agency, David Hume, Gender culture, hive mind, metaphysics, patriarchy, philosophy, Plato's cave, self-possession, sovereignty, superego, thinking, Thomas Hobbes, transcendence
In the search for transcendence there is no longer any plausibility in a gaze toward far horizons, and finally we must recognize that transcendence is only in the gaze itself.
posting 119, word count 1,919.
There is no way to prevent the formation of neighbourhood street gangs exercising competitive team spirit when team spirit and competitions between team-spirit-bonded collectives is universally glorified and modelled at all levels of social organization, from school sports teams to nations in violent conflict, all expressing the manly culture and value system of “us against them” for the glory of winning trophies.
The large scale team-spirit-bonded collectives such as the USA, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, for example, are conspicuous examples of collective hive minds (and not the only ones). The broad national acceptance of American exceptionalism and the civic religion of militaristic American patriotism reveals that for many Americans there is nothing to be gained by knowing other orientations, other forms of interconnection, discoverable, for example, in other people and in the history of ideas, and so they remain ignorant of world history at large, and, like North Koreans, swallow the steady stream of carefully de-contextualized, edited, and slanted stories of history, ideas, and current events flooding mass media, propaganda that glorifies and terrorizes them through their identification with national institutions and symbols. No one would deny that modernity is an age of scientifically engineered messaging, of corporate, political, and ideological efforts to control public opinion, streamed pervasively through mass media, all at the command of the small group with the ability to mobilize great wealth.
Truth to the Masses
Elected officials with their advisors and assistants spin out narratives based on a perceived duty to mediate between factions with established power and the ordinary majority of people. The message that serves the purpose of politics will always be what seems most likely to reconcile a mass audience to the expectations or whims of the most powerful. The narrative that best supports the most powerful people and factions will always seem the most responsible and realistic. So it is that trying to be a responsible journalist, for example, often prevents a determined search for, or presentation of, fully contextualized truth. The danger of telling truth to power is a cliche, but politicians, academics, and journalists face real risks telling truth to the masses, and the masses are not the source of the danger.
Hive minds all work the same way, cultivating in every member a personal orientation to look up to authorities, to a commanding height, for a declaration of the personal/ collective situation, for updates on the story which defines the situation of everyone personally and of collective institutions. It is an orientation of cognitive and emotional dependence on the narration from a commanding height, or, in other words, it is patriarchy. In terms of individual psychology the orientation toward commanding height is the superego. A superego which you have been socialized to accept without question strictly limits your thinking. To begin to think autonomously you first have to recognize that much of your orientation was provided culturally with intent to immerse you in the hive mind story, and that important features of reality, of history for example, have been distorted or edited out to construct your orientation, so that your impression of reality is very unlike actual reality. It is possible to reconnect with reality, as illustrated in Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, through a certain kind of self-directed re-education with a component of philosophical thinking (because metaphysics is crucial).
Two claims are made for the necessity of patriarchal sovereignty, and both are false. The first claim is that only the manly force imposed by the patriarchal hierarchy maintains social order against centripetal forces of self-interest, against the “state of nature” which would be a war of all against all (Thomas Hobbes). The problem with that claim is that it isn’t the the top-down power structure, a manifestation of a traditional hyper-masculine ethos, that enables the functioning of civil society. Instead, the sociability that makes civil society work is constructed perennially by the first-language-nurture socializing work performed continuously by women caring for infants and children. Language is a model of bottom-up social engagement operating independently of the commanding top-down hierarchy of force and law. The opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy but something entirely different: mutually nurturing systems of sociability. Those processes that actually construct the coherence of societies are already operating reliably, but, absurdly, the profundity of their effects remains absent from even the most liberal of intellectual conversations.
The second claim is that the hierarchical organization of force is the eternal and natural order of things. This is a metaphysical claim, an assertion of eternal necessities decreed by a transcendence at the far horizons: god or natural law, obedience to which constitutes virtue. The appeal to natural law becomes metaphysics as soon as findings about what “is” are asserted as evidence for what “ought” to be. (Thanks David Hume.) Patriarchal thinking operates within an orientation in which eternal necessities, decreed from the farthest horizons, pre-determine what is correct thinking and perception for every individual, so that everyone’s subjectivity must be and should be formed by, and subordinate to, the determinate structures and categories of the objective world, including social, economic, and political structures. This metaphysical claim is the ultimate justification of an orientation that looks to a commanding height for declarations of value, order, and identity, because the transcendence at the far horizons is the ultimate commanding height from which all others draw legitimacy. However, this metaphysical claim is untenable, merely privileging selected aspects of reality by appeal to something mysterious and too remote to be examined, and as such is a superstition. There is a more plausible alternative metaphysics based on anyone’s personal experience: the transcendence of individual creative consciousness, of individual free agency. More of this in a moment.
