(* Previously I have called these “the three graces”, but they are graces in the sense of data, given. These graces are entangled with one another in the sustenance of lives, but without manifesting any caring nurture in an ultimate giver. They are given without a personified giver.)
The meeting of three elemental givens presented here is a common sense understanding of any individual’s situation, yet almost unthinkable because of cultural fashions. ‘Three givens’ is an elemental humanist alternative to other models of reality, an alternative to culturally dominant orientations such as materialist science or father-in-the-sky religions.
In posting 28, April 19, 2012, How Can Freedom Be Possible? An Answer to Scientific Determinism, there is a presentation of an account of freedom given by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) including the following observation about two irreducible aspects of experience: “Even though the impression that human perceivers have of the objective world is pervaded with their own psychological contributions, on Kant’s view, he remained convinced that the impression still bears some unidentifiable relation to a thing-in-itself which exists externally prior to being experienced. Consequently, even though there is inward experience of freedom in intelligence and outward determinism in nature, it is not legitimate to impose the system or principles of one side on the other to declare a tidy monism. You can’t justify an exclusive preference for inner experience or outer experience as the grounding of everything, because doing so always loses profound features of experience. Embracing that irreducible discontinuity for the broader understanding it enables is exemplified also by the Stoic treatment of logos, Luther’s inward leap of faith, and Schopenhaur’s explicit double-aspect reality.”
Something crucial is implicit in Kant’s vision of inward freedom facing outward determinism, that he did not develop. Decisions made by individuals in the freedom of moral choice are applied as acts and practices in the world. They become projections of an inner freedom out into the shared world of phenomena. Although freedom may begin from inwardness, it must be expressed in the outward world of material determinism and political control. It certainly reduces the pre-determination of the objective world when individuals generally are understood to project the freedom of their intelligence into the shape and events of that world. Very much in the phenomenal world comes from such origins, including all cultural features. Culture is various kinds of shaping projected onto nature by intelligences, and then imitated. Culture accumulates and takes on an enduring presence that is no longer either nature or subjective, and so must be counted as a third given for any individual intelligence.
That means, for example that injustice and oppression are not the products of “laws of nature” or the strict determinacy of nature, but rather they are the products of human freedom. As such, they are vulnerable and removable. Other forces of freedom can be exerted against injustice and oppression.
One way of describing the resulting reality-as-three-givens (nature, subjective intelligences, and culture) would be to say there are multiple connected universes. There is what Kant called the world of phenomena, the shared universe of material cause-effect, of nature and culture. That one is a common presence in all the other universes. Additionally, each person has his or her own subjective universe in which to conceive personal freedom. Each person’s freedom in time-consciousness is increasingly their own artifact, so each intelligence is a separate universe of temporality. Calling each subjectivity a separate universe is justified since, unlike the situation of nature, the orientation of each subjectivity is shaped on a dimension of time, and each one differs because of its unique point of view, powers of access to surroundings, assembly of memory, and assessment of probable futurity, for example. Embodied intelligences are separate subjective universes, separate temporalities, separate time-wells. Each subjectivity builds a unique time-world, a totally encompassing universe within which to position or situate itself, all of its own sensibility. It orients itself in a world which cannot exist in nature because, as an orientation grid, it is extended in time, and subsists independently of nature to that extent.
Individuals project their subjective freedom into the shared world of scientific pre-determinism, and they separately re-shape that world in both small and large ways. Individuals project their internal re-assemblies of the world, often knowingly pretended ones, into the actuality of nature and culture by specific movements of their bodies and by vocal utterances, by projecting a voice. So, the shared world that we all move through and depend on is far from being ‘all natural’. Along with pre-determined and unalterable nature, there is a complex of projections from within the subjective freedom of innumerable separate individuals.
It could be said that the world of shared phenomena has many horizons of freedom over which unpredictable creations are injected into perfectly predictable nature. There are multiple temporalities and one world of actuality, nature. We arrive at the necessity of these multiple universes by starting with Kant’s distinction between the inward experience of freedom and the outward world of phenomena in which everything is pre-determined, because the inward realm of freedom is individually unique subjective intelligence.
