Posts Tagged ‘humanity’

Whole Universe Of Necessary Opposites End Of Life Story Chapter 4

January 9, 2010

The back and forth banter between the devil and I continues as our conversation moves into, via examples of aesthetic religious traditions, a discussion of the universe and the necessary opposites that frame the universe. Without these opposites there would be no bumble bees, frogs, whales, polar bears…; no music, cell phones, hospitals, universities…; no coliseums, museums, markets, billionaires…; no planets, sunshine, galaxies, black holes…Big Bang.

We Do Not Become Conscious Of The Universe The Universe Becomes Conscious Of Consciousness

The Sectarian Nature Of Brahman Is Not The Ultimate Expression Of Religion

Future Time Nine Continued

“We must shift gears here,” said MV, “and think of the universe not as something that consciousness defines, but, rather, as something that defines consciousness, and yes, I think this premise does include Whitehead’s philosophy, but taking a structural approach to this idea is a bit of a stretch, hence your inability to communicate it.”

“You don’t have to tell me what I already know,” I replied. ‘However, in the aesthetic religions of Buddhism, the Upanishad philosophy in Hinduism, and the Chinese Tao Te Ching, you also see the principle of ‘divine necessary opposites.’”

“How so,” responded MV.

“Take, for instance, the atman/Brahman distinction in the Upanishads; the ancient sages of India perceived no chasm between nature, humanity, and divinity. As the source of being, Brahman was the manifestation of all existence. But, for the wise sage, Brahman and atman are one, atman been the “seed of individuality,” or what we call in the West “self.” This unity follows because at the source of being lies double negation and after the appropriate transformations this same double negation ends up in the more complex structure of b~b~bb, the structure that grounds human individuality. In the Brahman/atman/self distinction double negation implies the affirmation of nature, humanity, and divinity, and,—as above as below—this affirmation is embedded in the necessary opposites of divinity. In the language of my synchronic description of the universe, double negation turns into the ‘self-content’ of self-consciousness, or the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. And again, in the language of Christian mysticism, the double negative turns into what the Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, called the ‘purest form of unity.’ A word of caution here, though, just because the Upanishads and Christian mysticism may celebrate the same source, they remain products of different religious traditions; this follows from the b~b~bb structure that grounds human individuality. In other words, the sectarian nature of any religion speaks only through its own tradition because all religions are a product of the individuality that speaks through the form of b~b~bb, which, in turn, lies embedded in nature, humanity, and divinity. The Buddhist tradition comes as close as any tradition in expressing this idea. Here’s how one of my old Professors expressed divinity from a Buddhist perspective:

[“There is a cloud here in this piece of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

The cloud and the paper inter-are. Perhaps the word ‘interbeing’ should be in the dictionary.

If we look deeply, we see that in the paper there is also the sun; nothing can grow without sunshine. The paper and the sun inter-are.

We can see the logger. The mill (and its effluent). We see the wheat from fields that fed the logger. For there is no paper without the logger, and the logger cannot log without daily bread. Likewise, the logger’s father and mother are also in this paper.

Looking deeply, we see ourselves in the paper. When we look at the paper, it is our perception; your mind and my mind meet in this paper, and we are both there.

What is NOT here in the sheet of paper? Time, space, the earth, rain, minerals, the sun, cloud, river, heat—everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains the universe in it. How can it fit?

The paper entirely depends upon non-paper elements, things that are not in themselves paper, such as carbon, and the sun, and the logger’s mother. And yet without them, there is no paper.

To be is to inter-be with every things, non—us things. Like the paper, we are inevitably vast; we include all that is other than ourselves.

As one Civil War nurse (Walt Whitman) said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” When we pay close attention to who we really are, there is no one else, no one who is left out.

Acting from this understanding, service is not a strained sacrifice, but a natural activity. Within this mind, helpful care is not exactly compassion for another, but more like a reflex, a spontaneous gesture.

The right hand does not congratulate the left hand on having given to the poor.

No credit, no blame. No Trace. This is Buddha.”]

Adapted by Guy Newland from “Interbeing” in “Peace is Every Step” (Bantam, 1992) by Thich Nhat Hanh

Future Time Nine Continued

“Yes,” said MV, “but necessary opposites encompass so much more than what your so-called sages have revealed, and excuse me if your examples do not impress. All Saintly beings, not to mention sinners, exist because I exist. Without me existence blinks out of existence, and yet in your celebration of clever geniuses I do not recall hearing praise for me! I am the source, sustainer, and slayer of everything and my shadow is long and feared, as it should be. Oblivion is only an instant away, if you catch my drift. Enough said!”

