THE DOMAIN OF HUMAN PURPOSIVENESS

The second episode of the second season of the TV series True Detective opens with one of its protagonists, played by the actor Vince Vaughn, lying in bed and staring at two stains on the ceiling whilst soliloquising in an existential monologue. In the course of the interior narrative, which could be considered a symbolic confession before the eyes of God, the character discloses the absolute vanity of his life.

He lives to make money and obtain land – but why? He cannot take that land with him when he dies, and he has no heirs to leave it to. And even if he had heirs, isn’t that a superficial answer as well?

What he is complaining about is a lack of existential muscle, his life is purposively flabby. After thinking through the dilemma, it is obvious that he needs to revaluate his reasons for living and remake himself.

Like most confessions, however, once made it seems to be forgotten, and when the character reappears some scenes later he is still obsessed with money. Revelations may come to us, but that does not mean they are going to change the way we act. The revelation itself cannot necessarily open the doors that it presents to us. Actually changing the way we act is far more difficult, and one needs to see not just what the existential problem is, but also the purposeful solution to that problem.

As individuals we naturally individualise our problems and, as we live in a civilisation that encourages individualisation, the logical thing would be to do so. Likewise, we live in societies that value and propagate desires for money and what money can buy, and so possessing an obsession with making money is also a logically comprehensive attitude to have in our world. However, when the lust for money becomes a psychological problem, as any addiction is, then that can hardly ever be expected to be overcome through a self-analysis of one’s personality and dreams. Individualising one’s analysis will almost certainly opt for pleasure over duty, even one’s personal duty.

To resolve this protagonist’s anxiety, therefore, the script writers would need to imbue him with another quality, they would have to give him the power to have faith. A character possessing faith would analyse this dilemma from the position of that belief, and morally and psychologically this is always an advantage when dealing with meaningfulness, as long as the faith that one possesses is also a meaningful thing and not a Quixotic fantasy. For faith to be functional at more than an individualistic level or in a sectarian way it needs to more universal in its ambitions, for all faith is a kind of ambition as well.

Faith in humanity gives a clear indication of what the existential problem in the case of this protagonist is: i.e., a disconnection from human purposiveness. In fact, it is this disconnection and the vanity of individual existence it causes that opens the door for us towards the species, toward the human, conscious, thinking entity that grows and progresses together within the all-encompassing home of the species itself.

The domain of human purposiveness, therefore, is in the human. As human beings, individuals will also find their purposiveness there. When individualisation cuts itself off from humanity, it carries itself to the edge of the precipice of nihilism. Once there, the individual can firstly enjoy the freedom of being able to invent whatever fantasy of purpose he or she may want to, or devour the fantasies that others throw at them, but the price to be paid for that freedom will be the loss of authentic purposiveness, which is human purposiveness: a purpose that offers fulfilment found in this world.  

The alienation felt by any individual and the anxieties that alienation causes usually has its roots in a lack of connection with our humanity. Even in religious faith this is a fact, for religions are only authentically purposeful when they focus on humanity as something positive, likewise becoming perilously perverted when their own creeds become forces that confuse and separate humanity rather than bring it together. It is a faith in humanity not God that is needed to tone our existential muscles, and give wings to our purposive-lusting souls.

Faith in Humanity (part two)

(Continued from Part One: Faith in Humanity (part one) | pauladkin (wordpress.com) )

Faith is more than just a mental state: one needs to have confidence in that which one has faith in; confidence that the thing one believes in will be capable of resolving our problems – of saving us.

In order to believe this, one has to be primed into believing it: one has to me made aware of the Scripture, or in our case the Declaration, and, once aware, to appropriate its power. In order to do that, one has to already have a disposition towards it: one needs to be prepared to see and experience reality from a certain perspective, the human perspective, that overrides any antihuman standpoints.

Faith is a stance, and faith in humanity is an authentically human stance. Of course there is no Church of Humanity, and there should not be – nothing could be more absurd. Human ritual is one’s everyday life, applied to the unique experience of being human in the world in a way that glorifies the potential in the absolute whole of that which we all are. With or without a church, faith is an ennobling condition, and it creates a kind of existence that itself arises from the possibilities revealed by the uniquely human way of life. It is a rolling snowball – small at first, quickly growing large and always increasing in size for as long as we can keep pushing it – but, like all snowballs, it is also a very fragile thing that can just as quickly melt away into nothing if it is not cared for. This protective caring can come through faith but faith has to be grounded in practices and in necessities. For faith to exist in an authentic way, there has to be a need for it.

