Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Freedom Built into the Cosmos?

Yesterday Bob made an oblique reference to the origins of Slack, but was he serious? Sometimes it's hard to tell whether he's pulling our leg or merely joking. In his characteristically authoritative -- some would say pompous -- way, he wrote that

"Being is the Slack in existence; Life is the Slack in matter; Psyche is the Slack in the biosphere; and Pneuma, or Spirit, is the Slack in Psyche."

In response to such a fascinnoying gnostrum, the napoleonic reader may find himself thinking: like anyone could know that!

This word "slack" -- often capitalized -- seems to come up frequently in Bob's daily dose of diaryhea entries, but to my knowledge, he's never actually exspelled out what he's talking about. Rather, he seems to assume that we all grasp it already, or that perhaps the context renders it less murky. Or maybe he's just deepaking the chopra.

I am here to explain it all out for you, for while no one has ever seen the "face of slack," I did once steal a glimpse of its backside, so I think I know a thing or two about a thing or two.

In fact, this is where we must begin our discussion, with "things" and with "twoness."

It is not immediately evident why either should exist. Why should the cosmos be anything other than One? Well, as it so happens, it is one. This is proved by our unconscious use of the word "cosmos," which assumes a prior or transcendent oneness behind or above all phenomena. Clearly, to say "cosmos" is to say "one." We always know that any this and any that are related on some level.

But why should "things" -- this and that -- exist? While animal perception can apprehend boundaries of various kinds, are these boundaries really real? Or are they just superimposed upon phenomena?

For example, is there really a difference between an animal and its environment? For all we know, the flower could be an external organ of the bee. In our minds we separate them, but the one couldn't survive without the other.

In the book Laws of Form, G. Spencer-Brown (SB) explicates an indicative calculus with which to think about such fundamentals. We will not pretend to understand the calculus, so we'll just assume the letters add up. We are more interested in his conclusions, which are true regardless.

In the book, SB attempts to bring together "the investigations of the inner structure of our knowledge of the universe" with "investigations of its outer structure." As we all know, these two weren't divided until Kant, and the tenured haven't been able to put them back together ever since. In truth they were never separate -- for again, nature knows no such rigid boundaries -- but it's nice to be able to prove it.

SB affirms that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart. For example "the skin of a living organism cuts off an outside from an inside." Thus, inside and outside coarise with the drawing of a boundary.

This leads to the somewhat eery conclusion that prior to the appearance of life, the physical cosmos not only had no inside, but no outside either.

Frankly, this is not something we can imagine; or, we can only imagine it, as if consciousness were there prior to 4 billion years ago, when life emerged.

(At this point we are speaking only of consciousness associated with biological life, not in terms of a transcendent or meta-cosmic intelligence; for surely, prior to the emergence of life the cosmic lights were on, even if nobody was home.)

SB goes on to say that this primordial severance is always present in our own experience; indeed, "experience" would not be possible in its absence, for there would be no distinction between experience and the thing experienced -- like a person in a coma, who (we are told) is having no experience.

Now, a line is also a form of closure. In drawing a distinction, it creates boundaries around two things, thus "enclosing" them, so to speak. And "Once a distinction is drawn, the spaces, states, or contents on each side of the boundary, being distinct, can be indicated."

This is obvious in the case of lower planes of existence, say, the perception of a "rock." In order to see the rock, we must separate it from its surroundings. (Note also that a professional geologist will look at a rock in an entirely different way than we do, seeing all sorts of interesting things.)

But this is also true of higher and more subtle planes and modes, for example, the distinction between conscious and unconscious minds, or between God and man. To even think about God, one must first draw a line between man and God, the one and the many, time and eternity, essence and existence. But this line is not as unambiguous as the distinct line between, say, journalism and MSNBC.

So to think about God, we must draw a line. But as it so happens, God himself is responsible for "lines as such," with the result that we can draw the line anywhere we choose, but the mere fact that we have drawn one reveals another kind of line, i.e., the clearobscure boundary between Spirt and matter, or intelligence and intelligibility, or form and substance, or knower and known, etc. This mysterious line is everything, at least in potential.

As Bob wrote in the book, Life as such -- which marks the distinction between the great outdoors and the grand inside -- is "a luminous fissure" that suddenly appears "in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle." It is "the unimaginable opening of a window on the world."