The Kantian observation of an irreducible duality of inward freedom versus outwardly pre-determined phenomena is included in the three givens schema:
1) Nature is the pre-determined structure of phenomena.
2) Subjective intelligence is the inward experience of freedom. Moral choices are exactly projections of inward freedom into practical action among phenomena.
3) Culture (and psychological interconnectedness) is outwardly rigid but originates in projections from subjective intelligences, projections which are then deliberately imitated as a social declaration of intelligence.
The idea of reality as a meeting of nature, subjective intelligences, and culture (the three givens) includes the idea of individuals projecting their particular inward freedom into the shape and events of nature and culture. Embodiment is both grounding and mechanism projecting freedom into nature and culture. Multiple subjective universes of freedom interconnect through the common universe of pre-determined nature and rigid, but gradually transforming, culture.
Individual subjective intelligences inject themselves into the triple-nexus of reality in a couple of different ways. 1) by continually re-assembling an orientation within reality from a question-based selection and integration of perceptions and sensations. Blog posting 3, September 21, 2011, Encountering Subjectivity, deals with the subjective re-assembly and construction of orientations. The other way, 2) is by projecting its freedom, its overcoming of particularity, into the objective world of nature and shared experience by acts of its embodiment.
There has never been clarity about the differences between individual subjective experience (force of personality); wild/brute nature; and culture as a collective human creation. Indeed there has been a (rationalist) preference to emphasize unity among them, attempting to make the three into one. The three givens line up with the rationalist metaphysical congruity of: nature; rational thinking/ knowledge; language/ geometry/ math/ logic. When that theory of an underlying congruity and ultimate unity breaks down we are left with three irreducible categories which continually impose on each other: nature, subjective intelligences, and culture.
The nature vs culture opposition is commonly discussed, but individual human creative power is not contained within that dyad. Culture is recognized as specifically human, as distinct from the great manifold of nature, but normally the individual human is overlooked in elemental constructs of reality. The reason that the philosophy elaborated here In The Blind Spot is called political is because it shows that every intelligence finds itself in a political situation and every individual is an element in any legitimate political theory and in any legitimate political system.
The two strongest vectors of ancient philosophy had a combined effect of defining humanism. The first of those vectors was to remove disembodied personifications from explanations of events in the world of nature. There is no denying the cold beauty and wonder of nature, but it is absurd to ascribe the subjectivity of a human body to it. The second vector was to understand intelligence as transcendent, as the only transcendence. The two tendencies of thought, to soar into the transcendence of intelligence and to dig into the muck of culture and nature are both undeniable. Although there is some tendency to prefer the triumph of one over the other, it is difficult to find a compelling reason for a preference. Both must be considered together as a package. On such a view the individual human energy bonds together two realms of activity. On the subjective end is curious and discretionary, responsive, intelligence, the energy of personality. Subjectivity opens and encounters a world of non-discretionary energy, a world that shows no responsive personal intelligence, no curiosity or inventiveness (except with the notable exception of other persons). No monism or meaning of being can reduce the incongruence between intelligent subjectivity and non-intelligent nature.
1) Nature or Beautiful Unintelligence
Please see posting 11, November 10, 2011, Nature: Ground and Sky
Not everything fountains up from subjectivity, or expresses intelligence. Specifically, there is wild nature, brute nature, which is not an intelligence in the following sense: rocks and bushes do not imitate. There is a measurable world with shapes and processes, an objective flow of forces and structures provoking subjective irritations and gratifications. There is certainly something other than individual psychology in the determination of experience. Those other presences are nature, culture, and other individual intelligences. Nature we recognize as separate and not-self in experiences of work, feeding (hunger), and breathing (shortness of breath). The depletion in work is evidently not from the self. It is difficult to question the elementality of the resistances my muscles must strive against continually. The structure of my kinesthetic exertions makes up the shape of the world for me. There is a structure of metabolism: I must eat certain amounts of certain foods within certain intervals if I am to have the energy to move through my familiar openings, along my familiar ground.
