Philosophy is Possible

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Fragment 150, word count: 428.

Philosophy as an interior act and process of self-directed reorientation is possible because of a personally interior fountain of spirituality: questions, intents, evaluations, abstractions and ideas which give structure and movement to experience. Ideas are always and only features of an individual person’s orientation and temporal bearing in the world, but everyone’s ideas are influenced and often imposed by an ambient culture. Every individual is colonized by the culture into which he or she is born. Agents of cultural communities strive to particularize, distinguish, and glorify their collective by stipulating key communal ideas to form a human sort of hive mind. The posture of philosophical questioning arises from recognizing that lived reality is mutable because ideas make up much of the structure of that reality, and that generally accepted cultural stipulations are often just superstitions and toxic misconceptions. Philosophy as an interior act and process is a personal assertion of spiritual individuality by moving beyond cultural stipulations. This builds from features of experience that would be just as they are without a person having learned to be part of a nation, a religious community, an ethnic group, a linguistic community, a socio-economic class, race, or gender; encountering the way personality lives beyond and beneath any cultural qualifiers and categories such as linguistic ethnicity, skin colour, body size and shape, age, giftedness, education, social status, or nationality. Here in Socratic innocence is a spiritual fountain positing non-actualities in the shape of time, anticipating the ever decreasing remoteness of multiple possibilities, variously probable occurrences presenting opportunities for acts of agency to improvise an embodied life in the world. In positing time as it does, personality creates teleology, freedom, and itself as active and effective ideality. Freedom is the power to posit. Rocks and rivers don’t posit anything, but only fall.

Certainly there is the brute actuality of rocks and rivers, but there are also active occurrences of supra-actuality, separate embodied points and arcs of intervention  imposing locally invented novelty onto the shape of the fall lines of actuality. Any politics conceived for a strong nurture of freedom must recognize this spontaneous creativity, novelty, and indeterminacy within brute actuality, a conception of transcendence at the level of the embodied individual. Philosophy as the interior act and process of a particular supra-actuality calls up the perspective of sentient being simply as such, of teleological being, living personality in the most general sense. In removing itself spiritually from culturally structured collectives, in finding the way to be most alone, this interior act must embrace the most universal empathy.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Free-Agent Idealism

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Fragment 149, word count: 635

Plato made philosophers the kings of his ideal republic because he asserted an essential relationship between politics (community leadership, the proclamation and application of laws) and knowledge of a transcendent force creating fundamental reality. For Plato, there is a structure to reality that includes a crucial transcendence feature, immaterial Ideal Forms. Philosophers are specialists in transcendence, uniquely attentive to the transcendence feature of reality. On Plato’s understanding, philosophical insight into transcendence is the guiding treasure of any society because an ultimately sustainable political system must actualize an alignment between human lives, the structure of their relationships, and the transcendence that is crucial in creating reality. As specialists in transcendence, philosophers uniquely are in a position to conceive and communicate appropriate political arrangements, according to Plato’s Republic.

Plato’s idealism made transcendence politically conservative by removing ideas from ordinary personalities, in whom we are first acquainted with ideas: intentions, caring, curiosity, anticipation, aspiration, evaluation, and orientation, for example. Plato separated category ideas from the life of particular personalities and spun a very influential cosmic conception from that separation, but it was a serious violation of the ordinary experience of ideas. As far as our ordinary experience is concerned, all varieties of ideality occur together in the arcs of spontaneity and creativity familiar as embodied personalities. With Platonic idealism, although the Ideal Forms create reality in some sense, there is no profound spontaneity or freedom. Nature and everything within it is nothing more than copies of copies of the immaterial Forms. Although some serious instability and unreliability enter those copies the more removed they are from the originals, there is a core to everything, a structure of categorical types, that must be eternally as it is predestined to be. When idealism is construed as Plato conceived it, there is a rigid eternal pattern that everything follows necessarily, but idealism can and should be conceived otherwise.

Idealism asserts the importance of a category of non-actuality which is supra-actual and still indispensable in any comprehensive conception of reality. As an affirmation of ideality as supra-actuality, it is latently explosive politically as an assertion of something more important than (and with power over and within) whatever nature, previous history, and the sagacious ancestors bestowed on the current generation in terms of social norms and ways of seeing the world. Such supra-actuality is a conception of transcendence, and any strong idea of freedom (as points and arcs of spontaneous creativity, novelty, and indeterminacy) requires such a conception. Supra-actuality could be eternally stable as in Platonic idealism, or, far more plausibly, it could be free agency in time. In articulating the importance of this non-actuality, any free-agent idealism goes “through the looking glass” as far as traditional social structures of all kinds are concerned, and so, much depends on the way idealism is conceived. Historical upheavals and catastrophes are inseparably involved with conceptions of idealism. (Consider the historical consequences of Hegel’s idealism.)