This is what is meant by the statement "Life is the Slack in matter." Perhaps slack is better grasped by thinking of its antonyms, which would include such things as necessity, predetermination, compulsion, inevitability, etc. On the human plane we recognize it as "fate," or perhaps just the "human condition," i.e., those conditions that give us little or no wiggle room. No wiggle room = no slack.

Animals surely have more slack than inanimate objects, but they still float very close to the surface of matter. Not until the emergence of mind -- i.e., the mental space occupied and colonized by humans -- is there this new dimension that seems to exist at a right angle to matter and life.

Here is where the true freedom exists (at least in potential) and could only exist. At the other end, one must wonder about a man who uses his God-given slack to try to prove it doesn't exist -- e.g., people who do not "believe" in free will. Which of course they are free to believe.

Let's consider two extremes, beginning with a wealthy man who is so driven by a compulsion to acquire more stuff, that he actually has no slack. Conversely, think of a man in prison who has an experience of the divine freedom. Though behind bars, he has infinitely more slack than the rich man. Examples of each are too numerous to mention.

I believe this is what Jesus was driving at with his wise cracks about the challenge of the wealthy person to enter the kingdom of slack on earth. It can be done, of course, but it is often the case that the attributes responsible for the acquisition of great wealth are precisely those that exile him from the slack he supposedly craves.

Only when such a person slows down and attempts to enjoy the slack, do they realize too late that they have lived a mirthless life of grim slacklessness. They were not truly free to do what they did, but were compelled to do so. It is a tragedy to realize this too late.

Unless you are like C. Montgomery Burns, who, believing his life was at an end, whispered, "I only wish I'd spent more time at the office."

I will conclude this episode with a passage by SB: the physicist is "made of a conglomeration of the very particulars he describes, no more, no less, bound together by and obeying such general laws as he himself has managed to find and to record.

"Thus he cannot escape the fact that the world as we know is constructed in order (and thus in such a way as to be able) to see itself.

"This is indeed amazing.

"Not so much in view of what it sees, although this can appear fantastic enough, but in respect of the fact that it can see at all.

"But in order to do so, evidently it must first cut itself up into at least one state which sees, and at least one other state that is seen....

"In this sense..., the universe must expand to escape the telescopes through which we, who are it, are trying to capture it, which is us."

This interior expansion, or bigger bang, is where the slack is. Please also note that if we could prove all of this with the inevitability of ironyclad logic, it would only prove that our slack is an illusion. Likewise, if we could logically prove the existence of God, he couldn't exist (nor could we).

38 Comments:

Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Wonderful exposition. I'm so happy to see that Laws of Form is still resonating. Finding a copy of this magisterial book was a major initiative practice of mine, as the interval during which it was out of print coincided with my undergraduate years.

The notion that separation and division are critical for creation, and indeed bring the universe itself into being, is indeed very important. No need to remind you that separation is the key activity of the seven days of Genesis - the division of light and darkness, heaven and the waters above and below the heavens, and so forth.

Separation of the individual from the rest of the universe is also critical for understanding life itself. Life exists as individuals, unlike non-life. And each individual is bounded by a membrane that separates it from the rest of the world. Maintaining the integrity of that membrane is vitally important - when the membrane is broken, there isno more vitality.

With respect to living organisms, this issue is discussed buy Alexander Skutch, and very interestingly, in his book, Harmony and Conflict in the Living World. (I might also mention DeKoninck's essay on lifeless biology.)

By the way, the social or societal implications of all this are quite clear. Without a membrane to surround it, there is no nation. There has to be an inside and an outside for life to exist.

Thanks, Bob, for an illuminating post.

5/18/2011 07:57:00 AM  
Anonymous dloye said...

Random response... The universe expands or it must collapse into hall of mirrors? I half understand where you're going here. Lemme dive into some slack (aka the bathtub) and let the movement of the spirit wash me clean of yesterday's stardust and pollen.

5/18/2011 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gandalin:

Regarding nations and boundaries -- I happen to be reading a book about World War I. It's all pretty grim, but I think the bottom line is that multiculturalism has been tried, and it was a truly epic FAIL. If people aren't unified by something higher than blood and ethnicity, genocide isn't far behind.

5/18/2011 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Is Freedom Built into the Cosmos?"

Yes.

Huh? Oh... rhetorical question... got it, sorry. And there's a post that goes along with it!

(Sorry, jumped the gun a bit I guess)

5/18/2011 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Here is where the true freedom exists (at least in potential) and could only exist. At the other end, one must wonder about a man who uses his God-given slack to try to prove it doesn't exist -- e.g., people who do not "believe" in free will. Which of course they are free to believe."