Respect for nature requires an acknowledgment that we can never quite grasp it simply and entirely as it is. Anyone’s impression of the measurable world will be edited and evaluated in terms of their subjective point of view, biases, projects, needs, wishes, and fears, acquired mainly from ambient culture. There are personal and cultural distortions. However, objectivity is very clear in one sense because it involves everything with an appearance, everything that can be mapped and measured. The world of appearances that resists us and costs us, feeds us or at least contains raw materials, and generally proceeds unconcerned with our needs and desires, is not difficult for us to apprehend in our immediate locality. It dominates us so much that we abandon some of our dreams and desires because they find no place to thrive.
Although we experience that things move, grow, die, and decay in the objective world, philosophers and scientists search out eternal natural laws, mathematical patterns, or underlying elements that do not change, eternal foundations within the objective world through which change is reducible to permanence. So the objective world can seem to be the source of knowledge of eternal truths. That knowledge in turn can be used in controlling what happens in the world, projecting from subjective origins.
The gusher of creative personality was often sensed in nature, in storms and waterfalls and such, thought to be animated by spirits. Only secular modernity recognizes that nature specifically lacks personal intelligence, a momentous advance in understanding the human situation. That is how nature is distinct from personality. However, just because nature lacks personality does not mean intelligence needs to destroy it. Due respect for nature does not require a lie, no matter how noble. It is not helpful to personify objective nature.
Beyond Self-Absorption: Rationality Saved by Work
People have original impulses to play, to make a mark, and act on their curiosity, and those impulses inspire engagement with, and learning, the structures and processes of the environment, a system of restraints and resources surrounding any individual and not breakable by the individual’s own powers, desires, or imagination. That system draws the individual creative process into calculations of cost and work. What is real is that which costs energy, effort, thinking, work. The structures of work are the grounds on which individuals distinguish between wishes or impulses and achievements. The cost-shape of the world imposes itself on the muscles, metabolic system, and memory of the individual human body as well as on the action-oriented bearing expressed in movements of the body. There is not a pre-existing congruence but a mental orientation accepted and built from the encounter between human questioning and effort and objective surroundings, and that orientation stands as a structured base of rationality.
Muscle or kinesthetic memory includes practical or instrumental skills of manipulation and control of objects including a person’s own body. Language is not required. Muscle memory is acquired by trial and error, imitation, practice, repetition. Although such knowledge comes from the need to satisfy basic impulses and routine normality, it is objectively focused. It is the repetitive routine of work within world-openings, and also an enduring shape in expectation, intention, and bearing of an individual. Practical facts accumulate in a globalized orientation.
Muscle memory is part of direct personal acquaintance with nature and culture. The work-cost of gravity is a personal experience, just like the work-costs of object mass, inertia, and momentum. The sense of a cost-shape of familiar routes through the world is blended with sensual embodiment, the ebb and flow of energy and fatigue, personal pleasures and displeasures.
Work is the fundamental way of knowing the surroundings. Sensations of movement and muscle-strain are especially important because they are measurements of cost. People use the decrease, and increase, of personal energy to measure the shape and scale of the world. The strength of everyone is reduced by effort, and we can feel the reduction. The feeling of effort is the experience of a cost against our strength and energy. We gauge the strength we have remaining in every effort we make. In a great effort we feel a quick depletion.
We learn to sense how much energy we can expend before needing restoration, and how far any particular exertion takes us toward that need. For example, by climbing we learn the specific decrease of vitality it takes to reach the top of a certain hill. If we discover something up there like a peach tree or a beautiful view, it may make the cost of the hill worth paying from time to time. Roughly speaking, the more distant a place is the greater the cost of reaching it. The farther it is to the store, the more reluctant I will be to walk there because I know the cost in effort and vitality that long walks require. Without comparison or reference to other kinds of perception we can sense the expenditure of quantities of personal energy. That cost is an absolute standard of separation in human experience. We have only a limited supply of energy to spend and that is part of the particularity of embodiment.
