The Metaphysics is You



, , , , , , , , , ,

Fragment 185, word count: 505.

tags: philosophy, metaphysics, dystopia, embodiment, personality, reality, politics, culture, nature, freedom, Plato.

Rarely does an individual have much control over the evolutionary momentum of multigenerational cultural entities such as religions, sovereign states, cities, industries, or institutions such as armies and war, universities and literacy. A lifetime is barely enough to get a well contextualized sense of what they are. We behold them for a heartbeat, a blink, as we transform through the life cycle of a human animal. This combines with generational amnesia, the personal-level, deeply experienced knowledge lost with the mortality of each generation, and also with the new-generation’s  innocence and its inclination to have a joyful life in a joyful world. Biologically, our lives are expressed in bodies which are at some moment in an arc of species mutation already in progress for some unthinkable duration. We live the gifts and limitations of our moment in that long arc of mutation. It is not surprising then that, socially, accommodations are made for whatever activities and systems of relationship are practiced at our moment of intervention, even if they have a dystopian core, because often enough that seems to make it easier to find some joy in being alive. This makes a certain sort of philosophical work almost impossible.

Assertions about primordial reality, specifically of a fixed and eternal structure of existence, are always canonized in dystopia to support an exploitative social hierarchy, and that is why philosophy, as a critique of thinking about primordial existence and reality, is inherently political and ultimately unavoidable. For example, the commanding heights of Plato’s conception of metaphysical reality, typical of dystopia, exist somewhere on the invisible far side of objects, a substrate behind the impersonally given world of objective things. They are meant to make sense of how the never-ceasing fluidity of familiar things can be connected to a stability profound enough to count as essential reality. On that view, the situation may be tragic, but it is nature and you can’t change nature. Things are what they must be, manifesting an existential bedrock of categories and laws. Although canonical, this is only wild speculation.

There is an opposing metaphysics of primordial existence, a conception that denies any categorical commanding heights. In the most straightforward way, you are the metaphysics in your world, the living ideality here on the near side of phenomena. All forms of ideality occur 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. Ideality is always personality, the creative transcendence of ordinary, individual-level, temporal agency living a creativity that transcends nature and makes what sense it will of the physical or divine givens of nature. There may be a system of stark givens, but it has no intrinsic purposes, doesn’t matter to itself and cannot care, and that system has no immutable grip on the conceptions of us agents of temporal ideality. Social systems derived from this metaphysical source can be perfectly free of any influences from the patterns of organization in brute actuality.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What Knowing Is



, , , , , , ,

Fragment 184, word count: 198.

tags: existence, reality, drama, physics, metaphysics, spirituality, time, transcendence.

Spirituality has nothing to do with immortality, eternity, or qualifying for immortality. Instead, spirituality is bringing drama to existence, so, knowing the passing of time.

Awareness of the boundless world of enduring structures and processes, cycles repeating within cycles, a world that doesn’t matter to itself and doesn’t care, discover, or regret but goes on existing and shape shifting, structured and complex but just falling through the ways of least resistance: physical reality! Any beholding and knowing such physical reality expresses and demonstrates an order of existence which is different and higher than physics, an order of existence which does care and which questions, discovers, supposes, and contextualizes: the order of existence which is ordinary subjective spirituality. The physical universe cannot identify you and me, but we identify the physical universe. The physical universe can’t care what happens. It doesn’t wonder or fashion a demeanour expressing curiosity or determination. In no sense can it identify and remember the features of a context for initiatives, a framework of orientation and purpose. Metaphysical reality is exactly the power to construct some understanding of the system of physical reality, to construct an appreciation of the existence of a world of objects.

Another step:

Fragment 182, November 4, 2021, The Thrill of It (word count: 335).

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.

What are Ideas?



, , , , , ,

Fragment 183, Word count: 375.

Various answers to the question “What are ideas?” mostly have in common that ideas exemplify a distinct immaterial face of existence. Idealism encompasses answers to that question which emphasize the foundational or primordial status of such immaterial existence. Essentialist idealism presents ideas as primordial templates for the categories of all things that exist, absolutely independent of any living consciousness, excepting possibly a unique eternal divine consciousness. These ideas are prior to the rest of existence in some profound sense and supposedly cause the rest of existence. As exemplified by Platonic idealism, there is a certain sense of metaphysics presented by essentialist idealism: a primordial reality that is profoundly different, in its immutable immateriality, from the world of ordinary appearances, a reality of predetermined forever templates for the forms that any physical existence must take.

