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They and I

I have been making my way back through sections of Being and Time and the first thing that strikes me, is that here is a book that makes the idea of “philosophy as therapy” very real. Being and Time is notoriously hard to read, and above that, most of it is logical bunk. As an example, the “Being of Dasein”, is literally the “Being of Being”, and on a logical basis a meaningless statement. But yet it still rings through in a certain therapeutic way. One passage that strikes me, is where Heidegger is talking about how the individual (Dasein) interacts with others, or as he calls them, the they.

This Being-with-one-another dissolves one’s own Dasein completely into the kind of Being of the “Others”, in such a way, indeed, that the Others, as distinguishable and explicit, vanish more and more……[I as Dasein] take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they take pleasure, find “shocking” what they find shocking etc.

Heidegger is referring to the way we can melt into the being of other’s lives. As we all live our lives, we are confronted daily by other individuals, who collectively are the they. And so our public persona is a persona shaped by, well the public.

The Self of everyday Dasein is the they-self, which we distinguish from the authentic Self.

I am not sure on this point. Following Wittgenstein on the impossibility of private languages, I interpret this as the impossibility of a non-public individual. Instead, our public persona is part of our authentic self; our alone selves and our public selves are inseparable.  But in a subtle way: we cannot understand that we are alone (when we most feel as Dasein) without the external reference of others in the world, ie self-knowledge of our public persona. So the battle is to balance the two, and attempt, if one can, to align them so the public self and private self are the same Dasein. This is a bit back and forth, but basically, when I speak to my Island myth, I am still conscious of all the other islands out there, and that without them as reference points, I wouldn’t even realise I was on an island, ie realise my fundamental aloneness.

Loneliness and Distraction

Going through old writings and it has been fascinating to see how old some of my ideas are. The “Island Myth” I speak to here, is actually a much earlier idea then I thought. This is the beginning of the underlying theories for why I hold Polyamory in such high regard. The below was written in 22/10/07 and I post it here without edit:

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When I was a child I played with Lego in our basement in upstate- New York. The basement was cool in the summer and when there was nothing to do I would descend and take out my colour coded boxes of Lego. But there was never nothing to do, it simply felt like there was nothing worth doing, that would be fun enough. It was a sad time. How does a child deal with loneliness? They play or cry. How does an adult deal with loneliness? The drink or love. Children are closer to the truth I think but still wrong, simply less self-destructively so. When the loneliness gets so bad that one is completely selfish, a transcendent selfishness when one is apart from all of humanity and sees into oneself and is shocked and disgusted by what they see, that is when we drink and love.

I have returned to an idea of my youth that I disregarded some time ago. This idea concerned the man as Island. This was incorrect in application- I didn’t understand what the island process really was. I wanted to not care about the world enough for it to hurt me, that no matter what, the me that was in me, the locked shell, that would be safe and I would defy Donne as his words battered vainly against my rocky perimeter. I was mistaken, the cut off from humanity is the affliction we all face, it is the embodiment of what the existential loneliness is. The answer is harder and slower and maybe impossible. The answer is to open ones arms to the world and be an island. Be an island, but on the horizon you see the other islands and you can appreciate that. Humanity as an archipelago; sometimes an island slips into the sea and sometimes the underfoot tectonics force up a replacement. But how often do islands crash into each other? The notion of love as connection is misunderstood. Love with a capital L, is of course a connection of sorts, but instead of the traditional notion of connection, of hearts intertwined, Love is instead a telephone wire, a cry in the dark that has been answered; but it is still dark.

So love is the distraction from the world. Only in those who no longer seek distraction, who understand their plight as humans bound to die alone, for whom loneliness is a release and perfection is an island-life with other pretty islands scattered across the bay, only they can Love. The desperate eroticism of loneliness, the funeral fuck, the break-up sex, all are the return and full recognition, nay fulfilment of love (small L). this need to escape distraction- is it possible to escape? Have we defined Love as love because not only is distraction the easiest way of coping with the absurdity of life, further it is the only coping mechanism we have? Houllebecq would here jump onto the bandwagon of genetic engineering and cry that we must wait for neo-humans to overcome the loneliness. I cannot disagree or agree. The experiment that is my life is far from having run it’s course (I hope) and hints of experiences and feelings say that it is possible to approach loneliness from a place of power and decide that distractions are all well and good, but the real world, that is better for me.

