Dystopia, Metaphysics, and Modern Idealism


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Fragment 159, word count: 1,010.

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” (Karl Marx)

What makes a dystopia is a cultural regime, structured as a human hive-mind, which fails to recognize the creative transcendence of individual ideality. It is hive-minds that make war. A crucial feature of dystopia is that it hides and denies that it is dystopia. It campaigns, mainly successfully, to have everyone accept that, although imperfect and beset with intractable problems, it is the best of all possible worlds. Every personality is strongly influenced by social controls, the ambient society as authority, from a very early age. That makes dystopia a problem of perception, knowledge, and reality: a philosophical problem. Philosophy has a history of seeking to understand how collective illusions and delusions can separate ordinary consciousness from knowledge of the elemental structure of reality. Dystopia conceals itself with just such illusions, making it the philosophical problem.

Institutions of military-backed states survive by keeping as many as possible dependent, and the crucial dimension of hive-mind dependence is (drumroll) metaphysics. For example, if you accept anything like the Freudian conception of human nature then you loath and fear your own individuality and feel allegiance to externally imposed authority symbols against yourself, siding with the normalized practices of ambient society no matter how bizarre. There is a strong tendency to normalize whatever bizarre power inequalities happen to exist. Although Freud presented his work as scientific, the overall model of personality he offered followed a pre-existing and pre-scientific set of speculations and superstitions with contributions from Plato, Augustine, and Hobbes. The Freudian model of human nature places inherent personality (id: biologically generated drives with a tinge of the demonic) in urgent need of social control by an internalization of authority symbols (superego); recall philosopher kings, divinely established religious authority, and a social contract for absolute sovereignty. That conception of human nature is a longstanding piece of metaphysics which misidentifies what is fundamental to humanity or personality by conceiving it as something of nature: a determinate set of attributes, fixed, unalterable, and universal. That bit of metaphysics, a conception of individual personality as a bit of nature tilting demonic, serves to legitimize patriarchal power and control. Freud’s model dovetails with social contract theory, upholding the ancient and traditional view that human beings can’t thrive without strict social control. What’s wrong with that is that personality is not a thing of nature, but, as existence without essence (thank you Sartre) transcends nature.

Instead of defining metaphysics as commentary on ‘being’ (strictly impossible to define *) it is more effectively understood as commentary on the occurrence of ideas, of ideality. Being is defined as universal and eternal, which, by fiat, makes ideas as ordinarily experienced inadmissible. Ideality doesn’t have being. The fact that you are conscious as you read this is proof in a general way of the truth of idealism, the most obvious thing there could be. Consciousness is ideas. The only reality we can possibly experience is completely structured as and by ideas constituting the interiority of personal experience (thank you Fichte and Leibniz). Nature is adequately comprehended by physics, since there is no intrinsic drama to brute actuality, no structure of what matters to make sense of or explain. Ideality is the only home of drama, of things that matter, of purposes and reasons. Neither physics nor biology is helpful in understanding ideality. The question of human nature brings us into metaphysics immediately because any individual person exists as ideality, and ideality is necessarily the stuff of metaphysics. In the modern idealism worked out in the wake of the Protestant Reformation it is recognized that ideality is always personality, all forms of ideality occur together in clusters that have the dramatic structure of a living personal “I”, subject of a personal drama which is an individual’s embodied life in the world. The existence of ideas is the existence of thinkers. This idealism retains a sense of the transcendent creative freedom of ideality (personality transcends nature) but relocates it from a patriarchal Christian deity to ordinary individual human personalities. The supra-actual creative power (again transcendence) is removed from Platonic heaven or gods and demons to ordinary personalities. After all, how things matter in the world does not depend on ideas in the mind of some deity nor in a Platonic heaven where ideas are master molds for material beings. It depends only and entirely on the occurrence of ideas in the living of individually embodied persons. We know ideas from personal caring and our engagement with others who express caring. Living personality is known by a creatively expressive voice and purposive activity. Personalities produce coherent utterances and acts which express ideation: caring, sensitivity, knowledge, and the preconception of intentions, the drama of inventing, moment by moment, a particular life in the world. Ideas are openings of newness, created outside actuality, interventions of an instance of supra-actuality, non-being, which is a living consciousness. Ideality is willful becoming by always questioning, learning, and creating, the exact opposite of being. Individuals cannot claim to be creative masters of nature, but each person creates a time-system (a life) of possibilities and probabilities in a universe of interiority, a personal orientation within non-actuality, which is then actually imposed on brute nature with variable success, and shared by building interconnections with other ordinary persons.