Humanity is in the world, and it needs to be in the world. This is an essential existential fact, and it needs to be taken into consideration in any future amendments to the Declaration of Human Rights and to all humanist thinking. To successfully be able to exist, humanity has to be successful at living in the world.

We think it feasible that faith in Humanity is an essential ingredient to be able to live in the world, and that it is our lack of faith in humanity and our antihuman historical process which has put us in such a dangerous position in terms of our relationship with the Earth. A humanity divided into competing nations and into the different prides of all those nations, cannot overcome the enormous challenges faced by our necessary partnership with the Earth and the protection of its fragile ecosystem. Likewise, our global economic system and its requirement for perpetual growth is also a cancer to the planet. A cancer that needs to be extirpated and its damage healed if Humanity is ever going to triumph.

Faith in Humanity is also a faith that tells us that only through Humanity itself can our partnership with the world be established in a harmonious and fruitful way that will ensure our mutual existence. Humanity contains within itself a tremendous duality of wretchedness and greatness. Humanity’s capacity for freedom allows it to be fervently antihuman, and capable of taking freedom away from itself.

We pursue happiness and associate material pleasures with progress, but that same progress pushes us to the limits of extermination while bringing about the extermination of many other species and causing the direst misery and deaths of many other exploited and enslaved humans. We live in antihuman civilisations that measure their progress according to their comfort and the pleasures they have attained at the expense of the sweat and lives of other human beings, as well as the devastation of the planet we depend on. This duality is our human/antihuman reality, and it causes much despair in the idea of Humanity. The result is that, even in the parts of civilisation that are able to fully enjoy the material fruits of the antihuman system, under the surface people are not happy, because ultimately the antihuman lacks enduring purpose. Without purpose their can be no enduring fulfilment.

Only faith in Humanity will ever ultimately resolve the contradictions of our dualistic nature and the paradox of freedom.         

Faith in Humanity (part one)

Doubt or fith, opposite signs. Two blank opposite signs against blue sky background.

To ask someone to have faith in humanity is not unlike asking them to have faith in God.

This statement sounds absurd: why would we need to have faith in humanity in the first place? Humanity is something that is manifest to us every day; something that we ourselves are a part of – why then should we need to have faith in what we are?

What’s more, we can define ourselves scientifically, as a species, the homo sapiens, animals with self-consciousness that stand erect on two legs and have thumbs and smiles and understand irony etc.. No-one doubts that humanity exists.

But that scientific definition, actually tells us very little about ourselves and our social interactions, purposes and desires. A proper all-encompassing description of humanity would be something else, something harder to grasp – it is our shared humanity that is the fundamental reason why we should be able reach out to each other and why we should feel united with each other. These reasons remain undisclosed, and to believe them requires a certain faith. Humanity (now with a capital H) as something we truly belong to is not a manifest thing, it is an abstraction embedded in Truth, with a capital T. We feel it must exist, and, by believing in it, it can bring meaning to our lives. Doesn’t this sound very much like a rationalisation of faith in God?

Not only is it through Humanity alone that we know Humanity, but it is through Humanity that we come to know ourselves. Without Humanity we do not know what our life, nor our death, nor humanity, nor ourselves really are …

This passage is a direct rewrite of a text by Pascal in which we have swapped the terms God and Jesus Christ with Humanity. The result carries a philosophical coherence, and points to why the Church has historically been so fearful of humanistic thought. However, Pascal, went on to point out that it is through the scriptures, which has Jesus Christ as their object, that God is revealed. Therefore, to continue with this shadowing of Pascal’s thought, we need to ask ourselves what the equivalent of the scriptures would be for Humanity. What written text reveals Humanity?

This is a pertinent question, especially as most of what has been fabricated and taught about the human condition has been stewed from an anti-human point of view, depicting human nature as an egocentrically segregating and separating force, and human beings as vain, competitive creatures. In the anti-human narrative Humanity gets buried, until we can no longer see the forest for the trees. Faith needs its own testimony, a witness that Humanity has never had.

