The Time Has Come … (After Nietzsche)

The time has come for humanity to set itself a goal and plant the seeds of its highest hopes. There is an urgency. The anti-human has plundered the earth and now the earth groans with the pain of its scars. Very soon, the Mother Earth that has engendered us will hate us and turn against us, turning its back to us and making itself inhospitable for us. The terrain for planting our hopes is already barren and the soil will need to be turned over and well-watered for it become fertile again. The Wasteland needs the planting of trees in order to cool the terrain. Trees create conditions for growing trees in. The anti-human has become obsessed with cutting and clearing and that must now change. But what form must such a change take? To answer this we need to look more closely at what it is that needs to be altered.

Anti-human history has given birth to the most contemptible species of anti-human beings – the ones who can no longer have contempt for themselves. Nietzsche called this species The Last Men, the last humans, but really they are the last of the anti-humans.

“What will our profit be from theses high hopes?” groaned the last of the anti-humans: “Why change our anti-humanity? What can we hope to gain by changing what has always been?” the anti-humans bleated. “We want jobs so that we can make money, but your hopes only point to poverty,” screamed the last of the anti-humans with his hands pushed firmly into his pockets.

The Earth has become small, and upon it hops the anti-human, who makes everything small. He is a pestilence, like the locust, turning fertile forests into deserts.

“We civilised the world,” say the anti-humans in a whimpering chorus, blinking and forgetting that what they really did was surrender themselves to perpetual slavery and misleading themselves that they themselves are really human and not anti-human at all – they actually think of themselves as human beings whilst constantly acting in a humanistically antagonistic way over and over again.  

Becoming ill and being mistrustful are considered sinful by them, even though they no longer know what sin is. In general, they proceed with caution, lest they should be tempted to lose their anti-human traits and become human again. Anti-humans allow themselves a bit of poison every now and again, that makes for pleasant dreams, but they know not why they are living, for they are terrified of death. This horror encourages them to prolong their lives as long as possible. Even when their bodies and brains hardly function at all they are kept alive by artificial means, misleading themselves that the mere act of breathing can be interpreted as a genuine mark of authentic human (i.e., anti-human) activity.  

They hate work but cannot renounce it as they lust after the money that can only be found by working. They think it is labour and toil that gives them the moral right to live, but it really merely enslaves them to jobs that are actually unnecessary. The only aim of work is to enable the anti-human civilisation to participate in the anti-human game of wealth distribution. This game is obligatory, and because of that there is an effort to make work never too burdensome, although it should always be stressful. This paradoxical situation is taken for granted by nearly all anti-human societies. They no longer become rich or poor, which are both too burdensome.

The anti-humans are nihilists. They either live for no good reason at all or lose themselves in religious fantasies of nihilistic paradises beyond this world.  

They despise their governors but have no idea how to get rid of them. Politics has no interest for them except when they can reduce it to the most simple and absurd levels, otehrwise it is just too intellectual and difficult. Because of this the political class has to be, or at least appear to be, as simple and ignorant as the vast majority of anti-human voters who elect them. It is for this reason that politicians have no sincere interest in the people, except in their capacity as voters, which is what presumably determines the kind of government each society obtains.

Anti-humans are a homo economicus, but the economy too is too complicated to worry about. The anti-humans hate using their brains to think. They believe there is something anti-natural and anti-life in any abundance of intellect and in anything provoking a need to think. But there is hope in the current existential misery we face …

The anti-human can only change in one direction, it must become human, must become a sapiens organism again rather than the herd animal it presently is, now subjected to the tremendous lies of our anti-human course of history. For humanity to be reborn there needs to be a new enlightenment, a rebirth of the intellect and reason. We need to put argumentation back into the argument again.

AUTHENTIC PURPOSIVENESS: THE THING – THE WORD – BEING

For humanity to evolve in a positive and authentically human way we must be able to affirm a common purposiveness for all. In order to do that, we need to answer the big question: “Why are we here?”, with the emphasis on the WE.

