THE MIDDLE WAY

The middle way is a very classical idea and it is found just as strongly in Aristotle’s ethics as the Golden Mean as it is in Confucius. We are not concerned with the “ethical action” as much as finding the middle term which we can then try and define according to its relationship with the extremes at either side of it which should be assimilated by the centre. Perhaps our idea is closer to Socrates’ that the essence of anything is in its opposite. We see it as useful for arriving at a more creative understanding of ideas in terms of harmony between extremes.

Our experiments began by taking a word and imagining its opposite in order to find two extremes. Once found we then look for a middle term between them. The definition of the middle term will be dependent on the opposites at either side of it, but the pure form of that definition will actually be an absence of their influence through complete assimilation. A middle term must be between two extremes but it must be the antithesis of both extremes, and it must be an absence of either. For example, if the opposite of CHAOS is LAW, what is the middle term? We propose it is FREEDOM and we can draw a diagram such as:

CHAOS ————— FREEDOM ——————LAW

If this is the case then FREEDOM will contain both chaos and law, although its most perfect state will have assimilated Chaos and Law into itself so that they never have to become manifest. The chaos and law in freedom are felt and manifested as freedom. The extremes are still there, but they are not apparent. The HARMONY of pure freedom absorbs its extremes. Freedom is always struggling between the two: freedom from chaos or freedom from law.  But the true harmony of freedom lies in the importance of it NOT leaning from one side toward the other.

From Passion we get the antithesis Frigidity and the mean Control:

FRIGIDITY ————- CONTROL ——————- PASSION

            Just as Freedom is an absence of Chaos as much as it is an absence of Law, Control is an absence of Frigidity as much as it is an absence of Passion. Perhaps it would be the normal thing to link Control and Frigidity as synonyms, but the beauty of the idea of the Middle Term is that middle term is never a synonym of the extremes it lies between. When it appears like a synonym the term is corrupt and needs to be rectified (here the theory can have practical application). Thus if freedom is seen as a synonym of chaos then the perspective is leaning toward the dictatorial side of law, and if it is seen as a synonym of law it is leaning towards anarchy. In this way we can judge the moral value of the middle term but also the moral values of the two extremes. The healthy condition is when the middle is recognisable in the middle because of its disassociation with both of the extremes.

CREATION ————————-  PERMANENCE ——————— DESTRUCTION

This is a refutation of the Will to Power. Creation and Destruction are implicit in Permanence without having to be demonstrated.

 

Other middle terms could be:

SPIRIT —————————— INTELLECT —————————-  MATTER

NON-ACTION ——————— BEING —————————- ACTION

DEATH/NON-EXISTENCE—————–GOD———————– LIFE/EXISTENCE

Here God neither exists not doesn’t exist. The middle term can make everyone happy.

UGLINESS —————— PLAINNESS ———————- BEAUTY

Plainness here is seen to be a more harmonious aesthetical concept than Beauty, which might upset quite a few aestheticians.

But what if we look at beauty itself as a Middle Term between Perfection and Flawed:

FLAWED ———————- BEAUTY ——————— PERFECTION

In this way Beauty is saved and Perfection is pushed away from pure beauty.

Let’s finally return to Freedom again, this time in aesthetics:

CONSTRUCTION ————— FREEDOM —————— DECONSTRUCTION

GROTESQUE —————– FREEDOM ———————– BEAUTY

If we can grasp the sense in these constructions we can see how Freedom may be a Middle Term option between any artistic debate. Freedom in art manifested in this middle-term way demonstrates that the free artist does not have to concern him/herself with rigid canons, but the harmony in the work will seem that he/she had.

AXIOM: LAW AND CHAOS ARE ALWAYS HIDDEN IN THE FREEDOM OF THE ARTIST.

AXIOM: FREEDOM IS SACRED IN NECESSITY[i].


[i] Of course we must be careful with this second axiom. A liberal-capitalist may use the formula DESTRUCTION ——- FREEDOM ——– CONSTRUCTION to justify a demolition or the destruction of a forest in order to build a new estate. But for these actions to take place they must become very apparent. Firstly a very obvious destruction followed by a clear construction, and it is in the obviousness of these two that the freedom becomes subjected to the extremes and is therefore nullified precisely because there is no harmony. The builder does not have the same “freedom” as the artist. DESTRUCTION —- FREEDOM —- CONSTRUCTION of a forest is not the same as DESCONSTRUCTION —— FREEDOM —— CONSTRUCTION of a play.

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5 thoughts on “THE MIDDLE WAY

  1. I like your use of ‘harmony’ as existing between two extremes here. Have you any thoughts on Hegel’s notion of the ‘dialectic’ in relation to your own ideas? I am also interested in your use of the term ‘Being’.

    • Thank you for your reading the Middle Way. I have no more than a superficial knowledge of Hegel’s work and his dialectics, but in the Middle Way, I’m more interested in the power of words as they stand alone rather on the elaboration of thesis and antithesis. My idea is closer to the classical sense than Hegel. Or at least that’s what my inutition tells me. I like to think of myself as a creative thinker and, while I have read a lot of philosophy very carefully, I have no academic training in philosophy as such. I have read your own articles on Gesturing Towards Reality – although far too hurriedly. I would like to reread them again at a more leisurely pace.
      I usually use Being in something of the German Idealistic sense or in the Berkleyan idea that the universe has no Being unless there is something capable of perceiving it: there can be no Subject without an Object to perceive it. Starting from this idea, I consider Being as something which is made qualitatively richer if it is not only perceived but understood. From here I determine a meaning behind human existence which is to know the universe. Likewise, if Being depends on a necessary partnership between the Subject and Object then this creates an absolute necessity to maintain that partnership and grow together. Being is qualitatively enriched by human knowledge. These thoughts stem from a non-ficition work that I am concluding in which my concerns are primarily with the ecological degradation in our egotistical relationship with the planet (in which we are totally devoid of any sensibility of partnership with Being), and some of my posts are excerpts from that thesis.

  2. Hi Paul. Thanks for the swift reply.

    I have enjoyed reading your thoughts. Just to lay my cards on the table, so to speak: one of my central interests is the philosophy of language – particularly the word-world relationship. This being so, then it should come as no surprise that I am interested in your work. I liked your phrase ‘the power of words’ given that I think that words, particularly concept words, play a very powerful role in conditioning how we relate to the objects or cultural ideas which are picked-out/named by such words, e.g. ‘Nature’, ‘Science’ or ‘Democracy’. Taking the notion of ‘Science’ as a particular example, there seems to be an implicit general assumption associated with the idea of science, that it takes place as a practice in a neutral sphere somehow remaining untainted by our normal cultural/political concerns and values. That the scientist is someone ‘out there’ expanding the frontiers of human knowledge, seeking only ‘Truth’. On this model it is OK to invent the atom bomb or anything else for that matter since doing so, in the name of Science, unburdens the scientist of any responsibility for his/her findings or inventions. Needless to say, I have a problem with the view of science.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I find your ideas very stimulating. I will, if you don’t mind, have a ponder on what you said about the nature of Being and get back to you when I have had time to give it proper consideration. I will also be spending a bit more time reviewing the rest of you blog.

    • You are more than welcome to browse. I’ll look forward to receiving any feedback from you. Likewise, I look forward to delving more into your own blog.

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