THE DANGERS OF DETERMINISM

 

sistine-chapel-ceiling-hands-adam-god

Last week we published an article examining the positive depths of the idea of a purposeful, deterministic Universe[1]. However, as some readers pointed out, determinism has also got its negative side, and we are going to look at that now …

It was Kant who warned us of the dangers of allowing God into the equation when tackling the notion that purposiveness exists in nature. For Kant it was quite simple: using God to explain natural science is no good for either science or theology. It produces an overlapping of boundaries and that creates uncertainty in both camps.[2]

But: Why is this so? If we can deduce that the Universe seems to be fine-tuned towards the creation of life[3], what is wrong with attributing that fine-tuning to an omnipotent, eternal force like God?

Well, our first objection is that the concept of God is by no means a neutral one. It has too much semantic baggage, and those that claim ownership of that luggage are adamant about the enlightened stand-point of their perspective. Likewise, it is hard to see religions embracing cosmological arguments as a proof of the existence of God, simply because cosmological fine-tuning is not found in the Scriptures and when seen from the scientific point-of-view, the science undermines the Scriptures or renders them unimportant. If God did fine-tune the Universe, it is very doubtful that It would be the same God who is said to have communicated with us via the prophets. Once fine-tuning, or any other scientific explanation of creation is accepted, the Scriptures no longer make any sense.

So, if science explains the deterministic, fine-tuning of the Universe it cannot use the term God to describe how or what could have been involved in the process that allowed this fine-tuning to come about.

Kant’s own warning was: “We must scrupulously and modestly restrict ourselves to the term that expresses just as much as we know, and no more – namely, an end (purposiveness) of nature … For the purpose of keeping strictly within its own bounds, physics entirely ignores the question whether natural ends are ends designedly or undesignedly. To deal with that question would be to meddle in the affairs of others – namely, in what is the business of metaphysics.”[4]

Of course, what cosmological fine-tuning implies is that yes, things seem to have been designed, or that there seems to be a design embedded in the structure of the Universe, driving it towards a certain end. Whether this end is willed or desired by the Universe is not a question that can be properly answered by science, but neither is it a pertinent question for theologians who would need to try and apply fine-tuning to the scriptures or vice-versa. That would be an absurd task.

The question here then becomes: If the implications of cosmological fine-tuning is a metaphysical question, who should deal with that metaphysics if it goes beyond the scope of theology and science?

To answer that we must consider where metaphysics came from, and we find its origins in Greek Pre-Socratic thought; the same thinkers who gave birth to philosophy and science. Through the Pre-Socratics, and metaphysics, science and philosophy are genetically tied. The first philosophers were trying to explain the essence of reality by defining the essence of nature; this is what science does through theory and experimentation, and it is also what metaphysics does through logic.

Cosmological fine-tuning is a logic-deduced concept derived from scientific data made from observations of the cosmos. It creates a metaphysical field that needs to be explored philosophically, and it implies the existence of a deterministic Universe, or an infinite Multiverse, and that suggests deep, positivistic repercussions for humanity.

Cosmological fine-tuning is a controversial subject for science, as are all deterministic ideas. Physics and mathematics might tell us that the nature of the Universe is incredibly precise and that, without this minute precision in its structure, the Universe would have been incapable of evolving as it did, but this also implies that we are the results of such an incredibly precise mechanism that the least likely explanation is that the cosmos was a beautiful accident exploding out of the Big Bang. And this makes theologists clap their hands and scientists blush.

To save themselves from the theologians, scientists have come up with an equally speculative idea that our Universe is not a real singularity and we should talk of a Multiverse made up of an infinite possibility of universes.

Quantum physics has opened the door to the realm of the speculative and allows, if not demands, very creative thinking. In a way it has pushed cosmology back into the area of philosophy again – especially towards the primal area of the Pre-Socratics. Scientists are now daring to think within the dangerous space of infinity and recently even sacred concepts like time, the Big Bang and Thermal Death have been questioned.

If philosophy is focussed on necessity, and if our necessity is rooted in the survival and permanence of the sapiens species, our humanity, then the positivism inherent in purposiveness has to be embraced, and the fine-tuned cosmos has to be interpreted as a positivistic inspiration for humanity. The Universe has allowed the conditions for life to be created and evolve into a creature that is aware enough to perceive and to try and understand the very nature of its own creator. And if we permit our own destruction, we are threatening the destruction of all perception of the Universe as well … This is philosophy as positive incentive, as a rediscovery of humanity as a vital force within the cosmos.

