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Fragment 181, word count: 913.

tags: human hive-mind, embodiment, attachment, war, philosophy, un-loneliness, culture, imitation, originality, freedom

The most urgent issue for philosophy is the relationship between individual persons and collective identities of the kind described here previously as hive-minds which make war with each other. This urgency can be illustrated by reference to the popular movie Crazy Rich Asians, in which the crucial divide between the Asian cultural system and the Euro-American cultural system is eastern collectivism (extended-extended patriarchal family values) as opposed to the legacy of individualism from the European metaphysical upheavals: Reformation, Enlightenment, and the Revolution of 1789-99. Obviously, western societies are also still largely organized as patriarchal hive-minds. Human hive-minds, collective identities, are the important and dangerous structures behind war, colonization, imperialism, and national exceptionalism expressing the conviction that strength and power merit the privilege of dominance and special rights. Hive-mind collective identity is distinctly not universal but instead an imprint of the point of view of some self-proclaiming superior beings club, an ‘us against the unworthy’ ideology. However, the metaphysical contests of western history have had some effect, and citizens of the resulting modernity are somewhat less rooted in an unquestionable patriarchally defended essentialism with its vision of rigid permanence in the structures and cycles of everything!

To be human is to relish engagement with other intelligences, and culture is always created to aid that engagement. Personality is inherently a creator and imitator of culture. As a deliberate intentional act, imitation is a declaration of intelligence to another presumed intelligence, a declaration of sensitivity, perception, memory, and caring, within a declaration of recognizing or supposing perception, memory, and caring embodied separately and paying attention. Imitation is a crucial declaration of pattern recognition and an invitation and promise of a conversational future, imitations with surprising innovations.

Absorption in an ambient culture is so crucial for people that the understanding of basic reality in any individual’s encounter with the world is almost completely mediated and structured by culturally transmitted religions, stories and ceremonies of national patriotism, and the ethos of some specific and exclusive stratum of social status and esteem: socially normal expectations about styles of consumption, work, and family relations, of gender expressions and attractiveness, social manners, niche cultures of decoration, costume, dwellings, celebrations, topics of conversation, and markers of success. The human world is a patchwork of such cultural niches (up to and including civilizations) all addicted to certainty about themselves as the best possible expression of divine will and of nature, the bedrock of categories and laws that determines things to be just as they are. Each collective’s cultural expression supports it feeling superior to others no matter what appearances and comparisons may suggest, stridently unwilling to accept reality checks, dangerously threatened by reality checks. As superior beings clubs, these culture pods are determined to remain as they are and to keep everybody under the spell of their dramas. However, cultural ideas that self-aggrandize, and externalize a supposedly less worthy subset of humanity, are arbitrary stipulations based on superstitious fears and magical wishes. In this context thinking philosophically can be a serious business that depends on a personal separation from the cultural currency of suppositions. The stakes are high here for individuals, and in this cultural context philosophy can be a reality check where a reality check is needed desperately.

Notwithstanding reveries of utopias and primordial states of nature, philosophers have not often questioned the stratification of society and political power as they found them. They mostly laboured to ‘justify the ways of God (or nature) to man’ on the essentialist assumption that food-chains of power, wealth, and social esteem (essentially master/ slave social organization in superstitious hive-mind formations) are unalterable basic reality. It is assumed that it must always be this way because nature is strictly pre-determined to vary within a narrow range, fated to swing through ever-recurring cycles. However, there have been various intuitions of monadic personal agency, in which the embodied individual, as a fountain of creativity and freedom, is recognized and treated as inherently greater in depth and scope than the imprinted cultured conceptions of any hive-mind. This can be illustrated by a consideration of language. Language is a public transit system. Experience for any individual goes vastly beyond the territory marked out by language, just as geography goes vastly beyond the streetcar tracks. When poets or philosophers make efforts to communicate experience that is not included in the current transit system they have no choice but to bend and stretch and sculpt new parts of language to draw attention to previously private regions. The individuality of spontaneously questioning sensibility grounded in embodiment is enough to permit individuals an exit from-hive mind collective identities.

The lesson of philosophy in its long and complex history is that individuals, as defined by embodiment, have the power to conceptualize creatively and originally the world that can be abstracted within the rich spiritual context that digests what is given externally. Philosophical statements have been an individual’s declaration of independence as a conceiver of living a life, and, as such, a challenge to the collective orientation of hive-minds. Philosophy is a person’s description of encountering the world after discounting the cultural currency of suppositions previously supplied by an ambient society, when, in their loneliest un-loneliness, they encounter the universality of innocent experience: intentionality, sentience, caring, within an eventful given world. In this innocence no one is a member of any collective subset of the interconnectedness of personal beings.

Embedded links

Fragment 99, November 2, 2016, What is Patriarchy? (word count: 3,700)

Fragment 158, January 9, 2020, The Arc of the Monad (word count: 803)

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.