Aristotle          -          Sophocles
Transcendent   -          Immanent
Mono               -          Poly

There is the level of the opposition and the meta-level, of the integration of the opposition. Those who take part in the conflict are necessarily unaware of how their actions form a wider balance.

It is important for us to become fully aware of these pairs of opposites.

Our logical mind does not like them: it generally operates on the either-or or yes-no principle, like a computer. So, at any one time it wishes to give its allegiance to either the one of the other of the pair, and as this exclusiveness inevitably leads to an ever more obvious loss of realism and truth, the mind suddenly changes sides, often without even noticing it.

It swings from one opposite to the other, and every time there is a feeling of ‘making up one's mind afresh'; or else the mind becomes rigid and lifeless, fixing itself on one side of the pair of opposites and feeling that now 'the problem has been solved'.

The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites, which, as it were, permeate everything man does.

Only a higher force - wisdom - can reconcile these opposites. 

The problem cannot be solved; but wisdom can transcend it […] societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation; public interest and private interest; planning and laissez-faire; order and freedom; growth and decay: everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims.

The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, or generally both.

Divergent problems offend the logical mind which wishes to remove tension by coming down on one side or the other; but they provoke, stimulate and sharpen the higher human faculties without which man is nothing but a clever animal. A refusal to accept the divergency of divergent problems causes these higher faculties to remain dormant and to wither away, and when this happens the 'clever animal' is more likely than not to destroy itself.

Man’s life can thus be seen and understood as a succession of divergent problems which are inevitably encountered and have to be coped with in some way. They are refractory to mere logic and discursive reason, and constitute, as it were, a strain-and-stretch apparatus to develop the Whole Man, and that means to develop man's supra-logical faculties.

All traditional cultures have seen life as a school and have recognised, in one way or another, the essentiality of this teaching force.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.146-8

Without the enemy life would be meaningless and shallow.

To have no enemies, to have no power to decide who to include as a member of the body and who to exclude as a member of the body, is to not be political at all. And since man is political, and this is part of his human nature, those who attempt to eliminate conflict and transform enemies into “rational actors” whom one can persuade to not have qualms with, are nihilists out to destroy man’s political nature.

(Schmitt makes it clear that liberalism is one such force that attempts to eliminate all conflict and, in doing so, would destroy human nature and make man’s life miserable for he would not be political at all, which is to say he would cease being human if he ceased being political.)

[Paul Krause]
'Carl Schmitt: The Friend-Enemy Distinction'

Since the most important aspect of self-organisation is the emergence of structure through the activity of microscopic units that do not have access to global patterns, the principles that determine the behaviours of weights and nodes locally are very important.

[One of the preconditions for self-organisation is that there] is competition among the units.

Competing for limited resources is the basic driving force behind the development of structure. Stronger units thrive at the expense of others. If resources were limitless, i.e. if growth could take place unrestricted, no meaningful structure would evolve. Boundaries, limits and constraints are preconditions for structure.

[…] There is also co-operation among at least some units. If only single units won, the resulting structure would be too simple for self-organisation to evolve. Co-operation is also necessary to form associations among patterns. Mutual reinforcement and co-operation are preconditions for a rich, meaningful structure.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.94-5

[…] your autonomic nervous system is divided into two components. There is your sympathetic, and your parasympathetic.

So your sympathetic system is designed […] towards interpreting the world in a way […] it's biased […] the things that make us adoptive also make us susceptible to self-deception — it's biased, because you can't look at all of the evidence! It's biased to looking for and interpreting evidence that […] you should raise your level of arousal.

Your parasympathetic system is biased the other way. These are both heuristic ways of processing; they work in terms of biasing the processing of data. So the parasympathetic system is constantly trying to find evidence that you should reduce your level of arousal.

So they're opposed in their goal, but here's the thing: they're also interdependent in their function. So the sympathetic nervous system is always trying to arouse you […] the parasympathetic system is always trying to pull you down. And as the environment changes that tug of war shifts around your level of arousal.

Opponent Processing is when you have two systems that are opposed, but integrated. [It] means that your level of arousal is constantly evolving to fit the environment.

Is it perfect? No, nothing can be. Any problem solving machine in order to be perfect, would have to explore the complete problem space. That's combinatorially explosive, it can’t! But what is this? Well, you've seen this before!

Opponent Processing is a powerful way to get optimisation. You're optimising between systems that are working different goals, but are integrated in their function. And that way the system constantly self-organises and it then thereby evolves it's fittedness to the environment.

[John Vervaeke]
‘Ep. 30 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Relevance Realization Meets Dynamical Systems Theory’, YouTube

The model can be made more complex networks by imposing certain 'biases' on the nodes.

These will suppress signals below a certain threshold - another example of non-linear interaction. The size of the bias has an important effect: if it is too high, the network will be too stable, if it is too low, the network will be chaotic.

The bias therefore provides a mechanism through which the system can adjust itself to remain at the critical level even when the complexity of the external world fluctuates.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.98

The left has a progressive telos based on a deep-rooted belief in the perfectibility of man. The right — in all its forms — rejects this belief and asserts a constant human nature. Thus, those concepts on the left which depend on their core assumptions are simply unusable for us — not because we are unreflexive, unthoughtful, and kneejerk but because we disagree about what man is.

[…] Capital T Theory is important for the left because of their core belief in the perfectibility of man. All else flows from this. Thus, for structural Marxists the issue with Stalin wasn’t that he killed millions of people or that he was totalitarian, it was that he made mistakes in his Theory. If only they could find the right formula, they’d fix what went wrong with the USSR.