Philosophy’s Cultural Biases

Interesting post and comments here on the racial homogeneity of Western Philosophy:

 If we think of philosophy as a series of “big questions” and our resultant, flailing attempts to answer those questions, then it’s clear that philosophy has never been the province solely or primarily of white men. Thinkers from a myriad of cultural and intellectual traditions have grappled with these questions, and continue to do so. But what if we think of philosophy — or, more carefully, the philosophy that’s going on now in the English-speaking world — as specifically tied to its cultural background and intellectual heritage. Construed as such, is the philosophy we’re doing now primarily the product of white men thinking about their own experience of the world?

My philosophical interests, are, for example very much driven by an individualistic viewpoint of the world (see my Islands post). I have often wondered about the philsoophies of more Eastern cultures and the collectivist point of view that remains influential in China and Japan, and how our understanding of the world and therefore our philosophical ideas are necessarily seen through a certain prism. Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” might not even be that important a statement in collectivist cultures and so it throws up challenges to how we rank and rate the importance of ideas. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that we are all subjected to our own internal biases.

Philosophy of Dying

If philosophy is knowing how to die, what of my own philosophy?

My philosophy revolves completely around death. It takes the absurdity of life as a given. The shortness of life, the pathetically easy way we die for such pointless reasons. It looks to all of this and says that life is meaningless. BUT, we can create meaning. We can look at the range of experienced moments, our human ability to make the mundane magical and share the meaning we create with other, equally primal, humans. When Costica Bradatan says that:

The worthiness of one’s philosophy reveals itself, if anywhere, in the live performance of one’s encounter with one’s own death; that’s how we find out whether it is of some substance or it is all futility. Tell me how you deal with your fear of annihilation, and I will tell you about your philosophy.

I say bring the challenge on, I have lived well and plan to die well. There is no need for afterlives and wishful thinking, the sheer blackness of the moment after, is only tempered by our will to live well. To prove ourselves to ourselves.

And death itself, is a transfer of created meaning. When my father died last year, his dying became not about him but the family/people around him. When I gave the eulogy I said roughly the following:

Yesterday was about dying. Today and everyday after is about living. And we will do as he would have wanted and live as well as possible.

The dead get the moment of death to create their last meaning and then they are gone. We, the living, take on the meaning they created and from there we continue to build lived lives.

I think in the end, all we can say is that we already are philosophical martyrs. We can all turn towards death, not in a giving up of life, but as an embracing of it.

We are all Islands

The imagery of Donne’s “No man is an Island”, has always fascinated me. When I read it as a teenager I loved it. I took it as a challenge, that I could indeed bccome an Island and not need anyone else. But then it felt like that was doomed to failure, that we all need others.

Now all is different. It seems that we are all islands. We are all alone. And this is a beautiful thing and makes our shared humanity all the more amazing and precious. As we share our lives and love despite our isolation. And so then my eyes, they look at my island, green and brown and pretty against the blue sky and sea and suddenly my eyes are lifted and vista swaps and I see that all around my island, like bundles of stars and galaxies, lie an infinite other islands and this archipeligo is us. It is my Archipelago myth and one that visually allows the aloneness (not loneliness) of existence alongside those parts of existence we share with others.

A New Religion

I have been thinking about the possibility of a religion which lacks the negatives of traditional  religion and only promotes the possibilities. First some groundwork:

Like Marx, I think that religion is both an opiate and eradicable, but I don’t think of this as depressing anymore. I was deeply Catholic for many years, then, stridently atheistic. I have had a lot of back and forth on the “new atheists” and their general movement towards a supposed completion of the enlightenment project; ie a society based on science and reason. My frustration with them is that they have always lack an answer for what is religion’s primary power: the offer of a meaning for life.

The positives of religion are that they give meaning, construct social orders that can be powerful and rewarding and secure a person’s place in the universe.

The negatives are their hierarchical basis, need to focus on some sort of dogma/holy text and the need for a “true supernatural”

Can we have the positives without the negatives?

I envisage a non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic religion where we can use the language of the supernatural, and speak of souls and heaven and feeling god move through you etc. How?

On the non-hierarchical, the “religion” is introduced to you by a person and then you tell and help another person to the same place. You never know more than 1-2 people in the “religion” at any one time, and no one knows who even started it.

On the non-dogmatic/holy text: Each person creates their own mythology. This can be derived from personal experiences, or adapted from various religious or cultural mythologies. The key is the development of a story telling of mythology between people. These stories, inform and explain the moral actions of people, and are descriptive/guides at best, rather than proscriptive moral texts. They can be written out or simply be stories in your head and be as poetic or as simple as you wish. I think this is open to arguments about moral relativism and am happy to have that debate some other time.

