Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Politics Of Truth

- Michel Foucault once defined philosophy as the politics of truth.
- Meaning that claims to truth are used politically.
- Yes. Among his latest work was a series of lectures on the history of  Neo-Liberalism.
- What exactly is Neo-Liberalism?
- A claim there is a naturally occurring mechanism of exchange that creates wealth for all invisibly and without attention. Interference by government can't be legitimate since the process is invisible and in any case it could only be damaged by interference. Civil society claims did the same: the law is not forced on the people by the government, but cooperation and sympathy is a naturally occurring process just like that of mutual benefit from free exchange.
- Does Foucault say these truth claims are untrue?
- Not a word along those lines. It is not part of his argument.
- Which is?
- That under cover of such ideas power can be exercised. Government, which has different interests from business, was denied by these claims power to interfere. But there is something even more interesting. Invisible hand mechanisms do seem to be at work here in both the marketplace and civil society. However they do not create wealth or civility for the whole, as is claimed, but only to the benefit of the class that promotes and puts into effect these claims. You know how Marx says capital-based production works?
- Refresh my memory.
- Producers pay their employees, then sell the products they made back to them at a price higher than their salary. And where do the employees get the money to pay the higher price if they only have what they've been paid? They are employed further, and they use the extra money they make today to buy the product they made yesterday. The employer finances this new day's payment of salary by borrowing money. That money is created by the state or banks authorized by it. For this system to go on working, to avoid inflation, the cheapening of money, demands a constant increase of production, since money is constantly being increased. Marx described profit as continuous theft from the worker. Another way of looking at it is not so material. The worker already sells his freedom by the hour. In his off work time, he can establish separate economic conditions by cooperating on trust, investing his labor with others' labor, each extends credit to each. But the worker's potential for private credit investment has been limited by his employer's use of state created money to create his profit. The worker is limited to buying those products the employer chooses to make, but also has his practical life subject to economic crashes caused by too great expansion of money. He may have no opportunity to be a producer on his own time if he is forced to change his place of residence or has to spend all his time working.
- I'm not sure I understand.
- The invisible hand mechanism of production works to take away the economic freedom of the worker, who is subject to his employer's creating his profit by the use of credit. Credit is a choice of who to work with.
- Ok. That's what I don't understand.
- Google makes a claim about the Internet: left to itself, it functions best. Another invisible hand mechanism. Hands off! But look at how Google actually manages the Internet for its customers. The Internet is supposed to open up freely all the information in the world. And what is Google's practice? It makes its profit from advertising that has as its explicit intention to limit customer choice to results Google is paid to favor. Like the employer has monopolized the trust, the credit necessary for economic activity, when workers themselves would like to choose with whom they invest the currency of their credit, an individual searching the Internet for information, choosing himself who to trust, has that choice made for him by advertising. Do you see the connection?
- Say for example I want to research Neo-Liberalism. Google has sponsored results, articles on sites owned by multinational corporations that pay Google to favor their sites. So I look at them, instead of following my own experience, reaching judgments of whom to trust, and then following the links they send me to. What forces me to take Google's suggestion?
- Nothing. It simply makes it more difficult to form credit relations on my own, like the producers' borrowed money undermines the condition of separate, private investment of work of the employee with fellow employees who are hoping to get free of wage slavery. Clearly this making more difficult for an individual to establish his own credit relations is inconsistent with the claimed mutual good invisible mechanism of civil society. The spontaneous growth of the Internet is an invisible mechanism, but one that works in favor of its managers and against the managed.
- Assume then we do not want to hear any truth claims about human nature in a group. We don't buy into the claim our social nature is subject to the inevitable invisible building of mechanisms, economic and civil. How do we decide what kind of society we make?  I read recently a revolutionary philosophical text about how each of us was a multiplicity of different characters, all of which were in the process of change, and each of our multiple aspects of self had a multitude of relations to different people, themselves a multitude of selves in change in changing relations to a multitude of people. All of us, multitudes in changing multitudinous relation to multitudes, could only see each other as powers or potentialities. Isn't this obscurity of power and potential of relations an example of an invisible mechanism like the economic and civil one's we've been talking about? How do we know what's behind it?
- The simple test is, has the question of human nature has been answered in advance? Can an individual establish on his own the relation of credit with another individual, can he set up conditions of experimental control so his particular choice of who to give credit to can have determinate results? Or is this ability taken away by vague, invisible conditions? To see each other as interacting powers or potentialities, isn't that an example of an invisible mechanism like the economic and civil one's we've been talking about? How do we know if a mechanism establishing inequality of benefit is behind it? What sorts of power will be authorized in its name? No invisible mechanisms can be allowed that are supposedly authorized by human nature when human nature is precisely what we're investigating. That includes a human nature of multitudes in changing relation to multitudes.
- But how do you know such open ended society is possible? A society without truth claims about human nature? Who sets the rules for this experimental setting of the rules?
- That too is to be experimented on to find out. We can start first with thought experiments, like the society of multiplicity and possibility. That one we reject out of hand. Others might be more promising. We have to look.
- What would Foucault say?
- I asked him a long time ago. He approved.*

Further Reading:
The Search For Evil
_____________________
* Personal correspondence, 1979

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Faith To A Rabbi

"There was never a moment that I questioned my Judaism. There were many moments in my life when I’ve questioned my faith in various aspects, absolutely. I think there are probably people who are sort of gifted with faith the way Mozart is gifted with music, and they never doubt god's presence in their lives for a moment. I have not been so blessed and I certainly do feel sometimes, not necessarily in the moment of the debate, more often in quieter moments I sense doubt, I feel, I understand regret. I mean you know what Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav said, he said “He was a moon man, his faith waxed and waned.” And I feel that sometimes, there are sometimes I feel it more, there are sometimes when I feel it less. But I had never doubted the value and the worth of the Jewish way of life. That to me, I’ve seen it in evidence so often in so many places and I believe Judaism has contributed so much to the world, that for me that’s not something I ever ever doubt." *

- How do you explain faith to a rabbi who doesn't have any?
- Maybe you can't. You've heard the claim there's something good in everyone?
- “When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be." Isn't it true?
- Strictly speaking, no.
- Why not?
- Because acting on the principle of power makes you incapable of acting right.** To get the billionaire hoarder to do anything good you'd have to take his money away from him.
- And then what good could he do?
- The same as everyone else. Is the rabbi you're thinking of acting for power or to do good?
- I don't know. Is it possible to do good if you don't have faith?
- I don't think so. What about you?
- Me either. So how do we explain faith to the rabbi who doesn't have any?
- Assuming the rabbi isn't interested power, he's reachable.
- Yes, but how? Not by convincing. Faith is by definition not reasonable. We believe despite not having reason.
- Not really.
- Why not?
- Faith is a combination of reason and uncertainty.*** It is seeing the progress of good in the world as a vehicle set going in the right direction.
- Imagine I'm the rabbi and explain faith to me.
- "Rabbi, You know very well, because it is part of the religion, that good done in the world can persist in the form of beauty, and the persistence of beauty in the world is a mechanism that makes progress possible. Beauty of good attracts good just as ugliness of bad attracts bad. Whether progress happens is uncertain. All we know is that it can happen, and given infinite time it will happen, it must happen. No one forces you to want to wait. No one person forces you to, but your job does."
_____________________
*  A Spiritual Leader For The Modern Age
** The Atrophy Of Good
*** Karma & Kabbalah

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Herds & Hoards

Image result for crowd icon

1. 