So, what can we, those of us who want to believe in Humanity, base our faith on?

Of course, a great reservoir of humanity exists in the arts and sciences themselves, but not in any clear, defining way other than the testimony their very existence itself gives to what we are, but if we want a clear and concise description of Humanity to build our faith on, we need to look at a document like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

This bill, drawn up by the United Nations in 1948, describes Humanity as the human family, and, if we return to our shadowing of Pascal and his text on the scriptures, we could say that – without the Declaration of Human Rights, which has Humanity as its sole object, we know nothing and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of humanity and in nature itself.

Through a faith in the Declaration, as humanity’s scriptural word, faith in Humanity is revealed. Act according to the commands and orders of the Human Rights and you will start believing in Humanity.

This is the kind of logic that religious faith is built on, but: Is it applicable to the Declaration which was more concerned with guidance for political states than in giving moral advice to individuals? In any case, each article in the Declaration does give us clues as to how a human being should act in human society, and how we should treat the other members of our human family.

Let’s look at the first seven articles:

Article 1: tells us that we should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood, respecting each other’s dignity and rights.

Article 2: that the brotherhood has no distinctions of any sort. If you are human you have the same dignity and rights as any other human being and should treat all others accordingly.

Article 3: tells us to respect the life, liberty, and security of all other humans.

Article 4: condemns slavery and servitude, implying that these things are anti-human activities and need always to be condemned.

Article 5: the same is true of torture.

Article 6: states that all humans should have the right to be recognised as persons (and therefore humans). Therefore, to be human yourself, you need to recognise all others as human.

Article 7: all are equal before the law.

Everyone is human, of course, but Faith in Humanity belongs to those who are able to act and live in a Human-faith way, which is according to Human Scripture (the Declaration). Faith demands that one has confidence in the object’s of one’s faith. Humans, of course, often act in anti-human ways, but to have faith in Humanity despite its flaws is certainly no more absurd than to believe in God despite all the flaws in the creation.

(Read part two: Faith in Humanity (part two) | pauladkin (wordpress.com) )

THE GREAT LIE

The greatest lie we live with is actually a chain of lies or misconceptions generated by the idea that civilisation is something inherently good.

This lie is easy to detect and unmask. If we want to subvert the system and make the foundations of civilisation’s so-called unquestionably benign existence start to crumble, all we need is to affirm any of one of the many irrefutable axioms such as all civilisations have erected themselves on the backs of enslaved or over-exploited human beings

… Ah yes, if only reality’s truths were so easily rationalised; those who have tried, know fully well that any criticism of systemic reality is rendered mute by the mere fact that the system is reality, and that makes any interrogation of it seem impertinent. And even if such criticisms were able to force a confession out of the system, civilisation has an enormous bag of counterarguments to defend, albeit apologetically, its own dogmas. We might be told that civilisation is an evolutionary phenomenon, in which moral standards are in a constant process of development and that, because of this, we should not judge past civilisations with our own present standards; or that the ends (the sublime complexity of civilisation and the benefits that such complexity has to offer) justify the means (the blood and iron process of the enslaving and exploitation of the billions of individuals who have had to suffer incredible hardships, torture or death in order to establish the great benefits of civilisation’s complexity that some few freely enjoy today).

To make matters worse, any attempts to find a truly humanistic escape from the exploitive nature of civilisation, have been gelded by the problems and failures of the most effective trials so far, the communist revolutions. Communism was right in pointing out the tyranny of Wealth embedded in the system, but wrong in throwing humanity out of the window in order to promote a class war. For the nature of the system to be changed in favour of humanity, it is humanity itself that needs to make and control the change.    

To unmask the truth about the system we need to analyse it, dissect it, and put it on trial. And to judge civilisation, we need to know its purpose. Only then can we estimate how well it has been able to serve and develop that purpose, or, more importantly whether such a purpose is universally desirable for those who are experiencing the realities which the existence of civilisation creates. Once we have begun such an unveiling of prime objectives, we immediately start to see how well the inherently abusive phenomenon of civilisation has been able to disguise itself behind a mask of something good.

