Purposiveness and Imagination

Gary Gautier’s thoughts on the purposive Universe and us.

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Blogmate Paul Adkin has been posting on becoming and purposiveness lately, so I thought I’d chime in.

Stasis and change. This duality has puzzled brains since the ancient Greeks, if not the primeval mind itself. The laws of physics give you the “how,” but what about the “why”? Why all this movement from one state to another? In our own lives, we can call it “purposiveness.” We might not have a definite destination (or a definite purpose) in mind, but movement is always movement toward a destination, however unspecified.

If “purposiveness” characterizes our movements, or changes in state, “imagination” is the best term we have for the force that drives the changes. Imagination is our capacity to project beyond the immediate real, the here and now of our existence. We can anticipate possible futures, reflect on things remote in time and space or visualize things that seem impossible in real…

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The Aesthetics of the Universe

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The Universe is creative, capable of engendering novelty and incredible complexity as well as beautiful simplicity and harmony. In fact, when we examine the cosmos it is easy to make an analogy of its mechanics with the creative process of art: there is trial and error, perhaps even deliberation and accidental inspiration; there are moments when it destroys its own work, rubs it out and starts again; new options can emerge and it will follow them.

All art is in the Universe, and the Universe is in all art. It starts off as a Jackson Pollock and evolves into Da Vinci and then goes back to Pollock.

To be a good cosmologist, one has to study the aesthetics of the Universe.

Poem – Pointless Singularity – A poem about purpose in the face of a meaningless universe – love. — Opher’s World

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Reblogged from Opher’s World

Poem – Pointless Singularity – A poem about purpose in the face of a meaningless universe – love. I wrote this poem in response to the questions from religious friends. Religion gave them purpose. They cannot live with the knowledge that the universe happened by chance and our lives have no ultimate purpose. I can. The […]

via Poem – Pointless Singularity – A poem about purpose in the face of a meaningless universe – love. — Opher’s World

The Physico-Teleology of the New Cosmology concerning the Creative Universe

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We live entrenched in a nihilistic paradigm bolstered, on the one hand, by the alternative-reality escapisms of the world religions, which diminish the importance of life-on-earth in order to strengthen their fantasy utopias of the after-life, and, on the other hand, by scientific paradigms that paint the picture of a fragile and essentially moribund universe. This ultimate message of vanitas vanitatum directs us away from real purposiveness and has been exploited by religions and capitalisms alike in order to fabricate a paradigm of prayer and/or consumerism full of alienated subjects struggling to reap more reward from a reality dominated by the actual and/or another life after death.

Given this pessimistic scenario in which a pincer of nihilism squeezes us from the material and the spiritual side at the same time; with the dogma of the scriptures and the truths of science collaborating to create the same philosophical conclusion, Vanity of vanities; all is vanity: to think any differently seems like madness.

Nevertheless, on the scientific side of the nihilistic paradigm, glimmers of purposiveness are beginning to sparkle, like twinkling luminaries within the absolute blackness of the Universe’s deepest reaches.

Physicist Paul Davies argues the following:

For three centuries science has been dominated by the Newtonian and thermodynamic paradigms, which present the universe either as a sterile machine, or in a state of degeneration and decay. Now there is the new paradigm of the creative universe, which recognises the progressive, innovative character of physical processes. This new paradigm emphasises the collective, cooperative and organisational aspects of nature; its perspective is synthetic and holistic rather than analytic and reductionist.”[1]

Paul Davies’ idea is essentially anti-nihilistic. He gives us an idea of absolute human purposiveness within a mortal Universe. Beginning with the description of the heat-death state which physics predicts to be the Universe’s ultimate destiny:

Eventually, even the galaxies near our Milky way (or what’s left of it) will be receding faster than light, and so will be invisible. If nothing acts to change their trend, the ultimate state of the universe will be dark, near-empty space for all eternity. It is a depressing thought.”[2]

… Davies then throws in a positive spark:

There is a glimmer of hope, however. The same physical process that triggered the inflationary burst at the birth of the universe could, in principle, be re-created. With trillions of years to worry about it, our descendants in the far future might figure out a way to produce a new big bang in the laboratory, in effect creating a baby universe … For a while mother and baby will be joined by an umbilical cord of space, offering a bridge between the old universe and the new. Our descendants might be able to scramble into the new universe, and embark on a new cycle of cosmic evolution and development.”[3]

Yes, it sounds like science-fiction fantasy, but at least it does offer an alternative to the reigning nihilistic paradigms. What Davies suggests, is that perhaps all our earthly achievements have not been in vain. Perhaps it even gives us a general purpose in life within which we can start to build our individual purposes and structure our societies in a new, more positive way accordingly.