The enormity of what must be dismissed by attempting to make and justify the claim that you have no free will... is baffling. Easier to claim "I don't exist"... which, actually, is what they are claiming... mind boggling.

5/18/2011 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob Dole said...

Bob Dole likes your writing style.

5/18/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

BTW, there seems to be an online webified form of the "Laws of Form". I've no idea whether or not it's faithful to the book, but looks interesting.

I won't tempt the wrath of the blogger godz of anti-linking, but it's address is lawsofform dot org

5/18/2011 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

God, but liberals--
even when they try for humour--
are hate-worthy:

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/05/23/110523sh_shouts_kenney

5/18/2011 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I know this is kind of sliding off the point of the post.

Animals surely have more slack than inanimate objects, but they still float very close to the surface of matter.

I often speculate that animals in contact with humans on a regular basis are drawn up into the wider freedom of human existence. They are still limited, obviously, and I suppose the argument would be that they really only appear more free because they are blown about by the winds of our freedom. Then the same could be said of humans and God.

Still, I'm pretty sure I once knew a dog that was a saint of his kind.

5/18/2011 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm sure you're right. We once had a dog that was a kind of genius, and seemed to be able to think abstractly. There's no way this would have been possible in the absence of human contact. I think they get a kind of joy out of the mental activity, just as do humans -- plus, they are subject to human-like problems, such as boredom. Since her we've had four dogs with ordinary intelligence at best. They are unable to transcend their dogginess.

5/18/2011 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a "leftist", so I believe in science, not this stuff. Flame away!

5/18/2011 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no dispute unless science is all you believe. One cannot be argued out of such an absurdity, only lifted out.

5/18/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

"Is Freedom Built into the Cosmos?"

Neal Peart and Entre Nous, anyone? Astrophysicists claim that in our galaxy, things are increasingly “catastrophic” the closer one gets to the more densely populated center.

multiculturalism has been tried, and it was a truly epic FAIL

At first I was thinking that multiculturalism is a difficult thing to maintain. Notice the children of immigrants to America. Even when they’re forced to speak their parent’s native tongue at home, away from home they usually appear quite “American”.

But then there’s Canada and Mexico. They seem to carry on fairly well in spite of some state sponsored multiculturalism.

5/18/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@Mushroom, Bob.

I've had the same thoughts myself which then makes me think of souls evolving through the animal kingdom up to humans.

However, you would have to accept reincarnation as a fact which is not suppported in Judeo-Christian doctrine.

Reincarnation works nicely into my limited understanding of the Cosmos. But just cuz I want it to be so, don't necessarily make it so.

5/18/2011 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think it makes sense in the context of the necessarily hierarchical nature of reality, in which there is a vertical niche for everyone.

5/18/2011 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Reincarnation is a perfectly acceptable part of the Jewish tradition, if not Christian doctrine. It's not a one-way process, either. You can go from a human incarnation, to an animal incarnation, or vice versa. And you can even be reincarnated, if that's the word, in an apparently inanimate object, until somethign happens to release your soul, and it can resume its ascent.

5/18/2011 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

'This interior expansion, or bigger bang, is where the slack is'...

The mountain is crumbling
You are this mountain
The balloon is expanding
You are this balloon
The space it fills is brightening
You are the space

Find & you will see ['yes']
Look and you will know ['no']
In consciousness it becomes clear
In clear air white lit it is--and seen, and been

5/18/2011 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is something relevant, though it might seem a bit tangential at first.

Food for the fire.

5/18/2011 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous The Architect said...

Hello. I have been waiting for you. I am The Architect.

I created spacetime quantum mechanics. You have many questions and while you have transformed yourself vis-à-vis the vertical spiritual construct you remain irrevocably human, ergo some of my comments you will not understand and others you will not.

You represent the unbalanced equation inherent in the programming of mankind, the eventuality of an anomaly within a harmony of mathematical precision, an anomaly which is systemic, creating fluctuation in even the most simplistic equations.

Ergo, due to the varying grotesqueries of your nature including the escalating probability of disaster, your pertinent irrelevance has led you, inexorably, here.

The function of The One is to now return to the Source and allow a temporary dissemination of the code you carry thereby reinserting the prime program after which you will be required to select from OneCosmos seven males and sixteen females with which to rebuild this website.

Failure to comply will create a cascading catastrophic system crash resulting in the death of the entire spacetime quantum mechanics construct.

