Creative Existence

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Fragment 191, word count: 371.

tags: time, metaphysics, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, ideas, eternity, spirit, subjectivity,  drama.

There is nothing to say about eternity. There is nothing interesting about it. There is no life to eternity. Both Plato and Hegel asserted that things experienced can have different degrees of reality, and that a fully real world would be fixed, final, and eternally unchanging, so completely objective. There could be no subjectivity intervening in the state of things of that world by interpreting, curating, evaluating, and reshaping things according to projected dramas of a personal genius because that would make things unfinished and always at the point of being something new. Time is blatant unreality in that view. The world that is engaged and reshaped by subjectivity is never even remotely real in the Platonic sense, and Plato took that to mean that, for philosophy, it is a distraction, dismissible trivia. Nevertheless, even though Hegel conceived a cosmos that moves dialectically toward perfectly real eternal ideality, the perfection of eternity is not Hegel’s focus. Instead, his focus is the intentional and desperate enactment of the approach to final reality. This drama in time distinguishes Hegel’s fundamental reality from Plato’s. Hegel seems to play out an intuition that, as the primordial opening for creativity, time is the core of the spirit he wants to clarify, a kind of Aristotelian spirit in cosmic nature. It is an intuition that future-projecting teleological drama is the distinctive nature of spiritual existence. For Aristotle, every particular object holds within it an idea of itself, the spirit of itself, just as every individual person does, a self-asserting idea extending beyond what is instantaneously present, beyond the sensory appearance, the perceivable attributes, an idea with future-facing formative force! Such an Aristotelian interiority to outwardly atomic objects integrates each one with a continuity of loss and ever-opening novelty that goes far beyond it, integrating it with, placing it within, an all-encompassing radically unfinished reality. In presenting this conception of ideas as one with time, Aristotle was also already departing from his teacher Plato whose Ideal Forms were strictly eternal and timeless. Maybe Aristotle wasn’t meaning to shift the conception of reality, but he was tacitly recognizing that the drama of spiritual existence in time matters in a way that eternity never can.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Culture War

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Fragment 190, word count: 896.

tags: metaphysics, existence, deity, science, politics, dystopia, capitalism, gratification, culture, spirituality.

There are two opposing explanations for the existence of something instead of nothing. There is existence as intentional act of intervention, OR as non-intentional mere occurrence. In other words, the something that is our world is either a willful intervention by some pre-supposing ideality, the effective personal expression of some monad of caring, knowing, and anticipating intentionality, OR an inexplicable random cascading instability, perhaps manifesting a fundamental and eternally given nature which makes all particular occurrences pre-determined, but which itself, having no prior matrix, is perfectly random. Each of these explanations is a particular statement of metaphysics. The metaphysics of existence as an intentional act of intervention, in a variety of versions, was ubiquitous in human societies for ages, for example in feudal Christendom, and it always joined forces with the culture of patriarchal dominance which exploits and makes concrete the idea of deity by violently imposing the will of the strongest on everyone within reach (sovereign exceptionalism), and by instituting worshipful cult collectives with the softer attractions of grand cosmic visions and close personal belonging. In opposition to explanation by divine intervention, the mere occurrence explanation dawned in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the boutique metaphysics of mathematical materialism in the scientific Enlightenment. It began a process of removing wind from the sails of sovereigns and the social structuring around sovereignty. In the current state of modern civilization there remain these same two institutional proponents of metaphysical ideology, each supporting one of the two existential possibilities to the exclusion of the other. Religious institutions champion the deliberate interventionist side, and institutions of science and scientific education champion random occurrence, near enough. This is the shape of our civilization’s foundational culture war. Yet these two have come to an effective peace accord based on the fact that both support the (ready-to-detonate) capitalist incentive and reward system: consumption as identity-defining trophy. Science explains this system as the inevitable working of animal nature, and Christianity explains it as the inscrutable Divine plan in action. Notwithstanding their differences, both sides developed metaphysics on the model of a law-giver, divine law on one side, natural law on the other, and laws always apply top-down (unalterably) to things understood as unalterable building blocks of reality, all tidy and settled in a hierarchical chain of Being extending down into economic and political structure, social roles and relationships, and even into gender and race categories. It is a vision of existence as rigidly pre-structured and is the ideological matrix of the right-wing politics of winner-take-all inequality.

Both bastions of metaphysics are able to embrace the capitalist incentive and reward system because each misconstrues something crucial about the reality it holds dearest. Religious institutions attach themselves to the overriding reality of creative teleological interventions, the power of spirituality for spontaneously expressive novelty, so much so that they project spiritual teleology outward as the great cosmic parent hidden inside all existence, literally deifying it and proclaiming it the origin of everything. By doing that they reduce individual human-scale spirituality to ignorance, vanity, and misery. On the other side, science attaches itself to knowability, the overt public availability of material objectivity. Nothing real is hidden on this view. True reality can be lit up, measured and mapped, identified and specified, depended on as unalterably definite. Science focuses so much on material objectivity that it disappears human experience into mere mechanism. Each of these entrenched metaphysical doctrines so drastically discounts the importance of the other that actual human spirituality is distorted grotesquely by both. Dystopia follows from the denigration of individual-scale human spirituality from which certain factions gain power and benefits. Setting aside the grotesque exclusivity of the sides in this culture war, we are left with ordinary human scale experience which absolutely depends on both novel teleological creativity at the level of individual persons, and with the stability and clear discernibility of some material objectivity. We have no direct experience of deliberative interventions at a cosmic level, but we have no end of experience of them in our everyday social interactions.

Getting beyond the all-destroying capitalist incentive and reward imperative to consume requires getting beyond the outrageous denigration of individual-level spirituality in metaphysical culture. It demands nothing more than a dualistic synthesis of the opposing metaphysical visions in a new configuration: recognition of random occurrence at the cosmic level and of creative novelty, foresight, learning, and personal expression, which is to say, spontaneous spirituality, at the level of the individual person. Removing the genius of agency in our scenario from some top-down imposer of laws, and relocating it instead to ground level where everyone breaths and talks and carries on living day to day, provides a profound equality of persons. The fact is that a standard practice of creativity as personal expression is the most gratifying and self-affirming of experiences. This is the ultimate grounding for democracy because every individual brings an inherent personal fountain of gratification that bypasses the competitive market economics of trade and barter. This is a metaphysics more congruent with a leftist politics of universal dignity, equality, and mutual support. The left has always been weakened by the lack of a strong and special metaphysical foundation, and so the authentic culture war between left and right politics has not yet even really started.

Context:

Fragment 180, August 28, 2021, Existence and New Reality (word count: 505)

Fragment 173, January 30, 2021, Absolute Incompleteness (word count: 202)

Fragment 171, December 9, 2020, Science and Empathy in Defining Dystopia (word count: 779)

Fragment 167, August 28, 2020, Contesting the External Almighty (word count: 3,104)

Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189)

Fragment 120, December 24, 2017, Two Problems with the Science Story (word count: 1,352)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Instead of Nothing

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Fragment 189, word count: 95.

tags: wonder, caring, knowing, existence, spirit.

The wonder is not that there is something instead of nothing, but rather that there is so much caring about what there is instead of nothing, and so many different reasons for caring and so many different and independent vantage points and dramas that are contexts of caring. Wonder itself, the spirit in wonder, is the great wonder, not only for its peculiar existence as drama-powered sensitivity in its own blind spot but also for the shape of its placements, its distribution, and the contexts it assembles for discovering and knowing what there is.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Measures of a Self

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Fragment 188, word count: 329.

tags: dystopia, wealth, capitalism, consumption, empathy, malaise, decadence, exceptionalism, 

It is delusional to think that people who use yachts and private jets have any ability to reduce their environmental impact. They have constructed that impact as an overt essence for themselves. People who devote themselves to that system of self-definition and personal evaluation can never abandon their holdings and privileged consumption, or membership in the club of exceptional beings that the trophies declare.

Dystopia is not an accident that befell humanity, nor is it the inevitable working of nature. Dystopia is the product of human factions taking macro-parasitic benefits, largely obscured behind veils of deception and patronage, and it has to be maintained by the work of legions of busy people every day, some of whom have decided to devote themselves to climbing some branch of the pyramid of social esteem, who choose to raise their public profile through celebrated competitive achievements to the full extent of their talent and energy for symbols and comforts that declare membership in a club of exceptional beings. This incentive and reward system of money-enabled lifestyles with high consumption, travel, and celebrity status calibrated by titles, honours, control, and trophy properties of various kinds, trophy memories, is inherently the catastrophic looting of the planet’s resources driving global heating and climate disruption. This is the built-in concluding detonation at the core of capitalist civilization.

Empathy and the Malaise of Exceptional Beings

The alternative is to come empathically into the company of all who find themselves embodied into the temporal drama of ceaseless loss and novelty. Living this is dramatic agency and drama is a personal time-vector, a tilting into anticipated openings through a partly predicted flow of conversation among multiple agents of emerging personal dramas, playing around the resistant inanimate world-structure. Empathy is the ultimate spiritual power and value. Every exceptional beings club shuts off the possibility, the legitimacy, of empathy for large numbers of our fellow beings. That is the spiritual decadence, the malaise of exceptionalism.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Zarathustra’s Abyss

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Fragment 187, word count: 392.

Tags: Nietzsche, values, aristocracy, Christendom, patriarchy, Stoicism, Nihilism, hierarchy, will.

Nietzsche didn’t do anything like revalue all values, and it is revealing to consider what values he did not question: namely aristocratic superiority within the social hierarchy of wealth and power. Nietzsche was retreating into a strong cultural current from feudal Christendom, namely the ‘feudal’ current: aristocratic crime-family culture, derived originally from patriarchal dominance in herding culture: men with weapons on horses. Nietzsche loathed and worked to discredit the other cultural current from Christendom, namely Christianity, because it promoted an otherworldly (heavenly) focus that gave priority to “selfless” values. He dismissed altruism, selflessness, meekness, and turning the other cheek, which he thought of as slave values, feminine values, and nihilistic, in favour of ancient and traditional masculine dominance values, as exemplified in ancient Greek warriors: hardness, strength, endurance, courage, dominance, self-promotion, and disregard for weaker beings. Nietzsche despised and blamed the victims of conquest and oppression. He gazed upon the same European history as Rousseau and Marx but did not fault the crime family aristocracy for being parasites on the subsisting majority, but instead accepted their claims of nobility (projecting onto them the nobility he experienced in his own creativity) and admired their viciousness. He blamed the oppressed for being weak. Their weakness made them deserve whatever oppression they experienced. Nietzsche gave the crime family class credit for whatever he found positive in European culture. As historical fact, European aristocracy could not have established the wealth and power it did without the senior partnership of the Church of Rome promoting its elaborate religious ideologies. In a superstitious age, it was the religious culture of desperate fear and hope that utterly subdued resistance and solidified mass resignation. Yet, Nietzsche blamed the Church for proclaiming a set of values that persuaded the weak and oppressed to find meaning in their oppression and de-valued the manly military values of aristocracy.