Embodiment brings the necessity to work. Human living has to be maintained continually by effort. We need to be taking in food, water, and breathable air which are all unevenly and thinly scattered in the landscape of the world. The survival of a human body requires special shelter and consumption of continually new supplies. Considerable effort has to be put into arranging a meeting between vital necessities and our body. The effort costs us readiness for further action, at regular intervals. We always reach a point at which we must rest and nourish ourselves again. Our ability to overcome the hold of gravity requires that we make up reductions in energy by feeding and resting.
The cost sense involves the ability of muscles to exert effort and the ability of the whole metabolic system of the body to supply and support muscles exerting effort. A particular person’s ability to absorb oxygen and digest available food is part of the process. If there is something wrong with the supply of food or air, a person will be tired even though their muscles are rested. The cost sense involves a whole system of supply and metabolism, a person’s placement, orientation, and practices within the environment, and their structure of muscle, bone, and sensation.
Perception of Space
As we casually look around a room we sense the distance to objects in terms of the cost in effort-through-time of reaching them. Yet that accessibility is not itself visible. Our sense of it is constructed from the experience of movements of muscle and joint and body, aimings, pushings, and fetching-up against resistances, all related to one another in their points of origin, direction, force, and duration. The experience of working to move about builds our mental grip on the shape and opening of the world around us. The shape of open and accessible passages and places that we learn from movements and efforts provides the structure for making sense of other sensations such as vision and sound. The cost-shape of accessibility is more important than the way things look.
Visual perceptions would be useless if they were not related to the experience of moving around by specific exertions. Although we have an accumulating memory of experiences of effort, at any moment our muscles cannot encounter places beyond the few meters within reach. Eyesight is a powerful auxiliary to effort-awareness because we can recognize visually the presence of doors, gates, passageways and destinations, for example, at a considerable distance. Sighted people go by visually sensed markers in orienting our movements, ‘aiming’ them among the other objects in the world, and those markers are useful because of muscle-metabolic knowledge of distances and costs.
Any collection of elemental experiences must include the embodiment experience of effort or work, the cost we experience in moving objects, including our own body, from one place to another. In ordinary experience, objects do not move without a certain cost being paid, and the cost, as sensation in human experience, is an effort of our muscle and metabolic system for some time, an effort that depletes us very specifically. It is exactly work that is the necessary connection between cause and effect. The idea ‘cause and effect’ includes this event of work being done or a cost being paid. That connection is perceived in a mode of perception not identified by the philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), namely, the sensations of the muscle-bone-metabolic structure of the body.
2) The Second Given is Subjective Intelligence
See posting 6, October 6, 2011, What is Being Called Thinking: An Introduction
Two other postings, 23, March 8, 2012, The Brute Actuality of Nature, and 32, May 17, 2012, Subjective Embodiment: Intelligence as a Particular are specifications of some bedrock of subjective intelligence.
Re-orientation by an intelligence is not done entirely with reference to outward markers. There is always an inward bearing from accumulations of past discoveries and previous efforts, directed around discoveries, in the cause of building a sustainable life. The rational impulse of subjective intelligence learns the structures, forces, and cost-structure of nature and also the utterance-forms which operate the cultural edifice of language and social gesture-systems in general. In that way rationality learns to serve as a bridge between hard nature and other intelligences channeling collective culture. Into that construct of personal intelligence, that bearing under construction, come inward inspirations, novel orientations and impulses, doubts, questions, and desires which shift the bearing, shift its vigilance and its probing of external information.
There is always the inward quest for a sustainable life and for self-awareness as a force of intelligence overcoming the particularity of embodiment. The force which re-orients is a questing force, holding and modifying a bearing that it has built over its life. Re-orientation is done, therefore, with reference to the whole past of this life, which does not exist in nature, and so with reference to much more than outward markers. There is an accumulation of complexity in a person’s bearing or vector, as curiosity, questioning, and inspiration engage with nature, culture, and other intelligences.