On the need for the supernatural: I think all supernatural language is valuable and means something though there is no actual external reference that the language is pointing to. But that doesn’t matter. I can say, that such an event was “soul-destroying”, and atheist and theist alike will know what I mean by that, but if pressed, I would say, “well of course there is no super-natural soul of any sort”. It may be having cake and eating it aswell, but on my conception of language and the use of mythology as a way of trading social mores, I think it works well.

You might say such a “religion” is not a religion, but I don’t have a better English word. I mean you can make up some silly term like “movement” or spreading “zen”” or some such, but most people who I discuss this with are most comfortable with it being a religion of some sort, because it answers those needs which religion is most suitable to answering.

I have been discussing these things with people for about a year, but recently realised I have been preaching to a choir of atheists/humanists. I now want to discuss this with people from different perspectives.

Choosing the Good Life

As human beings we all want to live awesome lives. But, how do we know what such lives entail? Is there a standard set of elements that make the good life, and how do we know what those are?  I am a descriptivist on such things, and so I would probably say that when we speak of human flourishing all we are doing is describing a type of which makes people seem most fulfilled. There is no set of facts to discover about the good life, but rather that this whole phrasing is a description of people acting/being a certain way, rather than being a proscription of the perfect life passed down by someone/something else. It seems like a good life to us, because it seems like a good life to us.

If that’s the case, then why choose  Aristotelian notions of flourishing over self-destructive social nihilism? Why do birds lay eggs? There seem to be a set range of possible ethical behaviours that humans can engage in without self-destructing and Aristotelian flourishing is one of them. We may offer reasons why it is “better”, but its “betterness”, is offered from our very human point of view. I do not think it is in us to ‘choose’ between different descriptions of the good life. we can only describe a fairly narrow series of possible lives that are boxed in by the limitation of our nature as biological, evolved beings.

I still want to give an account of how a given society chooses what the good life is. In this, i think that the best metaphor is fashion. A narrow range of ethical theories come in and out of fashion over the grand sweep of human history. Why Aristotle is back at the forefront of governmental assessments of happiness, is more interesting to me as a historical question then as a question of which meta-ethical theory provides the best life. because i think that question is unanswerable. All we can do is describe human behaviour and any approval of one system over another is emotional, not rational (though I do not find this as blameworthy, but rather a key elements of our humanness). i take my starting point for a lot of this from Simon Blackburn quasi-realism and some of Sam Harris’ recent work.

Also, don’t get me wrong as being against Aristotle; Aristotle dominated my ethical thinking in undergraduate and I return to the Nicomachean ethics often to straighten my thinking on many things. But this love of Aristotle is as much a ‘fashion’ choice where one of the range of possible ethical positions gets emphasised due to my personal history. On a wider societal example of ethics coming in and out of fashion see the more Hobbesian “greed is good“ ethical inclinations of the 80s.

One thing that does seem to be very interesting is that the range of ethical positions is narrowing over time, I believe, largely due to the lack of societal upheaval we see in the West. ie slavery etc begin to disappear in the range of ethical options. But i can’t imagine that we will ever narrow completely in, laser-like, on the one true ethical position. We are only one massive economic collapse away from a new, wider set of possible ethical lives as the set of required moral decisions expand. And from that new starting place, we may again have enough societal calmness over decades/centuries to narrow on a particular ethical life as the optimal. But my feeling is that such an ethical narrowing would be a different narrowing (though in the same spectrum) to the one we are experiencing now.

Improve Willpower

Following from my earlier post on the mental effort it takes the poor in particular to make decisions, a great primer  from Diane Trice on how to replenish “willpower”. A summary:

Currently, there are a few things that have been shown to improve willpower once it gets depleted. First of all is rest or sleep. Rested, well-slept people have more willpower than tired people…..

Another mechanism that has been shown to replenish depleted willpower is eating. Exerting willpower takes energy, quite literally, and energy in the form of food that gets converted into blood glucose can improve willpower….

A good mood is another way to increase willpower after it has been depleted. Positive mood experiences have been shown to overcome the effects of depletion and lead to improved willpower. In several studies, people were put into good moods in a variety of ways, such as watching a humorous video, getting a surprise gift, or interacting with someone they liked. The studies suggested that being in a good mood, for whatever reason, helped improve willpower after people had been depleted.

In addition to trying to get your willpower back once it has been depleted, you can also consider strengthening your willpower in advance. Studies have shown that willpower is like a muscle, and although it can get tired (depleted) with use, it can also get stronger with exercise. Exercising your willpower over the long run seems to give you more willpower to work with, just like exercising your muscles will strengthen them over time.