Within the legacy of Zarathustra, to which Nietzsche was drawn, the world where we humans live is irredeemably abysmal as the creation of an evil god, the lesser of the duality of high gods. Rejecting any heavenly escape, Nietzsche found himself faced with a choice between utter nihilism or the Stoic (and Romantic) determination to prove personal transcendence by a supreme act of will to accept existence as whatever it is, and even to will its eternal recurrence in every ugly detail.

Embedded links:

Fragment 99, November 2, 2016, What is Patriarchy? (word count: 3,700)

Fragment 84, June 17, 2015, Errors and Allegories in Gnosticism (word count: 1,869)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Nietzsche Autonomous

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Fragment 186, word count: 340.

tags: empathy, embodiment, culture, individuality, voice, Nietzsche, Plato, Kant.

Nietzsche’s thinking did not have a lot in common with Plato’s. In fact, Nietzsche had the thought that overcoming Plato’s way of conceiving reality was the most important thing that western civilization could accomplish to improve itself. The thing Nietzsche didn’t like about Platonism was its heavenly focus, obsession with a remote world that could be thought but not lived with the richness of embodiment, a world of eternal perfection which put worldly normality in a dismissing and frightening light. However, there is a point of contact between Nietzsche and Plato.

Nietzsche judged that individuals are normally conditioned uncritically into a cultish herd mind, a collective set of values and judgments. He presented personal creativity as the elevating human power, a power that can be the portal out of human herd banality and into a particularizing individuality of spirit. On Nietzsche’s view, the distinctness and individuality of the felt human body, awash with personally specific sickness, pain, and fatigue, kinetic power and sexual arousal, are made spiritual by being taken up by creative impulses which construct expressions in a unique voice. Nietzsche’s conception of this process of self-created individuality, separating from cult minds which are always ambient for social beings, is reminiscent of Plato’s metaphor of the cave. In Plato’s cave narrative we are shown a map of where philosophical curiosity, cultivated as a personal mission, leads in relation to immersion in the collective orientation of some cultural community at a given moment. From an initial placement within culturally stipulated forms of experience and dramas, the person devoted to philosophical thinking begins a process of questioning the assumptions, categories, and values of this moment of culture, and in doing so is relocated to individuality. Between Plato and Nietzsche, historically, Kant had already taken a crucial step further. In his balletically formalized way, he observed that people consistently exercising inherent rationality don’t need any external sovereign to proclaim laws because inherent rationality coupled with universal empathy, applied to all sentient beings, enables them to be self legislating in all situations.

Embedded links:

Fragment 104, April 6, 2017, In Plato’s Cave (word count: 926)

Fragment 157, December 11, 2019, Philosophy in the Dystopian Context (word count: 552)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

The Metaphysics is You

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Fragment 185, word count: 505.

tags: philosophy, metaphysics, dystopia, embodiment, personality, reality, politics, culture, nature, freedom, Plato.

Rarely does an individual have much control over the evolutionary momentum of multigenerational cultural entities such as religions, sovereign states, cities, industries, or institutions such as armies and war, universities and literacy. A lifetime is barely enough to get a well contextualized sense of what they are. We behold them for a heartbeat, a blink, as we transform through the life cycle of a human animal. This combines with generational amnesia, the personal-level, deeply experienced knowledge lost with the mortality of each generation, and also with the new-generation’s  innocence and its inclination to have a joyful life in a joyful world. Biologically, our lives are expressed in bodies which are at some moment in an arc of species mutation already in progress for some unthinkable duration. We live the gifts and limitations of our moment in that long arc of mutation. It is not surprising then that, socially, accommodations are made for whatever activities and systems of relationship are practiced at our moment of intervention, even if they have a dystopian core, because often enough that seems to make it easier to find some joy in being alive. This makes a certain sort of philosophical work almost impossible.

Assertions about primordial reality, specifically of a fixed and eternal structure of existence, are always canonized in dystopia to support an exploitative social hierarchy, and that is why philosophy, as a critique of thinking about primordial existence and reality, is inherently political and ultimately unavoidable. For example, the commanding heights of Plato’s conception of metaphysical reality, typical of dystopia, exist somewhere on the invisible far side of objects, a substrate behind the impersonally given world of objective things. They are meant to make sense of how the never-ceasing fluidity of familiar things can be connected to a stability profound enough to count as essential reality. On that view, the situation may be tragic, but it is nature and you can’t change nature. Things are what they must be, manifesting an existential bedrock of categories and laws. Although canonical, this is only wild speculation.

There is an opposing metaphysics of primordial existence, a conception that denies any categorical commanding heights. In the most straightforward way, you are the metaphysics in your world, the living ideality here on the near side of phenomena. All forms of ideality occur in clusters that have the dramatic structure of a living personal “I”, subject of a personal drama which is an individual’s embodied life in the world. Ideality is always personality, the creative transcendence of ordinary, individual-level, temporal agency living a creativity that transcends nature and makes what sense it will of the physical or divine givens of nature. There may be a system of stark givens, but it has no intrinsic purposes, doesn’t matter to itself and cannot care, and that system has no immutable grip on the conceptions of us agents of temporal ideality. Social systems derived from this metaphysical source can be perfectly free of any influences from the patterns of organization in brute actuality.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What Knowing Is

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Fragment 184, word count: 198.

tags: existence, reality, drama, physics, metaphysics, spirituality, time, transcendence.

Spirituality has nothing to do with immortality, eternity, or qualifying for immortality. Instead, spirituality is bringing drama to existence, so, knowing the passing of time.

Awareness of the boundless world of enduring structures and processes, cycles repeating within cycles, a world that doesn’t matter to itself and doesn’t care, discover, or regret but goes on existing and shape shifting, structured and complex but just falling through the ways of least resistance: physical reality! Any beholding and knowing such physical reality expresses and demonstrates an order of existence which is different and higher than physics, an order of existence which does care and which questions, discovers, supposes, and contextualizes: the order of existence which is ordinary subjective spirituality. The physical universe cannot identify you and me, but we identify the physical universe. The physical universe can’t care what happens. It doesn’t wonder or fashion a demeanour expressing curiosity or determination. In no sense can it identify and remember the features of a context for initiatives, a framework of orientation and purpose. Metaphysical reality is exactly the power to construct some understanding of the system of physical reality, to construct an appreciation of the existence of a world of objects.

Another step:

Fragment 182, November 4, 2021, The Thrill of It (word count: 335).

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What are Ideas?

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Fragment 183, Word count: 375.

Various answers to the question “What are ideas?” mostly have in common that ideas exemplify a distinct immaterial face of existence. Idealism encompasses answers to that question which emphasize the foundational or primordial status of such immaterial existence. Essentialist idealism presents ideas as primordial templates for the categories of all things that exist, absolutely independent of any living consciousness, excepting possibly a unique eternal divine consciousness. These ideas are prior to the rest of existence in some profound sense and supposedly cause the rest of existence. As exemplified by Platonic idealism, there is a certain sense of metaphysics presented by essentialist idealism: a primordial reality that is profoundly different, in its immutable immateriality, from the world of ordinary appearances, a reality of predetermined forever templates for the forms that any physical existence must take.

A non-essentialist idealism presents a very different sense of metaphysics: ideas are ephemeral features which shape the frame-work of orientation that guides the future-ward tilt or bearing of some living individual. Ideas exist only in the intentional agency of living individuals. Instead of standing as eternally enduring categories and structures, the special genius of ideality is its fluid subsistence by leaping ceaselessly into losses and novel opportunities expressing personal dramas of caring; plunging, partly falling, into an ever-just-opening non-existence, evaluating the uncertain prospects for improvisations of personal dramas within a mix of expected and unexpected circumstances and expressive impulses. There is no question here of ideas existing separately from the living of particular sentient and intentional agents. Even as such, ideas cannot be left out of a description of fundamental existence, of what there is, since they present an undeniable complication to neat conceptions of reality as fixed, atomized, and final. As necessarily temporal and immaterial (even though organized as embodied), ideas are anomalous existences, inseparable from the subjectivity of personal experiences. Ideality is still metaphysical but its meta-physicality is in its living spontaneity and creative agency, in its sentient-intentionality at the raw ever-becoming edge of existence. Human existence is living: experience-derived anticipation as context and inspiration for important intentions and aspirations. It is an actively reaching incompleteness or openness to existence at its core: discontinuous, multiple, monadic, locally limited, ephemeral.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The Thrill of It

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Fragment 182, word count: 335.

tags: romanticism, science, spirituality, embodiment, history, privilege, enchantment, Christendom, magic, 

With the explosion of mathematical science as an effective and prestigious ideology radiating from the Republic of Letters in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe, there emerged among culture-pods with long-established privilege and dominance, both religion based and military/ property based, a sharp sense of loss and nostalgia for the thrilling fear and wonder of pre-modern Christendom: a culture gripped in the drama of intervention by gods, angels, demons, witches, and sorcerers, all cashing out as supernatural justifications for established privilege and dominance. Romanticism was one expression of that sense of loss and nostalgia, an heroic effort to re-enchant the modernizing world by conflating deity and nature. It was an effort to rescue the concept of nature from scientific mechanization, insisting that nature is a single living divinity with foresight, memory, discretionary will, aesthetic judgments, and powers far beyond those commonly perceived, power to overcome its own normal regularity.

Those efforts at re-enchantment, reviving the fear and thrill of Christendom, were futile and misdirected. Even in the absence of magic, deities, demons, or personified nature, the fact of any living subjectivity always enchants existence as a whole. The fact that spirituality is structured as a distinct body among other animate individuals with whom each fashions an apparently ordinary life does not erase its wonder and transcendence. Embodiment is the foundational structuring principle of spirituality. Sensation, so perception, is structured in the shape of the body. Deliberate personal interventions into a given exterior surroundings, making objective markings, are movements of a person’s body. The capabilities of body movements and their range of forces impose a shape on personal intentions to mark the objective world. Still, any subjectivity is a gaze from inside unique dreams at the spring of a personal self-injection into exterior surroundings. Enchantment radiates in that gaze itself, from the interiority at the source of every outward reach. Spirituality, the desperate living will, the knowing, questioning, learning, and creating will, is the enchantment, the mystery and wonder of existence.

Also:

Fragment 121, January 12, 2018, Welcome to Metaphysics (word count: 1,312).

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Knowing is Caring

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Fragment 179, word count: 621.

Tags: caring, knowledge, learning, sensibility, phenomenology, sensation, time, representation, evidence, Edmund Husserl.