Subjective intelligence has re-orientation power, learning power, and also aesthetic conception, creative power to pretend different situations, and executive effect in embodiment. Freedom is self-directed re-orientation motivated from inward questions, curiosity, conceptions of possibilities and improvements.
Rationality and Bestiality
The main bearing of subjectivity attaches pretty strongly to hard nature and cultural norms, simply to survive day to day. The ongoing impulse to continue with that is ‘rationality’. However, that rational bearing takes many alternative impulses into consideration all the time, including those that were called ‘lower’ human nature, associated closely with the self-absorbed bestial body, instincts, appetites, quick-twitch reflexes and triggers of fear, anger, excitement, aggression, greed, laughter, or awe. The rational bearing calms many of those impulses but also builds their expressions into its pattern.
The Fountain of Subjectivity: Creative Process as Grounding
There is lots for intelligence to think about other than objects. It isn’t knowledge that fountains up from subjectivity but rather what might be called inspiration, questing. Action does result and skepticism does not apply. Individuals have a rich innocent subjectivity, an effortless gusher of curiosities, questions, and creative impulses to change things in specifically meaningful ways.
The internal flood of ideas and questions, of orientation change, is ultimately more interesting and productive than travel, conversation, trophies, luxurious consumer goods and services, or height on an organization chart. Individual curiosities, questions, and impulses to change things create, within an individual’s orientation, openings to objects and places and they form authentic attachments to the surroundings. The internal creative fountain has no use for competitions, ambition, prestige, standing, or comparisons of any kind. It does more than keep a person engaged, it can keep a person grounded against mythical entities glorified in culture, against fads, feuds, and fashions. The richness and creativity of individual innocence is capable of grounding a person in spite of the dominance of cultures, including language, in spite of the importance of cultural embeddedness and human interconnectedness.
An individual’s creative process is not motivated by competitions, or incentives and rewards. It is not motivated by forces outside the creative person but by the person’s intrinsic force of personality. It is a particular person being the particular person they are. The Canadian painter Emily Carr (1871-1945) is an example of someone whose creativity was such a valuable experience that she endured with very little recognition or reward for her wonderful paintings.
Making a Mark: Projection of Freedom
A person’s questions can be effective as well as searching, sensitizing, and receptive. Intelligence is fundamentally self-declaring. Sometimes the quest is for an external, objective presence such as a distinctive mark, gesture, or product. Intelligence is creative or inventive in making marks on the environment to make itself a distinct presence. Part of the product or mark is always the body itself, exceptionally so for bodybuilders, movie stars, and fashion models. More often the product or mark is a result of a person using his or her body-forces to shape materials in the environment, and so to experience power in accomplishment. The reward from work is both experience of force of personality in expressing personal emotions and thoughts, and a particular identity definition from the objective results. The pleasure of inventive work is obviously from self-declaration, but also from savoring body music, energy, sensitivity, and effective skill, the joy of being a lion, or of making spaghetti sauce.
The will to make a mark on the world is more than mere competition. It is an impulse to original creation of the world or parts of it. Builders can be competitive but they are also motivated by visions and plans of what should exist and still does not. Craftsmanship and design realize creativity, artistry, in particular materials.
In the self-expression of an individual, work is part of thinking. Efforts of the body are fundamental in the orientation and re-orientation by which a person realizes himself or herself. An idea is a feature of orientation, a vigil, a particular quest or question. What a particular person’s effect or mark will be depends on his or her inclinations. It might be a twist on pre-modeled accomplishments such as building a tower, a road, or a garden. It might be pyrotechnics, or tidying a room. It might also be something previously unthought. From whatever particular works invented, the worker achieves awareness of living a body, measuring surroundings, and force of personality in achieving an effect, all pre-cultural intuitions of an intelligence’s particularity and freedom.
