The Death of the Novel

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In his book of essays, The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera discusses the death of that particular art form. Such a death, he argues, is brought about when the novel removes itself from history, as in the literature of the Soviet Union where novels could only confirm the official line of things and by doing so remain entrenched in the status quo. For Kundera, therefore, the spirit of the novel depends upon its historical position, a place that allows it to reveal the human condition to us from beneath the mind-numbing effects of the actual. Novels are, Kundera says, “part of a process which is the conquest of being,” participating in a “succession of discoveries” that are related to the historical process itself.

The idea of the historical process as a succession of discoveries that unfold and enrich humanity, is a humanistic perspective, and literature, and the novel, are without a doubt art forms driven by humanity-enriching purposes. Nevertheless, in our own analyses of the historical process, we have seen that history has never been a humanity-enriching progression. In fact, what we have discovered is that historical evolution has taken humanity further and further away from itself into the segregating tribalism of the national state or religious sects. History has been a process of dividing humanity instead of developing its potentials through unity. For this reason, we talk about the anti-human historical process – but if history is anti-human, what does that tell us about the novel’s role in that development? And, if we agree that our historical process needs to be redesigned in order to eliminate its anti-humanism and make it authentically human for once, what should the novel’s role in that revolution be?

In the first place, however, Kundera’s perception of the nexus between the novel and the historical process is a limited one. He is right to point out the way the novel’s evolution has reflected social changes, but he is mistaken in seeing that reflection as the means itself when the real nexus is the analysis of what it sees, and, through that analysis, its power of being critical.

What dictatorial censorship, like the Soviet one, must do is castrate the novel by chopping out its ability to criticise. Made impotent in its critical faculty, the novel is thereby rendered useless. Kundera’s argument, therefore, is that chopping in any form, even by well-intentioned capitalist editors, is potentially deadly for the novel itself. But a very dangerous question arises here: Is criticism only possible, therefore, because the anti-human historical process is so humanly flawed?

If this is so, then we have to ask ourselves if a truly-human process of progressive history would eliminate the need for criticism, which in turn would create a debilitating process for the mind akin to those created by dictatorship?

Or, in other words: Is the novel important to us only because the System (civilisation) we are immersed in is so defective?

We believe that Kundera, from his experience with Stalinism, would agree that it would. However, beginning an authentic-human historical process is not the same as completing the historical process, which was the purpose of communism.

By understanding the creative forces of humanity in a positive, universal way, guided by art, science and technology rather than ideology and religion, would be far more transformative than the evolutions and incomplete revolutions that have so far been produced by any anti-historical processes we have.

Rather than dying, the novel would be in the front line of this pro-humanity transformation: both as an analyser and a critique of the new process. The novel, therefore, will not die with authentic-human history, rather its current moribund prestige will be rekindled and rejuvenated as wider appreciation will be made of its essential role in human (Sapiens) evolution.

Kundera admits in his book that the novel itself could have had a different history. He points to the different callings that the novel makes: The call to play (Tristan Shandy and Jacques the Fatalist); the call to dream (Kafka); the call to think (Musil and Broch); the call of time (Proust). There are other calls: the call to freedom (Joyce’s Ulysses); the call for justice (Zola, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy).

But the novel, like humanity has been more fettered than liberated by the anti-human historical process and our novelists now need to imagine new callings that can transcend the anti-human and embrace the calling toward an authentic Sapiens humanity. Yes, an evolution toward human authenticism, centring  history as a process of human-progress, would imagine more callings as the abstract and conditional perspectives of individuals are opened up. One of the major victories that humanity would gain through an authentic-human historical evolution would be the liberation of minds beyond the actual and into the abstract and conditional realms of the potential.

