creativity, freedom, idealism, Immanuel Kant, materialism, monotheism, philosophy, Plato, politics, spirituality, teleology, time, transcendence
Posting 121, word count: 1,312.
Metaphysics is part of the framework of orientation within which any individual operates. Everybody has some metaphysical framework or other, typically learned from ambient culture at an early age without recognizing that it might be questionable, thinkable. The way in which a person’s framework of orientation deals with the incongruity between subjectivity and objectivity is its metaphysics, as both subjectivity and objectivity have been asserted as a revelation of what is uniquely and exclusively real in the cosmic whole, and they are starkly different from one another.
Subjectivity is remarkable due to its ideality, the personally interior experience of living a particular bearing of sensitive teleology in a life in the world. Ideality is the source and origin of the idea of transcendence since only ideality (spirituality, intelligence) strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, which is the essence of creativity and so of freedom, stunningly beyond the insensitive lumps and structures of objectivity, and as such a clear transcendence of nature. This makes personal engagement in the passing of time, a tilting into and toward an openness of time to come, fundamental in subjectivity and in the transcendence of nature. With subjectivity there are no eternal necessities, no finality. Everything is a tentative construct for navigating into a non-actual futurity, a strict ideality guessed at but unknown, questing (desperately) for opportunities to construct shapes and works, interventions within lumpen actuality, along the way. The bearing-into-futurity of subjectivity is a questioning that changes continually with experience and learning. Its whole conceptual framework of reference markers can change from internal reconsideration. Since personal subjectivity is not publicly measurable it has been characterized as inward, and so inwardly we have an ever-questing orientation, a directionality of caring at some moment in an embodied life in the world, a directionality which is the spiritual construct, representing an increasingly remote personal no-longer or previousness, of an interpretive context (immediate expectation, readiness, and bearing of intervention) for present experience.
On the other side of metaphysics is a universalizing of objectivity (on the model of “medium sized dry goods”), a conception of hard-structure forms, enduring, definite, final (“real”), determinate, self-subsisting concrete material objects in configuration, energy field structures gliding in an eternally pre-determined fall shaped by mathematical necessities such as inertia and entropy, categorically excluding the creative teleology and questioning consciousness of ideality. Overall, it is the timelessness of objectivity, the finality of objects and their entirely predetermined arc of changes, manifesting eternal mathematical necessities, that stands out in claims placing objectivity as exclusively and uniquely real.
Subjectivity, and so transcendent ideality, is multiple rather than unitary, occurring in separate embodied and mortal persons clustered and scattered over the surface of planet Earth (that we know of). The transcendence of ideality, given its identity with ordinary subjectivity, has been considered such a frightening political problem that the dominant conceptions of idealism (metaphysical claims placing ideality in some form as primary in reality as a whole) have just evaded admitting the identity of ideality and subjectivity! Plato’s Ideal Forms, for example, are a mythological mashup of materiality and ideality, taking ideas of types of objects as essentially united with the objects. Existing separately from any person’s life in the world is a feature of objects that Plato ascribed to Ideas. Abstraction is entirely an operation of individual intelligences, but in Platonism the abstract categories of things are ultimately causal in the existence of every ephemeral particular of objective actuality. This announces one of the jaw-dropping surprises in the history of formal metaphysics, that what seems the most obvious and common sense occurrence of transcendent ideality in ordinary embodied individuals has gone conspicuously undocumented.
Creationist monotheism is a metaphysical dualism in which the fundamental principle is a single disembodied ideality (intelligence) who created the objective material world in a unique episode of exuberant divine caprice. It is normally considered that, within this created material world, humans, as sensitively conscious intelligences, were created as images of the creator, fundamentally similar to the divinity in ideality as distinct from concrete materiality. In that version of dualism the divine principle of creation, and so ideality more generally, is, as it is in Plato, primary and dominant, making it idealist even though not a declared idealism. Again, however, it is extravagantly abstracted from the ordinary experience of transcendent temporal ideality in ordinary persons. It was always the sense of transcendence from the teleological consciousness of embodied individuals that inspired the idea of a senior transcendence at far cosmic horizons. There is no other direct experience of ideality.
Given the dramatic differences between subjectivity and objectivity, anyone’s metaphysical framework of orientation will be a conception of reality as a whole that either includes or excludes the creative teleology and questioning consciousness of ideality (spirituality) with its freedom and transcendence of nature. A strict metaphysical objectivism (materialism) can remain coherent only by denying transcendence completely. (One problem with that is the implausibility of deriving ethically sensitive intelligences from insensitive lumps.) A metaphysics of transcendent ideality can remain coherent without denying the existence of objects by accepting a dualism of multiple embodied subjectivities each living a particular life as spirituality intervening in brute actuality.
Can the World be an Idea?
Contrary to Plato, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, for example, the world can’t be only and entirely an idea because ideas are features of a personal orientation of some embodied individual in a particular life in the world. It has been claimed that the world is an idea in the mind of God, but the idea of God goes far beyond a particular embodied life in the world, and so is not strictly coherent. The way in which the world is an idea is that what is known of the world is always the construct of personal experiences of the world. The world is an idea for any and every individual, and individuals have been sharing ideas about the world with one another and have constructed various cultural ideas of the world. In any individual’s life, the world is an idea, largely learned from some such ambient culture. However, to use Kantian terminology, the world “in itself” can’t be only and entirely an idea.
We can say two things about a world with transcendent spirituality. First, it is not entirely pre-determined by anything. Its fate in detail is mutable, strictly indeterminate, with possibilities for novelty at any moment. Second, anyone’s ideas of the world, and any culturally transmitted ideas of the world, are also mutable, not etched into the blueprints of the cosmos, not final or essential elements of reality, but rather tentative abstractions, subject to revision or abandonment with the assimilation of more experience. Ideas of the world are typically cultural constructs originating from multiple contributions from various individuals’ experience and creative thinking.
The effective activity of creative transcendence at the level of the individual has important political consequences, especially in support of egalitarian and mutually nurturing systems of sociability, the opposite of patriarchy. It means that social and political structures can be made to change under the force of ideas. Ideas are openings into a mutable future. An authentic idealist metaphysics is a metaphysics in which the world of actuality is unfinished and constantly becoming something new, bits of novelty created continuously at various separate localities through the efforts of the transcendent spirituality of individual intelligences. This is a metaphysics in which there is active transcendence with effects in brute actuality, a metaphysics of intelligences questioning, caring, and learning through their inward pressing into a profoundly undetermined time to come. Political conservatives either just deny transcendence completely and interpret the world as mere physics, entirely fated or random, or adhere to something like the Platonic or monotheistic idea of transcendence, a unique supernatural expression at some far horizon which determined how things will be forever.
Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.
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