Let’s begin with a quote from “The Objects of Desire: A Cultural Case Study in Hoarding” a 2013 article by Yavar Moghimi, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University:
The desire to possess objects has increasingly become a larger part of humans’ lives, especially in North America. Csikszentmihalyi argues that the possession of objects can exert a positive influence on individuals in three ways: by demonstrating power, giving permanence to relationships, and revealing the continuity of the self.

And this is from a novel by the Indian writer Narayan:
The contents of the box were a confused heap of odds and ends of all metals and materials. Here a cardboard box that had once touched Swaminathan's fancy, and there a toy watch, a catalogue, some picture books, nuts and bolts, disused insignificant parts of defunct machinery, and so on to the brim. He rummaged in it for half an hour, but there seemed to be nothing in it worth taking to Rajam. The only decent object in it was a green engine given to him over a year ago by Rajam. The sight of it, now dented and chipped in a couple of places and lying between an empty thread-reel and a broken porcelain vase, stirred in him vivid memories. He became maudlin. . .

Speaking personally, I have a collection of valueless cuff links, most of them single, though presently I don’t own a shirt that can use them. (I have in the past). One of the single links is solid silver, proudly acquired as a pair from a second hand store in Budapest. On the tram ride home a pickpocket relieved me of its partner.


The Washington University psychiatrist continues his article:
When objects end up engulfing usable space we consider it clutter. At its most extreme, clutter can indicate an insatiable yearning for objects and an inability to discard them, known as hoarding or clinically as hoarding disorder. As opposed to collectors, who tend to proudly display their collections in an ordered and methodical manner, hoarders secretively hold onto objects, too embarrassed to reveal their possessions, yet too connected to them to let them go.

The Collyer brothers, two real brothers who are perhaps the most infamous “packrats” in United States history. Their Harlem Brownstone was discovered to be “filled from floor to ceiling with piles of newspapers, suitcases and boxes, 14 pianos, half a dozen toy train sets, chandeliers, a car chassis and more than 100 tons of garbage along with the brothers’ corpses.

In some instances, hoarding of objects can be seen as utilitarian and ‘rational’ as in the hoarding that often occurs in response to unstable economic situations, like in the transition from a state-based to free market economy. Historically, hoards of items have also been observed in anticipation of food shortage with the Anasazi tribe in the Southwest.

Here is a example in the news of economic hoarding:
Affluent Greeks have been moving the bulk of their personal wealth and business accounts abroad or hoarding piles of cash in their homes. For the affluent, life without the euro is almost unimaginable. The single currency made it easier for them to send children to study abroad and purchase property and luxury goods elsewhere in Europe. Now Greek’s rich are sending money abroad or hoarding cash fearing the imposition of capital controls if the country doesn’t strike a deal with Europe. According to data from the end of April, some € 70bn had moved from Greece to other Eurozone countries since the end of November, just before the outbreak of the political crisis that ultimately brought Syriza to power. In addition, private deposits at Greek lenders have shrunk by more than €30bn between November and May, as those with savings choose to stuff cash under the mattress instead of trusting the liquidity of bank accounts.

Possessions are collected for what they can be used for, now or later, or assigned to others to be used by, are collected for the use of impressing others, or for the use of reminding yourself what you have done alone or with others in the past or may do in the future.

Collecting possessions is not a disease, no matter how much you collect. What brings in pathology is unwillingness to arrange, keep the collection in order. The technical term appears to be “clutter”: the failure to keep your things in life clean, safe, free from decay.  Since preventing decay would keep things in condition to serve their function, why doesn’t that happen? Why the clutter?

Psychiatrists observe anxiety of decision making in many of their hoarding patients, what they call a “cognitive” problem rather than a problem of self, or problem of society, or problem of relation between self and society. Clearly the cognitive problem is not genetic – the present epidemic of hoarding has appeared out of nowhere - and arises from problems of self and society.

What about then those self and society problems? Hoarding is a problem of seeing one’s self in objects. Advertising sells the idea 24 hours a day that your possessions define you, and after thousands of hours a year it should be no surprise a pathology develops.

Storytelling with objects is a normal activity. Storytelling with objects associates objects with things we’ve done, while objects hoarded tell only about what kind of self we have. You don’t have to do anything, have any story at all, to have a kind of self. All you have to do is imagine whether that self is approved of by others, has power over others’ imagination. Psychiatrists know this, and suggest to their horde of patients in waiting (they estimate there to be one million or more in the United States) not to see themselves in what they consume, find, possess, or purchase, but see themselves in what they make.


Marx explained his concept of alienation like this:
Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have, in two ways, affirmed himself, and the other person. (1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and, therefore, enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also, when looking at the object, I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses, and, hence, a power beyond all doubt. (2) In your enjoyment, or use, of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature . . . Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.

Now, the word “hoard”, referring to the activity of collecting things and hiding them away, has a sister word you probably noticed I just used pronounced the same with different spelling, “horde”, the demeaning term for a large group of people. And horde is as you’d expect related to the word “herd”, a group of animals that keep to themselves.

This raises a question on the face of it crazy, but maybe not: do the one million hoarding Americans look at the things they collect as a herd of things? Can the behavior of herds teach us anything about hoarding?

Marx says that when a worker produces a product in the factory he becomes alienated from it: he has no idea what happens next to it. And when he buys products the worker has no idea where they came from. The same is true of his salary: it comes out of the same mysterious world of economic transaction that things disappear into between their making and purchase. Because the salary of the worker depends on an unknown process it is inherently unreliable. Economic insecurity, psychiatrists have seen, brings on hoarding behavior.

Consider then that the most transparent and secure thing you can do with money is finance: make money with money. It is the single case where what someone works to produce remains with the producer: interest on the capital goes to the owner of the capital along with the capital as well. Money is not alienated, and is the only thing produced in our society that is not alienated. Money, however, in the mysterious process that happens between the conception of the investment and birth of interest, like the production and consumption of things, enter into the mysterious economic realm, where it obeys mysterious laws, is subject to cycles of boom and bust, rapid advance and reversals. Which, and this where I am going, is characteristic of herds too: they are subject to stampedes and panics.

Money behaves like a herd, and is the only productive activity in our society that is not alienating. This being so, is it possible that the hoarder, collecting and cluttering, is constructing a herd of consumer objects? That the lack of order in his herd of objects reflects the lack of order between one dollar and another? Dollars mass together in a herd, pile one atop each other any which way in mere sums.

Hoarding is an illness, often leading to unsanitary conditions, social isolation, and economic catastrophe. Whereas making money in finance is profitable and doesn’t necessary lead to any of those places.

But making money can lead to those places, and for the same reason. As possessions can become a hoard, mysteriously increasing themselves and subject to no internal order, so money made in finance can collect into a hoard. The natural cycle is that we do something for a good reason and stop doing it when it is done. Then we use the thing done to make our lives good, only later going back to the doing. But the doing can go wrong and be done for its own sake, as making money for the sake of making money. Each increment of money made is seen as a suggestion to more money making, just like each new accumulated cluttering possession of the hoarder suggests making an addition to the hoard. In both cases the good that acquiring was intended to lead us to, the rest activity ought to have ended with is forgotten. Acquiring has becomes self-sustaining and meaningless. And that’s not all. Not only does the hoarder herd his possessions, but he acquires them himself being part of a million strong herd of hoarders.

Herds of hoarders herding money and things. Don't know about you, but to my taste the world’s getting a little cluttered.


2.