Where Kundera is most definitely right and acute in his book, is when he speaks of the Spirit of the Novel, and that Spirit needs to be analysed and continually vindicated in opposition to the spirit of the market-place or the spirit of selling books. Novels are meant to be written, published and read: and this implies distribution and/or accessibility, but it does not imply sales. A novel’s success has to be measured by how much pleasure it has produced by doing what novels do best, which is … to stimulate the mind. But even here we need to be careful of over-simplifying success: A novel that can stimulate the minds of millions might be considered more successful than another which only managed to reach a handful of readers, but the quantitative degree of that success is no real reflection of the qualitative importance of the two books. A book that is never read may be qualitatively far superior than another that is consumed by billions. We see here the importance of accessibility and distribution: a great, human civilisation would be geared towards ensuring the accessibility of quality. An authentically human ethics would have to always prioritise the production of quality above quantity in art.

Kundera says that “the spirit of the novel is the spirit of complexity,” a spirit which is also antithetical to the reductionist spirit of the market-place and its demands for simplicity.

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Authentic History vs Anti-history

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We are immersed in an anti-historical process that is unintelligible, incalculable and impersonal. To embrace all these terms, we can use the concept of, as Marx did, alienation.

In order to mitigate the effects of its own alienation, the anti-historical process has created identity-forming ideologies like nationalism and religion to operate as a nexus between the alienated individual, humanity, and the anti-historical process.

An authentically historical process, on the other hand, would be geared towards human progress through humanity itself. The process would therefore be personal because it represents what we all are and cannot help not being, i.e., human. It will also therefore be more intelligible and because of that more calculable and consistent. In a world designed for the well-being and progress of humanity concepts like freedom and justice become less ambiguous.

When one knows why we are doing things, satisfaction and happiness through purposefulness and meaning are much easier to find and the authentic historical path forward for us is revealed.

Harold Skimpole: Art, Time & Money

 

Harold Skimpole is a character from Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House”. He is described as being innocent, like a child who knows nothing of time or money.

From this description we could conclude that Dickens is saying that time and money have eaten up our innocence. Dickens was writing at a time when the Industrial Revolution was pushing capitalism to its full potential and carving a new world-order designed to produce unlimited wealth on the one hand, and abject poverty on the other. A revolution that has endured centuries and continues to steam-roller forward through our own innocence-starved lives. But now, the concept of time-and-money has taken away far more than just our innocence: it has robbed us of our freedom, and, most especially, of our humanity.

In Bleak House, Skimpole has the airs of an artist: an amateur artist; a pure artist. Art, in its pure form, is always a gift – and we can see an association between the pure artist and innocence, because anyone who gives freely must be either innocent or mad. And yes, there is also an association between innocence, the simpleton, and madness. But art, as a gift, is the antithesis of capitalist ideology, because a gift is, in its essence, outside the economy and beyond the realms of time and money.

An authentically human system cannot ignore true art, and a truly human economy would have to understand the incompatibility between art (that which must be given) and the false-necessities created by the ubiquitous presence of money. A truly human economy, therefore, should be designed in a way that allows art to be created in a space beyond time and money, or, in other words, outside the money system itself.

 

PROPOSITION A:

The existence of art has to challenge the ubiquitous nature of the money system.

 

When Skimpole says: “… go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer; only – let Harold Skimpole live!” in effect Dickens is saying that the capitalists can build society anyway they want. However, the world they are building stifles Skimpole, and if Skimpole is a symbol of the artist, then Dickens is saying that the time-and-money system is choking art.

But Skimpole is a survivor, who has still not been swallowed up by the System. Somehow he manages to maintain his autonomy, perhaps because “he still had claims too, which were the general business of the community and must not be slighted,” or because he is anti-materialistic himself: “I covet nothing”; or because: “I feel as if you ought to be grateful to me for giving you the opportunity of engaging the luxury of generosity. I know you like it … I may have come into the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness.” Forget your worldliness and play with me, he says, which is what any pure artist would say as well.

Art is the gift of escape, but it is also the gift of progress-through-creativity, and because of that it is not only a gift it is a fundamental feature of humanity whose essence is to become through a continual process of becoming. Only through art can humanity ever really conceive itself to be progressing freely. Art is an essential ingredient in any definition of freedom. And, as Skimpole asserts: “the base word money should never be breathed near it!”

