Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Killer Metaphysics

(From The Technology Of Good)


Killer Metaphysics
The notion of “physical world” is open and evolving. No one believes that bodies are Cartesian automata . . . or that physical systems are subject to the constraints of Cartesian mechanism, or that physics has come to an end. It may be that contemporary natural science already provides principles adequate for the understanding of mind. Or perhaps principles now unknown enter into the functioning of the human or animal minds, in which case the notion of “physical body” must be extended, as has often happened in the past, to incorporate entities and principles of hitherto unrecognized character. Then much of the so-called “mind–body problem” will be solved in something like the way in which the problem of the motion of the heavenly bodies was solved, by invoking principles that seemed incomprehensible or even abhorrent to the scientific imagination of an earlier generation. (Noam Chomsky, 1980)

Trader Joes, Beverly Center

- You can go ahead of me in line.
- Thanks, but maybe it's better waiting. I can look at you while your food is scanned.
- You're nice
- And you can talk to me while I look. I'm harmless, mostly.
- Mostly. You might be a killer.
- I haven't killed any one yet.
- Are you planning to?
- That's not in my future as far as I know. But everyone led down the wrong path is capable of it. Or do you disagree?
- No.
- Some people in fact are capable of killing at any time. They are incapable of knowing why they shouldn't kill. I've been trying to figure this out all day.
- You have?
- Do you want to hear what I concluded?
- The line's not moving. Tell me.
- That some people are incapable of guilt. The argument depends on the idea of creativity. We can either build our lives on a universal principle of caring about people, or not. When we build on the principle, and later break it, we feel as guilt the knowledge we have made ourselves incapable of continuing along the path of all we have built on the principle. Those on another, uncreative path,* one that never builds on the principle, don't feel guilt.
- What is the other path?
- Doing for the sake of doing, following rules which give you a sense of security and power, adapting rules to the occasion, selecting between rules following only those that increase power over others.
- Why do people base their lives on moral principle when they don't have to and another life is safer and more powerful?
- It takes some metaphysics to answer that.
- Why not? We're not going anywhere. Credit card problem or something.
- If treating everyone the same as we'd like ourselves to be treated turns out to be the general way of nature, would that be an argument not to act selfishly?
- Do we have to do what nature does?
- We want to learn to do better than we are born into doing, than what comes naturally, but what if that learning too is what nature does?
- People who act selfishly will simply say that acting selfishly is doing better than they were born into.
- But what if the way of acting better in nature excludes that selfishness?
- Then the selfish would ask, why should they care? They can do better than all of nature's ideas of doing better.
- What happens when we act in a way fundamentally different from the world we respond to? Neglecting the possibility to respond in kind, do we lose something good the world offers?
- What?
- We have experiences of love, beauty, truth, sympathy. Say we can show the world does too, in a way.
- What way?
- I'll get to that. If selfish people deprive themselves of these experiences which are not human illusions but the general way of the world, and these experiences, in the judgment of those who've experienced both them and selfishness, are vastly superior, do we have an argument? (The latter part, knowing both choose one, comes from Plato.) What do you say?
- Show me how everything in nature loves and learns to do better than it is born to do.
- Ok. Take the example of seeing a line. Actually our visual system sees bits of image which are collected together unconsciously and composed into what we see as a line. Same goes for things we see as solid, as moving or unmoving. Now those bits of image too are composed.
- What does the composition?
- Our nerves, cells in the brain and eye. The bits of image are composed, collected from other responses to the world, something like what in physics happens on the quantum level is composed into how the atom responds.
- Is this science?
- Experimental results. There's an infinite regress: the eye is one organ that composes the body, cells and tissues compose the eye, atoms compose the cells, particles compose the atom. In the body, the different levels are assembled together. What the higher levels do "perceives" what is happening on the lower level in the sense of takes account of, collects, and then does what we were talking about, uses what is collected to do something new, make a new collection. From what is happening on the quantum level we get to those visual images we are unconscious of getting finally to the image of the line we are conscious of. Ok?
- Yes.
- In our thinking, we turn away from response to the world, and start collecting as units "ourselves responding to the world". Not seeing lines, but ourselves seeing lines. We call that unit an idea. And in our imagination we assort these different ideas found in memory, looking for a way to collect them together, something in common between them, and when we do, we've found a new idea. The words we use in language are such units collecting our responses to the world that have some way in common. When we speak a sentence we are putting words in combination aiming toward forming a new collection.
- Perception, biological organization, thinking, language all are collections.
- And add evolution of species, development of the individual from conception to adulthood, nature thinking and speaking as it were. Collection is done to a purpose, which is to stop collecting. We stop collecting when we pass on the drive to collect to the collection itself as a whole. When a word is formed it becomes a element in a new sentence that possibly has never been spoken before. In the body, the drive to new collection has been passed on from quantum level to atom to cell to organ to human individual speaking words in an open ended process of composing sentences.
- The freedom to make new collections is only at the top level?
- Yes.
- Let me try to process this information. The selfish bypasses this development? What do they lose?
- If according to the argument all of nature is such as we say, it is not really possible for the selfish, who after all are in nature, to bypass nature. What selfish people can do is deprive themselves of rest.
- How?
- Simply by leaving one collecting process and moving on to another, instead of building one upon the other, the lower level resting in being the foundation for the higher.
- And finding this rest is somehow related to the experiences we have of love, beauty, truth, etc.?
- Yes.
- Can you prove this?
- We are trying to see whether there is in what we know about the world, in all the aspects we can talk about it, something which argues against acting selfishly. If all of nature moves towards rest, and we ourselves move towards rest, if those of us who can reflect on the matter from Plato on see moving towards rest superior to not doing so, isn't that a good argument?
- I like it.
- People who would like to make universal moral principles the foundation of their lives together can point to their own experience and the general behavior of nature. But the selfish set themselves up against nature, and against their own experience too. They reject all these arguments as mere reports of behavior, and they accept no limits to their behavior. To their minds they are gods.
- They're devils.**
** Monsters

