure, a manifestation of a traditional hyper-masculine ethos, that enables the functioning of civil society. Instead, the sociability that makes civil society work is constructed perennially by the first-language-nurture socializing work performed continuously by women caring for infants and children. Language is a model of bottom-up social engagement operating independently of the commanding top-down hierarchy of force and law. The opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy but something entirely different: mutually nurturing systems of sociability. Those processes that actually construct the coherence of societies are already operating reliably, but, absurdly, the profundity of their effects remains absent from even the most liberal of intellectual conversations.

The second claim is that the hierarchical organization of force is the eternal and natural order of things. This is a metaphysical claim, an assertion of eternal necessities decreed by a transcendence at the far horizons: god or natural law, obedience to which constitutes virtue. The appeal to natural law becomes metaphysics as soon as findings about what “is” are asserted as evidence for what “ought” to be. (Thanks David Hume.) Patriarchal thinking operates within an orientation in which eternal necessities, decreed from the farthest horizons, pre-determine what is correct thinking and perception for every individual, so that everyone’s subjectivity must be and should be formed by, and subordinate to, the determinate structures and categories of the objective world, including social, economic, and political structures. This metaphysical claim is the ultimate justification of an orientation that looks to a commanding height for declarations of value, order, and identity, because the transcendence at the far horizons is the ultimate commanding height from which all others draw legitimacy. However, this metaphysical claim is untenable, merely privileging selected aspects of reality by appeal to something mysterious and too remote to be examined, and as such is a superstition. There is a more plausible alternative metaphysics based on anyone’s personal experience: the transcendence of individual creative consciousness, of individual free agency. More of this in a moment.

Hive Minds Make War

The kind of hive mind constructed within human social systems is always a way to persuade a majority to remain unthinking about the legitimacy of political and economic institutions. It demands blind faith in arrangements by the most powerful to proclaim the collective story, for example, proclaiming the need for a pre-emptive military strike against another collective. Cultural hive mind is a readiness for emotional responses to culturally supplied triggers, programmed belief and collective response. The ultimate reason for this unthinking is to defend and perpetuate a structure of sovereignty, the compulsory control over a majority by a minority faction, maintaining the immunities, advantages, and privileges of those who benefit most from and sponsor this sovereignty as a system of perpetual and acute inequality. It isn’t merely that controllers of great wealth have by far the most influence on government policies and practices, through political party funding, control of ‘think tanks’ and news media, and the paid activity of lobbyists, but also that the military-legal-police essence of governments as they exist is an expression of a peculiarly top-down hyper-masculine ethos glorifying a commanding height, a legacy and manifestation of entrenched power and wealth inequality, of self-preserving oligarchy.

A third claim made in defence of patriarchy is that individuals can’t do without immersion in some herd or other because individual personhood (individual thinking) does not exist. The first thing wrong with this is that any learning or socializing requires the activity of a pre-existing individual subject or self exercising an already coherent spiritual bearing. There is no now without a then, no here without a there, and every there and then is brought to the here and now spiritually by a person’s intelligence reorienting to immediate sensation, to its unique embodiment. Any situation is given meaning and sense by the action of a personal sensibility bringing specific context (specific questioning, curiosity, expectation, caring, hope: bearing, the sense of the passage of time) to it, transforming sensation into perception by interpreting sensation through a personal context. It is creative activity, a thought or idea of temporal opening that is thinking itself into the world. All of that must be active already before any cultural imitation or socialization can occur, so an individual’s thinking always retains a fundamental independence from any collective orientation or cultural norms. Individual personhood, independent of hive minds, is guaranteed by the rich individuality of consciousness and embodiment separate from any cultural socialization. Autonomous thinking exists, and there’s nothing more fulfilling.