Hive Minds Make War
The kind of hive mind constructed within human social systems is always a way to persuade a majority to remain unthinking about the legitimacy of political and economic institutions. It demands blind faith in arrangements by the most powerful to proclaim the collective story, for example, proclaiming the need for a pre-emptive military strike against another collective. Cultural hive mind is a readiness for emotional responses to culturally supplied triggers, programmed belief and collective response. The ultimate reason for this unthinking is to defend and perpetuate a structure of sovereignty, the compulsory control over a majority by a minority faction, maintaining the immunities, advantages, and privileges of those who benefit most from and sponsor this sovereignty as a system of perpetual and acute inequality. It isn’t merely that controllers of great wealth have by far the most influence on government policies and practices, through political party funding, control of ‘think tanks’ and news media, and the paid activity of lobbyists, but also that the military-legal-police essence of governments as they exist is an expression of a peculiarly top-down hyper-masculine ethos glorifying a commanding height, a legacy and manifestation of entrenched power and wealth inequality, of self-preserving oligarchy.
A third claim made in defence of patriarchy is that individuals can’t do without immersion in some herd or other because individual personhood (individual thinking) does not exist. The first thing wrong with this is that any learning or socializing requires the activity of a pre-existing individual subject or self exercising an already coherent spiritual bearing. There is no now without a then, no here without a there, and every there and then is brought to the here and now spiritually by a person’s intelligence reorienting to immediate sensation, to its unique embodiment. Any situation is given meaning and sense by the action of a personal sensibility bringing specific context (specific questioning, curiosity, expectation, caring, hope: bearing, the sense of the passage of time) to it, transforming sensation into perception by interpreting sensation through a personal context. It is creative activity, a thought or idea of temporal opening that is thinking itself into the world. All of that must be active already before any cultural imitation or socialization can occur, so an individual’s thinking always retains a fundamental independence from any collective orientation or cultural norms. Individual personhood, independent of hive minds, is guaranteed by the rich individuality of consciousness and embodiment separate from any cultural socialization. Autonomous thinking exists, and there’s nothing more fulfilling.
This is where the previous refutation of the metaphysics of far horizons shows its consequences, because here we have a replacement metaphysics. In the search for transcendence there is no longer any plausibility in a gaze toward far horizons, and finally we must recognize that transcendence is only in the gaze itself. Consciousness itself, the being of a spiritual person, a self-constructing idea of a life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself into the world, is the only fountain of unforeseeable possibilities creating the openness to an otherwise inertial and entropic world. That makes thinking the transcendent power and eliminates the imperative to orient to an external commanding authority. Consciousness (thinking) is not a single occurrence but a multitude of separate and distinctly embodied instances, individual animal bodies, some of them human. Since transcendent consciousness (freedom) occurs at the level of the embodied individual, and collectives have no original consciousness, there is no collective transcendence. With no transcendence at the top, collectives have to be legitimized from the level of the individual. Just as the metaphysics of far horizons implied a top-down social organization, this new metaphysics of individual consciousness implies a bottom-up organization. It means that metaphysics lines up on the side of women against patriarchy.
Another mistake in that third claim for patriarchy is the implication that human interconnectedness requires force, that there would be no culture or community without it. However, getting rid of patriarchal orientation does not require getting rid of human interconnections in general. Hive minds can be replaced with the better kinds of interconnection that already exist, with social arrangements among people who do not have or need an orientation toward a commanding height, but who instead interact with others in the joy of sharing the powers of creative consciousness among distinct individuals. Mutually nurturing systems of sociability are already operating and the patriarchy is merely a parasitic system imposed on them. For an orientation outside hive minds, human history is still human history, profoundly misrepresented by the stories that are used to fashion hive minds. Every individual still participates in that larger history that includes the whole collection of hive minds as well as what exists beyond them. As a self-possessed agent you have a special place in the historic cultural movement dissolving patriarchal dystopia.
In the ancient conception of philosophical thinking, the goal was to achieve imperturbability, which followed from what was identified as transcendent, namely eternity, eternal necessities. When the world is eternally pre-determined then cultivating imperturbability makes sense as an accomplishment of thinking. With rejection of totalitarian eternal necessities, replaced by recognition of transcendent individual freedom-in-the-passing-of-time, the whole point of philosophical thinking changes. In this orientation the intended achievement of thinking is autonomous agency, claiming and practicing the creative freedom which is the transcendence of spiritual beings in a life in the world. Agency is the truest expression and realization of human spirituality. In this age of scientifically engineered propaganda, of corporate, political, and ideological mass messaging, of identity politics, philosophical thinking as a portal to self-possession or agency has become crucial.
Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.