This is a question that contains a heavy theological load, as it has historically been the role of religions to try and answer it, so in order to pull it away from religious associations we could firstly open up the subject ‘we’ to include all conscious and rational forms of life that could exist and so rephrase the ‘big’ question in a more scientifically sounding manner: “Why is their intelligent life in the Universe?”

Not that we expect science to be able to give a definite answer to this question, in fact we presume it can’t, but we do think if it is armed with philosophical, logical speculation, it could fashion a new, metaphysical scenario to build a positive narrative of purpose from. From contemporary cosmological speculation science points to a quantum-mechanics kind of metaphysics that approaches the evolution of the Universe as a wilful process, not necessarily planned as such, but moving towards a logical evolution that gravitates toward purposefulness.   

Before science will be able to definitely prove any reason for intelligence, however, philosophy is needed to open a path for that speculative investigation and pave the way forward and attack the big question from a slightly different angle – not of ‘why’ directly but primarily ‘how’ and then ‘what for’. So, firstly, How is the existence of rational beings in the Universe possible? And secondly, What could the purpose of intelligent life be in the Universe?

The answer to the first question rests in the idea of evolution and that has to be examined scientifically. The religious idea of a Creator that opened its mind and let in light and a paradise world came into being populated by all the animals and plants and human beings we know of today has no scientific basis. The evolution of the Universe from pure energy into complex material forms with consciousness capable of practising art and science and developing technologies capable of shaping the world to satisfy their own needs is the end-result of a painstakingly slow development from absolute simplicity to incredible complexity. We are beings that know we are here because of that gradual, cause and effect development into complexity. One could say we are a result of a seemingly perpetual process of incremental intricacy, and, as far as we know, the human brain is the most naturally complex material phenomenon in this Universe. An intricate organ that is constantly producing more and more complexity. Knowing this, we can now ask ‘why?’. What is this complexity we possess for? Why would such a process of creating such complexity exist in our Universe at all?

To answer this we need to think of what the most basic purpose of the Universe itself could be, the answer to which lies in what it is.

The Universe is everything, and by being everything it is the antithesis of nothing. In theological and philosophical terms, the Universe is Being, and that which is not in the Universe is non-Being. The pre-Socratic Parmenides argued that the totality of the Universe was something complete and perfect, an idea reflected in monotheistic concepts of God, but science tells us that this is not so. The Universe has evolved from very chaotic conditions and continues to evolve – Being is a developing, qualitative thing. The Being of a Universe simply made up of nothing more than cold space, hot balls of gas and spinning rocks, is not a very interesting thing to know about, especially as there is nothing in such a Universe to know about it. To be but not be known even by yourself, is the most pointless kind of existence. From this image of pointlessness, however, we can derive a concept of ultimate purposiveness and affirm that the ultimate goal of Being is for its existence to know and be known.

So, in order for this more purposeful form of an aware-Being to come about, then the Universe needs to create the possibility of that awareness. This must happen via the creation of the possibility of it being named. Let’s call this naming process The Word. The Thing, thereby, which is the original, pre-sapiens state of Being, must allow a naming to happen by creating circumstances that permit The Word to be brought into Being and by so doing allowing the Thing-itself to be known, interpreted through and preserved by The Word.

This is the purpose of Being, a purpose which is necessarily engendered by its lack. Without The Word the Universe (Being) is qualitatively deficient and is closer to non-Being than Being itself.  

Through The Word the Thing becomes the Universe as a Being imbued with qualities and purpose becomes rooted in the interaction between the Universe and the conscious, rational, evolving intelligences that cohabit, discover and define it.

In order to arrive where we are now, with someone thinking the Universe in words that are communicated to other organisms capable of understanding those words, the Universe has to have been imbued with the purpose of qualitative Being. A purposeful will which has been able to create conditions allowing sapiens organisms with brains that are complex enough to create language, to evolve in it, name it, and construct communicable explanations for it that will uncover the secrets of it and allow for the development of technologies that will develop the understanding of the Universe further, with the goal of achieving total comprehension with the Universe in the distant future. For this reason, using theological terms, humanity is sacred in the Universe.

