Punkt-Zeit

Byung-Chul Han recognizes our anti-historical condition in what he calls Punkt-Zeit – a time of points:

“Historical time … has the shape of a line, which runs or flies toward a goal. If that line loses its narrative or teleological tension, it falls apart into points, which flutter aimlessly. The act of history atomises time to a time of points (Punkt-Zeit) … History now gives way to information. The latter has no narrative length or width. It is neither centred or aimed. It collapses onto us.”[i]

What Han is describing here is our nihilistic condition. We are foundering in the non-historical world of mere information. Information without purposiveness.

This purposeless, pin-point information-reality also has an effect on our perception of humanity. Humanity itself dissolves into points of information. Every day, we get certain points of information about a pandemic, or about Islamic terrorists, an avalanche of refugees, or about the victims of some natural disaster; information which is interesting while it is news, but less interesting once the novelty starts to wane … and this is true of all information. Because of that, what is buried within all the information we receive is our own alienation from the warmth of humanity, pushing us into the cold analytical space of objectivity.

It is this objectivity that allows crimes against humanity to prosper – after all, as information, crimes against humanity have high quantitative value, and is therefore a profitable commodity. But humanity itself, humanity as a whole; or human-progress as a teleological aim, has little to no value as far as selling information is concerned. Nevertheless, if we saw humanity involved in a greater process of purposeful, teleological progress then we would not feel so distanced from the offenses perpetrated against other human beings, and the idea of justice would be more tangible also. With a humanistic teleology, crimes against humanity would be crimes committed against our own family – they would be crimes against our own source of identity; crimes against us.

The need for this association with the human is obvious in the I am (the victim) campaigns, in which masses of people proclaim a direct and personal identification with the victims of some news-worthy disaster or crime.

This message is a humanising one, that is necessary now, because we live in such de-humanised societies. But, the main question we have to ask is: How did humanity allow itself to fall into such a de-humanised state? How can a global, human civilisation be so anti-human in its structure?    


[i] Han, Byung-Chul, SCENT OF TIME (Transcript Verlag, 2009, p.18)

On Broadening our Minds & Morality

 

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The basic principles of education must be entrenched in some idea related to the broadening of the students’ minds. If we see education as a way of pulling society away from ignorance and we consider it to be a fundamental ingredient in what it is that makes us human, then the broadening of the mind is also a vital part of what it is to be human.

Likewise, this broadening of minds can also be seen as good for human societies and important, and therefore desirable and moral.

A narrowing of minds is therefore bad. When we see the media (mainstream and social) expressing an obsession for local scandals, or we see schools and universities concentrating in specialised areas of learning that often breed patriotic points of view at the expense of the universal, these practices are mind-narrowing and, as such, bad.

Broadening is an opening up and forward-directional process for humanity. It has a teleological reading in the idea of Becoming and, even though this ideal end-cause will never be achieved, it is, in the sense of being teleological, anti-nihilistic.

That which is concerned with its opposite, the narrowing of minds and the localisation of experiences as well as the obsession with the dictates of personal taste in opposition to universal laws, is nihilistic, anti-human, and dangerous.

MEANINGFULNESS: Transcending Nihilism and Determinism.

Quantum Energy - Universe

THE MEANING

The Universe is meaningful, or it is not. We cannot be absolutely certain one way or the other. Intuition can argue both cases and empirical investigation merely stumbles into an empty hole.

The question of meaning is a uniquely human, or, more accurately, sapiens issue: the concern over meaning is only pertinent to organisms that can understand what meaning is. The meaning is in the capacity to understand meaning. For the natural world to be meaningful, therefore, it has to create meaning for itself, firstly by creating conditions for life that can evolve into sapiens forms capable of understanding meaning.

This process of creating meaning is itself sufficient as a teleological reason. In this way, meaning is discovered through the creation of meaning. Much like Columbus had no original intention of going to America. He intended to cross the sea to India, but once America was found, the intention of all Trans-Atlantic voyages from Europe since then have been to reach the Americas. So, just as America becomes real through the discovery of America; meaning becomes real through the discovery of meaning. An event which was brought about by the evolution of organisms with an intelligence capable of formulating the concept of meaning and the capacity to invent and reinvent what meaning is.

This realisation that meaning is the meaning of meaning, contains a powerful positivism, transcending both determinism and nihilism: The Universe is either meaningful or it is not, but the fact that we can make that distinction or ask that question is meaningful. In other words, the very fact that we can conceive the Universe to be possibly meaningless makes it meaningful. That there exists a point, any point, in the vast stretches of the Universe where that question can be formulated, gives credence to the circumstance that, during the time that the intelligence exists to formulate such a question, the Universe itself, as it is conceived by that entity, is imbued with meaning.

