This posting (number 116) is 955 words.
Bottom-up political arrangements will never be broadly effective in any culture dominated by top-down metaphysics, because bottom-up political arrangements conflict openly with a top-down view of the world. Any system of reality that includes the idea of a cosmic moral reckoning such as karma, or any other reward and punishment after death, is top-down metaphysics, personification of nature on the grand scale. Platonic Ideal Forms or any other metaphysics ascribing primacy to some conception of eternal Being or a Great Chain of Being are also examples of top-down metaphysics. Bottom-up political arrangement will never be appropriately effective in cultures dominated by such ideas because conceptions of metaphysics are taken as templates for the proper assembling of social structures. Such ideas are meant to supply the framework in personal superego constructs, to effect the spiritual subordination of individuals, and as such they have to be dismissed for autonomous thinking to be possible.
“Halt”, you will say. “We can’t change metaphysics. The world is just made the way it is made, and we have to live in it as it is”. Well, metaphysics has been a guess at how the world is made, and the most influential guesses have all been wrong. They went wrong by accepting the form of structure commonly seen in human societies as a straightforward manifestation of the most fundamental structure of the universe. It was a political win for one side of a partisan contest between two gender clustered cultures of human interconnection.
In the context of political ideology the crucial contest is between two opposing gender-clustered cultures (one of which has been astonishingly invisible to the intellectual community) representing two parallel systems of human interconnection operating simultaneously. One of those systems is roughly described in Thomas Hobbes’ social contract theory. It formalizes a masculine ethos in which it takes fear of the strongest among aggressive individuals to prevent continuous conflict of all against all for selfish personal gratification. Let’s call this political adulation of a commanding height “the patriarchy”, the core strand of conservatism. Look at Nazis and you will see this ethos of masculinity in a rigorously purified form. Values of conflict, command, rank order, obedience, violence, victories, and trophies are dominant. All concepts of the large scale structure of nature as a Great Chain of Being with perfect Being at the top and flawed or tainted whatever at the bottom are projections of the masculinist idea of the commanding height. This traditional top-down metaphysics was conceived as the legitimizing ideology of longstanding hierarchies of power inequality. However, there is another independent system of interconnection that can be described as first-language-nurture culture and centres on the nurturing and socializing of children, treasuring of every single one. It focuses on development of language competence as well as cultivation of human relationships that are mutually respectful. This indispensable bottom-up construction of social interconnectedness, without which civil society would cease to exist immediately, has been cultivated and practiced by women from time immemorial, almost entirely unacknowledged and unpaid. The effectiveness of the feminine culture of interconnection establishes that love (not fear) is the most important stabilizing force in human societies.
Although the masculine ethos has plenty of metaphysical speculation lined up to support it and formal academic theory romanticizing it, the operation of the feminine culture of first-language-nurture remains largely unidentified, and has no bottom-up metaphysics on offer in support of more effective bottom-up political arrangements. “But wait,” you will say, “isn’t metaphysics top-down by definition? What would a bottom-up metaphysics even look like?” Well, consider final causes.
Ordinary Transcendence: Final Causes
Final causes, an idea introduced by Aristotle, are non-actual but potential conditions or situations that cause the actual state of affairs to change so as to match or actualize the final causes. Aristotle thought that all substances include certain final causes as features of their being without requiring substances to be caring, sensitive, intelligent, or involved in creative planning. Instead they were a kind of in-built individual destiny. However, over the millennia since Aristotle, it has been discovered that the changes of substances as such can be understood without final causes. Final causes are not part of nature. Nature is defined as features of the world that are entirely explainable without final causes, explainable instead as kinds of falling, pre-determined chains of cause and effect within forces and structures such as mass, gravity, electrical charge, atomic structure, momentum, inertia, and entropy. Still, it is obvious that lots of the shapes and conditions in anyone’s experience were brought into existence only because a desire for them was conceived before they existed, because they existed first as non-actualities, pre-conceived by the kind of entity that cares about the future, and conceives a future shaped by enough probabilities and possibilities so that certain situations that do not already exist can be chosen as personal plans or intentional goals and actively brought about by effortful interventions in the pre-existing surroundings. So the existence of final causes as thoughts, ideas, or plans is obvious and undeniable. Since final causes are not part of nature, they are the bits of experience that count as metaphysical, transcendent, or spiritual. The final causes created by particular individuals are the only openings bringing unforeseeable shapes into an otherwise inertial and entropic world. Final causes are brought into nature by embodied spiritual beings, that is, by individual people creating their particular life and work. Transcendence is the intervention of us in nature, exercising agency sourced from our personally inventive spiritual flight. Taking these ordinary final causes as a key to transcendence is bottom-up metaphysics.
This also relates to posting 111, July 26, 2017, Politics is Metaphysics.
Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.