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.

Dissent by Metaphysics

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Fragment 172, word count: 680.

tags: spirit, hive-mind, identity, sensibility, culture, self-possession, caring drama, dissent

It is not unusual for some individuals to recognize a personal discordance with mass identities, cemented into uniformity, as they are, by collectively sharing an orientation up toward a commanding height of metaphysics that denigrates human existence among ideas of disembodied demons, deities, and ever recurring cycles and circles of events and personal incarnations. It is widely recognized that shared stories and emotional triggers distributed on popular media, under the control of a few corporate owners responsible to certain investors and advertisers, contribute mightily to a shared sense of reality which is the human equivalent of hive-mind. In the individual’s quarrel with hive-mind dystopian regimes, the individual can’t do much about mechanisms of mass control except to shift focus onto the deepest level of politics: conceptions of creative power, freedom, and self-possession at the level of the individual.

Without recognizing the reality of actual creative agency, the enactment of spur-of-the-moment aspirations or intentions from conception at some moment through subsequent time, the idea of spirit is entirely unnecessary, but with such a recognition the idea is indispensable and profoundly important as a transcendence within reality. Creative agency is a drama of perfecting expectations and inventing intentions for effective self-declaration. To be experienced, reality must come within that caring drama of a personal life in the world. Expectations, purposes, intentions, or aspirations are states of ideality that occur only in clusters that have the dramatic structure of a personal “I”, a sensibility that is the living experience of some individually embodied personality. As well as coping with the falling away of all particular states of actuality with the passage of time (the ephemeral situation of bodies on planet Earth), the main drama for every spiritual being involves the value experienced from nurturing, caring for, and creating enduring relationships with others, sharing the drama of expectation and self-declaration, mutually reflecting the super-reality of living consciousness, collaborating as pilots of a searching, questioning, gaze.

Only the original drama of caring conceived by each individual confers a shape of relevance and importance on brute uncaring actuality, the envelopment of inertial and entropic nature. The specific caring of every person enchants the entirety of existence, makes it dramatic, makes it matter, certain parts more than others, crucially different for every individual. Every person has the same transcendent creativity in building a life’s drama within its enveloping world. However, there have typically been assertions that certain individual dramas must be disabled in order to enable others to play out more favourably. In that context the individual sensibility or orientation is the matrix of politics, the essential battlefield in the wars of hive minds.

To a considerable extent, our perceptions of things are culturallyimposed on our expectations. Given the fact that ideas (expectations, purposes, intentions, or aspirations) occur only in the living experience of some embodied personality, the history of ideality is the history of the interplay between cultural influences and personal inventiveness in forming ideas for the arc of orientation and bearing of lives, the mutating expectations that people suppose over generations about nature, culture, themselves, social interconnectedness, and sacred transcendence. The community master narrative over-represents the perspective of the most acquisitive and competitive stratum of the social order, glamourized to reinforce inequalities of wealth and power, often expressed in stories of apparently exceptional persons: kings, princes, aristocrats, military and police officers, the very beautiful or lucky.

Culture is not nature, and not divine intervention, but a human and political interpretation of experience, an expression of what mattered previously in the caring drama of certain people. Everyone’s personal state of orientation is culturally influenced, guided, and enriched, situated at some place in the historical and political evolution of a mutating culture. From recognizing that this culture is not the end but yet another in a string of badly flawed iterations, individuals can use the inherent creative power and freedom of spirit to recognize their self-possession and to own a measure of participation and control in conceiving the ongoing evolution of their society and culture.

Embedded links:

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

Fragment 101, December 18, 2016, Metaphysics Matters (word count: 1,550.)

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Wildcard Time-World Idealism

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Fragment 169, word count: 1,230.

At the heart of Romanticism is the cultural perspective of aristocracy, essentially a pessimistic fatalism, definitive of the political right-wing, in which the brutality of master/ slave social organization is taken to be inevitable, decreed for eternity by nature or God. In that dystopia, only reveries of magic, beauty, and masculine heroism provide the precious little light in the tragically inescapable gloom. However, nothing in human affairs is really inevitable because human affairs are constructs of multiple idealities, and idealities, persons, are fountains of spontaneous novelty, of original interventions into the situation of a moment, fountains of freedom. Conceptions of this freedom are forms of idealism.