When the points and arcs of spontaneous creativity, of transcendent supra-actuality creating freedom, are not separated from the ordinary living of individual personalities, in whom we are well acquainted with ideas, then idealism implies a political situation which is completely different from Plato’s rigid hierarchy. With free-agent idealism everybody should qualify as a philosopher king. To align with ordinary embodied personalities as transcendence features fundamental in reality is to recognize every single person, every sentient being, every being who has a voice and breathes, as a creative agent, uttering a personal expression which cannot be completely pre-ordained or predicted. Such a conception implies protections, resources, and freedoms for individuals, and limits on what any power might legitimately claim from them. Plato certainly misconstrued ideas, but what he got right was that insight into transcendence is crucial for conceiving a sustainable politics.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

The Birth of the Left

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Fragment 148, word count: 628.

As long as the ubiquitous metaphysics in the European cultural system was creationist monotheism, there was a blanket sanctification for the rights and privileges (ultimately sovereignty) of the strongest, since they are evidently favoured by deity and typically partnered with priestly institutions dedicated to studying and proclaiming divine messages. However, that blanket sanctification was disrupted beginning as early as the later fourteenth century, gradually building toward the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789-99. Over those four centuries there was a convergence between two distinct philosophical streams in the developing culture of western Christendom, one stream focused on the nature and movement of objects and the other on the status and dignity of the subjective personality of individual humans relative to divine personality. The object-focused stream was mechanistic materialism (anti-Aristotelian) inspired by Lucretius (ancient Roman Epicurean materialist rediscovered in the Renaissance) via Spinoza (1632-1677). Such scientific materialism was used to undercut claims of the divine right of kings, aristocracy, and Church to dominate society, but it also re-conceived human nature as being inclined to rationality, with the inherent ability to reason mathematically and logically, to question, recognize relevant evidence, investigate and judge reality. In other words, it recognized humans as competent to acquire scientific knowledge of the natural world. This was a profound upgrade in human dignity compared with the Christian teaching of hopeless inherent sinfulness since the Fall from Grace. There was a serious effort in this philosophical stream to make human rationality consistent with a mechanistic universe. (Materialism always stumbles over an awkwardness to accommodate conscious ideality, intelligence.) The other stream was also a major upgrade to general human dignity. It was a stream of thinking about human spirituality, expressed in an early form in the remarkable work of John Wycliffe (1320s-1384), concerning the individual self-sufficiency to read and understand the Biblical word of God. This developed as the spirit of Protestantism, ascribing to individuals the inherent nobility to engage with deity directly, without interceding saints or priestly sacraments empowered by the institutional Church, along with the innate power to take a mental leap to faith (Luther), which is to posit conceptions of reality. Both of these streams of thought had philosophical force, and their combined history accounts for why the political left-wing is the party of philosophy: because the convergence of these streams of philosophical thinking came to conceive human nature as having the inherent dignity of rationality and creative self-possession, in the spirit of protestantism but also extending beyond religion into secular politics. Even the protestant stream contains an implicit politics: with God exercising sovereignty directly within every individual’s intelligence, there is no justification for any military commander-in-chief to exercise sovereignty as a local expression of divine will.

Democracy is an expression of the political left-wing, an assertion (against the age-old dominance of the strongest) of the rights to political self-determination of the most numerous class of people who must sell labour for wages to survive because they possess little or nothing. It is leftist to derive inherent and inalienable rights from mere sentient existence, from the inherent dignity of life prior to any possession of property. Based on this philosophical convergence, developed over a long troubled history, there is no metaphysical justification for any claim that a collective can own anyone, or that anyone can own anyone, even on the grounds of being the strongest. No one has a metaphysical obligation or duty to submit to or be subject to the commands of a collective or individual, no matter how gifted. There is no metaphysical commanding height. The crucial freedom is the freedom to disbelieve the bogus metaphysics that sustains the dystopia: that rights belong to the strongest.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

A City of Plato’s Kings

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Fragment 147, word count: 872.