Caring is more important than sensation in the perception of anything, and caring is personal. Knowledge is always dependent on and derived from someone’s caring. It is always an elaboration, specification, and development of caring. Knowing is a personal effect and consequence of caring. That means that perception, as a means of coming to know, is also an application of caring, a personal act of anchoring care in certain particular actualities presenting as phenomena. Caring and what it is that cares are not adequately presented by a description of the most immediate actualities to which this caring is anchored. You can’t get anywhere near understanding the richness of a moment of personal caring (the living moment of a sensibility/ intentionality*) by mapping the most evident actualities it is conscious of. Phenomena don’t count as anything without being identified within the context of a perceiving sensibility. Larger dramatic vectors of personal caring are necessarily involved. Not only is the gaze of consciousness a gaze into nature from a particularly embodied drama, it is also a creative act in the drama, a move forward motivated by personal drama, and meaningful because of the essentially dramatic integration of knowledge and personally intended interventions. A perceiving and learning gaze is a personal drama in the act of building and playing out, of extending itself by going on living in the world.

Since Edmund Husserl (1858-1938), a definitive move of philosophical Phenomenology is to remove any suggestion of deriving from perception any knowledge of a Kantian “thing in itself” as absolute reality, so, bracketing off the question: does this experienced appearance represent something that is completely independent of being perceived?. What is bracketed off is the question of the representation of phenomena, the question of whether or not they represent, depict, or disclose some existent object which is independent in its reality of being perceived or not being perceived, being cared about or not. In this context, phenomena are technical objects of consciousness definable with maps of sensations, positioned quanta of sensory stimuli with specific qualities. They are impersonal arrangements of appearances (sense data) that may suggest an internal integrity. “To the things!” declare Husserl’s phenomenologists.

However, instead of putting attention on what might or might not be on the ‘far side’ of phenomena as given in sensations, it is decisively more important to deal with what is on the ‘near side’ of phenomena, the source of caring that is reaching future-ward through its sensory display. No matter what uncertainty there might be about sensory appearances as true depictions of impersonal actualities that lie beyond, there can be no doubt that the shape of caring in phenomena truly represents a personal sensibility and intentionality*.

Fragment 123, February 8, 2018, Brentano’s Gift (word count: 999)

Fragment 165, July 5, 2020, The Genius of Ephemerality (word count: 595)

In spite of the fact that the technical definition of phenomena excludes the personal, there is a sense in which actual phenomena must always represent a person, by a kind of backward representation. A personal ideality is always the matrix of phenomena. Whatever definitions might be imposed on phenomena, they are primordially experiences, and experiences are always acts of an experiencing sensibility, a person living a particularly embodied life. The most important representation by phenomena is a person, what it is that cares and brings caring to this existence. Caring is personal, a complex personal vector of drama within a willful sensibility. It isn’t possible to reveal what it is that cares and constructs a life of dramatic movements of caring by using descriptions of phenomena that bracket off the desperate ephemerality of what is personal. Although what-it-is-that-cares is never a phenomenon, the existence of phenomena is necessarily the existence of a unique dramatic ideality that is expressing its caring in its engagement with these phenomena.

  • ‘Intentionality’ in the sense of a pre-conceiving of future interventions in actuality for specific purposes, a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The World that Matters

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Fragment 177, word count: 450.

Tags: sociability, human attachment, war, caring, perception, knowing, collective identity, herd mind.

Recognizing the presence of a separately embodied intelligence, another caring, sensitive, knowledge-building, and future-opening agent, is a different order of perception from recognizing sand or a piece of wood. There is a kind of perceiving going on in the recognition of another future-inventing agent that requires something other than an empirical explanation. Recognition of caring is crucial in this perceiving and another person’s caring is not an arrangement of sense-data, not a visual impression nor any other sensory impression. Sensory perception cannot assemble an objective image of whatever questing sensibility is expressing the arc of its personal drama in its acts, a drama formed of complex expectations, vectors of intention in action, and this moment of open possibility. Sensibilities as creative shapers of actuality require a conception such as ideality or intentionality that distinguishes them from strictly perceivable actuality. There is an absolute dependence on inherently personal, interior, sources of knowing in the recognition of another sensibility, since familiarity with sensibility as such is entirely self-acquaintance. This is more like a rationalist sort of knowing. * You know your own sensibility by self-creating and inhabiting your drama. We find in the presence of other caring agents a reflection and a variation of our own dramas of fear and delight, misery and ecstasy, and there is an irresistible sense of enlargement, of energy and exciting possibility, in this not being alone.

It isn’t long into a person’s life before the most important and interesting focus of awareness is an ambient collective of separately embodied intelligences: bodies expressing the spirituality, ideality, or intentionality that is caring sensitivity, searching curiosity, and ever-increasing knowledge in aid of the actualization of personally created intentions. Of course a person learns a sense of location within a structure of surfaces and objects, of food, shelter, and footings for power-projecting activities, but constellations of other people displaying caring intentionality always form the core and organizing pattern of the world that matters.

Hive Minds Make War

The reality that hive minds make war confronts us with the challenge of conceiving a way for people to express and enjoy the profound human talent for interpersonal attachment and social interconnectedness without constructing or participating in collective identities which prevent personal creativity from forming an identity grounded on spiritual autonomy and individual agency. We can be sure that the surrounding population of separately embodied idealities remains personally crucial even when an individual dismisses the misconceptions, prejudices, and superstitions which form the common currency of a human hive mind, herd mind, or collective identity. In the arc of human interconnectedness, the socio-cultural formation of herd identities, hive-mind identities, will become an artifact of the past.

 * Compare Avicenna’s “inner senses”, in particular: wahm. The sheep recognizes the wolf’s hostility. This is empathic recognition of an outside intelligence with conscious intent and emotional force in that intent. See p. 137 of:

Philosophy in the Islamic World: Volume 3 of: A History of Philosophy without any gaps, written by Peter Adamson, published by Oxford University Press (2016), ISBN 978-0-19-957749-1.

Embedded links:

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 112, August 2, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (3) (word count: 390).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Nietzsche’s Drama

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Fragment 176, word count: 895.

Tags: embodiment, spirituality, nihilism, Christendom, Copernicus, Darwin, creativity, culture, individuality.

Christianity taught, and European Christendom accepted for centuries, that the human spiritual drama, our unique opportunity for ethical elevation by coming to know and align with the transcendent deity, is the purpose of all existence. Humans were thought to be the primary achievement of the all-creating God. Born as an exile into an initial state of disgrace within the lusts, pains, and thrills of a mortal body, each human is capable of recognizing its existence as more authentically one of transcendent spirituality and changing its way of life to express that spirituality. The worldly society of Christendom, controlled at all levels by the hierarchy and laws of the Roman Church in partnership with the secular military aristocracy, was accepted as the means by which individuals were guided to the spiritual life, a state of grace whose reward was blissful immortality. In the sixteenth century, within a broad advance of science, Nicolaus Copernicus discovered and revealed that the human home planet was not the centre of God’s cosmos, suggesting a more marginal status for human being. In the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin presented findings suggesting that humans are indistinguishable from animals, just naked apes, driven by instinctive drives and passions beyond individual control, with no qualitative specialness placing us in a uniquely elevated category. For much of the educated stratum of nineteenth century Europe, this apparent loss of human standing in the great scheme of things was a revelation of nihilism, a catastrophic loss of purpose and value. This was the context in which Nietzsche conceived his mission of thinking.

With God removed from the human situation, the Christian drama of existence faded out and with it the sense of meaning and purpose derived from that drama. Reflecting on human history soon reveals that no eventual outcome of biological evolution can give value and meaning to human existence, since it is unknowable, nor can the historical progress of human civilization do it since that reveals no verifiable arc toward a fulfillment. In the absence of these large structures as navigational guides the problem of meaning and purpose becomes entirely the individual’s problem and actually defines, on Nietzsche’s view, the monadic singularity of the human individual, the loneliest loneliness. As it happens, however, the fundamental nature or quality of individual spirit, the will to power, contains within itself a dramatic dynamic capable of achieving happiness, and so defeating nihilism.

For Nietzsche, the universal ethical and existential imperative for every individual is self-perfection, though that achievement is possible only for strong domineering spirits. Only the strongest spirits are capable of the happiness of self-perfection because only the strongest are capable of self-domination or self-overcoming by sublimating the instinctive animal impulses (Dionysian) into products of a dominant personal rationality (Apollonian), imposing a unifying form and style on all expressions of that sublimated energy. This Dionysian – Apollonian dialectic is the intrinsic dynamic of the will to power, the fundamental living force. Culture that is elevating to behold and appropriate is created from the sublimation of bestial impulses and instincts. Even though those impulses and instincts originate in and always declare the body, without them there is no energy to be sublimated into high art and culture. Strong and passionate impulses require an even stronger force of rationality to impose form and style on them. Artists and philosophers, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Socrates, are typically the people who discipline themselves to sublimate their great passions into creative activities. Nietzsche calls such spirits ubermensch, higher men, the only people of value in his estimation because in the ecstasy of their original creation they uniquely manifest authentic individuality. Specimens of higher men are rare and occur unpredictably in various times, societies, races, and ethnic groups, and it seems that for Nietzsche they are “The Elect”, forever predetermined for blessedness. The rest of us are a herd of doomed beasts of no interest or value, sometimes spiritualized to some extent by encountering the achievements of the higher ones.

There are striking similarities between Nietzsche’s conception of the drama and tragedy of existence and the previously dominant one from Christendom. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran clergyman and the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. Separation of people into The Elect and the damned is one similarity. Both dramas involve a tension or dialectic between animal embodiment and some version of a transcendent spirituality which exerts itself against animality and offers a happier and more authentically meaningful life. In Nietzsche’s version, however, the impulses of the body are never left behind but always remain the source of life’s energy. In addition, Nietzsche’s spiritualizing, sublimating, force is militant rationality, giver of expressive form, stability, and style, replacing the poor Christian spirit of meek obedient submission, self-denial, mortification of the flesh, and altruism.

Such was Nietzsche’s revaluation of all values. It is philosophically unusual in recasting the Christian drama by eliminate a commanding and controlling deity while still finding a way to divide blessed from damned. That vision clearly doesn’t defeat nihilism for everyone, only for the precious few his message was apparently designed to reach. However, if we discount Nietzsche’s peculiar aristocratic exclusivity, we can appreciate his “Yes” to embodiment as inseparable from the ecstasy of personal creativity, his close attention to the interior experience of creativity and its independence from any conformist herd mind.

Sources and Inspirations

Walter Kaufmann’s book was the source for the sketch of Nietzsche’s philosophy included in this posting.

Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, written by Walter Kaufmann, published by Princeton University Press (1950), foreword by Alexander Nehamas (2013), ISBN 978-0-691-16026-9.

Zarathustra’s Secret, written by Joachim Kohler, translated from German by Ronald Taylor, Published by Yale University Press (English edition June 2002), ISBN-10: 0300092784, ISBN-13: 978-0300092783.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Superego and Self-Possession

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Fragment 175, word count: 604.