Civilisation is a form of organisation, and the good argument will say that it is an organisation geared toward the creation of wealth and prosperity, by which a positive thinker would assume wealth and prosperity for all. In truth, all civilisations have built their wealth via a massive exploitation of labour. Whether real slaves, under-paid sweatshop workers, or other paid workers enslaved by commitments to abusive mortgages or loans, the result is the same: a malevolent exploitation of humanity.

The defining clause of wealth and prosperity for all cannot be applied therefore without creating a huge misconception about what civilisations are. The fact that civilisation as we experience it today has a deeper divide between rich and poor than ever before, only reinforces that civilisation is most definitely not designed for the wealth and prosperity of all human beings.

Once humanity is brought into the equation, all civilisations sadly fail. Humanity as a measure of things, seriously questions all of our positive conceptions about civilisation, making them quite obviously misconceptions. Through the prism of humanity, the light of civilisation has a very dark hue, emitting a list of absurd acts perpetrated over and over again by all civilisations which are anti-human and, ergo, uncivilised.

To judge a civilisation fairly we cannot obliterate the idea of for all, for it is embedded in our moral preconceptions of what a civilisation should be for. That civilisations have not progressed in favour of humanity, demonstrates a lack of real progress in civilisation itself. Yes, there has been technological progress that all of humanity today are able to benefit from, but at the same time, we are also suffering the consequences of such technology which are, in a fundamentally exploitive system called civilisation, designed to exploit the human component of that civilisation to the full.

That technological progress would have been impossible without civilisation is a powerful argument in favour of civilisation. Primitive people, like the Australian aboriginal cultures, never conceptualised the use of the wheel, but then again neither did the advanced civilisations of the Incas or the Aztecs. Organisation helps progress, but the idea of civilisation goes beyond simple organisation, it is organisation with a purpose, a purpose which should be to benefit humanity, yet this has rarely been the case with any civilisation. For a civilisation to be good for humanity, it needs to be explicitly and pragmatically good for humanity, and that has never been the case. It has never really been benign to humanity because its real purposes have no intention of doing such a thing, because its real purposes are always for the benefit of power-wielding groups. Humanity demands democracy, but civilisation has always fed its population with some form of oligarchy.

What this indicates is that our relationship to the term civilisation is not an authentic one because we constantly misinterpret the meaning of the term. How beautiful and impressive would civilisations have become if they had really developed in an authentic way, for humanity rather than for the privileged few.

Things are not the way they are because they have to be that way. If things should be a different way, then they should be a different way until they are: but the should be will only ever become the way it is when we understand the authentic human purpose of all things human.

At the moment civilisation is a term bestowing Wealth with a legitimacy to remain. Civilisation, in its pragmatic sense, is a message endorsing the necessary endurance of the presence of Wealth. It is a nexus between wealth and us that allows Wealth to perpetuate itself and become ever and ever stronger.

But for civilisation to really exist, it has to be everyone, and the outsiders can no longer be seen as barbarians nor the slaves as labourers. It has to be democratic in an idealistic way: anti-oligarchical and anti-plutocratical. Under the mask of benign terms like civilisation and democracy, Wealth is able to obtain a stable, enduring presence. Whenever threatened it can conjure up the image of barbarians or infidels, civilisation’s age-old enemies, and rally the polis around its flag to save the civilised world once again.

The civilisation of Wealth has always promoted itself, in whatever form it takes, as the only possible form of organisation, seeing itself as the necessary space: that which needs to exist before any meaningful architecture can take place. This, of course, is a misconception. Civilisation is a mode of organisation and is a result of organisation. Organisation is the primary principle and civilisation is the answer to the question of purpose tagged on to the organisational process. Civilisation is always a response to the what for of the organisation. Quite clearly there can be no singular answer to that question. However, for civilisation to progress and evolve the answer has to be for humanity.

Civilisation should be an enabling power in itself for all human beings, instead of a masking tool for the interests of Wealth. In its present state, civilisation is lacking, it lacks humanity, because it is not truly at humanity’s disposal.

As a term then, civilisation is our greatest hope, but it is also our most miserable perdition. We think we have it, but really it has us. It entwines our lives in a complex web of relationships that enslave us to the purposes of Wealth. It is the greatest lie.               