Plato, in the Republic, claimed that humans come as three different kinds, and only the rarest kind is capable of philosophical thinking. Now, a couple of thousand years later, it is no longer plausible that some humans are different from others in that particular way. Plato was all about hierarchical categories, and he designed a political system suited to controlling a city made up of three distinct and unequal kinds of humans. Theorists in the Church hierarchy of feudal Christendom were proud that the institutions of their vast society actualized Plato’s design, with themselves as philosophers in ultimate control, confident in Plato’s claim that philosophical thought is the guiding treasure of any society. Political conservatism is still a remnant of, and nostalgia for, the political ideology and religious metaphysics (creationist monotheism) of feudal Christendom. However, since we no longer accept Plato’s division of humans into types, it follows from the manifest existence of philosophical thinking that it is something important which all humans might do. It could even be argued that everyone begins life as a philosopher. The goal of education, then, should be to reawaken the spirit of philosophy. Before anyone is a tinker, tailor, professional, or capitalist he or she should be abled as an adult, competent to digest diverse and conflicting information into an overall sense of orientation that serves the personal construction of a sustainable life. That is already pretty close to being a philosopher. So, what political institutions would be suitable for an entire population of philosophers? Such a population would eliminate the reasons given for the use of ‘noble’ lies (propaganda) as a technique of governing. They wouldn’t be taken in by lies.

The spirit of enquiry that we now associate with science was philosophy first. Science is a sub-category, natural philosophy, but the broad enquiry of philosophy covers the whole of culture and experience. This posture of enquiry arises from an implicit judgement that generally accepted cultural assertions are poorly supported by evidence and are often mere superstitions or misconceptions. The quest for philosophical awareness is a quest to recognize and move beyond such assumptions and assertions, to know that reality is mutable because ideas make up much of the structure of reality. Science is now considered an accumulation of reliable knowledge, but philosophy, even with its rich historical arc of ideas, remains mainly a spirit of enquiry, of incredulity, questioning, and of the importance of ongoing conceptual research.

We don’t admire philosophers for their scholarship, but for their original re-conceptualizations of experience. That fact expresses a human freedom to re-conceptualize experience comprehensively at the level of the embodied individual, a profound unpredictability in the creativity of human nature. Moreover, philosophy is not only about understanding reality. Understanding has always been in aid of ethical living, and arranging the best political institutions for the expression of human nature and ability, especially emphasizing the ongoing impulse to philosophize, to question and search for alternative ways of conceiving. It is a philosophical act (central in Epicureanism) to resist a dystopian society (any asserting a dystopian metaphysics that denigrates human nature) by re-directing energy toward recognizing the powers of personally interior ideality. That recognition displaces legacy metaphysics, both creationist monotheism or scientific materialism which perversely denigrate the nature of ordinary personalities. Science dismisses the creative freedom of personality as mere illusion, and Christianity dismissed the world of concrete matter as trivial staging for the great drama of salvation from inherent guilt. The point of thinking as a philosophical act is not knowledge in the ordinary sense, certainly not absolute knowledge of eternal necessities, such as mathematics, that removes the knower from engaged subjectivity. Instead it is to enact a personal reorientation to enable empathic agency, from full recognition of the transcendent creative freedom of ideality, ordinary consciousness. Philosophy works by thinking, acts of ideation, and soon finds its way to thinking about thinking and discovering the transcendence of ideality in its creative freedom*, untethered as it is from brute actuality by its temporality. Personality experiences its creativity, its ideality, as freedom because it encompasses in advance, from within itself, alternative possibilities for personal agency in mutating reality.

Political institutions are a test of truth because dystopian societies always rest on false metaphysics that either deny or misconceive ordinary ideality. Ideality is individually created freedom, and as such, transcendence at the level of the embodied individual. Freedom to philosophize comes from disbelieving the bullshit cultural metaphysics that sustains a dystopia. From the fact that it includes such thinking, we learn about human nature that it is innocently independent of social and cultural authority and control. In a society made up entirely of philosophers there would be no cultural background of metaphysics that denigrated human individuality, say by reducing personality to responses programmed by an immutable nature. There would be no dismissal of either ideality or actuality. The whole frontier economy of trophies from contests of strength would also be meaningless. Everyone would self-create personal identity and much of their own value experience because awareness of an interior fountain would be universal. It would be a society in which everyone recognized in all, individually, the creative freedom of ideality, and the dignity of its transcendence.

Embedded link:

Fragment 144, March 28, 2019, The Freedom of Ideality (word count: 442) (URL: https://wp.me/p1QmhU-b7)

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

The Drama of Existence: Between Human and Divine

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Fragment 146, word count: 520.