It is within this continually evolving development that our authentic purposiveness lies, and authentic human fulfilment can only be genuinely found through the pursuit of this development unto a complete awareness of Being. If our consciousness and language make us sacred, we have a sacred duty to develop our common intelligence (the accumulation of all human intelligence) to the fullest. 

Frustrating Questions concerning Meaning and Purpose

Meaning depends on purpose to furbish it with sense. If we are to be able to say what the meaning of life in society is, then we need to examine the purpose of the society itself.

What is the purpose of our society? By answering this question we should be able to find clues regarding what will make our lives meaningful. Nevertheless, the answers that spring to mind might seem ugly. What happens if we don’t really like their ugliness? Are we bad citizens for rejecting the ugly purposes of our society? If we don’t lie the purposes of society, how can our lives within it make any sense to us? And, if society is non-sensical, how can we ever be expected to make our lives truly meaningful?

In a global marketplace society of ugly purposes, where can we escape to in order to pursue a meaningful existence again? And, if we can’t escape, what can we do to make the ugliness pretty?   

Anti-Fanaticism

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The world today needs great ideas. Human society needs inspiration. However, these very needs imply another necessity for extreme caution.

Our anti-human historical process teaches us that great ideas are embraced by Wealth through the apparatus of Civilisation and converts inspiration and creativity into ideology and dogma. For this reason, all good ideas have to be handled with protective gloves, not to protect our hands but in order to safeguard them from our own society’s greed.

We can use terms like Fascism or Stalinism to represent the idea of a total immersion in ideology, but likewise we could talk of Opus Deism or Mormonism, or we can unify all of these dogmas under the umbrella of Fanaticism.

The 21st century has arrived with its own peculiar narratives: the dialectic between Fanaticism and Anti-fanaticism is one of these; but this dialectic is itself swamped by a far more powerful squabble between the fanatics themselves. The seemingly age-old bickering between religious fanatics has made a comeback, in a brutal, violent way, and this is also fostered and favoured by a political ideology fanaticism, which is in truth an economic ideology. This creates a powerful and destructive dynamic that mitigates human progress and creativity whilst inflating Wealth.

Civilisation today is driven by an internecine struggle of alliances and enemies. On the one hand there are the champions of the spirit and on the other the upholders of the material. Both of these fanatical movements promise great rewards for their followers, and both of these streams create currents of wealth creating power that flow through and nurture each other.

Neither option keeps everyone happy, but together they offer a great alternative to each other: if you don’t want to be subject to one side of civilisation’s fanaticisms’ coin, then you can join the other side without needing to denounce civilisation at all. Only the fanatics are trying to escape now.

Of course this seems to be anti-intuitive: isn’t fanaticism a threat to Civilisation? Aren’t the fanatics Barbarians? This is what Civilisation would have us believe: but the real answer is “no” and “no”; Civilisation feeds its fanatics for its own benefit.

As for the Anti-fanatics: all people who are not fanatics are, potentially, anti-fanatics. However, the anti-human historical process has always shown us how easily the mechanisms of Civilisation can be used to turn non-fanatics into absolute “believers” in an historical blink of an eye. As for the anti-fanatical purist, they also have the fanatic in them: the fanaticism of the anti-fanatic. And in this sense the looming scenario is dismally pessimistic: one can only combat fanaticism fanatically. A new paradox emerges, and with each paradox a new challenge to overcome it. How do we overcome Fanaticism without being fanatical?

We imagine pockets of anti-fanatics, swimming lonely and anonymously within the great schools of ideologies; immersed because they have to be, but following the rules without conforming to the fanaticism. We think these anti-fanatics have to exist, because without them the dialectics of society would be self-contained between “spirit” and “material” and between each sections own inner squabbles; and this would have provoked a rapid collapse of civilisation itself.

Or, in other words, civilisation still exists today because of the true anti-fanatic current that flows within it.

The Anti-fanatics are cynics and scientists. They are sceptics and visionaries. They visualise Utopias and deconstruct the Heterotopias that dominate and disfigure our reality. They seem to be a tiny minority, but this may be an illusion created by complexity. Lines seem straight until we magnify them. Closer inspection always reveals an inner chaos, a deeper yearning for a more creative fabric forming existence.