Theory in this sense has no utility for the right because we do not believe that mankind can be fixed. Our task is to describe what is essential and fixed in human nature and to discern what accounts for change and variation.

This was put best by Thomas Sowell […] in A Conflict of Visions:

The issue is not as to whether changes have occurred in human history, but whether these are, in effect, changes of costumes and scenery or changes of the play itself. In the constrained vision, it is mostly the costumes and scenery that have changed; in the unconstrained vision, the play itself has changed, the characters are fundamentally different, and equally sweeping changes are both likely and necessary in the future.

People on the right tend to the former, tragic vision, and people on the left to the latter, utopian vision. The right is built and must be built on essential, perennial truths which are not only fixed but non-negotiable. In such a worldview there is no such thing as ‘progress’.

If you assert a concept that is derived from dialectical materialism, you negate concepts coming from the traditionalist lens and vice versa […] ‘Don’t just reflexively reject left-wing ideas because they are from the left or you’ll fall behind intellectually’. What claptrap is this? And what an insult to the canon of right-wing thought!

[Academic Agent]
‘The Problem with ‘Theory’, The Forbidden Texts, Substack

[…] scientific research is highly competitive, not just in the usual sense that everyone is trying for the same grant money, or racing for priority in a discovery.

Researchers compete with one another to shape the future direction of research and make a significant place for their own work in its unfolding.

This should not be interpreted as a reductive dismissal of scientific work as a kind of egotistical assertion of one's own importance. The same pattern results if scientists are genuinely convinced of the importance of their ideas and methods, and engage in these competitions for the relatively disinterested purpose of pointing the field in a more productive direction, by securing for these ideas or methods their rightful place.

The recycling of scientific results and the consequent reconstruction of their narrative intelligibility are a structural feature of science as an activity, not a consequence of the motives of individual scientists.

If I am right that scientific work only makes sense in the context of an ongoing shared but contested narrative reconstruction of a research field, where is this narrative understanding located? […] the fuller narrative context within which scientific work proceeds is rarely foregrounded at all.

[Joseph Rouse]
‘The Narrative Reconstruction of Science’

The sophists stage an art of argument, a play of astuteness, the point of which is to snare one's opponent. The term 'problem', from the Greek problemata, originally meant the question presented to the opponent for a solution. 'Solving', in this context, should be taken literally. It means to free oneself from ropes and snares.

The agonistic character of philosophy represents the cosmic process, understood as the eternal strife between primordial oppositions.

For Heraclitus, war is father of all, and according to Empedocles, affection (Greek: philia) and strife (Greek: neikos) are the two fundamental principles that determine the course of the world.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.77

In the Gorgias, Socrates and Callicles behave more like two duellers than like two engaged in a dialogue; it is more confrontation than discussion. It resembles a dramatic form of ritual combat.

Indeed, between two incompatible positions on power and justice no mediation is possible: it is only a question of winning or losing. The agonistic character of the dialogue is plain:

And what becomes clear to any reader of the text is not that one interlocutor will convince the other, but that there will be a victor and a vanquished. This is after all what explains why Socrates's methods in this dialogue are hardly fairer than those of Callicles. Wanting the ends means wanting the means, and it is a matter of winning, especially of winning in the eyes of young men who witness the scene.

Plato's dialogues are theatrical, and the 'joys of the theatre' determine the course of the game."

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.78

For male and female alike in The Faerie Queene, the psychological energy of aspiration and achievement is masculine. Life is rigor; no rest is possible.

Seductive Phaedria tries to dissuade her suitor knights from conflict, but it is only by the clashing strife of contraries that Temperance or the temperate golden mean is achieved. The Faerie Queene’s androgyny theme belongs to this classical tradition of the coincidentia oppositorum or fruitful synthesis of opposites.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.184-5

In both the political and the personal realm conflict and virtue are mutually incompatible and exclusive. This is perhaps one source of Plato's view that dramatic art is an enemy of virtue.

But he is also deeply committed to the view that both within the city and within the person virtue cannot be in conflict with virtue. There cannot be rival goods at war with each other. Yet it is just what Plato takes to be impossible which makes tragic drama possible.

Could it then be the case that in certain circumstances at least the possession of one virtue might exclude the possession of some other? Could one virtue be temporarily at least at war with another?

[...] the virtues are not merely compatible with each other, but the presence of each requires the presence of all. This strong thesis concerning the unity of the virtues is reiterated both by Aristotle and by Aquinas, even though they differ from Plato - and from each other - in a number of important ways.

The presupposition which all three share is that there exists a cosmic order which dictates the place of each virtue in a total harmonious scheme of human life. Truth in the moral sphere consists in the conformity of moral judgment to the order of this scheme.

There is a sharply contrasting modern tradition which holds that the variety and heterogeneity of human goods is such that their pursuit cannot be reconciled in any single moral order and that consequently any social order which either attempts such a reconciliation or which enforces the hegemony of one set of goods over all other is bound to turn into [...] a totalitarian straitjacket for the human condition.

This is a view which Sir Isaiah Berlin has urged upon us strenuously, and its ancestry, as we noted earlier, is in Weber's writings. I take it that this view entails a heterogeneity of the virtues as well as of goods in general and that choice between rival claims in respect of the virtues has the same central place in the moral life for such theorists that choice between goods in general does. And where judgments express choices of this kind, we cannot characterize them as either true or false.

The interest of Sophocles lies in his presentation of a view equally difficult for a Platonist or a Weberian  to accept. There are indeed crucial conflicts in which different virtues appear as making rival and incompatible claims upon us. But our situation is tragic in that we have to recognize the authority of both claims. There is an objective moral order, but our perceptions of it are such that we cannot bring rival moral truths into complete harmony with each other and yet the acknowledgment of the moral order and of moral truth makes the kind of choice which a Weber or a Berlin urges upon us out of the question.