Christianity and other antique religions dismissed the world of concrete matter as trivial staging for the great drama that is spirituality, which is to say, the life of personalities. This was a metaphysical orientation that identified personalities, living teleological forces of will, of ideality, as the primordial occurrence of existence. Existence was a matter of subjects and their relationships, involving objects merely secondarily. Although in the Abrahamic religions the drama involved a very great difference between divine and human personality, there are other narratives from historical cultures placing human personalities much closer to the divine, even as active helpers in Creation. These narratives imagine a catastrophe, perhaps rebellion (rebel angels) followed by exile or retreat into the created material world, now turned into a prison under the control of demons who appear as stars and stellar constellations; or human personalities fell in love with the world-in-time they had created and ecstatically entered it, forgetting themselves and by that forgetting were made unable to get out again. However, there are also stories of alchemy in which the turning of base metal into gold is a symbol and a message to humans about human personality learning to re-join the company of divine personality. There are stories of a path across the nested astral spheres, past the demons, a path connecting human and divine personalities that can be taken downward into matter or upward and out. Such was the ultimate drama of existence which marginalized concrete matter, conceiving it as a kind of illusion, perhaps created specifically to confuse and alienate humans from their true and original ideality, perhaps on account of some distant transgression. Although the great drama of existence in the Abrahamic religions has a similar overall shape, involving an initial state of alienation of human ideality from divine and then an eventual joining accomplished by arduous trials and/or divine grace, the stories from other traditions express more directly a sense of an inherent transcendence of human existence as ideality (spirituality), a transcendence that has been made obscure and elusive by the profound difference and difficulty between human ideality and material embodiment. This is plausibly the message of the stories, more important than the speculative particulars. The heart of the drama, the human urgency to discover the transcendent freedom of ideality, can be most plausibly interpreted as a vestigial recognition that the idea of divinity itself is merely a means to highlight the primordial transcendence in ordinary embodied living.

Preoccupation with this sense of transcendence and its difficult relation to material embodiment got stuck long ago in rigid orthodoxies which criminalized any further searching for the truth of it. Those orthodoxies had to be disputed and marginalized for humans to pay attention to the details of the natural world in a systematic and scientific way. However, for by far most of human existence it was taken as obvious that teleologically free wills constituted primordial existence. Science dismissed that creative teleological freedom of personality as merely illusion, just as antique religions dismissed the world of concrete matter as trivial staging for the great drama, the life of idealities.

Please see also:

Fragment 84, June 17, 2015, Errors and Allegories in Gnosticism, (word count: 1,869) URL: http://wp.me/p1QmhU-7b

Fragment 86, November 4, 2015, Horizontal Dualism and the Spiritual Quest, (word count: 2,321) URL: http://wp.me/p1QmhU-7f

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History

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Fragment 145, Word count: 2,189.

In eighteenth century Europe there was an epochal change in the culturally dominant conception of reality, a change from the dominance of religion to the dominance of science. This is familiar cultural history but poorly understood because, so far in our epoch, science has kept up a barrage of triumphal self-glorification. The story science tells of itself is that over a recent and well documented period humanity’s leading teams of theorists and researchers finally came to understand reality when they used the objective empiricism of scientific method to overcome superstitious assumptions. Events, that were once considered deliberately framed messages to humans from a supernatural world of disembodied but personified (caring) entities (such as angels and demons) with effective powers in our world, were re-conceived in science as concrete cause-effect sequences that can be measured, mapped, predicted, and controlled by human intervention. With establishment of science, the global culture of intellectual inquiry is now proud and happy to have finished its task, content with a post-heroic and workmanlike mopping up of loose ends, filling in little gaps, and working out technological applications of scientific knowledge. Any re-conceptualization of fundamental reality is unimaginable. There is an intellectual certainty and a narrowing of focus that comes with faith in the unlimited explaining power of mathematical science, universally prized. This finally relegates philosophy to the status of museum piece, bringing forth a heartfelt sigh of collective relief from the community of scholars.

There is, of course, an unmentionable giraffe in this picture. The stunning oddity is the ongoing pervasiveness and cultural authority of both religion and science, in spite of their stark incompatibility. This simultaneous acceptance of two mutually exclusive principles of authoritative explanation should not be possible, but is certainly the case and apparently a comfortably stable cultural structure. As fundamental systems for explaining what is real, both science and religion are philosophical claims, metaphysical claims, one affirming and the other denying the effective existence of ideality.