NEUROTIC PRIDE AND THE LOSS OF AUTHENTICITY

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In our post On Neurosis[i] we looked at how neurosis seeps into the very fabric of society and how the System itself encourages the illusionary reality of the neurotic. But, to what extent is our Civilisation itself neurotic?

At the macro-psychological level, we live in an economic system driven by neurotic pride and fear. Vindictive triumph runs rich in the veins of the brutally competitive, consumer-driven system. If we look at Horney’s thesis on neurosis as vindictive triumph, neurosis is described as “a regular ingredient in the search for glory.” A system that advocates competitiveness as a virtue would, therefore, contain neurotic elements. Horney also warns that “If it is the dominant motivating force in life, it sets going a vicious circle that is most difficult to disentangle. The determination then to rise above others in every possible way is so gigantic that it reinforces the whole need for glory, and with that the neurotic pride.”[ii] Hence, the virtue of striving to be an achiever contains a neurotic pathology that must make the system itself questionable.

Yet, it is not all capitalism’s fault: the vicious circle that Horney mentions has been running incessantly through the entire anti-human historical process since the dawn of civilisation.

Neurosis, or at least neurosis according to Horney’s definition[iii], is a loss of authenticity. The neurotic individual becomes so lost in the ‘shoulds’ of society that he or she loses touch with her own authentic wants and needs. Likewise, the neurotic system itself has lost sense of its primary human condition and has drowned itself in a sea of non-authentic identities based on separation: identities that create vindictive pride, and are reinforced as identities by that same vindictive pride.

But, like the neurotic, the vindictive pride that motivates the system is twisted by its authentic self; in the macro-psychological self, by humanity. Humanity is also behind the man-made system, but more as an omnipresent stranger than as a recognisable member of the system itself. Humanity is more like a spectre, haunting our System-run lives, than any real motivator of them. Nevertheless, it is omnipresently critical, working like a subconscious superego that gnaws at us and makes us feel fraudulent, unsatisfied, or even displaced in the societies we live in.

As an anti-human creation, the System suffers from a massive, ingrained inauthenticity, which in turn has a retarding effect on the System’s own desires for progress. No matter how hard it tries to push forward, it keeps circling around within itself. Without an ability to embrace its authenticity, the System is doomed to crash into the problem of self-hate. Civilisation itself is torn by a deep rift of conflict between its despised, authentic self (its humanity) and its idealised creation of itself (personified in its many different forms of identities).

Civilisation’s condition is as Horney said of the neurotic: “there is a war on. And this is the essential character of every neurotic: he is at war with himself.”[iv] Every war throughout human history has been Civilisation’s neurotic battle with itself.

 

[i] See https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/on-neurosis/

[ii] K. Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth, p. 104.

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid, p. 112

OUR THYMOTIC PATHOLOGY 2: Achilles, Odysseus and the Bicameral Mind

In the evolution of Greek culture from the menis (cholera/rage) of Achilles to the metis (astuteness) of Odysseus we see a new power emerging in our species – the power of consciousness; the power of the mind. It is Odysseus and not Achilles who vanquishes Troy.

If Jaynes’ analysis of Homer and thymus is correct[i] and that an evolutionary leap took place between the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey, showing us a literary expression of the transformation of the Bicameral unconscious man (Achilles) and the Conscious man (Odysseus), thymus and menis could also be regarded as biological facets of our temperament that were necessary to the unconscious man in his bicameral state, but became only a troublesome element for the conscious intelligence of our non-bicameral minds.

It is not the Achilles figure bursting with menis, or Hegel’s aristocrat hero sacrificing himself for his slave who should be posited as candidates for the title of the First Man, but rather the wily Odysseus. Odysseus is the first man, the first figure in world literature, who would be the first to display the tremendous advantage of consciousness and the astuteness that that consciousness empowered him with. Rather than a step forward, Fukuyama’s Hegelian idea of the triumph of thymus and the megathymotic instincts of liberal-democracy and capitalist society is in actual fact a backward leap in ontological evolution.

