Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Substance of the Matter

The common view these days is that the answer to "what something is" is given by stating what material something is composed of.  In other words, for the question, "what is water?", we would say water is a molecule composed of two hydrogen atoms bonded with one oxygen atom.

On one the level, this point of view is correct, but from another point of view, it is superficial to view what something is as merely the aggregation of the stuff composing it.  I would like to suggest an alternative point of view:  substance relates to a specific kind of activity.  We know what something is based on what something does.  In fact, we determine what something is by what something does.  For example, water can be decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.  We say something is hydrogen because, for example, hydrogen creates a certain kind of spectrum if one performs gas chromatography on it.

Why is the notion of substance being a substrate of a material thing wrong?  First of all, because matter is the principal of differentiation.  If we look at the material composition of something, we can only look at analysis of the compound, breaking it down into composite materials.  This method of physical analysis can reveal the composition of things, but it cannot give us the source of the unity of things.  Absolute division can only occur in the material realm, to say something is material is to say it is capable of division: water can be divided into hydrogen and oxygen for example.  In terms of physics, the unity of things is revealed in so-called forces.  For example, the force of gravity explains the trajectory of a cannon ball falling down to the Earth.  Note that the Earth is the Earth, and the cannon ball is the cannon ball.  What brings them together is gravity, which is invisible and acts at a distance between two material things.  From a general relativity perspective, we can speak of the space-time continuum as an all-pervasive field, guiding objects in fixed trajectories.  In this view, all things are interpenetrated by an invisible matrix, the space-time continuum, the distortions of which orders the many into fixed paths.  The ordering principle pervades all things, and by virtue of its all pervasive quality, creates a unified pattern of motion.

The point is not which theory of mechanics one wishes to employ, the point is that what brings unity to anything is invisible and penetrates all things, and it manifests physically through unifying the activity of material objects.  Mass is not a property of matter, it is revealed in the interactions of matter.  If there was only one indivisible atom in a universe--assuming that such a universe were possible--it could have no mass.  After all, even if we were a non-physical intelligence viewing this atom, we would have no way of determining that the atom had mass, and therefore, no way of defining what mass would mean in that universe.  Something can be true, while not being testable, but something that cannot be defined cannot be true or false, but nonsense.  It is nonsense to say the atom has mass or to say it lacks mass, because we cannot define what mass is.  The point is that there can be one without a many, but there can never be a many unless it is unified by a one.  The one is manifest in the inter-relations of the many to one another, and the relations of the many differentiate each distinct part (within the many).  The principle of unity is also the principle of differentiation.  All material things are unified in that they participate in space, but all material things are differentiated from one another because they exist in different spatial relationships from each other.  If two things exist at the same location in space, they are the same thing.  If they exist in different locations, they are different from one another.

The second problem with the material substrate being the "real" thing is that the material substrate only relates to quantity.  It has no way of dealing with something like quality, which emerges through relation.  Light conditions + object + sense organ + sentient being yields a color.  A color is not a property of an object, nor is it a property of a subject.  Without both an object and a sentient being, you cannot have a color.  Instead, color is a kind of activity that an object generates in a subject, under certain definable conditions of light, when viewed by a sentient being with a certain biological capabilities (like working eyes).  The reductionist crowd wants to eliminate quality, because quality presupposes a mind or a soul.  Because the quality is a quality of an external object perceived by a perceiving subject, looking at the quality as some kind of token in the brain is worthless.   What gives the meaning to the token in the brain that makes it of the object?  After all, if one runs and falls down, one can get a bruise and a scrape on the knee, but is the injury an image of the pavement?  If we take the metaphor of a camera literally, it is clear that for a photograph to be a photograph of something, it needs a sentient organism to interpret it.  Our "cutting edge" neuroscience, which explains that a unitary organism is "really" a unitary organ, a brain, and then trots out some kind of mechanical camera theory is foolish.  The little picture in the brain needs a little man in the brain too to make sense of it, to interpret it, and to act on it.  Our "radical" materialist theories, that I am my brain, and other nonsense, simply push the analysis to another level, the search for the little man in the little organ, instead of searching for the man in the organism.