So much about the private costs and benefits of hoarding. Wikipedia (a collector not a herder of information) says the following about the social and economic costs:
A feature of hoarding is that it leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources, making the scarcity even more of a problem. An example occurs in cities where parking is inadequate. In such a case, businesses may post signs indicating that their lot is for their employees and customers only, and all other vehicles will be towed. This prevents businesses from allowing their parking to overflow into neighboring lots when their capacity is exceeded. Thus, when the capacity is reached at one business, there may be no legal place to park, while there would have been, if hoarding had not occurred. If a single business posted those signs, it would, indeed, improve the parking situation at that business, as they could continue to park at adjacent businesses, while the others could not park in their lot. However, when everybody posts such signs, the problem becomes worse for everyone. 

Hoarders have in common with herd animals that their relation to each other is not individual. Their gatherings are temporary and subject to the same herd laws of boom and bust, coalescing and disarray, as their money and possessions. 

The parking lot example of hoarding relinquished is particularly interesting in that business owners retain control of their property. The permission granted is not permanent, thus they keep for themselves economic security of hoarded property.

Looking for a solution to the problem of hoarding, it is a good principle to start with that sharing of superfluous resources, if it is going to happen, depends on basic security. It also depends on the people shared with being in the same community, for example, the community of businesses with parking lots.

Community doesn't necessarily have to be of business. It can be any kind of interest that is shared. However the condition remains that sharing has to be voluntary, that it may be withheld. The late 18th century English philosopher William Godwin said that we all should give away all our superfluous property but only to others who convinced us to. Our job was to give, their job was to convince us it was good to give to them and not others: not to satisfy the vanity of the giver, but to bring out the community of interest between giver and receiver. When such behavior of reason guided community making giving became customary every person would be both a giver and receiver.

Compare the giving that establishes a community of interest with the hoarding that defines a herd: giving is individually satisfying, a creative act creating links and associations with those we live among, while the hoarding self is isolated and undistinguished, economically and socially destructive.


3.

- That's all well and good.
- Meaning you don't like it.
- What are you afraid of? Take the gloves off.
- Tell the hoarders what I really think of them.
- Yes.
- There are 2,300 billionaires in the world at last count. On the average they have about 20 percent of their wealth in cash.* To end slavery, buy out of slavery and into a new life 30 million men, women and children, would cost 10.8 billion dollars.** That is less than one percent of the billionaires' hoarded cash. Or if you prefer, it is the hoarded cash of 20 individual billionaires.
- If 20 people spent only their excess cash now sitting in bank accounts not even collecting interest, keeping 80 percent of the rest of their wealth, and all 20 of them remaining billionaires, slavery would be ended.
- Yes.
- Why don't they do it?
- Which 20 are you talking about?
- I don't know. A number of them give away a lot of money.
- They don't ever challenge existing property relations. They try to prevent conditions from getting so bad that others might challenge existing property relations.
- You're turning into a communist.
- Take the gloves off, you said. Want them off, or not?
- Off.
- Rousseau said that the biggest confidence trick in history was the rich hoarding all the world's property, and then saying to the rest of us: we've got a deal for you. You'll have nothing and we'll have everything, but if you agree not to challenge the idea of property, as we chase you from one place to another, places that you don't belong in and don't belong to you, you can collect little souvenirs of your adventurous journey, door knobs, cuff links, and such.
- Cuff links.
- Yes, cuff links. Maybe we'll even let you conditionally possess a little box to live in, subject of course to taxes, loss of your employment as our slave, or being sent to your death in a war that we owners of the world wage between ourselves over our property.
- More communism.
- They let us keep our cuff links and romantic stories, while they hoard everything else, forcing us to slave for them to get their permission to occupy their property.
- Why did we accept the deal?
- Because we'd already come to worship property. The cuff links and door knobs were good enough for us. We had our property gods, the others had theirs. All gods were the same. Property was property.
- Why did we worship property?
- Because we'd learned to find security in manipulating other people. We'd learned to flatter their conception of themselves as kind of things, as property.
- Why did we do that? And how did they get to thinking of themselves as property?
- A fault in our nature, brought out maybe by the repetitive work of agriculture, counting the results and counting our safety in the quantity, then passing on to our descendants the things accumulated imagining ourselves living on within them.***
- As you say, maybe. It's only a story.
- A story no more valuable than the story of the poor soul collecting door knobs while being chased from one place of dispossession to another. Facts are facts, and the fact is people agree not to challenge property. They accept the principle that property should be hoarded by a few forcing the rest to be their slaves.
- Fine. That's hoarding, gloves off. What then?
- What do you mean? Should I try to convince them to stop hoarding? Why should they, when hoarding is the first principle of the way they live their lives?
- How is hoarding the first principle of the way they live their lives?
- How else explain those twenty billionaires who could end world slavery with a few key strokes, a few flicks of the wrist and don't do it. First principles: does a human being, expressing normal human nature, walk by unconcerned another human being being tortured?
- No.
- No. Not unless there is another principle more important than being human to override basic human nature.
- And that principle is property.
- Not property. Hoarded property. Nothing is in the nature of holding property that says it should be permanent.
- Repeat that.
- We like giving away our possessions at least as much as keeping them.
- You know, I think that's right.
- Of course it's right. So how can we ask those billionaires to go against the entire basis of their existence, which fundamentally is about power relations person to person?
- Freeing slaves means giving away power, and that's why we won't ever see them do it.
- Now you've outdone me in gloom. One or two might be willing to be human.
__________________
Billionaires Sitting On Growing Piles Of Cash
** Kevin Bales, TED talk 
*** Slavery On A Walk In Beverly Hills

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Miracles



1.

- My favorite rabbi wrote...
- I thought you don't like rabbis.
- I don't. This rabbi's interesting, and there's nothing wrong with that. He wrote that archaeological evidence makes clear the Jews probably never went to Egypt, not en mass, and never left in exodus. But maybe not a nation but a small group did go, and that is the basis of the whole story. Such kind of interpretation allows him to still say he believes the bible is the product of god.
- And you like that?
- The case can be made.
- How?
- The physicist Wigner* said that "it is important to point out that the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena," accurate "beyond all reasonable expectations." That "the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning." And "It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of laws of nature and of the human mind's capacity to divine them."
- And the connection to the bible?
- I am always looking for the unreasonable effectiveness of ideas, trying to discover laws that will provide unexpected, miraculous understanding. Today I've been reading Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,** looking for why private property came about that leads to slavery and class structure.
- What does he say?
- When men began high yield farming they became more important than women who were restricted in the confines of the home to the production of children.
- Why was high yield farming more important than raising children?
- Exactly.
- So, what did happen?
- Here's what the bible says. After the fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden woman becomes the slave of man, and man has to work the fields with sweat of exhaustion and tears of pain. Cain, the first child of Adam and Eve, is a farmer, and his sacrifice is disdained in favor of the sacrifice of his younger brother Abel who keeps flocks. Slavery is associated with work which is associated with pain. Work is repetition in pain endured for the sake of a future reward. Foraging, and pasturing is not work in this sense: each time the search and wandering is different, is a one time activity. In farming what we do we have to keep doing, plowing one furrow after another, etc, waiting for the future reward while suffering the present pain of work
- Why is woman man's slave if both have to work?
- Farming is work. Herding sheep, a shepherd's life, not necessarily.
- At least the bible doesn't explicitly say it is work.
- No. So Cain, after killing Abel, asks god, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
- It isn't his job, his work, keeping animals.
- Right. So put this together: Work, repetitive and painful. Managing a human being said to be a job. And slavery. A slave, a form of private property, is a human being worked upon, a thing repetitively, painfully managed by another human being. Slavery, and the class structures and hierarchies growing out of it, arises out of the repetitive, painful nature of work.
- And all this expressed in the bible in a few simple sentences.
- As Wigner said, it is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here.
___________________
* Eugene Wigner, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences
** Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State 


2.