This is where the previous refutation of the metaphysics of far horizons shows its consequences, because here we have a replacement metaphysics. In the search for transcendence there is no longer any plausibility in a gaze toward far horizons, and finally we must recognize that transcendence is only in the gaze itself. Consciousness itself, the being of a spiritual person, a self-constructing idea of a life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself into the world, is the only fountain of unforeseeable possibilities creating the openness to an otherwise inertial and entropic world. That makes thinking the transcendent power and eliminates the imperative to orient to an external commanding authority. Consciousness (thinking) is not a single occurrence but a multitude of separate and distinctly embodied instances, individual animal bodies, some of them human. Since transcendent consciousness (freedom) occurs at the level of the embodied individual, and collectives have no original consciousness, there is no collective transcendence. With no transcendence at the top, collectives have to be legitimized from the level of the individual. Just as the metaphysics of far horizons implied a top-down social organization, this new metaphysics of individual consciousness implies a bottom-up organization. It means that metaphysics lines up on the side of women against patriarchy.

Another mistake in that third claim for patriarchy is the implication that human interconnectedness requires force, that there would be no culture or community without it. However, getting rid of patriarchal orientation does not require getting rid of human interconnections in general. Hive minds can be replaced with the better kinds of interconnection that already exist, with social arrangements among people who do not have or need an orientation toward a commanding height, but who instead interact with others in the joy of sharing the powers of creative consciousness among distinct individuals. Mutually nurturing systems of sociability are already operating and the patriarchy is merely a parasitic system imposed on them. For an orientation outside hive minds, human history is still human history, profoundly misrepresented by the stories that are used to fashion hive minds. Every individual still participates in that larger history that includes the whole collection of hive minds as well as what exists beyond them. As a self-possessed agent you have a special place in the historic cultural movement dissolving patriarchal dystopia.

In the ancient conception of philosophical thinking, the goal was to achieve imperturbability, which followed from what was identified as transcendent, namely eternity, eternal necessities. When the world is eternally pre-determined then cultivating imperturbability makes sense as an accomplishment of thinking. With rejection of totalitarian eternal necessities, replaced by recognition of transcendent individual freedom-in-the-passing-of-time, the whole point of philosophical thinking changes. In this orientation the intended achievement of thinking is autonomous agency, claiming and practicing the creative freedom which is the transcendence of spiritual beings in a life in the world. Agency is the truest expression and realization of human spirituality. In this age of scientifically engineered propaganda, of corporate, political, and ideological mass messaging, of identity politics, philosophical thinking as a portal to self-possession or agency has become crucial.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

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A Point of Dispute with Post-Modernist Theory

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Posting 118, word count: 1,656

Post-modernist theory rejects the mental autonomy and creative agency of the individual that Enlightenment era philosophy introduced into modernity. It’s also the universality insisted upon by philosophical claims that post-modernists reject and deny. Implicit here is the post-modernist claim that individual identity is inseparable from an ambient cultural hive mind made up of specific ‘discourses’. That individuals can move their personal orientation beyond an ambient hive mind (cultural discourses), beyond an ethnic identity, and reorient into a human intelligence or spirituality that has crucial commonalities with all other individual intelligences universally, and so engage in thinking with a peculiarly philosophical universality and autonomy, is rejected by post-modernists. The claimed necessity of ethnic identity is the theory behind a postmodernist imperative to refrain from criticizing cultures, to respect the peculiarities of all cultures because criticism is always from some ‘colonizing, imperialist, alien cultural perspective’. The fragmentations of identity politics follow. Without philosophical universality you can’t criticize patriarchy or patriarchal superego. This is our point of dispute.

It is not controversial that individual people universally share both consciousness and embodiment. The question is this: is there enough that is inherent in only consciousness and embodiment for an individual to have a viable identity able to enact an exit from hive minds? Part of the post-modernist claim is that there is no coherent person, subject, or agent without the input of particular cultural norms encountered and learned from ongoing interactions with other people within an ambient community. This claim has essential common ground with the claim of David Hume (1711-76) that there is no continuity of interior subjectivity.