If we want to survive as a species and evolve as sapiens, then we must embrace concepts like permanence and progress as virtues. But permanence and progress together. Progress seen as that which will create valuable things that can endure. Endurance is what we see when we marvel at the pyramids or when we tackle the classics in literature, or stand before the great masterpieces of art and music. But the value of endurance must not be limited to conservative sentiments that lead to decadence, rather, endurance can only be guaranteed through progress as human and sapiens concept.

[1] https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/the-depth-of-determinism/

[2] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, p.209

[3] https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/the-importance-of-metaphysics/

[4] Kant: Ibid, p. 210

Advertisements

Cause and Effect

cause-effect

The effect cannot be the cause of its cause (Kant) – but the result can be an inspiration for beginning the process of its own creation. This causal nexus is true of anything that is created from an idea, or all things which are the products of visionaries. The cause of the thing comes from the fact that it has been imagined (nexus of ideal causes). In many cases, if there had not been an imagining of the result the initiative to create it would never have taken place. And so, in our technological reality, cause and result are closely intertwined, because most inventions are imagined and made to satisfy a perceived need: forks came about from an idea of the need to save our fingers from getting sticky when we ate.

But how does this help any metaphysical understanding? Can we apply this idea to the question of the first cause? Can intuition be enough to create something out of nothing? How can this relationship exist without a mind to start the creative process? For it to be possible the nothing has to be capable of intuiting something, which would imply that the nothing would possess awareness; and this suggests that the nothing is not nothing at all but awareness, which is something; even though, in the beginning it would be an awareness of nothing, which is a very poor form of consciousness indeed. Of course, next to nothing, any something is everything, so in the long run this intuition of something has limitless scope.

The dilemma might point us in the direction of the idea of God (before anything there was an eternal thingy that made everything out of itself); or perhaps we could assert that the primordial God is awareness (omnipresent in everything that is aware). Likewise, it brings up the concept of determinism (Awareness blending into purposeful Will), and also suggests a way of envisaging a purposeful universe without the necessity for God (unless a religion can be made in which God actually does become Awareness). Through intuition of a nexus finalis, in which entities-with-awareness (sapiens life-forms) are able to fully know the Universe in one great act of love (Being through knowing and being known, as well as appreciating and preserving what is known), a determined future opens up for us. An idea which can have enormous practical benefits for humanity, because it positions us in a purposeful place within the evolution of everything (the Universe).

But perhaps you think this is a pointless argument: that we are trying to prove the unproveable. In fact, we are not trying to “prove” anything: what we are aiming at is a pragmatical solution to the insalubrious effects of nihilisms; to wrestle with the ingrained pessimism that is debilitating humanity. Why do people prefer the non-purposeful over the purposeful?

Part of the blame for this must be heaped on the religions, for they dogmatise the purposeful universe and distort it in order to drive purpose in the direction of the interests of power. If purpose is a tool for power, then many will reject it. The irony of this is that even the resultant nihilism has itself become a tool for that power, especially now that power nurtures itself via an economic system of anarchic capitalism. For this system, purpose is too directional itself and offers too much clarity for the system which requires relativity in order to mask its real purposes. Purpose is therefore a threat to the system that can only be tolerated by allowing it to be projected through the distorting glass of religion.

In this way, we can see that there is nothing more radical in this world than real purposiveness; by which we mean the examination of a non-theological, cosmological, nexus finalis direction to the Universe.

Progress does not come about through cause and effect alone, but only through effect-driven causes inspired by purposive ideas. The Universe is the effect-driven result of the condition of nothing that allows for the possibility of everything. But our Universe is also a refined everything, stabilised through the filter of intuitive purposiveness. A purposiveness which is denied by the global money-driven civilisation we have now created, propelling us into a chaos of pessimisms and cynicisms regarding our own humanity. To find harmony in our lives, we need to harmonise our way of living with the same intuitive purposiveness possessed by the universe; we need to open our eyes and see where we are all going; where our ancestors will be at the end of time; and imagine what they will emerge as when the final evolution eventually takes place.