From Aldous Huxley's Ends And Means (1937):

Real progress, in the words of Dr. R. R. Marett, 'is progress in charity, all other advances being secondary thereto'. In the course of recorded history real progress has been made by fits and starts. Periods of advance in charity have alternated with periods of regression. The eighteenth century was an epoch of real progress. So was most of the nineteenth, in spite of the horrors of industrialism, or rather because of the energetic way in which its men of good will tried to put a stop to those horrors. The present age is still humanitarian in spots; but where major political issues are concerned, it has witnessed a definite regression in charity. Thus, eighteenth-century thinkers were unanimous in condemning the use of torture by the State. Not only is torture freely used by the rulers of twentieth-century Europe; there are also theorists who are prepared to justify every form of State-organized atrocity, from flogging and branding to the wholesale massacre of minorities and general war. Another painfully significant symptom is the equanimity with which the twentieth-century public responds to written accounts and even to photographs and moving pictures of slaughter and atrocity. By way of excuse it may be urged that, during the last twenty years, people have supped so full of horrors, that horrors no longer excite either their pity for the victims or their indignation against the perpetrators. But the fact of indifference remains; and because nobody bothers about horrors, yet more horrors are perpetrated. Closely associated with the regression in charity is the decline in men's regard for truth. At no period of the world's history has organized lying been practiced so shamelessly or, thanks to modern technology, so efficiently or on so vast a scale as by the political and economic dictators of the present century. Most of this organized lying takes the form of propaganda, inculcating hatred and vanity, and preparing men's minds for war. The principal aim of the liars is the eradication of charitable feelings and behavior in the sphere of international politics. Another point; charity cannot progress towards universality unless the prevailing cosmology is either monotheistic or pantheistic, unless there is a general belief that all men are 'the sons of God or, in Indian phrase, that 'thou art that/ tat tvam asi. The last fifty years have witnessed a great retreat from monotheism towards idolatry. The worship of one God has been abandoned in favor of the worship of such local divinities as the nation, the class and even the deified individual. Such is the world in which we find ourselves, a world which, judged by the only acceptable criterion of progress, is manifestly in regression. Technological advance is rapid. But without progress in charity, technological advance is useless. Indeed, it is worse than useless. Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
The economic reforms so dear to advanced thinkers are not in themselves sufficient to produce desirable changes in the character of society and of the individuals composing it. Unless carried out by the right sort of means and in the right sort of governmental, administrative and educational contexts, such reforms are either fruitless or actually fruitful of evil.

3.

- Do you know what I like best about talking with you?
- What?
- You're willing to go deep into difficulties. You're not afraid of getting lost.
- Afraid of appearing crazy.
- Sometimes it's too crazy for me. But this time, with this subject, I'd like to go further. Aldous Huxley was right. I'm convinced. The only real progress is progress in good will towards others, and acting on good will. With all our economic and technological progress, we clearly are going backwards in good will and good action. How else to explain, in our world of immense wealth, that half of one percent of those alive now are slaves? When a child sex slave in Thailand costs literally 1000 times less than an African slave at the time of the Civil War? I know the argument, technology is behind this moral decline: modeling ourselves on the machine, forgetting the reasons we developed technology in the first place.
- Do you disagree?
- No. There's obviously a connection. But I want to know why we are vulnerable in the first place, why we're seduced so easily to going wrong. You said that slavery might have its origin in repetitive, painful work. And a while back* you said we didn't develop slavery until property was inherited. Is there a connection between repetitive work and inheritance?
- When we take a slave, we see another person as our work, to be managed through a technical act, a repeated act of management. When we foresee leaving our property not to the entire community, but only to our descendant, can we say that we are doing something similar?
- Making our descendant our slave?
- A slave to our imagination, in our imagination. When we performed the repeated acts with which our property was accumulated, we watched ourselves doing the repetition. Without the self observation it is just what we want to do at every moment. When we leave property to our descendant, do we imagine our descendant appreciating our power, impressed by our ability to perform the technical act of repetition behind the accumulation?
- The benefactor imagines he has a power of drawing the admiration of his beneficiary.
- Yes. He imagines being looked at by his beneficiary as he is in the habit of looking at himself.
- With admiration. Then you think that the habit of admiring your own technique of acquisition, this technical knowledge become conscious, is behind the wish to have property inherited. And from there it is a short step to seeing other people, those not your inheritors, as property to be worked upon, that is, potential slaves.
- What do you think?
- Let's go back to the Cain and Abel story. Small scale growing of vegetables doesn't stop people from living on an equal basis, nor does small scale care of animals. It is the pain involved that leads to trouble. The pain is not really physical, it is from our counting the repetitions, looking impatiently ahead to the reward. And it is our minds set on the coming reward that gives us the idea of our power to achieve that reward. That power we see in ourselves is what we imagine transferred to our descendants with our property. And this wish to transfer power after death, as if we were the same as our power and transferred along with it, is behind keeping our property private, and property kept from all but descendants is what is behind slavery?
- It's possible.
- Then to stop this from happening all we have to do is remember we acquire and use our technical knowledge for the sake of living better with each other.
- That's all. But we have to know it before we can remember it.
__________________
* Slavery On A Walk In Beverly Hills

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Love Draws Love, Beauty Brings Beauty, Truth Elicits Truth



1.