On Ice-creams, Van Gogh and (the power of) Aesthetics: Part Two Kant

… CONTINUED FROM PART ONE

1.      KANT’S AESTHETIC JUDGEMENT

Kant’s main work on aesthetics is The Critique of Judgement, which is basically about aesthetics and purposefulness and we think that Nietzsche would have had to have had Kant’s associations somewhere in his mind when using the term in Beyond Good and Evil, after all the bracketed note he makes defining the falsest judgements as that to which synthetic judgements a priori belong, is using purely Kantian terminology.

Kant’s book begins with a Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and an analysis of beauty. Kant argues that it is important to understand that something is beautiful only because we judge it to be so and that it cannot be beautiful until that judgement is made, and this is the basic idea that Nietzsche is leafing through in The Will to Power when he argues that, despite the idea that the world astounds us, we basically ignore the fact that there is nothing awesome at all in the world except that which we ourselves infuse it with. Kant attributed four distinguishing features to aesthetic judgements: subjectivity (that the beauty and ugliness we find in the world is disinterested and therefore its appreciation depends on our subjective interpretations); universality; necessity; and purposiveness.   Now what Nietzsche does in his own critique of religion, is stress the subjectivity without completely falling into the traps of Berkeleyan idealism, as seen when he ironically makes his hero Zarathustra cry out to the sun: “Great star! What would your happiness be, if you had not those for whom you shine![i] The great star, the sun, exists, but its meaning can only come through the meaning granted it by the sapiens observer, and this is what Kant was saying. The sun is only happy because we, or someone, perceives it that way, and, on a larger, metaphysical scale, this means that the Universe is given meaning through being perceived and being analysed judgementally. Or, in other words, the meaningfulness of the Universe is an aesthetic, judgemental construct that we are playing an active role in – and it is this awesome idea, not the idea of God, that needs to inspire humanity if we are ever able to overcome our indifference and incredulity towards human advancement in the world.

(CONTINUED IN PART THREE


[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, Prologue, Section 1

On Ice-creams, Van Gogh and (the power of) Aesthetics: Part One Nietzsche

1.      NIETZSCHE

In his Critique of Religion in The Will to Power, Nietzsche begins with an original insight into the psychological nature of aesthetics (the beauty and sublimity bestowed upon real and imaginary things), calling it our fairest apology[i], and insinuating that through our admiration and worship of things we are actually humbling ourselves as we do not want to admit to ourselves that the world is as it is because we alone have created it to be that way. The idea he expounds here is a kind of Berkeleyan (albeit atheistic), subjective idealism, that the world is the creation of the (human) perceiver, and that it does not take a meaningful shape until the perceiver begins to understand and define what is perceived. But Nietzsche’s original twist to this old idea is that the awesome power granted by the realisation of this concept is, in fact, paradoxically, an ultimately debilitating force. As Nietzsche says: “it raises in him (humanity) a doubt about his own person: he does not dare to think himself the cause of this astonishing feeling – and so he posits a stronger person, a divinity, to account for it.[ii]Or, in other words, Nietzsche argues that because we cannot cope with the responsibility of our power as creators, we need to invent the idea of God as a greater than human power in the Universe. In this way, the God we make can bear the brunt of the responsibility of creation, while we humans get on with leading the irresponsible kind of life we enjoy the most.  

Now, although Nietzsche never actually uses the term aesthetics in these passages, the beauty and sublimity bestowed upon real and imaginary things should almost certainly be considered a simple definition of an aesthetic process, and so the association being made here is between aesthetics and religion, and that is another great Nietzschean insight. While he makes his proposal in order to simply critique humanity and religion, we have found a much deeper insight buried here. Nietzsche is describing a psychological attitude which not only colours our attitude to religion, it also effects the question of our capacity for freedom and, because of that, inhibits our ability to make true moral and social progress in the world.

§

If Nietzsche was right, embedded in the development of both religions and aesthetics lies an enormous irresponsibility – the denial of ourselves as supreme creators. This denial exposes a human immaturity, a fear of accepting the responsibility of the awesome nature of what we are, and a nihilistic pessimism that negates any attempts to develop our human potential to its fullest. Likewise, it is the fundamental reason behind the domination of classes: by creating a mythical idea that we are subjugated to the will of the gods or God it opens the doors to the possibility for one section of the tribe, state, empire to dominate the rest of us by taking control of that subjection and exploiting it.

