Something as catastrophic as, and quite analogous to, a zombie apocalypse happened a long time ago, and not just once but in many historical times and places. The enduring effect of those catastrophes is that individuals are culture-bound into conventional zombie shells of collective and personal identity, and as such, shut out from our own elemental transcendence as intelligences. That is why philosophical thinking exists and has a purpose.
What the celebrated French academic Michel Foucault (1926-84) got right is that knowledge, culture-derived knowledge, is riddled with covert legitimations of a social structure of power inequality. For whatever reason, Foucault did not recognize that the structure of power inequality is a structure of human-on-human parasitism, and that its parasitism renders all legitimations of the power structure false and deceptive. The social and cultural entrenchment of that structure of parasitic power inequality was the zombie apocalypse relevant here, the legitimation of which has poisoned human cultures by forcing externally controllable identity definitions (zombie shells) on everyone, identities which are all embedded as rankings in the hierarchy of benefits from parasitic power.
Philosophy is Happy Thought (Seriously)
Political reality in this post-zombie-apocalypse world of entrenched human parasitism is undeniably grim and violent, and improvements such as ending war, for example, seem pretty hopeless. There would have to be some seriously profound and unexpected circumstances, something really surprising, to inspire happiness and hope in the face of knowing the nasty truth of political power. Well, it happens that there is: the happy thought is intelligence, individual intelligence. Intelligence isn’t best represented by abstract operations such as deductive logic, mathematics, or the memorization of long texts, but more by, for example, enjoying music. Music is a presentation or performance of sound patterns that can be represented mathematically but which engage intelligence sensually and pre-symbolically, make immediate sense to an intelligence, and yet have no coherence, sense, or shape without being experienced by an intelligence. (Luca Turin argues conclusively that perfume also works by appealing directly to intelligence.) This is the sense in which intelligence is the political happy thought. The political happy thought is not special intelligence, but ordinary personal subjective intelligence.
The big happy thought to launch against the grim realities of politics is the same as it was in the historical Enlightenment era: individual intelligence, with something like Greek-style humanist philosophy as a rough guide to recognizing the elemental reality in which intelligence plays. It is worth emphasizing that the philosophical happy thought is not a theory or an ideology itself but instead a certain personal re-orientation to elemental reality. Philosophical writing is meant only as a guide to self-recognition as an intelligence (as a sort of mirror for something which has no appearance and is not a thing), to self-recognition as an intelligence even though you prefer listening to music to working on math or logic problems. Holding such a mirror is pointless unless it works to uncover the invisible self, and then the mirror becomes unnecessary. It turns out that elemental reality, beyond the reality-distorting force-fields of cultures which are poisoned by legitimations of human parasitism, has many surprises.
The Particularity of Personal Intelligences
Intelligence, elemental intelligence, innocent intelligence, is not featureless or profoundly opaque. For Plato, for example, every intelligence had some particular proportions of three inalienable aspects: acquisitive appetite; competitive spirit or ambition; and abstract, mathematical rationality or reflective contemplation. Plato’s conception of intelligence is not ridiculous (good of me), but it contains a fatal problem (to be specified below) because it was conceived in the context of accounting for the hierarchical class divisions in the society of ancient Greece, a slave-labour based society. Waves of the zombie apocalypse were already in the rear-view mirror of Plato’s time and its legitimations were already well entrenched.
Notwithstanding Plato, an all-at-once unity of the following experiences, cannot be separated from any intelligence:
Being located in relentlessly dislocating time, in a particular embodied life in time, within constructs of a non-actual past and an increasingly improbable future;
Doubt and questioning of future, past, present;
Striving to project particular personal aspirations onto present and future actuality (acting on curiosity, for example);
Striving to enjoy the powers and sensitivities of intelligence, to remember and recognize patterns in an increasingly remote past, to think into the increasingly improbable future, to play, to imitate, and to engage with the directional force or orientation of other intelligences (in part by imitation and play);
Striving to make a distinctively personal mark on the world, make some of it a belonging, personal, a home;
Striving to enjoy the powers and sensitivities of embodiment, to taste, feel, and grip the world, to feed on it, to pass through the world.
That’s a lot of pre-cultural or innocent particularity of position, force, and quality or character, enough for a pre-cultural personal identity, and enough to enable a critique of culture from outside culture. Consciousness is no crystalline simplicity of openness or reflection, but instead is always constructed from an increasingly remote past and an increasingly improbable future. As such, it is always a construct of temporal non-actuality by an intelligence. Behind Plato’s three part soul stands a view of time itself as a realm of illusion, with reality reserved for what is eternal and outside time. However, Plato admitted mind into eternity through mind’s contemplative power, and in doing so makes his position incoherent, since intelligence and time are inseparable. If Plato means “intelligence” by the ancient Greek expression he used for mind, then he had passed into self-contradiction.