Tags: war, dystopia, creativity, gratification, reality, hive mind, 

Every instance of collectivism known to us is dystopian. All are institutional systems of human-on-human macro-parasitism: exploitative, unequal, misogynistic, devoted on principle to arbitrary hierarchies of gender, race, and class, poised for overwhelming violence, controlled by patriarchal factions which channel disproportionate benefits to themselves at the expense of the marginalized majority. This is not a product of divine will or natural law, but an historical aggregation of inventions, actions, communications, and imitations by individual humans in particular situations. The existence and effective activity of creative ideality at the level of the embodied individual completely invalidates any claim of an immutable natural order or a fixed hierarchy of being. Reality as experienced is completely structured by the interests, ideas, of particular humans, which means reality is mutable because ideas make up much of its structure.

Superego

Ambient society presents itself as the indispensable means for realizing every individual’s vestigial core being, the truth of who and what we really are. As young innocents we are guided by its assertions of what we must do to manifest and display our quality and potential. Since we need to function within the norms of our society to survive, we accept its sovereignty, its hierarchy of esteem and supervision, as a guide or roadmap of personal expectations and intentions. Civilization is a structure of increasingly prized and exclusive gratifications instituted as rewards and incentives through which people prove and reveal themselves. Internalizing norms means submitting to supervision within the chain of official power, doing a personal best with the incentives and rewards, conceiving an identity within exemplary career arcs in their cultural context encompassing nature, community, human fulfillment, and the supernatural, which, taken together, define a culturally stipulated collective orientation, effectively a human-style hive mind. Hive minds make war.

Self-Possession

Given the profound dystopian characteristics of all known societies, it is not surprising that individuals experience a discordance between cultural role models (presented in schools and popular culture, for example) asserting praiseworthy behaviour, values, aspirations, and beliefs, on the one hand, and on the other, their own actual experience of gratifications, reality, and fulfilling self expression. This discordance reveals important aspects of existence as an individual and is inescapably political in the broadest sense. The individual, as a fountain of creativity and freedom, is inherently greater than the cultured conceptions of any hive mind, always bigger than placements on offer within competitive hierarchies or culturally identified functions (tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor). The felt discordance is a questioning of not only the narrow functioning of institutional sovereignty but also the wider systems of authority (economic, patriotic, religious, and social) which are the cultural foundations of sovereignty. The experienced discordance manifests an antagonism felt by individuals against any conception of them as owned, as property for use by some external entity.

The socio-cultural formations which are collective hive-mind identities have dominated much of human history but will eventually be an artifact of the past. Human hive minds, each unified culturally by false metaphysical assertions and shared narratives featuring emotionally triggering tricks, are always dystopian in conceiving value in exclusivity. Happily, you don’t have to wait for the ultimate fall of dystopia to be free of it. When you encounter creative personal interiority, ideality, as the fountain of value it is, you don’t need to construct an exterior ego-facade of trophy possessions. You don’t have to peg your value to markers or applause from the ambient cultural and economic system. Even within dystopia, it is already common for people to quietly experience their best gratification from creating and nurturing instead of from trophy gathering.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Freedom and Actuality

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Fragment 174, word count: 176.

Tags: consciousness, agency, freedom, drama, ideality, perception, personality

The presence of a quality of stimulation from somatic sensitivity, say vision, or even a combination of many different sensory qualities, does not as such qualify as consciousness. Consciousness can lack any and all sensory stimuli. Rather, consciousness is a questing vigilance, a searching, or a recognition in forwarding the care-drama or sensibility of an embodied agent in a life in the world. Forwarding a personal care-drama is the act of a person as ideality, a point and arc of agency projecting itself as a particular caring into the absolute incompleteness, the non-existence, that is the future. This point and arc of dramatically caring agency, personality, cannot be constructed from sensory qualities but instead is what recognizes sensory sensitivity as presenting things of interest, certain things that matter personally. Conceptualizing freedom requires this life of ideality which is inseparable from the absolute incompleteness of existence in the passing of time. Freedom is real because of the co-existence and co-involvement of creative ideality and the absolute incompleteness of the world of actuality.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Absolute Incompleteness

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Fragment 173, word count: 202.

Tags: spirituality, time, agency, care-drama, existence, eternal recurrence, effort, embodiment, consciousness, freedom.

Spirituality has nothing to do with inherent guilt or fear and love of a higher power or supreme Being which is removed from the desperate care-drama and agency of living an always incomplete existence. Spirituality has everything to do with awareness of the passage of time because the personal drama of caring depends on ephemerality to extend, shape, and renew itself, opening its ongoing by intentionally inventing acts based on expectations and suppositions learned and abstracted from a career of caring and effortful engagement with the world around. Any moment of consciousness is loaded with abstractions that frame and locate an immediate effort. We have to disconnect understanding time from cosmic loops and circles, the apparent paths of stars and planets that have been observed and identified from eras immemorial by people watching the sky. Theirs was a vision of completeness in eternal recurrence. Instead, time is the asymmetrical continuity of context that consciousness supposes in orienting its desperately creative plunge into freedom that is its enduring incompleteness and the incompleteness of the world. The intentional ongoing of individually embodied consciousness constitutes spiritual (subjective) reality, and spiritual reality connects irremovably to absolute reality. The personal exists as absolutely as the cosmic.

Embedded link:

Fragment 169, October 25, 2020, Wildcard Time-World Idealism (word count: 1,230)

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Science and Empathy in Defining Dystopia

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Fragment 171, word count: 780.

There is a western consensus that the rapid launch of mathematical science in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe drew the decisive line in human history, the crossing of which heralded a future with unlimited improvements in all human affairs. There was some speculation that after understanding the energies of nature humans would use them first to perform essential production work and then venture on to accomplish our fondest hopes. It was thought to be self-evident that ingenious mechanisms for channelling energies far greater than human and animal muscle power would free people from the physical burden of work and create such abundance that none would suffer privation. This, roughly, was the theory of science for a better world, material progress. It didn’t work out because understanding the energies of nature did nothing to change the cultural limits on how the wealthiest groups distributed empathy toward other breathing beings. The result is that now, in the early decades of the twenty-first century, the idea of progress, Better World Theory, is confused and seriously disputed. Developments in digital technology over the last half-century have given a new boost to STEM-based hopes for a better world, although weapons of mass destruction and climate change loom larger than ever and technology still doesn’t break down the cultural barriers to expanding empathy.

The reasons for intractable and extinction level problems in this age of mathematical science, which promotes itself as the means for solving all human problems, cannot be discovered by scientific research. Materialist science cannot settle the culture war between the core values of patriarchy from feudal Christendom along with other antique societies which similarly control strictly and sparsely licensed empathy, over against an emerging conception of culture and society based on a universality of empathy. Nostalgia for an imagined past along the lines of feudal Christendom is still widespread and a characteristic feature of fascism, a worse dystopia than what we have. From this perspective, what makes a society dystopian, a mortal danger to itself and others, is a poverty of empathy.

Populist Sense of Loss: Birthright and Patriarchy

The sense of loss that drives right-wing populism results from progress made in extending empathy, bringing with it some degree of dignity and equality, to previously denied people, and especially from the successes of feminism and its inexorable drift of values toward nurture and away from the masculine culture of dominance-derived pride. Right-wing populism is nostalgia for misogyny, racism, celebration of masculine strength, patriarchy, and terror of a supernatural masculine mind in the universe at large which decrees all those dystopian arrangements and certifies their eternal endurance.

There is also a populist rage against the elite status and honour of education and scholarship, of expertise, study, scribal skills and their culture, because they override the tradition of birthright. Birthright claims to be the decree of nature or the almighty creator, in which people are born to a certain social status as a man or as a person of the dominant race, a meaningful niche with a certain richness of rights, privileges, and dignities. In a world of education, there is no birthright. Everyone must accomplish what they can through effort and ingenuity. That has given women, racial minorities, and marginalized groups generally, a way to bypass birthright in dominant cultures.

The broadening of empathy is not an accomplishment of science or technology, and not likely to be helped by artificial intelligence. It is instead a product of the two culture engines identified as threats by the political right-wing: the culture of nurture and attachment cultivated mainly by women, and the scribal culture of broad literacy, inquiry, and scholarship. The posture of inquiry that is philosophy, for example, covering the whole of culture and experience, arises from a judgement, beginning from Socrates, that generally accepted cultural assertions are poorly supported by evidence and are often mere superstitions or misconceptions.

Early on in the twenty-first century, the political left-wing might be desperate in its struggle against advances by traditional patriarchy in a conservative, neoconservative, and neofascist onslaught, but in a long historical perspective the political right-wing is at least as desperate because people generally have become and continue to become more nurturing and to embrace nurturing ethics and values. Violence is less tolerated in many cultures than it was even one generation ago, although there are still forces striving mightily to legitimizing authoritarian patriarchy and top-down human-on-human macro-parasitism, brandishing and glorifying the tools of violence. The truth about individual human spirituality is that the potential for empathy is inherent and as near universal as we need for a better world.

Embedded links:

Fragment 165, July 5, 2020, The Genius of Ephemerality (word count: 595)

Fragment 99, November 2, 2016, What is Patriarchy? (word count: 3,700)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Consciousness is a Time-Wave

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Fragment 170, word count: 377.

Consciousness can’t be adequately described by even a complete catalogue of its objects. Objects have only a passing and tentative almost-presence unless they are made to matter by a rich personal context of ideality. Consciousness is formed of anticipatory intentions of agency and the reasons for agency within a personal life-drama. There is an emotionally committed questioning, a desperately caring gaze from an ever-learning knowledge-poise of orientation with its bearing onward, defining a point and arc of creative agency improvising the personal drama which is an individual embodied life.

We individually create a supposition of not-yet and been-and-gone defining a newness and incompleteness as the primordial context in which we exist as dramatic free agents, leaping future-ward in our drama, aware that everything in our envelopment of entropic actuality is falling away continuously. The supposed content of not-yet and been-and-gone is changing constantly. Knowledge and expectation are forms of supposition that constitute a drifting context-content slipping into proximity and then into an increasingly remote separation, a sense of things slipping by and falling away in the ephemerality of objects. Such is the context of personal agency as it leaps into anticipated openings of not-yet. That everything actual is slipping away is essential to the drama of individual human existence, to the willful creative leap open-ward which answers it as a moment-by-moment affirmation of a power of living to open reality and make it unexpectedly more than it was. Ideality moves to make actual a specific not-yet, to realize a new non-actuality, and that is the creativity for which freedom is possible.

The medium (non-actual past and future) in which time-waves exist is not independent of the knowing, curious, questioning, dramatically desperate agents who propagate ourselves in ceaseless ephemerality. Consciousness thinks itself as a time-wave, a formation of ephemerality through which freedom is possible in the genius of ideality as not-a-thing but a self-propelling continuity of creative expression across time. It is a fountain of future possibilities from which is enacted, having learned and conceived aspirations in been-and-gone, an original arc of developmental continuity that is the personal drama of life-creation.

