Potential

Amongst the things that humanity has lost, or lost touch with, is its potential. Potential, where it exists, has become a national impetus – a nationalistic charging of competitiveness in some international race toward nowhere. Human potential, however, if we ever knew what it was, has long been forgotten. After millennia of segregations and separations the human has been reduced to the most abstract of concepts, without substance: so much so that any ideas of making the human a meaningful concept now sound revolutionary. In fact, such an achievement would be revolutionary.

Humanity, as Sapiens, is here to perceive and know the Universe and guarantee its Being through representation. Human technology exists in order to make perception and knowledge of the Universe possible and permanent. Learning how to preserve ourselves may be the first step toward learning how to preserve the dying Universe. Only the undying Being makes any real sense.

 

Let there be light! –

But without any eyes to see

what good is my radiance?

Let there be eyes!

But eyes need a screen as well,

something on which to project

the illuminated image,

and a way to represent

the projection as something

seen.

Let there be consciousness!

What is humanity but a conscious mirror!

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Human Purpose in our Unconscious Universe

Collage of human head, molecules and various abstract elements on the subject of modern science, chemistry, physics, human and artificial minds

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_exterior_(shutters)

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.

A NEW HETEROTOPIA

We first published this entry in June, 2013. We’ve now revised it in order to give it more clarity and consistency with the larger picture of the philosophical thesis we’re developing …

Michel Foucault, wrestling with the problem of the crisis of space, and, subsequently, the idea of the real and imaginary in spatial terms, came up with the concept of heterotopia to describe a place that is real and unreal at the same time[i] – as opposed to the Utopia which is imaginary only and does not exist.

In his essay Foucault lists the type of places that fit this dual-quality criterion, perhaps his most useful analogy being the mirror. You look in the mirror and see yourself, but you know that you are not really in the mirror. Nevertheless, the mirror exists. Your presence in the mirror is real and unreal at the same time.

The idea of the Heterotopia is an interesting one, that has generated more interest by our own Heterotopic existences in the virtual worlds we can inhabit on the Internet. However, we feel Foucault in a sense could not see the forest for the trees, for, from the point of view of the Human-whole, the very fabric of our civilisation itself is heterotopic and, consequently, so is our human condition. We live a dual reality existence that embraces reality (that which can be found in a space) and the imaginary (that which exists in no space) at the same time. In a sense then, the term Heterotopia opens doors to perceiving the concept of Idealism from a new angle. For this reason, we would like to keep Foucault’s term, but amplify its range.

Heterotopic realities can be true abstractions of what they are intended to be, or they can be false ones. A mirror image, for example, can be true if it is well-made or misleading if the image it reflects is distorted. Likewise, the images we create of ourselves in a social forum or chat room may be attempts to reflect our true personality, or they may be ways of presenting ourselves in another form all together. The ones that are constructed in a falsifying way, conceal the real purpose or nature of their original conception. We call these constructs masking-heterotopias.

Another example of the masking-heterotopia is civilisation. Civilisation is a thing edified from certain human fantasies in order to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few within a form that seems admissible. It can only be admissible of course if it hides its desires and designs for wealth. At the same time, the demos, the people, or the civilian population, is also a masking-heterotopic construct. The demos is an ideated form of humanity that has emerged out of the desires of civilisation itself. The Wealth (yes, with a capital W) that runs civilisation began with its selfish-needs’ fantasy of what the human race could be used for, and turned them into a masking-heterotopic reality that the exploited themselves are largely unconscious of. In the masking-heterotopia, the admissible, imaginary form, once created, solidifies and becomes more and more real with time, but, in its essence, it is always that which was created as a mask over the real nature of the thing conceived.

To think of the people as something to be exploited for one’s own gain and for the maintenance of its own falsely heterotopic mega-construction, is a depressing pessimism. Nevertheless, the fact that human reality is an imaginative construct also bears very positive seeds.

If a civilisation serving Wealth can be imagined and constructed from that idea, then so can a future, authentically heterotopic civilisation serving the whole of humanity be construed in abstraction and made real in space. The greater our technological capacity grows the deeper should be our faith in our ability to create any kind of reality we wish.