For a mechanical system, if you are given the initial conditions, and the laws of mechanics governing the system, you can predict (if the cannon does not misfire) the conditions at a particular future state of the system.  For a sentient being, given the initial conditions, you cannot reliably predict what the organism will do.  That is to say, unlike a mechanical system, which is bounded by its initial conditions, a living thing is unbounded, it has freedom.  This traditionally has been explained by the fact that an animate being, one with a soul, acts on itself, it chooses its own path.  On the other hand, there are unpredictable mechanical systems, like throwing dice, which generate random outcomes.  We cannot reliably predict, even with the initial conditions, what the outcome of the physical system will be.  Even if we maintain some kind of physicalist position, we can insist that even if mechanics cannot explain outcomes, what it does not explain is "random" and not the reflection of some purposeful or intentional process.

Let us consider the game of chess.  In a game of chess, there is a defined initial state, and there are rules for how each of the pieces move, and there is a system of notation for describing games of chess (which presupposes a common understanding of the rules of chess).  Any game of chess can be described by listing a historic sequence of moves, and each move is explainable by a universal rule governing transformation (e.g. the rules governing movement of the pieces).  Lets suppose we developed a table which contained a random hierarchy of possible chess moves (move x, if x cannot be moved, move y, etc.) and we rolled dice to determine which move to make, utilizing this chart.  Through this process, we would randomly generate a set of chess games.  In contrast, we could develop a description of chess games based on chess matches of players of varying skill levels.  How would we distinguish between the random games, and the games played by the sentient beings?  The difference is obviously not explained by the historic transformation rules, as the random games and the player games are both governed by the exact same rules.  Presumably, the way we could tell is the fact that there were recurring patterns, that is a convergence of patterns displaying homology among different players, in the games played by people, and no such pattern in the random games.

Looking from our game of chess, if we look at nature, the question of whether there is purpose in nature cannot be disclosed by the fact that there are laws of mechanics, historic transformation rules, any more than a game of chess can be said to lack a purpose on account of rules governing the movement of chess pieces.  The real question as to whether nature is merely a series of random variations based on mechanical processes (such as genes) or whether nature is purposeful (or are living organisms are purposeful) is governed by whether we see recurrent homology in nature.  Do different genetic lines give rise to similar organic structures or not?

Here is a link to a Wired article on a study by an MIT scientist, which shows that genetic variants of yeast converge on a similar morphology under similar environmental conditions.  One might even say that the yeast choose their morphology.

Experimental evidence increasingly points to the inadequacy of the Neo-Darwinist synthesis, as disclosed by the limited number of genes in people given their complex behaviors, the empirical failures of Chomskyan "language instinct" theories to explain language, problems such as Godel's Incompleteness Theorem which demonstrates that mathematical reasoning cannot be completely formalized (and therefore reducible to a mechanical algorithm).  The walls are coming down on the Neo-Darwinists, and while they can assert their dogmas, new minds are coming along who are willing to consider the empirical evidence which increasingly shows the bankruptcy of their ideas.  Certainly genes are important, and certainly genes are related to morphology, in the same way, books are important, and certainly books are related to the manifestation of ideas in the world.  But a library is not useful without a sentient being who can read and translate expressions of language into activity.  The material world is the physical substrate on which agents and other forces act.

A last problem for materialism is that it cannot even address quantity properly.  That is to say, quantity is not a property of a thing, quantity is something that a person measures relative to a measurement standard.  The measurement standard is not measured to have a particular quantity, it is defined as having a particular quantity.  What can be empirically measured can only be measured based on certain non-empirical conventions of measurement.  Quantity does not yield the quantity of a thing in the world, a measurement of quantity is a judgment formed in the context of a system of human linguistic conventions and activities based upon a convention, a norm, of measurement.  We should understand our measurement standards for what they are: symbols, symbols of space, symbols of time, outside of our empirical description of the world.  A mathematical description of the mechanics of a physical system needs a symbol of space and time in order to be translated into a real empirically testable experiment.  Likewise, a real experiment in mechanics can only take place if there are preexisting symbols of space and time (clocks and rulers) that allow for the measurement of results.  An empirical description, to be meaningful, depends upon a system of social conventions and physical symbols.  Thus, as a philosopher, I am interested in symbolism over science, because all scientific description is parasitic on a system of symbolism and on certain social conventions and institutions which make the description meaningful (e.g. capable of application in the empirical world).  Moreover, although I am in general respectful of empirical science, I recognize that science can only be an anthropocentric and penultimate description of reality. 
If we look at an organism, we see an aggregation of matter organized by a unifying principle.  That principle is purposeful, and driven toward an end.  The unifying principle guides the development of the organism, and the unifying principle drives the physical body to its end.  We speak of the soul, the animating principle, with respect to organism, while we speak of the spirit, a collective animating principle, with respect to a colony of social animals.  We speak of an individual will, to which we attribute choice, guiding the direction of an individual organism.  We speak of a collective will, to which we attribute choice, guiding the direction of a colony of social animals.  For example, we say the bees decided to relocate their nest behind the bush.