A way of distinguishing one kind of idealism from another is by the extent each understands ideality as creatively projecting novelty into otherwise predetermined actuality conceived as in standard materialism: utterly devoid of purpose. For example, there is no novelty of a willfully creative and spontaneous kind in Plato’s idealism, although some accidental novelty might occur randomly in the illusions experienced as ordinary appearances. Plato’s idealism, and generally the muted idealism at the core of rationalism, builds on a reverence for mathematics by speculating that the perfection of mathematics reveals an immaterial, timeless, and primordial reality from which is projected (imperfectly) the eventful world we experience. In the context of understanding human affairs, mathematics is a short road to dystopia.

Time-World Idealism in the Dystopian Context

Recognition of time as the primordial context of individual human existence is the portal to an idealism that is relevant in the dystopian political and cultural context as a countervailing force against the declarations of natural or divine determinism (the perspective of aristocracy) which are crucial features of dystopian world-system concepts.

The problem with logical argument as a technique of inquiry into things as experienced was pointed out by Bertrand Russell: Logical argumentation is not how original insights are discovered. Using other means, people come upon claims they judge to be important and worth defending and then search for premises and arguments that produce them as logical conclusions. Philosophical insights are first generated by something like phenomenology, an innocent curiosity about lived experience and agency. So, the primary technique of thinking philosophically, the technique that brings us to the crucial idealism, is engaging with experience from innocent curiosity, a curiosity that has been de-cultured and so released from normal bias and prejudice.

Phenomenology is always an effort to bring ideality into some degree of conceptual focus. It is never a scientifically measuring object-ology. It is explicitly a description of experience as ideality, objects as taken in and made sense of by a questioning, knowing, interested, and caring subject. So, all phenomenology is phenomenology of spirituality, plausibly the only way to quest for knowledge of spirituality. Since Edmund Husserl (1858-1938), the definitive move of phenomenology is bracketing off the question: does this appearance accurately represent something that is completely independent of being perceived?, so to remove any suggestion of defining knowledge of a “thing in itself” as objective reality. And yet, even in Husserl and his massive legacy there remains an emphasis on objects and objectification.

The problem with phenomenology has been that sensory impressions are taken as the elemental evidence, taken in a way that is already objectified. They are conceived as patches of colour, an auditory pitch, a feeling of roughness or pressure, a scent or taste of coffee, all removed from the context of a personal dramatic purpose-in-time which brings someone to notice them. There is the usual assumption that time is not primordial, but instead a superstructure to be put aside in describing the basic phenomena from which everything else, including time, will be assembled later. However, the thinking subject, a questioning future-ward-leaping will-to-learn and will-to-express-itself, cannot be assembled from the passive excitations of sensory impressions, or from the objects they make available for discovery and identification. Sensory impressions or the objects they locate cannot be made into care, cannot be made to construct an interest in themselves. Caring is prior, and primordially a leaping future-ward, using knowledge of the time-world as personal possibility.

None of the phenomena of receptive sensations can combine to construct the desperate future-ward leap of curiosity, the drama of a questioning will to gaze, to search, to leave a personal mark and make a personally gratifying life. Sensory perception cannot assemble whatever questioning sensibility is expressing the vector of such drama in an act of perceiving, a drama formed of complex expectations, vectors of intention in action, and this moment of searching curiosity. You know your own sensibility by self-creating and inhabiting your life-drama. The sensibility performing a perceiving cannot be an object of sensory perception, and requires a conception of its presence different from perceived actuality: primordially purposeful ideality.