Skimpole can only exist in the time-and-money system by being a charlatan, and as a charlatan he is unscrupulous at ensuring his survival. But Dickens is also blaming the system for Skimpole’s unscrupulousness. Skimpole has no choice, just as art or any artist has no choice. In order to survive in this world, everyone needs money, artist or not. Skimpole uses his charms to maintain his independence from the System, but the System is still there and he is still inside it. He is an impossible man, but in his absurdity resides something that the world that makes him absurd also needs: His creativity.

In the eyes of capitalism, Skimpole is a parasite, just as all artists are who cannot justify themselves in the world of the free market are parasites. But let us remember that some parasites achieve greatness as well: those who, doomed to be amateur nobodies in their poverty-stricken lives, became superstars after their death. A most poignant example is Van Gogh, whose work now brings in millions and yet he never sold a painting in his life. Likewise, Dostoevsky was a struggling unfortunate; as was Beckett.

Art in the civilised world now seems to be the heading the same way as the nomad. There is no space for the real artist in the free-money-market world. And, like any nomadic society, the artist will be forced to eventually conform to the system or perish.

Of course, the irony of this, is that art is one of the defining features in the identity of the civilised world against the barbarian. By reducing the artist to the level of the parasite, civilisation reveals a triumph of barbarism within its own walls. It has its pinacothecas and museums, but these only display its own hypocritical attitude toward the artist, who, like Skimpole, is only a parasite until proven otherwise.

Nihilism & the Irrational

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Nihilism (which is derived through rationality) and the relativism it creates (which is also rational) paradoxically opens up an enormous space for the irrational. The relativism inherent in nihilism that declares that everything is possible, therefore authorizing any opinion from a subjective point of view, is also stating that the irrational is valid as well, and while this opens doors for creative thinking it also drags the nihilist standpoint down into an abysmal hole where rationality drowns in relativity.

This is important because we exist in fundamentally nihilistic societies that seem on the surface to be driven by rationality, but are in fact deeply irrational. Nationalism, for example, is absurd if considered from the logic of human reason because all nationalism segregate humanity and national pride is an anti-humanist concept. Nevertheless, nationalisms, and their supposedly more benevolent sisters that are called patriotisms, have thrived in the modern, nihilistic world, despite the horrors that these concepts have procured (just think of wars and ethnic cleansings). Likewise, in the very midst of our contemporary world, we see a resurgence of logically absurd religious sentiment everywhere. While we applaud the technological advances of our civilisation, we also give credence to the mythological fantasies promoted by religious groups who still wield enormous power in our societies. As such, we live in a heterotopia: the world we think we live in, does not really exist at all.

Relativism, of course, is a synonym of scepticism that operates in reverse gear, taking the sceptical idea that everything is questionable, it turns it on its head and says that all things are just as questionable as each other and this, therefore gives them the same degree of validity: ergo, everything is valid.

So, from nothing is valid, we now get everything is valid, and this makes everyone happy in the feeling of freedom they have in order to be as irrational and carry out any illogical or down-right stupid act they feel like.

Yes, we still have the System to save us from anarchy, and the System can always use the extremisms of the logically absurd groups it associates with to enforce controls that would be impossible in a truly rational society rooted in holistic purposes and the central idea of humanity rather than floating aimlessly in an ocean of nihilism.

The Abstract and the Conditional versus the Casserole of Duties

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All human activity and progress has come from our ability to conceptualise reality abstractly and conditionally. The future is not built on dreams, but on the idea of what is possible; of what we could do if …

Nevertheless, despite all the conditional possibilities thrown at us every day in a civilisation driven by publicity campaigns, contemporary society offers little room to let our minds wander into the now dangerous realm of the abstract.

The contemporary human condition is full of the obligations of the here and now: family responsibilities; work obligations; needs to find work; to buy; to pay one’s debts. Obligations that have their own spaces, but which seep into the other spaces, constantly mixing and creating a thick stew of obligations. And it is this casserole of duties that we come to call the System. A thick-stew system that gives us less and less space in which to look for the abstract and conditional.

