Archive for the ‘evolution’ Category

Dialogue on Belief

November 27, 2010

This essay was the starting point.

¨belief occurs between the recognition of alterity and the establishment of a contract. It disappears if one of the two terms weakens. belief no longer exists when difference is effaced by a process tending to equalise the partners and give them a mutual mastery of the contract; it no longer exists when difference becomes excessive through a breach of the pact.¨

no.1: so… the contract dissolves according to the development of dialogue ? co-operation? so belief is always in crisis because it is representative of an in-between space but is the expression of positioning?

no.2: Belief in what? In the relationship between “partners”?

The temporality of “belief” in that passage is puzzling. A contract is either established or it isn’t. As such, the establishment of a contract would seem to cancel “belief.”

me: In the quote belief exists in inequality. The grandest beneficiary of belief is God, the absolute authority and most unequal of relationships.

It’s not the contract that dissolves with co-operation, but belief; belief in general.

This idea is puzzling because we no longer relate outside capitalism. There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.

In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange. The other is not known, it is belief that allows us to proceed without knowing.

When we give to a friend we know, there is no expectation of return.

When we expect a return from an other, we can only believe. Getting to know the other replaces belief.

I think Nietzsche said something like that. [ “Here the ways of men divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.” – Nietzsche ]

so I hope belief is temporary, for the sake of democracy, equality and justice.

no.2: This seems a little quaint, no?: “There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.” …

E.g., slavery, which preceded capitalism (and was practiced to some extent by the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest).

“In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange.”

This overstates things, rather.

me: no. It doesn’t seem quaint to me. There was a momentary practice out of which the idea of democracy was born. That practice is gone. The idea of democracy in capitalist practice is confused. Property relations are not equal.

And I don’t think you can overstate the damage done and being done by capitalist ideology and practice.

no.3: Please name a time/country/system when we were all equals and friends, Rodger.

Democracy has never in fact happened and this stand in we are under only causes harm. (People should stop saying Communism only brings corruption and dictatorship since neither idea has really been properly tried and Communism only given a fraction of the chance).

Justice is a confusing term that no one understands and which has always been used as a bull flag to whip public sentiment toward supporting atrocity.

I don’t think the comments are “quaint”, they just don’t make any sense.

me: @no.3 Come on.

Look, no.2 was puzzled by the temporal quality of belief. Why is this puzzling. What word doesn’t possess a temporal quality?

What I suggested is that capitalist ideology might be the cause of this confusion. It might also be the source of your understanding, and questions. Capitalist ideology tends to totality. Your statement that Democracy has never in fact happened is correct only if democracy need be total.

So no I can’t point to a historical moment of total democracy. But neither can you point to a total fascism, there was resistance. What I can point to, and it’s noted in Aristotle’s Ethics, is a time when friends would live together in Greek households, not all households were democratic, and not everyone in a household was equal, but the practice of equals managing household affairs gave rise to the concept of democracy.

You can actually tonight practice democracy in your own home. The practice of democracy has existed and can be practiced tonight in small spaces. If totality is the prerequisite for change, we might as well give up on the notion right now.

But change can be incremental. Have you heard of the theory of evolution?

no.3:‎ “But neither can you point to a total fascism”. I wouldn’t try.

I wouldn’t make sweeping statements about “justice”, “democracy” or “equality”, either. None of us really know what those things mean and they only ever cause harm.

me: I’d argue that it’s not knowing what justice, equality and justice mean that is both the cause and effect of said harms
no.3: I wouldn’t. Those words are meant to be bull flags and distractions. Let’s admit that they are that and only that so we can get at the issues.
– end –

Some notes at the end of October

October 28, 2010

I posted two “dialogues” today. One of the dialogues has been joined by another writer since the posting. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

I’m also looking forward to any discussion surrounding Paulette Regan‘s new book.

