Knowledge as a Moral Imperative

Knowledge-Philosophy

Where does society stand before knowledge? The State may have a ministry of science and education, but how often will the term knowledge come up in a political campaign or a parliamentary debate? Knowledge, and especially the consciousness of our knowledge, is a defining element of our species, and yet it seems we have forgotten that. However, because of this marriage between knowledge and the human, when we overlook the importance of knowledge, we are also taking our humanity for granted and run the risk of being less human, or even something that is no longer human at all.

Of course knowledge needs science, and it needs to be precise and have universal validity. Nevertheless, within all truth there is buried a paradoxical element, and knowledge must not allow that paradoxical nature of truth obscure it. But likewise, and paradoxically likewise, it must investigate the paradoxical, because it is the paradoxical in truth that allows knowledge to avoid dogma. For this reason, it must be constantly on its guard against the traps of scepticism and relativisms that lead to nihilisms.

Knowledge for human beings is a moral imperative. The primary clauses of any democratic constitution should remark on the assurances the State will make to encourage the search and acquisition of knowledge, as well as the guarantee of the distribution of knowledge and the promotion of its accessibility in the society.

At the same time, societies should be sceptical about the monopolising of knowledge, either by the state itself or by the media monopolies created by the marketplace. In this respect, information needs to be regulated via the concept of knowledge and protected by precision and universal validity, in order to defend citizens against ideological relativisms and misinformation. Censorship is an enemy of knowledge, except when it is used to censor misinformation and nonsense.

Knowledge needs science, but it also needs philosophy. It is through philosophy that all human activity is raised to consciousness, which also allows the discovery of universal validity that is embedded in science as well as the discovery of the great driving force of authentic purposiveness. Society needs morality to hold it together, and philosophy offers a quality control in the design and understanding of moralities. Education is a distribution of facts, but it is also an infusion of morality that is best imparted from the philosophical standpoint of discovery through questioning and the channelling of knowledge and experience into well-being.

As for the psychological paradoxes that grow into and undermine the façades of well-being and the impossible quest for happiness that has to be dealt with whenever welfare states are created, philosophy is the best investigator in the complex field of paradoxes and universality of masks and lies.

Philosophy, and knowledge through it, is a constantly progressive force that, striving to know, discovers through that striving that there is always so much more to know. This is one of philosophy’s many self-contained paradoxes and the value of not giving in to the constant dismay these paradoxes first produce. Discovering the beauty of them, though persistence, is the primary task of a positively progressive attitude to philosophy.

Happiness

Eutychia

Kant makes a point that human happiness depends on humanity harmonising its condition with nature. Human here is the key term: we are not talking about the happiness of individuals, although it would be easier for individuals to find happiness if the human race itself had a happier condition.

Kant says: “We are determined a priori by reason to further what is best for the world as far as this lies within our power.”[1]

For Kant, this harmonising would take place by guiding nature, or perhaps crafting it, to follow humanity’s moral ends. Where we differ from Kant is that we have observed that our particular perspective of what human moral ends should be are actually demonstrated by and embedded in nature already. We are referring here to the ideas of becoming and perpetuity, which are part of the nature of the cosmos.

For us, the harmony of the Universe flows through, and depends on, sapiens entities like humanity being able to understand nature’s final ends. A harmony that depends on the creation and perpetuation of life and its evolution into the complexity of sapiens organisms, which include, of course, our own species.

Our duty

Kant concluded that we are very likely the only entities in the Universe capable of thinking what the final end of the same Universe could be.[2] So, if that’s the case, we should start to tackle the concept seriously.

The first part of the process of the becoming has to be an idea of what is final, and what a happy ending could be like. The adjective is important: to be positive, the purpose in the becoming must always be directed towards Utopia.

Counter-purpose, on the other hand, is anything pushing us towards a dystopia.

The Chicken of the Egg

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

We see the Universe as an egg. The world in it is a potentially life-producing object, the yolk. Self-conscious life, or Sapiens, is the chick, growing inside. Eventually the chick has to break out of the egg. That is the first step from Sapiens to a new evolutionary process of becoming God.

[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 282

[2] Ibid

Becoming and Purposiveness

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Ours is a nihilistic world: What our civilisation lacks and needs is a common, human purpose. But purposiveness only makes sense when combined with the process of becoming. The purpose is not found in what is, but rather meaningfulness is rooted in the act of becoming; or, in other words, in making real that which will come to be. Becoming is a natural purposiveness, embedded in the evolutionary nature of things. Counter-purposiveness is, therefore, located in the static and the contrary idea that the good lies in the actual state of what is.

Nevertheless, if we consider evolution from the standpoint of the evolution of ideas, it is immediately clear how important to becoming is the idea of learning. Progress has to be a building on that which came before. Memory is essential and preservation is a necessary agent for facilitating memory on a vast cultural scale. The static is a counter-purposive state, but preservation is not. Quite the contrary, preservation is replete with purpose, and in fact it gives fuel to purposeful being.  

Opposed to the positive element of preservation then, we have the negative counter-purpose of eradication.