A big surprise is that, because of intelligences, there is such a thing as creative non-actuality (which science cannot even conceive) in an elemental relationship with the widely celebrated actuality of measurable nature. Personal orientation is a fabric of non-actuality and since there are individually distinctive and creative features in orientation (such as personal aspirations for a future with a particular mutability), every intelligence is a separate universe of non-actual orientation. As an intelligence, you are continuously re-locating yourself within a personal universe of non-actuality locked in an elemental relationship with the strictly exclusive actuality of a continuously dislocating nature. As a creative fountain of non-actuality, actively mutating actuality, you are transcendent with respect to brute pre-determined nature.
External Alienation of Transcendence
The subjective experience of being an intelligence, a fountain of effective non-actuality, is the only evidence there is for transcendence in the whole of cosmic being. The other phenomena sometimes suggested as evidence of transcendence, mathematics, the night sky, beauty, the accumulated knowledge and power of human collectives, are all either artifacts of ordinary embodied intelligences or obvious projections of some impression of intelligence for the purpose of providing an easy explanation for phenomena which are merely not understood and so frightening, a sort of “here be dragons” on unknown regions of old maps. However, the reality of the transcendence of ordinary intelligence is almost universally contradicted by cultural traditions preserving a social structure of parasitic power inequality, and it is not difficult to think why.
The two main clusters of distortions-of-reality in this, namely false transcendence in personifications of abstract legal fictions (school spirit, national spirit, corporate brands) and in fables of disembodied super-intelligences (demons, ghosts, and gods), are projections of the basic fable of parasitic masculinity. Both are primarily externalizations of (and as such reality-denying alienations of) transcendence. Carriers and practitioners of the culture of alpha-trophy-looting masculinity find subjectivity too indeterminate, too ephemeral, too private for the purpose of establishing alpha-status and justifying a chain of servitude, and so unworkable as a foundation for competitive personal identity definition. It’s also too equal from one person to another, or at least it’s indeterminacy makes it possible that it might be equal from person to person, and so, again, personal intelligence is ineffective as a public marker of victory or other trophy accomplishments. From within the logic of competitive masculinity, transcendence must be external to individuals so that it can be the ultimate un-equalizer, consecrating every conquest, every victory, every trophy. As the ultimate ground of inequality, externalized transcendence is perfectly depicted as a disembodied version of the powerful, mysterious, and capricious father, inspiring terror in everyone. Being masters of the ground by virtue of force and the wealth that parasitic force accumulates, practitioners of the warped ideal of parasitic masculinity are in a position to dictate cultural practices, to decree a cultural submission to fables of the frightening father in the sky, for example. That is how the real transcendence of individual intelligences is buried and hidden under layers of cultural conventions, traditions, practices, and things people always say and teach to children.
There is nothing necessary about that cultural ideal of masculinity. It comes from a particular, very marginal, historical origin, the cowboy culture of animal herding on semi-barren wastelands. What only feminist writers and the feminist movement more generally got right (what women know in their bones) is that gender culture is the heart of profound injustices in human social systems.
Externalized transcendence in all forms is an example of the large body of culturally imposed fables and false values that result from alpha-trophy-looting masculinity, all of which can be cleared away by anyone’s thinking, cleared away to disclose the elemental situation of intelligence. The two top-down ideologies of modern power inequality, plutocratic predator-prey theory and business/ professional ‘meritocracy of economic atoms’ theory, are both just different presentations of the alpha-trophy-looting culture of masculinity. Predators are economic atoms understood in a simplified-to-bare-bones context. In thinking the elemental situation of intelligence, clear away all the disembodied spirits, the demons, ghosts, guardian angels, collective spirits of peoples, states, tribes, teams, and all such personified abstractions, leaving individual intelligences, in the relationships they build as intelligences, to engage with nature in creating sustainable and gratifying lives.
The way to deal with the myriad of different cultures is not to respect every one equally, but to reject every one equally, at least to the extent that they impose non-transcendent identities onto individuals, or grant individuals a second class, derivative sort of transcendence. We don’t want another French Revolution (which obviously didn’t succeed), but rather an event that reverses the zombie apocalypse, that voids the distortions of reality imposed by poisoned cultures, something more like the historical Enlightenment. The European historical movement known as the Enlightenment is especially interesting because it connected personal or subjective changes of orientation with cultural and political arrangements in European society, and did so in such a way that individual initiatives of the former kind formed a foundation for profound renovations of the latter.
Copyright © 2013 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.