Give the poor more sleep and food and they will make better decisions. Simple.

The Failure of Monogamy

I have been investigating the various possible human relationships people have for about 2 years now. Typically people seem to be regarded as single and dating (non-monogamous) and in a relationship/marriage (monogamous). But past these two typical standards, there is a whole range of relationship types, including open marriages, polyamory and relationship anarchy. My personal preferences aside, my investigation was driven by the inevitability of monogamy failing for most of the people I know. How successful is monogamy? Tracy Clark-Flory finds that:

The best educated guess, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, is that an affair takes place within 40 to 76 percent of marriages: “A conservative interpretation of these figures suggests that although perhaps half of all married couples remain monogamous, the other half will experience an infidelity over the course of a marriage.”

With this in mind, why does society push us into an either/or scenario when it comes to monogamy? I do believe that some people are “built” for monogamy. But obviously many others simply aren’t otherwise they wouldn’t break such an embodied taboo as marital fidelity with such regularity. If instead of a presumption of monogamy, that people tried to dissociate the notions of fidelity and commitment from each other? So that people can be committed but not necessarily monogamous?

Save the Phenomena!

 

 

 

What is wrong with Philosophy as it is currently regarded today? Philosophy like science is not a capital “S” Subject of investigation. English, History and Biology are examples of Subjects. Unlike these Subjects, philosophy like science, is a method of discovering the world, its something we can practice. we see this in our language, we can say that we “practice” philosophy, like a doctor might practice medicine, and unlike an historian’s inability to “practice” history. The idea that Philosophy is a practice, derived from Socrates and other ancients is one that seems to have given way to philosophy becoming a Subject in its own right. This, I believe, is a mistake, and one which potentially reduces philosophy to irrelevance at a time when it is needed more then ever.

The philosophical method, is one that allows clarity of expression and a systematic approach to argument which would be excellently suited to the great debates of our time. Arguments still rage over subjects as diverse as global warming and capital punishment, not because of a lack of data for one or another side, but because vested interests allow the terms of the debate to become clouded by misinformation. Philosophy can be the means of making the murky, clear.

Instead, where are we now in philosophy? How is philosophy valued? The peer review system is such that the published paper is thehighest value, while the teaching of the method is reduced in many academic departments as a secondary consideration at best and an inconvenience at worst. Philosophy has become a self-eating snake. We go around and around, isolating and picking at each other’s theory. We play with syntax, while too often the actual grammar of the world goes unchallenged and unsaid.

The field is still filled with gifted philosophers, those who can make and clarify arguments with ease. But I say this, the old school philosopher, is needed more than ever. The philosopher of Socrates, the philosopher who shows and exposes inconstancies of argument. When we turn on our TV’s or read blog articles online, we see fallacy after fallacy, but few philosophers challenge thearguments of non-philosophers, on the leading issues of our time. This seems to be left to partisans and journalists untrained in basic logic. Instead, we rap ourselves in the safe garment of our own special terminology and customs. We battle each other on one “meta” theory after another, all the while the real problems of the world become more confused and less clear, when the spread of disinformation and propaganda via 24 hour media sources goes unchallenged. Why are we not pushing back?

We have a saying in philosophy, that our theories must save the phenomena. What other field of enquiry needs constant reminder tosave the phenomena? Do engineers create a floating building and then throw their hands up in despair when their plans do not fit thereal world? Do doctors critique their patients for their symptoms not precisely fitting their pre-conceived ideas of disease? As philosophers, we must realise that these abstract frameworks are just that, frameworks.

There is an opportunity for philosophers to redefine their role as those who help define terms and structure debate on the great issues of our time. With this we can return to the ancient tradition of philosophy as a practice and not a subject, as a means, and not an end.

Sport and Nationality

I have been thinking a lot about the notion of nationality, and how we belong to nations. There seems to be two levels of nationality. 1 the legal level and 2, what you feel is your country.

I lived in the US from ages 4-11. If I hadn’t returned to ireland at 11, I may well have thought of myself as an American for the rest of my life, despite being born in Dublin to irish parents. As it is, I feel irish (despite my mish-mash of an accent).

My sister was born and spent 2 months in the US and so has 2 passports and joint nationality. Is she irish or american? Legally she’s both, but she would regard herself as Irish.

What of undocumented mexicans in the US? Their children may go there when 1 year’s old and grow up thinking of themselves as american, yet the US government would potentially say no, they were foreign aliens.

