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Re-Conceptualizing Individual Intelligence

Modernity is a system of reality which, once again, profoundly misrepresents, undervalues, and under-appreciates individual intelligences simply as such, so the Enlightenment-era campaign to strengthen the dignity and autonomy of individuals (by recognizing our inherent rationality) was not sufficient. In fact, that campaign was undermined by the very materialism it used to get human nature back down to earth from the Christian kingdom of eternity in the sky, to subvert the claims of parasitic Old Regime social supervisors to be the appointed vicars of the God of eternity. History has shown that metaphysical determinism of any kind, including scientific materialism, ultimately justifies everything about the way things are, the entire status quo. The justifiers of top-down human parasitism have figured that out and use it strategically to legitimize their privileged advantages. In the triumph of science, the materialists and determinists have officially won the quarrel of ideas, and now confidently claim all the intellectual high ground, but that has not had the liberating political and social consequences promised by the eighteenth century radical materialists. Quite the reverse. The determinability of the human machine of scientific fables has inspired the parasite factions to exert utmost effort to control and program human behaviour generally. So yet again, it is necessary to re-conceptualize reality to increase the recognition of power and autonomy in individual embodied intelligences.

All institutional systems of reality that we know of have served the interest of human parasite factions in keeping the majority of people subordinate and vulnerable through distortions of self-identification within a culturally imposed system of reality, often dominated by religion, for example, and as such defining individuals as subordinate to invisible super-beings. Of the ‘three punch combination’ of the Enlightenment, presented in the previous posting (79, January 15, 2015, Two Lessons from History: Mutable Reality), the most important and effective punch was enriching the conceptualization of individual subjectivity by adding rationality to it, increasing the dignity of individuals universally, empowering and enhancing individuals by recognizing their inherent and autonomous intelligence. Crucially, that was not an isolated historical precedent. Martin Luther’s civilization-shaking breakthrough in the sixteenth century was also an empowerment of every individual as able to transcend doubt and uncertainty by taking an interior leap of faith, and in so doing ‘positing’ (to use the expression that Fichte applied to such creative acts) a system of reality, which in Luther’s case was the system of Christian reality. In addition, there is a Stoic background to Luther’s vision, but Luther’s conception of the individual’s power to posit a system of reality goes beyond the Stoic power to assent, or not, to the entire Logos of the world. It is also noteworthy that Luther’s re-conceptualization came in the wake of Wycliffe’s fourteenth century push for vernacular (proletarian) literacy, which was soon supercharged by the spread of printing technology. There is a deep and rich tradition here, an effective philosophical movement to enhance the recognition of individuals in the teeth of dominant cultures which exert every effort to do exactly the opposite. Since enhancing and enriching the understanding of individuality was the most important effort of the Enlightenment, but imperfectly achieved, it remains the most important objective in re-conceptualizing our system of reality.

Re-Thinking Transcendence

Re-conceptualizing our system of reality should begin, this time, by separating intelligences individually off from nature. Although it seems, at first, a difficult thing in our materialist system of reality to separate anything off from nature, it is easy in the case of intelligences because nothing more is needed than the clear distinction between strict actuality and non-actuality. Strict categorical actuality is nature. There are no non-actualities in nature, by definition, and yet there are countless non-actualities in any person’s experience, for example: futurity as a construct of aspirations for peace, pleasure, fun, and love, a construct of hopes and fears. Nature at large contains no non-actualities, and yet non-actualities are crucial features of the orientation or question-bearings of individual intelligences. Teleological time, for example, is a construct of non-actualities: mutually exclusive possibilities and hoped-for resolutions, contradictions and negations, regrets, bearings toward increasingly remote probabilities and ‘long-ago’s, and readiness to seize second chances. All this non-actuality is entirely interior to individual intelligences. Intelligences construct our non-actualities into appropriate anticipations or expectations of what is going to happen now, in the next moment, hour, day, in such a way as to insert into actuality (at considerable metabolic cost) our personally intended futurity of love, energy, dignity, and pleasure. Intelligences transcend nature because, in creating a personal situation out of a play of non-actualities, we use our non-actualities as the matrix of our freedom, something entirely alien to pre-determined nature.