[...] the choice between rival goods in a tragic situation differs from the modern choice between incommensurable moral premises [in] that both of the alternative courses of action which confront the individual have to be recognized as leading to some authentic and substantial good.

By choosing one I do nothing to diminish or derogate from the claim upon me of the other; and therefore, whatever I do, I shall have left undone what I ought to have done.

The tragic protagonist, unlike the moral agent as depicted by Sartre or Hare, is not choosing between allegiance to one moral principle rather than another, nor is he or she deciding upon some principle of priority between moral principles.

Hence the 'ought' involved has a different meaning and force from that of the 'ought' in moral principles understood in a modern way. For the tragic protagonist cannot do everything that he or she ought to do.

In the conflicts of Sophoclean tragedy therefore the attempt at resolution unsurprisingly invokes an appeal to and a verdict by some god. But the divine verdict always ends rather than resolves the conflict. It leaves unbridged the gap between the acknowledgment of authority, of a cosmic order and of the claims to truth involved in the recognition of the virtues on the one hand and our particular perceptions and judgments in particular situations on the other.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.165-7, 259

The problem which I am raising is best stated initially in terms of a confrontation between Aristotle and Sophocles.

[...] there are the questions posed by Aristotle's inheritance of Plato's belief in the unity and harmony of both the individual soul and the city-state and Aristotle's consequent perception of conflict as something to be avoided or managed.

For Aristotle, as I have already suggested, the tragic form of narrative is enacted when and only when we have a hero with a flaw, a flaw in practical intelligence which springs from inadequate possession or exercise of some virtue.

In a world in which everyone is good enough therefore there would be no tragic hero to be portrayed.

[...] the conflicts of tragedy certainly may in part take the form that they do because of the flaws in Antigone and Creon, Odysseus and Philoctetes; but what constitutes those individuals' tragic opposition and conflict is the conflict of good with good [...] and to this aspect of tragedy Aristotle in the Poetics is and has to be blind.

The absence of this view of the centrality of opposition and conflict in human life conceals from Aristotle also one important source of human learning about and one important milieu of human practice of the virtues.

The great Australian philosopher John Anderson urged us 'not to ask of a social institution: "What end or purpose does it serve?" but rather, "Of what conflicts is it the scene?" [...] If Aristotle had asked this question both of the polis and of the individual agent, he would have had an additional resource for understanding the teleological character of both the virtues and the social forms which provide them with a context.

For it was Anderson's insight - a Sophoclean insight - that it is through conflict and sometimes only through conflict that we learn what our ends and purposes are.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.190-1

In these traditional societies, except where the English tradition was successfully established, there has been a reluctance to accept majority rule or the organized oppositional structure of the parliamentary system because of the native desire for a unified social context.

Instead of decision by majority rule, which was often unacceptable to native peoples because it seemed to force an alienated situation on the minority, native peoples in many areas preferred to reach decisions by what could be called “reaching a consensus.”

This method, exemplified in the American Indian “powwow” or in American business conferences, achieved agreement and decision, usually unanimously, by comment from each person present in sequence until consensus was reached. The difficulty of using this method in the large assemblies of newly independent governments often led to other mechanisms for achieving unanimity, such as a constitutional provision that any political party that captured a majority of the vote should have all the seats.

To the Western European such a rule seems to be a scandalous refusal to listen to minority opinion; to natives it often seems a most necessary mechanism for preserving solidarity.

Really it is a mechanism for keeping diverse opinions behind the scene, out of public view, and force the reconciliation of differences to take place in some concealed area of backstage intrigue and discussion rather than out in the public arena of the national assembly. The latter body becomes a mechanism for publicly demonstrating national solidarity or for proclaiming public policy, rather than an area of conflict as it had become in the western European parliamentary system.

This tendency to seek a public display of uniformity and national solidarity through political and constitutional processes was evident in Hitler’s Third Reich, as it has been in other recent European authoritarian states, including the Soviet Union, and has also appeared in the more traditionally free governments of western Europe and the United States.

The European tradition to seek a settlement of disputes or differences by force or in battle was evident in the feudal tradition, in the electoral and parliamentary systems, in the contentious (rather than investigatory) nature of English legal procedure, and in the European, and especially English, obsession with sports and athletic contests. It is part of the warlike tradition of Europe that gave it the weapons development and political power to dominate the world.

Such an emphasis on force as a prime factor in human life is rarer in colonial areas, especially in those where peasant traditions are strong and pastoral traditions are weak (such as India, southeast Asia, China, and much of Negro Africa). In these areas force often appeared in a ritual or symbolic way, so that the outcome of a battle was settled by the infliction of a single casualty, which was taken to indicate a religious or magical settlement of the dispute, making further conflict unnecessary.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The New Era,’ p.749

Resurgent religions, ancient ethnic enmities and territorial rivalries, the use of new technologies for purposes of war rather than wealth-creation do not accord well with Enlightenment expectations of secularisation and the propagation of peace through trade. They betoken a reversion to the classical sources of political and military conflict between and within states.

According to the ideologies of the Enlightenment, liberal as well as Marxist, such conflicts are not endemic to the human condition. They are developmental phases in human progress.

Neo-conservaties who maintain that democratic capitalist sates are the only legitimate form of government, and that such governments will never go to war against one another, are as much captivated by the illusion that the historic sources of human conflict can be transcended as the most vulgar Marxist. They thereby repudiate the traditional practice of diplomacy, which aimed to contain and moderate the sources of destructive conflict without imagining that they could be eradicated.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.102

The German legal scholar Carl Schmitt offers an extreme alternative to Locke and all the thinkers of the Enlightenment.