Any legaistic criteria for nationality is going to be somewhat arbitrary. I think a system based on the following is fairest.

  • Wherever you have spent the largest percentage of your life.. That is your nationality. But, you can get duel passports/easy visas for those countries where your parents are from and where you were born if those countries are different.

This plays into a very interesting debate on irish rugby qualification. At the moment to become an Irish qualified player (if not an irish citizen/of irish anscetrsy), you must be resident in Ireland for 3 years consecutively. Many feel this is too short and that 7 years is more reasonable. The fear is that players will stay just to play Test level rugby and raise their marketability and then head on to play club rugby for the highest bidder, be they in eingland or france. This cuts to the heart of how we regard our nationality, as you can well see a scenario where a player is born in Fiji to Australian parents, grows up in New Zealand (gains NZ passport), moves to Ireland to play rugby for 3 years and is picked for the irish rugby team, but once capped, moves to france to play club rugby. Where is this player from? It is a tough question. I would prefer if the player was only elegible to play for a country after 7 years as that shows a true committment to a country’s sporting culture.

CBT for a better world

Why do we cause stress in ourselves? Well I have an understanding. Its addictive behaviour. When I used to get angry and escalated behaviour, I received immediate feedback. You get a rush of adrenaline pumping in your muscles. The endorphins flood your brain and rationality is quashed and you are left with absolute conviction of being correct. It’s so strong it removes emotions like care and love; well in fact it convinces one that you are doing it out of care and love.

So it seems the whole world is one massive addictive society. When we think about addiction we talk of alcohol and drugs and sex and power and these sorts of things. These are symptoms of a wider issue though it seems. The first point of addiction is addiction to the basic chemicals in our bodies that we learn to release through causing conflict in our lives.

Now, there seems to be another way. But it’s a harder way as the anger/stress way releases immediate response within seconds whereas the other way takes time and is intermittent in response. Behavioural studies of people show it is a lot of work to make behaviour changes and there needs to be a lot of clear incentives. Simply telling people that behaviour X will make them happier in the long run is not enough, especially when the change is difficult and even a change from everything they once knew.

Of course some people are more optimised then others to make changes in their lives. These are the people who need to be tackled first.

What is the other way? It’s optimising a different set of chemicals in one’s head. It is developing positive feedback loops based on consistent behaviour. We know that one of the greatest feeling humans have comes from positive self-regard. Positive self-regard is correlated with positive public regard (citation). Hence we need to enhance positive public regard or perceived public regard. Increasing positive public regard is difficult and takes a long time with many set-backs as we are in a dynamic model of conflicting human interactions and goals. But, enhancing perceived public regard is definitely “easier” though still complex and we need to be careful to not just encourage narcissism. So, if people perceive the world as a potentially delightful place where they have a valued place in society, then this could potentially lead to two elements: 1. We have positive feedback about the world thereby improving our interactions. 2. Our public regard does in fact improve as we are acting better because of 1. These two elements can interact to create a semi-lagged feedback loop that will increase life-satisfaction.

This is all a complicated way of saying people should be more optimistic. But there are hints at certain elements that need to be thought through as simple optimism is not the whole story either. It’s nearly a cynical optimism that is needed, or as Seneca might have recognised, classical stoicism. Because the world is so harsh and dangerous (or for those in the West, presented as harsh and dangerous) that it’s a lot of work to set up stoicism within the existing framework of an individuals lives. Person X does yoga for a time, person Y reads a self-help book, person Z joins a religion. All ways of searching for positive self-regard are rife for abuse and can even lead to opposite results and just set up further internal conflicts and conflict addiction. Hence the failure of most of these in most of the people we find.

This is all becoming more and more important as the traditional framework for keeping our conflict addiction in control through societal consensus was based on authoritarian systems of patriarchal family units and organised religion. With the semi-collapse of these in the West we are struggling to find responses to our conflict. But we are no worse as people and in many ways we are much freer (one could argue that free chaos is better then societal dictatorship, though not the place here to make such arguments). Whatever the moral advantage/disadvantage of our atomised society, we need to get on with trying to fix it up for ourselves. There are no utopias and there will always be hardship and suffering in a Darwinian world, but in the “safer” enclaves of society such as the modern dynamic city, there are definite possibilities to reduce conflict for something calmer. For something in a sense more familial.