Once a positive final-purpose becomes possible and we start to see beyond the nihilist-paradigm, then possibility itself becomes a positive and creative driving force, pulling us out of the stifling gravity of the actual into a purposeful future.

New questions create new answers, and new answers create new scenarios, which create new paradigms and new societies. Once the creativity of thinking on the possible rather than the actual is put into play, then everything is changed.

If an idea that humanity has the possibility of creating a new, fresh universe to replace the dying inflationary one we inhabit at the moment, or perhaps even a vision of a distant future where humans have devised a technology that could remedy the degeneration in the universe and save it; then such positive aspirations to ensure such an evolution could become as ingrained in us as the pessimistic visions and nihilisms are embedded in our outlook of humanity today. If this did happen, then new societies and cultures would have to be born to adapt to such a radical positivism.

Instead of praying to God, we can start to have faith in a new idea of humanity: that human beings could themselves become gods. Paul Davies’ simple possibility implies this. A simple possibility given support, albeit theoretical and hypothetical, by science.

Once purposiveness (whatever kind of purposiveness) is fully grasped, can there be a more motivating and creative force? So motivating indeed, that the great motor that we currently have in our lives – money – could very quickly be superseded. And, with the root of all evil gone, societies will be invested with tremendously positive, new possibilities. A massive snowball of creativity will be set in motion. A new eon of humanity will be born with an optimism capable of taking it beyond the physical life-span of the Universe itself.

The purposiveness suggested by a simple idea such as Davies’, so that the destiny of mankind as gods creating our own universe, is reinforced by becoming. Absolute purposiveness can only exist in the task that is always in progress. The meaning is embedded in the process rather than the completion of the task. Completion is always an end to reason. Only the eternal becoming can be truly motivating.

[1] Paul Davies, THE COSMIC BLUEPRINT (from the Preface to the first edition)

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

The Necessary Marriage of Art, Purpose and Honesty

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There are two vital ingredients required for the fashioning of any good work of art: purpose and honesty.

When art has purpose, it also becomes meaningful; when it strives for honesty, it gains depth. However, if we separate honesty from purpose, what do we get?

Purpose without honesty creates lies. The purpose itself becomes a veiled thing, losing its clarity. This is true at the social and political levels when we tackle terms like democracy or freedom: terms that are full of purposiveness, but a purpose which is rendered impotent without honesty to bolster it.

The result is an absurd civilisation that alienates its subjects through the confusion created by its inherent hypocrisies.

Honesty without purpose, on the other hand, slides into another kind of impotence, that of scepticism. Everything is questionable, but no progress can be made because even the answers are to the queries are debateable. And that means there is nothing left after the interrogation to tug problems forward with.

Purpose needs honesty and honesty: the two concepts are intertwined by necessity. And, because one needs the other, any creative act must also require them both. Good art, good government, good relationships of any kind, or a good life: all of these things are destined to depend on purpose and honesty.

Purposive Philosophy via Science

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For human purpose to be positive in a non-transcendental sense, it has to be aimed at progress, which needs to imply eternal continuation in the material sense. Without eternity, all progress and achievements, and purposes are essentially nihilistic and vain.

For philosophy to describe materialistic purpose from the perspective of humanity, it needs a materialistic teleology, which needs to be rooted in science.

In teleological terms, however, science is profoundly pessimistic. The Universe is not eternal. Material reality has a use by date. Everything will one day collapse. Everything – all is vanity!

Nevertheless, philosophy should not give up and dive into nihilistic pessimism as well – and for the humanist, transcendental philosophy should be regarded as equally pessimistic as material nihilism. To be a positivist, the humanist needs to see beyond the pessimistic picture framed by science and look for optimistic paths, opening positivistic doors toward an eternal progress in the science itself. After all, this is the basic function of all technologies. The law of gravity tells us that we cannot fly, but it also was a necessary element in developing flying machines. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the Universe is doomed to evolve into a massive frozen, inanimate state, but it could also be the key to showing us how that cosmic-truth can be altered. If we were destined to fly, and leave the Earth, then our ultimate destiny, and purposiveness, must be to remedy the fundamental flaw of the Universe, which is the death of everything.