Yes, meaning lies in the existence of the concept of meaning. If there is a meaning to evolution it is in the creation of a capacity to understand meaning, meaningfulness and even meaninglessness. Meaning proves the meaningfulness of all things.

Nihilism is therefore unimportant, because once we have understood the concept of meaning, life is meaningful. Likewise, determinism is a non-issue. Whether this was willed or accidental, it does not matter at all. The fact is that meaning exists as a concept and will only exist while the concept continues to exist. The meaningful course is, therefore, the way that will perpetuate the concept of meaning. Real nihilism would only arise when the concept itself is lost – which is impossible whilst a living creature with a functional language exists. Meaning is embedded in all language. The nature of language is to give a meaning to existence by naming existence. I think; therefore, I am meaningful.

But this is also misleading, because we are limiting our definition of language to the words we say, when in fact language can become a far more ubiquitous phenomenon. If we define language through its function, which is communication, we see that it is the very fabric of the Universe itself because communication is an integral part of the sub-atomic structure of everything. Language communicates information and cosmologists and physicists like Vlatko Vedral and Rafael Bousso argue that information is the bedrock of the Universe. [1] We can think of no better link between what we perceive to be the material and spiritual fabrics of the Universe, and no better explanation of the dual-reality of mind and body than the fact that the Universe is structured on information.  But we want to take this concept one step further than the physicists: if meaning is embedded in language and communication, and communication is entrenched in the Universe; then the Universe must also be imbued with meaning.

This brings us again to the importance of the sapiens. It is through a self-conscious understanding of meaning, which is knowing, that the language embedded in the Universe is imbued with meaning. Sapiens give meaning to meaning. Knowing what meaning is, makes meaning meaningful.

THE ANTI-MEANING

Yet, if the meaning is there, embedded in the fabric of everything, doesn’t this also leave us in the limbo of nihilism: if everything is meaningful, then nothing is more meaningful than anything else, and, subsequently, nothing is more important than anything else. Given this kind of metaphysical scenario; how can we decide what needs to be done? Nevertheless, this is an unfair question: the essence can never be a moral pointer in itself, beyond the essential question itself – which is: Is the essence of the Universe meaningful or not? If the answer is yes; the essence is meaningful and therefore good, and this is a moral conclusion that has moral consequences, but only while we know it. Remember, only while it is known what meaning is, can meaning be meaningful. The good is something worth preserving, or as Heidegger said, something worth caring-for. And, in order to preserve what is meaningful we must protect that which knows what is meaningful: we have to protect the sapiens; we have to protect humanity and its capacity for knowing, understanding and creating meaning through the arts and sciences.

This may sound like stating the obvious, but it is not obvious at all. For the last seventy years, at least, we have been living under a shadow of the threat of self-destruction: first, through the nuclear arms proliferation of the Cold War; and afterwards by our rapacious destruction of the biosphere. Humanity is now revealed to be following an anti-meaning, a meaningless jeopardising of meaning itself by turning our backs on the preservation of meaning, which is the preservation of humanity itself.

We do well to ask ourselves how such an absurd situation could ever come about? If the essence of the Universe is meaning, how could that essence be undermined by they who possess and understand meaning better than any other entity in the Universe? Without knowing what meaning is, there is no meaning. This is the existential role of all sapiens entities in the Universe, and every time your brain clicks into conscious-thinking mode you are participating in this existential experience. Our existence makes the Universe meaningful, and that puts humanity at the very centre of things.

To live in a way that threatens our survival is, therefore, fundamentally evil; it is life in the bubble of anti-meaning. This absurdity is possible due to the structure of human thought itself. Its logical form and its dependency on measurement in order to define and give meaning to things, not only understands meaningfulness, it also defines the meaningless. The same consciousness that allows us to comprehend an idea like the One, or absolutes of Good, or Truth, immediately creates an anti-version. Against Good is Evil; against Truth is the Lie; against the One is the Void … and against Meaning is Non-meaning; against Meaningfulness is Nihilism.

The logical creation of opposites in order to understand has a lethal effect on any idea of singularity. The One just cannot be grasped for any length of time by a mind that functions within a logic of constant comparison. If there is a meaning, there must also be an anti-meaning; if there is 1, there must also be -1. Traditionally, it has only been through the anti-logic of faith that thinking has been able to overcome the logical result of that equation: 1-1=0; equals nihilism.