It is important to recognize that the soul and spirit are not material, because what is material can be divided.  Certainly, if we cut off someone's arm, we don't say that the decapitated limb is animated by the soul anymore.  Nor is the soul some diffuse gas in things, it is manifest in the unified activity of the body.  Once the arm is removed, it no longer participates in the unity.  A unity is not reducible to a part, because a part cannot govern the whole.  For example, there can be a political dictatorship, but the dictatorship will not function if a significant faction elects to disobey the dictator.  Only if all persons, or the members of the significant factions in country, submit to the dictator can the dictator remain in power.  Moreover, the unifying power is not material because it can be reconstituted and expanded.  For example, a child is small, and is composed of a certain group of cells.  Over time, the child grows, cells die and regrow, and the material composition and the form of the organism changes, yet the unity is preserved.  The order cannot be identified with the material composing the body, but with the unified activity of the material currently composing the body.  Likewise, a nation-state remains a nation-state, if it survives, two hundred years later, even though the political body composing the nation-state has been entirely replaced by a new set of citizens.  The form replicates itself in time, and has no inherent boundaries on its expansion, except those which it places on itself.  Because forms are not material, it is possible for a material thing to participate in multiple forms.  Individuals can share in a common spirit, even though each individual has an individual soul.  In this sense, we can understand the cosmos as simultaneously the will of the Supreme Spirit, God, as well as expressing the will of a particular nation or a particular individual in a specific context.  All things are guided by God, and all governments by a national spirit, and all individuals by their soul.  Each explanation involves the manifestation of a higher, more general, order, in which all things are ultimately unified within God. 

We are accustomed to saying that the organism is the result of their genes and their environment.  In this viewpoint, the morphology of an organism, and/or the behavior of an organism, is strictly an effect of material conditions.  In contrast, if we acknowledge the soul, and perhaps, the spirit, we are inclined to say that the morphology of an organism, or the behavior of an organism, represents the choices made by the organism.  Now, of course, all choice is bounded by material conditions, such as genes and environment, but we say choice because alternative possibilities lie before the organism, and choice is the unitary cause of the result.  For example, when we explain the results of a chess match, we say Kasparov made the winning move at this stage in the chess match.  Presumably, Kasparov's move was limited by the laws of physics, the rules of chess (derived from custom) as well as the historical developments of the pieces to that point in the actual game.  We do not explain the game by reference to how two genetic lines, influenced by certain environmental inputs, interacted through a determinant mechanical process which resulted in a necessary outcome.  What explains the unity of the many is its form, and the form is higher than each of the parts, and what explains the choice of forms is the will.  For example, the organism kills off its own cells in order to preserve the health of the organism, to preserve its own form. The reflects the will of the organism, and the natural inclination to sacrifice the defective individual part for the sake of preserving the unity, the form of the body.  Likewise, nation-states sacrifice their own citizens in wars for survival, to preserve their system of government and law.  There is no real question of surrender provided a leadership sees a conflict as potentially winnable under the right circumstances.  Citizens might dissent, but they generally lose the argument in the historical process.  Suicide is always possible, for an individual or a nation, but unnatural in the sense that any organic system that elects to kill itself removes itself as an influence on the future.  If you want your way of life to die out, stop breeding and refuse to fight for its preservation.  The present is defined by the past survivors, and the future will be defined by the present survivors.