A non-essentialist idealism presents a very different sense of metaphysics: ideas are ephemeral features which shape the frame-work of orientation that guides the future-ward tilt or bearing of some living individual. Ideas exist only in the intentional agency of living individuals. Instead of standing as eternally enduring categories and structures, the special genius of ideality is its fluid subsistence by leaping ceaselessly into losses and novel opportunities expressing personal dramas of caring; plunging, partly falling, into an ever-just-opening non-existence, evaluating the uncertain prospects for improvisations of personal dramas within a mix of expected and unexpected circumstances and expressive impulses. There is no question here of ideas existing separately from the living of particular sentient and intentional agents. Even as such, ideas cannot be left out of a description of fundamental existence, of what there is, since they present an undeniable complication to neat conceptions of reality as fixed, atomized, and final. As necessarily temporal and immaterial (even though organized as embodied), ideas are anomalous existences, inseparable from the subjectivity of personal experiences. Ideality is still metaphysical but its meta-physicality is in its living spontaneity and creative agency, in its sentient-intentionality at the raw ever-becoming edge of existence. Human existence is living: experience-derived anticipation as context and inspiration for important intentions and aspirations. It is an actively reaching incompleteness or openness to existence at its core: discontinuous, multiple, monadic, locally limited, ephemeral.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The Thrill of It



, , , , , , , ,

Fragment 182, word count: 335.

tags: romanticism, science, spirituality, embodiment, history, privilege, enchantment, Christendom, magic, 

With the explosion of mathematical science as an effective and prestigious ideology radiating from the Republic of Letters in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe, there emerged among culture-pods with long-established privilege and dominance, both religion based and military/ property based, a sharp sense of loss and nostalgia for the thrilling fear and wonder of pre-modern Christendom: a culture gripped in the drama of intervention by gods, angels, demons, witches, and sorcerers, all cashing out as supernatural justifications for established privilege and dominance. Romanticism was one expression of that sense of loss and nostalgia, an heroic effort to re-enchant the modernizing world by conflating deity and nature. It was an effort to rescue the concept of nature from scientific mechanization, insisting that nature is a single living divinity with foresight, memory, discretionary will, aesthetic judgments, and powers far beyond those commonly perceived, power to overcome its own normal regularity.

Those efforts at re-enchantment, reviving the fear and thrill of Christendom, were futile and misdirected. Even in the absence of magic, deities, demons, or personified nature, the fact of any living subjectivity always enchants existence as a whole. The fact that spirituality is structured as a distinct body among other animate individuals with whom each fashions an apparently ordinary life does not erase its wonder and transcendence. Embodiment is the foundational structuring principle of spirituality. Sensation, so perception, is structured in the shape of the body. Deliberate personal interventions into a given exterior surroundings, making objective markings, are movements of a person’s body. The capabilities of body movements and their range of forces impose a shape on personal intentions to mark the objective world. Still, any subjectivity is a gaze from inside unique dreams at the spring of a personal self-injection into exterior surroundings. Enchantment radiates in that gaze itself, from the interiority at the source of every outward reach. Spirituality, the desperate living will, the knowing, questioning, learning, and creating will, is the enchantment, the mystery and wonder of existence.


Fragment 121, January 12, 2018, Welcome to Metaphysics (word count: 1,312).

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The Loneliest Un-Loneliness


, , , , , , , , ,

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.

Existence and New Reality


, , , , , , , ,

Fragment 180, word count: 505.

Tags: actuality, creation, learning, supposing, intending, time, ideas, Plato, eternity.

There are only two explanations for there being something instead of nothing. There is existence as intentional act OR as non-intentional mere occurrence. In other words, the something that is our world is either a willful intervention by some pre-supposing ideality, the effective personal expression of some monad of caring, knowing, and supposing intentionality, OR an inexplicable random cascading instability, perhaps manifesting a fundamental and eternally given nature which makes all particular occurrences pre-determined, but which itself, having no prior matrix, is perfectly random. This second explanation is a variant of materialist determinism. Neither of these two conceptions should be ignored, because ordinary experience combines both, and they stand in a special relation to one another. The cascading instability of actuality has only an exclusively single-state instantaneous existence, but that existence is an instability, a particular wave shape just arrived from a completed arc of other individually exclusive shapes utterly vanished and gone, and yet still bursting at the incomplete bursting edge of existence toward another arc of merely possible shapes and more or less probable shapes. Within that bursting-forth, instantly vanishing, vast cascading unstable actuality, we fragile monads of sentience endure by continuously aggregating a personal orientation from since-vanished shapes that we noticed and learned because they matter to our dramas of survival and attachment. Vanished and possible arcs of the nature-wave have current existence only as ideality in the ever-refreshing orientation of particular sentient intentional monads living an embodied life within actuality. With our orientation and our effective embodiment and our dramatic vectors of care we create intentional interventions, novelties, spur-of-the-moment new reality. Monadic sensibility/ intentionality is always on the point of arriving from playing out dramas within a learned shape of circumstances, still continuing to burst forth into hopes, quests, possibilities, and probabilities, with intent to continue a specifically personal mark. Momentary and always re-shaping features of actuality are personalized in the curation of every particularly embodied sensibility/ intentionality. The dramatic poise of a monad is entirely distinct from deterministic actuality through its just-created directionality.

