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Fragment 169, word count: 1,230.

At the heart of Romanticism is the cultural perspective of aristocracy, essentially a pessimistic fatalism, definitive of the political right-wing, in which the brutality of master/ slave social organization is taken to be inevitable, decreed for eternity by nature or God. In that dystopia, only reveries of magic, beauty, and masculine heroism provide the precious little light in the tragically inescapable gloom. However, nothing in human affairs is really inevitable because human affairs are constructs of multiple idealities, and idealities, persons, are fountains of spontaneous novelty, of original interventions into the situation of a moment, fountains of freedom. Conceptions of this freedom are forms of idealism.

A way of distinguishing one kind of idealism from another is by the extent each understands ideality as creatively projecting novelty into otherwise predetermined actuality conceived as in standard materialism: utterly devoid of purpose. For example, there is no novelty of a willfully creative and spontaneous kind in Plato’s idealism, although some accidental novelty might occur randomly in the illusions experienced as ordinary appearances. Plato’s idealism, and generally the muted idealism at the core of rationalism, builds on a reverence for mathematics by speculating that the perfection of mathematics reveals an immaterial, timeless, and primordial reality from which is projected (imperfectly) the eventful world we experience. In the context of understanding human affairs, mathematics is a short road to dystopia.

Time-World Idealism in the Dystopian Context

Recognition of time as the primordial context of individual human existence is the portal to an idealism that is relevant in the dystopian political and cultural context as a countervailing force against the declarations of natural or divine determinism (the perspective of aristocracy) which are crucial features of dystopian world-system concepts.

The problem with logical argument as a technique of inquiry into things as experienced was pointed out by Bertrand Russell: Logical argumentation is not how original insights are discovered. Using other means, people come upon claims they judge to be important and worth defending and then search for premises and arguments that produce them as logical conclusions. Philosophical insights are first generated by something like phenomenology, an innocent curiosity about lived experience and agency. So, the primary technique of thinking philosophically, the technique that brings us to the crucial idealism, is engaging with experience from innocent curiosity, a curiosity that has been de-cultured and so released from normal bias and prejudice.

Phenomenology is always an effort to bring ideality into some degree of conceptual focus. It is never a scientifically measuring object-ology. It is explicitly a description of experience as ideality, objects as taken in and made sense of by a questioning, knowing, interested, and caring subject. So, all phenomenology is phenomenology of spirituality, plausibly the only way to quest for knowledge of spirituality. Since Edmund Husserl (1858-1938), the definitive move of phenomenology is bracketing off the question: does this appearance accurately represent something that is completely independent of being perceived?, so to remove any suggestion of defining knowledge of a “thing in itself” as objective reality. And yet, even in Husserl and his massive legacy there remains an emphasis on objects and objectification.

The problem with phenomenology has been that sensory impressions are taken as the elemental evidence, taken in a way that is already objectified. They are conceived as patches of colour, an auditory pitch, a feeling of roughness or pressure, a scent or taste of coffee, all removed from the context of a personal dramatic purpose-in-time which brings someone to notice them. There is the usual assumption that time is not primordial, but instead a superstructure to be put aside in describing the basic phenomena from which everything else, including time, will be assembled later. However, the thinking subject, a questioning future-ward-leaping will-to-learn and will-to-express-itself, cannot be assembled from the passive excitations of sensory impressions, or from the objects they make available for discovery and identification. Sensory impressions or the objects they locate cannot be made into care, cannot be made to construct an interest in themselves. Caring is prior, and primordially a leaping future-ward, using knowledge of the time-world as personal possibility.

None of the phenomena of receptive sensations can combine to construct the desperate future-ward leap of curiosity, the drama of a questioning will to gaze, to search, to leave a personal mark and make a personally gratifying life. Sensory perception cannot assemble whatever questioning sensibility is expressing the vector of such drama in an act of perceiving, a drama formed of complex expectations, vectors of intention in action, and this moment of searching curiosity. You know your own sensibility by self-creating and inhabiting your life-drama. The sensibility performing a perceiving cannot be an object of sensory perception, and requires a conception of its presence different from perceived actuality: primordially purposeful ideality.

Phenomenology of Personal Drama: An Idealism

Humanity/ personality, as ideality, is the creation of freedom by supposing the possibility or impossibility of multiple personal futures, and so freedom through creativity is fundamental and universal to individual personalities. We individually create a supposition of decreasingly remote approaching not-yet and increasingly remote receding no-longer as an imprint on the newness and open incompleteness in which we act, a primordial context of time in which we intervene in brute actuality as purposive, dramatic, agents. Personality supposes (posits as ideality) a context that enables its agency in a personal drama, a time-world of personally specific approaching futures, both possible and impossible non-actualities, a mutable opening in the fabric of reality. Ideality is what leaps ahead, a leaping that makes the world matter. That ideality is empathic is crucial to its personal drama, and along with empathy comes the drama of good and evil. Good is acting with the purpose of expressing empathy, evil is acting in contradiction, denial, or refusal of empathy.


Ideality leaps into an opening of its own supposing, as a vector of time which plunges future-ward with a specific spur-of-the-moment creative will to inject spontaneous (not random) novelty into actuality at the location of personal embodiment. Such a will-to-create a personally suitable future is obviously not nature, which always just falls predictably according to laws of inertia and entropy, a vector of time in which everything is slipping away. The vector of time which leaps toward a future of its personal devising transcends nature by its personal injection of unpredictable creativity. Creation of the world is unfinished, undecided, continuing through the agency of a multitude of embodied wildcard idealities. We are more time-waves than particles of any kind, individually self-shaping waves through time.

The reason for a culturally obligatory reliance on socially constructed outward representations of personal identity with trophies (possessions, status, career path, social network, costumes, titles) is that there is no comfort with any conception of personal interiority in culturally dominant conceptual systems founded on ideas of God and nature. As an alternative to the historically aristocratic and patriarchal glorification of trophy property as manifest demonstrations and proofs of personal power and worth, we place inward consciousness and agency: the ability and opportunity to feel and follow a delighted questioning curiosity, as from a profound innocence, exercising creative freedom to engage in the ethical enterprise of aligning personal freedom with the transcendent freedom of everyone around.

Embedded links:

Fragment 19, February 10, 2012, Mathematical Rationalism in the Baroque Era (word count: 1,101)

Fragment 153, September 28, 2019, De-Culturing (word count: 458)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.