The Iliad man is slave to passions, which are not his passions but drives instilled by gods. It is Achilles’ thymus, stirred by Apollo, that makes him rise, leave his tent and go to battle. Achilles is a kind of schizophrenic automaton. He doesn’t think of himself but only acts when the gods tell him to act or when they stir his thymus. He is a patient potency that will explode when ignited. He will sit and wait, absorbing the world until he is called to act. He is an archetype for the invulnerable power of the masses. The masses who are stirred via their own thymus: the thymus of all religions and all nationalisms; loyal to all flags; the champion of all victims of any injustices. Achilles evolved into the masses and his thymus and his menis were preserved for anyone cunning enough to tap into to use.

Achilles, the archetypal hero of all who act when they are stirred, is a robot warrior. He is superseded in homo sapiens evolution by Odysseus, the genius survivor. As the archetypical automaton-man, Achilles is the first example of Nietzsche’s Last Man. The gods of Olympus are no longer the instigators and thymus stirring invisible protagonists of our current unfolding tragedy. They have been replaced by the cunning sons of Odysseus who learned the art of domesticating all Achilles-men. But now Achilles’ descendants, the Last Men, also have consciousness, or at least a latent consciousness, and the new god-king race of the Odysseus family must apply even more ingenious methods of manipulation to maintain the Achilles-masses automaton-slave condition.

The historical process has become a struggle to manipulate the Achilles-automatons, and keep them unconscious by convincing them that they are really free. But in between the Odysseus-god-kings and the Achilles-automaton-slave-masses are the other classes of men and women. Strange Odysseus-like creatures who use their intelligence not for cunning and manipulation but for knowing and teaching. They evolved in the post-Homeric times of poetry and philosophy (and Homer himself belonged to this same class). They stand on the outskirts of the prayer process of history, part of it, but never really accepted by it or accepting of it. They try to reshape it, redirect it.

 

If Jaynes is right, mankind as a consciously thinking species, as a true homo sapiens, has only existed for some four thousand years. Hegel saw life as a long process of becoming. A tedious but necessary process. We know that evolution has had its failures and there have been countless extinctions, so how should we imagine mankind in one or four thousand years’ time? If we were to meet such a person time-travelling back to our era we would probably not consider them human any more, just as we would probably have trouble relating in any meaningful way to Achilles. We are always in the middle of what we once were and will eventually become.

In the 1960s, when science-fiction writers tried to envisage an evolved humanity they gave us huge hands and long fingers. But our next great evolutionary leap will probably be like our last, not a physical change but a leap of consciousness. In the future men and women will have a more quantum awareness, perhaps with greater sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and, certainly, areas of the brain will be activated that we have never consciously used up to now. The shift from Jaynes’ bicameral Achilles to conscious Odysseus involved a shutting down of the bicameral activity and an activation of that part of the brain that makes us aware of the I.

We have evolved and we will evolve again if we survive extinction. “The goal is Spirit’s insight into what knowing is,”[ii] wrote Hegel. And for the Spirit to know through mankind then mankind’s perception will have to grow more acute and more finely tuned to nature. In the meantime, we must struggle against the bi-polarising of society into a conscious and unconscious one and the maintenance of that bi-polarised status quo. We still have a segregated society of Odysseus-royal-elites and Achilles-slave-masses, and a power struggle between the two. The automaton class tryies to preserve its dignity by demonstrating that it has clear consciousness, while the royal elite amplifies the servility of its multitude through the machinery of religions, patriotisms, publicity, spectator sports and other spectacular events for the masses.

 

[i] Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, First Mariner Books, 2000

[ii] G. W. Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, p. 17

 

PART ONE:

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/our-thymotic-pathology-1-fukuyama-and-sloterdijk/

 

OUR THYMOTIC PATHOLOGY – 1: Fukuyama and Sloterdijk

The ancient Greeks had a concept called thymus which, they believed, explained our unconscious impulses to act. In the Iliad, Achilles does not act consciously, but rather it is Apollo who inspires him to go to battle by stimulating his thymus.