In the casserole of duties, life is enclosed in the actual. Whenever gaps appear, they are quickly plugged by consumer needs or the indoctrinations of the games used by the System to divert thoughts that may start to wander, fixing them by immersing them in the actuality of the game, so that when the current match finishes the arrival of the next great sporting event is already immanent.

Everything is designed to promote the here-and-now and inhibit the conditional, and, by so doing, foster the real and the factual, extinguishing our thoughts until we are left empty of possibilities and full of the actual.

The modern man and woman is full of the System, and the irony is that our very social complexity in the System alienates us from our humanity.

While we are full of the System, we have no room to progress as humans; no room to discover our vital, creative potential within the future potentials of all imagined conditionals.

Erlebnis & Thumos

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THUMOS (Homer): “There is no general consciousness in the Iliad … The thumos, which later comes to mean something like emotional soul, is simply motion or agitation. When a man stops moving, the thumos leaves his limbs. But it is also somehow like an organ itself, for when Glaucus prays to Apollo to alleviate his pain and to give him strength to help his friend Sarpedon, Apollo hears his prayer and ‘casts strength through his thumos’ (Iliad, 16:529). The thumos can tell a man to eat, drink or fight … Achilles will fight ‘when the thumos in his chest tells him to and a god rouses him.’ (9:702f) But it is not really an organ and not always localised …” [1]

 

ERLEBNIS (Dilthey): “… any cognitive, affective or conative act or attitude which is conscious, but distinguished from the object to which it is directed, and not itself the object of any other act or attitude. Erlebnis are too intimate to be focal. We do not know, feel or will them; we know, feel and will through them.”[2]

 

Whilst reading Dilthey’s idea of Erlebnis, I could not help but be reminded of the Greek idea of Thumos. On the surface they seem completely different concepts: Thumos is an inspiring agent whilst Erlebnis is a vehicle through which our inspiration is made possible (but fundamentally, that could be the same thing). Erlebnis is experience itself, whereas Thumos is a motivating force, yet Dilthey says that we know, feel and will through these experiences, and that is what gives Erlebnis the feeling of ThumosErlebnis is also a motivator.

Homer places thumos like an organ in our body, and makes it a kind of receiver, through which the gods are able to stimulate and move us to action, or turn us off at their will, and the god Apollo uses Achilles like a toy in this manner.

But what is Apollo? Does Erlebnis describe what the Greeks believed was an intervention between the gods and mortals?

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy describes Erlebnis as immediate experience: “(it) denotes experience in all its direct immediacy and lived fullness,” and should be contrasted with Ehrfarung: “denoting ordinary experience as mediated through intellectual and constructive elements.” Erlebnis is the experience that is not mediated by the intellect – it is pure and direct – which for the Greeks meant that it came straight from the gods; straight from Apollo.

C.D.P.: “As immediate, Erlebnis eludes conceptualisation, in both the lived present and interiority of experience. As direct, Erlebnis is also disclosive and extraordinary: it reveals something real that otherwise escapes thinking … Typical examples include art, religion and love, all of which show the anti-rationalist and polemical uses of the concept.”

By drawing a link between thumos and Erlebnis a new light is shed on each one.

In Julian Jayne’s thesis on the Bicameral Mind, he claims that thymotic inspiration was a fundamental feature of the human mind some three millennia ago, and he sees vestiges of it remaining in what is now called schizophrenia. But Jaynes’ thesis was more concerned with the neurological significance of thumos than with the inspirational power of direct experience. For Jaynes, the inspirational power of our pre-self-conscious ancestors, came from the voices they heard in their schizophrenic minds (part of Jaynes’ theory is that the human mind evolved away from a commonly schizophrenic condition some three millennia ago when the proliferation of city-states formed closer human communities in which hearing voices became an annoyance rather than an inspiring tool).

But could it be that, whilst the voices have disappeared, the direct inspiration of experience has not – and this is what Dilthey was expressing through his concept of Erlebnis.

