Fragment 147, word count: 872.
Plato, in the Republic, claimed that humans come as three different kinds, and only the rarest kind is capable of philosophical thinking. Now, a couple of thousand years later, it is no longer plausible that some humans are different from others in that particular way. Plato was all about hierarchical categories, and he designed a political system suited to controlling a city made up of three distinct and unequal kinds of humans. Theorists in the Church hierarchy of feudal Christendom were proud that the institutions of their vast society actualized Plato’s design, with themselves as philosophers in ultimate control, confident in Plato’s claim that philosophical thought is the guiding treasure of any society. Political conservatism is still a remnant of, and nostalgia for, the political ideology and religious metaphysics (creationist monotheism) of feudal Christendom. However, since we no longer accept Plato’s division of humans into types, it follows from the manifest existence of philosophical thinking that it is something important which all humans might do. It could even be argued that everyone begins life as a philosopher. The goal of education, then, should be to reawaken the spirit of philosophy. Before anyone is a tinker, tailor, professional, or capitalist he or she should be abled as an adult, competent to digest diverse and conflicting information into an overall sense of orientation that serves the personal construction of a sustainable life. That is already pretty close to being a philosopher. So, what political institutions would be suitable for an entire population of philosophers? Such a population would eliminate the reasons given for the use of ‘noble’ lies (propaganda) as a technique of governing. They wouldn’t be taken in by lies.
The spirit of enquiry that we now associate with science was philosophy first. Science is a sub-category, natural philosophy, but the broad enquiry of philosophy covers the whole of culture and experience. This posture of enquiry arises from an implicit judgement that generally accepted cultural assertions are poorly supported by evidence and are often mere superstitions or misconceptions. The quest for philosophical awareness is a quest to recognize and move beyond such assumptions and assertions, to know that reality is mutable because ideas make up much of the structure of reality. Science is now considered an accumulation of reliable knowledge, but philosophy, even with its rich historical arc of ideas, remains mainly a spirit of enquiry, of incredulity, questioning, and of the importance of ongoing conceptual research.
We don’t admire philosophers for their scholarship, but for their original re-conceptualizations of experience. That fact expresses a human freedom to re-conceptualize experience comprehensively at the level of the embodied individual, a profound unpredictability in the creativity of human nature. Moreover, philosophy is not only about understanding reality. Understanding has always been in aid of ethical living, and arranging the best political institutions for the expression of human nature and ability, especially emphasizing the ongoing impulse to philosophize, to question and search for alternative ways of conceiving. It is a philosophical act (central in Epicureanism) to resist a dystopian society (any asserting a dystopian metaphysics that denigrates human nature) by re-directing energy toward recognizing the powers of personally interior ideality. That recognition displaces legacy metaphysics, both creationist monotheism or scientific materialism which perversely denigrate the nature of ordinary personalities. Science dismisses the creative freedom of personality as mere illusion, and Christianity dismissed the world of concrete matter as trivial staging for the great drama of salvation from inherent guilt. The point of thinking as a philosophical act is not knowledge in the ordinary sense, certainly not absolute knowledge of eternal necessities, such as mathematics, that removes the knower from engaged subjectivity. Instead it is to enact a personal reorientation to enable empathic agency, from full recognition of the transcendent creative freedom of ideality, ordinary consciousness. Philosophy works by thinking, acts of ideation, and soon finds its way to thinking about thinking and discovering the transcendence of ideality in its creative freedom*, untethered as it is from brute actuality by its temporality. Personality experiences its creativity, its ideality, as freedom because it encompasses in advance, from within itself, alternative possibilities for personal agency in mutating reality.
Political institutions are a test of truth because dystopian societies always rest on false metaphysics that either deny or misconceive ordinary ideality. Ideality is individually created freedom, and as such, transcendence at the level of the embodied individual. Freedom to philosophize comes from disbelieving the bullshit cultural metaphysics that sustains a dystopia. From the fact that it includes such thinking, we learn about human nature that it is innocently independent of social and cultural authority and control. In a society made up entirely of philosophers there would be no cultural background of metaphysics that denigrated human individuality, say by reducing personality to responses programmed by an immutable nature. There would be no dismissal of either ideality or actuality. The whole frontier economy of trophies from contests of strength would also be meaningless. Everyone would self-create personal identity and much of their own value experience because awareness of an interior fountain would be universal. It would be a society in which everyone recognized in all, individually, the creative freedom of ideality, and the dignity of its transcendence.
Fragment 144, March 28, 2019, The Freedom of Ideality (word count: 442) (URL: https://wp.me/p1QmhU-b7)
Copyright © 2019 Sandy MacDonald.