WHAT IS REALITY? (Part One)

Philosophy and science have always had a profound love of questioning our view of reality, to such an extent that we could affirm that ontological doubt is part of the essence of what philosophy and science are. Any love of knowledge has to be prepared to assume, as Socrates did, that what we think we know is really fundamentally wrong, and it is only when one is capable of making that assertion that any meaningful philosophy and science can take place.

Stephen Hawking talked about our being at the end of knowing because he predicted that very shortly we would know everything about the physical laws of the Universe and that this would bring about the death of philosophy – although what Hawking did not contemplate was that a complete understanding of the mysteries of the Universe would also bring about the death of science.

Philosophy tries to grasp reality through the discipline of reason, and science takes that reason one step further by conducting physical experiments that can prove what the deductions to their theoretical reasonings have been pointing to. Of course, philosophy and science are different disciplines, but, in a Venn diagram display, they are also subsets that overlap, and they are both enclosed in a larger set – the art of questioning.

To tackle specific questions like how does an earthworm procreate, or what is the molecular composition of water, we would turn to science, while the bigger questions such as what is justice or does God exist, lend themselves to the logical deductions of philosophy – or at least, that is how we have traditionally operated when applying the art of questioning to our world and our existence in that world. Nevertheless, with the development of cosmological exploration combined with the pursuit of understanding the quantum mechanics of the Universe, science has started to delve into the once seemingly impossible areas of knowledge that were once considered the metaphysical realm, reserved for the spiritual contemplation of monks and prophets and were the great mystical factories of religious contemplation and thought about God.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most bizarre and challenging fields of questioning that our minds have ever devised as it is full of seemingly illogical conclusions, such as the idea of nonlocality, or the fact that subatomic particles and wave forms exist in different consecutive states until they are observed, and that they possess awareness and memory. Ironically, it is the almost equally bizarre notions of certain philosophical contemplations that can help us fathom the real scope of the quantum scientists’ invasion of the metaphysical field. In order to unfold the mysteries of the quantum it helps to contemplate them through the prism of certain philosophical ideas that these physics of the invisible are related to.

For example, in quantum wave theory the physicist Bohm describes reality as we perceive it as a mere abstraction of the truly chaotic form of authentic reality. In a sense, the reality we perceive is an illusion that is generated by the limited perception of our senses. And this idea is an echo of what Plato affirmed in his famous cave allegory, in which, Plato argued, the reality we perceive is really but a shadow of the true state of the Universe, created by a light that is invisible to us, a light which is, as in Bohm’s statement, modified by our perception of it.

However, there is a major difference between Plato’s allegory and Bohm’s theory: for Plato the authentic reality is an illumination and a truth that we need to look for, through a contemplation that allows us to see beyond the illusion that we call reality, but Bohm’s quantum reality is in itself a chaotic, formless state which would be fairly meaningless even to any god. It is certainly not a state that any human could wish to fully exist in, because all existence in it would be annihilated. It is only the creation of the albeit, illusionary forms, fashioned by our perception that any meaning and purpose can be infused within the Universe, and in this way we actually have a reversal of Platonic idealism. There are no authentic forms implanted in human minds by the gods, the authenticity is chaos, and the forms of reality we have are our creations, configuring the muddled state of reality and subjecting it to the limits of our organs of perception that need to make sense of the chaos in order to allow us to exist in that disorder.

It is also interesting to look at the quantum view of reality through the prism of Berkeley’s form of idealism, which basically stated that nothing exists until it is perceived. The idea that quantum particles exist in a chaotic state until they are perceived could be seen as a scientific affirmation of Berkeley’s logical deduction. According to quantum physics, observation has a manifesting effect on the quantum field. It is the perception and observation of the quantum that makes the quantum manifest in forms. Reality, as we know it, becomes manifest when it can be revealed by conscious, rational minds through conscious, rational perception.

Now, if we switch our point-of-view and instead of looking at quantum science through Idealism we observe Idealism through the filter of quantum mechanics, then we clearly see that without sentient agents to make reality concrete, the real operates in a state of completely purposeless chaos. Making reality concrete or manifest through the structuring that perception gives it is the first step towards making it purposeful.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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.               

The Spirit of Lack

There is a common belief propagated by both psychology and philosophy that the self-conscious mind finds itself cut off from any of the satisfaction and security created by a feeling of being reconciled with the world. This idea echoes the biblical concept of the Fall with its message that humanity has been condemned to an eternal yearning for a return to the Paradise lost.