 

[1] Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, Mariner 2000, p. 69

[2] Wilhelm Dilthey, SCIENCE OF PHILOSOPHY (translator’s preface)

Our Cancer & Its Cure through TELOS

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The doctrine of continual growth and perpetual accumulation of profits is a cancer to the world, it is our cancer. Half of the world are in denial that we have cancer, while most of those belonging to the other half who can admit to the severity of our illness, do not really know what kind of cancer it is (which is not surprising as the doctors, the media, have not really explained the seriousness nature of our illness very well at all).

You cannot put band-aids on cancer, you have to attack it at its roots, and the roots of this cancer are unbridled consumerism within a consumer market that is constantly growing demographically (that is what the doctors don’t tell us).

Buying second-hand or making your own is good, anti-consumerism (i.e. anti-capitalist) practice but as far as the cancer goes, it’s just a band aid. Every day, it seems, something new becomes a non-sustainable practice: driving cars or flying in planes has gone over the threshold, clothes are no longer a sustainable commodity, eating meat is no longer a sustainable act … capitalist recommendations: eat insects!

All these things are symptoms of the cancer and while we attempt to whittle them down the tumour devouring the planet keeps growing. Call it consumer-practices, capitalism, whatever, it is the System that we are immersed in that needs to be changed. It’s time to think big, not small. It’s too late to just do your own little bit, and to change the System we need to start talking about the fact that systemic-change is what is really needed. Only then will we be able to bring that change about and cure the cancer.

But to do that we need more than a will for a revolution, we have to have an idea of what we will evolve into if we pull down the system.

Once we look at the situation philosophically, we get a broader, more objective image than tackling it from a political stand-point. The philosophical view tells us that we are living in a deeply nihilistic era, and it is this nihilism that creates the ironically fertile field for consumerism to thrive in.

So, to change the system we need to change our philosophical standpoint: instead of a nihilist society we need to find a purposeful one. And that is where the idea of telos[1] comes in.

TELOS

The final-cause, and, subsequently, the fulfilment, of any human being, has to lie in the final-cause of humanity. But the only final-cause imaginable has to lie in perpetuity. The secret of all final-causes rests in continuity, in an eternal process of becoming. Once it all ends – if everything is suddenly reduced to nothing – then all has been in vain. This is the deep truth that our nihilistic civilisation chooses to ignore.

We hold the key to our fulfilment only if we are able to ensure the continuation, perpetuity and progress of humanity.

In order for the social-experience we are immersed in that we call civilisation to be meaningful and fulfilling, we must look for the teleological significance of civilisation? What should it be? How can we re-structure civilisation so that it does have a human and teleological significance?

To begin to answer these questions we first of all need to call a spade a spade. The System we live in is the cancer that threatens our existence and, logically, our perpetuity. Secondly, we need to identify ourselves as what we are in our essence, i.e. human beings, homo sapiens, the one who knows, who thirsts for knowledge and who will ultimately find fulfilment in that perpetual search for knowledge.

[1] Greek for ‘end’ ‘purpose’ or ‘goal’; from it comes teleology, which is a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal

An Eidetic Reduction of the Economy

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1: PHENOMENOLOGY

In order to achieve proper and objective understandings of things, we need to disclose all the subjective or cultural presumptions we have about the particular thing being studied. This is one of the prime objectives of phenomenology, a branch of philosophy conceived by Edmund Husserl to be a scientific approach capable of achieving such a disclosure. Phenomenology for Husserl was a “presuppositionless” discipline, which he called “the science of all sciences.”[1]

In order to do this, Husserl proposed a method of investigation that would take the philosopher’s enquiry into the realm of pure essences, where an intuition of the eidos (Greek: “shape”) of a thing could be uncovered. The reduction was designed to reveal an essential structure of things, apart from all that is accidental to them. He called this approach eidetic reduction.[2] It is a transempirical process, and its methodology can be juxtaposed against the empirical sciences.

In eidetic sciences, the ultimate grounding act is not experience or experiment, but rather the seeing of essences.[3]

 

2: THE ECONOMY

The economy is a science. The economists themselves tell us so and they win Nobel Prizes for Economic Sciences. So, it must be a science. But it works more in an engineering fashion than in a descriptive way of unveiling facts. It is used to construct the Matrix that we are immersed in, it drives political policies, motivations and will, and it seems more like a doctrine than an investigation – but surely, science cannot be a doctrine; so, is it really a science?