Post-modernism was correct in associating truth with relativity and pluralism – we give the meaning we want to reality – but to save that pluralism from the anarchy of everything is permitted, it has to be anchored in the metaphysical ubiquity of meaning itself. As everything is allowed, then nothing is meaningful is a wrong assumption, because not everything is allowed. Everything is permitted except the assumption that the ubiquitous meaning is meaningless. We can’t think meaning away, it can only go away when we stop thinking. Nihilism, therefore, is not something that is thought out or thought away. Nihilism as non-meaning, is non-thought; it is the absence of thought. And if thought is a celebration of the meaning constituting the Universe, nihilism (non-thought/non-meaning) is nothing more than a threat, albeit a very serious threat.

OUR POSITIVISM

Our positivism centres meaning where it has to be – in our minds. The meaningful is linked to thinking and awareness. The more aware we are, the more meaningful life is. All ignorance diminishes meaning and propagates meaninglessness via a lack of awareness. Knowledge nurtures meaning itself. Likewise, art and technology, when developed through an erudite process with a thirst for knowledge, expand the meaningful.

By being centred in meaning we are situating ourselves in the centre of the meaningful Universe, and that is a spiritually uplifting experience. The deeper the sapiens species delves into its own sapiens nature, the nobler it becomes and the closer it gets to the purposeful existence of the good, because meaningful, life.

[1] For more information about the information Universe watch Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s video https://youtu.be/-ATWa2AEvIY or read Vlatko Vedral, Decoding Reality https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decoding_Reality

 

REALITY AS A PURPOSEFUL LIE

The mystic philosophers were right when they told us that reality is elsewhere, but they were wrong in claiming that our ultimate delusion came from a lack of spiritual insight; our alienation from reality is a psychological and social delusion created by our tendency to perceive reality in lies.

In essence, however, even this delusional tendency to believe things that cannot be proven, may be a necessary element for any positive human view of reality.

Science gives us a view of reality that goes beyond the narrow confines of the world that we perceive. In this way, science is an attempt to uncover the delusional nature of our lying perceptions. The real is not really what we see and feel.

Nevertheless, scientific objectivity clashes with our attempts to forge a positive view of our place in the cosmos. Ultimately, scientific truth is nihilistic. Vanity of vanities. Everything is headed to an inescapable thermal death. All things will come to an end. There is no ultimate purpose to the Universe.

But does an acceptance of this ultimately pointless reality do humanity as a whole any good? Science tells us how insignificant and ultimately pointless we are in the Universe. The result is nihilism and a depression that bleeds down through the entire fabric of contemporary, nihilistic civilisation. Live the moment. Reality is ephemeral. And so, religion has to be saved or even restored. We need hope, don’t we? Even if that hope is a blatant lie.

But even religions are essentially nihilistic as far as humanity goes. For religions, reality is elsewhere, in the Paradise after death. And so we ask: Why is reality so negative? Why is truth so grim?

A positive view of historical human reality can only be truly comprehensible to human beings from the point of view of humanity itself. However, this statement implies an anthropocentric view, which most scientists now reject as biased; and because of that consider it to be unrealistic.

But, does this mean that in order to be realistic we have to forfeit any positive view of humanity?

In actual fact, science itself gives us a way out here; for there is cosmological data that points to a sentient-life purpose evolution of the Universe. Data exists that explains how the self-organising of the Universe was able to create conditions for organisms so complex that they can comprehend that same organisation.[i]

In order to determine reality without deluding ourselves in lies we need to look at the debate that scientists are having on the idea of a purposefully determined cosmos. In this argument the science that has to be allowed the most authority is cosmology. So, what do cosmologists and other physicists really think about the idea of a deterministic Universe; one that implies that we are evolving purposefully towards an ultimate goal?

Some scientists, like cosmologist Martin Rees and the physicist Paul Davies, are in favour of the idea of purposefully orientated evolution, whilst almost any quantum physicist would argue against the anthropocentric view, in favour of indeterminism. Nevertheless, arguments can be found, that take a middle ground. And perhaps it is here that we can resolve the debate.

We think this middle ground has been nicely described by Dan Pipono:

“There is no meaningful difference (between determinism and indeterminism). Suppose at some moment there is some kind of undetermined probabilistic event and the universe forks in one of two ways. Then mathematically we can describe the situation in two distinct ways A and B: (1) we could say that after the fork, the universe is either in state A or state B. The universe is non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B it is going to be before the fork. OR (2) the universe is in a state that consists of two pieces, A and B, each of which contains a copy of us. The universe is deterministic but appears non-deterministic because we don’t know which of A and B is the one that contains us. Some people will use Occam’s razor in this situation. Some will use it to argue for (1) because a universe with just A or B is simpler than a universe with both A and B. Some will use it to argue for (2) because often (2) is mathematically simpler than (1). I can’t see any way of distinguishing (1) and (2). In practice I’d use whichever is more convenient for whatever I’m trying to do.”[ii]

Like Pipono and Occam, we argue that reality needs to be viewed according to what is most convenient to what needs to be done with that reality. And what we, as humans, need to question is what is the most convenient reality for humanity; a purposeful state or a nihilistic one? If we still cannot, with true scientific certainty, resolve the debate in favour of either purpose or nihilism, which view of reality is ultimately more convenient for us; for our survival and progress?

