WHAT DO WE TAKE? … B) from Hegel

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FROM Hegel:

(i) “Man, because he is Mind, should and must deem himself worthy of the highest … The Being of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power which can offer resistance to the search for knowledge …”[i]

Our consciousness makes us unique and blessed in the Universe.

(ii) “… in so far as we participate in the knowledge of it, we are in the truth; but in so far as we are singular, we are in error.”[ii]

Our participation with the Universe through our knowledge of it, is the truthful, authentic participation.

“… reality is the outcome of an evolving system of concepts, or movement towards the ‘Absolute Idea’”[iii]

Or, in other words, we are in an unfolding eschatological process; our lives are imbued with meaningfulness because of our knowledge and sapiens nature, and we are moving purposefully towards a great common goal – the Absolute Idea, driven by the Weltgeist, the World Spirit.

 

We’ve already discussed the human connection with the Universe in “What do we take? – A) from Feuerbach” https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/what-do-we-take-a-from-feuerbach/, and briefly touched on how humanity, as consciousness in the Universe, is directly involved in this Weltgeist. We see this involvement as a deeply positivistic concept, so deep, in fact, that it makes the human need for God obsolete. It was a positivism that fuelled much of the 19th century’s Idealisms and Romanticisms, pointing a purposeful way forward for humanity through the progress of its understanding and its own shaping of the Universe through technological possibilities. Through science and technology, everything was possible, and that was an optimistic and motivating idea, until it became also the monstrous reality of the 20th century and its two world wars that left humanity on the brink of annihilation.

But, the pessimism that evolved into a profound nihilism had already begun in the 19th century, and was announced by science itself in 1852 when William Thomson, the first baron Kelvin, published a work called “On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy”. This thesis outlined the basis of what was to become the second law of thermodynamics, a concept that possessed ramifications that were to throw humanity into a period of irrefutable nihilism and pessimism still dominating human culture today.

The consequence of Lord Kelvin’s prediction was an announcement of the end of the entire Universe. According to the law of thermodynamics, this will take the form of a “heat death” in which the Universe will come to a halt in its expansion and freeze. Later, in the 20th century, with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to support it, came a new, even grizzlier prediction for the cosmos. They called this the Big Crunch, which proposed that the Universe will eventually collapse in on itself and everything will be sucked into one nice, neat, totally-compressed pin-point of absolute energy.

Whichever way you looked at it, this physics affirmed that the Universe was doomed.

Nevertheless, a new age is dawning with a new scientific outlook that is immensely positivist and some cosmologists now dare to propose a vision of a Universe that, in a Hegelian way, has evolved meaningfully, with a seemingly wilful purpose.  This wilful universe, according to contemporary cosmologists, is not unlike Hegel’s Weltgeist driven Universe. It has fine-tuned itself in such a way that from an absolutely unconscious void in which nothing existed because there was nothing to perceive that existence, it has been able to create sapient organisms, not only capable of perceiving the world around it, but also of understanding the unperceived subtleties of that world. And we, as the highest form of sapiens’ evolution on our planet, are an integral part in the Universe’s plan to create and understand its own existence. What this means, is that humanity is placed in the centre of things again. We can now forget all nihilisms: ours is a purposeful universe, a beautiful place powered by absolute meaning, a godless-full beauty, in which we, as sapiens, are the key to all existence.

We have permission to think teleologically again. By which we mean, to think of the direction toward which everything is evolving as a purposeful thing. Once we have accepted final purpose, it creates a new gravity that tugs us from the end and pulls us forward, dragging us away from the vicious circles of all past conflicts.

But if we are to resurrect the idea of the Weltgeist, it needs to be protected against spiritualist and other religious manipulations. If we refer back again to our Feuerbach post, we have to insist that the Weltgeist should be considered a blind force and that we, as aware and rational organisms within the Universe it drives, are the “eyes” and “consciousness” of that spirit.

Our current ecological crisis shows us the dangers of pursuing nihilistic directions forward, and the disaster of equating progress with continual growth and human happiness with what we consume. Without the imperative conditional that humanity is in the world primarily, and the Universe secondly, and the subsequent consequences demanding that all progress take into consideration this partnership, there will be no evolution. In fact, the last century has been a devolution away from the Absolute Idea and Hegel has been shown to be wrong. The Universe is blind and we are its eyes, but if we lose touch with the Universe’s own driving spirit for natural progress, then we are also blind and that blindness could very well lead to the Absolute End of the Idea and the obliteration of all conscious, rational being.

 

[i] G.W.F. Hegel “LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY” ebook version, p.15

[ii] Ibid, p. 245

[iii] From Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad, MARX’S CAPITAL, Routledge, p.3

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WHAT DO WE TAKE? … A) from Feuerbach

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FROM FEUERBACH:

(i) “… human needs determine consciousness

(ii) “The essence of man is the Origin, Cause and Goal of history …”[1]

In THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, Feuerbach examines the need for God, which he describes as an emotional need. This is true, but within that emotional need is also a need for an ultimate meaning to existence; a need for eschatological meaning; an answer to the question: where are we going?

The problem with this need is that it is easily manipulated: the very essence of religions is an indication of how sentimental attachments to symbols and fetishes can be easily implanted in society. Religions have also shown us how this implantation can be used by interested groups to socialise the masses in a way that is obviously beneficial to the groups that are controlling the manipulation. Religions are always, primarily, forms of exploiting the emotional need for existential and eschatological meaning in order to build easily controllable societies and cultures.

If we accept Feuerbach’s thesis that human needs determine consciousness and that God is an emotional need, we can see that obliterating what God is does not obliterate the problem of God, for, although we can obliterate religious superstition, without a substitute for God, we fail to satisfy the emotional need we have for an ultimate meaning to our existence.

To resolve this dilemma, we need to find another kind of final goal for humanity, one based on scientific and mathematical data, that can satisfy the human need for ultimate meaning and replace the purely mythical eschatologies of our religions. For example, it is a more positive idea if we construct our needs for ultimate meaning on the very physical and evolutionary nature of the cosmos, and our possible role within that evolution itself, rather than waiting for a supernatural End of Days.

We know that the Universe exists, and it is much easier to prove than the existence of God.

We can speculate on the purpose of the Universe in a scientific way, and such speculation can produce far more satisfying and pragmatic results than speculation on the existence of God.

Human purpose in the Universe depends on our relationship with the same Universe, and this idea ultimately leads to an interconnectivity between everything, both material and spiritual, that is lacking in the monotheistic religions that disparage the material in favour of an all-important, but also most-obscure idea of the spiritual.

In order to properly answer where we are going, we have to redraw our home, the where-we-are, away from the ambiguities of God, but not into the abyss of no-place, yet rather into the concrete reality of the Cosmos. Between God and No-God, lies the Universe.

If God is eternal, the Universe created itself out of nothing. If God is omnipotent, the Universe if driven by a blind will that needs sapient organisms (like us) to see.  In God there can be no evolution; no authentic progress, whilst the Universe is always expanding and changing, and we are the conscious part of that evolution and change. In God, we are insignificant; in the Universe and its evolution to self-consciousness, we are a fundamental, purposeful ingredient.

[1] As quoted in Althusser: ESSAY ON SELF-CRITICISM, p.101, (ebook)