PROPOSITION A: The fact that the evolution of the Universe is moving in an ultimately pessimistic direction gives us a positivist goal to undo that negative outcome.  

Once we look for positive gaps in the pessimistic quilt of the scientific view of eternity, a purposeful materialism becomes a dynamic, motivating force. Contemporary cosmology tells us that the Universe is structured toward the creation of life, and this itself leads to a wealth of positivistic, purposive conclusions. Even the pessimistic idea that the life-generating mechanism in the cosmos is not a very efficient one, can be interpreted in a purposive way by humanity for, as far as we know, we ourselves, as sapiens entities, are the highest evolution of life in the Universe, and that imbues our very existence with tremendous responsibility and purposiveness.

We are here, and by being here we give purpose to the Universe. We make it meaningful. With our technology we have shown that we can overcome the hardships of our environment here on Earth. Nevertheless, we have lost our way: our technological development has evolved in unsustainable proportions; our taming of the environment has developed into an abuse of that environment that threatens its destruction and our own annihilation.

The perpetuation of life in the Universe is a profoundly precarious subject that begins with the precarious problem of prolonging sapiens life on Earth.

What this tells us is that the highest good (what we should all be striving for) is our survival, and that that can only be grasped in an ultimate sense by developing our knowledge of nature. If the fine-tuned Universe exists, it has a moral implication. Even those who imbue a religious significance to Cosmological Fine Tuning could do themselves a big favour by asking themselves what this news tells us about the nature of God’s work … The morality is buried in the purposiveness embedded in the ambition.

What we see when we look at the Universe is a physics of becoming, and what we interpret in the miracle of life and its evolution into sapiens life-forms is a will for Being, which must run through this whole process of becoming. And Being, we reason, must also desire permanence. Through our sapiens minds, the Universe comes into Existence in a formal way, and our logical conclusion is that it would be normal for it to want to stay in existence.

This is our positivism: we are agents through which the Universe exists in a meaningful way. And we are the agents gifted with potential power of determining the success of the Universe’s attempts at Being through becoming and perpetuation.

What we are claiming here may sound esoteric to some, but they are philosophical statements based on scientific facts: a material philosophy nurtured by science.      

CULTURE AND ENVIRONING

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PART ONE: CULTURE

I.

Traditionally there has been a European idea of values which is a universal concept of culture as life endowed with purpose. This notion of culture was not only born from spiritual creativity, it also engendered that spiritual creativity, and as such was self-generating. In its origins it was a humanistic idea, but that has been distorted and sullied by nationalistic, romantic notions that are basically anti-human, species-separating concepts. Now, the admirable and purposeful idea of culture has been reduced to a minutely marginal non-importance and is more closely associated with utopian fantasies rather than being the cultural-wing of any political agenda.

The rise of nihilism and the spirit of the homo economicus castrated the great idea of Culture (with a capital C) and guided its tamed, gelding spirit into the stables of the marketplace, reducing it to the status of commodities. As something that can be bought and sold, culture (with a small c) became intelligible for Wealth (with a capital W) and once that Wealth knew what it was handling, it could welcome culture into its system.

But the sterilized culture is not the same as the purposeful Culture. Culture with a capital c does not now exist beyond the realms of the hypothetical, and if it did exist once it must now be pronounced as lost, or dead. Meanwhile, the sickness inflicting culture in Europe could very well be a direct consequence of this disassociation, because:

A) The idea of Culture has not completely disappeared. A phantasmagorical remnant of it still exists in the ideal realm and that is capable of producing nostalgia for the purposeful, even though it never really existed. We are expected to believe that any absurd search for the ghost of something that never even properly was, is a sad, sick neurosis.

But even worse than the neurotic craving for the never-existent is:

B) A morbid belief that Culture is something dangerous and even seditious, and that we must be on our guards against it all the time. This idea sees Culture reflected in the ideological, nationalistic spirits maintained by the likes of Wagner, or they reduce it to that which threatens their self-esteem by positing the virtues of the intellectual and unintelligible.