“Do as you please,” I replied, “but there’s more. In the Chinese symbol, Tai Chi, or what is commonly recognized as the yin/yang symbol, the black and white complementary parts of embedded circles, there is, from my point of view, all the divine necessary opposites represented. The divided nature of the circle expresses freedom’s form, ~~b, and, the back and white contrasts in the circle, denote the different levels of consciousness, ~bb and b~b~bb.

“Again, in the self-awakening philosophy of the Japanese Mahayana Buddhist, Nishida, freedom is discussed in terms of the logic of basho, or the interconnectivity of three different pulses of freedom. Freedom, for Nishida, is not a manifestation of being; rather, being is a manifestation of freedom. Everything that is, is within the interconnectivity of basho. The logic of basho works to support and restrict all beings. The logic consists of (1) ground–absolute nothingness, which, in turn, connects with (2) the basho of relative nothingness, which, in turn, exists only in relation to (3) it’s opposite, the notion of being. Interconnected with all of these bashos –relative nothingness, being, and absolute nothingness—is the pulsing, creative nothingness that emerges from and returns to the basho of absolute nothingness. What I am hearing in Nishida’s philosophy is my description of freedom’s liberation. The ground state, or absolute nothingness/absolute affirmation, (~~b), connects to the higher levels of freedom through the medium of the conservation of necessary opposites. It is Liberation throughout, but freedom, at each level, exists within its own unique restrictive environment—physical/duality, life/death, individual/factual events. Everything that is then exists within the interconnectivity of the logic of necessary opposites, which, in turn, liberates, supports, and restricts the aesthetic continuum, life, and the “knowing” of self-conscious beings. Ultimately, in Nishida’s awakened state, there is no distinction between inside/outside, whole/part, or, for that matter, there is no distinction between transcendence, immanence, and freedom. Does any of this sound familiar?

Well, from my point of view,” responded MV, “I could care less! Academic comparisons mean shit to me! Show me the Devil in any of that and I will salute, but until then you’re just killing time, and, I might add, the time of killing is what delivered you over to me in the first place. Do I make myself clear?”

“Fine,” I said, “then show me God. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

“I’ll show you God in due time,” replied MV, “but first you have to get clear on the necessary opposites of divinity. Your not there yet, or you can’t remember, which is it? You’re slipping into reverse. Too bad about that! You don’t want to listen to me, so how about listening to yourself. It’s important to stay physical here. Guess what, it’s time to go back to the future! “

“Okay, let’s go back,” I replied, “back to where you are much more comfortable. First we’ll look at the divine necessary opposites and then we’ll see how all that plays out in terms of Relativity and Quantum physics.

Door Into Language, Myth, Religion, Art, And Knowledge Creation

The Logic Of Divine Necessary Opposites—The Logos Incarnated

The idea that consciousness pervades the universe is not new. The Greek philosopher, Heraclites, believed that a non-human intelligence or the Logos ordered everything. For Heraclites, all the discrete elements of the world were organized into a coherent whole and the Stoics, picking up on this idea, turned the Logos into God—the God that is the source of all rationality. But, those ideas were developed some 2400 years ago. Can the Logos be equated with the universe and all its elements today? When the noted logician, Alburey Castell, was confronted with a similar question, he responded:

“Suppose the sciences divided into four major groups: the mathematical, the physical, the biological, and social. Suppose the philosophical disciplines also divided into four major groups: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. Where among these does logic belong? Is it a fifth in either group? Or a subdivision of some one of the eight divisions? It seems to me to be neither of these, but somehow common to all divisions. The nerve of every science and every discipline is inference, or argument. In every science and every discipline two questions are always being asked, and their answers sought: If these facts are granted, what follows? From what prior facts do these follow? That is If P, then what? And, Upon what does P rest?” (A College Logic, 329)

Before I begin to answer the question –Upon what does P rest? I want to talk, a little bit about the law of logical contradiction and the meaning of negation.

“The laws of logic,” says the Dictionary of Philosophy, “are regulative principles governing the pursuit of knowledge and the construction of scientific theories (and, for me at least, are grounded in the nature of the reality that we seek to know). Seen in this way, logic is the most general of all sciences… To assert a contradiction would be to depict things as being one way and yet at the same time not that way. But nothing can be p and not-p at the same time. To believe a contradiction is thus to hold as true something that is necessarily false” (Antony Flew, 1979, p.210). What the rule of non-contradiction means in practical terms is that if a contradiction is found in a work of reasoning then that work is of little or no value. On the other hand, if a reasoned work identifies the condition for the possibility of any contradiction whatsoever, then that work would be valuable indeed!