Dystopia hides behind false conceptions of fundamental reality, distorting every individual’s self-conception so the old systems of top-down human-on-human macro-parasitism can be maintained and wars can be fought. Every individual is still a fountain of original re-conceptions of a future, of self-creation, with an inherent capacity to be free of hive-mind influences, starting with hive-mind patriarchal metaphysics. That is a bit of cultural conditioning that can be controlled at the level of every individual. Any aspiration for cultural, social, and political change must be founded on an appreciation of creativity, recognition that reality is mutable because ideas make up so much of the structure of reality. To change the world, it is first necessary to go beyond the colonization of patriarchal metaphysics.


  • Medieval Philosophy, Volume 4 of: A History of Philosophy Without any Gaps, written by Peter Adamson, published by Oxford University Press (2019), ISBN 978-0-19-884240-8. (Chapter 25: It’s All Good – The Transcendentals, especially pp.179-80.)

Doubting dystopia? Think about these articles in other publications.



Internal links:

Fragment 106, May 10, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (1) (word count: 520)

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

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.


The Arc of the Monad


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Fragment 158, word count: 803.

This is the story of a crucial modern rethinking of human nature. The monad is a conception of the organization of ordinary human consciousness presented by Leibniz in 1714. There is no hardware in Leibniz’ vision of the world formed of monads, only individual instances of ordinary consciousness having coherent experiences composed of images and other impressions of a world that does not exist in any other way. In this conception, the world is the setting of some vast number of these subjects having experiences. This world of monads is entirely a world of ideas, a strictly idealist world. In Leibniz’ vision the monads, even though not anchored to a concrete material world, were not self sufficient because the entire content of their consciousness was supplied by an omnipotent deity who had pre-determined everything, every event and change in exact detail, at the moment of creation. Although the monads are “windowless” with no personal agency in constructing knowledge of anything, experiences are coordinated among the monads by the deity to simulate a coherent unity of shared surroundings, in which they seem to engage with one another. Later in the century (1781), Kant’s idealism was a development and modification of this legacy from Leibniz. It focused on understanding instances of ordinary consciousness, but introduced two structural changes. Kant removed the deity as the single supplier of experiences and added hardware in the form of the external “thing in itself”, a surrounding objective world which was not reducible to ideas. Kant’s monads had something like windows onto the external hardware, but their transparency was far from perfect. The “thing in itself” could never be known directly, but Kant was convinced that it must exist as an influence on, and partial source of, the coherent impressions and images that are the content of experience. Following Kant closely (1795), Fichte also engaged with this legacy of ordinary consciousness idealism. His innovation was to remove Kant’s “thing in itself”, the hardware, from the conception of reality, and he didn’t bring back the deity. So, by the end of the eighteenth century with Fichte, the deity was gone along with the hardware (the thing in itself) leaving only truly self-subsisting monadic subjectivities each structured as a distinct “I”. In Fichte’s work these subjectivities are independent sources of suppositions. Each “I” posits, creating the ideas of itself and its entire world from its own interiority. Fichte’s vision effectively eliminates the fundamental distinction in Christendom and creationist monotheism generally between human and divine personality. This is not a declaration of the death of God, but instead a reconceptualization of the place of creative transcendence in human experience.