Phenomenology of Personal Drama: An Idealism

Humanity/ personality, as ideality, is the creation of freedom by supposing the possibility or impossibility of multiple personal futures, and so freedom through creativity is fundamental and universal to individual personalities. We individually create a supposition of decreasingly remote approaching not-yet and increasingly remote receding no-longer as an imprint on the newness and open incompleteness in which we act, a primordial context of time in which we intervene in brute actuality as purposive, dramatic, agents. Personality supposes (posits as ideality) a context that enables its agency in a personal drama, a time-world of personally specific approaching futures, both possible and impossible non-actualities, a mutable opening in the fabric of reality. Ideality is what leaps ahead, a leaping that makes the world matter. That ideality is empathic is crucial to its personal drama, and along with empathy comes the drama of good and evil. Good is acting with the purpose of expressing empathy, evil is acting in contradiction, denial, or refusal of empathy.

Wildcards

Ideality leaps into an opening of its own supposing, as a vector of time which plunges future-ward with a specific spur-of-the-moment creative will to inject spontaneous (not random) novelty into actuality at the location of personal embodiment. Such a will-to-create a personally suitable future is obviously not nature, which always just falls predictably according to laws of inertia and entropy, a vector of time in which everything is slipping away. The vector of time which leaps toward a future of its personal devising transcends nature by its personal injection of unpredictable creativity. Creation of the world is unfinished, undecided, continuing through the agency of a multitude of embodied wildcard idealities. We are more time-waves than particles of any kind, individually self-shaping waves through time.

The reason for a culturally obligatory reliance on socially constructed outward representations of personal identity with trophies (possessions, status, career path, social network, costumes, titles) is that there is no comfort with any conception of personal interiority in culturally dominant conceptual systems founded on ideas of God and nature. As an alternative to the historically aristocratic and patriarchal glorification of trophy property as manifest demonstrations and proofs of personal power and worth, we place inward consciousness and agency: the ability and opportunity to feel and follow a delighted questioning curiosity, as from a profound innocence, exercising creative freedom to engage in the ethical enterprise of aligning personal freedom with the transcendent freedom of everyone around.

Embedded links:

Fragment 19, February 10, 2012, Mathematical Rationalism in the Baroque Era (word count: 1,101)

Fragment 153, September 28, 2019, De-Culturing (word count: 458)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Time-World

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Fragment 168, Word Count: 480.

Ideality is a desperate engagement with the passing of time, a moving shape of caring that feels, anticipates, and fills the passing of time. It is a person actively living a particular embodied life in the time-world. Decreasingly remote approaching not-yet and increasingly remote receding no-longer is the primordial context for every person’s dramatic agency, for personality, humanity, spirituality, intelligence, sentience. Ideas are acts of opening and connecting in the dramatic edifice of orientation which is a sensibility, a preparedness for carrying on, having learned, searching and going further, opening future-ward in expression of a personal peculiarity of creativity, newly launching an expression for this moment. Ideality is the spontaneous vector in the passing of time, the creatively aspirational vector, expressing freedom. Freedom is the moment to moment originality of the creativity of ideality. Every person’s living is a developing drama conferring a shape of relevance and importance on its envelopment of inertial/ entropic nature. In that way any and every person enchants the entirety of existence, makes it dramatic, makes it matter, some parts more than others, crucially different for every individual.

A monadic centre of agency, spinning out a personal drama which is a continuously located movement in the time-world, is defined by a seeking gaze, a questioning, curiosity from an ever-learning poise of orientation and bearing-further, readiness for surprising discovery and empathic encounters acknowledging other dramatic agents. Language* competence is a complex edifice of readiness, of knowing and empathy. Knowing the taste of Chardonnay isn’t an image, but a vigilant readiness to recognize sensations. Sensibility is everything a person is looking for, centrally and peripherally, both what is expected and what would count as surprisingly good or surprisingly bad, an active poise of sensitivities from ever-greater accumulations of increasingly remote acquaintances. The crucial intervention of a personal sensibility is to bring to any here and now all the learned context, in the form of vigilant readiness and an intentional direction of effort, that gives the moment meaning and sense. Sensibility is an individual’s expectations and personal intentions engaging every moment of sensitivity as a lens through which sensations transform into features of a coherent world that is stage setting for the personal drama but especially for what’s next in the drama. The centre of agency is reading sensations through the interpreting lens of a knowing, caring, and actively aspiring sensibility, already shaping what’s next.