On Taste

paradox

In logic, antinomy is the term used to describe a “real or mutual incompatibility of two terms”.[1] It could be regarded as a synonym of paradox. The statement “there is no absolute truth,” is antinomic because the statement declares a truth that it also claims to be impossible. Likewise, the concept of Fake news is an antinomic entity, if we consider news to be reports of what has actually happened, and, therefore, inherently true.

Antinomy is not only resolved when its conflicting propositions are found to be not in in fact contradictory, it is also seen to be one of the more profound insights into the apparently contradictory structures of truth. These conflicting propositions are capable of existing together, although in a way that, as Kant says: “transcends our faculties of cognition”.[2] Likewise, we have discovered how often conflict can be resolved by finding the middle way between them, and this middle way also possesses a certain transcendental quality that, when applied to the conflict, can take hold of these two antagonistic forces and, through its own possession of qualities in both of them, resolve their otherwise internecine obliteration of each other.[3]

Between the objective opinion and the objective judgement comes cultural taste, which is an opinion formed from a combination of objective study and personal feelings towards things. As such, we have taste standing between opinion and judgement, transcending the negative qualities of both.

For Kant, the judgement of taste has its determining ground: “in the concept of what may be regarded as the supersensible substance of humanity.”[4] In Jungian terms, we could say that taste is powered by archetypes which, if they are nurtured, will pull the subjective into the realm of the human, allowing for humane judgements that equally transcend the cold calculations of purely objective meaning.

As Kant said: “it is the supersensible, through taste, that brings reason into harmony with itself.”[5]

And yet, in terms of the human and universal, there is hardly anything more untrustworthy than taste. But: how can a thing that is so untrustworthy be the harmonising agent of reason? And, what are the consequences of this untrustworthiness of taste?

TASTE AND IDEOLOGY

To answer these questions, we need to examine how ideology uses taste to perpetuate itself. Here, perhaps, a viral analogy can be used: The viruses of ideologies insert themselves into the cells of taste in order to propagate themselves throughout the System. And as ideology is a divisor and anti-human force, the harmonising and humanising potential of taste is constantly mitigated.

Yet, it remains our only hope – and for this reason taste must be cared for and cultured towards the human, away from the ideological. It is ideological taste which perpetuates the social and environmental antagonisms we are faced with today. Refinement of tastes is, therefore, a humanising process concerned with universals and archetypes; with what connects us to each other and to the world, rather than what separates us.

TASTE

Taste is a mixture of both the aesthetic and the rational. The aesthetic is intuitive by nature, the rational is analytic, and taste is intuitive and analytic at the same time. It is in this combination of intuition and analysis that makes taste so important. But in order to be effective as humanising agent, it needs to be carefully refined. Perhaps there can be no more important labour for humanity than this refinement of our personal tastes.[6]

REFINED (UNIVERSAL) TASTE

A universal taste, for example, is one that still believes in good and beauty, but good and beauty themselves are universal and ideal concepts. For this reason, and in order to anchor the ideal in a coherent world-view, it is necessary to see the Universe as a purposive thing. It is only through this anti-nihilistic world-view that human progress is possible. Within our economy-obsessed System, progress is taken away from the domain of the human and invested completely in the realm of the economy under the guise of growth. But growth is not progress, because growth in the economy is always quantitative and never qualitative, whilst human progress must always be seen as an improvement in the quality of life for all human beings.

Aesthetic and moral concepts are purposive things. Things we are striving to make; discover; be: and all of them carry a sense of improvement in them.

The purposiveness of taste is both realist and idealist: the real is a process we are necessarily moving through before the ideal can ever be realised or attained, or, perhaps, even discovered. Accident is part of the real, but it is the real that makes the accidental possible.

In order for taste to become something of worth again, we need to anchor it to the ideals of universal purposiveness in order for real to move at last in a purposeful direction.

[1] Antinomy, Encyclopædia Britannica Online

[2] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, p. 168

[3] See https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-middle-way/

[4] Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, p. 168

[5] Ibid. p. 169

[6] We are not advocating snobbism here, but a humanising process. Snobberies divide and are anti-human because of that. Refining our tastes towards appreciating what we all have is common and the archetypal forces that direct our collective subconscious has nothing to do with snobbery at all. What we are talking about lies closer to religion, but religion without ideology – and religion is now infested with ideology.