Re-orientation: Perceiving Motion is Self-awareness
The sense of perceiving motion is a kind of self-awareness, because there is no motion in nature. Motion requires extension in time and that does not exist in nature. The sense of perceiving motion is awareness of personal re-orientation with respect to the objective surroundings, and since re-orientation is an act of intelligence, it is self-awareness. If you seem to disappear inwardly, if you can’t find yourself, it is crucial to remember there is no time in the brute actuality of nature. The experience of time is all experience of yourself: “I am experiencing time passing, therefore I exist.” The time-scape you inhabit is the self-creation of your personal intelligence. That is not to deny the unstoppable, relentless newness and incompleteness of our situation, the continuous necessity to keep reorienting to newness and incompleteness, the relentlessly increasing remoteness of every act of intelligence. Even in the awareness of temporality there is that grounding which is not self-imposed.
Emphasis on time-consciousness and on the cost-sense of metabolic-muscle-frame embodiment specifies the pervasiveness of orientation, and removes the false belief that language is the foundation of mental processes. Basic embodiment and the movement of intelligence to overcome its particularity in constructs of temporality, orientation, and development or building in time, are always dominant and pre-linguistic. They are the pre-cultural innocence we always can find as a grounding of freedom.
The Body is a Beach: Embracing Dualism
The individual human body is the encounter, the beach, between a complex and fruitful subjectivity with no appearance, and objective nature and culture. The body itself is an effective appearance, unique placement, powers of metabolism, a locomotive structure with mechanical abilities, a voice, and force of expression. The body’s particular sensitivities are also crucial, and they are inseparable from placement, structure, movement, and metabolic functioning. On the objective side of the body is the cost-shape marked out by work, duty, and other intelligences, everything with an appearance, everything measurable and chartable. The body’s unique placement is a feature of that situation.
On the subjective side we have the individual gusher of questions, curiosities, appetites and desires for self-preservation, pleasures and pains, gratification and suffering, creative impulses to mark the objective world, mental powers of opening, memory, bearings into the increasingly remote future including a sense of possibilities, probabilities, and negations. There is transcendence of objective nature and culture in the subjective gusher. Subjectivity is very poorly understood, partly because of traditions that identify subjectivity as tainted by original sin and as such demonic. It would be helpful to build from a more Epicurean integration of higher and lower in subjectivity, along with a balanced understanding of subject and object in their encounter and interaction.
3) Culture, Other Intelligences, and Interconnectedness
Please see posting 30, May 3, 2012, The Third Grace is Culture, the Second is Innocence
and posting 9, October 25, 2011, Political Considerations
Culture is, for one thing, accumulations, from an increasingly remote past, of human declarations of intelligence projected onto nature. Culture and interpersonal connectedness have been in philosophical work as political philosophy, ethics, searches for elemental foundations of civil society, religion, the logic of natural language (laws of thought?), and considerations of beauty, art, music, literary form, and fashionable taste. So, in spite of not being included in what I have called the two vectors of ancient philosophy, culture has always been a focus of philosophy, although not always recognized as part of a collective creation of human intelligences. Any individual intelligence will soak up everything we can of “the way we live in our group” but in addition to being exemplary, those cultural forms are experienced as restrictive norms or rules to be imitated and fitted into, sanctioned by incentives, rewards, and punishments, as exterior forces and structures not from the inward surprise horizon but from the external surprise horizon. They frequently constrain and restrict personal accomplishments, personal marks on the world, sometimes even dreams and pretending in day dreams.
People have a natural, innate, or innocent gift for spontaneously creating social attachments. Acquisition of spoken language is part of that talent. It is a robust gift and an easy accomplishment for ordinary people. Social attachments are not ‘unnatural’ in any way and do not require leadership, supervision, religious revelations, visions of heaven or hell, gods or demons, codes of law, threats of insult, injury, or death, or any other special intervention or extraordinary circumstances. There is no social contract and no need for one because social attachment is a casual accomplishment for ordinary people. Social attachments are based on deliberate acts of imitation as expressions of intelligence. Rocks and bushes do not imitate. Although imitative culture is not unnatural it is not preordained or “hard-wired” either. Culture is largely accident and spur of the moment invention, ad hoc, and provisional. It is software, updating continuously in patches. However, an accomplished pattern of behaviour will exert a force of attraction as a model, and will tend to be imitated. The ways of life, language games, and ways-of-being practiced in any group have a strong force of attraction as models to be imitated as a way of attaching with a clear and distinct manifestation of intelligence.