5/18/2011 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm way ahead of you.

5/18/2011 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous The Architect said...

Blast that damned Oracle.

5/18/2011 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Aw Jeez, Architect. Cut us some slack!

5/18/2011 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Thanks for responding to my comment. I am not sure I understand exactly what you mean here, where you refer to your studies of The Great War:

"It's all pretty grim, but I think the bottom line is that multiculturalism has been tried, and it was a truly epic FAIL. If people aren't unified by something higher than blood and ethnicity, genocide isn't far behind."

The creation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was, in a sense, an attempt to unite a fairly large number of people(s) around something higher than their national identities, namely the Empire. The Empire was not strong enough to do that, and succumbed to a variety of forces and stresses, among which was nationalism. And of course the majority of the peoples of the Empire were united in the communion of the Universal Apostolic Catholic Church.

AnNyway, I am not sure that people need to be "united." Perhaps one of the goblins that rode mankind so severely int he XXth century was this notion that the people need to be united. After all, was it not the "Internationale" that promised to encompass the whole human race?

There is in Scripture a movement towards a greater unification of people, I admit. We move from the individual, to the family, to the tribe, and then to the nation. Beyond the nation, it isn't quite so clear. The prophets do say that In That Day, all people(s) will acknowledge the Creator, but they also indicate that each people will worship Him in their own way. So there will be unity, but in diversity. E pluribus, unum.

Let's try this: the multiculturalism of the empire failed because it did not allow for the individual expression of each nation within it. By psychological analogy, if an individual's psychic boundaries are not distinct, that individual can not engage other individuals in an authentic manner.

If a nation's boundaries are not distinct, there is no nation. The membranes of individuality, of the cell, and of the nation, do admit different entities to pass across them, but it is a controlled process. When it is uncontrolled, death follows.

It all begins by Drawing a Distinction. Without distinction we are in the mud of the Tohu Bohu of pre-Creation.

Thanks!

Gandalin

5/19/2011 04:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gandalin:

I just began the book, so the comment about multiculturalism was my first impressionistic impression of the problem at the root of it all. Actual historians are still arguing over the causes.

But what struck me was all of these s*itty little cultures and ethnicities fighting over what amounts to the "narcissism of minor differences": Serbs, Croats, Slavs, Gauls, Poles, Germans, Turks, Magyars, Bulgars, Albanians, Macedonians, Romanians, Montenegrans, Greeks, etc. Who cares?

It would be one thing if they had been fighting for universal ideals, as in the American Revolution. But cultured tend to believe in their own specialness and superiority. This is a major reason why American patriotism was and is so different from most other forms of patriotism. People came here and gave up their cultural heritage, except as a private matter, where it doesn't cause so many problems.

Modern Europe noticed that cultures and nationalism were the problem, but instead of moving forward, they went backward into "tolerance" and multiculturalism, which is in the process of backfiring on them big time.

Likewise, to the extent that the left has successfully eroded our transcendent and unifying American ideals, its version of multiculturalism merely fosters resentment, envy, entitlement, and a fight over the spoils either handed out by the state or coerced by law.

Unless we are "one nation under God," we are not a proper nation. As the current Pope says, "Variety becomes richness only through the process of unification."

Conversely, "a unity that is built without God, or indeed against him, ends up like the experiment of Babylon: in total confusion and total destruction, in hatred and total chaos of all against all."

5/19/2011 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This occurred to me a couple of days ago, in my interaction with the parents of other kids on my son's little league team. I have no problem relating to the mature spiritual person, in that we are "brothers" under the one father, so there is an instant rapport.

Nor do I have a problem dealing with the more vulgar type of sensory-based guy, in that we at least share a common animal heritage. With my animal brothers I am happy to discuss sports, women, music, beer, etc.

The people who I have more difficulty relating to are the mere intellectuals, in particular, when psyche is split off from spirit. Fortunately, none of the parents are this type.

5/19/2011 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Thank you for those two comments. I think they are very helpful.

The history of The Great War is indeed tragic; in the East, the collapse of Russia led directly to Bolshevist tyranny, and the in the West, the two great Protestant parliamentary monarchies, both the British Empire and the German Reich were physically and spiritually exhausted, leading directly to the destruction of Europe that is unfolding today.