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By observing evolutionary processes, we see how becoming is embedded in the biological nature of organisms. Likewise, if we look at the cosmological evolution of the Universe through the mathematical prism of Cosmological Fine Tuning, then we also see a process of purposive becoming take place. In both cases, there is a continual insistence on trial and error and the learning that occurs through it. If the Rare Earth scenario is correct, then, in cosmological terms, the complexity of creating life through trial and error is immense, and the probabilities of success, even in the great enormity of this Universe, are miniscule. Despite this, a steady process of becoming has been able to produce an organism capable of understanding the amazing complexity involved in the process of its own evolution, and this has to be regarded as an incredible achievement born from the natural, reflexive process of becoming itself.

Whether there was, from the beginning, a natural purposiveness in this or not; whether evolution is an accidental process or not – authentic, universal purposiveness can be derived from observation of the process and, whether this is an anthropocentric perception or not, the moral implications still hold true. Once becoming is recognised as the moral nature of things, then a moral path forward is opened for us. The past is only significant in terms of what needs to be learned in order to go forward. There is no purpose in the past except what it tells us about where we have come from and, hence, what becoming is.

The requirements of the moral laws of purposiveness derive their inspiration, not from the past or the creator, but from the future. If the essence is becoming, then humanity and all human cultures must ask themselves what we can become. Or even: What must we become? Morality needs to be orientated towards the future: Always.

Nothing is written: The moral law is part of becoming and must always be adjusted to future looking purposiveness.

Moral laws can never, therefore, be inviolable. Quite the contrary: We should expect them to evolve. Evolution is essential in becoming, and the role of preservation is needed for the learning to be able to push progress forward.

Of course becoming and progress also make demands on us, but true purposiveness is a liberating kind of duty, with a heavy enough anchor to keep the dynamic process from exploding into anarchy.  

On Good as Necessity via the example of a good meal

Family Eating Dinner At Table

All good, and therefore all true morality is inextricably linked with necessity. The more necessary something is the better it is. A good meal, for example, is good because (A) it serves its basic purpose (the eradication of a feeling of hunger); (B) it provides us with the vitamins and minerals our body needs to function, and (C) it brings us pleasure, and pleasure inspires us to keep living and to keep exploring life. Health requires balance and the art of gastronomy is also geared toward creating harmony. All necessity is related to life and all good is related to the harmony needed in order to preserve life and the inspire the purposiveness of life.  

Radicalism and the Closet Alt-Right

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The capitalist-built edifice we are all living in is cracking apart. Our architects have made a thorough inspection of the cracks in the wall and recommend a demolition rather than any vain attempts to prop it up and renovate. The problem is not in the façade, but in the very foundations and supports that just cannot keep holding up this far too bulky, overgrown and overweight monstrosity.

The foundation of capitalism depends on a perpetual growth, albeit moving cyclically along, with periodical episodes of recession and even depression, but impossibly perpetual nonetheless. Impossible because this idea of eternal swelling needs an inexhaustible supply of resources to feed its insatiable hunger.

We are now at a moment in capitalism’s great banquet, when the impossibility of this eternal orgy of consumption is becoming well apparent to those of us within the building. The resources that our capitalist-edifice is sucking up out of the planet it is perched on are limited, and that limitation and its effects on the environment around the edifice are becoming frighteningly obvious and tangible.

In short, it is imperative now that we pull this edifice down and build something better – something that will blend in a harmonious way with the environment that it exists in. An environment that it needs to maintain in a healthy way to ensure its own existence and guarantee a high quality of life for all those residing in the edifice.

So, capitalism must go. And, yes, whilst being an honest analysis of the situation, this is also a radical one and a dangerous one. In fact, much of the thinking currently revolving around this crumbling-edifice syndrome is even more dangerous than the current-situation itself.

Instead of looking forward to constructing a new edifice out of the rubble of capitalism, the new radical ideologues are spending great deals of time and money in re-hashing old ideas, moving theological revolutions (ISIS and other radical evangelicals); communist nostalgias; and the ugly growing reactionary wave of the alt-right.

With the legitimacy provided by Trump’s victory taking the presidency of the United States, there has been a proliferation of alt-right ideas in the social networks by a species of closet alt-right complainers; neo-Nazis that haven’t yet come out of the cupboard, they live, like the U.S. President himself, in a space of denial, screaming forth their perverse ideology of fear and hate from the safety of their dark cubbyhole, which they wrongly assume, hides their true colours from the world outside.

The closet alt-right person will typically slip into someone’s Twitter or Facebook feed and post a radical, unmistakeably alt-right statement – something like “if the Nazis had won the war the world would be a better place,” or “Auschwitz was a leftist-plot,” or “the white-race is in danger of extinction.” Of course, anyone expressing such ideologies are flying a swastika flag and announcing that they support fascist ideologies, but when this obviousness is pointed out to them, they claim that they are not fascist sympathisers at all. Hence the term “closet” fascists.