Pop-culture is nihilism’s rejection and refutation of Culture. The Beatles proved that culture didn’t have to be difficult to be good. With pop-music and Hollywood cinema, culture was blasted into being a great commodity, and it became an enormous industry. Pop-music and film were the nihilistic bridges bringing culture and capitalism together.

Another way of looking at culture is as a kind of reaction by human beings (societies and individuals) to the needs created by their environment. Seen like this, culture becomes a kind of technological evolution driven by needs for survival or adaptation to environments. Some of the needs are created by hostile environments, but not always. Of course, the environmental reason for culture explains why there are so many diverse human cultures.

But how does all this apply to the grand idea of European or Human Culture?

II.

Our environment now is dominated by our economics. We are what we can buy. We are what we can earn through our labour. We are the money that we have or are capable of manipulating. We are this homo economicus because we live and breathe money inside a bubble created by the economy. Our environment is the economy.

Perceived in this light we can see that if culture is our spirit, then that spirit is an economic one as well. Money is our body and soul: it is the nature and spirit of society.

No wonder it feels like society is sick.

III.

With apologies to the ecosphere, the environment in which humans dwell, is, for the most part, a human-made environment – and if human-made sounds somewhat exaggerated, then at least we can talk about its human-acclimatisation.

Throughout the world, the phenomena of acclimatisations are often radically different. One way we like to measure these differences is via the concept of standards of living. Here the System tries to bring in its own technological theme and it attempts to measure its progress and, from that, its successes, via the concept of improving living-standards.

Yes, all this is far-removed from the human purposiveness inherent in the grand idea of European Culture. Living standards are means of success through acclimatisation that have nothing to do with spirit and purpose. The lures of living standards are comfort and happiness through comfort. The drawbacks one faces once one embraces this culture-of-comfort is an obligatory compromise to conformity.

Nevertheless, in the historical process of acclimatisation, humanity also developed a second path away from the merely material necessities into other psychological, theoretical or spirited areas that are generally embraced in the term the arts.

 

PART TWO: THE ENVIRONING WORLD

It is the arts and the artistic spirit unified with technology[1] which is the true basis of the spirit of European Culture. In his essay on the Crisis of European Man, Husserl referred to this as the Umwelt or the Environing World, [2]which he called: “a spiritual structure in us and our historical life.” [3] We point to this term because we see the importance of making a distinction between acclimatisation for material reasons (either for survival or the improvement of living standards) and the environment we create around ourselves from the theoretical or ideal, due to our psychological needs (these could include the abstract concepts of love and beauty, or moral concepts like respect and truth). Environing has, therefore, a deeper purposiveness than acclimatisation and offers reasons for working beyond the simple necessity of survival or the luxury of comfort.

Also, whereas acclimatising is a process that ends with the achievement of the desired result, within environing there is an emphasis on the process rather than the achievement. As such, it implies a concept of becoming that goes beyond the present and allows for the idea of the eternal.

Husserl’s environing was something that was not necessarily born with the Greeks, but was sophisticated by them through the development of philosophy. The spirit of European Culture is therefore also embedded in that Greek philosophy and its core of purposiveness, reflected in its own environing of its culture.

Environing transcends acclimatisation. Acclimatisation has created local peculiarities, but these cultural traits are only relevant to environing as windows or reminders of the variegated fabric of humanity. We are the same and we are different. This is the paradoxical reality of the human condition. The truly defining ingredient of humanity must lie somewhere in between.

However, the middle-term between SAME and DIFFERENCE is hard to find: SIMILARITY is too close to SAMENESS to be satisfying. We need a term that contains both of the antagonistic elements without prejudice to the other.

By focussing on the aspect of BECOMING, which turns the cultural process into a continuation, we get an image of humanity as a forward pointing arrow that desires the eternal. Acclimatisation is about the actual, environing is concerned with the final causes of an eternal process of becoming.

From the point of view of soul, humanity has never been a finished product, nor will it be, nor can it ever repeat itself[4].”

There can only be environing in the realm of the human, because there cannot be a national or individual goal except to die or destroy itself. In terms of nation states, ultimate purposes, end goals or the Greek idea of telos are tragic notions, and they can only lead to the most terrible and perverted conflagrations of spirit that become manifest in violent international conflicts.

