Philosophy continued & concluded
Scientology 1.0.0 – part 15
“History is Philosophy teaching by example.” —Thucydides
Man has been very good at a great many things, especially at figuring out how reality actually works (at least so far). This is philosophy. When things haven’t worked well, philosophy has been abandoned and replaced by other sorts of mentation, such as idolatry or, even more problematic, ideology.
Maybe this is because, psychologically speaking, he is prone to stress and the “either this or that” (binary) thinking that comes with it (see article, Infinity-Valued Logic). As a result, he has also been very good at starting unnecessary fights over ideas.
To wit: although there were various stages between the ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries and the thinkers of the mid-twentieth century (such as pragmatism and existentialism), the basic squabble between these various schools remains the same: reason versus meaning. Which is true? Is it truer to believe in scientific facts or to believe in God? Principles of reality or principles of morality? See? None of these things are mutually exclusive in any way. Unless you are doing the binary tango, that is.
Some thinkers, insisting on looking at life through this polarising lens, are, really, just obfuscating the actual issue, which is, “What is reality?” And, “How well can we understand it?” And, “Once understood, what’s the best sort of thing to do with that knowledge?” Answering these kinds of questions properly can, and does, create “the good life.”
But by the middle of the 19th century, a century of fantastic degrees of change, all this noise had helped tilt the whole field of philosophy, which was now becoming so complicated and confusing that it began to be hacked by ideologies.1 Now what is being fought over, still being fought over, is… who gets to control you.
Yes, you. Politics!
Philosophically, you should control you and the state should help protect your right to do so. On the other hand, the most pressing political issue of the past one hundred and fifty years is: should you control yourself or should others?
What a question! Especially when it was so thoroughly answered some three hundred and thirty years earlier.
Thomas Hobbes wrote a grim book, Leviathan.
It’s about who should have the monopoly on the use of violence. Apparently, to get various groups to stop squabbling and killing one another, there ought to be another group (the state) that gets the “absolute right” to force them to knock it off. Things get very dangerous when this monopoly exceeds its own “rights” and jumps lanes, which is why so many people get so upset about politics.
As Will Durant says, “If man asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous.” Thank you Mr. Durant! Without realising it, we the people start fighting over how the government should use their monopoly on violence and against whom, because we haven’t properly noticed (or don’t care) that the state has slipped its bonds.
If one has gotten the political bug (far more dangerous than other kinds of plague), one has to be very honest with themselves. Whatever your pet political issues are, they are probably some emotional peeve that has you pushing for the State to enforce your arbitrary ideas on some other disgusting, horrible person or group that needs to be forced to bow down and obey.
At the end of the day, whatever your agenda, however innocent it seemed, all you’ve done is given more power to a centralised government which, when eventually taken over by your worst enemies, will, inevitably, turn their guns on you and your loved ones to make you pay.
To the contemporary state, you are a mere animal, tax-cattle on a vast tax farm. For all their rhetoric, mostly all that’s been happening since the mid-eighteenth century is various political interests vying for the opportunity to manipulate the citizenry into supporting some party, or other, which is actually mostly owned by a self-appointed custodial elite. To succeed in this, it is vitally important that nobody knows or understands philosophy, which today they don’t.
On that uplifting note, I continue and conclude these little articles on philosophy, which I write in aid of explaining why, if one doesn’t know the subject somewhat, one is not going to understand Scientology 1.0.0 very well either.
By the 1850s, philosophy was getting tangled up with age-old political ideologies.
Politics refers to the principles relating to or inherent in a sphere or activity, especially when concerned with power and status.
Power is physical strength and force exerted by something or someone.
Status: a position of high rank or social standing.
Ideology: a system of beliefs and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy (emphasis mine.)
Even though real philosophers tried to stick to real principles, new theories about “power dynamics” were making the whole field of how to think more confusing.