Everyone has a great store of knowledge about their personal language community and how, within that community, it is possible to function and play with language. Social attachments embed individuals in sets of imitative activities which constitute cultures. Adults generally are sufficiently embedded to be almost entirely determined by cultural influences. The menu of life narratives and scripts made available by a particular culture has a determining influence on how an individual understands and relates to his or her environment. As ‘objective reality’ is always approached from within that sort of cultural narrative it is always edited, selected, and interpreted to serve the narrative. Experience is profoundly conditioned or qualified by cultural influences in ways which blur the distinction between culture and nature. Very much of what is taken to be brute nature is actually mutable culture.
It is normal for people to construct a personal identity avatar from cultural models, a presentation of identity that is a construct for engagement with cultural systems, a social construct in that sense, a display of ascriptions of status and dignity, or lack of them, to enable some sustainable free-passage and even co-operation in social and economic arrangements. That ego-construct is a schema to hold up a gravitas score, placement on a culturally defined scale of worth, the outcome of social competitions. It is an objectified manikin often masking the inward richness of a person.
Culture is recognized as a set of resistant forces from beyond the self in the weight of duty, of fitting in, playing the game, sometimes even in grammar rules and word definitions. A person’s whole body serves as a social gesture, something that is in good taste and pleasant, respectable or not, decent or not, respected or not. Also, in the play of conversational imitations we recognize intelligences that are not our own. When we personify objective events we take them as declarations of intelligence, declarations of something with a questioning, curious, and caring sensitivity to its (and our) surroundings, of something that can anticipate probable variations into an increasingly remote future. When we personify events we take them as revelations of a particular will, as discretionary expressions of a program of intentions, of moral judgment, and as emotional reactions. Another intelligence is also something that can penetrate our personal subjectivity by making sense of our location, appearance, and actions. It is something that can be aware, to some indefinite extent, of our personal orientation grid and our bearing out of a past and into an increasingly remote future. It is often assumed that disembodied gods and spirits are aware of everything about our subjectivity.
Seeing other people creates another freedom. It enables a broader range of possible behaviour than purely spontaneous personal impulses.
Explaining What Happened Without Science
Desire, purpose, emotion, or curiosity as explanations of events in the objective world have generally been acceptable and often preferred over ‘brute’ causal explanations, so great is the vigilance and sensitivity of an intelligence to find others. In ordinary conversation, explanation of events based on the motives of personalities as forces in the world has been privileged over material cause and effect. “Somebody did it.” “A ghost or demon did it.” “God did it.” These are all still accepted among educated people as sufficient accounts of why and how something happened. There is even an inclination to fall back onto such act-of-personality explanation where it is clearly not appropriate: “There is a little guy inside the machine who counts the money you put in and drops out the change.” Anyone who claims belief in god, gods, or a deity is irrevocably committed to personality and its acts of reason, desire, or questioning as the final, ultimate, original, and primordial creative source and cause of everything.
Empathy is often difficult in that awareness of external personalities. Fear and enmity seem to be very common. We are ambivalent about separate intelligences because they often interfere with us, even strive to enslave us, but on the whole we treasure them since we experience intelligence most distinctly in the challenge and response that gets going among separate intelligences. Toward the disembodied personalities identified as gods, people do not feel empathy but wheedling fear. Still, beings moved by questions, separate universes of orientation within temporality, sometimes shelter each other from the terrifying boundless darkness of our situation, uniting by respectful imitation as well as by physical closeness.