Embedded links:

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750)

Fragment 118, November 8, 2017, A Point of Dispute with Post-Modernist Theory (word count: 1,656)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Creative Existence

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Fragment 191, word count: 371.

tags: time, metaphysics, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, ideas, eternity, spirit, subjectivity,  drama.

There is nothing to say about eternity. There is nothing interesting about it. There is no life to eternity. Both Plato and Hegel asserted that things experienced can have different degrees of reality, and that a fully real world would be fixed, final, and eternally unchanging, so completely objective. There could be no subjectivity intervening in the state of things of that world by interpreting, curating, evaluating, and reshaping things according to projected dramas of a personal genius because that would make things unfinished and always at the point of being something new. Time is blatant unreality in that view. The world that is engaged and reshaped by subjectivity is never even remotely real in the Platonic sense, and Plato took that to mean that, for philosophy, it is a distraction, dismissible trivia. Nevertheless, even though Hegel conceived a cosmos that moves dialectically toward perfectly real eternal ideality, the perfection of eternity is not Hegel’s focus. Instead, his focus is the intentional and desperate enactment of the approach to final reality. This drama in time distinguishes Hegel’s fundamental reality from Plato’s. Hegel seems to play out an intuition that, as the primordial opening for creativity, time is the core of the spirit he wants to clarify, a kind of Aristotelian spirit in cosmic nature. It is an intuition that future-projecting teleological drama is the distinctive nature of spiritual existence. For Aristotle, every particular object holds within it an idea of itself, the spirit of itself, just as every individual person does, a self-asserting idea extending beyond what is instantaneously present, beyond the sensory appearance, the perceivable attributes, an idea with future-facing formative force! Such an Aristotelian interiority to outwardly atomic objects integrates each one with a continuity of loss and ever-opening novelty that goes far beyond it, integrating it with, placing it within, an all-encompassing radically unfinished reality. In presenting this conception of ideas as one with time, Aristotle was also already departing from his teacher Plato whose Ideal Forms were strictly eternal and timeless. Maybe Aristotle wasn’t meaning to shift the conception of reality, but he was tacitly recognizing that the drama of spiritual existence in time matters in a way that eternity never can.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Culture War

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Fragment 190, word count: 896.

tags: metaphysics, existence, deity, science, politics, dystopia, capitalism, gratification, culture, spirituality.

There are two opposing explanations for the existence of something instead of nothing. There is existence as intentional act of intervention, OR as non-intentional mere occurrence. In other words, the something that is our world is either a willful intervention by some pre-supposing ideality, the effective personal expression of some monad of caring, knowing, and anticipating intentionality, OR an inexplicable random cascading instability, perhaps manifesting a fundamental and eternally given nature which makes all particular occurrences pre-determined, but which itself, having no prior matrix, is perfectly random. Each of these explanations is a particular statement of metaphysics. The metaphysics of existence as an intentional act of intervention, in a variety of versions, was ubiquitous in human societies for ages, for example in feudal Christendom, and it always joined forces with the culture of patriarchal dominance which exploits and makes concrete the idea of deity by violently imposing the will of the strongest on everyone within reach (sovereign exceptionalism), and by instituting worshipful cult collectives with the softer attractions of grand cosmic visions and close personal belonging. In opposition to explanation by divine intervention, the mere occurrence explanation dawned in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the boutique metaphysics of mathematical materialism in the scientific Enlightenment. It began a process of removing wind from the sails of sovereigns and the social structuring around sovereignty. In the current state of modern civilization there remain these same two institutional proponents of metaphysical ideology, each supporting one of the two existential possibilities to the exclusion of the other. Religious institutions champion the deliberate interventionist side, and institutions of science and scientific education champion random occurrence, near enough. This is the shape of our civilization’s foundational culture war. Yet these two have come to an effective peace accord based on the fact that both support the (ready-to-detonate) capitalist incentive and reward system: consumption as identity-defining trophy. Science explains this system as the inevitable working of animal nature, and Christianity explains it as the inscrutable Divine plan in action. Notwithstanding their differences, both sides developed metaphysics on the model of a law-giver, divine law on one side, natural law on the other, and laws always apply top-down (unalterably) to things understood as unalterable building blocks of reality, all tidy and settled in a hierarchical chain of Being extending down into economic and political structure, social roles and relationships, and even into gender and race categories. It is a vision of existence as rigidly pre-structured and is the ideological matrix of the right-wing politics of winner-take-all inequality.

Both bastions of metaphysics are able to embrace the capitalist incentive and reward system because each misconstrues something crucial about the reality it holds dearest. Religious institutions attach themselves to the overriding reality of creative teleological interventions, the power of spirituality for spontaneously expressive novelty, so much so that they project spiritual teleology outward as the great cosmic parent hidden inside all existence, literally deifying it and proclaiming it the origin of everything. By doing that they reduce individual human-scale spirituality to ignorance, vanity, and misery. On the other side, science attaches itself to knowability, the overt public availability of material objectivity. Nothing real is hidden on this view. True reality can be lit up, measured and mapped, identified and specified, depended on as unalterably definite. Science focuses so much on material objectivity that it disappears human experience into mere mechanism. Each of these entrenched metaphysical doctrines so drastically discounts the importance of the other that actual human spirituality is distorted grotesquely by both. Dystopia follows from the denigration of individual-scale human spirituality from which certain factions gain power and benefits. Setting aside the grotesque exclusivity of the sides in this culture war, we are left with ordinary human scale experience which absolutely depends on both novel teleological creativity at the level of individual persons, and with the stability and clear discernibility of some material objectivity. We have no direct experience of deliberative interventions at a cosmic level, but we have no end of experience of them in our everyday social interactions.

Getting beyond the all-destroying capitalist incentive and reward imperative to consume requires getting beyond the outrageous denigration of individual-level spirituality in metaphysical culture. It demands nothing more than a dualistic synthesis of the opposing metaphysical visions in a new configuration: recognition of random occurrence at the cosmic level and of creative novelty, foresight, learning, and personal expression, which is to say, spontaneous spirituality, at the level of the individual person. Removing the genius of agency in our scenario from some top-down imposer of laws, and relocating it instead to ground level where everyone breaths and talks and carries on living day to day, provides a profound equality of persons. The fact is that a standard practice of creativity as personal expression is the most gratifying and self-affirming of experiences. This is the ultimate grounding for democracy because every individual brings an inherent personal fountain of gratification that bypasses the competitive market economics of trade and barter. This is a metaphysics more congruent with a leftist politics of universal dignity, equality, and mutual support. The left has always been weakened by the lack of a strong and special metaphysical foundation, and so the authentic culture war between left and right politics has not yet even really started.

Context:

Fragment 180, August 28, 2021, Existence and New Reality (word count: 505)

Fragment 173, January 30, 2021, Absolute Incompleteness (word count: 202)

Fragment 171, December 9, 2020, Science and Empathy in Defining Dystopia (word count: 779)

Fragment 167, August 28, 2020, Contesting the External Almighty (word count: 3,104)

Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189)

Fragment 120, December 24, 2017, Two Problems with the Science Story (word count: 1,352)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Instead of Nothing

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Fragment 189, word count: 95.

tags: wonder, caring, knowing, existence, spirit.

The wonder is not that there is something instead of nothing, but rather that there is so much caring about what there is instead of nothing, and so many different reasons for caring and so many different and independent vantage points and dramas that are contexts of caring. Wonder itself, the spirit in wonder, is the great wonder, not only for its peculiar existence as drama-powered sensitivity in its own blind spot but also for the shape of its placements, its distribution, and the contexts it assembles for discovering and knowing what there is.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Measures of a Self

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Fragment 188, word count: 329.

tags: dystopia, wealth, capitalism, consumption, empathy, malaise, decadence, exceptionalism, 

It is delusional to think that people who use yachts and private jets have any ability to reduce their environmental impact. They have constructed that impact as an overt essence for themselves. People who devote themselves to that system of self-definition and personal evaluation can never abandon their holdings and privileged consumption, or membership in the club of exceptional beings that the trophies declare.

Dystopia is not an accident that befell humanity, nor is it the inevitable working of nature. Dystopia is the product of human factions taking macro-parasitic benefits, largely obscured behind veils of deception and patronage, and it has to be maintained by the work of legions of busy people every day, some of whom have decided to devote themselves to climbing some branch of the pyramid of social esteem, who choose to raise their public profile through celebrated competitive achievements to the full extent of their talent and energy for symbols and comforts that declare membership in a club of exceptional beings. This incentive and reward system of money-enabled lifestyles with high consumption, travel, and celebrity status calibrated by titles, honours, control, and trophy properties of various kinds, trophy memories, is inherently the catastrophic looting of the planet’s resources driving global heating and climate disruption. This is the built-in concluding detonation at the core of capitalist civilization.

Empathy and the Malaise of Exceptional Beings

The alternative is to come empathically into the company of all who find themselves embodied into the temporal drama of ceaseless loss and novelty. Living this is dramatic agency and drama is a personal time-vector, a tilting into anticipated openings through a partly predicted flow of conversation among multiple agents of emerging personal dramas, playing around the resistant inanimate world-structure. Empathy is the ultimate spiritual power and value. Every exceptional beings club shuts off the possibility, the legitimacy, of empathy for large numbers of our fellow beings. That is the spiritual decadence, the malaise of exceptionalism.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Zarathustra’s Abyss

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Fragment 187, word count: 392.

Tags: Nietzsche, values, aristocracy, Christendom, patriarchy, Stoicism, Nihilism, hierarchy, will.

Nietzsche didn’t do anything like revalue all values, and it is revealing to consider what values he did not question: namely aristocratic superiority within the social hierarchy of wealth and power. Nietzsche was retreating into a strong cultural current from feudal Christendom, namely the ‘feudal’ current: aristocratic crime-family culture, derived originally from patriarchal dominance in herding culture: men with weapons on horses. Nietzsche loathed and worked to discredit the other cultural current from Christendom, namely Christianity, because it promoted an otherworldly (heavenly) focus that gave priority to “selfless” values. He dismissed altruism, selflessness, meekness, and turning the other cheek, which he thought of as slave values, feminine values, and nihilistic, in favour of ancient and traditional masculine dominance values, as exemplified in ancient Greek warriors: hardness, strength, endurance, courage, dominance, self-promotion, and disregard for weaker beings. Nietzsche despised and blamed the victims of conquest and oppression. He gazed upon the same European history as Rousseau and Marx but did not fault the crime family aristocracy for being parasites on the subsisting majority, but instead accepted their claims of nobility (projecting onto them the nobility he experienced in his own creativity) and admired their viciousness. He blamed the oppressed for being weak. Their weakness made them deserve whatever oppression they experienced. Nietzsche gave the crime family class credit for whatever he found positive in European culture. As historical fact, European aristocracy could not have established the wealth and power it did without the senior partnership of the Church of Rome promoting its elaborate religious ideologies. In a superstitious age, it was the religious culture of desperate fear and hope that utterly subdued resistance and solidified mass resignation. Yet, Nietzsche blamed the Church for proclaiming a set of values that persuaded the weak and oppressed to find meaning in their oppression and de-valued the manly military values of aristocracy.