Nevertheless, such a belief seems to frighten us more than inspire us. We not only have dreams to build; we also have horrible recurring nightmares. The idea of crashing once more into a Quixotic impossibility, a new Third Reich or a new Communist hell of terror and bureaucracy, paralyses us. The idea of the collective dreams, our collective ego-projections of grandeur, terrify us.

To create our own authentic Heterotopia, we need to overcome this fear. Overcome the fear and then imagine the future.

[i] See Michel Foucault’s essay, OF OTHER SPACES. A PDF copy can be found online via MIT http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf

OUR GREAT DIALECTIC – between the dictatorship of non-desire and the tyranny of want

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20th century literature produced two antithetical prophecies of the technological world we have today: George Orwell’s 1984 with its Big Brother and the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley. In one sense we could affirm that neither prophecy has really come true, but in another sense we could argue that both prophecies have been realised. How can that be?

Modernity is in fact a dialectical struggle between Big Brother’s omnipresent gaze and oppression of desire, on the one hand, and the seemingly liberating dictatorship of the Brave New World on the other.

Totalitarianism is a rejection of superfluous commodities while liberation is an embracing of the superfluous.

In another sense, totalitarianism is an embracing of responsibility and liberalism is a fleeing from responsibilities.

Dictatorship can only work in a perfectly enclosed reality. Enclosure can only work by closing frontiers (as in the iron curtain between communism and capitalism, or in the isolation policies of traditional Japan or modern day North Korea), or by making itself a total-reality in which there is no alternative to its dominion, as in the aspirations of our current economic globalisation programme.

Dictatorship only fails when the subjects within the total-reality becomes aware that their reality is not total but that in fact it is sadly lacking in many things. When this is realised, the regime itself becomes a hindrance towards achieving possibilities or fulfilment. Once the awareness of blocked possibilities seeps into the society, the dictatorship is doomed. Because of this, all regimes must struggle to maintain the illusion that their power does not actually retard possibilities, or that any oppression that takes place is necessary to combat undesirable elements threatening the comfort of the reality it has created.

In order to maintain power, all regimes must dedicate much of their energy convincing their subjects of the inexistence of any fundamental lack. If lack does exist, it is because what is absent is either frivolous or dangerous. Or, it simply just hasn’t been obtained yet by a system which potentially has the power to provide everything for everyone who subjects themselves to the rules and norms of the system.

Modernity is a dialectic between responsibility and desire: between the necessary and the frivolous; between duty and freedom; between obligation and emancipation; between the freedom achieved through responsible action and the oppression maintained through the addictions provoked by unfettered desires…

This dialectic is a complex one, at times favouring one side and, as Power itself, it takes a firm hold on the reins of the discourse in order to drive our cart in its direction. It is the dialectic between communism and capitalism; between Freud and Marx; between Al Qaeda and the oil companies; between religions and the women’s or gay-rights movements; between democracy and plutocracy; between humanity and the world.

What is our place in this constant dialectic? Our argument is not a condemnation of desire but a redirecting of it away from Big Brother or Brave New World manipulations. We obviously stand on the side of responsibility and necessity, but we are not waging war on desire itself. Desire needs to be harmonised with necessity in order to inflame desire with purposiveness and infuse humanity with a sense of itself based on its optimistic and noble visions. We define positive human desires as those impulses which point towards the fulfilment of human interests against the negative, because self-interested, desires of individuals or corporations.

The dialectic now changes and becomes immersed in a new antagonism between the personal desires and the solving of immediate problems against the future perspectives for humanity as a whole that are looking toward the fulfilment of our deeper, collective desires. This new dialectic is one between the desire for progress and the need for preservation; between the self-centred reality and the human; between the sharply focussed point-of-view and the global vision; between the family and the world; between the perception of things within us and the space around us and its atmosphere that allows us to exist at all.

But basically, it is a dialectic between the immediate present and the far-distant future that is threatened by our present. Whether we believe in the future or not, it must always compete with the conditions of the “now”. It is the dialectic compressed into the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant. In that fable labour – the ant’s labour – is a necessary condition that has to be done now in order for future survival, whilst the grasshopper’s summer appetite – our own locust appetite – will be its death sentence in the winter to come.