This is an individual intelligence resisting and overcoming the brute particularity of nature by what we call living, building personal expressions, being in a life. Since time as experienced requires an elaborate structure of non-actualities identifiable only in the interior bearings of a personal gaze, consideration of time immediately requires a plunge into the interiority of individual intelligences and as such beyond the conceptual reach of materialism. So, considerations of teleology, time, and freedom, or, uniting all three, intelligences, stand as fatal problems for materialist reductionism. In a world of complete and perfect determinism (perfectly actual particularity) time collapses into a meaningless infinitesimal instant. Only teleological freedom dilates time (interior to particular intelligences) with conceptions of a life’s possibilities, each judged with degrees of improbability and personal costs (embodiment).

Actuality vs Non-Actuality

It is long past time to develop the tradition of enhancing the recognition of individuals universally, and this time it should be done by re-conceptualizing the individual intelligence as the ultimate transcendence in its power to create non-actualities, that is, to create non-actualities that re-configure actuality, to create effective or instrumental non-actualities. The crucial distinction is not between Being and Nothingness (a non-actuality), or between Being and time (another non-actuality), but instead something prior to both, the distinction between actuality and non-actuality. Non-actuality expresses creativity, and as such is not pre-determinable from any actuality. This is the duality that finally breaks the mystical visions of monism, whether materialist or idealist. What is gained from this duality is a recognition of a profound individual freedom, which many people purport to treasure. It is not clear that anything of comparable importance is gained from monism, including the materialist monism of science.

Top-down Systems of Reality

It seems that in the culturally conditioned conceptual pattern of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe it was impossible to separate teleology, freedom, and creativity from the idea of the monotheistic God of the Abrahamic religions, a superhuman divine intelligence. It was impossible to conceive teleology, freedom, and creativity as strictly limited to the scale of individual embodied people, and so localized, limited, plural, and distributed as animal bodies are distributed. Apparently it seemed to the radical philosophers of that time and system of reality that in order to eradicate the superstition of an omnipotent super-parent which effectively legitimized the supremacy of human parasites, it was necessary to abandon transcendence entirely, and so to embrace just nature and total determinism. However, the whole social and political point of their work was an assertion of individual autonomy and freedom of thought, and so, in their determinist materialism, they defeated themselves.

Always, the main barrier to recognizing individual intelligences as autonomous eruptions of transcendent freedom has been the pre-supposition that the powers of intelligences are gifts from some origin greater than the individual: a deity, or a cosmic logos or force of libidinal vitality, or just the pre-determined course of natural law. However, those are all assumptions mandated culturally by an overall top-down structure in systems of reality, and a critical re-thinking of experience reveals that individual intelligences are, in our interiority of non-actualities, independent and autonomous sources of creativity. The non-actualities created spontaneously by individual intelligences are not mysteriously injected from outside, are not expressions of an occult cosmic teleology, vital libidinal force in nature, or a disembodied super-intelligence. They are just what they seem to be: creations of particular embodied intelligences. It is undeniable that intelligences are sponges of the creations of other intelligences, of culture, and that many non-actualities are manipulated by culture and imitated by individuals, and so originate from outside in that sense. However, culture is entirely the product of the creativity of previous multitudes of individual intelligences.

The Pluralism of Freedom

The currently standard conception of freedom is well represented by the Freudian model described in the previous posting cited above. On that model, it makes no sense to say that freedom comes from individual nature (biology manifested as the compulsive drives of id) or from individual ego-personality (merely a pattern of balance among external forces), but only as something from the superego, something arranged socially and culturally, a quality of the constraints and opportunities visited upon individuals by institutions of sovereignty, deity, and economics. Freedom defined in that way is a sort of revokable parental indulgence like borrowing the family car, which isn’t an impressive freedom. The considerations of actuality and non-actuality presented above uncover a different freedom, a freedom that is inalienable from individual intelligences. On this re-conceptualized system of reality, freedom is an inherent feature of any individual intelligence, and, most important of all, such freedom suddenly establishes a bottom-up reality.