Hume’s Phenomenology

Hume’s phenomenology of subjectivity as a “bundle of impressions and ideas” in which he could identify no enduring self or person, emerges when experience is pre-conceived as passively receptive and determined exclusively by the bombardment at every moment of a manifold of stimuli from surrounding objects and events. Such a pre-conception is typical of empiricists with their idea of consciousness as a “blank slate” that exists only as the sensory stimuli and afterimages that appear there. That model is inaccurate, however, because consciousness doesn’t work passively. A person comes to each moment as an agent, searching, reaching, and delving as an interpretation of a personal past. Such temporal depth and agency is exactly subjective continuity since responses to lessons learned enacted as a personal vectoring into futurity are acts of a subject. Knowing is nothing like a mental photocopy of facts, not the ability to recover an afterimage of words or images from a stack. When something is known it has been made a fixture of a person’s orientation, embedded in a personal sense of context and bearing, an overall sense of where you are, where you are coming from, and where headed: the personal context for making sense of anything sensed or perceived. Knowledge isn’t afterimages but instead a rich directionality of flight, a poise or bearing. Any consciousness is already agency expressing a subjectivity whose particular identity is formed very much by embodiment but also by spiritual individuality, an individual peculiarity of sensitivity, point of view, questioning, impulses to make a personal mark, individuality of voice. Embodiment gives us the personal identity of a particular shape and placement; mobility, experience of moving and shaping other objects; gesturing, posturing and vocalizing, often in exchanges with other embodied spiritualities; ingestion, experience of kinaesthetic-metabolic energy depletion and restoration which models nature as a cost-shape of effort and effect. What persons have in common universally as consciousness and embodiment are dimensions of individual identity.

Discourses Don’t Think (Only Individuals Think)

When “thinking” is mentioned it might still suggest an outward gaze, an opening through sensitivity to objects in the surrounding world, maybe contemplated after the fact with retained impressions or from reading or hearing spoken reports. There is much to think about in the tumultuous, terrible, and wonderful world, from dinner to politics. However, there is also much to think about concerning thinking itself, the action of a personal sensibility that brings to any sensitivity all the context that gives it meaning and sense, a sensibility that delves sensations for confirmations of expectations and opportunities for personal aspirations. The directionality of any human gaze is so guided by what cannot be perceived, with subjective non-actualities such as futurity, aspirations, and lessons learned, (caring, anticipation, evaluation) that it points (in addition to a region of surroundings) to what can only be characterized as a personal interiority of spiritual non-actuality. Spiritual agency isn’t an object or a substance, has no completed outline or appearance, but it still has plenty of identity.

A spirituality’s self-awareness takes the form of a particular bearing into a semi-obscure openness of futurity which includes a structure of increasingly remote probabilities and possibilities, a structure of anticipation, evaluation, and aspiration, and so, overall, of caring (a marker of spirituality). Each spirituality is characterized by its own interiority of such temporally structured non-actuality, bearing into the openness and freedom of an indeterminate future with the force of curiosity, questioning, accumulated discoveries, an impulse to self-declare, to make a personal mark, and of empathic sociability. Personal acts of caring both express and keep constructing the most personal newness and incompleteness. In that way time is a structure of caring which uses impressions of entropy physics (of embodiment and its working: muscle knowledge and kinaesthetic-metabolic knowledge) in a construction of expectation and directionality.

For such a sensibility, time is something about now, specifically the personal context-in-flight brought to bear upon now as the portal to creating a personal future. The sense of time to come, of passing into time to come, is a glimpse of the freedom of ideality, of the ongoing (never finished) self-construction of sensibility. In a certain sense we exist entirely in our spiritual reach into not-yet in the context of lessons interpreted from no-longer. Only spirituality (intelligence) strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, and that is the essence of creativity. Teleology of creation is another identifier of spirituality, to add to curiosity, questioning, accumulating orientation, and expressive gestures or voice. Consciousness, the being of a spiritual person, a self-constructing idea-of-a-life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself through the world, is a fountain of unforeseeable possibilities creating openness in an otherwise inertial and entropic world. In such a world, consciousness can recognize its temporal bearing as transcendent in its outreaching sensitivity, its caring and curiosity, its ever renewing ideality, its freedom and power of embodied intervention within the shape of brute actuality. In the strictly inertial and entropic world, this very limited freedom is shockingly transcendent.