Sapiens versus the Homo Economicus

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Nietzsche thought that pessimism was a slandering of the most powerful desires of life. This was no doubt true in the 19th century with its puritan, Victorian values. However, now we live in a global culture that embraces the potent life-impulses that Nietzsche loved and yet we are still a pessimistic and cynical society. Freud knew that Eros trickles into Thanatos. The will for life is tainted with the death wish. Life-impulses are not enough to give us a meaningful direction or purposiveness. There needs to be a rational, ethical anchor, an aesthetical positivism to drive our forward looking, future-feeling creative drives.

The future of the homo sapiens has to be Sapiens driven, instead of the mirror-world prison of the homo economicus.

The homo economicus is trapped in a purgatory of market exchange. That exchange system has no ambition other than to perpetuate the same old fantasy game of sacrifice for reward –

my labour for your money so I can purchase your products.

The Sapiens in us needs a stronger motive, a reason for being that is firmly locked into reality itself. Locked into the fresh metaphysical air that seeps out of our firm physical reality. Locked into the positivism that repositions humanity in the centre again.[i]

The homo sapiens has to channel its life-impulses through its sapiens reality. For us, knowledge is inseparable from life. Knowing is the highest expression of human existence. In sapiens terms the homo economicus has been a triumph of mediocrity and the insipid fantasies of that same mediocrity. The homo economicus has no feeling for human greatness and prefers to trample on it, screaming that its own insipid exchange-system reality is stronger than anything else.

In fact, the word noble sounds like a joke now. After all, it was the liberal revolution that beheaded all nobility. Even if only to replace the noble with its own creation – the star system. Good and evil have been transcended, but only to replace it with the winners and losers.

“Nobody any more is able to answer the question ‘for what?’”[ii] And Nietzsche’s lucidity continues when he predicts a culture (our culture) in which: “sensitivity to pain, restlessness, haste and hustling grow continually … and that the individual, faced with this tremendous machinery, loses courage and submits.”[iii]

But what does cowardice mean for the homo sapiens? Surely it has to be associated with a fear of thinking. Isn’t our lost courage a lost will to do what we do best? It is certainly a submission to the shackling of that sapiens faculty of knowing through discovery and its channelling into the all-consuming world of the market, our ubiquitous exchange system.

[i] See our earlier related blog entries:

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/our-dependence-and-significance/ ; https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/uboric-will-hegels-spirit-the-godless-purposeful-universe/ ;

https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/ecology-as-ideology-and-the-uroboric-drive/ ;

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

[ii] Nietzsche, WILL TO POWER, #33

[iii] Ibid

Our Optimism (a clarification)

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Nietzsche affirmed that the pessimism of his culture was derived from a feeling that the world no longer had the value that it used to be thought to have had.[i] In the same way, we announce that our new optimism is derived from a feeling that the world is now becoming important again, perhaps more important than it has ever been thought of before. But not only that, humanity itself has also become more important than ever before. So important in fact that we are essential to everything.[ii] The initial result of this: everything is worthwhile again.

This is our positivism, inspired by the search for new values derived from authentic needs.

We are not talking about an egotistical anthropocentrism but a realisation of the absolute need for human (sapiens) qualities in order to manifest Being in the universe. As we explained in our article on Uroboric Will: “A need for intelligence is, in the Uroboric universe, an instinctive drive, coming from an instinct for Being and a sense of the most necessary potential.”[iii]

What we are pointing to might is a vision of a completely new era in which the anti-historical process that has brought us here will have to be left behind. We will need to sever our ties with our past, but without losing touch with it. Knowing is remembering, it is never forgetting. That which is forgotten becomes the unknown and loses being in time. Permanence is a human virtue.

[i] Nietzsche, WILL TO POWER, #32.

[ii] For more on this see our article Uboric Will, Hegel’s Spirit & The Godless, Purposeful Universe: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/uboric-will-hegels-spirit-the-godless-purposeful-universe/

[iii] Ibid.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE STATE THROUGH SCIENCE

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We know from biology that states do not evolve into a better form either consciously or through an internal logic, but that natural selection is determined by exterior, environmental needs. If there is no environmental need to evolve, there is no need for natural selection. If the species’ existence is not threatened there is no need for it to change in any radical way, let alone improve itself. So, evolution is a question of need.

