It will be easier to make sense of this post in the context provided by these previous posts: post 3, September 21, 2011, Encountering Subjectivity
post 11, November 10, 2011, Nature: Ground and Sky
post 6, October 6, 2011, What is Being Called Thinking: An Introduction
post 8, October 19, 2011, The Transcendence of Intelligence
post 23, March 8, 2012, The Brute Actuality of Nature
Since nature is brute actuality, there is no time in nature. In nature, the existence of this instant of actuality specifically and categorically excludes the actual existence of all other instants. Awareness of time, then, is the self-awareness of intelligence, and time is the presence of intelligence. The presence of intelligence is a particularity, an individuality, and not a universally distributed presence, not an omnipresent beholding, not cosmic sensitivity or cosmic consciousness. Its particularity is in its being in a particular life, in its placement, limitation, and ongoing dependence on an immediate environment for constructing an increasingly remote and increasingly improbable future. The particularity of intelligence is in its incomplete sensitivities and limited access to the cosmos. Its access to the cosmos is only a point located within the cosmos, but a point with some limited mobility and longevity. Because intelligence is such an extreme particularity, it must assert itself actively even to exist. That is how the agency of intelligence is inseparable from its particularity. Its power is limited to its particular point, located at a point, and is not universally uniform. It must continually draw energy from the local environment and re-direct that energy metabolically into first conceiving and then enacting a reshaping of the environment into something sheltering, nurturing, and sustaining, into a home. That process depletes its energy in strenuous effort, but in addition to constructing temporal longevity the effort also creates an expression or externalization of the elusive and fragile existence of that intelligence.
The idea of freedom is inseparable from the particularity of any intelligence and the existential necessity or impulse to overcome or go beyond immediate particularity. The construct of time-consciousness is a transcendence of the primordial particularity of any intelligence, because nothing could be more vanishingly particular, in spite of its universal distribution and uniformity, than the brute actuality of nature, where time is impossible. Nature cannot overcome its particularity because past and future can never be actual. Only an intelligence overcomes its particularity, and that is the transcendence of intelligence. Immutable particularity is unfreedom. Freedom is overcoming particularity. Intelligence overcomes its particularity because it is not limited to actuality. It creates for itself a variety of ‘pretend’ orientations or situations that are not actual and then depletes its metabolic energy making some of them actual. Time consciousness is consciousness of both personal particularity and the immediate overcoming of that particularity in an oriented or pointed exertion or assertion of agency in imposing a pretended situation on brute actuality. Orientation is that complex moment of deliberate, pointed, and effortful overcoming of particularity. We have no pre-deliberation in creating basic time-consciousness, so it is not entirely an artifact of intelligence, but with longevity time-consciousness increasingly becomes an artifact of deliberative intelligence.
The particularity of an intelligence cannot be separated from the overcoming of its particularity. That overcoming of particularity is the agency of intelligence. To survive is to overcome particularity, and it takes embodied effort in addition to the transcendent sensitivity and creative orientation powers of intelligence. Overcoming particularity is partly overcoming embodiment through consciousness of time and in pretending orientations and other transcendent acts of intelligence. However, embodiment cannot be abandoned because metabolic experiences of depletion and restoration, cost and benefit, are part of the personal sense of time.
There is freedom in mobility and in longevity because of time-consciousness. Time-consciousness contains the experience of freedom: you pretend another situation (another world) accessible by particular exertions through which you can push and pull the environment into becoming that foreseen situation, and at every stage of the actual creation you remember your personal agency creating the transfiguration. The arc of fatigue, depletion, and restoration of your metabolic-muscular condition is a crucial part of that memory. Such time-consciousness is a transcendence of particularity. So again, time consciousness is the presence of an intelligence.
Intelligence cannot be anything complete, bounded, or finalized because it is the creative power to overcome its own particularity. If nature is brute actuality, then intelligence is potential, the power and necessity of self-invention. Philosophical humanism is the recognition of individual self-invention. The engine of intelligent agency isn’t hiding anywhere because it is potential rather than actuality. Philosophers such as David Hume expressed surprise about the indeterminacy of an entity of intelligence, and yet achieving and maintaining indeterminacy is crucial to intelligence.
The kind of overcoming-of-particularity that intelligence does still carries its particularity with it. It does not annihilate its particularity but merely prevents it from being perfect or complete particularity. It is not all or nothing, nor is it once for all. The effort of overcoming is ongoing. Intelligence keeps opening its particularity enough to prevent its complete finality, to prevent its being quite determinate, to prevent it becoming the abyss of unfreedom. The overcoming is elaborating, interpolating, cultivating, or enlarging its particularity rather than annihilating it. So intelligent agency is not ultimately transferrable or alienable from its particularity. It is not imported from an external source somewhere such as a separate deity, demon, or human collective. Agency (freedom) cannot ultimately belong to or derive from the polis or the village or the common language and culture, or “the people”, or a committee; but rather it expresses each, every, and any particular embodied intelligence.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.