P.S. The way we each individually drive to collect together with others is such that each individual gives up nothing. This is difficult to see at first glance. Before collecting with others we first have to accept that our individuality is complete, making no demands from society, like the word in the sentence which achieves more in the sentence than it does itself, while losing nothing of itself by being included in a sentence. Or a particle that loses nothing of itself in being included in an atom. There is a sense where the particle continues in the atom, and in that same sense I as an individual continue in social life of the kind, and only of the kind, that is founded on a universal moral principle. Only under the protection of universal moral principle can individuality survive intact voluntary collection with others. Only universal moral principle, offering the same protection of individuality to others, provides the stability where foundation of society on individuality is possible. As an individual I rest in what I know how to do, and make it the basis of my choice of what new things I can do with others, which since collection is not complete - we have not collected ourselves into a stable organization - is provisional. Our present position, individual to society, is: project of individuality rested in, provisional experimental attempts at collection by one and all.

As an exercise in collection we might, for example, consider state ownership and control. We know already* that home, family, tools of trade are likely to be a thought through exception to sharing, a principle likely to be universally agreed to. But once we allow private property it becomes clear that the led become the private property of the leaders, the leaders do not share with the led power over their lives. Failure to share power with the led is an exception to the sharing leaders are supposed practice among themselves and to manage among the led. Good is not likely to come from this. (Private property + collective sharing + state control = class war.) So we look back again at our project of state control and ownership, think we might have to exclude private property after all, but guided by experience and a reading of Plato's "Republic" see that sharing everything goes against human nature. We decide we don't want to do without private property, and unless we want to do without the principle of sharing we cannot accommodate leaders exercising power over us.

Anarchist Metaphysics

- 'Principle of sharing + the exception of private property + the state = class war.' Can you go into that a little?
- If we have private property, and a central control of government, the led do not share ownership with the leaders, the led are the private property of the leaders. This means the leaders can speak creatively with other leaders, in what we called the deviant path of creativity*, but not with the led. If the period of being the leaders' private property was scheduled to end, like children are for a time subject to authority of parents, this might work. Love of parent for child insures that the status of property is always subject to higher consideration of shared life, of universal principle. Love requires individual knowledge through individual experience, as a word of a language is acquired through a history of action in relation to the world. When there is no actual personal relation the universal principle is not satisfied and there is no real creative life. The leader can speak creatively with the other leaders, but in relation to the led he can only pretend love. He lies, for their own good. The lie, as something unnatural but producing a temporarily desirable result, imbalances the leaders in relation to their own creative life among other leaders. They tell more lies to calm their imbalance and quiet the demands of the led for the fair treatment they are not receiving, for not getting the treatment they would have been getting had they been truly loved. Leaders become addicted to lying**, to pretending they are managing the led for their own good when that is strictly speaking impossible. Instead they are perfecting efficiency***  of their management of the led, like addicts working out the most reliable and quickest means of acquiring their drug.
- And leaders, sharing power with each other, and lying to the led both to quiet their own qualms and the dissatifaction of the led who are deprived of property rights in becoming the property of the leaders, is what you called class war.
- Yes.
- But is there any difference if we imagine workers own their workplace and homes, workers elect workplace leaders and residents elect community leaders who elect federations of leaders to make larger scale decisions? Won't any leader, no matter how quickly recalled, or how rooted in the community, be subject to this process of class creation?
- Unless one condition applies: the right, and practical capacity, of individuals to withdraw from community and workplace, the right and capacity of community and workplace to withdraw from higher level federations. If there is a contract binding the led to the decisions of the leaders who represent then that contract must be subject to be dissolution at will.**** Keeping promises depends on the prior keeping to the universal principle of sharing. No sharing, no promise. No sentence has been spoken if their are no words, no words without universal principle.
** Addiction & Property
*** Unloved, the people are lead by their leaders in the only way they can be led, not creatively but "efficiently", that is, whatever things the people are thought to do they are managed to do more of faster. See Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, Doing For The Sake Of Doing
**** Promises