The only straightforward way of conceiving a sentient intentional monad oriented for an intervention with intent to create new reality requires the monad to be already oriented within some state of actuality. This disqualifies any impulse to project intentional intervention universally as the original matrix of all existence. It leaves us with the inexplicable random cascading instability as a pre-condition for intentional acts by any sentient intentional monad, such as ourselves.

In cultures under the influence of Plato, ideality (spirituality) is identified with immortality and eternally stable and unchanging existence, but that is exactly not the experiential presence of ideality, which is always bearing into and enlarging into the incompleteness of ephemeral suppositions, pushing into ideas as the world falls. Aliveness, the living of life, living personhood, is inextricable from the ceaseless opening and passing of event-full time, and every living person is a co-creator of that opening of new reality.

Embedded link:

Fragment 177, May 31, 2021, The World that Matters (word count: 450)

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Knowing is Caring



, , , , , , , , ,

Fragment 179, word count: 621.

Tags: caring, knowledge, learning, sensibility, phenomenology, sensation, time, representation, evidence, Edmund Husserl.

Caring is more important than sensation in the perception of anything, and caring is personal. Knowledge is always dependent on and derived from someone’s caring. It is always an elaboration, specification, and development of caring. Knowing is a personal effect and consequence of caring. That means that perception, as a means of coming to know, is also an application of caring, a personal act of anchoring care in certain particular actualities presenting as phenomena. Caring and what it is that cares are not adequately presented by a description of the most immediate actualities to which this caring is anchored. You can’t get anywhere near understanding the richness of a moment of personal caring (the living moment of a sensibility/ intentionality*) by mapping the most evident actualities it is conscious of. Phenomena don’t count as anything without being identified within the context of a perceiving sensibility. Larger dramatic vectors of personal caring are necessarily involved. Not only is the gaze of consciousness a gaze into nature from a particularly embodied drama, it is also a creative act in the drama, a move forward motivated by personal drama, and meaningful because of the essentially dramatic integration of knowledge and personally intended interventions. A perceiving and learning gaze is a personal drama in the act of building and playing out, of extending itself by going on living in the world.

Since Edmund Husserl (1858-1938), a definitive move of philosophical Phenomenology is to remove any suggestion of deriving from perception any knowledge of a Kantian “thing in itself” as absolute reality, so, bracketing off the question: does this experienced appearance represent something that is completely independent of being perceived?. What is bracketed off is the question of the representation of phenomena, the question of whether or not they represent, depict, or disclose some existent object which is independent in its reality of being perceived or not being perceived, being cared about or not. In this context, phenomena are technical objects of consciousness definable with maps of sensations, positioned quanta of sensory stimuli with specific qualities. They are impersonal arrangements of appearances (sense data) that may suggest an internal integrity. “To the things!” declare Husserl’s phenomenologists.

However, instead of putting attention on what might or might not be on the ‘far side’ of phenomena as given in sensations, it is decisively more important to deal with what is on the ‘near side’ of phenomena, the source of caring that is reaching future-ward through its sensory display. No matter what uncertainty there might be about sensory appearances as true depictions of impersonal actualities that lie beyond, there can be no doubt that the shape of caring in phenomena truly represents a personal sensibility and intentionality*.