Creationist Monotheism

Before science became a coherent matrix of explanation, the previously dominant metaphysics in Europe was creationist monotheism, exemplified in the three Abrahamic religions. Creationist monotheism is a dualism in which the fundamental principle is a single disembodied ideality (divine intelligence) who created the objective material world (in itself measurable, mappable, definite, and predictable) in a unique episode of exuberant caprice. Humans, as sensitively conscious intelligences, were created in the likeness of that creator, similar to divinity in ideality as distinct from concrete materiality, even though humans are materially embodied within the material world. This peculiar existence which has no appearance as such, the existence of ideality, is inseparable from what is familiar as personality, but the story of divine creation presents us with two very distinct categories of personality: embodied human personality and disembodied divine personality. This bi-modality was fundamental to the entire worldview of feudal Christendom, for example, explaining all existence as the will of a disembodied spirit-force, which, being pure ideality, bridged existence and non-existence in its very being. Ideality takes a variety of forms: consciousness, questioning, wonder, caring (often desperate), searching, learning, knowing, judging, doubting, orientation, willful intention and agency, bearing-into-futurity teleology. ‘Teleology’ means ‘purpose’, ‘reason’ or ‘a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency’. It is a striving toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, and is the essence of creation. There is no conception of creation that does not begin in teleological ideality. The idea of divine creation, like any idea of creation, falls completely within the description of personalities as vectors of ideality. What is decisive is that ideality is always personality, that all forms of ideality occur together in the living experience of some teleological personality. We know this from personal caring and interactions with other beings who express caring. Personality is known by a creatively expressive voice and willful teleology. Personalities produce coherent utterances and acts which are expressive of ideation in the forms of caring, sensitivity, knowledge, and the preconception of intentions. Any claim placing ideality as crucial in reality is an idealism. With idealism something is recognized as a living being, personified, with a creative agency-calculating gaze into an open futurity, open with various possibilities anticipated from an inventiveness inherent to itself. So, idealism encompasses freedom, spontaneous creation, and unpredictable novelty, and insists on these as crucial features of reality.

In the creationist monotheistic version of dualism (Creator and created) the divine principle of creation, and so ideality, is primary and dominant, making it strictly idealist even though not often declared as such. This was the culturally dominant sense of reality prior to the advent of science, and what science meant to accomplish was the annihilation of all forms and vestiges of idealism. Since idealism affirms spontaneous creation, freedom, and unpredictable novelty, it seems, from the scientific perspective, like an easy slide to angels and demons, witchcraft and magic, because, in its essential creativity and freedom, ideality itself is essentially transcendent, something like magical in comparison to lumpen entropic dust and rocks. The tendency of science is not merely to demote ideality from its once dominant place (as divinity) in reality, but to eliminate it from reality completely. However, without some strong conception of idealism encompassing freedom, spontaneous creation, reason, and unpredictable novelty, the totality of existence is merely falling in precisely the way it must, and none of it matters in the least. That is the utter nihilism of science. It invites us to accept a grim stoicism but without the providential Logos that softened the ancient version. Not many people can seriously accept the nihilism of science because we have vivid personal lives of ideality and easy interconnectedness with other personalities making expressive utterances within lives of reasons and willful agency.

There are obviously many problems with creationist monotheism as a culturally dominant idealism. The grading of personalities into divine and human categories clearly proved to be toxic. With an omnipotent will creating the totality of existence, everything, again, is exactly as it must be, this time by divine plan in which the future is eventually to reveal some overriding goodness and reason. Divine personality was conceived as all-powerful creator, judge, and tester of men, and as such a model of sovereignty as absolute ownership over the less powerful. Nature had to be the actualized will of divine personality. Earthly trophies (property) were divinely awarded markers of merit, proclaiming a divine right of the strongest to impose sovereign ownership upon the lives and property of the weaker. The sovereign state, ruled by the strongest as personal property, was the local representative of divine sovereignty, a personified collective entity always being tested in conflicts with others for property and standing. What jumps out in this version of idealism is that so little was made of what human personality has in common with divine personality: the fundamental existence of living ideality. Rather than interpreting that commonality as a decisive transcendence in human existence, emphasis was placed instead on selected features of human embodiment, a fleshy animal embodiment, mortal carrier of decay, as the main determinant of human nature. (Science later built on this enthusiastically.) Human ideality was interpreted as the vestige of an insubordinate claim to equal and rival the divine. Here, in the frightening sameness of human and divine existence, is the source of the idea of original sin and inherent guilt which all humans are supposed to share and which supposedly taints the existence of humanity. This sensed sameness, made miserable by the needs and indignities of material living, in the context of widespread fear of an all-powerful supernatural watcher, was enough to create a perverse appetite for denigration of embodied personality, part of a twisted effort to distance embodied ideality from any but the weakest claim to a divine-like existence of individual creative freedom, on the hope that embodied denigration would atone for the claim to divinity and so qualify the individual for an eternal afterlife of pure disembodied ideality. This is the root superstition that makes creationist monotheism toxic and destructive. Its denigration of human personality created the context for every kind of cruelty, insult, and injury in human to human relations, sanctifying pervasive human macro-parasitism.