I don’t know if it comes across in the “dialogues” but I’m going to, here, in this post, note a sense of frustration. The mystic dialogue ends on a spastic note. And in the crowdsourcing dialogue I never really make communication. I make an attempt to show that I have understood the responses, and seek confirmation that I am being understood, but it appears that no communication has actually taken place. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt someone I was talking to was actively avoiding the ideas I was trying to inject into the conversation. The mystic converser avoids direct contact with ideas through a discursive style, and the capitalist in socialist clothing converser is simply dismissive.

Orwell mentions this kind of slippery socialism. (I’ll find the reference later) The thought goes that socialists want justice and equality on the level of thought, but they subconsciously know that real justice and equality would remove their privilege, so the movement sabotages itself. You can’t have your privilege and equality too. The contradiction short circuits thought and action.

There are political activists willing to think and act for equality in spite of what it means for their privilege. A very recent and obvious example is Alex Hundert. He has literally given his freedom to speak against dominant narratives. What has happened to Alex is real (Radical suggestion – Realism), and outrage, not acceptance, is the appropriate response. It’s hard to be positive knowing that this is happening.

I have a dialogue about The Power of Now that I’ve yet to post. It’s a huge back and forth email correspondence that covers the entire book. I mention this as a possible source of research into the mystic mind. The debates between evolutionists and creationists was between contradicting sources of authority. The debate became heated when a group of scientists began to blame a group of Christians for cuts to the governement funding and for the weak state of education. Christians are useful at this point for capitalist governments which are slashing education and social budgets. It’s confusing because George W. Bush was a proclaiming Christian, and the President of the United States, and slashing funding to social programs, but the austerity measures imposed by capitalist state organizations are the practice of an ideology of profit, of capitalism. There’s an authoritarian anti-democratic aspect to the extra-governmental economic policy-makers. The noise of the debate between authoritarian scientists and authoritarian Christians was a mere spectacle because niether had the authority to be won in debate.

But Orwell and his explaination of the inability to deal with the contradiction might help us understand what was going on. The real authority, economic policy makers, the military-capitalist complex, trade agreement that strip the working class of power, is also that same body that funds universities and scientific research. The complex has a mystique, with the invisible hand of the market economy, and an authority unchecked by democratic process, a certain kind of Christian flocked to this authority and power. This certain kind of Christian became the scape goat. The reality is that if you name the complex, you die. Ok. that might be a little dramatic, but funding dries up. In the case of Alex, you go to prison. In Dreams of a Final Theory there’s a story how physicist named the goal of a project, The God Particle to help secure funding. So there may be some validity to the charges of a Christian block against scientific funding, but only some. The military-capitalist complex is profit, power and control driven. The complex is also in a position of power, from this complex issues the policy that shapes our world. Christian in general are critical of the world, but their analysis, as it is, usually blames the powerless for much of the world’s problems.

Scaffolding might be necessary. What I mean is a general education of the converser. We are at war with the mystics. More presicely we are at war with ourselves. Until very recently in human history all we knew was from God. The struggle for democracy comes of age during the 18th century, but clearly the ideas of reason, freedom, equality, self-government were not unopposed by the power those ideas were developed to oppose.

Wisdom was couched in religion. It came from God. See the Book Of Wisdom for an example. It would be a mistake to not take this Wisdom seriously. The mystics prior to the rise of Scientific Philosophy had a monopoly on Wisdom. This wisdom was packaged in a fear of authority. This wisdom validated the right of Kings. But this wisdom, was wisdom.

The Bodhisattva vows can help us understand the danger of dealing with unprepared minds. One of the 18 vows states that you are not to teach emptiness to those whose minds are unprepared. There is wisdom in this. As Orwell showed we tend to swerve around mental contradictions avoiding, and unconsciously ignoring them. One phenomenon is conspiracy theory. Teaching criticism should be reserved for the prepared mind. Today is schools and in general an objective scientific thought process is the basis for education, but a residual cultural mysticism still exists. I’m working on the theory that the more mystical minded who learn of the world are susceptible to conspiracy theory. It’s a working theory.