He concedes with the signatories of Westphalia that there never will be any agreement on the most important things, on questions of religion and virtue and the nature of humanity. But where Locke says that it is in humanity’s nature to know nothing about the nature of humanity, Schmitt responds that it is equally a part of the human condition to be divided by such questions and to be forced to take sides.

Politics is the field of battle in which that division takes place, in which humans are forced to choose between friends and enemies. “The high points of politics,” declares Schmitt, “are the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy.” The enemy is the one whose very presence forces us to confront the foundational questions about human nature anew; “the enemy is our own question as a figure.”

Because of the permanence of these always contentious questions, one cannot unilaterally escape from all politics; those who attempt to do so are suffering from moments of supreme self-delusion; these include the signatories of the Kellogg Pact of 1928, which outlawed all war.

Indeed, it is even worse: “[I]f a part of the population declares that it no longer recognizes enemies, then, depending on the circumstance, it joins their side and aids them.” There is no safety in unilateral disarmament. When one chooses not to decide, one still has a made a choice—invariably a mistaken choice, which implicitly assumes that humankind is fundamentally good or unproblematic.

[…] pacifists believe that the political decision can be avoided in this world […]

In this way, politics serves as a constant reminder to a fallen humanity that life is serious and that there are things that truly matter […]

[Peter Thiel]
‘The Straussian Moment’

Related posts:

Problem Solving

Convergent          -              Divergent
Simple                 -              Complex
Certain               -               Uncertain
Dead                   -               Living

To cultivate nature is to tell lies about it. Our inventions are a form of ‘marvelous chicanery.’

The methodology of problem-solving, as can easily be observed, is what we might call ‘the laboratory approach'. It consists of eliminating all factors that cannot be strictly controlled or, at least, accurately measured and 'allowed for'.

What remains is no longer a part of real life with all its unpredictabilities, but an isolated system posing convergent, and therefore in principle soluble, problems. The solution of a convergent problem, at the same time, proves something about the isolated system, but nothing at all about matters outside and beyond it.

I have said that to solve a problem is to kill it.

There is nothing wrong with 'killing’ a convergent problem, for it relates to what remains after life, consciousness and self-awareness have already been eliminated. But can - or should - divergent problems be killed? (The words "final solution' still have a terrible ring in the ears of my generation.)

Divergent problems cannot be killed; they cannot be solved in the sense of establishing the 'correct formula'. They can however be transcended.

A pair of opposites - like freedom and order - are opposites at the level of ordinary life, but they cease to be opposites at the higher level, the really human level, where self-awareness plays its proper role. It is then that such higher forces as love and compassion, understanding and empathy, become available, not simply as occasional impulses (which they are at the lower level) but as a regular and reliable resource.

Opposites cease to be opposites; they lie down together peacefully like the lion and the lamb in the study of Saint Hieronymus (who on Dürer's famous picture represents ‘the higher level').

How can opposites cease to be opposites when a "higher force' is present? How is it that liberty and equality cease to be mutually antagonistic and become reconciled' when brotherliness is present? These are not logical but existential questions.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.145-6

The 'inner world' […] is the world of freedom; the outer world […] the world of necessity. All our serious problems of living are suspended, as it were, between these two poles of freedom and necessity. They are divergent problems, not for solving.

Our anxiety to solve problems stems from our total lack of self-knowledge, which has created the kind of existential anguish of which Kierkegaard is one of the early and most impressive exponents. The anxiety to solve problems has led to a virtually total concentration of intellectual effort on the study of convergent problems. Great pride is being taken in this voluntary limitation of the limitless Intellect and its confinement to ‘the art of the soluble'.

'Good scientists,' says Peter B. Medawar, 'study the most important problems they think they can solve. It is, after all, their professional business to solve problems, not merely to grapple with them’. This is fair enough; it clearly demonstrates, at the same time, that ‘good scientists’ in this sense can deal only with the dead aspect of the Universe.

The real problems of life have to be grappled with. To repeat a quotation from Thomas Aquinas, ‘The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things'; and ‘grappling’ with the help of slender knowledge is the real stuff of life, whereas solving problems - which, to be soluble, must be convergent - with the help of ‘the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things' is merely one of many useful and perfectly honourable human activities designed to save labour.

While the logical mind abhors divergent problems and tries to run away from them, the higher faculties of man accept the challenges of life as they are offered, without complaint, knowing that when things are most contradictory, absurd, difficult and frustrating, then - just then - life really makes sense: as a mechanism provoking and almost forcing us to develop towards higher Levels of Being.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.154-5

Consider the state of medicine today. It's called medical science. What happens is that doctors think it would be nice to get rid of polio, or typhoid, or cancer. So they devote research money and effort to focusing on these "problems," or purposes.

At a certain point Dr. Salk and others "solve" the problem of polio. They discover a solution of bugs which you can give to children so that they don't get polio. This is the solution to the problem of polio. At this point, they stop putting large quantities of effort and money into the problem of polio and go on to the problem of cancer, or whatever it may be.

Medicine ends up, therefore, as a total science, whose structure is essentially that of a bag of tricks. Within this science there is extraordinarily little knowledge of the sort of things I'm talking about; that is, of the body as a systemically cybernetically organized self-corrective system. Its internal interdependencies are minimally understood.

What has happened is that purpose has determined what will come under the inspection or consciousness of medical science.

If you allow purpose to organize that which comes under your conscious inspection, what you will get is a bag of tricks - some of them very valuable tricks. It is an extraordinary achievement that these tricks have been discovered; all that I don't argue. But still we do not know two-penn'orth, really, about the total network system.