This brings us back to the weird co-existence of religion and science, strictly incompatible systems of explaining what is real. The reason these two co-exist is that they must, since neither is truly viable by itself. Science gives us a fatal nihilism and religion gives us a fatally warped recognition of the transcendence of ideality, a recognition so warped that it readily slides into fantasies of angels and demons, witchcraft and magic, and justifications for unspeakable cruelty. However, each provides a crucial counter-balance for the other. Science provides enough of a check on superstitious fears and wishes to secure a practical grounding in actuality, incidentally generating technology that channels enormous energy and sometimes provides great conveniences. Religion provides a crucial focus on ideality as essential reality, a reality in which an eventual future is expected to reveal some overriding goodness and reason to life and nature as a whole. Reason doesn’t exist outside ideality. Reason and ideality are one. Without the existence of ideality nothing matters in the least because there is no reason for anything, no sense of harm or benefit, bad or good, no sense of anything at all. There is gravity but no gravitas. It is only the existence of ideality, that is, personalities, sensitive, caring, and future-creating vectors of ideality, which bestows an importance derived from reasons on the world of things or on anything. The only strength of the religious outlook, the reason for its cultural survival, is its recognition of the transcendence of ideality, although it projects a grandiosity that warps perception of the place of transcendent ideality in reality. Of course, the idea of divinity is extravagantly abstracted from the ordinary experience of temporal ideality in ordinary persons. It must always have been the sense of transcendence from the teleological consciousness of embodied individuals that inspired the idea of divine transcendence (at far cosmic horizons) since there is no other direct experience of ideality.

Science carried over from creationist monotheism a denigration of human nature, recognizing only bodies, of course, biologically driven conflicts to select the fittest for dominance, and promising a completely body-determined psychology without the creative freedom of ideality. The nihilism of science is expressed in its eager engagement in development of ever-more lethal and destructive weapons, now bringing humanity to the brink of self-annihilation. Scientific discourse eliminates ideality completely, leaving a nihilism so absolute that it is ridiculously inapplicable to the world of the living, to our world of personalities. We certainly don’t want creationist monotheism to be any more dominant than it is, and we don’t need it. It was only ever a grandiose abstraction from the ordinary ideality of embodied personality. We don’t require a special, absolutely unique and all encompassing ideality to confer on existence a reason for things to matter. Any personality living, caring, and building a life in the world makes the world matter. The ordinary embodied personalities we live among, every single one, make the world matter. This sort of personality is clearly not omnipotent, but instead is a strictly local creativity and freedom instanced separately in vast numbers of embodied individuals. Embodiment is a necessary part of the interventions into brute actuality that constitute individual agency. So we don’t need any eventual revelations of an overriding goodness and reason in the course of existence. We need only an idealism that recognizes transcendent ideality in the ordinary embodied persons we connect with through utterances and acts which express knowledge, caring, reasons, and preconceived intentions.

There are both personal and political consequences from recognizing in every individual the entire transcendence that is ideality. First is a dismissal of legacy metaphysics and the perverse and gloomy denigration of human existence they impose from the cultural background. Politics becomes the test of truth because dystopian societies always rest on false metaphysics. A politics based in the reality of ideality will promote and protect the creative freedom of individuals and not undertake to control it with a frightening superego marshalling a collective hive mind. Hive minds make war. The organization of relationships among people does not have to be a dystopian nightmare created with force and hive mind engineering. We don’t need any “us against them” collective narrative to establish a personal identity, nor competitions to accumulate an avatar of property. Ideality is inherently and uniquely creative and experiences identity and value in expression. The transcendence of ideality, given its identity with ordinary personality, has been sensed as such a frightening political problem that the dominant conceptions of idealism have just evaded admitting the full ideality of ordinary subjectivity. Instead of providing a foundation for sovereignty, for the ownership of individuals by collective institutions, the transcendence of individual ideality negates any such ownership or authority. It is a declaration of individual self-possession that incidentally eliminates all versions of cosmic hierarchy such as the Great Chain of Being.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

The Freedom of Ideality

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Fragment 144, word count: 442.