Karl Marx (1818–1883), one of the most influential modern philosophers,2 observed that in many cases, labourers were handled by their employers as commodities, raw materials that could be bought and sold.
Per Karl, man’s arc is not one of increasing cooperation, but rather an endless bloody brawl over power. Since this use of workers was dehumanising, he decided to frame the human adventure through the single lens of “class struggle.” Whoa, whoa! Too simple Karl! On the other hand, he’s not completely wrong; remember the “sundry multitude of tyrants and conquerors?” (See article, The Wild Mind, Part VIII). Instead of murderers on horseback, though, now they’re in dark suits and pacing the halls of finance and government (and now, even education).
Anyway, Karl, among others, helped set the stage for the kind of “philosophy” we suffer today by continuing the tradition of confusing theoretical Counter-Enlightenment turgidity and adding in fundamentally inapplicable political ideologies (apologies to devout communists and Marx fans).
As art (see article, The Wild Mind, Part I), so goes philosophy. Big time.
Here’s a really great book: Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen R. C. Hicks.
Postmodernism, a true witch’s brew, was concocted because it appeared most of Karl’s ideas were extremely unworkable and had failed everywhere they’ve been tried.3
The reason for that failure is socialism. That is to say, anything “owned and run” by a group, or “community,” rapidly falls into dis-coordination and eventually chaos (failure). This can sometimes happen even with just two people when nobody’s “in charge” (coordination).4 The phenomenon goes beyond mere error and into the field of psychology because it has been tried and failed so many, many times, in so many places, all through history, that we should have learned the lesson by now. Even the first settlers in the New World tried it, confronted as they were with a clean slate, and they very nearly starved to death.
The easy test of this assertion is not to watch how a group functions when all is quiet and normal (it often fails even then) but when, inevitably, an emergency crops up.
As socialism, especially when instituted on a large scale, predictably begins to fail (mainly as a result of the emergencies its dis-coordination generates), all activities of the group eventually have to come under some sort of a centralised point of order or else perish. Centralised control, either in the form of one person, or some sort of committee (for those of you who remember the Soviet Union, soviet, or the Russian sovet, means council or committee). If this happens to a whole society, then it’s “communism.”
One reason it fails is that any properly functioning society (or civilisation, for that matter) has about a googolplex of moving parts or more. Since a single leader, committee, or some kind of central government can only manage at most a few thousand moving parts before “the left hand no longer knows what the right hand is doing,” then you see the problem with both socialism and its all-devouring big brother, communism. To illustrate, imagine if each part of your body, which also consists of an unfathomably large number of moving parts (each cell being literally intelligent), required your thorough attention and direction in order to function. Well, you’d be unconscious in about, oh, three minutes, say, and probably dead within ten.
One of the possible explanations why communism seems to so often resort to extreme violence as a means of enforcement is that, as things fall apart, the centralised control centre, run by one guy or a committee, not realising they’ve run into a systems design flaw (or not caring), thinks people are “sabotaging” the state and so sets about executing and imprisoning them for various “crimes” against said state (democide).
And as more failure ensues, more people get executed, and so on. Hum, de, dum. Over generations, by means of murdering “wrong-thinkers” and randomly selected citizens, this creates easily tractable populations, such as those in many places today (but even then they fail eventually). This is the definition of “social Darwinism,” by the way.
This break down of communism everywhere, utterly clear by the 1950’s, made it necessary for the high-priests of ideological pathologies to step things up considerably.
To give postmodernism its due, it basically (in my words) takes the Kantian idea that any actual knowledge of reality is impossible and goes a step or two farther by asserting that even what people are perceiving together can never be the same thing, and so there can be no shared knowledge of whatever is objective either. So much for cooperation!
