Posting 133, Word count: 1,601.
The global culture of intellectual inquiry is proud and happy to have finished the main task, content now with a post-heroic and workmanlike mopping up of loose ends and filling in little gaps. Any re-conceptualization of fundamental reality as a whole is next to unimaginable. The intellectual certainty of this era comes from faith in the comprehensive explaining power of science, universally celebrated. However, there is a problem, and the problem is politics in which ever increasing inequality warps and rips human interconnectedness, and violent conflict is threatening new extremes of catastrophic destruction and suffering because of weapons conceived and supplied by the community of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Science has proven itself unable to help in the creation of workable political systems that are able to treat everyone decently by cultivating everyone’s freedom.
The conceptual system of science excludes freedom from fundamental reality by excluding teleological ideality, which is to say, by excluding personality from fundamental reality, but without understanding personalities as points of freedom it is impossible to take politics beyond forms of imperialism and vicious factional conflict. The modern consensus still rests on the Hobbesian thesis, which asserts a rational need to submit to any effective sovereignty as the only way to dampen the war of all against all which lurks inherently in human nature as conceived since feudal Christendom.
Euro-American modernity evolved from, and is still firmly in the cultural grip of a conservative longing for, feudal Christendom. Political conservatism is the surviving cultural remnant of, and nostalgia for, both the political ideology (patriarchy) and the religious metaphysics of feudal Christendom. The conservative devotion to symbols and pageantry of territorial states, along with the metaphysical assumptions of human nature as a continual grasping for definition and standing through competitions for property, are again remnants of feudal Christendom. Feudalism was a fundamentalist patriarchy, institutionalized sovereign rights of the father, expressing the principle that the strongest has sovereign rights over everyone else, rights to the property of the weaker, rights to the lives of the weaker, generally the right to be comprehensively parasitic on the weaker. Those assumptions grew out of the traditional family in which the father was the strongest and women and children were assumed to lack even a minimum competence. Implicit in the conservative world view is a belief that feudal patriarchy is the social and political structure predetermined by God or nature. Science has defined itself and directed its questions in such a way as to avoid confrontation with either the political ideology of patriarchy, including its conception of human nature, or its sanctifying religious ideology featuring a supernatural force of angry patriarchal will and consciousness (personality) at large in the cosmos, appeased only by submissive flattery, just like embodied patriarchs only on a grander scale.
Most scientific investigators have some family background of religious affiliation and so have a culture-based tendency to think about transcendence in terms of cosmic intelligence, cosmic personality. Some reject that kind of transcendence as absurd, which it is, but on that basis dismiss the very idea of transcendence and of personality as a fundamental principle of reality. Others accept cosmic personality as the truth of transcendence, a supernatural reality distinct from the one described by science, and knowable only through unquestioning religious faith.
The conception of personality in feudal Christendom contains a stark contrast between divine personality and human personalty. Divine personality is transcendently creative and free, the one and only instance of transcendent free agency, whereas human nature, human personality, is a meagre and degraded imitation of that divinity, hardly comparable at all, inviting a reductionist interpretation in which human personality is merely the working out of mechanistic and ‘pre-set’ appetites, drives, and responses to stimuli. That interpretation is easily compatible with scientific principles. Although science stipulates a single fundamental principle of reality, namely the physical ‘nature’ of actuality, the need for two principles of reality is demonstrated by straightforward considerations, as presented in The World that Doesn’t Matter. The principles could be described as ‘the world that matters’ and ‘the world that doesn’t matter’. The world that matters becomes something that matters only because it includes personalities with free agency. Without them, with only the physical nature of actuality, nothing matters in the least. It has often been asserted that removing belief in the supernatural force of divine will and consciousness (personality) in the cosmos would eliminate meaning and purpose from the lives of humans. As stated, it is a false claim, but what is clearly true is that without some personalities in the world for whom the living of a life matters, meaning really does disappear utterly from reality. The world with personalities is fundamentally and essentially different from the world without us, and the presence of personality is what makes the difference. That is the first datum of metaphysics.