- I’d like you to take a look at this discussion,* it’s on YouTube, between three theorists of a coming new age of spirituality. The first talks about a drive of everything living towards complexity that is cumulative, the second about what he calls morphogenetic fields where what one organism learns can be communicated to another without direct contact, and the third a progress of mathematics and society, with chaos theory modeling entropy defying increase of organization being the latest development. All three had experience with hallucinogenic drugs in the 60s.
- I’ll watch it.
- You’ll see three very smart guys. They share in common a particular kind of mistake.
- Which is?
- You'll hear the first say the Internet is about to establish the connection of all with all, bringing to an end the drive for complexity in which no complexity once gained ever was lost. You'll hear the second say the earth and the sun could be consciousness beings. And you'll hear the third predict that human society is in the midst of a self-organizing spike of increased consciousness, with the appearance now of chaos theory modeling this spike being a representative part of that sudden rapid increase of human consciousness.
- When was the video recorded?
- 1998.
- Since then, we see that the Internet brings about not species consciousness but connection of like to like in islands of communication. Morphogenetic fields haven’t helped us to communicate despite the Internet. And the progress of society rapidly increasing? A billion people in China alone living in a dictatorship, rapidly increasing poverty in the United States and parts of Europe. Like the earth holds a highly complex organization of many life forms adapted to inorganic processes, the human species has also been developing a physical complexity: better health, longer life, less statistical chance of suffering violent attack. But like the earth, and the sun for that matter, isn’t conscious, so social complexity of this kind is not the same as complexity of human life.
- What's the difference?
- The self organizing spike modeled in chaos theory: sudden change, and uniformity of direction: does that remind you of anything? In social life?
- Fashion.
- Exactly. People copy each other going in the same direction all motivated by the same perception of desirability. Would you say fashion is a serious, important social development?
- Of course not.
- Why not?
- To use the idea of the first guy, it isn’t an increase in complexity. Communism was thought to be the latest, even the last idea, the newest and most complex. And it was just a fashion.
- Likewise a new species in the Amazon jungle is not more complexity. To be complexity, the organization has to be cumulative: nothing to be lost, but something to be gained. As with communism, in which social complexity is gained at the cost of individual complexity, so with new species. Something always is lost, communication restricted, in each new, dead end specialization.
- I take it being a dead end is part of the definition of fashion.
- Yes. Now the alternative to this view of social progress is the belief that progress is individual, happens with the benefit of a social organization that could be better or worse organized as a practical matter, but social organization is not the place of development.
- Individuals develop. Some of them.
- Yes. History itself doesn’t progress but is cyclical. It tends to decline from a golden age of individuality, and move to destruction of individuality in highly organized social development.
- So tools like the Internet hasten this process of decline. Science too.
- We hesitate to agree the earth or the sun has a soul and is conscious, despite perhaps their having great complexity, because we don’t hear them speak. Language would be a sign they acted as a whole. Same goes for the predicted unified human consciousness to arise out of Internet enabled increasing shared knowledge. Can you hear its voice? Of human species consciousness?
- I might if I took hallucinogenic drugs.
- Otherwise?
- Not so far.
- We see nothing in the organization of the earth, or the sun, or human society that is cumulative of complexity. We see specialization.
- So where did these smart guys go wrong ?
- They confused the causality of the body with the causality of the mind. There is a theory of brain scientists that in the fractal involutions of the dendrites in the brain a wave form record is made that is just the kind of cumulatively increasing knowledge of the whole looked for. This record is then read or decoded in the process of memory retrieval in the nerves themselves into specific memories.
- I know the ideas. The dendrite level is more like the mind, and the nerve processing more like the body.
- Or as some explain, the quantum level, and the classical level.** Social life works with bodies.
- But social life is made up of ideas.
- The communication in actual societies is like the relations between species on earth, or the parts of the human body: between specialized role and specialized role.
- Like what happen on the Internet.
- Increased knowledge, fed into social life, results only in increased complexity of species organization, which involves reduction of complexity, decreasing freedom of the individual.
- Then morphogenetic fields aren’t going to lead us to group consciousness anytime soon.
- No. Truly cumulative knowledge is individual. Scientific theories, ever more specific knowledge of relations between specialized parts, replace each other like new fashions, with ever more uniform and consistent relation between less variable parts. In individual development all memory is retained, nothing is lost in specialization. In such development perhaps there is communication directly at a level lower, more fundamental than that of the body, why not? But progress in individual development is hindered by social progress of the kind we’re talking about.
- Is there any other kind of social progress? And did you just say you believe in this new age soul communication?
- Love draws love. Beauty brings beauty. Truth elicits truth.
- Not on the Internet. Not in society. Not in our kind of progress.
- For real social progress we have to work out first how to remain individuals with our knowledge. Learn how to avoid playing social roles. That involves detailed knowledge of how we go the wrong way.
- And these three guys on the video didn’t think of taking this precaution? Didn’t know how to prevent mind being confused with body, didn’t know how to stop cumulative thinking from devolving into body like specialized organization?
- That’s how it looks to me.

Further Reading:
Killer Metaphysics
___________________
McKenna, Sheldrake, Abraham
** "In some way, and to some degree everything enfolds or implicates everything, but in such a manner that under typical conditions of ordinary experience, there is a great deal of relative independence of things." David Bohm, "A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter" 
The quantum level of moving information leads to the classical on which particles somehow both retain their classical status in relation to other classical things while also returning to quantum status which allows unfolding into organic species. Species interact materially with other species while also returning to quantum status so as to unfold into individual humans of the species. Ditto the thought of individual humans and ditto their offspring thoughts. The new age is supposed to be brought about by communication, but this result relies on that communication being on the quantum level, while the Internet, for example, obviously works on the classical level, and predictably enough shows classical results.


2.

- One of your favorite ideas is that we experience a relation to the whole when we stop acting and feel love. What does it mean if, as Bohm's quantum physics* claims, that every particle of an atom does the same? Not that it loves, but is in a relation to the whole? You say when we love we don't really stop moving but hold our position with regard to the world, and this theory says the same, but oppositely, that when we hold our position we stop being in relation to the whole: the particle previously moving in response to a wave of information coming from the whole world now acts like an isolated particle.
- When a particle stops moving it acts like a thing and when we stop moving we act like a human being. We have been through this before, and many times. Do you recognize the relevant concepts?
- I have a sense, something...
- You have a feeling. You're a little confused. Your mind is in movement. The world is not stable in love of the whole. You can't find yourself in it at the moment.
- Oh! Those ideas. I remember. My sense of the world is open, while my attention is on myself as a problem, in a failed relation to the unclear world.
- Yes. You will try out various kinds of actions, characteristic things you've repeatedly done, looking to see if the world as a whole will come back to you. You make a change in your relation to the world. Now, what goes on when the particle is moving in the grips of the whole world?
- The theory says it acts like a wave, not a particle.
- When you move, you see yourself as a doubtful particle, and the world as unclear. When the particle moves, it is as it were invisible to itself as a particle, but in the grips of the whole. Do you see the consequence of this difference between our behavior in movement and the particle's?
- You tell me.
- The particle doesn't make a change in the world when it moves.
- Which is why the classical world doesn't change! Why it obeys physical laws.
- Yes. The quantum world, being sold to us by the prophets of the new age as a world of love and connectivity, is actually what the old systems of morality warn us against: falling into the passions of fear and hatred that bring loss of self awareness in action aimed at keeping the world the same.


3.

- The end approaching is more like the destruction of consciousness than shared consciousness. But aren't you missing the point?
- Which is?
- That what the new world is going to bring is shared unconsciousness.
- The world we get a glimpse of when we take drugs. The material world losing all human content helps us on our way.
- Maybe it's the only way.
- What about increasing human content in the world?
- Do you know how to do that?
- At the quantum level information carried by waves of the whole is filtered down to information about a single particle. In the Kabbalah, acting with wisdom creates beauty, which remains in the world and becomes the foundation of new creation.
- The whole improved by the individual, not the whole reduced to the individual.
- Freedom at the end of time, not in the world's destruction, but in its perfection.

Further Reading:
Kabbalah & The Dalai Lama
Karma & Kabbalah
______________________
Summarizing Bohm's and his own interpretation, Hiley has explained that the quantum potential "does not give rise to a mechanical force in the Newtonian sense. Thus while the Newtonian potential drives the particle along the trajectory, the quantum potential organises the form of the trajectories in response to the experimental conditions." The quantum potential can be understood as an aspect of "some kind of self-organising process" involving a basic underlying field.[35][36] The quantum potential (or information potential) links the quantum system under investigation to the measuring apparatus, thereby giving that system a significance within the context defined by the apparatus.[37] It acts on each quantum particle individually, each particle influencing itself. Hiley cites the wording of Paul Dirac: "Each electron only interferes with itself" and adds: "Somehow the ‘quantum force’ is a ‘private’ force. It thus cannot be regarded as a distortion of some underlying sub-quantum medium as was originally suggested by de Broglie".[38] It is independent of field intensity, thus fulfilling a precondition for non-locality, and it carries information about the whole experimental arrangement in which the particle finds itself.[38] (from Wikipedia)


4.