There are three major political ideologies of the Nineteenth Century, which are all rooted in materialism as their governing political philosophy.  The first is based on Darwinism, that genes explain difference between organisms, and genes explain difference between groups of organisms.  In the natural order, the superior genetic line kills off the inferior.  Note that in this point of view, individual behavior is not the result of individual choice, but a result of an individual participating in a shared genetic inheritance with other individuals.  Thus, people are not classed based on individual behaviors, but are classed on the basis of shared genetic groups.  In other words, one's socially destructive behavior is a marker of an inferior genetic line.  (Society does not need to punish anti-social individuals, who being "hardwired" cannot help themselves, it needs to quarantine or eliminate anti-social behavior by eliminating the bearers of inferior genes.)  Under this view, the role of government is clearly to kill off the inferior genetic lines, which threaten the domestic tranquility and strength of the nation.  In this type of government, although the government is killing off individuals, it views and defines those individuals as bearers of general genetic lines.  That is, each individual has a biological, physical essence, which they share with other individuals that share the same essence (genetic lines).  Killing off the inferior genes can be accomplished in two ways.  One either creates a toxic and vice-ridden social order without public assistance, where the inferior are left to their own suicidal tendencies, and allowed to kill themselves off, straight up Social Darwinism.  The other, generally rooted in a racist ideology, calls for the active extermination of inferior genetic lines, which we find best expressed in Nazi Germany.

The alternative viewpoint is to regard human behavior as the effect of certain social environments.  For example, society is divided amongst social classes, and each class has its own "consciousness" of itself and its class values.  Thus, people are not individuals, and do not choose their values, but rather their beliefs and values are the mechanical result of certain material environments.  We find this point of view in political correctness, where the fact that one is of a certain privileged racial stock and sex defines what one thinks or perceives.  Diversity does not depend upon individual point-of-view or the content of one's thinking or one's character (as point-of-view and content is derivative from race/sex/class/orientation/etc.), but on promoting the works of people with the preferred racial and sexual variations.  In this view, all the evil in the world, instead of resulting from evil genetic material, is the result of evil social environments.  Likewise, in this view, killing off a class of people, such as the Bourgeoise, is not killing off individual souls but rather the destroying of an evil form of life, class privilege.  Thus, subscribers to the "environmental" theory of consciousness conceptualize individuals in terms of fixed essences, but attribute these essences not to genetics, but to fixed environmental influences.  This is the viewpoint of Marxist socialism and communism.

An older point of view can be understood in a traditional monarchy.  The laws are derived from custom and tradition, and are attributed to God.  The law comes from God (or the gods), and the people are defined by their reverence to the law.  The King plays the role of enforcing the law.  The subjects obey the law, but the person of the King, as subject, is subject to the law, and is charged with not subverting the law.  If the King subverts the law, then he or she becomes a tyrant.  Laws are defined by behaviors, and law-breaking is not attributed to collective evil in the subject, in the form of the subject's genes or environmental conditions, but are attributed to an evil will.  In this view, except in times of insurrection, justice is individualized, and individuals are punished not based on their membership in a class, but based on their free decisions to disobey the law. In contrast is the law of quarantine, in which individuals possessing a biological agent, or exposed and at risk of infection from a biological agent, are held in the custody of the state, and treated against their will or even destroyed, based on their biological status.  In a spiritual order, the individual chooses an inferior form, contrary to the law.  In a material order, in which anti-social or lawless behavior is an effect of either bad genetics or bad environmental influences, it is clear that it becomes necessary to replace the traditional notion of crime and punishment with the notion of the quarantine and the prison, the Gulag, and the concentration camp.  It is clear that a constituted political order has to make a decision with respect to laws, whether it will be rooted in irrational superstition, or modern and scientific.  A political order may be divided between citizens who believe in the soul, freedom, and choice, and those that believe that all human behavior is merely epiphenomena of matter and environment.  The State has to make a decision between punishing individual law-breakers, or rounding up members of politically-defined defective classes, placing them in concentration camps, and attempting to "re-educate" or "rehabilitate" them (the Marxist option as described in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago) or destroying them (the Nazi option).  The State cannot be agnostic about whether men have souls, or whether bad behavior is merely an epiphenomena of bad genes and/or a bad environment.