Alienation is a real, psychological phenomenon and the source of untold human anxiety. The basis of this angst lies in our lack of a sense of wholeness. However, if we approach the problem of fulfilment as a question of the development of our sapiens potential rather than the loss of our relationship with the natural world, then the anguish becomes rooted not in what we have lost but in what we have not yet been able to obtain. The more we learn the more we realise how ignorant we are.

Our natural thirst for learning is so unconsciously strong that many just give up. The vanity of trying to learn everything is overwhelming. Buried in all human self-consciousness is this spirit to know our world and the Universe around it. It is the most powerful driving force we have if it is allowed to blossom. It can be seen in our so-called Oedipal complex and it is responsible for all human greatness as well as all our dismal failings. It is forward looking and the dissatisfaction and insecurity we feel in our lives is derived from the subconscious fear that we are not progressing, or not progressing enough, or even that we are falling behind.

What the myth of the Fall does, however, is turn that drive-for-knowing completely around so that our yearning works in a perversely backwardly orientated and nostalgic way. This not only distorts the perspective of our feeling of alienation, it also instils a fear of our authentic drive for knowing. From this fear came the Faust myth, which reinforces the biblical idea of the relationship between knowledge and the devil.

It is what we lack that we desire. And it is the power that makes lack a motivating spirit in itself … the spirit of lack. But fir that spirit to be purposive and positive the lack it strives to obtain has to be situated in the future, as that which needs to be obtained, rather than struggling for that which has been left aside. Only when we can escape from the nostalgic narrative that burdens all human societies, will we be able to make substantial and meaningful progress toward authentic human fulfilment.

The stars are so far away. We know this now, but we also know that we must try and reach them, just as we were able to reach the most distant isles and sail around our world. We see where we must go, but the vision is frustrating because we know that our own lives will be too short for us to get there, that humanity itself will become extinct before we can achieve our ultimate purpose.

But this is a short-sighted pessimism, what we constantly forget is that we are just part of a process which has still hardly even begun. A human process that has been constantly thwarted by the anti-human historical process propagated by our civilisations, but also an authentic and real potential in humanity that has to one day evolve, because it needs to evolve.   

Necessity deems that our epoch be a birth or death time, a period of transition or disintegration. An evolution unto the sapiens spirit of humanity or a decay into the self-swallowing finality of the anti-human process that our civilisation is pushing us toward. To avoid this finality the human spirit must break free of the anti-human historical narrative and allow an authentically human historical process to emerge at last.

Our humanity, as such, is in a foetal stage, evolving within the womb of its own nemesis, the anti-human, waiting to be born.

This will happen when our sapiens from has grown from its lava body, metamorphosing into a shape that it is too big for the anti-human structure of civilisation to bear anymore. The birth of the authentically human will be difficult at first, the new spirit of lack will have to learn how to crawl forward by itself and nourish itself, but when it is born it will be protected by purposiveness and the hunger to know and create anew from the new authentically human perspective that is anchored in a deeply forward-looking, anti-nostalgic spirit of lack.  

THE PURPOSE OF CIVILISATION

Most of us would like to believe that we are civilised and that we belong to an organising system that is so obviously civilised that it is called civilisation. But, how true is this assumption? What makes us so sure our world is a civilised one? Or even, how can we really be certain that we know what civilisation and being civilised really mean? Could it be that we take civilisation for granted?

Being civilised is a certain way of acting. It is often related to polite and/or diplomatic behaviour. It’s opposite is ‘barbaric’, ‘hooligan’, ‘philistine’, or ‘vulgar’ behaviour. Being civilised implies a respect for other human beings and human institutions whereas the ‘barbarians’ will have no respect for others and will invade the space of other individuals and groups in a loud, brash, aggressive manner. Being civilised suggests a degree of cultural refinement and taste, whereas philistine tastes are crude, kitschy popular, or simply non-existent.

If we do live in a civilisation, we also know that a large amount of barbaric, uncivilised behaviour exists alongside us – perhaps we even partake in some of it ourselves. This means that civilisation as we experience it is not perfect, for if it were then surely all members of our civilisation would have to be civilised. But, to what extent can civilisation cohabit with the barbarians without it losing its right to call itself civilisation? In our world, the barbaric, vulgar, and kitschy are predominant components of society while the refined, cultured, and polite behaviour is confined to a very small minority. So, given that reality, can we truly continue to believe that we live in a civilised world?