Cannon wrote a book on The Wisdom of the Body, but nobody has written a book on the wisdom of medical science, because wisdom is precisely the thing which it lacks. Wisdom I take to be the knowledge of the larger interactive system - that system which, if disturbed, is likely to generate exponential curves of change.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.439

There was once a garden […] In that garden, there were two anthropoids who were more intelligent than the other animals.

On one of the trees there was a fruit, very high up, which the two apes were unable to reach. So they began to think. That was the mistake. They began to think purposively.

By and by, the he ape, whose name was Adam, went and got an empty box and put it under the tree and stepped on it, but he found he still couldn't reach the fruit. So he got another box and put it on top of the first. Then he climbed up on the two boxes and finally he got that apple. Adam and Eve then became almost drunk with excitement. This was the way to do things. Make a plan, ABC and you get D.

They then began to specialize in doing things the planned way. In effect, they cast out from the Garden the concept of their own total systemic nature and of its total systemic nature.

After they had cast God out of the Garden, they really went to work on this purposive business, and pretty soon the topsoil disappeared. After that, several species of plants became "weeds" and some of the animals became "pests"; and Adam found that gardening was much harder work. He had to get his bread by the sweat of his brow and he said, “It's a vengeful God. I should never have eaten that apple."

Moreover, there occurred a qualitative change in the relationship between Adam and Eve, after they had discarded God from the Garden. Eve began to resent the business of sex and reproduction. Whenever these rather basic phenomena intruded upon her now purposive way of living, she was reminded of the larger life which had been kicked out of the Garden.

So Eve began to resent sex and reproduction, and when it came to parturition she found this process very painful. She said this, too, was due to the vengeful nature of God. She even heard a Voice say "In pain shalt thou bring forth" and "Thy desire shall be unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

The biblical version of this story, from which I have borrowed extensively, does not explain the extraordinary perversion of values, whereby the woman's capacity for love comes to seem a curse inflicted by the deity.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.441

One of the underlying generators is because we define the problems in too narrow a way. When we define a problem in a narrow way then we can create a solution to that narrow problem that does benefit that thing, but that interacts with a lot of other things and ends up causing externalities, or harm, in those other areas.

When we define problems in a narrow way in a world that is actually interconnected, we’re separating out from that interconnectedness a particular part that we care about or want to advance - and this is what is unique to humans, our capacity to understand particular parts with abstraction in a way that allows us to build tools - and we can advance parts irrespective of, and in ways that are harmful to, wholes, and that end up creating other issues.

Our way of thinking about problems is one of the problems.

We need to have a much more holistic way of thinking about what is worth advancing - what are all of the things that are driving a particular problem, what are the possible things that will come out of a particular solution that might create the other problems, and how to factor all that in to work out what solutions are worth advancing.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'In Search of the Third Attractor, Daniel Schmachtenberger (part 1)', YouTube

[…] complex systems tend to have higher metabolic costs, higher energy costs. If you compare the opposite extreme, what did it cost to maintain a hundred gatherer society 300,000 years ago? If you measure that in terms of calories, it's not very many. It's basically just the human metabolism of a handful, or maybe even a couple of dozen people. Compare that to the thousands of kilo calories that every individual in our society uses today to maintain complexity.

Complexity always has a cost and ultimately the cost is energy. We're largely not aware of that today, because to us complexity seems to be free - we pay for it through fossil fuels. But in the past, increase in the complexity of a society meant that people had to work harder. There were always constraints against growth in complexity, because people realized that growing a more complex society would be costly.

Well, in terms of the long-term evolution of human societies, this brings up a fundamental question: why do human societies ever grow more complex? If growing more complex costs more, why didn’t we just stay as simple hunter-gatherer bands?

The answer I’ve proposed is that most of the time complexity increases to solve problems. In other words, we might develop new technologies to solve a problem, we might develop new kinds of social structures to solve a problem, we might increase the size of bureaucracy to solve a problem, we might initiate new kinds of programmes to solve a problem - all of these things are increases in complexity that are undertaken to solve problems.

In the past 90% of human populations were involved in producing energy, primarily though agriculture, which means that there is only 10% of the economy in the society left for education, training, specialisation, learning, developing new technologies, innovation; that all had to come from something like 10% of the population and also 10% of our energy budgets.

There are occasions in human history when access to energy gain has allowed human societies to grow complex, and we think this is normal because we’re in a period like that now with our reliance on fossil fuels. Because of that we think that this has been the normal course of human evolution, but in fact it’s highly abnormal and has occurred in human history only a few times, and it’s never lasted very long.

[Joseph Tainter]
'Joe Tainter: “Surplus, Complexity, and Simplification” | The Great Simplification #27’, YouTube

[…] one of the important things I've realized is that growing in complexity to solve problems is what I call a seductive process.

It's seductive in the sense that it is natural for us to want to solve problems. Each increment in complexity seems small and affordable at the time because we don't look at the long term cumulative costs. Ultimately, it's the cumulative costs that seem to do the damage, that make a society susceptible to collapse. 

By a 'cumulative cost', I mean the cost of solving the last problem before, and the last problem before that, and the last problem before that; all of which may have required increases in complexity and increases in the society's energy budget.

Again, I want to emphasize that people today are largely unaware of this because complexity to us appears to be free. We pay for it through fossil fuels.

[Joseph Tainter]
'Joe Tainter: “Surplus, Complexity, and Simplification” | The Great Simplification #27’, YouTube

Athena is techne (“art, skill”) rather than nous (“mind”). Thus her patronage of the crafts.