This astounding claim is achieved by making the observation that every viewpoint, that is, you looking at an object, sees it from a different perspective and so does not see exactly the same thing as anybody else looking at the same thing. Anyone looking at something cannot see it in the same way, even if they take your position (because it is now a different moment in time), which is quite true.5 In postmodernism, the same thing goes for thoughts and ideas. To be clear: if anything can mean everything, and if everything can mean anything, then either everything means nothing or nothing means anything. That’s a kind of black magic, right? Right. Because it’s nihilism.
As seemingly keen an observation as this is, how is it, um, useful? It’s too absolutist for one thing. At best, man is only able to make handy models of reality, proving that they are good enough because the results are… useful. Useful and helpful.
But then, postmodern theorising isn’t helpful; not only is it almost entirely abstract, it’s mostly just “beguilingly entertaining,” (snore), which is actually, believe it or not, the professed purpose of this pseudo-philosophy-ideology-cult, according to one of its high-priests, Stanley Fish (1938–).
He says, “Deconstruction” “relieves me of the obligation to be right and demands only that I be interesting.” Well, cow patties can be utterly fascinating too, depending on who’s looking at ‘em, I suppose.
Then there is Michel Foucault (1926–1984), “It is meaningless to speak in the name of — or against — Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.” Well, then, there you go.
Foucault is a perfect example of being utterly, and purposefully, convoluted and abstruse. As Nietzsche was to observe, “Philosophers all act as if they had discovered and arrived at their genuine convictions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely insouciant dialectic,” while “what essentially happens is that… they take some fervent wish that they have sifted through and made properly abstract – and [then] they defend it with rationalisations after the fact.” This is a way to say that philosophers, after the Enlightenment, tend to more engage in their own pathologies, rather than doing philosophy, and cover their disease by means of being wordy.
The “key” to postmodernism is “deconstruction.”
Deconstruction: a method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which is accomplished by focusing on a text as such (emphasis mine) rather than as an expression of the author’s intention, stressing the limitlessness (or impossibility) of interpretation and rejecting the Western philosophical tradition of seeking certainty through reasoning by privileging certain types of interpretation and repressing others. Whew! That there, in strictly philosophical terms, is called a gobsmack. It was effectively named and popularised by Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) in the late 1960s and taken up particularly by US literary critics and, eventually, many humanities professors.6
Deconstruction is the “critical” analysis of principles, whether in morality or reason, in order to “demonstrate” that since nothing can actually be known, then there is no validity to them… or anything else (except, of course, those doing the deconstructing).
Why bother with the exercise then? Why tear everything down?
Power… again (groan)
Remember Hobbes? The idea that strength and brute power have played, still plays, some role in life is a pretty obvious fact, especially in the case of competing groups with totally different ideological views, such as fascists (the “right”) always fighting with communists (the “left”).
Karl and Michel, among many others of their ilk since the mid-nineteenth century, decided cynically that power was the one and only principle of human survival. Karl even went on to explain (in about a million words) that his “philosophy” was the final word, the only truly scientific study of social dynamics. In fact, there was no science in it at all, just his own biases.
It’s long been very plain that within society, power alone does not play any lasting role; in fact, it’s actually, eventually and inevitably, what tears groups and civilisations apart.7 The postmodernists double-down on Marxism to try to demonstrate that it does; that everything is all about power, only power, power to control; it’s just a matter of who gets to exercise it. But the postmodernist arguments are weak, and the only way weak arguments can overcome strong ones is to not have them.
The postmodernists do this so effectively that it’s birthed a form of morbid behaviour called “wokeism.” Woke (per the Merriam-Webster newspeak dictionary): aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice). This would ostensibly be in aid of achieving “fairness in all things.”
