Fragment 190, word count: 896.
tags: metaphysics, existence, deity, science, politics, dystopia, capitalism, gratification, culture, spirituality.
There are two opposing explanations for the existence of something instead of nothing. There is existence as intentional act of intervention, 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 anticipating 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. Each of these explanations is a particular statement of metaphysics. The metaphysics of existence as an intentional act of intervention, in a variety of versions, was ubiquitous in human societies for ages, for example in feudal Christendom, and it always joined forces with the culture of patriarchal dominance which exploits and makes concrete the idea of deity by violently imposing the will of the strongest on everyone within reach (sovereign exceptionalism), and by instituting worshipful cult collectives with the softer attractions of grand cosmic visions and close personal belonging. In opposition to explanation by divine intervention, the mere occurrence explanation dawned in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the boutique metaphysics of mathematical materialism in the scientific Enlightenment. It began a process of removing wind from the sails of sovereigns and the social structuring around sovereignty. In the current state of modern civilization there remain these same two institutional proponents of metaphysical ideology, each supporting one of the two existential possibilities to the exclusion of the other. Religious institutions champion the deliberate interventionist side, and institutions of science and scientific education champion random occurrence, near enough. This is the shape of our civilization’s foundational culture war. Yet these two have come to an effective peace accord based on the fact that both support the (ready-to-detonate) capitalist incentive and reward system: consumption as identity-defining trophy. Science explains this system as the inevitable working of animal nature, and Christianity explains it as the inscrutable Divine plan in action. Notwithstanding their differences, both sides developed metaphysics on the model of a law-giver, divine law on one side, natural law on the other, and laws always apply top-down (unalterably) to things understood as unalterable building blocks of reality, all tidy and settled in a hierarchical chain of Being extending down into economic and political structure, social roles and relationships, and even into gender and race categories. It is a vision of existence as rigidly pre-structured and is the ideological matrix of the right-wing politics of winner-take-all inequality.
Both bastions of metaphysics are able to embrace the capitalist incentive and reward system because each misconstrues something crucial about the reality it holds dearest. Religious institutions attach themselves to the overriding reality of creative teleological interventions, the power of spirituality for spontaneously expressive novelty, so much so that they project spiritual teleology outward as the great cosmic parent hidden inside all existence, literally deifying it and proclaiming it the origin of everything. By doing that they reduce individual human-scale spirituality to ignorance, vanity, and misery. On the other side, science attaches itself to knowability, the overt public availability of material objectivity. Nothing real is hidden on this view. True reality can be lit up, measured and mapped, identified and specified, depended on as unalterably definite. Science focuses so much on material objectivity that it disappears human experience into mere mechanism. Each of these entrenched metaphysical doctrines so drastically discounts the importance of the other that actual human spirituality is distorted grotesquely by both. Dystopia follows from the denigration of individual-scale human spirituality from which certain factions gain power and benefits. Setting aside the grotesque exclusivity of the sides in this culture war, we are left with ordinary human scale experience which absolutely depends on both novel teleological creativity at the level of individual persons, and with the stability and clear discernibility of some material objectivity. We have no direct experience of deliberative interventions at a cosmic level, but we have no end of experience of them in our everyday social interactions.
Getting beyond the all-destroying capitalist incentive and reward imperative to consume requires getting beyond the outrageous denigration of individual-level spirituality in metaphysical culture. It demands nothing more than a dualistic synthesis of the opposing metaphysical visions in a new configuration: recognition of random occurrence at the cosmic level and of creative novelty, foresight, learning, and personal expression, which is to say, spontaneous spirituality, at the level of the individual person. Removing the genius of agency in our scenario from some top-down imposer of laws, and relocating it instead to ground level where everyone breaths and talks and carries on living day to day, provides a profound equality of persons. The fact is that a standard practice of creativity as personal expression is the most gratifying and self-affirming of experiences. This is the ultimate grounding for democracy because every individual brings an inherent personal fountain of gratification that bypasses the competitive market economics of trade and barter. This is a metaphysics more congruent with a leftist politics of universal dignity, equality, and mutual support. The left has always been weakened by the lack of a strong and special metaphysical foundation, and so the authentic culture war between left and right politics has not yet even really started.
Fragment 180, August 28, 2021, Existence and New Reality (word count: 505)
Fragment 173, January 30, 2021, Absolute Incompleteness (word count: 202)
Fragment 171, December 9, 2020, Science and Empathy in Defining Dystopia (word count: 779)
Fragment 167, August 28, 2020, Contesting the External Almighty (word count: 3,104)
Fragment 145, April 4, 2019, Desperately Seeking Reality: Scenes From History (word count: 2,189)
Fragment 120, December 24, 2017, Two Problems with the Science Story (word count: 1,352)
Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.