If it were a pure science, the economy as science would necessarily have to preclude any incorporation of cognitional results yielded by an empirical understanding of the human experience of labour and exchange because people are never truly predictable. But this is absurd, the economy can never be separated from the human factor that drives it. In fact, the essence of the economy has to be people exchanging things, and yet there is a sense that this fact has been forgotten and the fundamental purpose of the economy is to control society via the economic matrix it builds around them. It has its weapons – debt, interest rates, risk premiums – all of which control national policies with all the subtle and non-subtle effectiveness of a dictatorship. Because of this economists call the economy a social science, although the laws of economy are not very scientific, and, we would argue, the goals of economics (for it is structured to serve a predetermined purpose) are not very social. Yet, if the economy is neither a science nor a social science, what is it? Didn’t we say at the beginning of this section that it was a science? What kind of science can be a science and not a science at the same time?

Well, let’s see what happens if we look at it from a philosophical viewpoint, in an eidetic way (albeit briefly).

Eidetically, the science of the economy can be understood as the eidetic science called economics – the market is observed, not by watching people going out and buying things, but according to a study of charts and figures applied to formulas with a hope of making some essential or eidetic prediction. The essence of the science of the economy lies in its own denomination. If the economy is to be studied it should be done economically. The only conclusions or predictions that can be made are those that have validity as an essential factor in essences originally seen or else inferred from the axiomatic model of itself by pure deduction. There is nothing matter-of-fact about economics. The fact that the predictions made by economists affect our daily lives does not make economics a matter-of-fact science any more than the 90º that is always in the right-angle at the end of the street makes geometry a matter-of-fact science.

According to Marshall’s Principle of Economics[4] the purpose of economics is, firstly, to acquire knowledge for its own sake, and, secondly, to throw light on practical issues. Yet for most of us today, the idea of the macro-economics narrative throwing light on practical issues and the day the day problems of having to make ends meet is laughable. From an ethical stand-point, Marshall was right. If we are to have an economic science it should be geared toward helping humanity by illuminating the practical issues that affect us all. However, Marshall’s 19th century view of economics viewed in the context our current global-economy environment sounds naïve. When national economic policies are determined by the IMF and the World Bank, our economies obfuscate reality rather than shed any light on it.

Positive economy-spin tells us that the aims are “sustainable growth” and “increasing wealth” or the establishing of “economic opportunities” for as many people as possible, but these ideas become quite abstract when applied to hundreds or thousands of millions of people, and economic data becomes a weapon of war between the sectors competing for political power; each one attempting to convince the people of the healthy or ill state of the economy … because the economy wins votes; probably more than any other factor in contemporary politics.

But what we do not learn from this economic-science is what the final-cause of a global economy is. What is the final-cause of continual, sustainable growth? What is the final-cause of increasing wealth? What is the final-cause of “economic opportunities for all”?

In reality, the final-cause is always the next election, just as in sport the final cause is this year’s grand-final. The economy is, through our so-called democratic system, twisted into a game. Or, economics turns democracy into a game, albeit a perverse game that is rigged so that the same owner always wins. While on the national level the people are praying to see their team (national economy) win the championship, on the universal, human level, the real economic engineers are busy building the great economic network, a huge, invisible mesh which has entrapped us all.

What can be the final-cause then of that global matrix: Perpetual acquisition of increasing wealth for the world’s elite; An aristocratic-type dictatorship hidden behind a veil of promises of economic opportunities for all? In any case, the final-cause is conservative and non-progressive, because its main intention is to preserve the status-quo of Wealth. In that sense, it is aristocratic. It is bolstered by the great lie of democracy that it itself created and uses to perpetuate itself with. It knows that democracy is only a name and a superficial fantasy to thwart the revolutions that the real plutocratic system that exists would engender if the demos were fully aware of its condition.