These are conceptions of idealism in which ideality is always personality, in which all forms of ideality occur together in the living experience of some personality, structured as an elaborate “I”, the subject of a personal drama which is an individual’s life in the world. In the case of Leibniz, one of those personalities was unique by being divine. This idealism (conception of ideality) is special in the history of philosophy as a sharp contrast to more familiar kinds such as Platonic or Hegelian idealism in which the primary ideas are remote, impersonal, and cosmically scaled drivers of nature and history. Monadic idealism is much more compatible with the spirit of science than is creationist monotheism which includes disembodied angels and demons, and it makes sense of the claim that human nature is inclined and competent to conceive questions that enable discoveries and scientific knowledge, which mechanistic science itself fails to explain. (It isn’t enough to stipulate that knowledge comes from experience without accounting for questions.) Monadic idealism did not permanently imprint popular or intellectual culture because it is politically problematic: it does not denigrate human nature sufficiently to support existing political and other hierarchical institutions of social control. Any aspiration for cultural, social, and political change must be founded on idealism of some non-Platonic and non-Hegelian kind, and so such idealism will be feared and loathed by forces of conservatism.

This developmental arc of the conception of monadic ideality marks out the tendency of post-reformation Lutheran-stream Protestant idealism to retain a sense of transcendence (the creative freedom of ideality) but increasingly to relocate the occurrence of transcendence from a remote central deity to ordinary individual human personalities. The influence of Martin Luther (1483-1546) is behind the whole stream, with his conception of spiritually capable and independent individuals like himself, Bible readers, doubters and questioners, takers of mental leaps. The monadic idealism that emerged from Luther’s influence plays a crucial part in the spirit of protestantism that decisively shaped Euro-American Enlightenment along with the spirit of science, each protesting against authority. Modern people expect to be treated as Kant/Fichte-style monads without grasping the concept.

Note: The following philosophers were brought up in Lutheran households and communities: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Max Stirner (1806-56), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.

Philosophy in the Dystopian Context


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Fragment 157, word count: 552.

The pivotal dystopian feature of existing hive-mind-structured cultures is their denigrating concept of human nature. Hive minds are founded on an idea of human nature very far from creative free-agency at the level of the embodied individual; for example, on a conception such as Freud’s (in the tradition of Hobbes and Augustine): a human nature that is lethally dangerous (id) if not repressed by social control (superego). However, human psychology is so pervaded by social control that it is impossible to make reliable generalizations about human nature from either psychological phenomena or the history of human behaviour.

If acts of philosophical thinking are to be unprejudiced re-conceptualizations of the drama of existence, of existence structured in terms of caring, existence as experienced (something that matters), then de-culturing is the single crucial operation of philosophical action, not merely an incidental, occasional, or optional beginning. It is what is required for acquaintance with simple existence as ideality, as creative free-agency at the level of embodiment: a specifically oriented bearing into futurity, the point of view of a knowing, learning, and purposive gaze. Here is living human nature: to occupy, to dwell in, the reach or bearing beyond now and beyond no-longer, into an empty not-yet still to be created, the transcendent moment of ideality.

Any idealism asserts the existence of some supra-actual transcendence, creative fountain of surprises. Such transcendence has overwhelmingly been conceived, as in Plato’s idealism, as separate from the individual person, operating in some manner that is remote from embodied living. The tendency of Lutheran-stream Protestant idealism is to retain a sense of transcendence (the creative freedom of ideality) but increasingly to relocate the occurrence of transcendence from a remote central deity to individual human personalities. We see this worked out through a series of post-reformation Lutheran philosophers: Leibniz, Kant, Fichte.

The context of philosophical thinking is an age-old historical drama structured around the dystopian culture of patriarchal dominance, expressing the idea of deity by imposing the will of the strongest (imperialist exceptionalism) and culturing hive minds for compliance. Various intuitions of free-agent idealism, in which the individual, as a fountain of creativity and freedom, is conceived and treated as inherently greater than the cultured conceptions of any hive mind, have regularly found the courage to resist assertions that rights are the exceptional property of the strongest. A striking example of one articulation of that contrary intuition is expressed in Kant’s idea of universal maxims, formalizations of simple empathy. As anyone is capable of forming these maxims, everyone’s fundamental duty is universal empathy, recognizing all sentient beings as ends, bearers of rights from their transcendent manner of existence.