Within the legacy of Zarathustra, to which Nietzsche was drawn, the world where we humans live is irredeemably abysmal as the creation of an evil god, the lesser of the duality of high gods. Rejecting any heavenly escape, Nietzsche found himself faced with a choice between utter nihilism or the Stoic (and Romantic) determination to prove personal transcendence by a supreme act of will to accept existence as whatever it is, and even to will its eternal recurrence in every ugly detail.

Embedded links:

Fragment 99, November 2, 2016, What is Patriarchy? (word count: 3,700)

Fragment 84, June 17, 2015, Errors and Allegories in Gnosticism (word count: 1,869)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

Nietzsche Autonomous

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Fragment 186, word count: 340.

tags: empathy, embodiment, culture, individuality, voice, Nietzsche, Plato, Kant.

Nietzsche’s thinking did not have a lot in common with Plato’s. In fact, Nietzsche had the thought that overcoming Plato’s way of conceiving reality was the most important thing that western civilization could accomplish to improve itself. The thing Nietzsche didn’t like about Platonism was its heavenly focus, obsession with a remote world that could be thought but not lived with the richness of embodiment, a world of eternal perfection which put worldly normality in a dismissing and frightening light. However, there is a point of contact between Nietzsche and Plato.

Nietzsche judged that individuals are normally conditioned uncritically into a cultish herd mind, a collective set of values and judgments. He presented personal creativity as the elevating human power, a power that can be the portal out of human herd banality and into a particularizing individuality of spirit. On Nietzsche’s view, the distinctness and individuality of the felt human body, awash with personally specific sickness, pain, and fatigue, kinetic power and sexual arousal, are made spiritual by being taken up by creative impulses which construct expressions in a unique voice. Nietzsche’s conception of this process of self-created individuality, separating from cult minds which are always ambient for social beings, is reminiscent of Plato’s metaphor of the cave. In Plato’s cave narrative we are shown a map of where philosophical curiosity, cultivated as a personal mission, leads in relation to immersion in the collective orientation of some cultural community at a given moment. From an initial placement within culturally stipulated forms of experience and dramas, the person devoted to philosophical thinking begins a process of questioning the assumptions, categories, and values of this moment of culture, and in doing so is relocated to individuality. Between Plato and Nietzsche, historically, Kant had already taken a crucial step further. In his balletically formalized way, he observed that people consistently exercising inherent rationality don’t need any external sovereign to proclaim laws because inherent rationality coupled with universal empathy, applied to all sentient beings, enables them to be self legislating in all situations.

Embedded links:

Fragment 104, April 6, 2017, In Plato’s Cave (word count: 926)

Fragment 157, December 11, 2019, Philosophy in the Dystopian Context (word count: 552)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

The Metaphysics is You

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Fragment 185, word count: 505.

tags: philosophy, metaphysics, dystopia, embodiment, personality, reality, politics, culture, nature, freedom, Plato.

Rarely does an individual have much control over the evolutionary momentum of multigenerational cultural entities such as religions, sovereign states, cities, industries, or institutions such as armies and war, universities and literacy. A lifetime is barely enough to get a well contextualized sense of what they are. We behold them for a heartbeat, a blink, as we transform through the life cycle of a human animal. This combines with generational amnesia, the personal-level, deeply experienced knowledge lost with the mortality of each generation, and also with the new-generation’s  innocence and its inclination to have a joyful life in a joyful world. Biologically, our lives are expressed in bodies which are at some moment in an arc of species mutation already in progress for some unthinkable duration. We live the gifts and limitations of our moment in that long arc of mutation. It is not surprising then that, socially, accommodations are made for whatever activities and systems of relationship are practiced at our moment of intervention, even if they have a dystopian core, because often enough that seems to make it easier to find some joy in being alive. This makes a certain sort of philosophical work almost impossible.

Assertions about primordial reality, specifically of a fixed and eternal structure of existence, are always canonized in dystopia to support an exploitative social hierarchy, and that is why philosophy, as a critique of thinking about primordial existence and reality, is inherently political and ultimately unavoidable. For example, the commanding heights of Plato’s conception of metaphysical reality, typical of dystopia, exist somewhere on the invisible far side of objects, a substrate behind the impersonally given world of objective things. They are meant to make sense of how the never-ceasing fluidity of familiar things can be connected to a stability profound enough to count as essential reality. On that view, the situation may be tragic, but it is nature and you can’t change nature. Things are what they must be, manifesting an existential bedrock of categories and laws. Although canonical, this is only wild speculation.

There is an opposing metaphysics of primordial existence, a conception that denies any categorical commanding heights. In the most straightforward way, you are the metaphysics in your world, the living ideality here on the near side of phenomena. All forms of ideality occur in clusters that have the dramatic structure of a living personal “I”, subject of a personal drama which is an individual’s embodied life in the world. Ideality is always personality, the creative transcendence of ordinary, individual-level, temporal agency living a creativity that transcends nature and makes what sense it will of the physical or divine givens of nature. There may be a system of stark givens, but it has no intrinsic purposes, doesn’t matter to itself and cannot care, and that system has no immutable grip on the conceptions of us agents of temporal ideality. Social systems derived from this metaphysical source can be perfectly free of any influences from the patterns of organization in brute actuality.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What Knowing Is

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Fragment 184, word count: 198.

tags: existence, reality, drama, physics, metaphysics, spirituality, time, transcendence.

Spirituality has nothing to do with immortality, eternity, or qualifying for immortality. Instead, spirituality is bringing drama to existence, so, knowing the passing of time.

Awareness of the boundless world of enduring structures and processes, cycles repeating within cycles, a world that doesn’t matter to itself and doesn’t care, discover, or regret but goes on existing and shape shifting, structured and complex but just falling through the ways of least resistance: physical reality! Any beholding and knowing such physical reality expresses and demonstrates an order of existence which is different and higher than physics, an order of existence which does care and which questions, discovers, supposes, and contextualizes: the order of existence which is ordinary subjective spirituality. The physical universe cannot identify you and me, but we identify the physical universe. The physical universe can’t care what happens. It doesn’t wonder or fashion a demeanour expressing curiosity or determination. In no sense can it identify and remember the features of a context for initiatives, a framework of orientation and purpose. Metaphysical reality is exactly the power to construct some understanding of the system of physical reality, to construct an appreciation of the existence of a world of objects.

Another step:

Fragment 182, November 4, 2021, The Thrill of It (word count: 335).

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What are Ideas?

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Fragment 183, Word count: 375.

Various answers to the question “What are ideas?” mostly have in common that ideas exemplify a distinct immaterial face of existence. Idealism encompasses answers to that question which emphasize the foundational or primordial status of such immaterial existence. Essentialist idealism presents ideas as primordial templates for the categories of all things that exist, absolutely independent of any living consciousness, excepting possibly a unique eternal divine consciousness. These ideas are prior to the rest of existence in some profound sense and supposedly cause the rest of existence. As exemplified by Platonic idealism, there is a certain sense of metaphysics presented by essentialist idealism: a primordial reality that is profoundly different, in its immutable immateriality, from the world of ordinary appearances, a reality of predetermined forever templates for the forms that any physical existence must take.

A non-essentialist idealism presents a very different sense of metaphysics: ideas are ephemeral features which shape the frame-work of orientation that guides the future-ward tilt or bearing of some living individual. Ideas exist only in the intentional agency of living individuals. Instead of standing as eternally enduring categories and structures, the special genius of ideality is its fluid subsistence by leaping ceaselessly into losses and novel opportunities expressing personal dramas of caring; plunging, partly falling, into an ever-just-opening non-existence, evaluating the uncertain prospects for improvisations of personal dramas within a mix of expected and unexpected circumstances and expressive impulses. There is no question here of ideas existing separately from the living of particular sentient and intentional agents. Even as such, ideas cannot be left out of a description of fundamental existence, of what there is, since they present an undeniable complication to neat conceptions of reality as fixed, atomized, and final. As necessarily temporal and immaterial (even though organized as embodied), ideas are anomalous existences, inseparable from the subjectivity of personal experiences. Ideality is still metaphysical but its meta-physicality is in its living spontaneity and creative agency, in its sentient-intentionality at the raw ever-becoming edge of existence. Human existence is living: experience-derived anticipation as context and inspiration for important intentions and aspirations. It is an actively reaching incompleteness or openness to existence at its core: discontinuous, multiple, monadic, locally limited, ephemeral.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The Thrill of It

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Fragment 182, word count: 335.

tags: romanticism, science, spirituality, embodiment, history, privilege, enchantment, Christendom, magic, 

With the explosion of mathematical science as an effective and prestigious ideology radiating from the Republic of Letters in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe, there emerged among culture-pods with long-established privilege and dominance, both religion based and military/ property based, a sharp sense of loss and nostalgia for the thrilling fear and wonder of pre-modern Christendom: a culture gripped in the drama of intervention by gods, angels, demons, witches, and sorcerers, all cashing out as supernatural justifications for established privilege and dominance. Romanticism was one expression of that sense of loss and nostalgia, an heroic effort to re-enchant the modernizing world by conflating deity and nature. It was an effort to rescue the concept of nature from scientific mechanization, insisting that nature is a single living divinity with foresight, memory, discretionary will, aesthetic judgments, and powers far beyond those commonly perceived, power to overcome its own normal regularity.

Those efforts at re-enchantment, reviving the fear and thrill of Christendom, were futile and misdirected. Even in the absence of magic, deities, demons, or personified nature, the fact of any living subjectivity always enchants existence as a whole. The fact that spirituality is structured as a distinct body among other animate individuals with whom each fashions an apparently ordinary life does not erase its wonder and transcendence. Embodiment is the foundational structuring principle of spirituality. Sensation, so perception, is structured in the shape of the body. Deliberate personal interventions into a given exterior surroundings, making objective markings, are movements of a person’s body. The capabilities of body movements and their range of forces impose a shape on personal intentions to mark the objective world. Still, any subjectivity is a gaze from inside unique dreams at the spring of a personal self-injection into exterior surroundings. Enchantment radiates in that gaze itself, from the interiority at the source of every outward reach. Spirituality, the desperate living will, the knowing, questioning, learning, and creating will, is the enchantment, the mystery and wonder of existence.

Also:

Fragment 121, January 12, 2018, Welcome to Metaphysics (word count: 1,312).

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Knowing is Caring

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Fragment 179, word count: 621.

Tags: caring, knowledge, learning, sensibility, phenomenology, sensation, time, representation, evidence, Edmund Husserl.