In ceaselessly passing time and without an otherwise fixed essence, personality, as a point and arc of agency, has an inherent imperative to create (and power to do so, moment by moment) an ever revising personal presence and passage through an unstable and temporally discontinuous actuality. To anticipate and act with intent is to dwell in the personal tilt or bearing-further beyond now and no-longer, into the unformed not-yet which is freedom.

* Fragment 140, January 25, 2019, The Most Important Event in History (word count: 1,077. See subsection: Empiricism’s Evasion of Metaphysics.

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Contesting the External Almighty

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Fragment 167, Word Count: 3,113.

Plato’s External Almighty

Plato’s metaphysics is an example of an idealism determined to think of ideas as things, in Plato’s case as magical objects. Including magic was Plato’s way of making use of the specialness of ideality (not reducing everything to measurable lumps) but without admitting the full specialness as evident in the direct personal experience of ordinary personalities. Plato’s account was still quasi-religious as an elaborate speculation on occult structure to the world, featuring the dominance of a super-intelligence remote enough to be convincingly transcendent: One Platonic heaven to rule them all, a deliberating universal source. The master tenet of Platonism is a model of existence with Ideal Forms as magical objects near the top of a cosmic hierarchy. The magical objects are immaterial exemplars, eternally immutable but creating all existence below them on the hierarchy of existence by each reproducing images of itself, less stable or exact with every iteration. This is Platonic essentialism, in which the ultimate divisions and categories of things in the entirety of reality are externally given forever in a way that happens to be apparent to human perception. The Ideal Forms are near the top of a structure of descent from a divine oneness at the highest level of reality down to a churning multiplicity of ephemeral appearances at the level of everyday experience. Unlike the constant change of things experienced by human senses, the Ideal Forms are profoundly stable, eternal, removed from the time, place, and gross materiality of the day-to-day world, and associated with a divine super-intelligence.

Plato’s conception of reality also included other occurrences of intelligence, specifically in the human experience of personal interiority, the soul (ideality, personality). Plato’s model was a three part soul: appetite, competitive spirit, and rational cognition. The soul conceived by Plato was preset with those particular sensitivities and postures toward temporally fleeting appearances, a reflector from within of the world descended from remote Ideal Forms. The three Platonic postures of the soul corresponded to three distinctly unequal categories of people, implying a kind of government in which sovereign power is properly performed in accord with the innate quality of class membership (still going strong and dystopian now as it was then). The personal Platonic soul as an exemplar of ideality was incomparably less important than the originals of things in the apparently objective world, the Ideal Forms, which were distinctly separate from ordinary souls, in no way commensurate.

In Plato’s allegory of the cave, from Republic, Book VII, we see Plato’s version of something else of importance in the relationship between the individual human soul and his prime exemplars of ideality. In the story, a crowd of people is watching shapes move about in front of them. They do not know they are in a dark sloping cave, and they are looking at a wall at the bottom of the cave. There are people outside the cave, near the entrance, carrying cut-out images, models of objects, back and forth in the direct light of a fire beaming down into the cave, so that the cut-out images cast shadows all the way down onto the wall at the bottom. The people in the cave believe they are perceiving real objects, when in fact they are seeing shadows of cut-out images of objects. One person in the crowd at the bottom of the cave, presumably thinking philosophically, separates himself and turns away from the wall of images, and sees that he is in a cave with light streaming down from above. He makes his way up the slope and reaches the top where he sees the cut-out images being moved about, casting shadows down into the cave, which the crowd at the bottom mistakes for reality. The story describes allegorically the profound relationship between the individual interior ideality and the truly transcendent Ideal Forms, such that the rational-cognitive aspect of individual interiority has the power to come to know, to behold intellectually, the eternal and immutable core of reality, and that is Plato’s vision of the great drama of human existence, the achievement of philosophical insight.