The idea of a divine plan and a supernatural planner who irresistibly determines everything has been crucial in legitimizing the lethal power of patriarchal sovereignty. The idea of totalitarian natural law has been used to the same effect. The tendency of scientific materialism is to eliminate transcendence, leaving a desolation of utter predictability: the future will be the same as the past. However, the supra-actuality of creative ideality at the level of the embodied individual completely negates those assumptions. Not-yet is empty and undetermined, to be created out of the transcendent moment of ideality in vast multitudes of individuals.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Dreaming Boys


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Fragment 156, word count: 179.

The idea of an emotionless super-intelligence has fascinated certain male culture pods throughout history. Rationalist philosophers and theologians from all three Abrahamic religious cultures, for example, developed in medieval and early modern times conceptions of God as an emotionless super-intelligence, the ultimate rationality, who must be trusted to conduct the world infallibly, unhampered by the limitations and weaknesses of human judgments. Since the acts and pronouncements of that intelligence are based on complete omniscience, utterly beyond human abilities, the resulting voice and hand of God are beyond the constraints of ethics and morality as conceived by humans. It is now computer engineers and mathematicians, urged on by investors, corporate executives, strategic and military planners, and authoritarian politicians who dream of an emotionless super-intelligence whose access to vast oceans of data make it completely unimpeachable by ethics and morality in providing them with unlimited power and wealth. The dreaming boys strive to fashion a mightier person than the girls make in the usual way, but the dream of a master has become the dream of a slave.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

The Single Exception


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Fragment 155, word count: 1,234.

It is impossible to understand history without some insight into human hive mind, since the conflicts of national hive minds loom large in historical narrative. Hive minds are not merely societies in which the vast majority of people hold the same ideas about what has value and why hierarchy and authority are noble and worthy of trust, they are societies in which a majority habitually turns to institutional voices for explanations and narratives that define them in relation to some pivotal and essential drama of human existence. Philosophy is a problematic presence in all such societies because a crucial aspect of philosophy is discovering or inventing ways of de-culturing, ways to negate hive mind influences for a personal experience of things from Socratic innocence. In Euro-American capitalism, various degrees of deception, selective presentation and de-contextualizing of facts, outright propaganda and censorship, are always required to glorify a drama of conflict and competition; incentive and reward systems focused on scarce trophy properties and gradients of prestige, precedence, and celebrity as prizes for strength, conquest, and dominance. Science, claiming final authority on reality, endorses this as the drama imposed by nature.

Before we declare any set of psychological purposes to be definitive of being human, it is necessary to shift perspectives by asking what kind of existence is required for the occurrence of any purpose, and the answer is existence as ideality. Any purpose is anticipation of non-actual situations as settings for self-initiated actions, and as such pure ideality. No sentient being could consistently deny the existence of such ideas, and all forms of ideality occur in clusters commonly recognized as embodied personalities. The existence of a personality is precisely a living with purpose, and purpose or reason is a specifically directed bearing of creative ideation, the opening of a pathway with many branches into possible futures. Time is not something of sensation. All that is ever in sensation is some particular condition or stimulus. Perceiving objects is always the act of a personality reading a shape of surroundings into sensory stimulations from a personally constructed universe of ideality. Time has to be posited in ideality, by a living/ forward thinking personality. Time as future is an indeterminate world of possibilities and impossibilities, probabilities of various degrees, from the point of view of a knowing, learning, and purposive gaze. Since purposive ideality is always transforming itself in a creative arc, it is the source, the fountain of creativity from which value comes into existence. There is no competition for the gratification of creativity.

Ideality is a violation of the mechanistic conception of the world. It is a supra-actuality with some power, at the level of the embodied individual, to override the mechanistic fall-lines of what would be predictable from iron laws of nature. The existence of purposes isn’t a bounded structure in the manner of objects, since it must include the spontaneous creation and realization of novel purposes and so breaks through the limitations that the perspective of mechanistic explanation would impose on human nature. Self-recognition as the living transcendence which is ideality, consciousness, teleology, as the personal future-designing of a self-thinking idea, is both discovery of deep individuality and of the universality of the predicament of embodied agency, of a being who enters a condition of living freedom by positing (creating and projecting) the non-actuality of time. The essential drama of human existence is here. Nature is dead weight within the iron laws of falling. There is no freedom without teleology and teleology necessarily posits the continuous approach, arrival, and passing of specific possibilities.