- Do you agree? Mind is more than matter, and more than any arrangement or movement of matter, is something more than a form, more than a kind of information or programming directing arrangement of the parts of the body?
- I agree.
- But then, what is it?
- I have no idea. But let's ask instead, what is matter?
- And answer?
- Matter is what mind moves by moving the body which then moves the world in contact with it.
- And is the mind what the body moves too, as claimed by brain researchers?
- We can imagine that material things can direct the mind step by step through the process of forming a single idea out of the world of all memory and present sensation, like the particle filters down from the wave in quantum mechanics. But the mind is not an idea making machine. If it is going to be a machine at all, it is a time travelling machine. It stops responding to the present world, and looks back and looks forward, doing nothing but hold its place in present time and space.
- The mind uses matter, moves matter, even if it is only the brain being moved through, to travel through time.
- Yes. And here is the point I want to make: we don't know what mind is, and we don't know what matter is, but we know mind can do something with matter that matter cannot do with the mind. Matter can undermine the ability of mind to do what it does, destroy or manipulate the brain, but can you conceive of matter equaling the time travel performance of mind?
- I'm not sure.
- The other day I told you about Niels Bohr, his idea that using one experimental apparatus to look at electrons we see waves, using another experimental apparatus we see particles, because we with our experimental apparatus are co-creators with nature of the object we see, the wave or the particle. If so, even the quantum field doesn't escape its world, the confinement and causality of the experimental apparatus.

Further Reading:
It Just Happens 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Animals Talking, Animals Thinking



- I see you’ve been reading more about language. About animal language, animal intelligence.
- I’d say rather about human unintelligence, human stupidity.
- Would you?
- I would. I read a recent paper* from MIT which claims human language evolved from assembling two types of animal language behavior, lexical and expressive, with lexical language expressing states of the world and expressive language expressing intentions of the speaking animal. The dance of bees is lexical, describes the location where food can be found, the song of birds is expressive, taking possession of territory and telling of the wish to mate.
- Interesting.
- You think so? The other was a book from a  philosopher arguing that moral judgments are truth claims expressed in language, based on probabilities like all other scientific theories. Yet…
- Yet?
- Consider how animals play. The professional researchers want to see language in an attitude to states of the world, expressive with the lexical…
- And you think that is wrong?
- I think it is right. But the expressive side already is language without the lexical.
- You mean that we don’t need the particular state of the world spelled out to express the particular state of the world.
- Exactly. Any animal that expresses a relation to a state of the world already has a word in mind for the state of the world, already has a complete language. And morality as a truth proposition about the world? As uncertain of the world? No, expressive language already has the truth of the world in it.
- You lost me.
- As I was saying, consider how animals play. They are not acting passively in response to signs of coming pleasure or pain. They are not unconsciously emitting calls or transmitting information. Their action is expressive of their desire, and what they desire is to change the world, but neither the expressed desire to fight, nor the world fighting back against them supposed to be changed is real. They know what they are doing is not real and they want it to stay that way. What they see is another animal they play with that they like, and they assume the other animal is looking at them in the same way.
- You’re saying the playful action expresses a state of liking? A kind of consciousness, or even more, of ethics?
- Yes, all of that. The fact that animals play shows us that consciousness and liking precede language, rather than language produces consciousness and makes an argument for liking. Language expresses consciousness, not intentions with regard to the world. Some animals, us included, are able to step out of the present and imagine the future and recollect the past, to play with the present, as it were, and this allows them to see what a word is in isolation from other words. They then can choose how to arrange words to make new expression / state of the world combinations.
- The tool is the same, consciousness different. And what conclusion do you draw from our educated class’s continued attempts to reduce consciousness and morality to a product of language?
- Isn’t it obvious?
- Spell it out for me.
- Put in in language. No problem. Our educated class is a class dependent on other classes, and relations between classes are based on language. Making consciousness dependent on language flatters, deepens the importance of that relation.
- If you are right why did you have to spell it out for me in language?
- Because that is the game, and you only know what I’m talking about…
- If I do…
- You only know what I’m talking about because, like animals at play, you know all that we speak here refers to something more important.
- That important thing being the world in which we speak to each other in which we like each other, like the animals who play with each other like each other.
- You understand.
_____________________
The Emergence of Hierarchical Structure in Human Language

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Eve



Complete Text (pdf) Here

1. Eden

What we know about Eve: like Adam created in god's image, given Eden's animal and plant inhabitants to tend to, possessed of eternal life but without knowledge of good and bad. Her life is good.

Then the snake makes a proposal: eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Eve says if she does so, she has been told she will die. Snake replies: Was she forbidden to eat the fruit from any tree? Eve answers, No, only from the knowledge tree. You will not die, says the snake.

When interrogated by god about her disobedience, Eve will respond: the snake tricked her. But is this true? The snake, by asking if she is forbidden to eat from any tree, is reminding Eve that the tree of life is there at her reach to recover immortality, if it should be taken away. (That immortality can be recovered is shown by god later saying he expels Adam and Eve from the Eden to prevent this from happening, for otherwise they would be like him, and that he does not want.) So the snake says: you will be like god once you eat the fruit and have knowledge, and it is not a necessary consequence that you die. All true.

So where is the trick? By telling the truth, getting Eve to disobey god? But she knew she was disobeying god. The snake doesn't trick Eve, he entraps her. He exposes her to his persuasion, at risk of her death. She who has no knowledge of bad or good, simply has a good life, she who has had no experience of persuasion. Persuasion is a kind of using another person as an instrument to your goal that is outside the interests of the person persuaded. It is a kind of acting your way, independent of the way of the person persuaded. It is to act in role, to achieve what your role specializes in achieving, and forming the other person into a complementary role.

Eve is then in need of knowledge and she complies with the persuasion which she is told will lead to her death, but does not know is bad (she has no knowledge of good and bad), but which may not lead to her death, but will, according to both snake and god, give her the knowledge of good and bad she needs to deal with this new world the snake has brought to her, the world of individuals being made the instrument of other individuals.

Eve's decision is logical, and almost inescapable: she needs knowledge, the old life of tending to the garden of Eden which could be lived without ethical knowledge is gone, now that she has encountered persuasion. She is in precisely the position Shakespeare places Hamlet in the beginning of the play. His good life as student and prince and lover of Ophelia is gone: he cannot live as he has been doing, no matter how hard he tries: the new king is suspicious of him, he feels himself hunted, he feels himself played upon like an instrument.

But he does not wish to enter into the world that is hunting him. He has no ambition, he says he is "poor", a "shadow". Equally, he may not stay out of that world, both because his old life cannot be returned to while he is being watched, and because he is impelled "to set it right".

He can't get himself to act, because taking up arms seems to him a kind of suicide. It means being trapped in the world of people acting in roles, using each other as instruments, which is a sort of death. He needs knowledge before he can take revenge, and must act to get knowledge. He can only get himself to act by deliberately provoking everyone around him, playing mad, making just and unjust hinted accusations, forcing the others to reveal themselves in their true role conduct, and in protection of their roles to attack him, and so provoke him to rashness, to lose himself, and enter into that world of role conflict.

Eve like Hamlet seeks necessary knowledge, which she can get only by acting bad herself. It is also, like for Hamlet, a kind of suicide for her: literal if god does sentence her to death and prevent her return to the tree of life, and metaphorically a suicide, an end to the former good life: which however, as Hamlet comes to understand, is lost in any case.

Then if she is acting like Hamlet, what is the good she is seeking to accomplish, at risk of her life? To set right the society of Eden. But like Hamlet, she will not know how to do this until she has knowledge, until after eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. She must take that rash, god-defying, dangerous, but fundamentally reasonable action.