[Fragment 130, July 4, 2018, How Aristotle Placed Personality (word count: 1,368)]

Plato’s Ideal Forms were one depiction of the transcendence of ideality (intelligence, spirituality, abstraction), but conceived in a way to completely avoid the play of capricious divine personalities familiar from tales of Olympian gods, but also to avoid the reality of human level spiritual autonomy (always worrisome to community-minded aristocrats such as Plato). The association of Plato’s Ideal Forms with intelligent personality is so far removed from ordinary subjectivity and from the capricious personality which some have imagined as divine intelligence that what remains is merely a transcendent or magical power of self-reproduction, self-image projection, that defines this set of objects. Platonic idealism has been the most influential metaphysics by far, having established from ancient times a dominance in the conception of reality at the core of European high culture. With the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire, from beginnings among nomadic herders in the arid regions adjacent to the ancient fertile crescent, Platonism collided with the dominance of a new orientation, but being so well established in the Hellenistic cultural region it was largely incorporated into this upstart Christian Monotheism. In Plato-tinged Christianity the God on high did His work of creation in stages plausibly beginning with Platonic Ideal Forms. Christianity was also a strictly top-down vision with assumptions of an immutable hierarchy of worldly power and wealth, this time with an omnipotent divine surveillance-agent, score-keeper, and executioner at the top, intent on interfering in human affairs to maintain the chain of subordination, an all powerful super-parental watcher and controller, the mere presence of which immediately defines ordinary human existence as victim-existence. Such a conception of humanity is the matrix of dystopian societies. In Christianity, the capricious divine personalities familiar in Olympian gods were reduced to a single capricious divine personality, the one God of Abraham, but in the process a bit more of the richness of ordinary ideality was returned to the conception.

The Christian External Almighty

Christianity was another idealism, with contributions from Platonism. The world as a whole was perceived as a living Being, fundamentally personified. The innermost reality of all existence was an expressive and creative teleological will, an ideality. In the culture of feudal Christendom, intelligent consciousness (personality) was indisputably the crucial presence in and of the world, but it featured a grotesque bifurcation with two starkly different versions and placements: divine personality and then its creature, human personalty, initially created as very imperfect images of divine personality (sound Platonic?). In Christian idealism, the divine personality’s core creation was the great drama of human souls and their journey. There was a recognized sameness of transcendence between human and divine personality since both produce coherent utterances and acts expressive of the ideation of caring, knowledge, and intention, quite unlike the lumps of inanimate nature. Only intelligence strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, the essence of creation. Teleology anticipates conditions and objects which do not exist except in personal ideation, but which might possibly be made to exist if a specific anticipated agency is exercised through an increasingly remote and improbable future. This is living as enacted and experienced by human persons all the time and, supposedly, also for the power which created them and their entire world. This teleology of creation is the crucial identifier of personality, expressed as curiosity, caring, questioning, learning (accumulating orientation or sensibility), and expressive voice or agency, all teleological postures. In Christendom, the whole meaning and drama of existence as a whole centred on the relationship and interactions between the divine personality and human personalities as both individuals and collectives: the great drama of human salvation from inherent guilt, of earning a return from exile (Eden) back to a close presence with divine personality. Concrete nature was a trivial backdrop, merely a platform or staging, with no importance in itself, in which the drama of personality could play out. This was a strong idealism. There was no clash with Platonism in that, since in Plato’s idealism the eternal Ideal Forms were real, but the ephemeral objects experienced by humans in time were just shimmery images and appearances.

The Roman Church hierarchy was certainly committed to the idealism of teleological persons, with divine personality as the sole source and final destination of everything. Voices promoting Christianity expressed hatred for Epicurean materialism, for example. For Christians, of course, all interior souls had to be punishable for breaking God’s commandments, so they had to be understood as having some moral judgment and choice. That was an upgrade from Plato’s conception of humans as rational beholders of eternal Forms but a small one since, on the Christian conception, original sin almost always determined human choices to be bad. As such, people had to be forced into submission by the religious and civic authorities established by God. That patriarchal conception inspired and sanctified the very rigid, restricted, exploitative, and repressively hierarchical top-down societies of feudal Christendom, dedicated to the culture of violet masculinity, and determined to remain essentially static for eternity, supposedly to persuade the cosmic personality to tilt benign. Feudal Christendom was a grossly dystopian society.