As regards negation: It is true that the meaning of negation is a product of language and the laws of logic cannot be totally separated from the socially instituted conventions of language, but the conventions for the use and meaning of negation are not arbitrary. The capacity to know what can and cannot be asserted in any language will rest upon negation and the law of non-contradiction—the minimum condition for speaking sensibly. What follows is the logical form that births language, and, for me, answers the question– Can the Logos be equated with the universe and all its elements?

Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other consciousness. Identify the vertex, the V bottom, as ~~b (not, not-being). Not, not-being then, characterizes the entire V as it also implies that which lies outside the V—the indeterminacy of God, or, more to the point, an affirmation of the indeterminacy of God. Somewhere above the V vertex, on the consciousness side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity-Sartre’s structured for-itself) represent the next stage of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity-the negative condition of self-consciousness) represent (on the empirical side of the V) the embodied physical event of human consciousness. Freedom again moves forward, only now in the form of embodied human consciousness. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

Well, that’s it, the logical model of freedom’s dialectic! Oh, by the way, freedom’s dialectic is the answer to the question –Upon what does P rest? More specifically, however, P rests on the experience of ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity). This experience opened the door to meaningful symbol creation, and that door swung forward into the creation of language, myth, religion, art, theoretical knowledge, and the civilizing processes that we call “civilization”. But, not to forget, all of this rests on the pre-existing liberating processes of liberation that come together in human consciousness, and, ultimately, on the “ground condition” of affirmed Divinity. Freedom’s dialectic is at once bond and liberation, bond as Divine affirmation and liberation as consciousness progressively becomes freer!

Self-Aware Consciousness In Physics Remains A Unifying Occurrence

The Hole In Self-Consciousness, The Hole That Denies The Possibility Of My Ever Becoming Fully Self-Aware, The Hole That Condemns Me To Freedom, That Hole Truly Becomes A Unifying Occurrence Of The First Order

Freed consciousness is self-aware, but, in the broadest sense, self-aware consciousness remains a unifying occurrence. One of the interesting consequences of both Relativity and quantum physics is that both imply wholeness. David Bohm writes:

“Relativity and quantum physics agree in suggesting unbroken wholeness, although they disagree on everything else. That is, relativity requires strict continuity, strict determinism, and strict locality, while quantum mechanics requires just the opposite—discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality. The two basic theories of physics have entirely contradictory concepts which have not been brought together; this is one of the problems that remains. They both agree, however, on the unbroken wholeness of the universe, although in different ways.” (The Reenchantment of Science, p, 65)

As Bohm points out, quantum mechanics and Relativity seem to be describing the same reality with contradictory concepts. These contradictions disappear in freedom’s dialectic. Self-consciousness is embedded in its own negative space—continuity, determinism, and locality. This negative space becomes the necessary condition for a physical event to occur. Thus, determinism, locality and continuity allow for the reductionist methods of science to work; that is, until science penetrates deep into that area where the integrity of the physical universe breaks down, where the deterministic motions of mass points no longer exist!

At the depths of the “material world” there exists a fuzzy world that exhibits behavior only when we observe it– when we separate ourselves from it. There we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, and a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation. Do we find there also the “ground negation” that connects all subsequent levels of negation and affirmation—the affirmation that connects everything to everything? If we do then the connectivity problems found at the quantum level of our experience begin to make sense!

In freedom’s structural form, two forms stand out. The same attributes that arise from the structure of self-consciousness– discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality—also arise from the ground structure. Both of these structured forms generate implication. At “ground,” implication simply affirms. On the level of self-consciousness, implication opens up the possibility of the world-historical-process. In other words, the negation that lies at the center of self-consciousness, the same one that births logic, language, creativity, inquiry, analysis, conscience, and imagination, also fuzzies up the world at the quantum level of physics. Because observation (and affirmation) takes place in the space of continuity, determinism and locality– self-consciousness’s embedded physical condition— there is an unavoidable clash of worlds—the world of Relativity clashes with the world of quantum physics. Bottom line—Relativity accurately describes natural phenomena. Einstein’s equations, when applied to physical events, accurately describe our relationship, as participating agents, in a physical universe. Likewise, the physics of quantum mechanics accurately describes natural phenomena. Only the phenomena being described are “fuzzy” because, as it is throughout freedom’s dialectic, the space that separates also embeds and connects. In other words, on the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground condition in the form of the “quantum strangeness” that gets experienced at that level of experience.