PEACE AS A SUBLIME STATE

peace

Philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have often extolled the virtues of the spirit of war against the weak and cowardly condition fostered by perpetual peace. Kant went so far as to call war ‘sublime’, and one of the most sublime eulogies of the warlike spirit was uttered by Orson Welles in the famous cuckoo-clock speech in The Third Man. In that film, Welles wrote his character’s own monologue in which he compares the cultural achievements of the war-torn and strife-riddled Renaissance in Italy with the lack of accomplishments born from two centuries of peace in Switzerland. Welles’ argument is that war created Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo while the best thing that peace has come up with is the cuckoo-clock.

Nevertheless, the comparison is a false one: it is not ’peace’ but the mediocrity created by an emphasis on conservative values and the commercial spirit that makes Switzerland culturally insipid. Switzerland is an economy of clocks, but also of banks. And banks that have made themselves very rich through the wars in other countries.

Yes, the vulgarity of our economic lives in peace could be seen as a spiritual travesty, but that is not the fault of peace. It is consumerism, not peace, that deadens our own spirit with its vulgar want-more will. What is bad in our societies is the lust we have for acquisitions, not our endeavours to live in harmony together. Capitalist harmony is always based on competition which is a war in itself. A nihilistic competitiveness that has made us spiritually and creatively numb, and breeds more depression than exultation. Money inhibits creativity and ends up suffocating it. What we have to learn is how to see the great sublimity in our own human creations. Our power to create must always be more sublime than our will to win by defeating and destroying.

For humanity there can be no greater flaw than our tendency for war and the ease with which internecine conflicts start. War, an instrument for profit and a way of producing and expanding power by maintaining and escalating the capitalist system, has now lost any moral ground that it may once have seemingly possessed. Moral reasons have always been fabricated to justify the needs for wars, and governments will continue to falsify such reasons to dupe the public with flag-waving patriotisms. Without the false-morality, war is impossible in democratic societies.

But, in order for war to disappear, peace has to be elevated to a much higher moral pedestal. It is ‘peace’ that needs to be considered sublime, not war. The first casualty of any declaration of war is peace; the two concepts cannot coexist. If there is a little war somewhere, then peace does not exist.

Contrary to popular belief and a lot of philosophical ranting, peace is not a static state but a dynamic one. For peace to exist it needs to be sublimely creative, and it needs to transcend the false façades of peace created by consumerism and capitalism, which are their own kinds of wars.

Only through peace can purposeful dynamics be nurtured. Only through peace can truly creative progressive incentives, liberated from the distractions of conflicts, properly deal with the world’s most pressing problems – poverty, famine, violence, oppression, the climate emergency, and … war.

On the Beauty of Humanity

botticelli-birth-venus

Kant says that there are two kinds of beauty: that which is free and that which is dependent.[1] Human imagination can develop beauty, seemingly freely through imagination, but the essence of human beauty itself is always coming from a condition of dependency, for it depends on the Universe that it depends on for its existence and in which it is contained.

In fact, human beauty resides in two absurd drives: a) the desire to be free in a Universe that it is ultimately completely dependent on; and b) the desire to find permanence in that same Universe which is destined to die.

To indagate in our beauty then, we cannot escape our absurdity. And yet, all great art is based on these two paradoxical longings: how can that be? How can something be great and absurd at the same time?

The answer to this dilemma lies in the same paradox, the paradox of freedom and its impossible relationship with its dependence on reality.

The key to the human soul is embedded in our impossible dreams: we know that we cannot be truly free or permanent, but that does not stop us from trying or stop us from believing in such things. And it is this ability, this sapiens skill of pursuing the impossible, that pushes us beyond all paradoxes. The fact that we can understand the impossible and yet at the same time believe in the idea that the impossible will become possible and real, is a liberation.

Or, knowing that we are not free and yet still believing that we could be, makes us free.

This paradox has been the driving force of all deep art and deep technology. In it lies the immense beauty of what we are; the awesome beauty that can believe it will one day conquer even its own most absolute limitations … as long as we keep focussed and trying.

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics edition, OUP, p.60

Pleasure and Preservation – the need for an Aesthetics of Humanity

humancosmos

Pleasure gives us a purposiveness to preserve that which we like.

This idea is Kantian[1]. In linking pleasure with preservation, it also ties it to the will for permanence and removes it from pleasure as a hedonistic love of the ephemeral.