Of course, as a subconscious driving force, thymus can be likened to will, or a physical, personal receiver and motivator of will. Julian Jaynes’, in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, argues that the meaning of the word evolved in its classical usage from an original concept of motion or agitation in the unconscious bicameral man, to eventually become something like our emotional soul. Perhaps in its original meaning we could sometimes associate it with energy – when a man grows tired of moving it is because his thymus leaves his limbs – but it must be given a spiritual or psychological quality as well which seems to come and go and even gives us directions. It speaks to us. The thymus can tell a man to eat and drink, or to fight. Diomedes in the Iliad says that Achilles will fight: “when the thymus in his chest tells him and a god rouses him.” Thymus then, is associated with passion.

Fukuyama introduces thymus to us through Plato. From the Republic, Fukuyama tells us that Plato envisaged the soul in three parts: desire, reason and thymus, which Fukuyama translates as spiritedness.

What Fukuyama is looking for constantly in his book is a handy definition of human nature. Definitions which can correspond to liberal-democratic intentions and thus prove Fukuyama’s thesis that liberal-democracy is the most perfect system because it reflects human nature far better than any other. Plato’s triumvirate-soul is perfect for Fukuyama and capitalism: a will to spirited desire that also has a sprinkle of reasonableness to it. Plato of course saw the triumvirate working in a different way. Its tri-nature being an explanation for the constant moral dilemma between our reasoning and our desires. Plato asks: shouldn’t we subject our desires to the judgement of reason against the danger of allowing it to be subjected to passion? Capitalism of course would argue NO. It’s better for the consumer to desire with a passion and consume with a frenzy. Capitalism wants a passionate element to reign in our souls. The kind of passion propounded by the Romantics, the kind advocated by Nietzsche.

To act with passion the consumer needs freedom, and so the liberal-plutocracy encourages it, or at least a hallucinatory version of that freedom. While you are allowed to consume with passion, you will be fully motivated to work in our system, the one, the only one that can provide the drugs one needs to feed one’s consumer-addiction – which is making the few who are pulling the strings get richer whilst the rest sink deeper and deeper into their addiction. Welcome to Huxley’s Brave New World.

For Fukuyama: “Desire and reason are together sufficient to explain the process of industrialisation and a large part of economic life more generally.”[i] But what room is there for reason in a soul that is driven by a spirited, passionate desire? How much reason can we see in an industrialisation which has scarred the planet? How much reason behind those ideas that created a slave-class of factory workers that are now abandoned to unemployment as the system mechanises the same industries? Instead of the noble concept of reason, we see only egotistical ambition. Only selfish reasons based on greed and desire.

Fukuyama perverts Plato’s idea of the soul by associating it with a singularity that is human nature. Plato himself, however, does not make this association, and in the dialogue Socrates is searching for the best individual natures to fit certain positions (e.g. what would be the right soul for an ideal guardian of the city). Plato’s argument is that the appetitive part of the soul that is desire needs to be controlled, not unleashed as capitalism does.

Fukuyama seems quite liberal (no pun intended) with Plato’s thymus. In Republic IV, 436a ff., Socrates asks: “Do we do things with the same part of ourselves or do we do them with three different parts? Do we learn with one part, get angry with another, and with some third part desire the pleasures of food drink, sex, and the others that are closely akin to them? Or when we set out after something, do we act with the whole of our soul in each case?” Or in other words the three parts that Fukuyama refers to are: that with which we learn (reason), that which gets us angry (thymus), and that which fills us with desire. Here Fukuyama’s translation of thymus, spiritedness, would probably be better rendered as passion, for thymus here is the faculty for arousing anger. Drawing this same line of argument Socrates says that he prefers the term appetite to desire, for appetite implies both desire and non-desire. Non-will is just as an important concept for Plato as will. My revulsion at the idea of eating shit is stronger than my love of eating shell-fish. My will for wanting one thing is often measured alongside a will for not wanting something else. It is between will and non-will that choices are made, and preferences. Only a monster will desire everything, and there is another perversion: the culture that wants everything is a monstrous abomination. The natural thing (and this was Plato’s point), the authentically natural thing is that desire should be moderated by a courageous will to not-want, or want-less.