To properly answer this question, and resolve any false conceptions we might have about ourselves, we need to look at the original purposes and results of our civilisation and then compare what we find with what we were expecting to find. 

So, what is the purpose of civilisation? To answer this, we must look at its origins. We know that civilisation as a phenomenon arose with the development of agriculture – but why? Agriculture created a surplus, and an accumulation of extras has great advantages for those who have them. They can be used in exchange for other things that are lacking, or for things that bring pleasure, or for increasing one’s personal wealth and perhaps even one’s power. In this way, surplus became a very desirable thing, but to have and maintain this precious advantage created an obligation for a stricter and more complex organisation of societies. This organisation was the beginning of what we now call civilisation.

We can see from this that the original purpose of civilisation was to organise production in a way that would guarantee the benefits of surplus acquisition, i.e., the profits generated by excess. For large scale agriculture to be feasible there had to be an appropriately large and seasonally-permanent workforce to farm it, which in turn created a demand for housing facilities where the workforce could sleep, which needed some sort of urban planning and systems of control to ensure that those workers did not threaten the smooth functioning of the system developed by those in charge of the surplus acquisition. From that early organisation came pyramids and writing, but the purpose of the civilisations that created them was not to build great architecture and communicate universally through writing, it was to organise production, accumulate wealth, and ensure that their control of that wealth was perpetual (through the acquisition of more and more power that was symbolised by the pyramids). Likewise, these first civilisations created the conditions for the first, full-scale wars, not because wars were the purpose of civilisation, but rather that war can only really be understood as a means of protecting or developing the profits that the civilisation aims to make for those who are in charge of the power of acquisition. This is what the purpose of civilisation was.

Since the birth of civilisation, there has only ever been this one same purpose for it: the organisation, protection, and development of profits from processes of production.

The irony of this is that this kind of system is not particularly geared towards creating what we would consider civilised behaviour based on respect and refinement. It could be argued that civilised behaviour is a result of civilisation because the complexity of its social organisation requires social civility, but the relationship between civilised behaviour and civilisation is not a purely reciprocal one. One the one hand, civilised behaviour is necessary in order for a complex society to function, but members of a complex society cannot have the same profit-making capabilities that civilisation itself has because the engine of civilisation is designed to move the advantages of acquisitions always in a vertical way, taking away from the workers who produce the surplus for the profit of the elites that control the means of that production. Because of this, there is no reason why those who stand outside of the circle of entitlement have to act in a civilised way.

So, whilst the relationship between civilised behaviour and civilisation is not an accidental one, because civilisation believes it needs a civilised society for it to function, in actual fact this is one of civilisations greatest misapprehensions, because in reality the greater part of society in the civilised world is hardly civilised at all.

The relationship between the terms ‘civilisation’ and ‘civilised’, therefore, demands a leeway. Not all of civilisation can be civilised. The idea of a civilisation with a civilised elite supported by highly refined and cultured slave-servants, is absurd. Civilisation needs to have barbarians working at its base in order to uphold its primary purpose which is the progress and preservation of its profit-making nobility.

Traditionally, civilisation handled this discrepancy through the phenomenon of classes which made a systematic progression from the vulgar to the refined seem logical. This produced an ideal of civilised behaviour that culminated in Europe’s 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment. A refinement that, because of its enlightenment, coincided with an upsurge in democratic values that exploded into the French Revolution and has developed into the western democratic parliamentary models we have today on a global scale.

As a conglomerate of democracies, civilisation has been able to find a way out of the dilemma with the civilised. Once democratic principles had been enforced, civilisation no longer needed to be refined and even the great elites were able to relax and allow themselves to indulge in what had always been considered vulgar behaviour. In a sense, civilisation has become more honest with itself, and its relationship with civilised behaviour has become more contingent by basing it on the basic tenets of civilisation itself, centring correct behaviour around the needs of commerce, of the organisation of acquisitions and exploitations, and of engendering surplus and profit. Civilised behaviour, therefore, could revolve around politeness, but it could just as easily be centred on brutality: civilisation is about obtaining what the elite want, and profits can be obtained either through polite negotiation or through violent extortion and the power of military might. Given the real purpose of civilisation, the images of a democratic plantation owner in Alabama whipping his negro slave, or a refined Nazi officer overlooking a queue of naked Jews on their way to the gas chamber are perfectly legitimate interpretations of ‘civilised’ behaviour given the real purpose of civilisation and its surplus-exploitation roots. Thankfully, however, they are not considered acceptable for the vast majority of human beings. For most of us, what we have just described is the pinnacle of barbarity. But the discrepancy remains: both of these acts were perpetrated within the paradigm of supposedly civilised societies that were part of the overall system of Western Civilisation that we have today, and while that discrepancy between our concept of civilised behaviour and the true purpose of civilisation exists, then the chance that such barbarity will one day return will also exist.