Freedom is a fundamental function of teleological ideality, which is to say, of personality. Personality is the spontaneous creation of freedom in a poise toward an indefinite variety of possible actions in alternative futures. Personality experiences its ideality as freedom because it encompasses in advance, from within its own creativity, personally invented alternative possibilities for agency, the creation of novel alternatives and possibilities in the construction of a life. Personality lives and orients itself among mostly non-actualities in a playing field of non-actual time. These non-actualities are features of the orientation and bearing of some particular embodied ideality. Personality depends on sensitivity, on a gaze beyond itself, but it is not a strictly sensory gaze. The gaze of any teleological ideality goes through and beyond sensed actuality to an undetermined futurity where different actions and courses of development are conceived as possibilities among variously judged probabilities. Ideality experiences freedom in its gaze (and its bearing) into a non-actual dimension of possible futures, pathways, and plans with always room for the invention of more. The supra-sensory gaze is always expressive of at least curiosity, and curiosity is already an agency. The gaze is an agency, a projection, a searching and a judging, but is also the matrix of creation for new actualities, interventions into the world of things, and so of agency that is specifically expressive of knowledge, intent, decision, and caring. Consciousness is this gaze of ideality, the anticipatory ideation of agency in the moments to come, full of ideas, a fountain of teleological possibilities in a creative arc of developmental continuity that is a personality in the living of an embodied life.

The human nature we recognize here is a fountain of ideas and inventions, goods to be expressed and projected in the making of lived actuality. Value, experience of gratification, is not something that comes from outside the individual, as is assumed in the concept of ‘economic man’, the blank slate or sucking void vision of human nature. Neither freedom nor value depend on access to competitions for properties, consumables, sparkles, or titles, and so is not a product of commerce, the retail, design, or manufacturing industries, for example. Value experience is in expressing the interior creative fountain. Freedom does not require abandonment or suppression of empathy (Kant’s universal maxims are formal expressions of empathy), getting beyond the rule of (Kantian) law, or taking up weapons to become the most effective force for looting trophies. Freedom is ideality, the existence of individual embodied personality. Subsequent to Freud, the scientific imperative is to create a psychology without ideality, but freedom is indiscernible to any such psychology.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Frontier Freedom

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Fragment 143, word count: 447.

The Franks, Goths, Angles, and Saxons and a number of other groups came overland into western Europe around the fourth century, colonizing and displacing indigenous peoples there who had previously been colonized and were now abandoned by the imperial Romans. Somewhat over a thousand years later, from the sixteenth century, descendants of those Goths, Franks, Angles, and Saxons, now fully Christianized European imperialists, subjected the indigenous peoples of America and many other places to the same assaults with new weapons. Deja vu all over again. There is an essential racism at the core of such violence, an idea of superiority which licenses any brutality. That idea of hierarchy derived from the macro-parasitism of herding culture on the Great Eurasian Steppe. Subjected people were perceived as livestock. In both colonizations there was a profound contempt for empathy which defined a (Kantian) lawlessness and ensured that the supreme value would be personal fighting ability and a culture of organized fighting which came to define masculinity. In that situation, it is the strongest who claim rights to anything that might count as a trophy, not just property but lives. Without empathy, rights (and everything else) belong to the strongest, and frontier freedom is the assertion of the superiority of the strongest and the unlimited rights of superior beings. Theirs is a parasitic freedom that creates and depends on slavery and murder. The American idea of freedom grounded in the freedom of the old western frontier is identical to a romantic idea of medieval feudalism in western Europe and expresses a cultural memory of that experience *. Frontier freedom (no taxes, no regulations, private guns) is the freedom of the marauder. This idea of freedom in which strength in combat and competition defines rights is still a living force in cultures of value and wealth based on consumption and trophy property, conspicuous in normal operations of corporations and generally in investor supremacist capitalism.

These cultural experiences have inspired a certain idea of human nature as a blank slate, an inherent problem (of non-existence craving existence) overcome more or less successfully by projection of a self-image using external consumables, properties, and the conflicts to possess such things. The strongest or fittest are revealed by the quantity and sparkle of the properties they conquer. This is the metaphysics of patriarchy, propaganda for the romantic idea that the strongest are legitimate sovereigns. However, human nature and freedom are really quite different. Human nature is the spontaneous creation of freedom at the level of the embodied individual, a creation that is interior to the individual as ideality. This universally inherent freedom of the individual is invisible to anyone conceiving psychology without conceiving ideality.