The main discovery enabled by de-culturing is, obviously, your own personal existence, and the kind of existence it is. The example of Descartes’ method of skeptical doubt illustrates this. It brought Descartes very directly to such an encounter, to Cartesian innocence. The only reality we can possibly experience is reality as experienced, and such reality must always be partly formed by being experienced. Through de-culturing you become conscious as the experiencing dimension of reality, spiritual existence. This living of personality is a drama poised between misery and ecstasy, and drama is no part of brute actuality because it is a fabric of caring ideality, a desperate process of opening an existence. Since that is constant reorientation, constructing purposes and bearings within a sense of placement and context far more elaborate than the brute actuality of what is perceived here and now, the de-cultured encounter is the discovery of ideality or spirituality, the knowing and desperate gaze of consciousness.

In the ideological context of science, in which human behaviour is conceived as the strict working of mechanisms, say, biological mechanisms forming psychological mechanisms, there is inevitably a political race to control the mechanisms. There are many groups with great wealth working diligently to control mass behaviour for their own profit via such service providers as Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, in addition to legacy advertising media. Developments in behavioural and social science in combination with mass data analysis have added sophistication, effectiveness, and stealth to such control efforts. Academics do not work for free, and large scale investors and corporations control the flow of money. Modernity is an age of scientifically engineered messaging, of corporate, political, and ideological efforts to control public opinion and population behaviour, streamed pervasively through mass media, all at the command of groups with the ability to mobilize great wealth. The function of government is to keep the majority compliant in support of the value-culture of the class of the wealthy, within its tradition of proclaiming a national hive mind. The value-culture is a celebration of trophy property, consumption, and competition as primary values, maintaining the existing profile of value in capital property, sparkly wealth trappings, and effective control over the patterns of work and consumption that support this cultural edifice. Elected officials with advisors and assistants spin out narratives based on a perceived duty to mediate between factions with established wealth/power and the ordinary majority of wage-earning and tax-paying people. The message that serves the purpose of politics will always be what seems to reconcile a mass audience to the expectations or whims of the most powerful. What that propertied class insists on is the reliable increase in the value of their possessions, driven by a vision of human nature as primarily motivated by competition and trophy possession, by belief in competitive envy and greed as core drives. Adherence to that idea is crucial to the capitalist hive mind. Of course science has been marshalled to champion this as the brute mechanism of nature. Philosophical de-culturing is the only counter-force available to any individual, the single exception and portal to universal dignity from inherent creativity. From the perspective of de-cultured consciousness the individual is always bigger than any particular drama declared foundational for a hive mind collective, bigger than placements on offer within competitive hierarchies or culturally identified functions (tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor). If government weren’t a lynchpin in controlling the mechanisms of human motivation as an instrument of a propertied class, it could instead express and cultivate a sense of human personality as creative spiritual autonomy at the level of the individual, and defend that against groups which strive to profit parasitically from narrating a collective drama as the rhythmic buzz of a hive mind.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

The Only Reality


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Fragment 154, word count: 201.

The only reality we can possibly experience is reality as experienced, and such reality must always be partly formed by being experienced, which is to say, by being brought into the drama which is the life of some personality. Spiritual existence, the living of personalities, is inherently dramatic, a personal drama which would be no part of brute actuality. Spirituality is the caring dimension of any experience, and it is caring which shapes experience into the drama of its life.

The strictly here and now would be where the brute actuality of nature would exist, completely bereft of spirituality and of the drama which is the life of spirituality. If you try to “be here now” you find that here and now are defined by there and then: by ideas, non-actualities. To strive to “be-here-now” is life-negating, life-denying, life-rejecting, in the same way as reverence for eternity is. To seek the spiritual nothingness of the “eternal now” is to give up your voice, which exists only through time, as well as to give up creative free agency, which requires time to impose ideas, which is to say, personality, onto the ever emerging shape of things.