Caring is more important than sensation in the perception of anything, and caring is personal. Knowledge is always dependent on and derived from someone’s caring. It is always an elaboration, specification, and development of caring. Knowing is a personal effect and consequence of caring. That means that perception, as a means of coming to know, is also an application of caring, a personal act of anchoring care in certain particular actualities presenting as phenomena. Caring and what it is that cares are not adequately presented by a description of the most immediate actualities to which this caring is anchored. You can’t get anywhere near understanding the richness of a moment of personal caring (the living moment of a sensibility/ intentionality*) by mapping the most evident actualities it is conscious of. Phenomena don’t count as anything without being identified within the context of a perceiving sensibility. Larger dramatic vectors of personal caring are necessarily involved. Not only is the gaze of consciousness a gaze into nature from a particularly embodied drama, it is also a creative act in the drama, a move forward motivated by personal drama, and meaningful because of the essentially dramatic integration of knowledge and personally intended interventions. A perceiving and learning gaze is a personal drama in the act of building and playing out, of extending itself by going on living in the world.

Since Edmund Husserl (1858-1938), a definitive move of philosophical Phenomenology is to remove any suggestion of deriving from perception any knowledge of a Kantian “thing in itself” as absolute reality, so, bracketing off the question: does this experienced appearance represent something that is completely independent of being perceived?. What is bracketed off is the question of the representation of phenomena, the question of whether or not they represent, depict, or disclose some existent object which is independent in its reality of being perceived or not being perceived, being cared about or not. In this context, phenomena are technical objects of consciousness definable with maps of sensations, positioned quanta of sensory stimuli with specific qualities. They are impersonal arrangements of appearances (sense data) that may suggest an internal integrity. “To the things!” declare Husserl’s phenomenologists.

However, instead of putting attention on what might or might not be on the ‘far side’ of phenomena as given in sensations, it is decisively more important to deal with what is on the ‘near side’ of phenomena, the source of caring that is reaching future-ward through its sensory display. No matter what uncertainty there might be about sensory appearances as true depictions of impersonal actualities that lie beyond, there can be no doubt that the shape of caring in phenomena truly represents a personal sensibility and intentionality*.

Fragment 123, February 8, 2018, Brentano’s Gift (word count: 999)

Fragment 165, July 5, 2020, The Genius of Ephemerality (word count: 595)

In spite of the fact that the technical definition of phenomena excludes the personal, there is a sense in which actual phenomena must always represent a person, by a kind of backward representation. A personal ideality is always the matrix of phenomena. Whatever definitions might be imposed on phenomena, they are primordially experiences, and experiences are always acts of an experiencing sensibility, a person living a particularly embodied life. The most important representation by phenomena is a person, what it is that cares and brings caring to this existence. Caring is personal, a complex personal vector of drama within a willful sensibility. It isn’t possible to reveal what it is that cares and constructs a life of dramatic movements of caring by using descriptions of phenomena that bracket off the desperate ephemerality of what is personal. Although what-it-is-that-cares is never a phenomenon, the existence of phenomena is necessarily the existence of a unique dramatic ideality that is expressing its caring in its engagement with these phenomena.

  • ‘Intentionality’ in the sense of a pre-conceiving of future interventions in actuality for specific purposes, a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The World that Matters

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Fragment 177, word count: 450.

Tags: sociability, human attachment, war, caring, perception, knowing, collective identity, herd mind.

Recognizing the presence of a separately embodied intelligence, another caring, sensitive, knowledge-building, and future-opening agent, is a different order of perception from recognizing sand or a piece of wood. There is a kind of perceiving going on in the recognition of another future-inventing agent that requires something other than an empirical explanation. Recognition of caring is crucial in this perceiving and another person’s caring is not an arrangement of sense-data, not a visual impression nor any other sensory impression. Sensory perception cannot assemble an objective image of whatever questing sensibility is expressing the arc of its personal drama in its acts, a drama formed of complex expectations, vectors of intention in action, and this moment of open possibility. Sensibilities as creative shapers of actuality require a conception such as ideality or intentionality that distinguishes them from strictly perceivable actuality. There is an absolute dependence on inherently personal, interior, sources of knowing in the recognition of another sensibility, since familiarity with sensibility as such is entirely self-acquaintance. This is more like a rationalist sort of knowing. * You know your own sensibility by self-creating and inhabiting your drama. We find in the presence of other caring agents a reflection and a variation of our own dramas of fear and delight, misery and ecstasy, and there is an irresistible sense of enlargement, of energy and exciting possibility, in this not being alone.

It isn’t long into a person’s life before the most important and interesting focus of awareness is an ambient collective of separately embodied intelligences: bodies expressing the spirituality, ideality, or intentionality that is caring sensitivity, searching curiosity, and ever-increasing knowledge in aid of the actualization of personally created intentions. Of course a person learns a sense of location within a structure of surfaces and objects, of food, shelter, and footings for power-projecting activities, but constellations of other people displaying caring intentionality always form the core and organizing pattern of the world that matters.

Hive Minds Make War

The reality that hive minds make war confronts us with the challenge of conceiving a way for people to express and enjoy the profound human talent for interpersonal attachment and social interconnectedness without constructing or participating in collective identities which prevent personal creativity from forming an identity grounded on spiritual autonomy and individual agency. We can be sure that the surrounding population of separately embodied idealities remains personally crucial even when an individual dismisses the misconceptions, prejudices, and superstitions which form the common currency of a human hive mind, herd mind, or collective identity. In the arc of human interconnectedness, the socio-cultural formation of herd identities, hive-mind identities, will become an artifact of the past.

 * Compare Avicenna’s “inner senses”, in particular: wahm. The sheep recognizes the wolf’s hostility. This is empathic recognition of an outside intelligence with conscious intent and emotional force in that intent. See p. 137 of:

Philosophy in the Islamic World: Volume 3 of: A History of Philosophy without any gaps, written by Peter Adamson, published by Oxford University Press (2016), ISBN 978-0-19-957749-1.

Embedded links:

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 112, August 2, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (3) (word count: 390).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Nietzsche’s Drama

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Fragment 176, word count: 895.

Tags: embodiment, spirituality, nihilism, Christendom, Copernicus, Darwin, creativity, culture, individuality.

Christianity taught, and European Christendom accepted for centuries, that the human spiritual drama, our unique opportunity for ethical elevation by coming to know and align with the transcendent deity, is the purpose of all existence. Humans were thought to be the primary achievement of the all-creating God. Born as an exile into an initial state of disgrace within the lusts, pains, and thrills of a mortal body, each human is capable of recognizing its existence as more authentically one of transcendent spirituality and changing its way of life to express that spirituality. The worldly society of Christendom, controlled at all levels by the hierarchy and laws of the Roman Church in partnership with the secular military aristocracy, was accepted as the means by which individuals were guided to the spiritual life, a state of grace whose reward was blissful immortality. In the sixteenth century, within a broad advance of science, Nicolaus Copernicus discovered and revealed that the human home planet was not the centre of God’s cosmos, suggesting a more marginal status for human being. In the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin presented findings suggesting that humans are indistinguishable from animals, just naked apes, driven by instinctive drives and passions beyond individual control, with no qualitative specialness placing us in a uniquely elevated category. For much of the educated stratum of nineteenth century Europe, this apparent loss of human standing in the great scheme of things was a revelation of nihilism, a catastrophic loss of purpose and value. This was the context in which Nietzsche conceived his mission of thinking.

With God removed from the human situation, the Christian drama of existence faded out and with it the sense of meaning and purpose derived from that drama. Reflecting on human history soon reveals that no eventual outcome of biological evolution can give value and meaning to human existence, since it is unknowable, nor can the historical progress of human civilization do it since that reveals no verifiable arc toward a fulfillment. In the absence of these large structures as navigational guides the problem of meaning and purpose becomes entirely the individual’s problem and actually defines, on Nietzsche’s view, the monadic singularity of the human individual, the loneliest loneliness. As it happens, however, the fundamental nature or quality of individual spirit, the will to power, contains within itself a dramatic dynamic capable of achieving happiness, and so defeating nihilism.

For Nietzsche, the universal ethical and existential imperative for every individual is self-perfection, though that achievement is possible only for strong domineering spirits. Only the strongest spirits are capable of the happiness of self-perfection because only the strongest are capable of self-domination or self-overcoming by sublimating the instinctive animal impulses (Dionysian) into products of a dominant personal rationality (Apollonian), imposing a unifying form and style on all expressions of that sublimated energy. This Dionysian – Apollonian dialectic is the intrinsic dynamic of the will to power, the fundamental living force. Culture that is elevating to behold and appropriate is created from the sublimation of bestial impulses and instincts. Even though those impulses and instincts originate in and always declare the body, without them there is no energy to be sublimated into high art and culture. Strong and passionate impulses require an even stronger force of rationality to impose form and style on them. Artists and philosophers, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Socrates, are typically the people who discipline themselves to sublimate their great passions into creative activities. Nietzsche calls such spirits ubermensch, higher men, the only people of value in his estimation because in the ecstasy of their original creation they uniquely manifest authentic individuality. Specimens of higher men are rare and occur unpredictably in various times, societies, races, and ethnic groups, and it seems that for Nietzsche they are “The Elect”, forever predetermined for blessedness. The rest of us are a herd of doomed beasts of no interest or value, sometimes spiritualized to some extent by encountering the achievements of the higher ones.

There are striking similarities between Nietzsche’s conception of the drama and tragedy of existence and the previously dominant one from Christendom. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran clergyman and the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. Separation of people into The Elect and the damned is one similarity. Both dramas involve a tension or dialectic between animal embodiment and some version of a transcendent spirituality which exerts itself against animality and offers a happier and more authentically meaningful life. In Nietzsche’s version, however, the impulses of the body are never left behind but always remain the source of life’s energy. In addition, Nietzsche’s spiritualizing, sublimating, force is militant rationality, giver of expressive form, stability, and style, replacing the poor Christian spirit of meek obedient submission, self-denial, mortification of the flesh, and altruism.

Such was Nietzsche’s revaluation of all values. It is philosophically unusual in recasting the Christian drama by eliminate a commanding and controlling deity while still finding a way to divide blessed from damned. That vision clearly doesn’t defeat nihilism for everyone, only for the precious few his message was apparently designed to reach. However, if we discount Nietzsche’s peculiar aristocratic exclusivity, we can appreciate his “Yes” to embodiment as inseparable from the ecstasy of personal creativity, his close attention to the interior experience of creativity and its independence from any conformist herd mind.

Sources and Inspirations

Walter Kaufmann’s book was the source for the sketch of Nietzsche’s philosophy included in this posting.

Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, written by Walter Kaufmann, published by Princeton University Press (1950), foreword by Alexander Nehamas (2013), ISBN 978-0-691-16026-9.

Zarathustra’s Secret, written by Joachim Kohler, translated from German by Ronald Taylor, Published by Yale University Press (English edition June 2002), ISBN-10: 0300092784, ISBN-13: 978-0300092783.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Superego and Self-Possession

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Fragment 175, word count: 604.