Through November I am going to blog every day. I might sign up at NaBloPoMo, or I might just do it. Either way, and it sort of follows from the rambling here. I’m going to blog Negativity and Revolution. I came across this article searching for the book link) You’re welcome to join me. Here’s a review.

Social Darwinism Cafe

March 31, 2009

Last night’s Philosophers’ Cafe at Kathmandu on Commercial Drive was a completely full house and a lively affair. (The announcement of the next topic stirred a lot of interest, so get there early, have dinner. The food is the main reason I go.) The conversation was non-stop for two hours, I didn’t take notes, I’m not naming names, here are my impressions. Comments are on (Your first comment will await moderation, (it’s an issue of spam) after that it’s a free for all.

Zahid Makhdoom moderated the night and opened with the philosophy: the purpose is not to find answers but to ask questions, If you’re confused coming in, the best result would be to leave even more confused. We will be muddying the waters. (What follows is a series of unfinished notes and open questions.) And then a short elaboration of the topic under discussion. “Is Social Darwinism an instrument of racist and authoritarian thought? Is survival of the fittest an appropriate moral, social, economic, or political ethic?” Social Darwinism, that is the conscious application of evolutionary principles, has a history of racism. Species development is confused with species evolution, and the value judgement is levelled against people. Makhdoom gave a few examples. I can recall two. 1) That when a dog plays in a yard no one considers the dogs ownership. Winston Churchill on Palestine. 2) Alberta Eugenics, sterilization program so the “unfit” wouldn’t breed.

No one argued for Social Darwinism. A good point was made using the person of Gandhi. Gandhi because a test for part of the discussion, the idea that tests are specific and that phenotypes are universal tests. Gandhi was a horrible plumber, but a great leader. It was his biographical development, contingent place in history that produced the Gandhi effect.

One scientific mind noted, about halfway through the conversation, that there were at least three different ideas of evolution at play in the room, they were undefined, undifferentiated and the communication was suffering for it. When the scientist was talking he was interrupted. “Science? This is a philosopher’s cafe.” (I just mistyped ‘cafe’ as ‘cage’. Paging Dr. Freud…) What? When did philosophy respect limits of knowledge, the disciplining and cloistering of specialized areas of inquiry, is a recent institutional social construct and was noted early in the twentieth century as potentially leading to the downfall of philosophy. (econophile)

Folk thinking is short term – an application of values on change – Do we have any control of our destiny? Development vs. Evolution – we should all be in more or less the same boat. Slaves forbidden the written word. Undeveloped and oppressed human potential confused as genetic (evolutionary) inferiority.

What does the fittest mean? Luckiest?

This was from a small dialogue while paying the bill: Genetic expression – the ideas that ideas are genetic – that people have a tendency. I don’t know. There is the notion of the great thinker. Darwin for example, changed the way we think about historical reality. But had Darwin, by chance, suffered a massive head injury, we would still today be talking about evolution, maybe even social evolution (social Wallacism?) This is because Darwin built his theory on previously published works and material evidence. He also mentioned at least four others who were hot on the theory’s tail. Today, the theory has been worked and reworked by the scientific community. Darwin had a very loose idea of genetic material, which has played a significant part in the contemporary understanding of the theory.

The individual’s social success as a measure of fitness. This idea more or less dominated the room. (with the accompanying machismo!) (An issue is framework.) The idea of success as adaptation to the social is not evolution. The other main idea was the ecological destruction – These conflicting notions were not noted. (?)

Consciousness is it developmental? There can be no argument that the plastic brain is a feature of our species.

One person whose main thrust was the idea of collective fitness over individual fitness (this is closest to evolution because one life cycle, your own personal birth to death existence, is well inside the concept of evolution.) gave some advice to young people. “Our generation has left it up to you to solve the problem.” What? When did this turn in the social take place? There was a comment that if we live 80 years, so much is spent sleeping and working that in all that 5 years is free time? Maybe that was what happened in the sixties, the systemized organizational man, is completely unfree, the youth were free to criticize the system. Where did that get us?