Then, knowing good and bad, what does she see? Another story: In "The Republic", Socrates is pressed by his partners in conversation to go on describing a society he calls feverish and luxurious: a society where each practices a role that requires other roles for their mere practice: doctor requires patient, prostitute customer, etc., as opposed to a primitive society of clothing maker, house builder, small farmer who can do their jobs alone and then simply trade the products. Those in luxurious societies need others practicing other roles to make their products: their action in role is the product of the action in role of another.

This society assigns the basic behaviors to separate roles: the rational, the spirited or ambitious, the desiring or irrational. The society that includes them all represents, expresses and is the model of the individual man. Each role modifies and corrects the other, and this is a kind of justice in the state, and in the individual, supposedly. Only supposedly, because the author of this description in dialog, Socrates, has said he would prefer the primitive society. What he has done is to describe the ultimate in societies of roles, where the roles incorporate the basic traits of man, those that correct, those that need correcting. But there is no necessity that roles express traits. They can be practiced by individuals keeping a private life reserved from their lives united to others, each of whom also keeps a private life reserved. The roles are played with a practical intention alone, not as an expression of one isolated trait (rational, desiring, spirited). And in that private life the parts of self - desiring, spirited, rational - do not modify and correct each other. They are simply behaviors, each an instrument for the making of a good life.

How is that roles come to express character traits? Each job requires two skills, knowing how to do the work, and knowing how to get and keep the job. The first knowledge is not essential to getting and keeping the job, and is insufficient alone for finding work. It is an optional addition. Different jobs offer different opportunities for expressing various human traits of thinking, desiring, profiting. People with similar dominant traits become attracted to particular jobs. They get and keep these jobs through practicing a skill that is also psychological, or character related. So both differing opportunities for expression, and getting the job at all, cause a selection of character types to occur in the separate professions. Once a profession has concentrated a group of people of like character, each individual will act in a similar way in response to those practicing other dependent and complementary professions and roles, putting uniform pressure on those roles to select out specific character types as well.

If stability of all the basic traits results, this group of balanced and correcting character-trait selected roles then represents the character of a single complete man - a luxurious, feverish man, who wants too much of something and who requires the correction of other feverish, luxurious men to cure the resulting imbalance. This image of man in turn teaches individuals to see themselves as a mutually provoking and persuading alliance of parts. Since in the model of the republic the expression of each of these partial traits is dependent on the action of others practicing separate traits, what an individual learns from experience, both in society and personal reflection, is only how to manage a relation between parts. In the simple, primitive society, practice of a profession serves the making of a good life: a part of life is placed in service of the whole. But in the luxurious republic, work in a role serves only to establish relations between parts in oneself. After constant instrumental use of self-part against self-part, social role against social role, the memory of good life is eventually lost.

What Socrates has done is to make an extremely cunning provocation. By taking to extremes a society of trait-defined roles, he not only produces a society his partners in dialog would not want to live in, but also shows a sort of man (which that society is an imitation of) they should not let themselves become. In "The Apology", Socrates is seen provoking again, this time with his own life, not in art of dialog. Like Hamlet, he has ahead of him, now that he has been arrested and accused, a sort of life not worth living: life in which he will be prevented from having philosophic conversations. He says he has had a dream, in which a god tells him to practice art. This might be a reference to philosophy as an art, and an encouragement to go on with it, but maybe not, so he sets to work putting Aesop's fables into verse. Or, it may be his way of saying, that with good life over, he may allow himself to practice art, an inessential and sometimes dangerous activity which he has described variously as teaching, charming, strengthening, play, a reminder. Socrates makes a speech at his trial in which he acts immoderately, immodestly, out of character in some ways, in other ways completely in character - something like with Hamlet's madness, in fact. He provokes the jurors to act like jurors, not as individuals. That is to say, as jurors they expect abject appeals to clemency, and he gives them the opposite, provoking them to the most extreme response in role. (Persuasion establishes others in a role complementary to one's own, provocation leads others to defend their already established roles.)

Why does he do this? How is provocation an art? Hamlet provokes those hunting him, in order to find out what exactly the role is being played by those he provokes: was the king a murderer, his mother too? But Hamlet also is making a demonstration of role society itself. Like the republic, Hamlet's world, ending in the death of almost all the main participants, is not worth living in. Socrates, forgiving those who voted against his death, says Athens will get the reputation of murdering its best benefactor. Hamlet, before dying, asking forgiveness of the survivors, also is concerned that the true story be told. They are making demonstrations, telling stories that teach, remind, charm. Is Eve doing the same? Is she provoking, responding to role action - to the persuasion of the snake - with role action of her own? With the intention of making a demonstration?

This is what she does. She eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and like Hamlet playing mad, accusing wildly, like Socrates outlining the luxurious republic and provoking his jurors, she is doing something bad after being pushed to it. And then: she passes the fruit to Adam. Now like god she has immortality and knowledge, and is acting for good, presumably, like god has done. In this she imitates god: she is making Adam in her image, as an immortal and new knower of good and bad. And she is surpassing god in her creation, since both she and Adam were made as images of god but not really like god (they lack knowledge), and Eve's re-creation of Adam makes him in reality like god.

With this important difference: unlike god, their immortality and knowledge are not permanent. These possessions must be reached for, taken from a tree access to which can be denied; they are the result of personal action, not gifts. When they both have eaten, they are ashamed of their nakedness. This first shame reflects their new knowledge of the instrumentality that sexuality can lend itself to, that of seeing the other as instrument of our pleasure. And they know they cannot rely on themselves acting on the knowledge they have, rely on keeping their knowledge: they fear themselves. Then God approaches, and they are afraid of the death he has threatened them with.

God asks Eve why she ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. She answers, as we know, the snake tricked her. She is trying to persuade god, as the snake persuaded her, trying to use god as the instrument of her survival. She is suggesting that in the interdependence of roles, where one role corrects or modifies another, she is not guilty, unless the whole society is guilty.

Adam picks up this response, saying the woman that god gave him, gave him the fruit. God answers: Did not Adam hear what Eve said to the snake? In other words, wasn't he also potentially responsible for her response? Could he not have prevented it? God rejects Eve's reasoning based on mutual dependence.

Yet god is provoked to a response of deepening the roles and their mutual dependence. This after dismissing Eve's defense based on the existence of mutually dependent role society. The players in Eden, described using Plato's basic roles, are: snake - ambitious/spirited; Eve - reasoning; Adam - desiring. All we know of the snake is that he wishes to make a change, to persuade Eve to make a change. All we know of Eve, is that she is intelligent enough to catch the subtle reasoning of the Snake, and then to use the role-dependence that arrives with the arrival of the snake in her act of persuasion. All we know of Adam is that he follows Eve's lead in his answer to god, is subordinate, as the irrational is subordinate to the rational.

When god expels Adam and Eve from Eden, he jumbles up these roles: Eve is made subordinate to, and to desire Adam, Adam is made ruler, sentenced to work in a feverish condition by the sweat of his brow, and the snake is designated simply as an eternal enemy to man.

If Eve, provoked by god's placing the snake in the garden, has in return provoked god by her imitation of him and in her passing on the fruit to Adam, god again provokes by imposing roles, in a society of fixed role relations, that do not match the original traits of the persons playing the roles. Is this not like Socrates building his republic into a place where no one would choose to live?