The Contestant

The Spirit of Protestantism emerged around the fourteenth century associated with the countercultural movement for universal vernacular literacy to give everyone private access to reading God’s words in the Bible, so, remarkably, assuming an ordinary personal interiority of sufficient gravitas to interpret the most profound Divine message without mediation or guidance from the Church. That was a profound upgrade over both Plato and Roman Church conceptions of the individual soul, so much so that now the conception of human interiority as the exemplar of ideality became more important by far than some speculative prototype of worldly objects, which anyway were only staging for the great drama of existence: the moral journey of the individual soul. The experience of locally embodied individual personality, neither external nor almighty, is always the personally original example of ideality and ideas, and so of transcendent creativity. This was finally having a decisive influence on how ideas were conceived. Then came Martin Luther (1483-1546) as a living example of autonomous moral judgment and Biblical interpretation. Luther’s autonomous gravitas went as far as facing down the entire edifice of the Church hierarchy. It was crucial to standard divine-drama idealism that nothing could rival the overwhelming fascination of the unitary divine personality, the external almighty, and that is where the contradiction with Luther and his spirit of Protestantism arose, because by the time of Luther’s expression of individual humanity, the most ordinary human interior ideality was credited with power to posit reality, as, for example, in choosing or not choosing faith. This recognized a moral journey created moment by moment by the individual person, and approached the independence of agency conceived for divine personality. Such a power implies that an individual is inherently more faceted and with greater capacity for a variety of orientations than anything proclaimed culturally as a collective reality and identity. This was a more advanced humanism than anything from the ancient schools. It was still Christianity, but a version in which the power of individual inwardness was a more active focus of interest and discovery than even the remote and speculative external almighty God. Luther’s vision of autonomous individual interiority, an idealism focused on a primary ideality unlike Plato’s, brought official Christendom down on it like an avalanche. Outbreaks of Protestantism were viciously assaulted in the French Wars of Religion (1562-98) and in the Thirty Years War (1618-48) in Germany, and in many other times and places. The key idea of Protestant idealism, that the inward experience of individuals is the important exemplar of ideality, and so of transcendence, was effectively driven underground, only to emerge very tentatively in Leibniz’s monads, then more boldly in Kant.

[Fragment 158, January 9, 2020, The Arc of the Monad (word count: 803)]

[Fragment 160, February 8, 2020, Existentialism is an Idealism (word count: 728)]

Luther was never a political disruptor but always supported the institutions of political sovereignty he found in place. His focus stayed on Biblical interpretation as a guide for living a Christian life. However, this was somewhat inconsistent with the general spirit of Protestantism. As early as Wycliffe in the fourteenth century, there was an association between the movement for popular vernacular literacy and the English Peasants’ Revolt (1381), just as Luther’s religious movement was associated with a German Peasants’ Revolt (1524-25) against which Luther wrote viciously. Protestantism survived, obviously, but in many different expressions, some apparently radical, and some very much under the thumb of aristocracy and monarchy, the sovereign institutions as they existed in Old Regime Europe. Lutheranism was one of the latter, muted in its disruptive potential by dependence on the protective power of state institutions. The Calvinist cluster of sects could be politically radical, but with divine predestination as a central article of faith, they offered no confrontational upgrade to the conception of ordinary human interior ideality.