Feudal patriarchy was and is a construct of metaphysical ideas: a bleak conception of human nature, a sharply contrasting idea of divinity, earthly trophies interpreted as markers of standing in the divine consciousness, rights of the strongest to sovereign immunity. Getting past the dystopian political systems built from those conceptions will follow only from better metaphysics, and science is unable to touch such issues.
Time-Scapes of Ideality
It is clear from these considerations that improvement in metaphysics is the only hope for building workable political arrangements because metaphysics can engage teleology and abstraction as fundamental reality, and teleology and abstraction are crucial to understanding freedom. (Teleology is what Aristotle called final cause.) Teleology is ideality (abstraction), rather than concrete materiality or actuality, because it anticipates conditions and objects which do not exist, but which might possibly be made to exist if certain actions are taken, if a certain agency is exercised through an increasingly remote and improbable future. This teleological ideality constitutes the special existence of, the living of, personality, subjectivity. In the brute actuality of nature, time is just inevitability, but for teleological personality time is a construct of opportunity for effective creation, free agency, because personality creates a time-scape of ideality from personal judgements about continuities and instabilities in the brute actuality of nature, judgments of probability and possibility, questions, negations, interests in certain pleasures and gratifications, in making an original mark, in making things right, empathic attachment to other personalities, impulses to nurture, to learn, to think, to teach, to arrange a sustainable life in the world. Within that time-scape of ideality which is a personality’s orientation and bearing in the world, the subject exercises agency by actively imposing (not always perfectly) its personal ideality on actuality, a power of embodiment. This recognition of human nature is opposed to, and far more realistic than, the conservative conception of a drive for self-definition through conflict. Everyone knows from the most immediate personal experience that the ideality of teleology exists in agency. This recognition of personality also removes the Christian/ Hobbesian absolute need for sovereignty. It means that individuals don’t need to submit to a sovereign or any other supervision to build stable human interconnections within which to develop mutually supportive free expression.
It is always problematic to bleed qualities of either side of the ideal/ actual dualism into the other side, to think of ideality as some kind of substance or thing, for example, no matter how ethereal. To sever personality from embodiment is to conceive it as a substance, a body, which it is not. Also, problems arise from attributing qualities of personal ideality, such as caring and planning, to the concrete world of brute actuality, to inanimate objects or nature at large. Such manoeuvres always create metaphysical monstrosities such as the idea of divinity as an omniscient cosmic consciousness, claims of divine favour for some particular political faction, for some established sovereignty or for a claimant to sovereignty, always resulting in dystopian political arrangements. For any hope of workable political systems able to treat everyone decently, it is crucial to have a strong metaphysics of freedom, to acknowledge both sides of the dualism and to keep the boundaries of the duality clear and distinct, with personality embodied in beings who breathe and have an individual voice.
Science banished personality entirely from basic reality, but personality is the transcendent fountain of freedom. The existence of personality, the being of a personal consciousness with expectations, aspirations, and agency, is the only reason anything matters, and ideality is the existence of personality. Science directs attention to predictability, and unfree materiality is absolutely predictable whereas the creative ideality of personality is not. Science cannot conceptualize freedom, creative unpredictability, and so cannot conceptualize the transcendence of ideality, spirituality. The scientific attitude fits perfectly with the politically conservative effort to stifle any evolutionary process of culture that might disrupt the feudal justifications for social hierarchy dominated by sovereign immunity, evolutionary processes that most certainly spring from the unpredictable creativity of ideality and override what may seem like the dictates of nature. This being the case, there is urgent need for another re-conceptualization of fundamental reality as a whole to upgrade, restore, and re-locate personality (spirituality, ideality) in the process of reality. Neither politics nor reality can be understood without the time-scapes of ideality which are personalities. Reality has a temporal dimension of ideality that transcends brute actuality. It is a growing, a building, a choosing to become, a moment by moment self-creation, as much as it is a falling or a pre-determined inevitability. However, there is no institutional preparation for any such thinking, certainly not in corporate, academic, or scholarly discourse.
Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.