Fairness is a deeply important moral issue in life; it’s the foundation of jurisprudence, after all, when the system hasn’t been hijacked. The woke notion of fairness, however, is usually accomplished by re-engineering society through cynical negation and coercion based on the idea that humans are merely constructs (remember materialism? The Wild Mind, Part VIII) and so are infinitely malleable (by whom, one wonders). One of the methods of manipulation is through grievance claims: everyone who is perceived as a victim (and what that is exactly is always shifting depending on who or what stands to gain) can achieve transcendence over their perceived oppressors, à la Marx. The woke vision is: “no one better, richer or more powerful than anyone else.” That is a very Soviet idea indeed, especially in view of the fact that, to make that happen, it will require a limited self-anointed, heavily armed elite to be better, richer, and more powerful than everybody else.8
The hypocrisy of this is easy to spot. Such an activist, suffering from the postmodernist compensatory Dunning-Kruger effect, is perfectly fine if a Supreme Court Justice is appointed primarily because she is a black woman. But if their brain surgeon got their position just because they were a “Latinx” transsexual, do you think they’d “go under the knife?” Not on your life!
This re-engineering of society is partially accomplished by avoiding rational debate, shouting down or nullifying opposing voices, censorship, and making nothing out of all the earlier workable ideas, which is always a very effective power-play. All this is, of course, accomplished by the use of… power dynamics (sigh, eye-rolling). Power in the hands of a few, the very thing that, per Marxists and postmodernists, is supposed to be universally, unqualifiedly, and unredeemably evil.
Again, modifying society by ensuring no one is more powerful than anyone else simply opens the door for power to be eventually taken by a group or entity (leader) that is not concerned with fairness at all. Postmodern activists are childish, noisy, and disorderly, yes, but you definitely don’t want to meet the minions of “new order” and power waiting in the wings for their turn, no sir.
Anyhow, these contradictions are real brain-twisters. What could be at the bottom of them, psychologically speaking?
Hellooo Messrs Kant and Rousseau!
Humans are born with a wild package of feelings, everything from utter despair and apathy all the way up to ecstatic exhilaration (and more besides, as the mystics tell us). The thing is, even 300,000 years ago, one couldn’t leave it there because, to survive, one needs the facts of reality. So, wherever you look in history, some level of reasoning has to take place. And it had to be taught. (How that got started, who knows? Not my point though.)
By the 17th century, the Enlightenment seemed to be teaching reason as separate from emotions, as in “facts don’t care about your feelings.” The 18th century Counter-Enlightenment argued that you could not do that, that feelings matter, and they do. In the 20th century, postmodernism shuts down all logic and focuses on cynicism and righteous anger.
With deconstruction, we end up with contentious statements like “my truth” vs. “your truth” that are bad for society and show that we may be on the verge of getting rid of human cooperation.
Somehow, it has come to pass that feelings, such as the oft-mentioned subject of “empathy,” have been reduced to all the pain and suffering that comprise the world of darker emotions, while ignoring entirely those emotions that pair with courage, virtue, excellence, honor, love, and compassion (see article, Space, Emotion, and Well-Being).
The result? Today, we’re confronted with frenzied children (some of whom are now in their seventies and eighties) who are only interested in their own narcissistic anger, resentment, and endless double standards, as well as by legions of frightened folk clamouring for safety and dictatorships.
Philosophy’s goal is to explain the principles of the universe and of life that, when followed, lead to a state called eudemonia.
That term Socrates used, arete, in its most basic sense, refers to “excellence,” and also “virtue.” Socrates saw arete as the whole point of philosophy, with, I’d guess, ataraxia, a state of serene calmness (“a-“, negation and tarachē “disturbance, trouble”), or eudaimonia, a state of tranquility or “good spirit” (eû,”good, well” and daimōn, “dispenser, tutelary deity”).
Desirable, no? That would certainly answer what the whole point of the life game is. Feeling good, often joyful, most of the time tranquil, all the while deeply involved. That is the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point, so help us God. If one is experiencing anything else, then something is terribly, horribly wrong. And probably not because one is a victim of others but of oneself, because of not knowing the principles as laid out in philosophy.