In this way, we find that there are two kinds of pleasure: the superficial (ephemeral) one and the deeper one that is tied up with this will for permanence.

Kant was investigating aesthetics when he brought this up, and in fact it is this double pronged idea of pleasure which explains the need for aesthetics as a need for understanding the pleasure that things can give us in order to understand the need to preserve them.

It there is a necessary purposiveness in preserving humanity, then perhaps this can be inculcated via the development of an aesthetics of humanity, a way of looking at ourselves that will foster the deeper pleasure instincts of the will for permanence.

By dwelling on the beauty that is humanity we encourage ourselves to strengthen the human and mould ourselves into good human-beings: a concept which can only be properly understood once we have learned to see the beautiful within what humanity is.

An aesthetics of the human would need to be disinterested in anything other than the authentically human. Any study of this aesthetic would therefore have to distance itself from the ugly humanity that we are, in order to find the beautiful humanity that we should be.

This concept should not be seen as Idealist, but rather as a kind of positivistic deconstructionism. The only way to know what we should be as authentic human beings, is to dismantle the errors that have shaped us into the monstrous form that humanity is today. Only by unveiling the ugliness of what we are now, can we see the beauty of what we should have become (and can become in the future). This unveiling demands a dismantling of all interests that divide humanity: all nationalisms; racial or religious divisions; as well as all economic interests and ideologies of class.

An aesthetics of humanity might not only be a way to ensure the permanence of the human race, it could also create an authentic design and composition for humanity or for human progress.

Technology, seen from the perspective of the aesthetics of humanity, is either an ornamentation that takes away from the genuine beauty of humanity, or it is an extension of the beautiful picture itself.

Objective purposiveness is either external, i.e. the utility; or internal, i.e. the perfection of the object,”[2] said Kant. But our line of thinking sees perfection coming through utility. Once we understand the utility of humanity in the cosmos, then we can begin to conceive where the road to perfection starts.

[1] See Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford Classics, OUP, p. 51

[2] Ibid, p.57

Purpose

Purpose

Kant divided his critique of judgement between the aesthetic and the teleological powers of judgement. For Kant, the aesthetic side of judgement is that which judges formal purposiveness through the feelings of pleasure and displeasure: this is a subjective judgement. The teleological side, on the other hand, judges the real, objective purposiveness of nature by using understanding and reason[1]: teleological judgement is objective.

Our nihilistic, capitalist system has done away with the teleological side of judgement as its forward-moving impulse clashes with capitalism’s need for the cyclic. The system is therefore imbalanced, in favour of the feelings of pleasure (predominantly) and the need for displeasure in order to fuel the highs through their contrast with the lows.

This abandonment of the teleological has been our greatest mistake. By ignoring the teleological and, as such, the objective powers of judgement, we have pushed ourselves ever deeper into an apocalyptic scenario. By ridding nature of its purposiveness, we give ourselves free-rein to exploit it to the end, extracting the last drop of sense from the biosphere until there is nothing left to sustain us or any other life here on Earth.

Nature’s purpose has to become an object of concern again if we are to get ourselves back on the forward moving track, which has to be a partnership between us and the world. And, as in any partnership, the alliance must be based on understanding, which is precisely what the teleological judgement aims for: an understanding of the purpose of the Universe, beginning with an affirmation that such a purpose must exist.

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p.28

Toward a Philosophy of Progress

human_progress

Kant divided concepts into those of nature and those of freedom[1], and now let’s introduce a third concept, lying between these two, which is that of nature which has been transformed by freedom.

With the establishment of this third category we can also now envisage a new philosophy between the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of morals that would be a philosophy of progress: which is concerned with what we can achieve through the alteration of nature and which would have an ultimate of creating eternity – because eternity has to be the ultimate aim of all progress.

This philosophy of progress has both technically-practical and morally-practical principles, geared towards that which is not yet practical but which should be, and hence, which should be the aim of freedom.

The existence of progress means that the practical itself is constantly evolving with the development of the technically possible. Or, in other words, the theoretical of today creates the practicalities of tomorrow’s freedom.

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILITY OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

The philosophy of progress takes, as its first assumption, that anything is possible and that the impossible is a temporary illusion: things are impossible only until we discover how they can be made possible.