External Almighty Restoration

In the cultural turmoil after the European wars of religion, the work of Benedict de Spinoza (1632-77) combined materialism with a radical critique of the Old Regime’s institutions of sovereign dominance: Church, Monarchy, and Aristocracy. Materialism certainly undermined claims by upper levels of the social hierarchy to be directly appointed agents of divinity, since it eliminated an interventionist divinity. It based its political claims on conceptions of what a primordial state of nature would have been, unspoiled by false assertions of exceptionalism through divine intervention. (Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) used the same approach.) On Spinoza’s view ‘thought’ and ‘extension’ are the attributes of a single external almighty “God or Nature”. He presented it as a universal substance transforming along strictly pre-determined patterns, and yet there is a non-mechanistic aspect embedded since this is a substance with innate aspects of intelligence (hylozoist), necessary to account for the human experience of intelligent questioning and teleology. This subjective force in Spinoza’s world is the uncredited magic in his disenchanted system, yet Spinoza’s hylozoist materialism did not raise the profile of the individual person’s interior ideality. Spinoza presented a monist world of God in Nature, with a conception of individual ideality only sufficient to account for rational engagement with the world, driven by preset postures, specifically drives for self-preservation and self-advantage. This is not so different from Plato (but without defining essentially unequal categories of people). Human experience and action were conceived as just more mechanistic structures. On Spinoza’s view the drama of human existence is a petty thing, a scrabble for dominance against all contenders. This view persists in much contemporary science and economics, presenting the drama of human existence as biologically driven conflicts to select the fittest for dominance. On the cosmic scale there is no drama, only an entirely predetermined tumble through an inevitable sequence of events.

[Fragment 91, February 20, 2016, Romantic Idealism and the Mind of God (word count: 3,287)]

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

The drama in Spinoza’s work is political, involving the vision of a primordial state of nature contrasting mightily with the sovereign institutions of the Old Regime as Spinoza found them. On such a view, there must have been at some point a dramatic fall from the state of nature, but, with everything predetermined, that should not be conceivable. Spinoza’s authorship was an attempt to begin a reversal of that inexplicable political alienation from nature. In taking the lead in a radical critique of existing hierarchies of power, Spinoza’s materialism occupied the vacuum left by the brutal suppression of Luther’s implicit idealism. Spinoza’s materialism accorded closely with the rising tide of mathematical and materialist science in intellectual networks, the Republic of Letters, which prominently included embattled Calvinists already committed to metaphysical pre-destination, a view which minimized the autonomy of individual interiority as much as materialism did. In this way an ultimate contest with the dominant cultural proclamation of an External Almighty was avoided, but at the cost of conserving the dystopian consequences of that tenet. On the Spinoza/ scientific view, God in Nature was the External Almighty, a match in cosmic importance with the God of Christendom. The existence of the individual as ideality remained well bounded and clearly subordinate. Spinoza was far more interested in the external almighty, what appears under the aspect of eternity, than he was in anything essentially engaged in the movement of time, as ideality is. To construct a conceptual system of reality “under the aspect of eternity” (sub specie aeternitatis), as Spinoza laboured to do, is to embrace the very opposite of the life of intelligences. Objects can be defined by measurements from an instant, but ideality is one of the two vectors of time, specifically the creatively aspirational vector. Ideas and ideality are essentially temporal, searching and opening future-ward.

[Fragment 166, July 28, 2020, Time is a Dual Instability (word count: 417)]

Here’s The Thing

The values which challenged and began to disrupt the long entrenched social dystopias forged by aristocrats, monarchs, and the Church represented the quest for a post-dystopian society featuring equality, universally distributed dignity and rights for individuals, secularism, cosmopolitanism, and democracy. That aspiration for a post-patriarchal future followed from the idealism of individual interiority at the core of the spirit of early protestantism, the authentic heart of Enlightenment. No kind of materialism, not Spinoza’s hylozoist materialism, not the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels, not scientific materialism, can be tortured into being the source or guarantor of such values. Materialism excludes teleological personality, leaving a strict determinism and unfreedom, and the disappearance of transcendence into meaninglessness. Any form of determinism will cash out insisting that everything must be the way it is, sanctifying tradition and ever recurring cycles, the core position of the dystopian preservationists, the political right-wing.

The political left-wing, as the conceiver of a post-dystopian future, must be a party of idealism, because it must elaborate the idea that humanity keeps revising its conceptions of reality in such a way as to live better. That is impossible unless the genius of humanity is a creative freedom at the level of the embodied individual to re-conceptualize itself moment to moment. With the idealism of individual interiority, there is no external almighty proclaiming a cosmic drama. Drama is the creative fabric of every living individual.

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.