You are right to locate the vortex from which this conflct began in the Balkans, where the conflicts between the nationalities that had been hammered together in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia grew worse and worse. The history of the Balkan wars going back to the 1870s and 1880s is worth thinking about. (The most eloquent commentary on the futility of these wars is perhaps Zorba's wonderful soliloquy about the value of man.) It is also worth remembering that the conflicts between all of these nationalities arose as the result of the first stages of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

Second, you are right to note that people coming from the cultural milieux of these same nationalities manage to coexist peacefully in the United States, where their national aspirations to temporal pwer are set aside, and their national identities are subordinated to their new identity as Americans.

It may be that all nationalities and languages will disappear, when the tumult that followed the incident of the Tower of Babel is fixed. David Goldman, writing as "Spengler," has posted a few essays dealing with the disappearance of languages and national identities around the world.

However, I'm wondering whether this problem might better be handled under the rubric of subsidiarity. There are some things that are best handled at each of the possible levels of social organization, i.e. empire, nation-state, tribe, clan, family, individual. Ensuring that each level only deals with those issues that are appropriate to that level is what will maximize freedom - which is best manifest at the level of the individual.

5/19/2011 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gandalin said "I'm wondering whether this problem might better be handled under the rubric of subsidiarity. There are some things that are best handled at each of the possible levels of social organization, i.e. empire, nation-state, tribe, clan, family, individual. Ensuring that each level only deals with those issues that are appropriate to that level is what will maximize freedom - which is best manifest at the level of the individual."

Yep. It wasn't the mere existence of a nation that became a problem, but what they held that to mean. Nationalism, in it's modern sense, came out of the ideas of Kant and Hegel, where there was thought to be a particular 'ismness' in the blood of related peoples. That it was by blood that one came to ideas of Germanness, or Serbian-ness, or Jewishness, etc, and central to the difficulties behind the unrest in the balkans was that people felt the lines of nations had been drawn improperly, that they should be drawn along lines which showed where one people of one bloodline lived, and that to separate them, to balkanize them, was an affront to their 'true nature' which inherred in their bones and blood, rather than their ideas or sensible administrative units.

Nationalism, in that sense, is to be born from below, rather than above.

American nationalism (patriotism would be better), on the other hand, derives it's nature from the ideas which America was founded upon (life, liberty and pursuit of happiness), and so is, in the secular sense, to be born from above.

5/19/2011 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

(... and of course, for those who believe that they were 'endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness', are more fully born from above)

5/19/2011 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, what Van said is what I was trying to say. Dennis Prager often discusses this -- how so many people elevate "blood" over values.

5/19/2011 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ironically, Jews -- who are enjoined to love the stranger -- ended up being the most victimized by those who love only members of their group and hate the stranger.

5/19/2011 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A major, major issue is that of trust, which is the psychic antipode of paranoia. For most of human history one was either the ruler or the ruled, the hammer or the anvil.

But in America we developed this idea that it is okay if I rule over you, or you over me.

This mutual trust seems to be dissolving into paranoia, as I don't like leftists ruling over me, just as leftists don't trust conservative rule.

However, this may be a temporocentric view, since the identical problem emerged within minutes of the passing of the Constitution, with the Jeffersonians declaring war on the Hamiltonians.

5/19/2011 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Good comments from you and Van. The genius of the Constitution is that it works even when there is considerable distrust.

One might argue that the Constitution failed when certain slaveholding States declared their secession, however the Constitution remained in force in the United States, and provided the basis for the reconstitution (no pun intended) of the country.

If we succeed in creating a government of laws, not men, then we are all rulers, and all ruled, simultaneously.

5/19/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The notion that ww1 was caused by "Nationalism", where this is seen as some sort of general, abstract attribute of all nations, even a pathology, comes out of the socialist propagandists who arose after the war. Even since it has been used as a hobgoblin to justify and rationalize various forms of "One Worldiism".

When subjected, however, to informed historical analysis or critical thought, "Nationalism", or its decadent, empirial form, "multiculturalism", really do not stand up in and of themselves as the primalry cause of of WW2, and certainly not what sustained that war in the face of all that carnage. Most certainly, WW1 cannot just be blamed on the Balkans. Vastly wider and more powerful forces were at work; he was merely the excuse.

One would be better off looking at 4 highly related phenomena:

1) As a practical poltical matter, the failure of the governments of the "Congress of Europe", particularly in the realm of diplomacy, and legislatures, to act as a check against power interests in the aristocracy across Europe. This had been for the most part handled most adroitly across ever since the Napoleonic wars (even the Franco Prussian war had been contained to a great extent to just those two powers.) Something broke down. Was it generational? Was a sense of prudence lost? A faliure of memory? Was there something about the emerging age, the high modern age, that caused this?