Currently, what might seem like an uneasy co-existence of Medieval Christian and modern scientific systems of reality is in fact the co-operation of two systems that have much in common. There is an easy transition from monotheism to science, since both are examples of top-down visions, both conceiving a cosmic force or set of forces determining everything in every particular detail. Scientific materialism replaces the omnipotent god with omnipotent universal laws. Asserting the transcendent freedom of individuals-as-such departs decisively from the exclusivity of science for understanding events, but not only that. It also departs decisively from the whole historically dominant tradition of top-down metaphysics which includes both religions and science. Top-down metaphysics is an abstraction from social subjugation, which, in a most vicious circle, is ideologically mutated into a distorted vision of transcendence and then used to legitimize the worldly subjugation. Departing from the exclusivity of science will challenge those committed to modern visions of reality. Departing from the exclusivity of religion will sorely try others. However, this recognition of transcendence in individuals is implicit in the evolution through Stoicism and Epicureanism, to Wycliffe, to Luther, to the radical Enlightenment, and to Kant and Fichte, not to mention the immediate personal experience of intelligence.

We have to re-conceptualize the prevailing system of reality so that intelligences do not disappear as we currently do into pre-determined nature or into other-worldly eternity, but instead stand as autonomous and creative forces at the level of every individual. Separating intelligences off from nature, without removing ourselves to a metaphysical cloud of eternity, changes conceptions of both nature and community, the other pillars of cultural reality. It changes the concept of nature by removing nature as the be-all and end-all explanation and justification of the entire status quo, specifically by removing from nature the ultimate sources of individual behaviour and force, such as from a biologically determined will-to-power which makes individuals little more than missiles of self-gratification. Nature remains as the sum total of the strictly and categorically actual, distinct from all non-actualities such as past and future.

The observation that transcendence is not external to individuals but instead is internal to every intelligence is not new. Fichte, for example, can be cited as someone who declared it, but the idea is common. We read such things as, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” The problem is that nobody seems able to remain true to that idea, apparently because of the ingrained top-down structure of historical systems of reality. There is always a drift away from ordinary individuals toward some metaphysical cosmic force or intelligence, an absolute I or a vital creative dimension to all existence, which concludes by once again rendering the ordinary individual-as-such completely unfree and alienated from the origin of agency and creativity. This also becomes an excuse for embracing the tragic or Romantic-nihilist view of life, the view that injustice is an essential part of the cosmic process so that no one is accountable and nothing can be done about it (for example, in Foucault following Nietzsche).

Re-Conceptualizing Community and Transcendent Self-Possession

Both actual and potential forms of community are re-modelled when individual intelligences are recognized as autonomously creative. Separating intelligences off from nature to recognize the creative freedom of individuals creates a far different potential for empathic interconnectedness as the foundation of community. The animalistic/ instinctual urges become individually manageable and non-lethally pleasurable, put into proportion by the pleasures of expressing an ever-developing personal creative process, as well as by the exciting enlargement that individuals experience in sustainable attachments with others. The need for ownership-type superegos structured into social organization disappears entirely. In this light the existing society is revealed as structures of top-down human-on-human parasitism, sustained by cultural distortions obscuring and legitimizing the entrenched parasitism. Recognizing the parasitic impulse in the fabric of all hierarchical institutions and systems of subordination, especially those of sovereign states and commercial corporations (power and wealth), reveals immediately that messages within ambient culture about the preciousness of civilization as a matrix of high values and personal elevation or fulfillment are all malign manipulations, against which the only defence is identification of points of reference prior to and independent of cultural programming. That defence is a philosophical thinking which establishes for each individual a transcendent self-possession within a bottom-up system of reality, emphasizing everybody’s personal predicament of being in a life, with the unceasing urgencies of building that life laboriously in an embodied particularity made elastic and indefinite by the creative powers of an individual intelligence.

Note: Here are some views of Fichte:

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.

Fichte: The Self and the Calling of Philosophy, 1762-1799, written by Anthony J. La Vopa, Published by Cambridge University Press (2001), ISBN-10: 0521791456, ISBN-13: 978-0521791458.

The Roots of Romanticism, written by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy, Published by Princeton University Press (2001), ISBN-10: 0691086621, ISBN-13: 978-0691086620.

Copyright © 2015 Sandy MacDonald.

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