We think this same observation can be applied to social change. It is the environmental crisis which will necessitate a social evolution that will pull us away from the militaristic industrial and theological society we are dominated by now toward a kind of society that is equipped to deal with the current ecological crisis that threatens us with extinction.

If society is to evolve toward something that can adapt to ecological imperatives without regressing culturally and technologically, that evolution has to be led by a force that understands the imperatives we are adapting to. And what force is that? Science, of course.

The ecological nature of the crisis implies a revolution towards the moral authority of science. The moral authority of science? What is that? Doesn’t experience tell us that the “truth” of science is easily manipulated? We have seen how easy it is to make scientific arguments pale into the white background of relativity when economic or political motives need to be sceptical about certain scientific information. For a scientific morality to exist it must be equally vigilant of its own truths as it is of its grasp of the laws of the universe.

Science has always been a driving force behind all intellectual revolutions and only through its absence and/or manipulation have regimes been able to perpetuate their horrendous crimes and anti-humanitarian practices. Sure science is used by the military to advance their weaponry and authority. Likewise it has been used to exterminate the enemies of intransigent regimes and to spy on and control the citizens of those regimes. Any revolution through science, therefore, would have to be an un-anchoring of science from the military and industrial-theological powers that those militaries protect.

But, how could that be? To imagine a military without technology is absurd. Why would power give up what it needs to protect itself? So, we reason, if we are going to achieve this un-anchoring, we have to take it by force –and so the perverse cycle seems to be maintained. The only way to dislodge power is by force, creating a military substitute for the industrial-theological-military regime that we had. Naturally, this cannot be a solution.

The only way we can imagine an evolution to take place, rather than a violent revolution which would basically be a conservative return to the same, will be through a morally maturing process of the scientists themselves. Only when scientists have become a moral class will science be able to evolve the state, society, and hence, humanity.

THE CHEATING GAME

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It is obvious that the triumph of Western liberal democracy[i] and its subsequent process of Globalisation has done very little toward bringing humanity more closely together. Quite the opposite is true: we all seem to be drifting further and further apart. But, if it has failed with humanity, what has two centuries of liberal democracy achieved with the individual? How successful has it been in its attempts to forge a society of strong-selves? If we have failed with the whole, then surely we must have succeeded with the individuals who are the antithesis of the whole?

But again it is obvious that we haven’t? In Nietzsche’s terms, we have achieved neither the Human nor the Superman, just the Last Man. The pathetic Last Man, bumbling through a cheating-game world of relativity and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories because, whether we accept them or not, they point an accusing finger at the basic fabric of the system, undermining all responsibilities and moralities with scepticism. How can one be morally responsible in a system which is inherently corrupt? The individual, rather than standing strong and finding a good position in the competitive world, finds him or herself immersed in a society of cheats. The system has now become a cheating-game and the strong-self has to be identified in such an environment as a morally irresponsible subject.

One can only be a strong, successful player in the cheating-game by being a good cheat. This of course makes all success seem suspicious. Eventually decisions need to be made in which “honesty” is needed, but… who can we trust anymore? A strong leader is obviously a good liar and a very good cheat. This kind of leader is useful at convincing us that we are happy in a world that in reality offers us very little… Useful that is until we start to understand the truth. And the simple truth is that we are being cheated.

The first great lie is freedom as individuality and its idea of the unfettered individual along with the creation of a passion for strong individuals. Freedom is now a term used to propagate the unfettering of power: freedom to dominate; freedom to manipulate. The second great lie is democracy itself. The lie of free choice. The lie of majority rule. The lie of the individual’s capacity for achievement in the system.

The only way to combat the lie is by establishing positive, human objectives. We must look beyond the individual and the tyranny of egos in order to establish goals that are out of the cheating game. Goals without any other reward except progress towards human fulfilment. Goals that would pull us out of the cheating-game into another game with real rules that we know will really protect us and protect the world we depend on for our survival. All the rest is petty bickering, which is inevitable when you’re playing the cheating-game.