In war, one country collectively punishes the citizens of another country as a result of the other citizen's membership in a rival national group.  There is nothing to prevent a warring nation from making distinctions within the opposing political order, between soldiers and civilians, for example, but this is ultimately defined by the warring rival.  The nation under attack does not have the right to define itself to its aggressor.  In fact, success in war grants the victor the right to re-define the vanquished (its territorial boundaries, its constitution, its economic obligations to the victor, its trade policies, etc.).  On the other hand, in internal affairs, traditionally all citizens are punished individually on the basis of their collective participation in the general class of national citizenship. Collective justice places membership in a sub-national political group above membership in the political class of citizens.  It is clear that if we believe in materialism, given the ethnic, racial, and class divisions within American society, this traditional ideal of individualized justice cannot be maintained, whether we are Neo-Nazi's or Marxists.  If there is no individual will, and no individual choice of form of life, then there can only be individualized manifestations of either genetic or environmental conditions.  There is no point in punishing a genetic machine, or in punishing the effect, the product of a defective social environment.  Since the material world determines human behavior, the solution to bad behavior is to destroy the material conditions giving rise to bad behavior.  This viewpoint sounds humane, until we recognize that the individual is part of the inferior material conditions, and is part of the system of its replication.  Thus, we should not be surprised that Communist repression generally matches or exceeds the repression of groups like the Nazi's or other forms of ultra-nationalist repression.  Matter is the principle of differentiation, and materialism is a political philosophy that is instrumental for dividing a polity along membership in racial, ethnic and class-based categories, and legitimating civil war (as manifest in collective justice enforced internally).

For materialism, the notion of individualized justice, and democracy (where the irrational masses "choose" their leaders) can only be an irrational fiction, like the notion of the soul or God.  For example, materialists support the mental health system, which exercises social control over the bodies of subjects based on their membership in a defined class, but reject the notion of individual punishment for engaging in immoral acts.  The fact that what is and what is not a mental health diagnosis (e.g. homosexuality, tobacco use, etc.) is the result of a political/institutional process does not bother the materialist.  The fact that the Roman Catholic Church promulgates definitions of sin based on a political/institutional process does not ultimately bother the materialist.  The problem with the Roman Catholic Church is that it addresses individual conduct, and its pronouncement are rooted in a particular shared cultural and historical framework.  That is to say, the power of the Roman Catholic Church today is restrained by the past, whereas the power of the American Association of Psychiatrists has no such limitation.  The battle between matter and the spirit today is not a battle about the nature of politics, as both sides are equally political, but a battle between a totalitarian conception of the absolute state, freed from any historic or cultural limits, and an ordered system of liberty, rooted in a historic and cultural self-conception.  Materialism, as a political philosophy, can only result in a legitimation of conditions of civil war or insurrection, because it cannot conceptualize a free individual or a coherent conception of individual rights.  (People who espouse materialism and individual rights, like Camus, find it necessary to maintain an absolute fragmentation between what we might call political reality and empirical reality, the Absurd, without noticing that it is politics and warfare which ultimately defines empirical reality.)  The idea of an individual acting as a rational agent and choosing his or her own path is expressly excluded by materialism, whether a neo-Darwinist reductionist version, or a Marxist dialectical materialist account.  Only if we affirm the ontological existence of an individual soul, and an individual capacity for sin, can we coherently have an individualized system of justice, and an order based on individual rights. 

Materialism and the decline of traditional religious belief can only ultimately give birth to totalitarianism and political repression, as materialism denies the ontological independence of individual choice, human moral agency.  If there is no individual choice, then there can be no system of laws based on individual choice, as human choice is undefinable.  (Ontologically, the observable behavior is the effect of the choice, and if we re-define behavior as caused by material conditions, then the concept of choice drops out of the conceptual framework as meaningful entity.)  Moreover, the idea of law as a received order, above and beyond the polity, can have no place.  The only law can be positive law, and the law has effect because it stems from a constituted power, and the constituted power consists only of an elite manifesting their group characteristics (race/ethnicity/class/sex).  Thus, power defines law, and there is no higher law than power.  (Ontologically, materialism fails because it cannot define power, which is only knowable through its effects, and which precluded by materialism just as the individual will is precluded.  But constituted power is the God of materialism, unknowable, undefinable but the source and end of all things.)  Materialism simultaneously undermines respect for law, respect for human limits, respect for human rights, and the possibility of a harmonious national order.  The only game for the materialist can be to get your people on top, and then eliminate your enemies.  There can only be laws based on membership within a politically defined group, and there can only be legal repression against enemy groups (whether the enemy is white racists or male sexists or evangelical Christians or Jews or homosexuals or fascists).  An agnosticism, where one says one thing, and where one does another thing, is not ultimately sustainable.  If people cannot exercise true choice, then the idea of a democracy is patently ridiculous.  After all, people lack a soul, an animate principle, and thereby lack ontologically independent choice (e.g. so-called choice is defined by material conditions), and there is no true purposes in nature (e.g no real choices), who cares what 50.1% of voters "choose" to act as their leader?  Why shouldn't government, naturally, be the province of the rational and enlightened scientists and philosophers who reject the superstitions of the masses and truly understand the ultimate truths about reality?  Why should these enlightened men and women have their hands tied by religion, legal traditions and customs, and other superstitions? If Sam Harris's view of the world is correct, why don't we abolish democracy and put the world in the hands of scientific experts, who through absolute dictatorial powers, can guide the development of the peoples of the world to a new rational scientific order.  If such as system has historically manifested in tyranny, then shouldn't we question the soundness of the conceptual framework underlying it?  I would submit that if materialism is true, then the ideal human order must be found in either Hitler or Stalin.  If one does not regard either Hitler or Stalin's government as the ultimate order, then one must reject the conceptual framework underlying both orders:  materialism.  Those of us who irrationally cling to democracy, liberty and individual rights, we should also cling to the metaphysical system from which these values have been derived and coherently articulated, that is, classical theism.  Philosophies are ultimately political systems, and the naive way in which modern philosophies are embraced, leaves much cause to question the future manifestations of politics in Europe and America.  A human being has to live, and a person has to choose a way of life.  Clearly, a person does not have to choose a philosophical framework consistent with the way they live, in fact, they can choose a philosophy which contradicts the way they live.  But over time, what we say and what we believe, if it contradicts our way of life, will erode our clarity about what we do.  We must pick a side, politically as there must be a system of laws, whether it is derived from natural law, Marxism or eugenics and racial theories.  We do ourselves no favors if how we live is inconsistent with what we say we believe.  As I stated in the beginning, what we really are is defined by what we really do.    