Impossibility only exists while a) we are incapable of developing our technological skills enough to be able to render things we desire to be possible; or that b) we lack the desire to render certain things possible. This lack of desire can come about because of b.1) the condition in which the imagined possibility is morally undesirable (e.g.: the creation of a hard-core artificial-intelligence, by which we mean a super-fast, self-conscious computer that would have access to unlimited information instantaneously and the power to control all that information at its own will, should be considered impossible, not because we could never create it, but because it would very easily and likely destroy us if it ever were to be created. Moral undesirability, therefore, renders the theoretically possible a practical impossibility).

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p. 7

WHY DO WE FEAR INTELLIGENCE?

gettyimages-825231080

The only finite being that could be an absolute end of creation is the human being, considered not merely as a link in the chain of natural causality but as a moral being capable of grasping itself as such. This is Kant’s moral theology …”[1]

As an absolute end to creation, humanity also becomes a purpose of creation. Do we have a more inspiring idea pointing to the importance and meaningfulness of our existence in the Universe? An existence which is not only an evolutionary aim of nature, our perceptive and cognitive faculties are appropriate or conformable to nature, and are purposive for it. By investigating the nature of the Universe, we allow the Universe to know itself through us, and that self-knowledge enriches the Universe with meaning. This train of thought leads to the anthropocentric idea that our cognitive faculties have been deliberately fashioned by nature in order to allow the deepest reaches of the inanimate cosmos be made meaningful through a process of being known and appreciated.

According to Kant, being human had to be defined through the three faculties of the mind: the faculties of cognition; feeling; and desire. We are rational, but sensitive and easily driven (as well as mislead) by desire. Likewise, we are condemned to exist in a reality of paradoxes: once we start thinking deeply, we discover there is an abyss of scepticism before us which can pull reality itself into question – How can we be certain that what we perceive is truly real?

As Socrates said: the more we know, the more we know that we nothing at all. Thinking is dangerous: it can be tormenting; can provoke madness. So, is it so hard to understand why so many people choose not to bother? For the majority of human beings, the most human faculty of all, our cognition, is the least interesting one, and it is repressed by the most vital faculties of feelings and desires. Thus, we have the intellectual: which becomes an aberration or freak of society – or what is popularly ridiculed by being labelled a nerd.

Western society is certainly one driven foremost by desire, with a strong sympathy for feelings and little time at all for the cognitive faculties. Sometimes it seems as if the cognitive just gets in the way of the fun: it is a party-pooper. Nevertheless, every time we deny the cognitive faculty, we are really denying our most human quality – certainly our most Sapiens’ quality.

This latter idea, however, has been both reinforced and contradicted whenever our own capitalist society has envisaged us meeting other, more advanced species of extra-terrestrial visitors. Our imaginings of the more advanced races of interstellar travellers visiting the Earth, are almost always endowed with an over-abundance of cognitive abilities and a sharp lack of feelings and desires. The alien visitors are intrigued and seduced by our human propensity for the sensibilities they lack. At the same time, in the same sci-fi scenarios, we humans are portrayed as being proud of our anti-intellectual, wilful and sentimental souls.

In the sci-fi vision of us versus them, the anti-intellectual is warm-hearted and good whilst the rational beings are cold and bad. Of course, much of this material was fabricated in the Cold War and is a capitalist fantasy of the desire-driven subjects belonging to the liberal economy cultures triumphing over the cold-hearted, emotionless intellectual beings created by communism. But nevertheless, this tradition has transcended the fall of communism. For Hollywood, an alien invasion is still a possibility, and if we were conquered by creatures from another galaxy, they would have to be cold, calculating monsters of pure cognition. How would they have been able to develop a technology complex enough to have transported them across the Universe if they weren’t?

But, why are we so scared of aliens? Why are we so frightened of intelligence and deep thinking? Shouldn’t it be something to aim toward rather than tremble with fear at? And, why in the first place does intelligence seem so alien to us? Why can’t we associate ourselves with it; sympathise and empathise with other Sapiens?

Of course, Kant pointed out that cognitive judgements have a sensuous dimension and sympathy and empathy have to play an active role in any decisions made that affect others. To not allow sympathy or empathy to sway our judgements would turn us into a psychopath for a simple definition of the psychopath is one feels no empathy.