But, like art, religion, and so on, philosophy is now hopelessly complicated and confusing. No one who wants to get along in the world would ever waste their time studying it, unless they want to risk spending the rest of their lives washing dishes (and thinking that washing dishes is such an awful fate should tell one that they know nothing about philosophy).
Meantime, look at all our stuff! This morning, our coffee and toast were practically made for us; our car started right up; the roads and traffic lights all worked. If it’s summer, our homes are cool; if it’s winter, they are cozy and warm. We carry around in our pockets a computer that is whole magnitudes more powerful than the ones that helped get man to the moon, and it’s connected to the most powerful information/entertainment network ever devised. Maybe we should pay some serious attention to how all that happened before we are going to need state permission to use any of it. Or before we kill off the Golden Goose altogether. If we do not knuckle down and learn all the positive steps in thinking that got us all this neat stuff and all the liberty and leisure time that could and can go with it, then it’ll be that much easier for us to be convinced to give it all away.
Remember the lockdowns? That was just the tiniest taste of what’s in store.
Well, I’ve yet again used the broadest possible brush to paint a picture that actually requires the most detail-oriented tools and so left myself open to much disputation and refutation. I can only say in my defence that these are my own views in aid of pointing out, mainly, the following:
Reality is inescapably real. Truth isn’t based on someone’s opinion; it’s definitely not just subjective or relative. There is no “your truth” or “my truth” (except for purposes of therapy).
A tactic of the postmodernists is confusion. They declare that nothing can actually be known, that there is no “universal truth.” Which is to proclaim a universal truth, right? (Weird.)
The good news is that postmodernist-inspired activism is on the wane, but something far more destructive and terrifying is waiting in the wings.
The war over who gets to control you is fought first with words and ideas, and then with bullets, gulags, and mass graves. But definitely first with words and ideas. Where ideas are useful and promote further cooperation, then that’s actual philosophy. Where ideas are merely interesting, but not (yet) useful, that’s theory. Where the ideas divide us, that’s not philosophy at all but ideology, or, if you look at it from a Mosaic point of view, idolatry.
The real truth is, at least in my opinion, we are only at the very, very, earliest stages of using reason to investigate the facts of our world, indeed the whole universe. What wonders are to come are almost unimaginable.
To keep evolving without blowing ourselves up, as my father was concerned, or tearing everything down only to be replaced by some “new world order” that will make the Nazis, Soviets, or CCP look like a poor dress rehearsal, as seems to be more the concern in ours, was the original role of Scientology 1.0.0.
You see, once our philosophy is dominated by pseudo-non-philosophies (golden calfs), like postmodernism and its political arms, there can be only one result: chaos. But so what? Mad Max could be fun, no? Well, maybe so, but it’s actually not chaos that will be the result. It’ll be the forces of absolute order, fully armed with the fruits of the Enlightenment (technology). It’s this that is being called into being, like evil daemons, not the tutelary ones, by all the postmodern child-people who, having torn it all down and discovered they killed the golden goose, will clamour loudly for the very powers that have manipulated them all along. The powers that have manipulated them and patiently waited. Waited and planned.
There’s only one real solution: self-help through education. To not be a pawn in such a game, one needs to know philosophy and history and learn how to think critically. One should never seek to solve a problem not actually understood. Try not to inject yourself with either policy or chemicals until you fully understand how they work. If education is too steep, then get into therapy (the correct purpose of therapy is to assist the individual to help themselves). Either way, education in reason has been at the core of man’s terrific success.
Gone are the days of the benign patriarch, the kindly expert, into whose friendly hands you could blindly and safely entrust all your hopes and dreams, assuming that was ever the case.
The sovereign individual
The Sovereign Individual: self-ownership, is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life. In other words, nobody’s slave.
There have been many, from the Counter-Enlightenment on, who were quite understandably concerned with the Enlightenment’s emphasis on the individual. Could not this lead to “individuation”, the individual so obsessed with their own individuality, their own uniqueness, that society goes begging? What about the right of society to survive? Yes, they had a very good point, and it is still a good point.