Nevertheless, in Fukuyama’s perverted misreading of Plato, thymus becomes a perfectly positive drive and one necessary for human satisfaction, in fact it is related by Fukuyama to human dignity.

 

Peter Sloterdijk sees thymus, and capitalism, from another angle. After locating the origin of the word thymus in a kind of receptacle through which the gods activated mankind, Sloterdijk suggests that we are still subject to thymotic power. But now it is via the State or the system that thymus returns to its receptacle like function. Instead of being activated by gods it is now programmed by the system. He says: “Current consumerism achieves, in a significant way, the same elimination of pride in favour of the erotic without holistic, altruistic and elegant excuses, by buying from man his interest in dignity, offering material favours in exchange.” The system now functions not as a body-snatcher, but as a dignity-snatcher: “In this way, the construct of the Homo-economicus, at first totally incredible, arrives at his goal of becoming the post-modern consumer. A simple consumer is he or she that doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know different appetites that… proceed from the erotic or demanding part of the soul.”[ii]

For Sloterdijk the rediscovery of the neo-thymotic human image in the Renaissance played an important role in the rise of the Nation State in terms of that which referred to its output. He lists Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hamilton and Hegel as they who considered men’s passions as their most important qualities: their lust for fame, vanity, self-love, ambition and the desire to be recognised. All of them saw the dangers in their passions but most of them still dared to sell these vices as positive, productive aspects for society.

The thymotic drive is a creative, productive one, but it is also an angry, jealous, violent one. The will-to-want-more (Nietzschean) thymus coupled to the will-to-be-recognised (Hegelian) thymus is a pyrotechnic combination, an act of madness, throwing gunpowder into the fire. But it is what our system has always advocated. Sloterdijk makes a connection between Thymus and the Hippocratic temperament of Choleric. Both the will-to-want-more and the desire for recognition are areas in the thymotic field of psychology. They are questions of appetite and pride, of longing for success and fortune. Dreams: American Disneyland Dreams, fomented by the surplus-consumer society, our dynamic civilisation creating dynamic individuals from thymotic fantasies.

The greatest effect of the French Revolution, and the American War of Independence that preceded it, was not freedom, brotherhood and equality, but the creation of a dynamic civilisation based on the power of competitiveness, constantly fuelled by personal pride, needs for recognition, greedy ambition and motivating envy. It is these drives, applied to politics, which forces us to question our civilisation’s greatest apparent virtue – our liberal democracy.

“For the people, by the people”: by – to a certain, virtual extent; for – hardly.

Our party system is a reflection of our System, which is made of the essentially thymotic so necessary for making the market work in a dynamic way. Thus our parties are passionately competitive, power-hungry machines made up of power-hungry individuals. The parties themselves are divided into hungry factions, and each faction in ambitious individuals. How could we ever expect these vain-glorious competitors to even really care about those who voted for them except when it is useful? For the party to win it needs succulent policies and needs to sell those ideas seductively. It also needs the competitive, power hungry individuals to appear unified, and to seem to believe in the party principles. Principles that even the most utopian democrats will sacrifice to pragmatism. Over and over again the democratic politicians surprise us by their lack of vision, lack of principles and constant bowing to pragmatism.

Pragmatism is really the emergency exit out of all radical ideologies. In the great global liberal-free-market civilisation, political parties function very much like corporate groups. Voters are like customers for Coca-Cola or Pepsi: once they have been won to one side they will be more or less loyal forever. A loyal Coca-Cola consumer will rather have a Fanta than resort to Pepsi if there is no Coke. But more importantly than the loyalties it can create, modern politics is corporate through its internal competitiveness.

If Fukuyama would have been right and the triumph of liberalism had created a politically perfect system, there would no longer be any need for politics. But this is an absurd paradox. The liberal economic system needs competition. It is no surprise that the fall of communism left liberalism euphoric, but also momentarily crippled, and it was actually spiritually wavering until the Twin Towers came crashing down and the War on Terror began. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but for a system based on competition, struggle and ambition, war seems a logical necessity. And since the collapse of the Berlin Wall we have seen the liberal-democracies rushing headlong into almost any conflict that half-rears its head.