[i] See Francis Fukuyama’s thesis THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man

Uroboric Will, Hegel’s Spirit & The Godless, Purposeful Universe

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We have already mentioned the Uroboros and the Uroboric Drive or Will on numerous occasions in these blog entries and it is an important concept for us. In our article “Ecology as Ideology and the Uroboric Drive” we stated:

“A vicious circle is already unravelling itself, only to take hold of its own tail again in order to swallow itself. But perhaps this most ancient image of the Uroboros, the tail-swallowing serpent, is the final revelation: that our drives are magnetic ones, folding us back toward the Uroboric state of an autarchic relationship with the world which is the perpetual result, if only in a perverted way, of any attempts to revaluate or reinvent our circumstances. Capitalism’s final end is to become a Uroboros, even if this is not its conscious eschatology. The System, whatever form it has, is manipulated subconsciously towards the Uroboric, autarchic paradise which we lost so long ago. But while for capitalism the Uroboric autarchy is a Utopian dream that can only end in a complete annihilation of the tail swallowing serpent, the ecological Uroboros has to be imagined perfectly intact and healthy.

The Uroboric drive is in Eros as much as in Thanatos. It is the ultimate unity, representing where we have come from – the autarchy of the foetus in the womb – and where we are going – our final conversion into dust or gas. At either end of the unity the condition is an ecological one. A return to the Uroboric state of being is the Being of the Great Mother, the planet Earth. As an Eros-driven force, our will to freedom is an autarchic will, as is our will for love; our sex drive; our will for community and our desire for isolation; our will to communicate; our creative drives; our willingness to share; and also our need to be protective and cautious. The essence of all of this is in autarchy.”[i]

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We think Hegel was describing this Uroboric Will when he described the Spirit as “that which has being in itself,”[ii] or “that which relates itself to itself and is determinate,”[iii] or “it is other-being and being-for-itself and in this determinateness, or in its self-externality, abides within itself; or in other words, it is in and for itself.”[iv]

But this Uroboric nature of Hegel’s Spirit is only one side of its total substance. It must also be “the knowledge of the spiritual, and the knowledge of itself as Spirit, i.e. it must be an object to itself… a sublated object, reflected into itself.”[v] Which means, in our terms, it must be in possession of an intelligence.

A need for intelligence is, in the Uroboric universe, an instinctive drive, coming from an instinct for Being and a sense of the most necessary potential. Even though the matter being driven is blind, deaf and senseless. The Uroboric Universe wants to be perceived and known, even though it has no idea that it does. Nature wants to know, but does not know that it wants it.

It has to be blind and ignorant, if not there would be much more intelligent life in the Universe. If the Universe were driven consciously by a conscious Creator, there would have to be more success stories; more stars with inhabitable planets. Likewise, if Consciousness has existed from the beginning, then there is no pressing need for intelligence. That is the narrative of most religions: humanity is not at all necessary. In fact most of the time, despite Christ’s attempt to fill us with hope and self-esteem, we are a despicable species in the eyes of God, a failed mutation of something which should have been much better. But none of this makes any sense if the Creation was planned from the outset.

So, there is no Creator, there is no God, but…  there is most certainly a purposefulness in the Universe.

Our cosmologists tell us that the Universe is finely tuned and that it has to be tuned exactly this way in order for life to be even feasible. In a numerical sense we are positioned in the centre of the Universe, between the ultimate macrocosm at 1025 and the microcosm at 10-25, in a centre that we have to be in.[vi]This anthropocentricism is not an anti-nature one of human dominance and superiority. But it does imply purpose. We are here for a reason, and that reason has been determined, not by a God, but by the Universe. It implies a partnership, the partnership between the Object of Reality and the Subject that can perceive that reality, and make reality Being. It is a partnership between Sapiens creatures that know that they know things, and the Universe that allows a space for these knowing creatures to know It.