2. The late political maturity of both Russian, and obviously, Germany. It may be that ww1 was cause not by "nationalism" but the lack of it.

3. Related to #2, the attempt to exclude Germany (and perhaps Russia as well) from the land grab of late 19th century emperial conquest and colinzation outside of Europe, particularly in Asia and Africa. This issue is glossed over in all the self-righteous propaganda about "The War for Democracy", but the "Western Democracies" could scarcely be said to be "pursuing democracy" in the world at large. They were after world wide empire.

4. Lastly. and most importantly, the spiritual and political crisis of the rot of the order of the old aristocracies and the Church(es) in the late 19th century, and the failure of the so-called "Haute Bourgeoisie" to offer a way out of these crises. The cracking of Crown and Altar, as it where. This is the real crisis of the emergence of high modernity. In a very real sense, it is with us still, merely postponed by a century of reactionary collectivism. It has been masked by material progress, but it stlll haunts us even today and is all the more dangerous for its lack of resolution.

Thus, World War I, along with World War II, can be seen as a sort of European Civil War, much like the 30 years war. This time the conflict provoked not by conflicts over particular Christian confession and their attendant political ramifications, but by failures of established political and spiritual understandings, traditions, arrangements, compromises and establishments.

It was a crisis "made flesh", as it were, of European Christianity itself, and we live with it still. It hardly about such trivial things as "nationalism".

5/19/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Socrates said...

Are you always so smug toward your students? Why?

5/19/2011 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

anonymous said "The notion that ww1 was caused by "Nationalism", where this is seen as some sort of general, abstract attribute of all nations, even a pathology, comes out of the socialist propagandists who arose after the war. Even since it has been used as a hobgoblin to justify and rationalize various forms of "One Worldiism". "

On the other hand, if you read your intellectual history, you'd find that Kant, whose ideas made possible the modernist view of nationalism (which is not compatible with America), had long before written an essay called 'Perpetual Peace' (link to follow) which laid the intellectual framework to do away with nation states and to centralize power into a single body of internalized governance, the impetus behind the 'League of Nations' which followed WWI. It proposed that any and every nation (as he defined them) should be stripped of their ability to defend themselves so that all nations could be subdued and subsumed under a one world order, so that, in the words of his idol Rousseau, they could be 'forced to be free'.

His view, and the 'nationalism' you mention, is the deterministic view derived from Marx through Hegel, through Kant, which is driven (in their anti-conceptual rejection of individual rights and free will, they place them selves under something very close to determinism) to flatten out all hierarchies and all ideas, in order to deal with all the world as if all it's peoples were merely meat and blood, rather than individuals living in a geographical area, possessing individual rights and choosing to order themselves into nations (rooted in ideas, not collectivism), such as America.

There is nothing in the views we've stated which ignores or excludes the Thucydian view, that the many conditions and interests of states and maneuvering's for power will always be factors in propelling history, but states which are born from below into nationalism will always pursue domination and war.

5/19/2011 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Kant's 'Perpetual Peace'

5/19/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

I agree that the aspiration of many citizens or members of the nations of the Austrian Empire to exert more political power than was available to nations under the Empire was not the sole or even the primary underlying cause of The Great War, but it certainly provided the spark or the tinder that set off the powder keg. Another factor to consider is the misunderstanding among the military elite and the middle and upper classes of just what the costs of a total war would be -- they thought that the carnage of the War Between the States was a consequence of American stupidity, and imagined that The Great War would be as quick and relatively painless as the Franco-Prussian War.

5/19/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GB: Well that is what you get for having Great Danes.


Seriously, I have had dogs that have had remarkable cognitive, mental, emotional and spiritual presence. I even had a dog that had a sense a beauty.

I do not buy this dogmatic split here (hehe). I am not even (always) sure that the difference is one of degree.

One need look much further than seeing eye dogs. therapy dogs, MDW's or working border collies to question man's uniqueness here. It borders on vanity,

We are better at culture, civilization, language and abstraction, but we are not alone in the vertical nor in the slack-o-sphere.

It s also an open question just who gave whom some slack. Ot might have been having dogs allowed us to have the slack.
Man and dog shaped one another, each in turn. We might not have had civilization withut dogs, or it might hve taken much longer to get their.

5/20/2011 09:04:00 AM  

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