Fragment 178, word count: 1,044.
tags: existence, metaphysics, time, creativity, freedom, caring, drama, agency, empathy, science, religion, politics, patriarchy, civilization, malaise.
The difference made by recognizing a bit of metaphysics, specifically a certain conception of ideality, is a much needed and long overdue disruption of two canonical but failing universal explanations: religious personification of nature and the materialist fatalism of science. Thinking of ideality as embodied (discontinuous and discretely located) points and arcs of creative intentionality* opens a way to recognize human-scale freedom and creativity as real without wildly speculative and implausible personifications. Human reality is a beach where a personal interiority of ever-reshaping dramas made of caring and ideas (expectations and hopes, questions, aspirations, and intentions) gush out in deliberate activity and wash actuality. Features of brute actuality can be shaped into culture by these actions. Culture in this sense is any product of intentional craft, any effective application of purposive ideality to the merely natural material of actuality: the carved wood, the ploughed field. Freedom is real in this tumbling co-existence of gushing creative ideality and the absolute incompleteness of existence (both ideality and actuality) as witnessed in the endless passage of time. Any serious conception of freedom requires enduring points of ideality actively living, forming actuality, at the incomplete edge of existence, continuously actualizing a stream of spontaneously invented intentions within a personally learned and learning context of expectations. Knowledge is always an elaboration, specification, and development of personally created dramas of caring.
Since the European codification of mathematical science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, after nearly a millennium of theocratic Christendom, the most innovating civilizations have been stuck with a dysfunctional codependence of scientific materialism and immaterial angels and demons. Both religion and science have ongoing appeal, science from rapidly developing commercial applications, especially communication and data processing technology (innovations in entertainment with advertising), vaccines of course; and religion from a most primitive reflex to personify the world, which is to suppose that purposive intentionality creates everything. But the binocular culture which perceives with the materialist lens in one eye and the world-personifying lens in the other is spectacularly unsuccessful delivering peace and justice in its political and governance arrangements, and no wonder. Science and religion have in common a fundamental legitimation of patriarchal hierarchy as core social organization. To be clear, this is top-down human-on-human macro parasitism, various forms of the master/ slave relationship. Religious personification asserts that such organization is the eternal divine plan (divinity is the primordial master), and scientific fatalism that such a food chain is made inevitable by immutable forces of nature. These are both conceptions of existence as profoundly complete, without any possibility for the creation of real novelty. In that context governance is a matter of imposing on everyone an orientation up the hierarchy for a sense of direction derived from an overarching culturally stipulated drama.
Culture in this sense is the complex system of imitative, repetitive, and normative human activity that expresses and sustains a collective’s sense of unity and identity. This is the sense in which culture, in the context of patriarchal parasitism, imposes a hive-mind on its participants. This has produced and maintained dystopian political regimes poisoned by the history of war culture abetted by religions that demand irrational credulity and fervent expressions of reverence and supplication upward, situating deity at the apex of human hierarchy. Outsourcing the determination of reality to a God, impersonal Platonic Ideas, or even just nature denigrates human ideality by alienating the creative work of conceptualization actually required and accomplished by individuals orienting ourselves in the world. It represents human interiority as a passive recipient of a pre-completed world, including the social and political world, and has the effect of cementing individuals into a mass mythology of inadequacy and dependence. Science further denigrates personal interiority by reducing it to biologically pre-determined lusts and reactions to external stimuli, and religion denigrates it as an engine of error and misery, completely hopeless without the controlling intervention of some more perfect and powerful personification.
Individual ideality, however, is profoundly more active and creative than religion or science can recognize. The primordial act of self-creation by every ideality is the supposition of time. Ideality is the non-actuality which supposes. Every ordinary living consciousness is a self-creating time-wave, living in and through a constant flight through time. A time-wave is a dramatically-propelled progressive change of suppositions. One vector of this flight consists of things slipping by and falling away, and the other vector is a dramatic personal leap into a supposed future. Time is a personal dimension of ‘metaphysical’ non-actuality in which, oriented with knowledge, expectations, and questions abstracted from a supposed ephemeral past, an intelligence creates specific intentions to project itself with a degree of creative freedom into an ever-newly-opening not-yet or future. This being-in-time distinguishes ideality from the natural world within which we build lives. Time is the opening of freedom-from-nature at the edge of existence and as such the transcendence that spiritual interiority brings to the beach of reality. With an appropriate sense of this interiority the personal importance of competitions and appearances falls away. 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, personal hero story) is that there is no comfort with any conception of personal interiority in the culturally dominant conceptual system.
The political difference made by recognizing persons universally as metaphysical engines of spontaneous creativity, exploiting a precarious position at the edge of existence by improvising a desperately caring drama of sensitivity and personal expression, is a flattening of the political landscape. There is no justification here for master/ slave social organization. There is no general disrespect or denigration of humanity/ personality inherent in this conception. The political imperative changes from imposing control via belligerent us-against-them hive minds to cultivating and encouraging autonomous creativity and person-to-person interconnections shaped by empathy.
The often lamented malaise of civilization is the result of extreme cultural denigration of humanity/ personality combined with a romantic overestimation of the explanatory power of mathematical science. These have killed off innovative thinking involving metaphysics, but only a certain metaphysical reconceptualization can amend the currently toxic cultural legacy.
* ‘Intentionality’ in the sense of pre-conceiving future interventions in actuality for specific purposes, a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency.
Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.