Ultimately, from it’s most holistic perspective, freedom’s dialectical structure (opposites are necessary to conserve wholeness) tells us: Were it not for the negative space/condition of determinism, continuity, and locality, human consciousness—the consciousness of discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism– would not be free in a world of our own experience (by degrees, experience of our own choosing), seeking truth, justice, and religious meaning!

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The Voice Of The We Of Humanity

November 11, 2009

This post, essentially, brings to a close the theoretical side of my thesis. Future posts (five I think) speak to fleshing out the empirical side of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Below, I use the concept of the not-me-self as a tool to critique the symbolic interactionist school of thought. This critiquing voice—the voice of contingency which binds “self” to society and to “others,” is then used, in the second part of this post, to argue for the legitimization of social and political institutions that practice the politics of emancipation, or the politics that sustain and promote justice, equality, and individual and collective freedoms.

The Symbolic Interactionist School Of Thought Does Not Address Macrosocietal Issues

In Translating Mead’s Generalized Other As A Collective Voice, The Next Step Is To Pose The Question: What Stories Are Told By A Collective Voice And, More Specifically, To What Extent Do Collective Stories Reflect And Even Sustain Existing Power Differences In Macrosocial Structures?

The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self as a Value-Assessment Mechanism

According to Ritzer’s (1992) account of symbolic interactionism, although Mead’s theoretical perspective on mind and self is centered in the accumulated social relations that constitute society, Mead has very little to say about society. For Mead, society represents the ongoing social process that precedes self and mind. Self and mind are formed and shaped by society but they play little or no role in shaping social structure and institutions. Mead’s me-self is, after all, the depository of the shared sets of values that are common to the social system thus contributing to social unity. Because Mead’s theoretical system, and the symbolic interactionist school of thought that is based on, Mead’s theoretical system lacks a macrosocietal orientation and thus it opens itself up to critique. According to Reynolds, the symbolic interactionist school of thought does not address macrosocietal issues. He (1993: 137) states:

“Interactionism truly lacks a decent appreciation and adequate understanding of social structure and social organization. All of this is to say that symbolic interactionism manifests a marked astructural, or microscopic, bias, and any framework with such a bias is bound to be both ahistorical and noneconomic; with respect to power politics, it is also destined to be profoundly apolitical.”

When the concept of collective voices of generalized others is added to the theoretical orientation of Mead’s thinking, a focus on society at the macro-level becomes possible within the framework of Mead’s theory. Collective voices tell collective stories and collective stories may be analyzed from the point of view of the many different attributes of the collectivity. For instance, according to Hermans and Kempen (1993: 117): “In translating Mead’s generalized other as a collective voice, the next step is to pose the question: What stories are told by a collective voice? And more specifically, to what extent do collective stories reflect and even sustain existing power differences in macrosocial structures?”

Society is textured with many influential collective stories; stories that preserve and perpetuate social stratification and institutional hierarchy. The biblical story, as Hermans and Kempen point out (1993: 118), of a sinful and seductive Eve, tells a story that has an ongoing history of influencing relationships between men and women. Also, among persons who have a stake in maintaining social and economic inequality, the Horatio Alger story of the destitute, but brave lad who succeeds after overcoming travail and hardship, bares constant repeating in the face of the excessive wherewithal of the “haves” as opposed to the “have-nots.”

As a product of the socialization process, we are never far removed from some collective story that either consciously or unconsciously we take for granted. Indeed, it is only after we have held our practical consciousness up against the light of analysis (negation/selection) that we come to realize collective voices of generalized others speak through us, as we, in turn, speak through them. A person almost always (as we recall Gidden’s premise) knows what she/he is doing and why she/he is doing it. I would only add to this insightful assertion that people not only know what they are doing, but that they know also that they are doing what they are doing for all the “right reasons.”

The Critiquing Voice Must Speak Through The Self/Other Interdependent Relationship

In So Far As This Micro-Level Collective Voice Is Both Human And Universal, It Provides The Ideal Basis From Which To Critique The Legitimization Of Macro-Level Social And Political Power Structures, As It Provides The Ideal Basis From Which To Evaluate Justice, Equality, And Individual And Collective Freedoms

The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self as a Value-Assessment Mechanism

If we are to analyze and interpret macrosocietal collective stories in terms of how they reinforce and institutionalize existing power structures then it is not enough to identify the stories per se. The collective voices used to legitimate these stories must also be identified. It is significant that the collective stories and voices, for example, the divine right of kings, race superiority, self-evident truths (self-evident truths that have been proven wrong-Euclid’s postulate that parallel lines never meet, the notions of absolute space and time, etc.), used to legitimate macro-level power structures are themselves macro-level collective stories; whereas, the collective voice used to critique these macro-level collective stories (for example, Simmel’s concept of stranger/sociological category, Thom’s ontologically primary opposition of difference/no-difference, and, the researcher’s own concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), articulates a different kind of voice, a voice that speaks through the interdependent relationship of self/other. Developing the implications of this micro-level voice (a voice based in self/other interdependence) reveals not only a voice upon which to critique existing social and political power structures but also a voice upon which to ground individual freedoms and the emancipatory rights of “others”.