Fragment 123, February 8, 2018, Brentano’s Gift (word count: 999)

Fragment 165, July 5, 2020, The Genius of Ephemerality (word count: 595)

In spite of the fact that the technical definition of phenomena excludes the personal, there is a sense in which actual phenomena must always represent a person, by a kind of backward representation. A personal ideality is always the matrix of phenomena. Whatever definitions might be imposed on phenomena, they are primordially experiences, and experiences are always acts of an experiencing sensibility, a person living a particularly embodied life. The most important representation by phenomena is a person, what it is that cares and brings caring to this existence. Caring is personal, a complex personal vector of drama within a willful sensibility. It isn’t possible to reveal what it is that cares and constructs a life of dramatic movements of caring by using descriptions of phenomena that bracket off the desperate ephemerality of what is personal. Although what-it-is-that-cares is never a phenomenon, the existence of phenomena is necessarily the existence of a unique dramatic ideality that is expressing its caring in its engagement with these phenomena.

  • ‘Intentionality’ in the sense of a pre-conceiving of future interventions in actuality for specific purposes, a poise within the anticipatory ideation of agency.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

The Edge of Existence


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

The World that Matters



, , , , , , ,

Fragment 177, word count: 450.

Tags: sociability, human attachment, war, caring, perception, knowing, collective identity, herd mind.

Recognizing the presence of a separately embodied intelligence, another caring, sensitive, knowledge-building, and future-opening agent, is a different order of perception from recognizing sand or a piece of wood. There is a kind of perceiving going on in the recognition of another future-inventing agent that requires something other than an empirical explanation. Recognition of caring is crucial in this perceiving and another person’s caring is not an arrangement of sense-data, not a visual impression nor any other sensory impression. Sensory perception cannot assemble an objective image of whatever questing sensibility is expressing the arc of its personal drama in its acts, a drama formed of complex expectations, vectors of intention in action, and this moment of open possibility. Sensibilities as creative shapers of actuality require a conception such as ideality or intentionality that distinguishes them from strictly perceivable actuality. There is an absolute dependence on inherently personal, interior, sources of knowing in the recognition of another sensibility, since familiarity with sensibility as such is entirely self-acquaintance. This is more like a rationalist sort of knowing. * You know your own sensibility by self-creating and inhabiting your drama. We find in the presence of other caring agents a reflection and a variation of our own dramas of fear and delight, misery and ecstasy, and there is an irresistible sense of enlargement, of energy and exciting possibility, in this not being alone.

It isn’t long into a person’s life before the most important and interesting focus of awareness is an ambient collective of separately embodied intelligences: bodies expressing the spirituality, ideality, or intentionality that is caring sensitivity, searching curiosity, and ever-increasing knowledge in aid of the actualization of personally created intentions. Of course a person learns a sense of location within a structure of surfaces and objects, of food, shelter, and footings for power-projecting activities, but constellations of other people displaying caring intentionality always form the core and organizing pattern of the world that matters.

Hive Minds Make War

The reality that hive minds make war confronts us with the challenge of conceiving a way for people to express and enjoy the profound human talent for interpersonal attachment and social interconnectedness without constructing or participating in collective identities which prevent personal creativity from forming an identity grounded on spiritual autonomy and individual agency. We can be sure that the surrounding population of separately embodied idealities remains personally crucial even when an individual dismisses the misconceptions, prejudices, and superstitions which form the common currency of a human hive mind, herd mind, or collective identity. In the arc of human interconnectedness, the socio-cultural formation of herd identities, hive-mind identities, will become an artifact of the past.

 * Compare Avicenna’s “inner senses”, in particular: wahm. The sheep recognizes the wolf’s hostility. This is empathic recognition of an outside intelligence with conscious intent and emotional force in that intent. See p. 137 of:

Philosophy in the Islamic World: Volume 3 of: A History of Philosophy without any gaps, written by Peter Adamson, published by Oxford University Press (2016), ISBN 978-0-19-957749-1.

Embedded links:

Fragment 124, February 19, 2018, The World that Doesn’t Matter (word count: 750).

Fragment 112, August 2, 2017, Social Contract as Hive Mind (3) (word count: 390).

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.

Nietzsche’s Drama



, , , , , , , ,

Fragment 176, word count: 895.

Tags: embodiment, spirituality, nihilism, Christendom, Copernicus, Darwin, creativity, culture, individuality.