The freedom and creativity of an intelligence is in transcending the vanishing particularity of nature, transcending its own embodied particularity by always tilting into an indefinite beyond-itself, projecting active construction and expression from interior non-actuality. Nothing defies particularity outside spiritual creativity, and the peculiarity of spirituality is in being both particular and utterly beyond particularity. Evading particularity means asserting spirituality, making sure that a manifest expression is actualized, enacted, but of a kind that includes incompleteness, an openness for surprise and newness. Self-creation is never self-completion. Instead of having any definitive personal particularity, we have precisely what we think of as spirituality, namely freedom, time to come as freedom into which a possible future extension of self, of life, is projected, a personal metaphysical non-actuality. Freedom is possible because time is a device or technique created by individual intelligences to transcend (be free of) nature’s determinism, and so it could be said that being-in-time is what distinguishes intelligences from the natural world within which we build lives. Time is the foundation of freedom from nature and as such it is the transcendence of intelligences. Individuals cannot claim to be creative masters of nature, but each person creates a time-system (a life) of possibilities and probabilities in our own universe of interiority, which is then actually imposed on brute nature with variable success, and shared by enacting interconnections with others. The flight of ideality creates a special sensitivity to other fountains of unforeseeable possibilities, other conscious agents. In such sociability we have: empathy, the comfort of companionship and sharing, co-operative bonding, community, ethics, morality, culture, and conversation.

The agency inherent in consciousness, particularized and empowered by embodiment and yet made transcendently open and creatively indefinite by spirituality, establishes that personhood, viable identity, is not fundamentally a construct of cultural norms. We can judge and criticize patriarchy, patriarchal superego, and any other cultural norms from the perspective of the inherent agency of individual consciousness which is always outside a hive mind orientation. Not only that, but the personal transcendence in spirituality is a guiding beacon in a process of thinking that judges (and discards) culturally assigned labels, categories, and evaluations of personal identity which contradict and deny personal transcendence. We still have an inherent sensitivity to other conscious agents and good reasons to re-invent empathic interconnections.

There certainly is a requirement of sociability, and we construct our sociability initially by learning, conforming to, and using the norms of interaction on display around us. Individuals imitate and twist the norms of interaction we encounter. The imitation of such norms of identity is pragmatic role-playing, constructing a sort of costume or mask which can become habitual and obsessive and yet always removable in principle. The original agency is not replaced or destroyed. The identity markers assigned by culture depend on the inherent agent to make them work, are in fact parasitic on the inherent agent, and agency remains when an individual moves personal orientation beyond a cultural hive mind or ethnic identity and reorients philosophically into a human intelligence or spirituality that has crucial commonalities with all other individual intelligences universally.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

Politics is Metaphysics (3): Crisis of the Left

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Posting 117, word count: 1199

Metaphysics is the ultimate weakness of the political left-wing. Right-wing politics is the promotion of patriarchy, and the main pillar of patriarchy is the widespread personal orientation (superego) formed around bogyman metaphysics, assumptions of cosmic moral ledger-keeping in preparation for a final reckoning, a cosmic plan. Any conception such as karma that includes the idea of a cosmic reckoning, or any other reward and punishment after death, is personification of nature on the grand scale (bogyman metaphysics), entrenching an idealized paradigm of patriarchy as a top-down personal orientation. Platonic Ideal Forms and any other metaphysics ascribing primacy to some conception of eternal Being or a Great Chain of Being are also examples of top-down metaphysics. It is the top-down orientation which confers meaning on imperialistic war. Right-wingers have elaborate social and biological theories (Hobbes, Darwin) cementing conflict, trophies, and centralized monopolies of violence as crucial forces of civilization and society. Such theories are expressions of top-down metaphysical assumptions, and the metaphysics is the ultimate support of right-wing political power. Right-wing thinking operates in an overall conception in which the objective world consists of certain specific, determinate, and eternal structures (great chain of being) and categories (atomic facts) which pre-determine what is correct thinking and perception for every individual. In that right-wing world everyone’s subjectivity must be and should be formed by, and subordinate to, the determinate structures and categories of the objective world, including social, economic, and political structures. The right-wing orientation is a looking outward for transcendence or for an equivalent for transcendence in material determinism, categorically given and absolute in the Great Chain of Being. Top-down metaphysics is entirely bogus but unfortunately is the universal cultural default, entrenched by history and tradition. Such is the dystopia in which the prospects and strategies for autonomous thinking as an individual must be devised. The good news is that, since the personal superego is the patriarchy, then disrupting the patriarchy is an accomplishment of thinking, an intellectual and cultural enterprise. More good news is that there has been since ancient times a cultural stream of philosophical thinking, a minority report, that resisted and disputed the dominant orientation.