Please see Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.



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Fragment 153, word count: 458.

The process of maturing into the activities of an adult member of society requires becoming increasingly cultured in a range of skills and knowledge. People go to schools and universities to acquire more and more culture in specific areas, and certain social factions claim superiority and authority because of especially cultured practices and attitudes. There is a single exception to the pursuit of more and higher culture: philosophy. Students in philosophy do acquire arcane culture in the history of ideas, linguistics, and logic, for example. However, the exceptional thing is that, since (“My wisdom is knowing I know nothing.”) Socrates, philosophy is also a matter of undertaking the difficult task of discovering how to be innocently original, how to de-culture, to become sensitive to the influences of culture on assumptions and patterns of thinking and to recognize the random arbitrariness of much cultural content. The method of systematic doubt and questioning described by Descartes is another familiar example, and his is just a particular presentation of a wider application of skepticism in philosophical thinking. This work is a serious de-culturing process, the same one required to negate the effects of colonization, which is hostile cultural influence asserting the superiority of one culturally constructed hive mind over others. There is extreme danger in cultural constructs that can be characterized as collective identity, human hive minds. Hive minds make war, and no anti-war effort will be effective without dealing with that reality. Philosophy is precisely a personal disengagement from hive mind influences, a mental operation for arranging to experience from the innocence of personal questioning and discovery. Regrettably, this has not prevented numerous philosophers from embracing and advocating for their chosen hive minds, partly because it has been difficult to recognize these collective identities as the dangerous cultural constructs they are rather than as parts of nature or inevitable projections of psychology. There is more to culture than hive mind construction and neither culture nor individual meaning and purpose requires hive mind constructs.

Just as any assertion of scientific knowledge must implicitly assert, as well as exemplify, a human nature competent to discover and understand scientific truths about nature, so any philosophical assertion must claim a human force of orientation competent, at the level of the embodied individual, to perform abstract reconceptualization of experience itself, of human existence itself, a general human competence to be free of hive mind influences. Being a person is bigger than being a citizen or member of any collective or cultural community. This is largely because of bogus ideas in cultures that bind collectives into hive minds. It is everybody’s duty as a person to enlarge the restrictive cultures, to make room for individuals to express the original creativity of innocent humanity.

There is more on hive mind here:

Fragment 106, May 10, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (1)

Fragment 107, May 18, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (2)

Fragment 112, August 2, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (3)

Fragment 132, August 15, 2018, Life after Hive-Mind

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.



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Fragment 152, word count: 296.

Any politically left view must express a recognition that the most important human gratifications are not from things gained in competitions, so not property, and especially not scarce types of property, not trophies of any kind. Since the normal and traditional concept of sovereign government is a set of institutions for the preservation and protection of property ownership and the rights of property ownership, there is a discord between leftist politics and normal government. Truly leftist politics is inherently antagonistic to traditional sovereignty’s structural focus on protecting property possession. There is a politically crucial division between the class of people in possession of sufficient property to provide them with significant income and the class of people without income-providing property who must sell their work, skills, or knowledge to support themselves. The propertied class always imagines that the unpropertied seek to take possession of their property for themselves, to replace them as the propertied class. That is the interpretation of “revolution” in the propertied hive mind, but it is not a truly leftist aspiration. Competitive hierarchies need stark “us against them” conceptual constructs: master/ slave, predator/ prey, victor/ vanquished, but those dichotomies are foreign to the leftist outlook, just as envy is. The desperate force of envy and avarice is seen in eagerness for competitions and trophies. The leftist aspiration is to delight in gratifications which fountain up from the interior of personal intelligence, creative impulses of all kinds, often expressed in an interplay among different voices, and to celebrate impulses to nurture, to become skillful, and to expand knowledge and understanding. Progress for the left is a reformation of attitudes and experiences of gratification at the level of every individual, a disengagement from the cultured hive mind of dominance, and a discovery of self-possession.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Being Human


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Fragment 151, word count: 367.