The fine tuning of the Cosmological Constant[vii] is so precise it could hardly have been accidental. But this does not mean that the fine tuning needed a Creator. Science does not need to embrace God on this issue, and nor should it – the idea of the Absolute has been a nihilistic, anti-life pessimism that has flagellated humanity for millennia. We know from thousands of years of experiences that the Idea of God does not make us better human beings, and that in fact it has been responsible for some of the darkest periods of history and some of the most violent, cruel acts that mankind has committed. If God exists, we’d do better just let It be and ignore all the power-driven dogmas that have been born out of the idea of the One.

600px-CMB_Timeline300_no_WMAP


[ii] Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, Preface, §25)

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] SEE Martin Rees JUST SIX NUMBERS (THE DEEP FORCES THAT SHAPE THE UNIVERSE), Perseus, 2000, pp. 6 + 7 )

THE IMPORTANCE OF METAPHYSICS


Multiverse

We’ve had a century in which philosophy and its life-long partner, metaphysics, have been divorced. The result has been an abandoning of the big questions and the age of nihilism that had to be a necessary consequence of such a rupture. In fact we could define nihilism as a condition in which the big questions are not allowed to be asked. What we gain from this separation is a certain liberation from theological speculations and so many of the absurd dogmas and superstitions that religions propagate, but- what we lose is a serious vision of existence and our direction forward. In short, we lose our meaningfulness in the deep sense. “Vanity of vanities” was the great nihilistic statement.

Nevertheless, metaphysical thinking hasn’t ceased, in fact it’s healthier than ever in what are the most unlikely places: in the halls of science. It is the scientists – the quantum physicists and cosmologists – who are now speculating on the origin of things and all the multiplicity that has grown from that origin like never before. An example of this can be seen in this TED talk by Brian Greene:

 

or this other by Martin Rees:

It is this scientific community now who are obsessed with the big questions: what are we?; where have we come from?; where are we going? Ideas of fine tuning in the universe, or multiverse, leave fertile ground for religious thought, but the new ideas are usually coming forward from atheists who see no real, scientific reason for wavering from their godless universe conceptions. A multiverse idea implies that if there have been endless amounts of universes, eventually one of them will have to work. In an infinity, our existence is a mathematically certainty.

But this reduction, or expansion, of our necessary reality created by the mathematical necessities of infinity doesn’t have to diminish the meaningfulness of our existence. Even if purpose is accidentally formed, when we find it we must not only acknowledge it, but embrace it and rejoice in it.

Real purpose may lie in something as simple as: Being is in our perception of it. Philosophy has always hovered around this point: a point that became quickly confused and obfuscated by the idea of God.

For philosophy to be able to think metaphysically again God had to be removed from the equation. Metaphysics had to be separated from God not annihilated along with God’s elimination.

However, it seems that metaphysics is a stronger element than 20th century philosophy credited it to be and new metaphysical and teleological theories are being born in quantum and cosmological discoveries. This metaphysical renaissance of meaning into the fabric of science must bring about a return to the idea of philosophy in its purest form… the pre-Socratic purity of the big questions.

POST DATA:

Kant’s idea of Metaphysics, as expressed in his Critique of Pure Reason, is quite interesting to consider in this context. In the penultimate chapter of the second edition he wrote :

Metaphysic is divided into that of the speculative and that of the practical use of pure reason, and is, accordingly, either the metaphysic of nature, or the metaphysic of ethics. The former contains all the pure rational principles—based upon conceptions alone (and thus excluding mathematics)—of all theoretical cognition; the latter, the principles which determine and necessitate a priori all action. Now moral philosophy alone contains a code of laws—for the regulation of our actions—which are deduced from principles entirely a priori. Hence the metaphysic of ethics is the only pure moral philosophy, as it is not based upon anthropological or other empirical considerations. The metaphysic of speculative reason is what is commonly called metaphysic in the more limited sense. But as pure moral philosophy properly forms a part of this system of cognition, we must allow it to retain the name of metaphysic, although it is not requisite that we should insist on so terming it in our present discussion.

The metaphysics of nature is investigated in the sciences, in particular in cosmology and quantum physics. But from the discoveries made by that cosmology there needs to be a philosophical investigation, a Metaphysics of Ethics, in order to point to what the end-goals of humanity should be by investigating what humanity ought to be, and thereby, where we ought to be going.