Yes, a very good point. Answer: If the individual is properly schooled in philosophy, then acting in their own best interests does not disallow cooperation with the larger group for the betterment of all. The ethical being assists all survival vectors including society. They are trustworthy.
But because the data-sets grow exponentially as one counts the vectors out from one person, to a group, to a society, and so on, eventually the information becomes unmanageable moment to moment. Go outward far enough and it becomes almost unknowable.9 The only way to solve this problem, instead of having a central dictator who won’t have all the necessary information either, is to let each person use the data he or she actually has access to right now to figure out what to do.
The mark of rising civilisation isn’t total calmness and peace; it’s dynamic, productive, and often dangerous; but look for the overall intelligence. Man has never been smarter (or crazier) than he is today. Want peace? Go to a cemetery.
The only way out of this conundrum is through increased knowledge. Intelligence is the ability to avoid binary thought and instead “think” with complex systems (mostly by letting them alone) and taking full responsibility for one’s own person, one’s own bailiwick. This would be the essence of what John Locke postulated and later came to be called the sovereign individual.
As Mr. Locke said, “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” John Dee, the 16th century alchemist, said, “Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent.”
True, true. But today, no one who wishes to stave off the yoke of tyranny can afford to be silent. But one also should not speak if one doesn’t understand. Anyone who can sit still and read has no excuse, no excuse whatsoever, not to study and learn philosophy and history so as to become this sovereign individual. And then pass on what has been learned.
The sovereign individual is definitely not socially irresponsible. Sovereign individuals are what the United States’ founding fathers and mothers were, and look at what they created.
An ultimate sovereign individual was Jesus Christ (as well as much more).
Despite all today’s noise and chaos, more and more of these new humans are appearing, a sort of evolved Homo sapiens: Homo novellus sapiens, or New Wise Human. I can’t prove this, but that’s what I think.
Finally, the Sovereign Individual, as embodied by as many people as possible; this was and continues to be the sole purpose of philosophy, as well as Scientology 1.0.0.
1 The difference between a philosophy and an ideology is that a philosophy depends on observation of the natural world, while an ideology depends on abstract notions about reality. In other words, philosophy tries to get at how things actually are and ideology works to get at how one hopes they will be.
2 Probably because he had a lot of interesting things to say about economics. What I think is so interesting about Karl is how consistently he attracts people who don’t trust, or even like, people.
3 Full-on socialism, always with a bayonet, has never worked, despite protestations by Marx’s advocates that “true communism has never been tried.” This is sort of true. Communism could only “work” in a totally closed system. That’s to say, if it was global and there were absolutely no free markets anywhere on Earth. The purpose behind the Chinese communists’ loosening their stranglehold on their country was for this very reason.
4 Talk to any ballroom dancer, for instance. Someone always has to lead, even if the role gets switched. And you’ve heard what happens when there are two chefs in the kitchen.
5 This idea gets traction because it’s true. In fact, it’s based on a very Hindu idea, except the Hindus aren’t nihilists.
6 Almost all departments these days, including STEM. By the way, these schools and universities have been used for a long time to teach conventional thinking and blind obedience to authority, which is very important for a society that is focused on safety and leadership (here come the commissars, the führers, and “Presidents For Life”).
7 Power, the sort being referred to, is the kind that is effectively and correctly used in emergencies only. I refer you to the example of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
8 Actually, this business of what’s fair, who should work for whom, how and why, has been fought about forever. Plato, for instance, worried about open markets and the resultant wealth because some people would have more than most of the rest, and that could disrupt the harmony of society. This disparity is called the pareto principle and is a natural systems effect that can only be suppressed by either all people being equally poor, as with primitive societies, or by use of force to keep all people equal (as in, equally poor).
9 This is the problem the political ecologists are forever running into with “climate change” and why their models keep shifting around as much as they do.