But how should we interpret this? Because the closet alt-right denies the alt-right, does that mean they also, deep-down know that their ideas are morally repugnant, but that, nevertheless, they believe them to be necessary. Well, the first problem with their reasoning is that they can’t really be both at the same time. Authentic morality points humanity in the direction of where we ought to be, or ought to be going, and the morally repugnant indicates the exact opposite – where we should never be. Alt-right morality, therefore, can only be morally acceptable in an alt-right society – which means a racially pure and ideologically singular society of like-minded fascists. In any other kind of society, the alt-right morality is abhorrent, perverse and totally inappropriate – hence the need for the neo-Nazi to stay hidden in the closet. But Trumpism has given them wings. They know the President of the most powerful nation on Earth is one of them – he’s a closet Nazi, and they can learn from him and his obsession to vomit-forth alt-right messages from his Twitter account.

Yes, the edifice is crumbling, but the problem is universal, all of us, the whole of humanity will be affected by its demolition. Because of that, to pull it down and build a new, morally-repugnant construct for humanity would be tantamount to bringing about the end of humanity as we know it; not in order to create the Übermensch of the Aryan race that the Nazis fantasised about, but to create the most barbaric form of humanity that exists and represents the basest kind of human-being and the worst kind of human stupidity – the morally repugnant kind.

The edifice is crumbling, and we need to pull it down and rebuild. But with new ideas that will create a human partnership with the planet and the resources of nature; with technologies that will liberate all of humanity to be intelligent creators; and with a human purposiveness that is focussed on where we are going as a Sapiens entity in a Universe of information. With purposiveness comes happiness, and with happiness comes a better quality of life, but human purpose always has to be human-purpose; a purpose for all. To achieve this, we need fearless thinkers who have authentic moral view-points, cultivated around positive ideas of what humanity as whole ought to be … not from fearful, abominable preachers, whinging from the shadows of their closets.

BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL

Difference-Between-Good-and-Evil-fig-1

Between good and evil there exists a certain rebelliousness or naughtiness rooted in our capacity for cynicism. A lot of bad or anti-social behaviour stems from an intelligent appreciation or common-sense intuition that what is going on around one is a great deception, an enormous waste of time based on hypocritical notions of what is right and good. Where there is moral inconsistency and hypocrisy there will be cynical rebellion. Every criminal begins as a cynic, either through a reasoned discovery of the hypocrisy or through cynical education from family and peers, artists and rebels.

The “general good”, when it is neither particularly good or general, can therefore perpetuate a general naughtiness. Values are soft and flexible, everything can be moulded to suit one’s needs. Survivors in the dog-eat-dog world turn life into a joke: something that needs to be twisted and played with in an intellectual way in order to be bearable — even if this intellectual way is hardly ever clever at all.  The more the joker suffers, the crueller and more unreasonable his or her pranks become. A society of cynics cries out for comprehension, until the permissiveness of society is interpreted as a free-rein for even crueller prodding into the ribs of anything trying to be authentically good and do the right thing.

In order for anyone to want to do anything, one has to feel capable of doing it. The criminal does the wrong thing because that is what he or she does best. For someone to think that he or she is better at doing bad things than good things, there has to be a learning that gives the criminal or pervert the notion that this judgement is right. The psychological schools, on the one hand, and the sociological methodologies, on the other, give us tools for appreciating what we do best even if our best behaviour is ethically wrong. Education, in the capitalist civilisation is a crutch, supporting excuses for doing what is humanistically wrong if that is what you do best. In this way society becomes plagued with geniuses of the craft of deception; masters of the arts of insults and rulers of manipulations that will get them exactly what they desire.

Opposed to these are the submissives who learn that the best they can do is follow orders and smile, or lower their heads when they are insulted.

The pleasure principle of psychology begins to poke its head in here. What we are good at; what we should be good at; and what we could be good at. The one good at receiving orders should also be good at giving orders – after all, one learns through submission the reasons and needs for orders to be handed out. The pleasure will come from one or the other, for those who are good at both.

One learns that radically shifting one’s own personality, and even identity features, can be a pleasurable game. Discovering a space to role play in – to delve into the naughty space between good and evil – brings pleasure, but it also undermines our capacity to do authentic good and recognise real evil.

When the answer to “what should I be good at?” amounts to “whatever gives me pleasure” society has a problem, because a society made up of ego-centric parts cannot function as a society. The prime question of society, and its members, has to be “what should we be good at?”.

But once we do ask what we should be good at, to then answer, “whatever gives us pleasure,” is immediately seen as problematical. Pleasure is never an objective, universal phenomena, even though all totalitarian regimes try to make it so. Pleasure must be a subjective phenomenon, and this makes it an inappropriate aim for society.

But what then is the answer to the question? What should we be good at?

Firstly, we should be good at being us, which means humanistically good; good in the sense of the universal community – and that goes beyond the humanistic restrictions of the nation-states or any kind of empire that is not universal. Only once that sense of universalism is established and the pillars of good and evil are clearly established, can we freely seek the pleasure that lies between those two columns.

For crass naughtiness to become purposeful rebelliousness, good must be clearly defined as a purposeful aim, and evil as the deliberate attempt to negate all authentic purposefulness.