So, what is wrong here? Could it be that the terms ‘civilisation’ and ‘civilised’ mean something else than they really are?

Our history is the history of civilisation, which means the history of the organisation of production on a mass scale and a perpetuation of profit making by certain areas of society as a result of that organisation. As we see, this is an anti-human process that segregates human societies in order to exploit certain sectors, and this means that this civilisation, which is the central pivot of our history, is an anti-human concept. This does not mean, however, that another kind of system designed to organise societies in a way in which the welfare, dignity, and fulfilment of all of humanity will be taken into consideration is not possible.

We have heard them talk about the End of History, now it is time to contemplate the possibility of an End of Civilisation.            

The Time Has Come … (After Nietzsche)

The time has come for humanity to set itself a goal and plant the seeds of its highest hopes. There is an urgency. The anti-human has plundered the earth and now the earth groans with the pain of its scars. Very soon, the Mother Earth that has engendered us will hate us and turn against us, turning its back to us and making itself inhospitable for us. The terrain for planting our hopes is already barren and the soil will need to be turned over and well-watered for it become fertile again. The Wasteland needs the planting of trees in order to cool the terrain. Trees create conditions for growing trees in. The anti-human has become obsessed with cutting and clearing and that must now change. But what form must such a change take? To answer this we need to look more closely at what it is that needs to be altered.

Anti-human history has given birth to the most contemptible species of anti-human beings – the ones who can no longer have contempt for themselves. Nietzsche called this species The Last Men, the last humans, but really they are the last of the anti-humans.

“What will our profit be from theses high hopes?” groaned the last of the anti-humans: “Why change our anti-humanity? What can we hope to gain by changing what has always been?” the anti-humans bleated. “We want jobs so that we can make money, but your hopes only point to poverty,” screamed the last of the anti-humans with his hands pushed firmly into his pockets.

The Earth has become small, and upon it hops the anti-human, who makes everything small. He is a pestilence, like the locust, turning fertile forests into deserts.

“We civilised the world,” say the anti-humans in a whimpering chorus, blinking and forgetting that what they really did was surrender themselves to perpetual slavery and misleading themselves that they themselves are really human and not anti-human at all – they actually think of themselves as human beings whilst constantly acting in a humanistically antagonistic way over and over again.  

Becoming ill and being mistrustful are considered sinful by them, even though they no longer know what sin is. In general, they proceed with caution, lest they should be tempted to lose their anti-human traits and become human again. Anti-humans allow themselves a bit of poison every now and again, that makes for pleasant dreams, but they know not why they are living, for they are terrified of death. This horror encourages them to prolong their lives as long as possible. Even when their bodies and brains hardly function at all they are kept alive by artificial means, misleading themselves that the mere act of breathing can be interpreted as a genuine mark of authentic human (i.e., anti-human) activity.  

They hate work but cannot renounce it as they lust after the money that can only be found by working. They think it is labour and toil that gives them the moral right to live, but it really merely enslaves them to jobs that are actually unnecessary. The only aim of work is to enable the anti-human civilisation to participate in the anti-human game of wealth distribution. This game is obligatory, and because of that there is an effort to make work never too burdensome, although it should always be stressful. This paradoxical situation is taken for granted by nearly all anti-human societies. They no longer become rich or poor, which are both too burdensome.

The anti-humans are nihilists. They either live for no good reason at all or lose themselves in religious fantasies of nihilistic paradises beyond this world.  

They despise their governors but have no idea how to get rid of them. Politics has no interest for them except when they can reduce it to the most simple and absurd levels, otehrwise it is just too intellectual and difficult. Because of this the political class has to be, or at least appear to be, as simple and ignorant as the vast majority of anti-human voters who elect them. It is for this reason that politicians have no sincere interest in the people, except in their capacity as voters, which is what presumably determines the kind of government each society obtains.