Historical Roots of the Political Left

The main roots of the political left, expressed for example in socialism, are in the philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, specifically in the radical branch of the Enlightenment which asserted universal human rationality, a transcendent power at the level of the individual, and developed that claim into a profound rejection of social and economic inequality as most evident in such institutions as monarchy, aristocracy, and religious hierarchies. The other looming presence in the ideology of the left, Marxist theory, was merely a footnote to and a distortion of Enlightenment ideas, and Enlightenment ideology itself was a particular formulation of the cultural stream of philosophical thinking that disputed the dominant orientation since antiquity. Marxist theory attempted to change the foundation of egalitarianism from universal human rationality (at the level of the individual) to the predetermined working out of economic laws governing class struggle in history: dialectical materialism. It was a variant of Hegelian (top-down) metaphysics, driven by the cosmic Final Cause, and a tragic dead end innovation. The collapse of communism in The Soviet Union and eastern Europe exposed the absurdity of using materialism as a bottom-up foundation for such Enlightenment ideas as innate rationality, equality, individual human dignity and rights, secularism, cosmopolitanism, and representative democracy. Although materialism can claim to be an alternative to top-down orientations, and was promoted as such by the radical branch of Enlightenment, it cannot avoid determinism and so becomes a justification for anything that exists. The idea of economic determinism is still an institutionalized assumption in the science of economics. Karl Marx’s ideas of dialectical materialism and laws of history demonstrate how materialism settles into strict fatalism, unfreedom, and the impossibility of transcendence (the creation of unforeseeable alternatives and possibilities). The loss of transcendence carries the implication that everything has to be just the way it has always been. The collapse of Marxism was not the collapse of the long historical development of egalitarianism as implicit in Enlightenment ideas, because the same egalitarianism was vestigial in ancient humanist philosophy and in Renaissance humanism and in a continuous stream of cultural developments in western cultural history. The pressure of egalitarianism has lasted so long against apparently crushing forces because it expresses the fundamental reality of transcendence at the level of the individual, implicit in the idea of universal human rationality. The collapse of Marxism merely discredits materialist and top-down metaphysics (as in economic theory) as a base for the political left.

Metaphysics for the Political Left

Although in the early twenty-first century the political left is faltering badly for lack of an articulated metaphysics, it already has an informal conceptual framework, a thinking orientation, which implies its metaphysics. Left-wing thinking operates in a conception of the world in which 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. In that context, individual subjectivities have a mission that goes beyond struggling for survival and acquiring trophies and knowledge of objective facts, a mission, instead, to conceive and make an authentically personal mark on the world, to bring goods from a spiritual interiority and inject them into the shape of the public world. Creating structures of mutually nurturing sociability is an essential part of that mission. On the left-wing view, then, individual subjectivity is transcendent in relation to the merely inertial and entropic world. If metaphysics is the identification of transcendence, then the political left is already committed to a metaphysics. Consciousness itself, the being of a spiritual person, a self-constructing idea of a life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself into the world, is the only fountain of unforeseeable possibilities creating the openness to an otherwise inertial and entropic world. That makes thinking the transcendent power. Consciousness (thinking) is not a single occurrence but a multitude of separate and distinctly embodied instances, individual animal bodies, some of them human.

The salvation of the left does not lie in abandoning transcendence in a rush to the metaphysical bottom of materialism, nor in a backward-looking reverence for antique conceptions of top-down cosmic providence, but instead in a reconceptualizing of transcendence that builds on the Enlightenment recognition of individual rationality. The great mistake in metaphysics has been to gaze outward, especially toward far horizons, squinting to make out messages in the haze. The focus of metaphysics has to be the looking itself, not what is seen but the seeing. Consciousness, and only consciousness, is transcendent, and consciousness occurs only at the level of the individual, and not as a passive receptivity but instead in the application of personal context in a moment of interpretive sensitivity, a context-projecting moment of interpretation. There is no looking or seeing without an encounter of personally specific context with novel sensitivity, a personally spiritual act.

Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.

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.

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.