Posting 124, word count: 750.
Without the engagement of living subjectivity the world has no meaning. It can’t be beautiful or ugly, happy or sad, good or evil. There are no ethical issues in such a world. It is a world without tragedy, comedy, melodrama, or farce. Whatever happens in such a world does not matter. Only the teleological consciousness of future-bound subjectivity confers meaning on anything: sensitivity, conscious intent, caring about, aiming for, and actively moving into a future with some openness for discretionary creativity and construction, for freedom; and doing so with a directionality or bearing of intent that is an interpretive construct of no-longer. The idea of freedom is a specific sense of ongoing time to come, into which relevant novelty can be projected deliberately. Since time to come and a no-longer which situates relevance are entirely ideas rather than existing actualities, we are here encountering the subjective ideality of time, orientation, and spiritual bearing. It’s this creative freedom of ideality which is transcendent, and it qualifies subjectivity as the essential subject matter of an old branch of thinking known as metaphysics, long since gone out of style in our era of empirical science. Subjectivity, fountain of meaning, is one of the two metaphysical modes, the other being objectivity. Objectivity is the world imagined without ideality, the world that doesn’t matter.
We are completely familiar with subjectivity at the level of our personal locality. Anyone’s personal subjectivity looms large in the shape of how what-there-is matters. We care about what happens, certain situations and outcomes matter to us. We also experience the intelligence of people and animals around us in how they care and direct themselves in a world that matters to them. This is reasonably straightforward but everyone’s personal orientation is also situated in, and influenced by, a historical, cultural, and political context. There has been a history of projecting conscious intent beyond the kind of embodied persons familiar to us, outward to the cosmic far horizons. Such a conception is a personification of the cosmos on the large scale, a strictly incoherent idea but one that sets up a habit of trivializing the local sensitivity and conscious intent that we live with and recognize in the people we engage in conversation. However, it doesn’t take any special kind of subjectivity to confer meaning on the world. The presence of any and every one of the ordinary sensitive and teleological people we live among confers meaning on the entire cosmos. In fact, there is no way for any subjectivity to be special or extraordinary in a way that sanctifies what matters to it as what “really” matters. When anything matters to any subjectivity, then it matters in a way that is as absolute as it gets.
The legacy of cultural fixations on patriarchal hierarchy and its projection into the cosmos at large has left us assuming that, even though the cosmos is not personified on the grand scale, there must be some especially transcendent consciousness from-on-high, maybe the mysterious genius of great men or the sum of wisdom from heroic ancestors, which sanctifies the culture of values expressed in the structure of wealth and power. However, no such special consciousness exists, and none is required for meaning in individual or collective life. The transcendence of ordinary subjectivity is the only transcendence there is.
Since meaning is always and only conferred on events and situations by sensitive and caring teleology, it is not collectives, not culturally engineered “hive minds” or discourses, that merit a privileged role in defining what really matters. Such things are not instances of subjectivity. Nothing matters to a discourse, an artifact, or a text. Discourses don’t care or think, and neither caring nor thinking is confined within discourses.
Culturally supplied frameworks of orientation always include ideas that are meant to anchor the meaning of individual and collective life in relation to the ever-looming large scale of things, the global or cosmic scale, and the only way that any meaning can be anchored is in relation to some conception of subjective ideality. Everyone feels the looming of the largest scale, and so fashions some metaphysical frame of reference in an idea of the relationship between the transcendent fountain of meaning that is subjectivity over against meaningless objectivity. In spite of the historical tendency to universalize patriarchal hierarchy, metaphysics doesn’t need any special subjectivity or ideality. The subjectivity and ideality of ordinary experience is perfectly effective at making a world that matters.
Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.