[1] From the New World Encyclopaedia online: Eidetic Reduction https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Eidetic_reduction

[2] Ibid

[3] Edmund Husserl, IDEAS, p. 16

[4] Albert Marshall, PRINCIPLE OF ECONOMICS, 1890

Society and Causes

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Our cosmological-philosophical investigation has led us to the conclusion that our Universe is driven by a final cause: the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. From this, we conclude that the final cause for humanity has to be the same, i.e. the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe — beginning with the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of our ourselves in the world, not only in the physical sense, but also in the social and ideal (artistic) senses as well. The final cause of humanity, and all human societies, should therefore be the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of itself, with the understanding that that same final cause is necessarily entwined in the cosmological final cause of the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe.

On causes, Aristotle proposed that once a final cause for anything has been established, then other causes, which he grouped as material, efficient and formal, will follow by necessity. For example, the final cause of a table may be dining; the formal cause would be its design; the material cause would be the wood its made from; and the efficient cause is the carpentry needed to fashion the table into the form from the design and the material.

Now, if we apply Aristotle’s four-causes to society what do we see? The material cause of any society should be the people that constitute it; but, if this is so, what is the efficient cause? Who are the builders of society? Isn’t it the people too? And, isn’t the formal cause, or design of society, also done by the people? If so, this would mean that society is a purely democratic, self-sufficient autocracy: but it’s not. So, something is wrong.

In fact, in the real sense, none of the causes of our societies are the people that constitute them. The final cause of our nation-state societies (and our global village community) is an economic one; an accumulation of wealth. The final cause is Wealth. The material cause, therefore, is Money, which is the material (albeit abstract material) used to define each individual’s status within the world and subsequently it is what Wealth consists of. The formal cause is the political and economic systems that work together to design ways of moving Money ever-upward for the preservation and benefit of Wealth. The efficient cause are the organisms created to exploit the masses, an exploitation needed to preserve Wealth, and, in general, we can call the conglomeration of these commercial and industrial organisations Power.

Power is constantly changing its forms, but the essence of its objectives is always the same. Its identity is based on facilitating its own ability to acquire most of the fruits of society for Wealth and Wealth’s enjoyment.

Nevertheless, because society is a thing that is constantly becoming, there is always a potential to change the final cause and by so doing change all the necessary other causes it engenders. A new kind of society with different causes is both logical and fundamentally desirable for its members, and this makes it not only possible, but logically necessary.

Remember, in order to be harmonious with existence, the authentic causes of society have to be based on the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. Once this is appreciated, true revolutionary action can begin to take place.

 

Art in Time

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One of the main features of art is permanence, or the eternal. Albeit it is a feature which some post-modernist artists have tried to disconnect from, even to the stage where artists promote ephemerality in their work (e.g. Joseph Beuys and Fluxus). However, as these attempts have been considered anti-art by the artists themselves, then even the anti-eternalising efforts point toward the link between art and the longing for permanence.

Art strives for the eternal, and it is this desire for permanence, or at least for a process of a becoming that is always moving toward the universal, that makes it essentially antithetical to the marketplace. In order to manage art the market had to invent fashion. Fashion tries to situate art in the realm of the actual. In doing this, however, it robs art of its essence, which is a striving for eternity. Fashion is always, therefore, a perversion of art.

Theatre is unique amongst the art forms because one of its essential qualities is the ephemeral. Nevertheless, this ephemerality does not, or should not, rob theatre of its desire for permanence. Great theatre happens when it is able to create the eternal moment within the ephemeral. And here we also see the real success of art in its relation to time and space. Art can transcend the momentary nature of the moment by infusing it with the eternal.

However, the nature of theatre also carries a pessimism which is embedded in all kinds of art forms: Art can never be permanent, it can only strive for it. Great art (like great theatre) works when it touches on the eternal and transmits it, although this is also a paradox. Art presents the eternal in the fleeting which is logically absurd. The effect is joyous, but also melancholy, because of this absurdity. Once could also say soulful: psychologically it moves us because it reveals the impossible permanence that the human spirit is striving for.