Environing, therefore, must always be contained to the greater, general set of the Human. The individual artist will achieve the eternal only if humanity itself can achieve the eternal. And the same is true of the nation-state: To succeed for its subjects, nations have to evolve, and the evolution of a nation can only be successful if it is able to dissolve into the higher evolutionary body of Humanity.

But what is humanity? In biological terms we are the homo sapiens; and from an environing perspective we are the animal with the power to rationalise and create art and technologies that can transform our environment and ourselves. In psychological terms we are a river, always changing, but which can also flow into pools that can quickly stagnate if we lose touch of the ocean which we are destined to become, and in which our authentic fulfilment lies.

Like the river, humanity is past and future and the actual is a dangerous illusion that we will perish in if we get trapped by the mesmerising force of that mirage.

[1] an etymological tie wrapped up in the original Greek term techni which embraced both art and technology

[2] Edmund Husserl, PHILOSOPHY AND THE CRISIS OF EUROPEAN MAN, 1935, p.3

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, p.5

Our Evolution

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“… evolutionary novelty comes about when ecological opportunities are truly large.”

(P. Ward, RARE EARTH)

For evolution to be creative, which basically means for it to be able to operate on a radical scale, there needs to be a wide-open field to nurture it and allow it to grow within. The same could be said of any innovations. In the human-made world, our creative evolution, which is manifest in the arts and sciences, is dependent on the economic environment. As such, we can assert that human creativity (artistic and technological) can only come about when economic opportunities are truly large. But what does large in this case mean?

Surely it should be understood as widespread, giving opportunities to as many creative and innovative people as possible. Opportunities in these areas don’t have to mean enormous amounts of money, and certainly shouldn’t be merely big pay offs for projects to make these creators and innovators rich. Rather it should be seen as opportunities to get projects done, because: a) there is a space – a laboratory or work-shop – to experiment and construct in; (b) there is time for the innovators to be able to dedicate themselves to the projects at hand; (c) that there is comfort and security that allows the innovators to work without the stress and pressure of results; and (d) innovators have the opportunity (platform) to present the fruits of their work to the rest of society.

Through this kind of creative and innovative freedom a civilisation can truly evolve. Although this progress depends on the creation of an economic comfort zone for all creators, the problem is not an economic one as such, but rather it is a matter of progressive will.

Under our present system, economics is a hindrance to creativity because instead of nurturing economic opportunities for human innovation it creates barriers and impediments for creators to find the freedom to work in. The question should not be: How can we allow creativity to be financed in our society? But: What kind of economic system can be devised to create a field where creativity and innovation on a massive, evolutionary scale is possible?

Cosmological Purposiveness

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Contemporary cosmology offers us two possible explanations of reality that are useful for developing a strong sense of human purposiveness.

(i) RARE EARTH: the first of these is the Rare Earth Hypothesis, which describes the intricate complexity required of a system in order to produce developed life forms such as those on Earth and concludes that such life-forms must be extremely rare in the Universe, if not completely confined to our planet itself.

(ii) The second is the concept of Cosmological Fine Tuning, which implies that the Universe is deliberately fine-tuned in a way that makes the creation of life possible. In essence these ideas seem contradictory: if the Universe is set up to facilitate the creation of complex life-forms there should be life in abundance all around the Universe, but Rare Earth tells us that is not at all the case. However, if we accept both hypotheses as correct, we get an image of a fine-tuned cosmos that has all the basic necessities for creating complex life-forms, but that the evolution from the original idea is carried out in a random, blind way. It is as if God built a game (the Universe) based on determined rules, physical laws, but the game is a game of chance. In other words, God built a nice casino (the Universe) so It could play dice, but not with the combinations of two or three dice, rather with the combinations of millions of them. Instead of an omnipotent God, we have a blind, quite impotent one.

Yet, if this is what our reality is based on, how can such a paradigm be useful for developing human purpose?   