The historical rise and accomplishments of the political left-wing in opposition to perennial oligarchic dominance is what makes the Euro-American cultural system actually special. The rise and survival of the political left expresses an intuition that the nature of persons as supra-actual points and enduring arcs of purposeful ideality, self-orienting within a sensed, guessed, and unstable surroundings, is such that we have a self-sourced mission or project beyond becoming a satisfied or even ecstatic eating machine, work supplier in a production system, or follower of commands as the belonging of a hive. Two vectors of ancient philosophy which were already leaning left were, first, an effort to get rid of superstitious myths about capricious divine personalities such as the Olympian gods and demons; and second, to clarify the peculiar existence of the gaze of personal consciousness, opening onto, and questing into surroundings of shifting and drifting possibilities and impossibilities as the context and meaning of brute actualities. The cultural imperative for universal literacy, mass education, free-ranging research and philosophical enquiry, and democratic influence on institutions of sovereignty, all express a striving for open-ended individual empowerment, a sense that existing societies are all too small to contain or express the whole of any individual. This spirit of the left affirms that education should provide individuals with the means to understand and take a substantial measure of participation and control in the ongoing evolution of society and culture.

The dominant orientation in folk societies is backward-looking. In traditional societies time is an eternally recurring circle or wheel. What was done in the past is so revered that it is assigned the status of metaphysical template of what society should be and do forever. From the influence of thinking on the political left, modernity has a different conception of time in which both futurity and temporal anteriority are considered absolutely unique. Modernity embraces progress as a requirement for health and well-being because the past is recognized as pervaded by ignorance, superstition, oppression, monotony, poverty, and the conformity imposed by myths of an urgent need for strength in numbers, from which even the most advanced societies are still only beginning to emerge.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.

Philosophy is Possible


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Fragment 150, word count: 428.

Philosophy as an interior act and process of self-directed reorientation is possible because of a personally interior fountain of spirituality: questions, intents, evaluations, abstractions and ideas which give structure and movement to experience. Ideas are always and only features of an individual person’s orientation and temporal bearing in the world, but everyone’s ideas are influenced and often imposed by an ambient culture. Every individual is colonized by the culture into which he or she is born. Agents of cultural communities strive to particularize, distinguish, and glorify their collective by stipulating key communal ideas to form a human sort of hive mind. The posture of philosophical questioning arises from recognizing that lived reality is mutable because ideas make up much of the structure of that reality, and that generally accepted cultural stipulations are often just superstitions and toxic misconceptions. Philosophy as an interior act and process is a personal assertion of spiritual individuality by moving beyond cultural stipulations. This builds from features of experience that would be just as they are without a person having learned to be part of a nation, a religious community, an ethnic group, a linguistic community, a socio-economic class, race, or gender; encountering the way personality lives beyond and beneath any cultural qualifiers and categories such as linguistic ethnicity, skin colour, body size and shape, age, giftedness, education, social status, or nationality. Here in Socratic innocence is a spiritual fountain positing non-actualities in the shape of time, anticipating the ever decreasing remoteness of multiple possibilities, variously probable occurrences presenting opportunities for acts of agency to improvise an embodied life in the world. In positing time as it does, personality creates teleology, freedom, and itself as active and effective ideality. Freedom is the power to posit. Rocks and rivers don’t posit anything, but only fall.

Certainly there is the brute actuality of rocks and rivers, but there are also active occurrences of supra-actuality, separate embodied points and arcs of intervention  imposing locally invented novelty onto the shape of the fall lines of actuality. Any politics conceived for a strong nurture of freedom must recognize this spontaneous creativity, novelty, and indeterminacy within brute actuality, a conception of transcendence at the level of the embodied individual. Philosophy as the interior act and process of a particular supra-actuality calls up the perspective of sentient being simply as such, of teleological being, living personality in the most general sense. In removing itself spiritually from culturally structured collectives, in finding the way to be most alone, this interior act must embrace the most universal empathy.

Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.