This process is quite easy to discern when we compare the development of the priestly-caste and witchdoctors into the mammoth monotheistic church congregations we have today alongside the evolution of Wealth and the great class-divide between rich and poor, but while this exploitation of the human fear of our awesome creativity is easy enough to find in the history of religions, what does it tell us about the history of aesthetics and, ultimately, about what aesthetics potentially means. While in these passages, Nietzsche is merely pointing to the fact that both the religious and aesthetic sense of awe originate in the same negation of human responsibility, by doing this he opens up a can of philosophical worms that reverberate back through his earlier writings on aesthetics, creating a seemingly contradictory dialectic within his own arguments … but then, being seemingly contradictory is a typically Nietzschean trait; it is what makes his writings so interesting and awesome.

To unravel this contradiction, let us start with section 4 of Beyond Good and Evil. In that passage he discusses the virtues of false judgements: “The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement … The question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving … the falsest judgements (to which synthetic judgements a priori belong) are the most indispensable to us, that without granting as true the fictions of logic, without measuring reality against the purely invented world of the unconditional and self-identical, without a continual falsification of the world by means of numbers, mankind could not live – that to renounce false judgements would be to renounce life, would be to deny life.”[iii] From this fragment of his earlier writing, his earlier thinking seems to be a complete antithesis of what he states later: if by judgement he is talking about aesthetics and religion (don’t worry, this link between judgement and aesthetics will be explained in due course) , instead of seeing a tragic human irresponsibility, he sees it as the most indispensable trait for humanity’s survival.

For those who know Nietzsche this contradiction probably comes as no surprise, he was antithetical to philosophical systems and his thoughts are mainly expressed in aphoristic or short-essay-long snippets which mitigate cohesion, but why are we presuming there is any relationship between the Critique of Religion from the Will to Power and passage 4 of Beyond Good and Evil at all?

If we look at the final part of passage 4 the idea seems even less plausible. The section continues with: “To recognise untruth as a condition of life: that, to be sure, means to resist customary value-sentiments in a dangerous fashion; and a philosophy which ventures to do so places itself, by that fact alone, beyond good and evil.”[iv]

This seemingly quirky idea of the indispensability of false judgements is suddenly exalted by championing the title of the entire book; insinuating that the central idea around this collection of essays is the motivation for a new philosophical thinking that can embrace untruth and by doing so create the kind of thought that can transcend the concepts of good and evil.

However, the subtle ironies that this passage is full of become clearer when seen in light of the seemingly contradictory passage from The Will to Power: the untruth of Beyond Good and Evil is the falsity of the conventional truths created by religion and aesthetics to “conceal from himself (humanity) that it was he who created what he admired.” In this way it becomes clear that the untruth is the revealing of an older truth long hidden by the human failure to embrace our own awesome capacities.

Seen from our 21st century perspective, Nietzsche’s thoughts take another twist. The nihilism that Nietzsche had resolved himself to as a negative but necessary state that had be endured before any revolution of the Overman (Übermensch) could come about, has now become entrenched in our global civilisation with tremendously negative consequences for any harmonious development of humanity. Instead of paving the way for the Overman, the nihilist century behind us has inspired an upsurge in religious fanaticisms and evangelical crusades that threaten to become a new dominant power in the chaotic condition of this budding century. In fact, what we are witnessing now is a tendency to reverse the process of false judgements that Nietzsche envisaged. An irony over Nietzsche’s own ironies in which religions use their lies to reinstate the old untruth, injecting it into the gaping vacuum opened by the unbearable relativity of the everything-is-nothing truth of the nihilistic world. In 2020, the recognition of untruth as a way of life is now the normal state of things, but there is no positive transcendence beyond good and evil here. By embracing lies as a way of life we have thrown civilisation into an existence-threatening, barbaric state.

But the irony of this situation does not stop there: Nietzsche was right, the only way forward for humanity is its awakening into the realisation that we truly are the great bestowers of judgement on reality and that the Universe is meaningful because we are able to give it that meaning; that it is time for humanity to stop apologising for itself and be itself; but that this step forward is impeded by the nihilistic civilisation that Nietzsche himself has been an integral part of creating.         