But the psychopath, who is highly intelligent, is not reason enough to disdain intelligence: it is rather an example of an unbalanced human personality. Yes, the result of too much thinking without enough empathy and feelings creates serial killers and other monsters, but that does not mean that intelligence is bad for us.

Is the cold-blooded sadist and killer reason enough for us to fear intelligence? Do we hold an assumption that an over-developed cognitive mind would dominate and deaden feelings and desires, turning the anal-retentive genius into a psychopathic demon? Yes, some brilliant minds are anti-social, but so are many non-brilliant minds. An excess of rational thinking can turn us into a Raskolnikov or an Einstein, and a lack of it can fabricate a Rocky or a Donald Trump.

We must remember that to be human, according to Kant, we need the three faculties (the cognitive, as well as our feelings and desires) to be harmoniously balanced. But if we are to develop our humanity and ensure human-progress, we have to develop the intellectual side along with our feelings of empathy. Empathy is important because it combats the psychopathic tendencies and therefore liberates the intellect because it keeps it rooted within humanity as a whole. Lack of empathy leads to megalomania and a lack of humanity. Without empathy humans cannot be the moral beings meaningfully linked to the cosmos which allows us to fulfil our role at the end of the great process of creation. But neither can we achieve that purposive role without a highly developed intelligence either.

It seems more coherent to us to imagine alien visitors not only with mega-intellects but also with a highly developed sense of empathy. And empathy and intelligence are what we on Earth are lacking if humanity is ever going to progress in an authentic way; more empathy and more intelligence is what we need if humanity is ever going to fulfil the enormous ends that it is supposed to achieve.

[1] Nicholas Walker from his Introduction to Immanuel Kant’s CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p. xix

Pleasure and Spock’s Father

Spocks father

In his Critique of Judgement, Kant begins by relegating aesthetics to the subjective, or to a condition of being determined by the subjective[i]. That which concerns whatever gives us pleasure or displeasure cannot be objectified[ii].

If we think of the Vulcans in Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek series, we are presented with an advanced hominid race – Vulcans are a completely logical species of Sapiens who have no emotions. But would it be right to assume from this that they don’t experience pleasure. If Kant had been able to watch Star Trek he would have found them intriguing.  If the fictional Vulcans can find a way of surpassing the subjectification demanded by his pleasure principle, then perhaps it is possible for human beings to do so as well. Followed by the subsequent question of – would we ever want to?

According to Star Trek myth, the Vulcans were originally a passionate, emotional race of Sapiens hominids who developed techniques to suppress those passions. Perhaps we could have imagined such a development in humanity if the Stoic school had become a universal institution in human educational programmes. But perhaps, to understand the fictional Vulcans positively then, instead of emphasising their oppression of passions, we could place an emphasis on the fact that they found a way of objectively analysing and drawing logical conclusions from their tastes – that which Kant says is impossible.

For a Vulcan, every sensation is analysed in order to determine and subsequently understand what the physical sensations are telling them when pleasure is felt, and why. This logical process, and the gap it creates between the experience and the understanding of that experience, dampens or cools the intensity of the experience itself. The result is that the pleasure or displeasure dissolves into something else – into understanding.

Star trek’s first officer, Mr Spock, despite the fact that he is actually only half-Vulcan, is often accused of being in-human because of his inability to enjoy the intensity of emotions. Nevertheless, in actual fact, Spock’s, and the Vulcans’, logic is also our most human of qualities.

Science fiction does try to see it otherwise, and it has created an abundance of these hyper-logical, creatures, or robot versions of them, or AI machine like HAL, in order to see how inhuman they are in comparison to us. Nevertheless, the greatest error would be to programme androids with the ability to experience emotions and make subjective their experiences to a sense of pleasure or displeasure – or develop a fear of their own mortality. Such robots would destroy us. It is precisely the judgements we form from the pleasure principle and our subsequent reactions that make us so dangerous for each other. A robot with a sense of personal taste would be one that desires, and a robot that desires will eventually do, or try to do, what it wants. A powerful intelligence combined with a strong, subjective sense of personal tastes would be the most dangerous monster imaginable.

Likewise, as humanity develops technologically, so must our ability to control our emotional side develop. If the homo sapiens is to evolve and not destroy itself, it will have to do so in the same way that the mythical Vulcans were able to do so – by conquering the emotional side through logic.

[i] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, I, i, §₁, p.35

[ii] Ibid