People have ascribed personality to objective events far too often. Given that humans have imagined personalities in all sorts of natural phenomena such as trees and storms, there is no reason why we might not imagine personality in computers and robots. Certain natural phenomena were seen to be moving under their own inner motive force in coherent patterns and misjudged as being ready or capable of normal intelligent imitations. The storm was seen to act out an angry outburst by a terrifying father. Fathers do not do that because of their ‘hard wiring’, but because they must imitate a certain social role. Seeming intelligent is not a matter of being structured and ‘hard wired’ so that you cannot help but behave in ‘human’ patterns, because most ‘human’ behaviour is based on imitation of currently fashionable models in the ambient social system, and not on physical structure or nervous system ‘wiring’. Humans judge intelligence by an entity’s ability to imitate variably, and so to act out social roles and form social attachments and build conversations.
The two strongest vectors of ancient philosophy counteract the over-application of personification. The first of those vectors was to remove disembodied personifications from the explanation of events in nature. The second vector was to understand normal embodied intelligence as the authentic transcendence: humanism.
So we have work, duty, language rules, and the challenge-and-response among many intelligences to ground us against isolation within our own day dreams. Those forces all surprise us, impose upon us, resist and bestow gifts, in ways we could not do ourselves. When skepticism about the objective world, even solipsism, is proposed, we have available as individuals experiences of resistance from unalterable forces that are not originated from our subjectivity and which we must learn to operate within.
A Portal in Common Use
Social attachments and the subjective well of inspiration create a tug-of-war against each other in every individual. Normally the social attachments win out and mute the gusher of individual creativity. However, the personal gusher of curiosities, questions, and impulses to change things can be a way out of the mind-set of hegemonic culture, and legions of individuals use it routinely without necessarily identifying it. There is not a lot of public discussion of that mental exercise, whereas there is a tsunami of public discussion about engagement in the market culture of consumption, for example. People have access to both sides of the portal and engage in one side or the other more or less as attractions and gratifying enterprises emerge on one side or the other. The culture of freebooting reading and writing often assists the inward value portal. The public culture of market values has had a great run of both bread and circus attractions, but environmental damage as well as personal injuries from its narrowness in expressing humanity are piling up and setting off alarms.
We see here the context of a pendulum swing in cultural history. Sometimes there is a general sentiment to avoid individuality and to meld with the human herd. At other times there is a widespread rage to throw off the collective weight and grip the world with the innocence and power of individual mentality. Ordinary people must regularly draw on both the culture of their community and their own innocent powers.
There has always been clarity about the separateness or objectivity of nature and since language is not the creation of any individual there has been an assumption that language is an objective phenomenon arising from nature and from the human nature which connects mental activity to the world at large. A similar assumption influences thinking about ethics. On the traditional approach to questioning nature, logic, and ethics in philosophy the purpose is to show their unity. They are really supposed to be one metaphysical item. However, they are not one item, but three, with profound irreducible differences between individual power and experience, wild/brute nature, and culture as a collective human creation.
Transcendence and Dualism
The idea of transcendence has a dualism built-in or pre-supposed. If there is to be a ‘rising above’, there must be something below from which to begin the ascent. The higher-lower dualism can also be seen as an inner-outer dualism, such that inner (subjective intelligence) is higher, and outer (the objective world of bodies) is lower, but the close entanglement of those two givens really removes the taint from what is not transcendent and tilts the whole vision toward optimism.
People despise dualism for seeming to disconnect and alienate us from our natural environment. “Cartesian dualism” is cited as the root cause of industrial pollution and corporate degradation of habitat for all forms of life. However, those calamitous trends are not the result of dualism. Materialist monism has turned everything into mechanical clockwork and in doing so has ‘in theory’ removed subjective intelligence from individuals as such, and from humans collectively. Monism does not merge the living human essence with beautiful nature, but instead hacks off real intelligences altogether. Without minds we have been encouraged to live as zombie avatars consuming everything in our path. Monism has transformed the world into a ‘virtual reality’ which can be destroyed with impunity because everything is already pre-determined, already dead. Transcendental dualism is a means of regaining agency, intelligence, and creativity and breaking the reign of forlorn scientific reductionism.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.