In Modernity and Ambivalence , Bauman (1991), analyses the emancipatory experience of the human being and concludes that contingency is the necessary element common to all emancipatory experience. According to Bauman (1991: 235):

“The preference for one’s own, communally shared form of life must therefore, be immune to the temptation of cultural crusade. Emancipation means, such acceptance of one’s own contingency as is grounded in recognition of contingency as the sufficient reason to live and to be allowed to live. It signals the end to the horror of alterity and to the abhorrence of ambivalence.”

For Bauman, contingency applies equally to the otherness of the individual self and to the “other’s otherness”. This relationship is not unlike the interdependent relationship of self/other as it is characterized by the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self.

“Otherness”, when understood from within the context of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self’s self/other relationship, manifests multi-layers of “otherness”. “Otherness”, in this sense, does not stand alone. “Otherness” is always embedded in a whirl of “otherness” and unravels in layers.

[Footnote. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self occasions “otherness” first in the form of the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group, that is, the products of symbolic interaction. A second layer of “otherness” is encountered when the self engages the novelty, impulsiveness and spontaneity — the creative potentials of self-determination — in the self’s option to affirm, reject, and/or qualify the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. A third layer of “otherness” occurs in the “thickness of description” used to validate intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. And, a forth layer of “otherness” is occasioned when the “ought” (as in non-relative ethics and morality) is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group.]

However, this “otherness” is grounded in the contingency of the self’s affirmation of “otherness”. Emancipatory experience follows from this contingency in that the self and “other selves” must affirm their not-me-selves (their otherness). Recognizing that contingency resides at the center of the self’s emancipatory experience Bauman states (1991: 236): “The right of the Other to his strangerhood is the only way in which my own right may express, establish and defend itself. It is from the right of the Other that my right is put together.”

It is this contingency–the contingency which binds a person’s “self” to society and to “others”–which manifests the micro-level voice of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, a voice whose only claim to authority is a claim to contingency, a contingency without which it could not exist. Simpson (1995: 127) in response to the question: “Are we playing the right game?” (acting on the “right” collective voice), gives voice to the “meaning of contingency” when he states: “(It is)…the virtual ‘we’ of a humanity that is a negotiated, unfinished project functioning as an ideal community, a notion that makes a virtue both of being open to and willing to take seriously the conjecture that there is a disjunction between one’s own standpoint and the regulative ideal of the ‘good life,’ and of being critically respectful of the other.”

In so far as this micro-level collective voice is both human and universal it provides the ideal basis from which to critique the legitimization of macro-level social and political power structures, as it provides the ideal basis from which to evaluate justice, equality, and individual and collective freedoms. Following from the right to my own contingency, and, following from the right of the “other” to their own contingency, arises the politics of
emancipation which articulates the rights of Government and socioeconomic institutions to procure both the collective and the individual right to contingency.

[Footnote. Giddens (1991: 215), in summary form, tells us what emancipatory politics entails when he states:

1 The freeing of social life from the fixities of tradition and custom.

2 The reduction or elimination of exploitation, inequality or oppression. (It is) concerned with divisive distribution of power/ resources.

3 Obeys imperatives suggested by the ethics of justice, equality and participation]

When Mead’s theory and the symbolic interactionist school of thought is considered from the fundamental ground upon which both macro-level and micro-level collective voices are founded (the other as contingency), then symbolic interactionist thought may be applied to macrosocietal issues. By appealing to the “rights of others,” — the right to a more egalitarian social order that is based on insuring the availability of a standard of living sufficient for the actualization of individual freedoms, that is, the right to a living wage, political liberty, and protection from wrongful harms, — a symbolic interactionist would find herself/himself in a powerful position to defend against criticisms such as Lichtman’s when he (1970: 77) states: [Symbolic interactionism] “… is overly subjective and voluntaristic, lacks an awareness of historical concreteness, is naive in its account of mutual typification and ultimately abandons the sense of human beings in a struggle against an alien reality which they both master and to which they are subordinate.”