Sunday, October 19, 2014

When We Love



1.

- But why do you warn me against reading Plato's 'Republic'? Isn't it good? Why do people talk so much about it?
- It's more than good. It's a masterpiece. That's the problem.
- How can a masterpiece be a problem?
- It says more than people are ready to understand.
- What stops them?
- Propaganda, indoctrination, conformity.
- Brain washing.
- Propaganda works by assimilating the moral to the political. As in advertising a product comes pre-sold with a way of life*, like a word fixed in a sentence, in propaganda the moral word comes complete with the political sentence.
- Is that what happens in Plato's 'Republic'?
- Yes. It pretends to be an attempt to understand the moral from the study of the political.
- Should we try to understand the political from the moral?
- That's just as big a mistake.
- What's left?
- Understand how they work together.
- Don't we need to understand what they are individually before we understand how they work together?
- No. We can't determine our political life on the basis of knowing how we should live morally. We can't determine our moral life by knowing how we should live politically. Our moral and political experiences can't be used to explain each other.
- Why not?
- Because our moral life is without content, and our political life is experimental, improvised, instrumental. We can't construct a political life on the basis of "love" because love does not have any of the components political life is put together with. We can't construct our moral life out of politics, for the reason that love has no parts at all. It is an experience of wholeness.
- Then?
- Plato's 'Republic' is politics that is supposed to explain morality, and it does, but it is a really terrible morality. Remember what we said about why nations fail?**
- Remind me.
- An individual, in his own life, has a goal: love and sympathy. To reach that goal he experiments on various public practices until he can stop acting, relax in peace and feeling at home.
- An individual has a personal politics?
- Yes.
- And the individual uses a personal politics to reach a personal morality?
- A personally experienced morality, which is, in fact, the same kind of experience for everyone.
- And morality doesn't teach us our politics, we experiment, and our politics doesn't teach us our morality, that is indoctrination, destroys our creativity, instead we seek out morality and know it when we find it and anyway it is the same for everyone.
- Yes.
- Go on.
- So we saw that political cycles of increasing and decreasing freedom share an element in common with economic cycles of increasing or decreasing concentration of wealth.
- You said the violence inherent in trade for profit leads into the violence of the political attempt of the few to despoil the many, a violence against human nature to sympathize.
- The word "economy" has its origin in the Greek for home. Our moral relation to people which should be of love and understanding is instead trade for profit, and that mistaken morality infects our politics, leading to injustice and rule by the rich.
- Morality influences politics, and politics influence morality.
- Exactly like it does in an individual's life.
- So the state that Plato describes does not illustrate our moral life, but is an extreme form of politics that corrupts our moral life.
- Right.
- And Plato in writing 'The Republic' is showing how our political life can be corrupted by our morality? But because we're brainwashed we don't understand we are not meant to follow in his ironically pursued path?
- Right.
- But what morality is politics corrupted by? Can you tell me?
- The most general, and the most alien to Plato's view of the world: looking for good or bad fixed in our action, either in our lives as individuals or as a group.
- Where should we look for morality?
- When we stop acting.
- When we love.


2.

- Say you wanted to do more than read a book of philosophy, you wanted to go and start a revolution. How would you apply this discussion?
- Great, let's have some reality here. We poor indoctrinated souls, in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, stand up to authority, fight the government and win our revolution. And then nothing really changes. One undesirable form of politics replaces another. That's because, according to our discussion, we've assumed that our politics includes morality, that all we have to do is change politics and the good of life will take care of itself. Or we think that like in the 60s if we make a moral revolution, political problems will go away, that a political solution is implied in our morality. But instead we get the reaction of the 70s, the "me generation", greed, speculation, hyper-monopoly, empire, government surveillance...
- And propaganda.
- To make our revolution we keep in mind that our politics is not in our morality. and our morality is not in our politics. We can't rely on either morality or politics alone. To make our revolution we'll use our politics to create conditions conducive to morality, keep our eyes open to whether our politics make it easier or harder to be good.
- And how are you going to get the millions of indoctrinated to join you in your revolution?
- I'm going to defy you for one, your ban on Plato, and remind people of the beauty in life by encouraging them to talk things through and read good books!


Further Reading:
Street Politics
How Do You Make A Computer Not Want To Be A Computer?
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
____________________
You Crazy, Man!
** Why Nations Fail