On a superficial level Fukuyama’s general thesis that liberal-democracy has triumphed as the only really viable and desirable political system is correct. Even those who don’t vote in the liberal-democrat systems would, if offered a choice, opt for the choice to vote. The grand majority of humankind want the voting option and therefore we can say that we want democracy. We also want all or some of the liberal ideas of freedom, although here we seem to split if we take the ballot-results as a fair measure between market-freedom and human-rights. The bi-partisan system of democracy is liberalism’s finest invention. By possessing its own inner competition it provides itself with its own self-criticism and its own renewal. Apart from the major options of right or left, the liberal-democratic system can offer a multitude of options for more socially complex societies: liberal-nationalism or liberal-catholicism, as well as free-market extremists and soft-core neo-fascisms.

On the surface it seems like a perfectly desirable system. Perfectly?: no, nothing is perfect. Triumphantly waiting it is, for the few last dictatorships to collapse and drop into liberal-democracy mode as well. When that happens it will be able to pronounce, with absolute conviction, that it is the perfect, and now the also the only system. But, ironically Fukuyama himself points to the liberal-democracies’ most dangerous foe. As the political systems to have fallen in the last half century have collapsed so suddenly, often without any pre-warning, taking us all by surprise, could the same happen to liberal-democracy?

[i] Francis Fukuyama, THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN, p. xviii

[ii] Peter Sloterdijk, ZORN UND SEIT, author’s own translation from the Spanish edition, p.27

PART TWO:

https://wordpress.com/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/2485

Descartes’ Perfect Being

Descartes

Descartes argued that a perfect being cannot be created out of something less perfect. Common sense immediately refutes this: we merely have to imagine any great artist and consider his or her development. Let’s take Beethoven as an example, and imagine his first lesson before the piano. A first lesson that was the first spark of a process that eventually produced the 9th Symphony.

What we take for God can also be created out of something much baser, even something as flawed as humanity.

Certain it is that Beethoven could never have arrived at our Beethoven without being prepared to work at it. Perfection doesn’t come about by accident. Likewise, for humanity to achieve its great destiny and become the God it alone can imagine, then it must get to work.

The Sublime

Salvador-Dali-00

The sublime experience is one which is elevated and inspires awe. Some would say, an experience that touches us or moves us deeply. Many would say that the experience of the sublime is a feeling that behind the phenomena lies some substantial but inaccessible thing – like God, for instance. Because of this the sublime is often put forward as an example to demonstrate the presence of God in our lives. But, we think this is a total misreading of the sublime.

In fact, the experience of the sublime is not that which points toward the inaccessible at all. The experience of the sublime is really a discovery of the real substantiality of things. What the sublime experience tells us is that there is a substantiality in all things, but habit and closeness have robbed us of the magic of it. A magic which is really based in the simple fact that we are perceiving it.

The first great miracle of the Universe is that it exists. The second great miracle – almost more miraculous still – is that we can perceive it. And the greatest miracle of all is that we know we perceive it. The sublime is the experience of knowing that we perceive existence, and that that is a miracle. It has nothing to do with God.

When we see the light behind the grotesque or the beauty in the monster’s interior, we are making a leap from our subjective prejudice to the universal perception. All sublime feeling is an immersion in the universal, whether that be the universality of our species or the universality of the Universe itself. The sublime is a perceiving that suddenly blasts out of a state of not-perceiving. A great work of art can move us in a sublime way on repeated occasions because it is always opening up different doors for us to perceive things from. However, the sublime sensation of the work will not be generated if we have it hanging on our living room wall or if it is a recording that we listen to every day. The sublime has to be a surprise, a way of snapping us out of our subjectivity. Sometimes it can be an absolute shock, as if we were suddenly pushed under water at a moment of complete lethargy when we had practically forgotten we were even floating.

Human Purpose in our Unconscious Universe

Collage of human head, molecules and various abstract elements on the subject of modern science, chemistry, physics, human and artificial minds

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_exterior_(shutters)

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.