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Talk Naturally

Metaphysics for Aristotle was the study of being qua being.  For Aristotle, categories of language reflected fundamental structures, not so much in the world (for what can be in the world can also not be) but composing the world.  Today, most people speak of ontology, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines as the study "of what there is".  This definition is deceptive, because ontology is not really empirical (much as people want to claim it is), because it is not an empirical question as to whether abstract entities like the soul or numbers exist.  In fact, the question of what is an empirical question is not actually an empirical question itself, it is a question about the meaning of the concept "empirical", and the boundaries of this concept.

In so much as we seek a definition, we seek to draw a limit on a concept.  Divination is an empirical process:  you say the question, you say the invocation, you throw the coconuts or the tarot cards or whatever, and you interpret the answer.  But, of course, most people who insist on a strict definition of what is an empirical answer (which is bound up with what is an empirical question) are interested in excluding divination.  I do not point this out because I have any burning interest in including divination within the purview of what is an empirical answer, but to point out the vagueness in our use of the concept of empirical.  It is not that the results of divination are not empirically manifest, but rather that methods of divination are not based on an empirical method.

What are we doing when we say these methods are empirical and these methods are not empirical?  We are establishing a difference, in language, between two methods, and in so doing, we are giving the concept of empirical a meaning.  One can only speak of empirical methods, like experimental physics, because there are other methods, like tarot readings, which are not empirical methods.  Moreover, this process of creating identity and difference is not really an exercise in pure taxonomy.  For example, if we had a discussion about defining the identity of the master race, and distinguishing that race from the inferior races, this would not be merely creating a taxonomy of the human species.  Differences in language reflect differences in values.  We seek to make a distinction between empirical methods and non-empirical methods because we want to establish a hierarchy between empirical methods and non-empirical methods.  Moreover, this differentiation does not add to our knowledge of the empirical world, because it is not about empirical discovery, learning new facts about the world, it is about empirical classification--not the discovery of facts, but the ordering of facts.  Moreover, these classifications are not being made for personal edification, they are chiefly concerned with the creation of a political order, a system of power.  For example, one could imagine a government allocating money to fund empirical methods, and arguments being made about whether a method is or is not empirical by various interested parties.  So what is ontology, if not an political endeavor, an attempt to police language, with the end of reinforcing and/or undermining various social institutions, customs, and modes of speech.