The question now is: Can the awakening allowing a great revaluation of purpose still take place and save humanity from itself? But first we have to deal with another query: What does any of this have to do with aesthetics?   To answer that we need to look back to an older pre-Nietzschean philosophy and sift Nietzsche’s concepts through the sieve of Kant.

(But that will be dealt with in Part Two …)


[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE WILL TO POWER, Ed. Kaufmann, Vintage, New York, 1968, p. 85

[ii] Ibid, p. 86

[iii] Friedrich Nietzsche, BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Section 4

[iv] Ibid

On Empathy

Humanity (homo sapiens) is the revealing, learning species and empathy must be considered one of our most valuable attributes. It is that which the psychopath lacks and it could be said that a dearth of empathy makes one less human, more monstrous.

Empathy recognises the positivity expressed in life and the importance of the adage ‘to live and let live’, which also means ‘live well and let live well’.

Empathy therefore promotes humanity: its preservation and its progress. It encourages the evolutionary process from the pseudo-humanity, that we endure now, into the fully developed form of authentic humanity that we will have to become for the species to survive in the distant future. Because of this, empathy is a progressive component in the law of natural selection applied to human beings. Progress towards the authentic humanity will only occur when humanity learns how to properly exploit the creative, revealing qualities of our species by allowing all of humanity real access to the conditions and resources needed to liberate and develop their most human capacities. Our empathy is the quality that will allow this process, through the development of human potential through dignity.

Empathy is the emotional quality needed to fight for the rights of those who have been disinherited and condemned by the anti-human historical process created and maintained by the power of Wealth. Empathy enlightens us enough to fight for the rights of those who are born into a world that has been fashioned to give them none.

Not only is empathy a virtue, it is the source of all virtues. In this way, it is the antithesis of all nihilisms, or at least as long as it maintains itself rooted in reality. We are not talking about religious virtues like Christian pity, which are in themselves nihilistic in their denial of the importance of this material reality, which is, in effect, the denial of the importance of life itself.

Empathy builds through the process of uncovering and unites by revealing and opening the common space of humanity and life for all of humanity to enter.       

Education

Learning things changes us and binds us to those changes. Once we learn a new skill we are moulded by that acquisition and introduced into the world in which that skill can be applied. Being able to play the piano, bake meat pies, or even ride a bike, locks us into a relationship with those activities and the objects involved in performing them. Likewise, reading a novel, uncovering historical data, or understanding certain laws of physics, alters our perception of the world and moulds us into a different person than we were before we had made the discovery of such things.

Through learning we ourselves become more un-hidden and more available for use in the world. In a sense, we are imbued with more purposefulness because we are more embedded in the world and the complexities of reality. All education as such, is a kind of spiritual experience that opens the essential reality of sapiens before us and allows us access to that reality, not unlike any other initiation ceremony. But unlike most religious or cultural initiations, real learning cannot be restricted by constraining concepts such as purity, or truth. Learning things binds us, but the ties that are made are ropes of freedom, that unleash our un-hiddenness and our accessibility to life. To be open to the world, as such, is to be tied to the things of the world and only by mastering the knots of reality can we be truly capable, truly sapiens, human beings in the world.      

THE HUMAN AS A VALUE

Anatomy art by Leonardo Da Vinci from 1492 on textured background.

Whilst the human is something enormously valuable that should be treasured, in actual fact it is a worthless thing, made so by its dubious existence. Asking what humanity is, is like asking what a unicorn is: everyone knows what it should be like but no one can actually find one.  

In the conditional sense, humanity has become a should be: The human should be something we want to become, even though we already are. But: How can we become what we already are? The problem is that everything we want to become (and do become), things like our nationality, race, wealth (or lack of wealth), and religion, strip us of the human thing that we authentically are.

In a sense, our human way of life erodes our humanity. Because of this, the value of the human needs to be regained. It needs to be rediscovered in our nostalgic ability to resurrect lost things, restore them, and preserve them. Of course, there is a great irony in this process, that what needs to be discovered is that which is all around us; that we cannot find the forest because the tree we are sitting under gets in the way. But this irony only reveals the simplicity of the task once we find the will to achieve it. To rediscover we have to merely remember; recall that our humanity is that which unites us to the rest of our species; it is that which we all have in common … that we are bipods with hands that have fingers and a thumb; that we have the ability to laugh, etc.. However, an amputee is not considered non-human because they have lost a leg, or a thumb, and one can imagine human beings who never smile or laugh. No, the real determiner of the human being is rooted in our special intellect, in our special ability to communicate via language, and in our curiosity, to know things, and our creativity to invent and make things. It is in these qualities that the sapiens instincts are housed, and it is the sapiens qualities that really define the human.