* Compare Chapter 8, ‘The Frontier’, pp. 103-117, in: A Vanished World : Medieval Spain’s Golden Age of Enlightenment, written by Christopher Lowney, Published by Free Press (2005), ISBN: 0743243595.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

 

‘What Matters’ Idealism

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Fragment 142, word count: 291.

Metaphysics is part of the orientation within which we operate. Everybody has some metaphysical framework, learned with other culture at an early age. Religion, for example, is metaphysics, since it asserts specific ideas about existence as such. Without thinking about metaphysics you have a culturally imposed perception of everything. Thinking about metaphysics usually begins with wonder at the existence of the world-of-things. However, the world of things doesn’t matter in the least without the existence of some personality such as you, dear reader, engaged in experience of that world, having ideas about it. The existence of things is much easier to measure, map, describe, conceive, and confront than the life of ideas, but without ideality the world of things doesn’t matter. So, metaphysics that matters is an effort to clarify the problematic existence of ideas and ideality. There have been different versions of metaphysical idealism, ideas about the existence of ideas, from Platonism* to Romanticism**. Ideality takes a variety of forms: consciousness, questioning, wonder, caring (often desperate), searching, learning, knowing, judging, doubting, orientation, willful intention, agency, teleological bearing-into-futurity. ‘Teleology’ means ‘purpose’, ‘reason’ or ‘a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency’. It is a striving toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, the very essence of creation. What is decisive is that all forms of ideality occur together in the living experience of an embodied personality. We know this from personal caring and interactions with other beings who express caring. Personalities produce coherent utterances and acts which are expressive of ideation in the forms of caring, knowledge, and intention, for example. Personality is known by a creatively expressive voice and willful teleology. This is the existence of the teleological vectors of ideality we know as personalities.

Embedded links:

* Fragment 93, April 20, 2016, The Misconception of Spirituality in Platonism (URL: http://wp.me/p1QmhU-7R)

** Fragment 91, February 20, 2016, Romantic Idealism and the Mind of God (URL: http://wp.me/p1QmhU-7E)

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Ockham’s Razor Meets Ideas

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fragment 141, word count: 432.

An advantage of recognizing the effective existence of ordinary embodied personalities as vectors of ideality and caring is that it then becomes unnecessary to violate Ockham’s Razor by positing some metaphysical fable about ideas. To deny ideas is to deny consciousness itself, since consciousness is ideality, the most evident ideality. Ideas certainly have presence in the consciousness, that is, in the orientation and deliberate actions, of particular persons. We know this from personal experience and conversations with fellow beings. With the recognition of teleological personalities creating their individual lives in the world, there is no need for Platonic Ideal Forms at the apex of a hierarchy of existence, or for Aristotelian universals, substantial forms, existing in addition to particulars. There is no need for levels of reality such as in Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism. There is no need for any kind of idealism which in any way separates ideas from ordinary embodied persons. Certainly ideas are elements of culture, but culture exists only in the orientation of particular persons and the ability that such orientation includes to create, read, and understand artifacts.

Ordinary consciousness is full of ideas, full of caring. Any person’s consciousness is a bearing future-ward expressing an elaborate orientation created over a personal lifetime. It is a fountain of teleological possibilities in a creative arc of developmental continuity that is a particular life. Personality is a self-thinking idea of a particular embodied life in the world, an oriented bearing into not-yet from a particular no-longer, here among a structure of theres, now among thens-no-longer and thens-not-yet, in a creative arc of ideation. Personality, the self-thinking idea, is always revising itself without breaking its creative arc of continuity. Every individual at any moment is calculating the probabilities of an array of expectations, enacting intentions, reading sensory stimulations as revelations of the surroundings, searching for reference markers and making adjustments on the basis of surprises, constructing a teleological structure within the sense of the passing of time. This being is a fountain of original curiosity, guesses, and expressive impulses, a being of ideas and ideality. Reading sensations in perceiving brute actuality is restricted to some here and now, but there is no perception of here without a sense of there, and there is no now without a sense of then, and then and there are always ideas, features of a person’s orientation in a continuously elaborating situation in a world in time, a situation demanding ongoing teleological reconstruction of intentions, aspirations, and guesses about possibilities and probabilities in an increasingly remote future.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.