Homeric mind is ingenuity, practical intelligence. There is no Rodinlike deep thinking, no mathematical or philosophical speculation. That comes much later in history. Odysseus thinks with his hands. He is athlete, gambler, engineer. Athena rules technological man, the Greek heir to Egyptian constructionism.

Here, I propose, is the answer to Athena’s androgyny. She appears in more disguises and crosses sexual borderlines more often than any other Greek god because she symbolizes the resourceful, adaptive mind, the ability to invent, plan, conspire, cope, and survive.

The mind as techne, pragmatic design, was hermaphroditic for the ancients [...] Athena as the transsexual contriving mind exploits situation and opportunity, subduing circumstance to will and desire.

“[...] we are both adepts in chicane. For in the world of men you have no rival as a statesman and orator, while I am preeminent among the gods for invention and resource.”

Smiling with pleasure, Athena says in effect, “What a marvelous liar you are!” Lies are legal Bronze Age piracy [...] The link between Athena’s technical skills and Odysseus’ lies is perfectly conveyed in our word “fabrication.” Sexually mobile Athena literally is the shifting, shifty powers of human intelligence.

To Harrison’s complaint, then, that Athena has forgotten “the earth from which she sprang,” I reply that Athena is divorced from earth because she represents the man-made. As patron of the crafts and cultivated olive, she gives man control over capricious nature.

For Harrison, Athena’s virginity is sterile because unfertile in the chthonian sense. But virginity is perfect autonomy. Jackson Knight says, “The maidenhood of city goddesses seems to have been in some magical sympathy with the unbroken defence of a city.” Athena as patron of Athens is the wall that shuts the enemy out, the enemy nature as well as the enemy man. Her virginity is her stable Apollonian self, the intractable will behind her hermaphrodite changes. She is fortitude and pressing forward, a job to do. She is the fanatical purposiveness of the west, limited but all-achieving.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.85

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Levels of Analysis

Science         -               Religion
Reason           -               Faith
Separate         -               Connected
Hate               -               Love
Head              -               Heart
Lower            -               Higher
Left brain       -               Right brain

In ‘A Guide for the Perplexed’, E.F. Schumacher makes reference to the ancient idea of the Great Chain of Being, suggesting that there are many levels of existence, from Mineral (Matter), to Plant (Life), to Animal (Consciousness), to Man (Self-consciousness), and beyond. There is truth at all levels and so life can be interpreted from any of them, but which you choose is always a matter of faith, not reason.

Religious faith is trusting/believing that there are higher levels, beyond the materialistic reality of science. Faith is a faculty of the heart, science of the head.

Brett Weinstein’s talk with Jonathan Pageau shows an interesting coming together of the different world-views. Weinstein wants to interpret everything through the head, through science, but to truly understand and dialogue with religion means taking it on its own terms and making a leap of faith. The leap itself is the entry requirement - you either leap, or you don’t - but the jump takes you out of science and into another realm entirely. The precepts of science, based as they are in proof and evidence, prevent the leap from being made, hence why the antagonism between religion and science can never really be reconciled.

Throughout the conversation both Weinstein and Pageau are keen to ‘agree’ with the other, which is really a way of showing that whatever argument the other advances has been prefigured and prevents no real threat to their respective world-views. What they are saying when they say ‘I agree’ is ‘my view contains yours.’ In many ways the entire conversation (as with most) was a struggle to assert the primacy of their respective view, albeit in a fairly good natured and non-aggressive way.

This brings to mind Integral and its notion that ‘second tier’ thought (‘Integral’ thought) contains all previous levels. Integral is ultimately a progressive scheme and as such is fundamentally opposed to tradition. There is no way that tradition can be ‘included’ within it because the two are mutually exclusive. Really this is the same as saying that religion cannot be contained within science. 

Integral supposes that as we progress upwards through the various levels of being we can transcend and include those below. Of course, there is some truth in this - if we adopt the modern, liberal, scientistic mindset (‘orange’) then we still contain traces of our more ancient and less civilised selves. However, it may be that these less civilised elements are in fundamental opposition to the later, ‘higher’ levels - there is nothing to say that they can sit together harmoniously within a unified whole.

We only see what our stories allow us to see. In the Great Chain of Being, higher levels are inherently more connected than those below, and in this way they contain them. What is separate at a lower level is seen to be connected at the higher level - indeed, to make connections is to shift to a higher level, to ‘go meta.’ ‘Making connections’ is another way of saying ‘telling a story.’ The validity of the connections that are made at higher levels - the truth of the story - can always be disputed by the level below because every connection is a leap of faith. It is at this point that the dialogue can go no further, because belief is ultimately grounded in faith - you either believe the story or you don’t. No amount of reasoning can facilitate the leap between levels.

Love sees connections. Perhaps Love is connections. This is why faith and love are inextricably linked. But always there is the problem of how to maintain criticality within this context. How to contain hate within love.

It seems to me that science must always be nested within a wider tradition, which is perhaps a way of saying that religion must always contain science, and not the other way around. There is an analogy here to Iain McGilchrist’s notion that the relationship between the brain hemispheres must be fundamentally asymmetrical - that the right must contain the left.

The level of significance to which an observer or investigator tries to attune himself is chosen, not by his intelligence, but by his faith.

The facts themselves, which he is going to observe, do not carry a label indicating the appropriate level at which they ought to be considered. Nor does the choice of an inadequate level lead the intelligence into factual error or logical contradiction. All levels of significance up to the adequate level - i.e. up to the level of meaning […] - are equally factual, equally logical, equally objective, but not equally real.

It is by an act of faith that I choose the level of my investigation; hence the saying 'Credo ut intelligam' - I have faith so as to be able to understand.