Christianity taught, and European Christendom accepted for centuries, that the human spiritual drama, our unique opportunity for ethical elevation by coming to know and align with the transcendent deity, is the purpose of all existence. Humans were thought to be the primary achievement of the all-creating God. Born as an exile into an initial state of disgrace within the lusts, pains, and thrills of a mortal body, each human is capable of recognizing its existence as more authentically one of transcendent spirituality and changing its way of life to express that spirituality. The worldly society of Christendom, controlled at all levels by the hierarchy and laws of the Roman Church in partnership with the secular military aristocracy, was accepted as the means by which individuals were guided to the spiritual life, a state of grace whose reward was blissful immortality. In the sixteenth century, within a broad advance of science, Nicolaus Copernicus discovered and revealed that the human home planet was not the centre of God’s cosmos, suggesting a more marginal status for human being. In the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin presented findings suggesting that humans are indistinguishable from animals, just naked apes, driven by instinctive drives and passions beyond individual control, with no qualitative specialness placing us in a uniquely elevated category. For much of the educated stratum of nineteenth century Europe, this apparent loss of human standing in the great scheme of things was a revelation of nihilism, a catastrophic loss of purpose and value. This was the context in which Nietzsche conceived his mission of thinking.

With God removed from the human situation, the Christian drama of existence faded out and with it the sense of meaning and purpose derived from that drama. Reflecting on human history soon reveals that no eventual outcome of biological evolution can give value and meaning to human existence, since it is unknowable, nor can the historical progress of human civilization do it since that reveals no verifiable arc toward a fulfillment. In the absence of these large structures as navigational guides the problem of meaning and purpose becomes entirely the individual’s problem and actually defines, on Nietzsche’s view, the monadic singularity of the human individual, the loneliest loneliness. As it happens, however, the fundamental nature or quality of individual spirit, the will to power, contains within itself a dramatic dynamic capable of achieving happiness, and so defeating nihilism.

For Nietzsche, the universal ethical and existential imperative for every individual is self-perfection, though that achievement is possible only for strong domineering spirits. Only the strongest spirits are capable of the happiness of self-perfection because only the strongest are capable of self-domination or self-overcoming by sublimating the instinctive animal impulses (Dionysian) into products of a dominant personal rationality (Apollonian), imposing a unifying form and style on all expressions of that sublimated energy. This Dionysian – Apollonian dialectic is the intrinsic dynamic of the will to power, the fundamental living force. Culture that is elevating to behold and appropriate is created from the sublimation of bestial impulses and instincts. Even though those impulses and instincts originate in and always declare the body, without them there is no energy to be sublimated into high art and culture. Strong and passionate impulses require an even stronger force of rationality to impose form and style on them. Artists and philosophers, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Socrates, are typically the people who discipline themselves to sublimate their great passions into creative activities. Nietzsche calls such spirits ubermensch, higher men, the only people of value in his estimation because in the ecstasy of their original creation they uniquely manifest authentic individuality. Specimens of higher men are rare and occur unpredictably in various times, societies, races, and ethnic groups, and it seems that for Nietzsche they are “The Elect”, forever predetermined for blessedness. The rest of us are a herd of doomed beasts of no interest or value, sometimes spiritualized to some extent by encountering the achievements of the higher ones.

There are striking similarities between Nietzsche’s conception of the drama and tragedy of existence and the previously dominant one from Christendom. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran clergyman and the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. Separation of people into The Elect and the damned is one similarity. Both dramas involve a tension or dialectic between animal embodiment and some version of a transcendent spirituality which exerts itself against animality and offers a happier and more authentically meaningful life. In Nietzsche’s version, however, the impulses of the body are never left behind but always remain the source of life’s energy. In addition, Nietzsche’s spiritualizing, sublimating, force is militant rationality, giver of expressive form, stability, and style, replacing the poor Christian spirit of meek obedient submission, self-denial, mortification of the flesh, and altruism.

Such was Nietzsche’s revaluation of all values. It is philosophically unusual in recasting the Christian drama by eliminate a commanding and controlling deity while still finding a way to divide blessed from damned. That vision clearly doesn’t defeat nihilism for everyone, only for the precious few his message was apparently designed to reach. However, if we discount Nietzsche’s peculiar aristocratic exclusivity, we can appreciate his “Yes” to embodiment as inseparable from the ecstasy of personal creativity, his close attention to the interior experience of creativity and its independence from any conformist herd mind.

Sources and Inspirations

Walter Kaufmann’s book was the source for the sketch of Nietzsche’s philosophy included in this posting.

Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, written by Walter Kaufmann, published by Princeton University Press (1950), foreword by Alexander Nehamas (2013), ISBN 978-0-691-16026-9.

Zarathustra’s Secret, written by Joachim Kohler, translated from German by Ronald Taylor, Published by Yale University Press (English edition June 2002), ISBN-10: 0300092784, ISBN-13: 978-0300092783.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.