I used the master race example for a reason, because it highlights the nakedly political aspect of ontology.  An ontology reflects not a description of "what there is", but a political vision of what should be.  Aristotle and Plato came to philosophy in large part based on their concerns about the management of the Greek city-state.  Aquinas's philosophy was rooted in a vision of the hegemony of the Catholic Church.  Rousseau's philosophy is rooted in the emergence of the nation-state.  Heidegger's work was in part about legitimating an ethno-nationalist state.  Contemporary philosophy, in Anglo-English countries, primarily concerns itself with the creation of a post-human, post-democratic order ruled by technocrats.  The problem of philosophy of mind concerns itself with suppressing alternative anthropologies to the view of human beings as biochemical machines.  Because matter can only act on other matter, whereas a being with a soul can act on itself (it is animated), materialism is ultimately an attack on democratic institutions and respect for individual rights.  After all, if an easily manipulated voting machine casts a ballot for a particular candidate, who cares?  It is simply following its program, and if it votes the wrong way, it simply needs to be re-programmed to vote correctly, or recycled if it can't be fixed.  Why respect the rights of so-called individuals, when individuals are nothing more than complex things, emerged from the primal slime?  Why not round up and shoot the defectors from the new scientific order in the name of Progress, the way we would wipe out an infectious disease?  

With materialism, matter acting on matter, and Darwinism, morphological and behavioral differences ultimately attributable to genetics, or the influence of environmental chemicals on gene expressions,  we end up with one solution to behavioral and political and cultural differences:  elimination of the inferior organisms.  The destruction or enslavement of the weak by the powerful.  After all, you are only your genes or your brain, or whatever material substrate you claim the real you consists in, and if you are a defective thing, it is only sentiment and religious superstition that prevents society from having you exterminated.  This can be accomplished through an extreme form of a capitalism, where the weaker organisms are given the means and the ability to kill themselves off, or through more direct, authoritarian means, like Nazi Germany.  If we retain materialism, but reject reductionism, we can embrace dialectical materialism, that systems or configurations of matter give rise to forms of life.  Here, the behavior of organisms do not reflect individual choices (something made up by Christians to provide ideological cover for capitalism) but rather economic configurations.  In this view, power flows from the unequal distribution of resources, and, therefore, if you concentrate power in the hands of an absolute dictatorship which then equally distributes the resources, power and hierarchy will naturally disappear and create a stateless society.  (In contrast, if the unequal distribution of material resources flows from an invisible ordering power, it would require increasing concentrations of worldly power to suppress the natural order of things in accordance with your strict egalitarian vision.)  Because configurations of matter determine spirit, changes in matter result in changes in spirit.  Although we never saw the complete withering away of the State in the Soviet Union, this is undoubtedly the fault of the perfidious capitalist counter-revolutionary forces (and not a corrupt metaphysical inversion leading to a failed social order).

The chief objection I have to materialism, whether in a reductive version (as expressed in the German National Socialist movement) or a holistic version (as expressed by Communism), is political.  I want a political system that acknowledges the dignity and worth of individual human beings, and a political system that acknowledges the value of human achievement in collective cooperation and sacrifice.  That is to say, in my ontology, I give primacy to the principle of soul, and view the body as the manifestation of the soul, and I give primacy to the principle of spirit, and view empirical configurations of political economy as the effects of a collective spirit.  This leads to a location problem for these invisible souls and spirits, which is to say that these souls and spirits must all be located in God, the source and creator of all things visible and invisible.  I say these things because I value Liberty and National Sovereignty, and I understand that Liberty and National Sovereignty cannot be conceptually disentangled from Soul and Spirit, and if Soul and Spirit are the causes, not the effects of matter, then for conceptual clarity, we need to understand Soul and Spirit as the effects of something greater, beyond the limit of intelligibility but the source of intelligibility (thus, the nature of the ultimate source of all things cannot be put into words).  My main method is the method of ordinary language, because our existing political order, which approximates a system of Liberty and National Sovereignty, is based on the ordinary forms of our language, our folkways and folk psychology, which manifest our national culture.    

On the other hand, I am greatly pessimistic about the future of both Liberty and National Sovereignty, because I understand that "scientific ontology" is displacing traditional metaphysics and theology in favor of forms of language that can only manifest in the form of a totalitarian state.  The only thing that gives me hope is that the people who are selling this "scientific ontology" do not seem to understand the logical and political consequences of what they are selling.  For example, the shift in our national discourse from the criminal prohibition of sodomy, a voluntary action, to the creation of a class of people with a status, homosexuality, which is now supposedly a genetic condition.  The gay rights debate has now been framed about the status of a collective group, constituted by an essential biological characteristic, and whether we as a society choose to be political friends or enemies with this group.  I believe that some folks on the Left see this as a positive social development, because they believe that it may be possible to have a political order which "friends" everyone, or that society can reach some political equilibrium where historically marginalized groups share equal power.  Of course, this is impossible, because political groups have adverse political interests, and aiding one group is always harming another.  Societies are always hierarchical (although absolute concentration of power, e.g. extreme power hierarchies, can create conditions of relative economic equality) and the drive to oppress is a universal characteristic of humanity, based on fear of the Other.  The Left, if they succeed, will simply put historically marginalized groups in charge, who are just as likely to abuse their power as their predecessors--one can merely look to the mixed results of decolonization in the world.  Will we get Zimbabwe or South Africa?  Is this a more worthy political objective than the historical goal of governing on behalf of the common good of of all?   