 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

[ii] See Dan Pipono https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-evidence-for-and-against-determinism

Adolescent Society and the Anti-Nihilistic Anti-Oedipus (a revolutionary statement)

anti-oedipus

Consumerism’s constant pressure on the pleasure button has fermented a nihilistic culture driven by a plutocratic system calling itself democracy. Our anti-human civilisation has embedded this nihilism with a deep, grass-roots pessimism. Modern life and its emphasis on individual fulfilment has fabricated a depressive tone with uninspired muscle.  Underneath the pristine glamour of the consumer society, lies the internal suffering of he or she who always wants more. Achievement is never enough – each acquisition creates or finds another lack that will open the doors toward another subjugation.

Psychologically we are an adolescent society, torn by narcissistic desires and paradoxical notions of conforming in rebellious ways. We hate the father-figures of power that govern us and will be quick to show our disdain for the present in the next elections, but, nevertheless, we are happy to receive the protection offered by that same parent without giving anything other than grudgingly back. The paternal power maintains its hold over us by creating our dreams and desires, but the Disneyworld factory of dreamworking is the system’s greatest instrument of repression. The anti-human civilisation can exert its power and control over all because the system tells the individual that he or she can also enjoy the same power. What the system promises each individual is the chance that they too can be a leader: a president or king of their own company, or at least a fascist parent.

Here we arrive at the same psychological root to the problem as Deleuze and Guattari: our society is Oedipal.[i] We submit to power because we ourselves are dreaming of achieving that power. The message manifests itself in positive thinking “You can do it!”, “Yes, we can”, “Just do it” etc.. The Fisher King is waiting for you to take his place. Laius must succumb   to you eventually, no matter how cruel he is to you now, no matter how much he wills your destruction. You are destined to step into his shoes and become the King of Thebes and, “Everybody loves a winner.”

Deleuze and Guattari argued[ii] that to fight the system one first of all had to become anti-Oedipal and become an orphan (breaking family ties), an atheist (without beliefs), and a nomad (without ties to any particular region, state or culture). To that list we would like to add a but – but without submitting to nihilism.

So, in our terms, the revolutionary must learn to be an orphan, an atheist, a nomad and an anti-nihilist believer in necessities.

Of course there seems to be a contradiction here: how can an atheist – the non-believer – also be an anti-nihilist moralist redeemer, the kind, let’s say, who believes and who can distinguish between good and evil. In order to resolve this apparent contradiction we would need to analyse what belief and non-belief is, starting with the premise that the pure non-believer does not really exist and the second, seemingly absurd proposition that it is possible to believe and not-believe at the same time. Here we don’t have room for such an analysis but … meanwhile, let a quote from the anti-Oedipal Nietzsche act as post data …

Nietzsche believed, like us, that the future survival of humanity required “another sort of spirit than those we are likely to encounter in this age.” What he called “the redeeming man of great love and contempt, the creative spirit who is pushed out of any position outside or beyond by his surging strength again and again, whose solitude will be misunderstood by the people as though it were a flight from reality – whereas it is just his way of being absorbed, buried and immersed in reality so that from it, when he emerges into the light again, he can return with redemption of this reality … This man from the future will redeem us, not just from the ideal held up till now, but also from those things which had to arise from it, from the great nausea, the will to nothingness, from nihilism, that stroke of midday and of great decision that makes the will free again, which gives its purpose and man his hope again, this Antichrist and anti-nihilist, this conqueror of God and of nothingness – he must come one day.”[iii]

Our redeemer must be Antichrist, Anti-Oedipus and Anti-Nihilist. The old edifice must be pulled right down to allow a new foundation of true, human reality to be laid. A foundation rooted in human purposiveness and a renewal of our necessary partnership with the world that is so important for our existence. Only from this completely new foundation will be able to reconstruct anything truly meaningful. Only from the ruins of our anti-human civilisation will be able to build the Human one.

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[i] SEE Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia

[ii] Ibid

[iii] F. Nietzsche, On the Geneology of Morality, II, xxiv