If we take the idea of Fine Tuning and tweak it with the Rare Earth hypothesis, the picture of a determined, planned Universe arises, but one that is set in a chaotic, random manner to produce complex and ultimately intelligent life-forms. This mix of determinism and randomness, mixes into a middle-point reality, sitting between the conflicting axis of theological against scientific outlooks. It could, therefore, be an alluring new paradigm, seducing a compromise between the theological and scientific ideological stances. It is satisfying from a religious point-of-view because it admits the presence of a Creator and points to a teleological outcome, a Creator-willed end in which humanity plays a vital part (hence our purposiveness). If the Universe is designed for the creation of intelligent life, and we are very likely the most developed form of intelligent life in the Universe (Rare Earth Hypothesis), then the development of our progress as Sapiens entities is vital to the completion of that Creator’s will. In fact, these entities are necessary agents for that will to be made possible.

At the same time, the Rare-Earth/Fine-Tuning idea is inspirational for scientific and artistic sectors of humanity: our purpose is to allow our intelligence to evolve in a limitless way, understanding, imagining and creating with the Universe in a constant process of continual becoming. In a God-willed random Universe, the Creator is not omnipotent, and our duty is not to any religious dogmas but to the Work itself: which now is that of developing human potentials to the full.

In this new paradigm, sapiens organisms are the final cause of an evolutionary process, while, at the same time, we are also the beginning of a new transcendental process of transformation: via the sapiens mind itself, and through the space-transforming technologies that the sapiens are able to manufacture.

The amalgamation of Rare Earth and Fine Tuning is deeply imbued with purposiveness and duty. If we are unique, we cannot afford to disappear. We have a duty to protect our world, and protect ourselves. Our ultimate duty is easily appreciated, to the world and to our species, above all other duties. All meaning rests here. The Earth is a unique harbour of life in a Universe that is evolving chaotically around it, and it must be preserved, so that complex life can be preserved.

Our most pressing task, for all of us, is to overcome the problems of human separation. This can only be done through the development of purposiveness as an ideological alternative to all the separating, identity-ideologies that are so embedded in our societies today. Our cosmological reality leads us, therefore, to a moral and political stance, which is a profoundly humanistic one.

We are of vital importance; we are necessary. Our future, and the evolution of the Universe itself may depend on us recognising that necessity and the great purpose it imbues us all with.

Moral Teleology

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Kant proposed moral teleology, the idea of a moral final-cause, as a form of tackling, in a rational way via nature’s apparent final causes, the concept of the Creator or God.[1]

In our previous posts we have also been toying with this idea of the moral teleology, but instead of using it as a way to prove the existence of God, we do so to supersede the need to think of God, and allow ourselves to concentrate on human purposiveness. Our moral teleology is based on progress through becoming and concerns humanity – all of humanity without separations. The vision of the final-cause, even with the consciousness that it can only ever be a process of becoming, without end, and never be perfectly fulfilled, is a fundamentally moral concept that, as in all morality, implies duties. And while becoming negates permanence, and through that nullification a further negation of dogmas, it also maintains a need for the preservation of ideas via the imperative of learning.

In our concept of moral teleology, there are no divine commands, but yes, there is a moral gravity that tugs us forward in a purposive way. We have a duty, a sense of obligation, to creating a happy ending for humanity and the Universe.

But even in Kant’s case, despite building his moral-teleology bridge toward the Creator, he was also able to argue in favour of a rather atheistic kind of agnosticism: “Beyond all doubt the great purposiveness present in the world compels us to think that there is a supreme cause of this purposiveness and one whose causality has an intelligence behind it. But this in no way entitles us to ascribe such intelligence to that cause.”[2]

In a sense, Kant is arguing Plato’s cave-thesis in reverse. The temptation is to see God in our shadows, but, in reality, the illumination that casts that shadow is too bright for us to deduce anything at all from it.

And so, he says, we can handle the idea of God in a rational way through moral teleology, although, really, we are not entitled to come to any conclusions because they would be fantasies.

God exists because we want it to exist, but it would be more purposeful and positive to investigate the purposiveness of ourselves and the real human potential latent in our progress (with an aim of properly and positively unleashing that potential).

As a bridge between reality and fantasy in theology, Kant proposed the idea of psychoteleology.[3] This term is useful for tackling the idea of final-cause from our own perspective of becoming. A psychoteleological approach to the examination of theories of Cosmological Fine Tuning opens up a fertile field  for rationalising a forward-looking, authentically progressive philosophy of purposiveness for humanity.

[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, Part One.

[2] Ibid, p. 313

[3] Ibid, p. 314