The cultural Left today does not disagree with the Nazi party regarding the existence of homosexuals, only on what to do with them.  What has been achieved is the creation of a political identity, membership in a political group, by virtue of an essential, biological characteristic, instead of merely being an individual who happens to engage in certain kinds of behavior.  Although I do not want to see sodomy laws re-instated, I would like to witness a deconstruction of the homosexual in my lifetime.  After all, while some people clearly have a strong behavioral predisposition to engage in homosexual acts (just as 90% of alcohol is consumed by 10% of drinkers), this behavioral predisposition does not line up in any absolute way with the behavior, given the numbers of bisexuals, and the number of people who switch from heterosexual relationships to homosexual relationships and the reverse.  Once society makes the transition from deviant acts to deviant identities, the ground is paved for either preferential treatment ("friends") or political repression ("enemies").  Since we are now friends as a society with homosexuals, we are increasingly gearing up to battle with religious traditionalists, our new domestic enemies, with long-term cultural and political consequences for the future political direction of our country.  One could even say that we now have a perfect political rationale for the State to conduct a kulterkampf against elements of our civil society that insist on independence from the new political order.

We can see this process in reverse in the case of pedophilia, in which society no longer condemns morally abhorrent acts, but morally abhorrent people, who by virtue of their identity status, some kind of behavioral propensity rooted in biology, can be subjected to indefinite civil commitment, e.g. lifetime incarceration in a special mental institution.  At least, so says our Supreme Court.  On the other hand, given the ways in which we have taken religious identity, racial identity, ethnic identity, and gender identity off the table, perhaps it is inevitable that we manufacture new forms of political identity, and create new political hierarchies based on the dolling out on one hand collective rewards, and on another hand, collective punishment.  I suspect these battles will justify the use of state power against those independent elements of civil society that insist on preserving traditional forms of culture and customs, instead of merely acting as mirrors of the ruling state ideology.  Rather than a system of Liberty based on the traditional virtues with a Sovereign Nation, we are moving to a system of Freedom based on politically validated modes of consumerism within a transnational system of capitalism.  Things defined by their consumption of other things and managed by technocrats, which our new ontology defines as naturally just "what there is".

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Beast

Man is, in his heart, a beast.  He rapes, he kills, he pillages, he destroys for gain, and he destroys for pleasure.  He spends hours, planning, plotting, ready at the right moment to take his chance.  His passions overflowing, without rhyme, reason, he strikes, brutally, even at those he claims to love.  These are not the characteristics of a few, some misguided souls, this is in the hearts of all, inexplicable, yet the source of all crimes and wickedness in the world.

Because man is a beast, a rational beast, he does what all rational people would do:  he places himself in a cage.  First, the Nation:  he places himself subject to law, and to the duties of citizenship.  Second, the Church:  he places not only his body, but his soul in the care of a higher law, and a higher set of duties demanded by God.  Third, work, marriage and the family: he places a bound on his fecundity, and its directionality, to cultivate and redeem.  Man cannot be brought to love, but he can be brought to a cage, and perhaps, by grace, he can begin to walk in love, to love his cage, his limitations, his obligations, and he has the possibility of transforming this beast that rages in his heart into something gentle, compassionate, just.  Our cage makes it possible to become bigger than what we are on our own.  Alone, we are savage beasts, but together, bound in mutual obedience, we can become civilized, compassionate, cultured, wise, and loving.

This is the true corruption of modernity, the belief that man can be something higher than man in the cage, that he can throw off his cage and find his true self.  Man's true self, his true image, comes in his acceptance of his limits.  To pretend he can transcend these limits invariably renders him bestial.  He invokes the good, the right, and the true to dispel the idea he can and should be limited.  Not only a beast, but a foolish one by all accounts.