Curiosity creates our restlessness and our passion for uncovering. It makes us capable of boredom, when there is nothing that sparks our curiosity, and fires our creativity. Curiosity then is a positive human value that needs to be stimulated and nurtured by any sapiens-human society. Likewise, our intellectual and high artistic values need to be resurrected as that which is valuable, where valuable is considered as that which is enriching for our humanity.  

But aren’t we curious and creative enough already? If you look around, the world is full of the fruits of our curiosity and inventive imagination: Aren’t we living in a marvellous information age in which we can enjoy the gifts of the incredible technologies we have already developed and can be purchased? Yes, and no … because in the reality expressed in that question lies the great divider of the human … in human civilisation as we have it at the moment, the fruits of our creative, collective, curiosity have to be bought. Money, and what we call the economy, is the great shredder of humanity, slicing through us like a ploughing machine through the common home of our humanity.

A civilisation geared toward what money can buy, turns its back on the human and the intellect as things of little value in themselves. Intellect in a society driven by the plutocratic impulse of making money, will be little more than a small tool toward achieving that final goal, or even an impediment to it. Intellect in our society is not valuable in itself, and its only value comes from the salary gained by the kind of job requiring intellectual skills. In the economy, the authentically human is undervalued while those with the anti-human, human-shredding skills that know how to manipulate money are the successful sub-species that has turned much of humanity into the sad-cruel figure of the homo economicus.

When civilisations become too dependent on, or become slaves to their own technologies, decadence sets in, and this truth must not ignore the most influential technological invention we have ever come up with – money. Our relationship with money has been the most obvious whilst at the same time most obscure process of human degeneration. In its essence money is a tool that can be used to facilitate exchange and make life simpler. Nevertheless, the effect of money on society has been quite the opposite. Money is now a complex thing that dominates all human societies. It creates more misery than happiness; it is responsible for the virtual enslavement of the vast majority of human beings; it is used as the measure of society and its use is, for the most part, unjust.

Money is the root of all evil: and yet we cannot live without it. We are totally dependent on the evil of it; it is the cause of all degeneracy; it is degeneracy itself. The degenerate-value of money.

To be able to remedy this essentially anti-human reality buried in the very fabric of our civilisation and to resurrect the authentic nature of the human, will require a revolutionary upheaval. Yet at the same time, that revaluation will have to come from a very simple source: through the recognition of the authenticity of what we already are – through a recognition of the authentically human. To rediscover we only have to remember.  

Our Tyranny of Purposelessness

The System which rules us and which we benevolently call Civilisation, is actually a despotic plutocracy – a tyranny of greed. This dictatorship of the greedy is also a tyranny of the superficial and, subsequently, the most envious and stupid elements of society. Above all it is a tyranny of purposelessness.

Purposelessness creates shallowness and hates all depth. Without any authentic purpose to thicken its achievements, that which is won remains insubstantial and unsatisfying. Instead of being satisfied by our accomplishments we long for the success of others.

In the tyranny of greed, one follows one’s desires without knowing where those desires come from or where they might be taking us. On the whole, the tyranny of greed is a hopeless affair. Like all despotisms, the tyranny of greed negates humanity and ignores human rights whenever they do not favour its own greedy, superficial, and envious purposes.

The tyranny is so entrenched in our civilisation that it seems unmovable. But immovability has been the symptom of the collapse of all tyrannical civilisations. The stagnation of the system will always crumble under the disquietude of its citizens and their need to move forward.

To vanquish a dictatorship of purposelessness, the procedure is quite simple: inject an authentic purposefulness into that same system … and by authentic we mean meaningful for humanity; we mean an authentic human purposefulness, one that envisions an authentic human progress towards a civilisation with a forever evolving human quality of life.

But for that to happen we have to start seeing these purposeful human aims toward authentic progress ourselves.