If I lack faith, and consequently choose an inadequate level of significance for my investigation, no degree of 'objectivity’ will ever save me from missing the point of the whole thing, and I rob myself of the very possibility of understanding. I shall then be one of those of whom it has been said: 'They, seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand.'

In short, when dealing with something representing a higher grade of significance or Level of Being than inanimate matter, the observer depends not only on the adequateness of his own higher qualities, perhaps 'developed’ through learning and training; he also depends on the adequateness of his 'faith’ or, to put it more conventionally, of his fundamental presuppositions and basic assumptions.

In this respect he tends to be very much a child of his time and of the civilisation in which he has spent his formative years; for the human mind, generally speaking, does not just think: it thinks with ideas, most of which it simply adopts and takes over from surrounding society.

Only through the 'heart' can contact be made with the higher grades of significance and Levels of Being.

For anyone wedded to the materialistic scientism of the modern age it will be impossible to understand what this means. He has no belief in anything higher than man, and he sees in man nothing but a relatively highly evolved animal. He insists that truth can be discovered only by means of the brain, which is situated in the head and not in the heart.

All this means that 'understanding with one's heart’ is to him a meaningless collection of words. From his point of view, he is quite right: the brain, situated in the head and supplied with data by the bodily senses, is fully adequate for dealing with inanimate matter, the lowest of the four great Levels of Being. Indeed, its working would only be disturbed and possibly be distorted if the ‘heart' interfered in any way.

As a materialistic scientist, he believes that life, consciousness and self-awareness are nothing but manifestations of complex arrangements of inanimate particles - a 'faith' which makes it perfectly rational for him to place exclusive reliance on the bodily senses, to 'stay in the head', and to reject any interference from the 'powers' situated in the heart.

For him, in other words, higher levels of reality simply do not exist, because his faith excludes the possibility of their existence.

Faith is not in conflict with reason; nor is it a substitute for reason. Faith chooses the grade of significance or Level of Being at which the search for knowledge and understanding is to aim. There is reasonable faith and also unreasonable faith. To look for meaning and purpose at the level of inanimate matter would be as unreasonable an act of faith as an attempt to explain the masterpieces of human genius as nothing but the outcome of economic interests or sexual frustrations.

The faith of the agnostic is perhaps the most unreasonable of all, because, unless it is mere camouflage, it is a decision to treat the question of significance as insignificant, like saying: 'I am not willing to decide whether […] a book is merely a coloured shape, a series of marks on paper, a series of letters arranged according to certain rules or an expression of meaning.'

Not surprisingly, traditional wisdom has always treated the agnostic with withering contempt: ‘I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.’

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.54-7

At all levels of analysis, the level above is unseen from the level below. 

If you’re analysing something at a molecular level you can never see the apple, you’ll see its constituents. If you go down, same problem; if you go up, same problem. If you’re talking about the apple and an orchard, then if you’re looking at the level of the apple you’ll never see the orchard.

Faith is that move between levels. 

From the level at which you are, if you only analyse the elements given to you at that level then there’s no jump to the higher identity. That jump is always a leap of faith. Once you’ve made it then you can analyse things at the higher level.

We can see parts of things, and we can see wholes - we can notice that things are made of parts, and also have unity. But the jump from the parts to the unity is one which is not accessible at the level of the parts.

[Jonathan Pageau]
'Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Bret Speaks with Jonathan Pageau', YouTube

Evolutionism is not science; it is science fiction, even a kind of hoax.

It is a hoax that has succeeded too well and has imprisoned modern man in what looks like an irreconcilable conflict between 'science' and 'religion'. It has destroyed all faiths that pull mankind up and has substituted a faith that pulls mankind down. Nil admirari.

Chance and necessity and the utilitarian mechanism of natural selection may produce curiosities, improbabilities and atrocities, but nothing that can be admired as an achievement - just as winning a prize in a lottery cannot elicit admiration. There is nothing ‘higher’ and nothing 'lower'; everything is much of a muchness, even though some things are more complex than others – just by chance.

Evolutionism, purporting to explain all and everything solely and exclusively by natural selection for adaptation and survival, is the most extreme product of the materialistic utilitarianism of the nineteenth century. The inability of twentieth-century thought to rid itself of this imposture is a failure that may well cause the collapse of Western civilisation.

For it is impossible for any civilisation to survive without a faith in meanings and values transcending the utilitarianism of comfort and survival - in other words, without a religious faith.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.133

It is not a question of good or bad thoughts.

Reality, Truth, God, Nirvana cannot be found by thought, because thought belongs to the Level of Being established by consciousness and not to that higher Level which is established by self-awareness. At the latter, thought has its legitimate place, but it is a subservient one.

Thoughts cannot lead to 'Awakening' because the whole point is to awake from thinking into 'seeing'.

Thought can raise any number of questions; they may all be interesting, but their answers do nothing to wake us up. In Buddhism, they are called 'vain thoughts'

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.85

Art comes before language in human evolution - we learned to draw on the walls of caves before we really spoke.

Like everything in evolution, its accident. Basically we draw because it has use for the hunt, but what it also does is allow us to shift up a level of abstraction. If you go up a level of abstraction you make novel associations. I have some of my best ideas either walking or at the opera, because I’ve moved up a level of abstraction. My mind associates things in a less concrete way. Abstraction is key to innovation.

It is one of the arguments most of us from a scientific background are making against the focus on STEM education, because if you don’t have art you don’t have innovation. It is this engineering culture coming through again. Engineers who appreciate art are more likely to be exaptive.