Tags: war, dystopia, creativity, gratification, reality, hive mind, 

Every instance of collectivism known to us is dystopian. All are institutional systems of human-on-human macro-parasitism: exploitative, unequal, misogynistic, devoted on principle to arbitrary hierarchies of gender, race, and class, poised for overwhelming violence, controlled by patriarchal factions which channel disproportionate benefits to themselves at the expense of the marginalized majority. This is not a product of divine will or natural law, but an historical aggregation of inventions, actions, communications, and imitations by individual humans in particular situations. The existence and effective activity of creative ideality at the level of the embodied individual completely invalidates any claim of an immutable natural order or a fixed hierarchy of being. Reality as experienced is completely structured by the interests, ideas, of particular humans, which means reality is mutable because ideas make up much of its structure.

Superego

Ambient society presents itself as the indispensable means for realizing every individual’s vestigial core being, the truth of who and what we really are. As young innocents we are guided by its assertions of what we must do to manifest and display our quality and potential. Since we need to function within the norms of our society to survive, we accept its sovereignty, its hierarchy of esteem and supervision, as a guide or roadmap of personal expectations and intentions. Civilization is a structure of increasingly prized and exclusive gratifications instituted as rewards and incentives through which people prove and reveal themselves. Internalizing norms means submitting to supervision within the chain of official power, doing a personal best with the incentives and rewards, conceiving an identity within exemplary career arcs in their cultural context encompassing nature, community, human fulfillment, and the supernatural, which, taken together, define a culturally stipulated collective orientation, effectively a human-style hive mind. Hive minds make war.

Self-Possession

Given the profound dystopian characteristics of all known societies, it is not surprising that individuals experience a discordance between cultural role models (presented in schools and popular culture, for example) asserting praiseworthy behaviour, values, aspirations, and beliefs, on the one hand, and on the other, their own actual experience of gratifications, reality, and fulfilling self expression. This discordance reveals important aspects of existence as an individual and is inescapably political in the broadest sense. The individual, as a fountain of creativity and freedom, is inherently greater than the cultured conceptions of any hive mind, always bigger than placements on offer within competitive hierarchies or culturally identified functions (tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor). The felt discordance is a questioning of not only the narrow functioning of institutional sovereignty but also the wider systems of authority (economic, patriotic, religious, and social) which are the cultural foundations of sovereignty. The experienced discordance manifests an antagonism felt by individuals against any conception of them as owned, as property for use by some external entity.

The socio-cultural formations which are collective hive-mind identities have dominated much of human history but will eventually be an artifact of the past. Human hive minds, each unified culturally by false metaphysical assertions and shared narratives featuring emotionally triggering tricks, are always dystopian in conceiving value in exclusivity. Happily, you don’t have to wait for the ultimate fall of dystopia to be free of it. When you encounter creative personal interiority, ideality, as the fountain of value it is, you don’t need to construct an exterior ego-facade of trophy possessions. You don’t have to peg your value to markers or applause from the ambient cultural and economic system. Even within dystopia, it is already common for people to quietly experience their best gratification from creating and nurturing instead of from trophy gathering.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Freedom and Actuality

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Fragment 174, word count: 176.

Tags: consciousness, agency, freedom, drama, ideality, perception, personality

The presence of a quality of stimulation from somatic sensitivity, say vision, or even a combination of many different sensory qualities, does not as such qualify as consciousness. Consciousness can lack any and all sensory stimuli. Rather, consciousness is a questing vigilance, a searching, or a recognition in forwarding the care-drama or sensibility of an embodied agent in a life in the world. Forwarding a personal care-drama is the act of a person as ideality, a point and arc of agency projecting itself as a particular caring into the absolute incompleteness, the non-existence, that is the future. This point and arc of dramatically caring agency, personality, cannot be constructed from sensory qualities but instead is what recognizes sensory sensitivity as presenting things of interest, certain things that matter personally. Conceptualizing freedom requires this life of ideality which is inseparable from the absolute incompleteness of existence in the passing of time. Freedom is real because of the co-existence and co-involvement of creative ideality and the absolute incompleteness of the world of actuality.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Absolute Incompleteness

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Fragment 173, word count: 202.

Tags: spirituality, time, agency, care-drama, existence, eternal recurrence, effort, embodiment, consciousness, freedom.

Spirituality has nothing to do with inherent guilt or fear and love of a higher power or supreme Being which is removed from the desperate care-drama and agency of living an always incomplete existence. Spirituality has everything to do with awareness of the passage of time because the personal drama of caring depends on ephemerality to extend, shape, and renew itself, opening its ongoing by intentionally inventing acts based on expectations and suppositions learned and abstracted from a career of caring and effortful engagement with the world around. Any moment of consciousness is loaded with abstractions that frame and locate an immediate effort. We have to disconnect understanding time from cosmic loops and circles, the apparent paths of stars and planets that have been observed and identified from eras immemorial by people watching the sky. Theirs was a vision of completeness in eternal recurrence. Instead, time is the asymmetrical continuity of context that consciousness supposes in orienting its desperately creative plunge into freedom that is its enduring incompleteness and the incompleteness of the world. The intentional ongoing of individually embodied consciousness constitutes spiritual (subjective) reality, and spiritual reality connects irremovably to absolute reality. The personal exists as absolutely as the cosmic.

Embedded link:

Fragment 169, October 25, 2020, Wildcard Time-World Idealism (word count: 1,230)

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Science and Empathy in Defining Dystopia

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Fragment 171, word count: 780.

There is a western consensus that the rapid launch of mathematical science in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe drew the decisive line in human history, the crossing of which heralded a future with unlimited improvements in all human affairs. There was some speculation that after understanding the energies of nature humans would use them first to perform essential production work and then venture on to accomplish our fondest hopes. It was thought to be self-evident that ingenious mechanisms for channelling energies far greater than human and animal muscle power would free people from the physical burden of work and create such abundance that none would suffer privation. This, roughly, was the theory of science for a better world, material progress. It didn’t work out because understanding the energies of nature did nothing to change the cultural limits on how the wealthiest groups distributed empathy toward other breathing beings. The result is that now, in the early decades of the twenty-first century, the idea of progress, Better World Theory, is confused and seriously disputed. Developments in digital technology over the last half-century have given a new boost to STEM-based hopes for a better world, although weapons of mass destruction and climate change loom larger than ever and technology still doesn’t break down the cultural barriers to expanding empathy.

The reasons for intractable and extinction level problems in this age of mathematical science, which promotes itself as the means for solving all human problems, cannot be discovered by scientific research. Materialist science cannot settle the culture war between the core values of patriarchy from feudal Christendom along with other antique societies which similarly control strictly and sparsely licensed empathy, over against an emerging conception of culture and society based on a universality of empathy. Nostalgia for an imagined past along the lines of feudal Christendom is still widespread and a characteristic feature of fascism, a worse dystopia than what we have. From this perspective, what makes a society dystopian, a mortal danger to itself and others, is a poverty of empathy.

Populist Sense of Loss: Birthright and Patriarchy

The sense of loss that drives right-wing populism results from progress made in extending empathy, bringing with it some degree of dignity and equality, to previously denied people, and especially from the successes of feminism and its inexorable drift of values toward nurture and away from the masculine culture of dominance-derived pride. Right-wing populism is nostalgia for misogyny, racism, celebration of masculine strength, patriarchy, and terror of a supernatural masculine mind in the universe at large which decrees all those dystopian arrangements and certifies their eternal endurance.

There is also a populist rage against the elite status and honour of education and scholarship, of expertise, study, scribal skills and their culture, because they override the tradition of birthright. Birthright claims to be the decree of nature or the almighty creator, in which people are born to a certain social status as a man or as a person of the dominant race, a meaningful niche with a certain richness of rights, privileges, and dignities. In a world of education, there is no birthright. Everyone must accomplish what they can through effort and ingenuity. That has given women, racial minorities, and marginalized groups generally, a way to bypass birthright in dominant cultures.

The broadening of empathy is not an accomplishment of science or technology, and not likely to be helped by artificial intelligence. It is instead a product of the two culture engines identified as threats by the political right-wing: the culture of nurture and attachment cultivated mainly by women, and the scribal culture of broad literacy, inquiry, and scholarship. The posture of inquiry that is philosophy, for example, covering the whole of culture and experience, arises from a judgement, beginning from Socrates, that generally accepted cultural assertions are poorly supported by evidence and are often mere superstitions or misconceptions.

Early on in the twenty-first century, the political left-wing might be desperate in its struggle against advances by traditional patriarchy in a conservative, neoconservative, and neofascist onslaught, but in a long historical perspective the political right-wing is at least as desperate because people generally have become and continue to become more nurturing and to embrace nurturing ethics and values. Violence is less tolerated in many cultures than it was even one generation ago, although there are still forces striving mightily to legitimizing authoritarian patriarchy and top-down human-on-human macro-parasitism, brandishing and glorifying the tools of violence. The truth about individual human spirituality is that the potential for empathy is inherent and as near universal as we need for a better world.

Embedded links:

Fragment 165, July 5, 2020, The Genius of Ephemerality (word count: 595)

Fragment 99, November 2, 2016, What is Patriarchy? (word count: 3,700)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Consciousness is a Time-Wave

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Fragment 170, word count: 377.

Consciousness can’t be adequately described by even a complete catalogue of its objects. Objects have only a passing and tentative almost-presence unless they are made to matter by a rich personal context of ideality. Consciousness is formed of anticipatory intentions of agency and the reasons for agency within a personal life-drama. There is an emotionally committed questioning, a desperately caring gaze from an ever-learning knowledge-poise of orientation with its bearing onward, defining a point and arc of creative agency improvising the personal drama which is an individual embodied life.

We individually create a supposition of not-yet and been-and-gone defining a newness and incompleteness as the primordial context in which we exist as dramatic free agents, leaping future-ward in our drama, aware that everything in our envelopment of entropic actuality is falling away continuously. The supposed content of not-yet and been-and-gone is changing constantly. Knowledge and expectation are forms of supposition that constitute a drifting context-content slipping into proximity and then into an increasingly remote separation, a sense of things slipping by and falling away in the ephemerality of objects. Such is the context of personal agency as it leaps into anticipated openings of not-yet. That everything actual is slipping away is essential to the drama of individual human existence, to the willful creative leap open-ward which answers it as a moment-by-moment affirmation of a power of living to open reality and make it unexpectedly more than it was. Ideality moves to make actual a specific not-yet, to realize a new non-actuality, and that is the creativity for which freedom is possible.

The medium (non-actual past and future) in which time-waves exist is not independent of the knowing, curious, questioning, dramatically desperate agents who propagate ourselves in ceaseless ephemerality. Consciousness thinks itself as a time-wave, a formation of ephemerality through which freedom is possible in the genius of ideality as not-a-thing but a self-propelling continuity of creative expression across time. It is a fountain of future possibilities from which is enacted, having learned and conceived aspirations in been-and-gone, an original arc of developmental continuity that is the personal drama of life-creation.

Embedded links:

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750)

Fragment 118, November 8, 2017, A Point of Dispute with Post-Modernist Theory (word count: 1,656)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.