I have no idea how to offer a better way as what worked with me cannot work for others as it’s so attached to particular thoughts, actions and readings. For example, I can offer no advice to those people who have never been the “Alpha” party in a destructive romantic relationship. So analysis of what I see as the issues facing us does not mean I have any ideas as to solutions. Well, the immediate thoughts on solutions are as authoritarian and horrific as anything that occurred in past history and I do not want to utter such insults to human solidarity.

But maybe I am just saying that we all need cognitive-behavioural therapy of one kind or another. That may well be true, but CBT is a way of coping with the way the world’s values are currently weighed. I think you can use some aspects of CBT, with other processes that are unique to individual psyches to produce a therapy that enhances the second category of addictive feedback (love/friendship). This whole thing may not take much; it’s just that it’s very heavily stressed in the beginning. So let’s say on a spectrum, to go from addictive reactionary behaviour to addictive positive self-regard, the first “step” whatever that is, is 90% of the effort. Then from there the feedback loops of positivity may just take over.

How to be an Agnostic

Philonew has some interesting points on atheism, though I have some objections. He says:

In considering religion

  1. We have to define what we mean by “God”.
  2. Based on the given definition, we have to demonstrate that such an entity exists and that there are clues that point to its existence.
  3. Because there are numerous religious denominations, (i.e., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, as well as an endless variety of denominations within the same religious tradition) we have to show which of the purported gods the real one is.
  4. We further have to show a compelling reason why one should worship such a divinity, granted that one satisfactorily addresses 1, 2, and 3.

I dont really see how 3 is different to 1/2. If we define god in 1, and the god of 1 is shown to be true in 2, then we don’t need to worry about showing which god is the real one, the work has already been done for 3. Maybe he rather means that there needs to be an effort to convince others of 1/2; but some people will believe mad things regardless and I don’t think 3 is needed. 4 is important though. I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens saying something along the lines of if he was brought face to face with god, would he not worship him, and saying, no I’d tell him to fuck off, I am not a slave to compulsory love.

On Philonew’s statement that 1-4 need fulfilling to be regarded as a ‘true believer’, well i think that there is a confusing of belief and knowledge. An agnostic believes god’s existence is unknowable… A true believer believes god is knowable, whether they have that knowledge or not, and often, they do not need knowledge to be satisfied in their beleif. So goes ‘faith’.

After Capitalism

I have been thinking a lot about the fight over economic systems that took place over the last 150 years. Capitalism clearly beat communism, though socialist democracies which attempted to combine the free markets efficiencies with the emotional appeal of communism, repeatedly score best in international surveys. But capitalism greatest flaw is that it has not accurately priced in the ecological destruction humanity has caused over the last century. Because of this, all things are artificially cheap. Add this to the fact that economic growth is bourne either of population growth or increased productivity and it seems that there is inevitable decline built into the system. Why do I say this? We are already seeing that as societies develop & women have further control over their bodies, population growth sinks below replacement levels. on the productivity side, we seem to have plateaued on continued productivity gains. More tech might help productivity, but since time is the limiting factor, productivity gains seem like they will continue to slow.

With this in mind I have been pondering what a post-capitalist society would be like. I think there will have to be two main elements.

  1. A sustainable society, so no new inputs or outputs
  2. A move from an economic growth model based on consumption growth, to a model of economic growth as knowledge and/or well-being growth.

I will develop each of these points in future posts.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

I have been reading Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, and I have to say I love it. It highlights to me the overwhelming bad effects that having Platonic thought as the basis of Western philosophy has had. I will probably post more on Popper as I go through it, but I wanted to highlight one section. This section concerns the notion, popular throughout history that those elites can point to a particular quality of their’s as justification for their political position as elites. Popper dismantles this notion with relish:

I wish to express my belief that personal superiority, whether racial or intellectual or moral or eductional, can never establish a claim to political perogatives, even if such superirotity can be ascertained. Most people in civilised countries nowadays admit superiority to be a myth; but even if it were an established fact, it should not create special political rights, though it might create special moral responsibilities for the superior persons. Analogous demands should be made by those who are intellectually and morally and educationally superiour; and i cannot help feeling that the opposite claims of certain intellectualists and moralists only show how little successful their education has been, since it failed to make them aware of their own limitations, and of their Pharisaism.

The view that Popper is attacking here is ingrained in our contemporary elites, whereby our political system is a result of meritocracy. When we examine the behaviors of our elites we find that despite most elites justifying their place in society through appeals to their talents, rarely do they indicate that those talents should make them hold themselves to higher standards (my experience with educational and financial elites indicate that this is true). To quote the shorthand version of Popper’s position from Uncle Ben:

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

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