[Dave Snowden]

[William James’s] preoccupation with "optimism" and "pessimism," together with his identification of these qualities with "health" and "sickness," suggests a certain deterioration in the intellectual atmosphere of the times, from the effects of which even those who set themselves against the times could not altogether escape - a coarsening of thought, which would eventually reduce all spiritual questions to questions of "mental health."

At first sight, James's work appears not merely to foreshadow this therapeutic view of religion, the dominant view in our own time, but to present it in a fully developed form. James conducts his investigation of religion, after all, in the psychological mode.

In […] The Varieties of Religious Experience […] he endorses the religious insight that only forces outside a person's conscious control can bring about real changes in character and outlook, but he takes the position that these forces enter the self not from above but from below, from the subterranean depths of the mind.

He judges religious ideas, or at least appears to judge them, solely by their effect on mental health, waving aside the question of their truth. Thus he argues that Christian Science and other mind-cure movements should be taken seriously because they sometimes produce a "change of character for the better," whereas liberal Christianity "does absolutely nothing" for the believer.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p. 284

Niebuhr had reservations about the political implications of Barth's neo-orthodoxy, which seemed to him to write off the political realm as irredeemably corrupt; but he too came to accept original sin as an "inescapable fact of human existence," to reject the shallow optimism of liberal theology, and to acknowledge the impossibility of justifying religious belief on purely rational grounds.

In the face of “nature's ruthlessness” - of the "brevity and mortality of natural life" - feelings of trust and gratitude (in other words, a belief in God) could not be defended by an appeal to reason, as Niebuhr explained in An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (1935).

Just as an "impartial science” could not fully justify the “right to believe” in justice or in the possibility that justice would prevail in the political order, so it could not justify a belief in the goodness of God's wicked world.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.370-1

Self-organisation is impossible without some form of memory […] Without memory, the system can do no better than merely mirror the environment. A self-organising system therefore always has a history.

This diachronic component cannot be ignored in any description of the system since previous conditions of the system form vital influences on present behaviour. Memory, on the other hand, is impossible without some form of selective forgetting. Just piling up information without some form of integration renders it insignificant.

Integration is not 'performed' through some form of decision-making within the system. Information that is not used simply fades away.

This process not only creates space in memory, but, more importantly, it provides a measure of the significance of the stored pattern. The more something is used, the stronger its 'representation' in memory will be. Use it or lose it. Self-organisation is only possible if the system can remember and forget.

Since the self-organising process is not guided or determined by specific goals, it is often difficult to talk about the function of such a system. As soon as we introduce the notion of function, we run the risk either of anthropomorphising, or of introducing an external reason for the structure of the system, exactly those aspects we are trying to avoid.

When a system is described within the context of a larger system, it is possible to talk of a function of the sub-system only within that context.

We can talk about the 'function' of the endocrine system of a lion with reference to the lion, but then it is difficult to simultaneously talk about the function of the lion itself. We can talk about the 'function' of predators in an ecosystem, but then not of the function of the ecosystem.

The notion of function is intimately linked to our descriptions of complex systems. The process of self-organisation cannot be driven by the attempt to perform a function; it is rather the result of an evolutive process whereby a system will simply not survive if it cannot adapt to more complex circumstances.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.92-3

DeLanda uses this Deleuzian analysis of relations and capacities as the foundation for an immanent sociology that can yet analyse social production at multiple societal levels.

In place of a ‘deep level’ of social structures or underlying social mechanisms that provide conventional sociology with its explanations of phenomena, he offers a flat (DeLanda, 2005: 51) ontological ‘layering’ of assemblages from micro to macro; from interpersonal interactions such as a conversation (DeLanda, 2006: 53-55) to social organisation at the level of the state (2006: 113–16).

Every social entity – for instance, an industrial corporation – emerges from interactions occurring at a smaller scale, such as a network of managers, suppliers and distributors (2006: 75). However, at each level, entities retain a degree of autonomy, enabling social investigations to be undertaken while avoiding both micro- and macro-reductionism (2006: 119).

DeLanda’s work supplies an ontology of relationality, which reverses the conventional hierarchy, in which an entity’s relations are subordinate to the entity’s essence (Buchanan, 2000: 120); in this ontology an assemblage is not to be treated as an essence in its own right (DeLanda, 2006: 4), nor does it exert force over its assembled relations.

Rather, what relations can do within an assemblage depends entirely upon the forces or ‘affects’ that relations exert upon each other (Deleuze, 1988: 101). Meanwhile, Latour’s (2005: 24) admonition to resist ‘structural’ explanations suggests a starting-point from which to explore empirically the interactions of natural and social relations in events.

[Nick J. Fox & Pam Alldred]
‘Social structures, power and resistance in monist sociology: (New) materialist insights’

Latour (2005: 7) has argued that structural or systemic explanations are frequently invoked to make sense of perceived patterns or replications of particular social formations, often in relation to social divisions, inequality or social disadvantage, and to explain constraints or limits on human action or outright oppression.

These sociological ‘explanations’ include ‘capitalism’, ‘racism’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘neoliberalism’, ‘the state’, ‘science’, ‘religion’ and so on, phenomena which – in Latour’s view – are precisely the things that themselves require explaining (2005: 8).

Ruling out any recourse to overarching ‘social structures’ or ‘systems’ or underlying ‘mechanisms’ as explanations of continuity and change means that the task of sociological inquiry is no longer to reveal the hidden social forces at work in law, science, religion, organisations or elsewhere.

A materialist sociology must consequently analyse forces and social relations, power and resistance from within the immanent, relational micropolitics of events, activities and interactions themselves.

[Nick J. Fox & Pam Alldred]
‘Social structures, power and resistance in monist sociology: (New) materialist insights’

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