God will go so far as to select the best of men to personally wrestle, assault, torture. In the story that immediately follows the expulsion from Eden, Cain is upset when his sacrifice is not appreciated by god as much as his brother's. God reproaches him, saying, Do what is good and I will be pleased. The subordination that god creates by expressing his preference results in Cain's murder of Abel, and Cain receiving a mark fixing him in the role of one excluded.

God seems to be demonstrating in story after story that he is not interested in particular laws which regulate social behavior, that is, role behavior. When Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit of knowledge, and they feel the need to cover themselves, they face god, answer god. It seems that this is what god wants, right here. The turning away from a bad behavior, not to any particular rule or role of behavior, but to good as represented by god's intentions towards his creation. In the cave myth of "The Republic", those who had been imprisoned within the cave and able to learn only about shadows of puppets, turn around and look away from imitations of imitations towards the real world. Adam and Eve, ashamed of their potential behavior with each other, and already in passage from being mere images of god, to being temporary possessors of god's attributes of immortality and knowledge of good and bad, turn around looking for more, looking to god for more, preparing to answer him as participants in the demonstration. He has provoked by sending the snake to them. And as they know now that even their own bodies provoke, they look at god warily, and return his provocation, as they are allowed, since they were made in his image. As Adam and Eve cover themselves for each other, they disguise themselves in their relation to god, as he has disguised himself in his relation to them. God covers himself in seeming to do bad, in order to teach; man covers himself in returning the provocation, for the sake of learning.

But how could anyone say this society is good, which the good-making god has created? Like Plato's undesirable republic, the mass deaths of Hamlet's kingdom, the execution of Socrates, the good comes out of the teaching, the demonstration. The story of Adam and Eve continues: their descendants will make a compact with god, not with each other. They will continue to break the rules, and break out of their roles, and god will continue to provoke. And there are other compacts made, each directly with god. Face to face, man and god, society-making artist greets society-making artist, masks of art lowered only to be taken up again, the stage reset by the conditions of the new compact.

Defined as they are as having both immortality and knowledge of good and bad, with either or both these possessions lost, or liable to be lost at any time, yet the regaining of both within reach - rules are useless to Adam and Eve in their attempt to regain and hold onto what they can have, to make the best of their situation. Obedience to rules is a forgetting of immortality: it is action taken under threat of death! (There is no immortality when faced with the prospect of its loss: that precisely is mortality.) And obedience depends on the persistence of our knowledge (of rules, of good and bad) on which persistence we know we cannot rely. The stories seem to be saying this: Neither immortality nor knowledge will ever be lasting. But knowledge and immortality can be regained, by turning away from bad and facing god, having participated in his demonstrations.

To regain immortality seems paradoxical: your either are not ever going to die, or you are. Yet in the story logic, with god there to keep changing your status, it is possible. Still, what really is achieved with the return, if we know god can at any time end the immortality - and doesn't the story teach us to expect god to do this? Though what if immortality is never lost but only forgotten, and the actions we take are to recover the memory? This would make our action of learning to be the action of recollection, a primary position of Plato. His argument for the immortality of the soul can be seen as an expression of the logic of this particular situation: something is destroyed only by what is specifically bad for it - hot destroyed by cold, wet by dry. What is bad for the soul is ignorance. But ignorance does not destroy the soul, just as the loss of immortality after expulsion from the garden of Eden does not preclude a return. What is learned is how to make the return, and this skill is the result of experience. The knowledge gained takes the form of a story of personal action in the world of provocation and being provoked, a world built and dismantled simultaneously. Our knowledge is no more of something stable in the world, a world order, than our immortality is located in the moment of time in which we have brought ourselves into condition to re-experience our knowledge of it. Like god is not located in the world he has created and interferes with, nor the time of the events in the world have any meaning in relation to his (timeless) immortality.

Turning away from our own bad action, we know good and bad from our own experience, not from obedience to rule, and we face god's immortality with no reminder of our own mortality, rather knowing that we are like him, and have been following him in our action.

God teaches us through our personal experience to see his and our immortality. But the world in which we learn is something - let's not say illusory, rather fictional, or even better, mythical. It is a world created by immortals presuming themselves to be mortals. What value as truth can that sort of world have? Is there a philosophy to be found in this story?

As in general the pre-Socratic philosophers described the change we find in our experience as variations, misleading or illusory, of an unchanging element: air, fire, water, the all - this story can be seen as describing the illusory variations of our unchanging personal relation to god (or to man as like god). This is consistent with Socrates' wish to learn to love with the aid of philosophic discourse, with personal relations in life-story taking a subordinate place to love itself, or love of good. And especially fits in with his doubting the possibility of human wisdom concerning things of the world, while allowing himself to make strait-forward claims to speak truly and to know what it is to act justly.

The advantage of expressing a philosophy in a myth, a story of unaccountable origin and so of uncertain reason of composition and validity, is that the necessary act of interpretation involves accepting that there is a mystery, that in a way you are lost. Charmed, reminded, playing, you prepare yourself to understand what others have done when similarly lost.

In the Greek and other ancient myths multiple gods frustrate each others actions, have this passivity or lack of power in relation to each other. God transfers this passivity to man, lets himself be treated by man as other gods have been treated by their fellow gods. At this time in history there was no presumption that a god must be all powerful, and need be none for us, so we do not ask why a well intentioned god could not have come up with a painless method of instruction.

There is the question of when and for how long and how often we need to learn this lesson. We can imagine that temporary returns may be made to Eden's tree of life, and then we are back to learning god's lesson under sentence of death.

(cont.)

Complete Text (pdf) Here

Monday, June 1, 2015

Some Girls Like To Fight



1.

State Detention Facility, Northern California

- I heard this story coming here. A gang of girls is killing their boyfriends. The police haven't any evidence yet. You girls know anything about that? No? A girl kills her boyfriend, you know why?
- Why, professor?
- I imagine her saying, you disregard me, take my love, act like I don''t have a right to live. If I don't have a right to live, you don't have a right to rule.
- Cool.
- When girls get out of here, does the State of California care if they live or die? The right to property is more important than right to life. Others property is more important than their lives. The girls don't have any property. They'll get some, or die. They'll just have to die.
- Life's not fair.
- Why do they accept that? Why die for the idea of property? Why don't they say to the State Of California, if I don't have the right to live, you don't have the right to rule?
- They don't know who to kill.
- And if they did, nothing would change.
- The world is a better place without my guy.
- What happened to him? Forget it. We don't think things can change, that's the problem. Boyfriends die right and left, but the right to property is still placed ahead of right to live. Some other guy will come along and try to take possession of some girl. What is property? Can any of you tell me?
- Your things.
- Things you use. Imagine I made you an offer. Keep what you use. But here's the deal: if you give up the right to what you don't use, I will give you what you don't have now, a right to live. Will you take the deal?
- Maybe I want to get rich.
- Or die trying.
- Yeah.
- Why do you want to get rich? Wait, I'll read you something:
For it is certainly nothing new that those who are being violated dream of violence, that those who are oppressed dream at least once a day of setting themselves up in the oppressor’s place, that those who are poor dream of the possessions of the rich, that the persecuted dream of exchanging “the role of the quarry for that of the hunter,” and the last of the kingdom where “the last shall be first, and the first last.”*
Girls want to be queens, sure. When they grow up. But right now, would they take the deal?
- Professor, some like their books, some like their fights.
- Would the girls fight for the deal?
- Fight who?
- The people who have more than they can possibly use.
- They'll give some of that extra property to others dying to have it. They'll have an army against us.
- Sure. But some girls like to fight.

Read Some Girls Like To Fight (pdf)
______________________
*Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth"