“Kant” Revisited: Zizek and Hegel

Let’s traverse down memory lane once again with another transcript from the defunct My Life With Kant podcast.

Through mismanagement, I’ve lost track of most of the transcripts. As I find them, I’ll be publishing them here.

As usual, I don’t edit and spellcheck. So good luck and enjoy!

branches&creatures

Believe it or not, this podcast was one bad day away from being called “My Life with Hegel”…which, by the way, I completely regret naming this show “My Life With Kant”. You know…in hindsight, I probably should have named it “Existential Angst” or “The Arguing with Myself” podcast. But whatever, here I am.

But it was the German Idealists that intrigued me first…Notably GWF Hegel. There’s just something so enigmatic about him…the fact that he influenced so much of 19th Century philosophy…and yet no one understood him. How does that even work? But I’m such an audiophile, that I listen to all kinds of books and podcasts…and Charlton Heston’s reading of, the synopsis of Hegel’s career, contributes so much to the mythos of Hegel the Philosopher…you know, by saying things like: Hegel not remembering what he meant with certain paragraphs, and making it the reader’s responsibility to understand the reading…to the point where he would deliberately make his writing difficult. All of this seems to indicate that Hegel teeters on the border between philosopher and simple madman.

His philosophy can be considered so “out-there” and convoluted, that he has more or less fallen out of favor in modern circles, despite his influence. But not everyone is intimidated by this labyrinth of a philosopher. Slavoj Zizek, the contemporary Slovenian thinker, in his work titled “Less Than Nothing”, calls the decades between the publishing of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and the death of Hegel, as some of the most crucial regarding human thought. And it’s a shame that I never got around to exploring German Idealism in its entirety (well, at least not yet), But Zizek says of the big Four within this sub-genre, as echoed by Badiou…quote “Kant relates to Newtonian science, his basic question being what kind of philosophy is adequate to the Newtonian breakthrough; Fichte relates to politics, to the event that is the French Revolution; Schelling relates to (Romantic) art and explicitely subordinates philosophy to art as the highest approach to the Absolute; and Hegel, finally, relates to love; his underlying problem is, from the very beginning of his thought, that of Love.” End quote.

And thankfully from that, I have more ideas for new episodes. But, I guess the project for German Idealism…especially for Kant…is that when seeking philosophical certainty, we needn’t concern ourselves with the objectable “Thing-in-Itself” that we don’t have access to, but instead…with the phenomena of our PERCEPTIONS of the thing-in-itself. This, understandably, is so disconcerning for many thinkers, notably Schopenhauer…who essentially criticized Kant for constructing a barrier, to shield us from the fact that he was, basically defending Christianity.

But Zizek asks the question: “What if there is more truth in the mask, than the face beneath it?”. Therefore Kant missed the biggest point of his gigantic philosophical project. Remember how I was trying to deny reality in the last episode? Well, thanks to Kant and the German Idealists, I can ALMOST do that. Not that I can deny the EXISTANCE of reality, but I can almost deny our INTERPRETATION of reality, as being nothing more than a self-serving device, (Not intended to isolate us from truth, but instead, it is to help us navigate the landmine that is “the thing-in-itself”), and because this a construct of the mind, the perception of the TOTALITY of the “thing-in-itself” can be changed, and is not concrete. Therefore, the real project of philosophy is understand THE MASK, and not the face behind it. So, please invite me back to your parties, I’m not THAT crazy.

But Zizek wants to place Hegel above the other three German thinkers. Because according to him, We ponder and observe the unknowable thing, and because of our frustrations with understanding, this is evidence of Truth.

I should point out though, That Zizek is not without some controversy, and his YouTube videos are a glorious sight to behold. He often flips people’s arguments, and then draws the same conclusions. This can appear insane at best, and downright Evil at worst. I read somewhere, that he thought Nazism failed, not because it was an evil ideaology….but because it didn’t go far enough! If a celebrity said that, there would be a MASSIVE apology tour. I’m pretty fucking far from being a Nazi apologist, but just think about it….what if the Hitler succeeded in his world domination? We don’t even need to do that much thinking, there’s a very good television series on Amazon about this very problem. But if they succeeded in the real world, would that have been a major paradigm shift in our morals? So we appeared to have dodged a bullet. But that’s the kind of road that we have to traverse when we explore Zizek.

And the book “Less than Nothing” is quite an undertaking. Luckily, Zizek seems to road rage his way through philosophers (which is pretty much what I do), so hopefully I’ll be able to make it through this book. We’ll see though.

But I’ve always thought fiction or creative reflections make far better philosophy than typical treatises. And in a Kantian sense, where we are far more concerned with the veil covering ultimate reality, writing and are provides us with a far more accurate picture on the monolith staring back at us. It’s unrestricted from the true themes that affect the heart. Philosophers can attempt to describe these experiences in a clinical sense, but rarely is there any connection to the actual human condition.

What really takes the reader into an alternate world, is reading testimonies of terror and survival. The case in point here, as Zizek explains, is the Holocaust. No amount of words put together in any order, can adequately explain the true horrors of this event. Yet those that did survive, needed to convey to the world what actually happened, even though we are disconnected from those experiences. Zizek explains that survivors returned home, only to find that their family and friends couldn’t comprehend the gravity of those experiences. To cope, or as a way to direct their message to a willing receiver, they told their journey to something called “The Big Other”. Or, in other words, something that will understand, even if it’s not present in a temporal sense. Some writers might direct their angst towards future generations, who might be more understanding of their predicament. But this is not a given.

Some might despair at the thought at not finding an audience, but perhaps the bigger picture is to capture moments between the Idea and the Real…with a capital I and R. Or as he says, quote: “There is more truth in appearances than what may be hidden beneath.” End quote. And that’s some pretty spooky stuff. Leading him to say that the benefit of having a poem about the Holocaust is that it provides the “Idea of the Holocaust”, which forces us to reckon with the terror that it really was. The terminology here, gets a bit wonky for me, but the things that we perceive, often distracts us from the reality of what it really is; sex being an exchange of bodily fluids, food being dead animals and vegitables and such. And the ideas that we receive are not perceptions of the Real, but are actually DISTRACTIONS….or escapes from the REAL, as Zizek says.
So those ideas do not generate on their own power, but are a culmination of the empirical world. Therefore, as the positivists are all too aware of, only the physical world is real. Bringing us to the problem Hegel was trying to answer….the problem of metaphysics. But Zizek explains that the question doesn’t become: “how do we discover truth behind ideas, but how are ideas generated from truth.”

So perhaps this is why I call this thing “My Life with Kant”, because this is essentially Kant’s project. If Zizek is any indication, philosophers today haven’t really moved passed this problem…we form our conceptions of the thing-in-itself based on a priori means, making these means the basis metaphysics, post-Kant. According to this definition, even the analytic philosophers are unwittingly engaging in this metaphysical discussion…namely by focusing on language. Which, we can think of in some ways as being an a prioric tool to understanding the world. I don’t if that’s correct, so don’t get pissy with me, analytic philosophers, I’m just saying it. And Google brought up all kinds of nonsense when I tried to research it, so who knows?

But Zizek places Hegel above Kant, so in actuality, we haven’t moved passed Hegel’s project. And speaking of nonsense, get a load of this. Zizek says, quote: “Appearance is appearance reflected against the background of nothing (or, to put it in terms of quantum physics, all entities arise out of the quantum vacillations). Appearance is nothing in-itself.” End quote. YES!!!! Everyday I get one step closer to rationally denying the real world. But what does this mean?

Just as matter is the filling of the void…as to are the appearances of things. Our perceptions are the fillingness of the nothingness behind it. As I’m saying that, this sounds dangerously close to George Berkeley…as in…”to be is to be perceived”. But as where Berkeley would claim that nothing exists outside of the mind…perhaps Zizek would say that not even the mind exists! So we can quit this whole philosophical discourse, because when it comes to the ultimate question of “why is there something rather than nothing?”, Zizek would say that there is ONLY nothing, OR, “from Nothing, through nothing, to nothing.” So I’m just completely wasting your time. Or, as the great Sammy Hagar would say, this is all “mental masturbation”.

But this nothingness isn’t all gloom and doom. After all, the Buddhist notion of no-self, would lead us to the nothingness, or flame out, which is the path towards Nirvana. But Zizek doesn’t subscribe to this, preferring to see this nothing as just a “pure gap”, ontologically speaking. And its from here where we can bridge off into the mechanics of reality, where the positivists might reduce everything to matter in motion. But it’s also from here, where we can take away the matter, and just leave motion. That is, if I’m understanding this correctly.

Carl Sagan said something similar in “The Cosmos”, during his whole “making a pie” sketch. We’re all dorks here, you know what I’m talking about….that atoms are mostly empty spaces. So the universe is primarily made up of, nothing at all. And if Carl Sagan said it, then it is good enough for me. So the matter that does occupy an atom, is really just energy in motion, causing mass. And when that energy ceases to be in motion, then it reverts back to nothing. What am I talking about? Doesn’t matter because I’m talking about…nothing. But again, we find that positive reality is just a network of interconnectedness. So how do we bring about free will? Or something that can generate an act, independent of this network?

Now for Zizek, we seem to be at a crossroads….we can choose the metaphysical path of Plato (not that I know anything about that). Or we can continue to kick the same materialist/positivists/postmodern can down the road.

One of the things that distinguishes the human mind from others (and why I suppose, a purely Darwinist approach would be insufficient to explain it) is that we are able to willfully deceive ourselves in order to believe fiction…or become infatuated with the veil. If the veil were to be removed, it would reveal the emptiness behind it, and the charade would be over. This is the mechanism of fetishness. The infatuation falls unto the cloth that covers the reality behind it. And if it was taken away, the mythos disappears and we are left with a void…the reality of nothing.

Now I have to spend more time of social media than I like, mostly Twitter because I’m lazy. And you look at the work of fellow starving artists…and what you find is the celebration of awkwardness, or the quote “creepy cuteness”. And those things are fine, a lot of it is very well done. But that’s the infatuation with the veil that I was speaking of. The reality of the perpetually awkward is how socially crippling those situations can be…or that a zombie will eat your mother fucking face off!!! And zombies aren’t even real, they’re a veil over the veil. The dwelling in the so-called “darker” aspects of life, is not the acceptance of the nothingness of life…but only serves to distract you from the terror that REALLY exists.

Not to put words in Zizek’s mouth, but I suppose we can take this grand assumption all the way down…down to the subatomic level…where we see the atoms, and protons, and God-knows what else that makes an atom…but we see them for what they really are…a mask. But what alarms me about this absence of reality is…other than the obvious being, half the horseshit we deal with, day in and day out…but in the age in which we live, how much of our politics are just facades?…Trying to deceive ourselves into believing that our projects are all that important? Like there’s an “end all, be all” solution to our problems. Or would we rather not face the fact that, heh…we are all just making it up as we go? Are the policies which we create just stand-ins for myths…that get categorized for having practical implications for the real world? So is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” just another mythologizing of mathematics, economics, and politics that we hold dear today? Making it no different than Aesop’s Fables?

Now there’s a shitton more to this book, but it’s longer than War and Peace, I mean like…literally, it’s longer than War and Peace. So, I completely missed Zizek’s larger points, so if you want to learn more…read the damn book yourself. You’re welcome Slavoj Zizek…you just got free publicity.

But what I actually was Hegel…who has alarmingly gone seldom mentioned in this podcast. But look, I don’t know if the idea of nothingness is empirically sound…but, I just hate this world so much, that I’ll believe anything that contradicts it. So instead of talking about Hegel, we got to talk about…nothing at all.

“Kant” Revisited: No-Self

I’ve been slacking off lately. My apologies. So I’ve got to make up some ground I lost for fucking around last week. So here’s some more transcripts from the My Life With Kant days.

As usual, I don’t edit. So please forgive the spelling and grammatical errors.

branches&creatures

I’ve bitched and complained before about having to live in modern society. Sure, not having to die in your mid-20’s due to a bear attack is awesome, but you know, if business school has taught me anything, is TINSTAAFL…you know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes at a cost.

Although living in a production society for the last thousand years has produced tremendous results. Life expectancy has gone through the roof. We can go into FUCKING SPACE! What other species occupying this planet has done that? Love us or hate us, you gotta admit, humans have done pretty well for themselves despite running around with our wangs hanging out just a few millennia ago.

But like I said, everything comes at a cost. Millions, if not billions, of people had to die as a result of disease, war, and other atrocities in order to get to today. So there’s that cost. But what has it cost the human psyche?

We take for granted today that we have language and personal property and government protection and the billions of people that exist independent of you. It didn’t turn that way over night. At one point, somewhere in time, there had to be the first humans. Mind you, it was a gradual change, but what would have been the thoughts of the first people? Of course, it wouldn’t have been, “holy shit, we’re people, and alive!”. But, I imagine (and I’m more than likely wrong, but just entertain me here for a second), primitive humans wouldn’t have had a sophisticated language system to help them process thoughts. It was probably less of a system and more of a rudimentary local dialect, that would have shared similarities with other groups, but would have varied from group to group. Now there’s probably some language theorist out there somewhere calling me a fucking idiot, but that’s besides the point.

The point that I want to reach is, when did this conception of “I” come to be? Do you see what I’m saying? Now I’m sure that some Marxist out there would like to claim that the transition from hunter-gathers to agrarians would have caused a shift in personal identity, where the individual would have seen themselves as primarily a member of their family or group, or something like that. But I won’t go that far. But there had to come at some point where it finally occurred to someone, “shit, I’m gonna die someday.” I think this sort of existential angst is what sets us apart from other animals. I mean, do dogs wonder around thinking about death and life’s meaning? Maybe they do, I don’t know.

But what you gotta remember is, that back in the cavemen days (which was MOST of human existence by the way), discovering meaning wouldn’t have been much of a problem. There’s the argument that because they had to spend most of their time surviving, there was no time to think of such things. But there’s another thing. What would they have compared their meaning to? If they were just wondering nomads, what would have been their definitions of success? They weren’t searching for monetary wealth or fame, their neighbors probably had the same resources and goods that they had, so what more was there?

Of course, this would have been giving early humans more credit than they probably deserve. There was most absolutely oppressors and oppresses. But was there a conception of personal gain? Of history? Or ‘otherness’? I don’t know. But today, we are self-aware animals. But once upon a time, we were just animals.
….
Over the course of thousands of years, humanity has shifted the primary concerns of existence away from survival. Very few of us have to fear death from the elements or predators. Now we compete with one another. Questions of the day are no longer “how will I eat today.” Now it is, “will my existence matter?”.

We are no longer in a group of a hundred, where we struggled together for survival. Now we are just one in 9 billion people…forced to live in a world where the individual is just one cog in a greater machine. In a sense, there’s an insecurity that the individual feels, knowing that they are only one person within the multitude. Instead of the connection with others, they turn their focus to the inside…the mechanism of vanity. This is only enabled by our technological advancements. The tale of the 21st Century can be told through social media.

Now, perhaps more than ever, narcissism reigns king.

You know yourself, right? You are you…this finite being. Your appearance might change over time, but you still look behind the same eyes. Despite the tides and turns of time, you still remain you. Does it have to be this way? What if the idea of “you” was just an illusion? Let’s venture out of the comfort of European philosophy, and go east.
The Buddha was concerned with suffering. Suffering is pretty much the story of mankind. That’s pretty much what history is about, right? It’s mostly about how humans have inflicted suffering on each other. And it’s not just physical suffering that ails mankind. Mental anguish paralyzes individuals just as well as its physical counterpart. What are the emotions that you feel when undergoing mental anguish? Guilt, unworthiness, paranoia, and possibly even hate?

In certain Buddhist schools of thought, these emotions find their root in one cause: the idea of the self. You perceive yourself to be the same person one moment to the next. But break down this perception. Time is a flowing stream, and our bodies that house the mind, are no different. In a certain sense, you are literally not the same person that you were 20 years ago. You are growing and changing at every moment. Even our very thoughts are flowing forward in time. There’s not much about you that remains constant.
Yet we pad ourselves with our self-conceptions. Believing that we are among the constants in an ever changing universe.

There might be some relation here with Kantian philosophy. I believe I might have said as much in the first episode, but don’t quote me on that. But in the Buddhist tradition, over-coming the self can lead you towards the path of enlightenment. That sounds pretty Kantian to me. Or we can at least see some parallels between Buddhism and European Enlightenment philosophy. At least I do. The overcoming of self in order to achieve enlightenment sort of reminds me of the unknowable thing-in-itself.

But in the European tradition, at least if you are a follower of Kant, the thing-in-itself cannot be known. No matter how much we try, we have to use the faculties of the mind to understand the world. The mind is finite. We can know that the thing exist, but we can’t know it intimately. All kinds of things are going on around us that we can’t perceive. But our minds are designed in a way to perceive the things that nature created it to perceive. Even the things that you do perceive, probably look different to say…something like a reptile. So no one perceiving THING knows the world as intimitaly as it exist without a mind to perceive it. Your reality, in some way, is shaped by your perception. So perhaps George Berkeley wasn’t completely wrong when he said that a thing doesn’t exist without a mind to perceive it. Which is another callback to an old episode. But he wasn’t completely right either.

I might be going off the rails here. I might be seeing connections where none exist. But so what? I think that both Buddhism and Continental Philosophy see the same thing. You, and me, are the problem. The human mind plays a central role. As where European philosophy largely doesn’t concern itself with evading the mind, and instead I would say that it just wallows in it, Buddhism at least focuses on rising above it.
But perhaps it would be strong of me to insist on the mind being a problem. In a Buddhist light, that is probably not the best way to look at it. However, the mind is a product of nature. And because it is so, it is designed to do certain things. Despite humanity being able to overcome many obstacles throughout its history, the mechanisms that protected our ancestors are still present within us. It is within the mind’s own best interest to exclude itself from its surroundings. To extract itself from nature, rather than seeing itself as another extension of it.

This separation causes the advent of the self. And the self creates the concept of “I”. But your mind, and mine as well, are just creations. The idea of “you” and “me”, are just illusions designed to protect our bodies. The mind controls us, we are encased within it. It’s common to make division between us and the world, but what is the world? Perhaps for expediency, we group other minds in with the world, yet we consider our own to be independent. To take the path towards enlightenment, the being that’s encased within the mind and therefore distinguishes it from the rest of the world, now has to remove that division…To see one self, or better yet, become ones-self, as a stream of the world that moves forward in time.

The European, and less spiritual version of this, we can see as stoicism. Like the Buddhist, the Stoics sees themselves as beings that are a part of a greater whole. Perhaps erroneously, and stereotypically, people tend to associate Stoicism with inaction. And perhaps a few might see Buddhism in the same light. But I have always felt that that was a mistake. I think that what the two schools have in common is their doctrines on time and our relationship towards it. The past is like an unmovable rock, and would therefore be a waste of time trying to move. As Ray Lewis once said “Only fools trip on things behind them”. But the future is like a door. The present is therefore the key towards unlocking that door. So being focused on the here and now keeps us moving forward on our path.

A New Theology: Part V- Revelation

 

Okay, this is the final chapter on this subject. I promise!

There is no Good and Evil. There is only knowledge of Good and Evil.

Knowledge itself is a problematic thing. As it is sometimes thought of, there’s the knowledge we receive through the senses, or a posteriori in Kantian terms. And then there’s a priori knowledge that is not dependent on sense experience.

(Of course an infamous example of an a priori statement is “all bachelors are unmarried”…because it’s true by definition. As where the statement “all bachelors are unhappy” is an a posteriori statement because the state of unhappiness is not found in the definition of ‘bachelor’ and would require a degree of sense data to justify.)

But how could we KNOW anything about God, IF such a Being actually governs over existence?

I stated prior that if God exists outside of our phenomenological field, we can’t know anything about Him. In a nutshell, we don’t have to rely on sense experience to arrive at knowledge. It is entirely possible that we can use our intuitions to gain higher insight. Because our mental phenomenon would be the one thing we share with God, our internal truths would be far more valuable for our spiritual well-being. Therefore we don’t have to rely on ancient texts or any sort of church-supported doctrine.

We are our own church.

So now the question we must ask ourselves is: how can we access and isolate this knowledge?

Perhaps not without controversy, Gnosticism as generally defined spoke of this “secret knowledge” that could liberate the “Divine Spark” within each person. This Spark is, I suppose, not necessarily a ‘soul’ that exists independent of God, but is actually a part of God Himself. So we all have access to God because WE ourselves ARE God. However, unlike the Gnostic tradition of frowning upon material existence, the physical world is a part of this Divine structure.

This means endorsing a pantheistic-like theology. Or, as I like to think of it, affirming a Spinozist-like God, where all substance IS made up of God. To clarify, not that God and material substance are the same thing, but that material substance (and indeed ourselves) are just modes of this Divinity. And each individual is a SPECIFIC mode, meaning that no two people share the exact same representation. Our internal revelations are specific to US, and only we have access to them. If we are to engage this Divine Spark, we must conduct rigorous reflection.

But does this Spark need to be liberated?

Is liberation what we are really seeking? Can we escape a material existence? The answer to the latter question is seemingly ‘no’. Because the material structure is embedded into our mode, an escape would be apparently futile. The only way “out” would not mean to retreat into “otherworldly” pursuits, but to find acceptance in this physical existence. Our demiurge-like deceptions (or the processes of the mind) tell us that we are in discord with nature, or we are not a part of it at all. We shouldn’t seek refuge from nature, but to engage this Spark, we must find our accord within material reality.

And material reality is not, as understood by human nature, a series of distinct causes and objects…but one continuous flow. If we consider Adam and Eve, and their fall from unity with God and Nature, their “knowledge” prompted them to view the world as a struggle between our nature and the Will of the Universe. This myth shouldn’t be considered a “true account” of the fall of man, but is instead a symbol of mankind’s attempt to rise above their nature.

Within us, are a set of truths which reveal something TO US. We don’t have to seek divine knowledge from a church, a priest, or even ancient scripture. Whatever we seek, we can find within ourselves, provided we are listening. When or where knowledge might reveal itself cannot be “predicted” I’ll say, so it requires us to remain ever conscious of reality. This Spark can be ignited at any moment. Provided we are in-tune with with this flow of reality, we can become enlightened at any moment.

This is why it’s important to not shut our minds off to certain ‘philosophies’, for a lack of a better description. It doesn’t mean to endorse those views, but it does mean to allow lessons and teaching to flow into your mind. Even ideas that are wrong, might reveal a shred of knowledge that was previously unnoticed. Ideas that support evil must also be examined, so that we may not venture down that path again. We cannot simply look the other way when knowledge and conceptions that contradict our worldview is presented. To combat problems, we must face them head-on. That’s the only path to find growth and acceptance within this ever-changing universe.

We deny the capabilities granted to us. We ignore the power of logic and reasoning, and just how powerful they are at presenting revelation. For a good part of life, we remain unconscious of our activities, non-curious about the reality around us. In short, we take life for granted.

But we don’t need a clergy to do our thinking. The great thinkers of antiquity have no greater insight into the universe than what we have. Whatever tools they used to arrive at their truths are available to us. We just need to empower ourselves, and engage our understanding to light our Divine Spark.

In summary, I’ve combined several philosophies and religions. Why? In short, because I can. But it has always bothered me to find people seeking inspiration from some charismatic source. Sources that are clearly just trying to sell books or peddle bullshit to the masses. And while ancient texts certainly contain nuggets of wisdom, those texts were written for an audience of a certain time. It’s the glorification of the past, and this false belief that the ancients were smarter than us, that is in fact HARMING us. Whatever tools they had, we can argue that we have better ones. But knowledge and inspiration isn’t limited to the ancient philosophers and the charismatic, it is embedded in all of us. We just have to open our minds to see it.

A New Theology: Part IV- The Gnostic Lens

The reality is that I write A LOT. I’m sure this New Theology seems somewhat perplexing. That’s understandable. But this is only my musings on how to rethink normal theology. I don’t know if it will make sense, and frankly I don’t care it does. To me, philosophy is supposed to be challenging and daring. Through it, we are to find our own voice. And I believe that I have found that by entertaining this New Theology.

I doubt that I’ve constructed any sort of consistent “theology”, if you will. In the post regarding stoicism, I stated that passiveness is not a virtue. If we want to extend that out, I suppose we could argue that we should engage in the physical world rather than remain a mere passenger. Therefore, this allows us to create our own paths and maximize our “freedoms”.

And there are many variations that we could derive from that maxim. Yet I suppose that some might see it as an endorsement of the material world. Even though the skeptic within me wishes to err on the side of materialism/physicalism as the basis of all reality, the human side of me doesn’t want to reduce it to that end. As I’ve joked before, “I want to deny physical reality.” And as the history of knowledge has shown: we cannot wholly trust our senses and methodologies to arrive at “truths”. Old scientific systems get replaced by new ones,we find more truths buried under established truths, etc. Yet our inductive methods of learning the world are the best tool we have. And if we wish to discredit this tool, we have to apply more inductive research. Additionally, the senses we use to construct methodologies of research and understanding are notoriously misleading.

How we developed our sense of phenomenological perception is presumably due to evolution adapting us to a set of noumena (or the Kantian “things-in-themselves). It’s entirely possible that a different set of “intelligence”, which developed at a different part of the universe, would have a completely different phenomenological experience. And therefore having a different set of maths, sciences, etc. If ants grew to take over the world instead of us, would they have arrived at the same conclusions we have?

It appears that we are being “deceived”. We don’t actually have “true knowledge” of the real world.

Now I don’t want to venture off into the mystical, and then say that we are being actively deceived by some demonic force. But if I may steal some Gnostic terminology, our phenomenological field is our own “demiurge”; a misleading characterization of the things-in-themselves. Our perceptions may reveal qualities of the noumatic reality, but are not full and complete representations. EVEN THOUGH they are presented that way. And our minds appear to be limited by this demiurge. Any knowledge that we may receive should be questioned, or at least not taken at face value. I would even venture to say that we can apply that logic to, well…logic itself.

Now clearly we are coming across a MAJOR problem. The only way to refute the methodologies of the mind is to USE the methodologies of the mind. If we have to accept this, we might as well stop doing philosophy because it will reveal nothing real to us. So out of a lack of a better argument, I’ll just ignore this fact.

BUT, we can apply this line of skepticism down to traditional theology. If God exists, and there are things that we can know about Him, then we would have learned those things through our demiurge (i.e. our mind). And our mental capacities, as previously demonstrated, are fallible. Whatever supposed “facts” that we learn about God (either through ancient scripture, logic, or even empirical evidence!), we can question its validity. So whatever God or deities that might exist independent of perception would presumably go above and beyond any sort of human comprehension. A being that is not bound by our phenomenological existence would simply be…unfathomable. Therefore, in all likelihood, whatever information that WE HAVE received about God would be false or misleading regarding the totality of His existence.

Again, no demonic or mythical force is necessary here. Our minds simply act as our demiurge. And because of our finite and fallible capacities, it is likely that we are “cut-off” by a mind independent reality. And so we have yet to escape Kant’s philosophical conclusions: we don’t have knowledge of things-in-themselves. We are essentially “cut off” from God. Therefore there’s little sense in speculating about His existence.

UNLESS, we take certain presumptions about the capabilities of God. Namely, that God is capable of OUR phenomenological capabilities. Or, more specifically, our abilities “branch” out of His. If we are to take a physicalist/materialist assumption (and say that our minds are generated from a material substance) we could argue that, out of God branched out material substance. Or, perhaps more importantly, God is embedded into reality. The material world IS God. This would mean embracing a near (or total) pantheistic or panpsychic view of the universe.

Therefore, the demiurge-like deception lies not in the material world, but by providing an illusion that God is “out there” rather than “right here”…that God is somehow not a part of His creation.

I suppose we can say there’s an almost Manichean-like duality that permeates physical reality. This isn’t a battle between the material world and a supernatural world of ideas, but the struggle itself is firmly embedded into perceptual existence. And we directly take part in this battle. BUT (and here’s where I might completely derail if I haven’t already) this duality only exists within human consciousness. “Good and Evil” are the constructs of the mind. Obviously. And exact definitions of these two extremes vary among cultures. But, if I may make an assumption about all of humanity, such demarcations are made by all peoples. Somewhere, somehow, these two polar extremes become separated. Such constructions may have always existed within high-functioning minds. And if that were the case, is unification the end objective?

Again, I’m falling into a Hegelian-like argument that I wish to avoid. There isn’t an end objective for all of history. Good and Evil are not thesis and antithesis, which will later be synthesized. Instead it’s through our deceptive minds that such distinctions get made. It isn’t a case of HOW to unify, it’s a case of how to get RID of Good and Evil.

Mich has been made about mankind’s fall into damnation…how we somehow fell out of accord with nature. Perhaps the most famous mythical account is that of Adam and Eve: Once unified with nature, but through deception, they ate of the tree of knowledge and all subsequent generations were DAMNED. This burden of knowledge has been both our blessing and curse. Instead of living in accordance with nature, we’ve made ourselves a beast above it: dividing our knowledge into extremes…forever separating it into distinct phenomenological events. On and on this goes, with no end in sight.

It’s not as simple as turning back the clock. The knowledge we have gained cannot be put back into Pandora’s Box. It has become an extension of who WE ARE. So we could argue that this knowledge should not be forsaken. But because of our self-delusion, we have failed to understand what we DO know. We perceive the world as distinct and separate objects, and that they hold no relation to one another. So we ourselves have become distinguishable from nature. Clearly, to move past this barrier…the barrier must be removed.

A consistent theme with this “new theology” is the flowing stream of the universe. I’ve said previously that it was flowing FORWARD in time, yet it could be flowing in all directions. Yet our perceptions might only reveal a “forward only” direction (which may or may not conflict with traditional physics). But we apply division to physical reality because evolution needed to help us navigate a mind-independent world. Unfortunately, this division of material has brought us to near conflict with nature, each other, and ourselves.

As some quote that I recently heard stated (and I’m paraphrasing): “A flower doesn’t compete with a flower next to it. It just blossoms.” The only objective that we have in life (if we choose to accept it), is to blossom and grow.

And even though there appears to be many inconsistencies and contradictions embedded in phenomenological experience, it appears that mind shouldn’t be. There simply isn’t a reason for our reasons. Yet…they’re there. Descartes may have made many mistakes, yet the cogito ergo sum seems to be on to something. I may not be able to prove that “I” exist, but something is going on.

If I can’t know anything outside of this something, we may not know God. But if God isn’t capable of OUR something, could He really be considered all Powerful? Reality, or our existence, is a difficult thing to explain. And we often fail to appreciate how incredible this experience is. If we desire to understand something about God, we can’t search beyond to some supernatural world. If such a thing were possible, we couldn’t access it. The only direction to go isn’t “outward”, but to reach within. Because indeed, this consciousness would be the only thing we could have in common with God. If we are to know God, we needn’t look farther than our own material existence.

So do we actually possess this Knowledge?

 

Objectivity, Subjectivity, and the Continuity of Reality

Of course, the biggest knock against idealism is the seeming continuity of reality. When you leave a room or suspend sense perception of an object, it almost always returns to its prior known form. Reality appears to continue, even without a mind to perceive it.

Therefore throwing into questing the validity of any idealistic notions. Particularly George Berkeley’s radical form of idealism. And philosophers everywhere have attempted to avoid any form of Berkeleyism, to include Immanuel Kant who was accused of such heresy during his time.

The stank of idealism has hurt many philosophers of the post-Hume era. Thinkers like John Searle and Bertrand Russell have questioned the necessity of studying such philosophies, believing that David Hume (and his radical form of empiricism) got it right the first time. To them, all metaphysical arguments against his form of skepticism have failed. To some, although this view is fading, Hume posed a serious danger to the future of philosophical pursuits. His thought (although slightly amended) has yet to be toppled.

Although I sympathize with thinkers trying to remove philosophy from any religiously dogmatic grip (which was possibly what Hume was responding to), throwing out any metaphysical questions that might’ve been posed by such religious investigation is a mistake. Or throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Which is what the extreme positivists and empiricists are essentially doing.

It’s wallowing in the existence of the human mind. It’s having an arrogance of human capability and understanding. It’s basically engaging in the same arguments that the dogmatically religious use.

“What I know is what I know. We can completely and utterly understand the existence of reality. And we can absolutely use human understanding, although imperfect, to understand the nature of the universe.”

And proponents of this extreme form of empiricism usually share the same views: Free will is an illusion, everything is just matter in motion, etc.  And this becomes the dogma in which they view the world.

It’s not all that different from the religious folk. They believe that it is impossible for the universe to exist without the hand of God, and it’s pointless to engage in any theory that would suggest otherwise because they’ll only point to what we already know: That the universe was created by God. This argument is also motivated by the fear that investigation might reveal something that would contradict their worldview. This fear isn’t all that different from the radical positivist.

But instead of preventing such investigation, the positivist dismisses any such speculation as mere fiction. Not worthy of actual critical evaluation.

I don’t know, this might just be an idiotic rant. My point is that it’s important to not fall too deeply into either the purely supernatural perspective of the religious…where anything and everything is permitted without proof….and the dogmatically empirical where we pretty much can’t speculate on anything that isn’t pragmatic.

Which leads me back to idealism. Clearly we don’t live in a purely idealistic world (as differentiated from a purely ideological world, but more on that later). There are certain properties about the world that are shared by everyone and that remain constant, even when they are not being perceived. So the mind isn’t just ONLY perceiving ideas, but are actually perceiving objects that exist in the world.

Fine. Whatever.

BUT, it’s an even harder argument to make to say that objects perceived remain exactly the same without a mind to dictate what it is. And what if NO minds existed to perceive anything? Well then, I guess philosophy, thinking, and everything becomes impossible and therefore we arrive at a dead-end, so who cares? However, to what effect does the mind have on reality?

It’s common sense to believe that the mind has NO alterable affects on reality. Our minds are just impartial spectators of the world outside. Or at least we take this assumption.

But perhaps the mind doesn’t necessarily change the matter in-itself, but does play a role in forming the objects of perception. This is the process of not idealism, but ideology. Meaning that objects that WE see are of our own construction and are easily transferable to other minds, leaving room for an objective reality that other can perceive. BUT, this reality is not universal.

I know, it sounded like I just contradicted myself.

The process of ideology is both cultural and biological. I would say a priori, but I don’t know what the fuck that means anymore. It’s cultural and biological because this is where we form ideas of what makes something a ‘chair’, or ‘red’, or whatever. Things vary culturally, but we can usually agree on things biologically. I don’t really feel like making a distinction between the two at this time. But this is how humans can collectively create an objective reality.

BUT, this ‘objective’ reality is dictated by processes in the mind that only fellow humans can share. The object in question possesses properties that allow the processes in the mind to give a sensation of being something. But this process of ideology, the one exclusive to humans, is (in all likelihood) not universal to all species and active consciousnesses across the universe. To say that it is would take a massive intuitive leap, one similar to the dogmatically religious believer.

What this process or perception IS, honestly…I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just one perception of many among all possible perceptions. Like something akin to the Many-Worlds Hypothesis. Perhaps because this process is exclusive to humans, and these sensations can ONLY be found in the human brain. Don’t know, we’ll just have to see. But, in my opinion, we can’t undervalue evolutionary psychology at this point…as we are adapted to view the world in a very HUMANISTIC way in order for survival, this probably has a tremendous effect on HOW and WHY we perceive the world the way we do.

But, that’s neither here nor there at this point.

Right now, I’m just concerned with how the continuity of reality is possible. Are other interpretations of reality possible? Perhaps that’s an obvious question with an obvious answer. So, I guess I should ask if there are other continuous (yet alterable) perceptions, and can we know anything about them?

Hope that made sense.

 

 

Have We Escaped Idealism?

I typed in ‘German Idealism’ on YouTube. Big mistake. This was the first video to pop up.

I couldn’t tell if the yelling dude in the video was a complete fucking idiot or a genius. But either way, this illustrates the ignorance that people have regarding philosophy.

Does German Idealism need to be ‘completed’? If so, who gives a shit?

Of course, an idiot had to chime in saying “isn’t it a good thing that German Idealism isn’t completed?” Because ‘German’ and ‘Idealism’ has to equal Nazism, right?

But of course, this troll’s ultimate thesis is that Donald Trump is a Kantian. Where he came up with such an idea is beyond me. I doubt Trump has ever had a philosophical thought in his entire life.

But Idealism has certainly taken a hit over the last century. I don’t know if the post Kantian-type ended up sinking the ship because of its loose association with Nazism. I wouldn’t doubt Bertrand Russell felt this way, and this whole school of philosophy has suffered ever since.

Yet I think why it has fallen out of favor is because it’s ultimately unfulfilling. Reality being shaped by the mind leads us to a dead end, and we become creatures trapped within our own minds. Although many have tried to move around Kant, and many believe that they have succeeded in doing so, I find such arguments unconvincing.

I’m not quite sure where the hangup lies. I don’t know if it’s a lack of understanding of Kant, or if they are genuinely disappointed in the fact that we experience a distorted perception of reality (or phenomena). Of all the philosophers out there, it’s the German Idealist that seem to be the most misunderstood (for better or worse, I’m going to throw Schopenhauer into this category despite his protests). Hegel is notoriously hard to understand, but I think that Kant is also grossly misunderstood, despite his influence.

Russell found the “thing-in-itself” to be an awkward product of his philosophy, which would explain why the subsequent German Idealists abandoned it. Such critiques of Kant is a major failure within Russell’s historical account. Perhaps he found the ‘thing-in-itself’ to be redundant, considering our conduct in reality is based on immediate perception (an unknowable thing-in-itself never factors in the equation). But I feel that this is just a lazy attempt to escape metaphysical discussion.

Imagine if all traces of humanity vanishes instantly from this earth. Even depictions of people vanish. The only thing left is the buildings and structures. Now imagine aliens coming to earth, and all that’s left is the mystery of these structures. Remember, no humans or depictions of humans are left. And the aliens are searching for answers as to what these structures meant.

Would it be immediately clear what a ‘chair’, ‘door’, or ‘toaster oven’ would be? Would these objects have the same meaning to these advanced aliens as they would to humans? Or would they only perceive just useless hunks of metal and wood?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the first question, then I suppose that would be a nail in the coffin for idealism. If you answered ‘yes’ to the latter, then I suppose that would make you an idealist.

In this scenario, I would assume the aliens would transpose their own meaning onto these objects. We would be making a massive leap in assuming that some other intelligent species in the universe would have the same perceptions we have. And even if they did, it would be an even greater leap to assume that these perceptions are universal across all intelligent species within the universe.

This is the problem we come across when we assume that humans are experiencing reality as it really is. And we don’t know how far these perceptions go down. Is it possible that even our scientific and mathematical discoveries are actually just representations of the mind?

Scientists everywhere are uncomfortable with this notion. Empirical evidence must represent objective truth. Otherwise, what would be the point in engaging in scientific discourse?

Perhaps I won’t go as far as Kant in saying that we can’t know ANYTHING about the thing-in-itself. I’ve mentioned previously that the discovery of quantum mechanics might be a peak into a world that we were meant to see. But can we understand this world of noumena as intimately as the world of our phenomena?

Maybe not by definition. BUT, that doesn’t mean that scientific truth can’t be found. Again, I might be showing my ignorance here, but perhaps the uncertainty principle is far more widespread than what we realize. (This is just an example, I’m not entirely sure that this is what the principle actually does. Again, scientists chime in). A concept similar to this might be the source of our limited knowledge of Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself’.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.

BUT, our IDEA of objects are based on our shared perceptions. Objects are individuated through processes of the mind. In other words, the human mind is necessary to experience the world in the manner that we do. While similar experiences are possible in other biological minds, the SPECIFIC human experience can only be found in the HUMAN brain. And that is the basis of idealism.

And unfortunately, we can only use the mind to understand the world. Mathematics might be a way to circumvent the subjectivity of experience, and is often seen as such by producing logical outcomes. But it’s entirely possible that even mathematics and logic itself are just representations projected onto the world. Of course, I have made philosophy subordinate to science because science almost exclusively searches for objective truth, yet we don’t know to what extent scientific outcomes bend to our perceptions.

We can only use tools developed by the mind (mathematics, scientific method, etc.) to prove or disprove the outcomes discovered by those tools. Do these activities actually produce objective truth? I don’t know, but I’ll assume that they do in the same way that we make the assumption of free will. But, is it possible that everything that we do is only a reinforcement of human perception?

So are scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and others that search for truth just unwittingly engaging in idealism? I might be treading dangerously close to endorsing a form of George Berkeley Idealism. And so what? Is there a rule against that?

Of course I don’t want to, and I hope to find a way out of this mess.

Sadly, all of this was brought on because some idiot didn’t know what German Idealism was.