Anti-humans are a homo economicus, but the economy too is too complicated to worry about. The anti-humans hate using their brains to think. They believe there is something anti-natural and anti-life in any abundance of intellect and in anything provoking a need to think. But there is hope in the current existential misery we face …

The anti-human can only change in one direction, it must become human, must become a sapiens organism again rather than the herd animal it presently is, now subjected to the tremendous lies of our anti-human course of history. For humanity to be reborn there needs to be a new enlightenment, a rebirth of the intellect and reason. We need to put argumentation back into the argument again.

ESSE EST PERCIPI

The continuing complacency by world governments to apply the systemic changes needed to combat climate change is making the idea of a mass extinction on this planet in the foreseeable future, more and more feasible, and the predicted year of total climate collapse grows ever nearer. The greatest concern is that this unfolding scenario is still only considered a marginal problem, perhaps because the forecast of the tipping point that situates it some 30 to 60 years from now[i], still seems far away and, probably the major reason for our lethargic reaction, is that there is still a lot of money to be made in fossil fuels for those who have got so, so rich by exploiting them.

For those of us with humanistic sensibilities, however, this steady and persistent procession towards our total extinction is maddening for the madness it is. For a humanist, despite the seemingly mass-suicidal death-wish, humanity is something which is inherently beautiful and profoundly meaningful in the Universe. But what is it that will really be lost if a mass extinction of all biological life forms should occur on this planet, as may very well have taken place on our neighbouring planet Mars?

To get our mind around the tremendous consequences of such a loss, we merely need to contemplate reality in an idealistic fashion as Berkeley did with the concept of esse est percipi (aut percipere), Being is to be perceived (or to perceive).

In this idea, Being and Perception are mutually dependent if we consider existence from a qualitative point of view. A Universe of mostly empty space, with an occasional ball of hot gas or frozen rock, is, qualitatively void of Being because there is no consciousness of it, and it itself is not conscious of its own existence. In short, without any passive or active consciousness of it, a thing does not qualitatively exist. To be, a thing needs to be perceived, and to be perceived, a thing needs to be.

This kind of metaphysical thinking may seem trivial at first, but if we associate all percipi with organisms threatened with extinction (i.e., all life on Earth in the age of the Climate Emergency), then it becomes clear that the extinction of life on Earth could very well mean the extinction of everything. With the end of biological entities capable of consciousness, the entire Universe, in a qualitative way, will cease to exist as well. The result would be a state of absolute non-Being, an absolute void of perception is tantamount to an absolute void, in which there is nothing to perceive anything and because of that nothing can be perceived.

Esse est percipi should now therefore be taken as a moral statement, demanding an ethical response to preserve and develop consciousness, and this demand for consciousness is one that must affect the whole of humanity as the perceived and perceivers par excellence.      


[i] ‘Collapse of Civilisation is the Most Likely Outcome’: Top Climate Scientists – Resilience

The Übermensch and Purpose

The Übermensch and Purpose

“What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA

Nietzsche saw human beings as a bridge between the animal and the Übermensch (the superhuman), this superhuman being the next evolutionary step beyond humanity. For him this evolution was necessary to pull humanity forward again, away from a tendency to slip back down to the animal.

Our interpretation of the human condition is a little different to Nietzsche’s. For us, the evolutionary leap is already inherent in the nature of our species as homo sapiens sapiens, but that the sapiens quality of humanity has been retarded by the anti-human historical processes imposed on humanity by civilisations dominated by the power of wealth. Humanity, from our assessment, is more alike a road or a river that we are not allowed to travel very far along because the path has been diverted and drawn back in a circling way. Because of this we seem to be unable to make real progress and our distant past seems closer than any dawning great new future and subsequently, this constant coming back (which is real way that humanity moves, rather than Nietzsche’s crossing over) results in our losing touch with human purpose and become easily lost in nihilisms engendered by prophets and economists.

“I love the one who lives, in order to know, and who wants to know, so that one say the Übermensch may live.”

Here we have a definition of Nietzsche’s purposiveness. Nietzsche loves the one who lives in order to know because that is the most authentically sapiens quality (and anti-animal quality) of our humanity, and it reiterates Nietzsche’s idea of spiritual progress, that through exerting our will to know we transcend our animal state and become the superhuman, or transhuman, authentically sapiens species.

For us, this knowing has to be exercised in all fields of existence and Being, fulfilling itself through a knowing, sapiens relationship with the Universe. A relationship creating an authentic and spiritual relationship of absolute Being.   For a more detailed explanation of Authentic Purpose and Being see the related article: AUTHENTIC PURPOSIVENESS: THE THING – THE WORD – BEING | pauladkin (wordpress.com)