Free Space

Free                             -        Connected
Context independent   -        Context dependent
Present-at-hand           -        Ready-to-hand
Conscious                    -        Unconscious
Abstract                       -        Concrete
State                             -        Process
Rational                       -        Non-rational
Fact                              -        Opinion
Is                                  -        Ought

The 'free' or 'neutral' space of modernity is nothing other than the vacuum left by tradition, in which competing interests engage in an on-going civil war.

It is Quigley's 'middle path', a latent space in which approximations emerge but are never allowed to crystallise into final answers.

Truth in Native science is of a very different order. Truths are not value-free but depend upon tradition and social and spiritual sanctions.

Dreams and visions are systems of validation. Truth is contained within origin and migration stories, songs and ceremonies. And the source of truth is found in nature and in the direct experience of individuals through dreams and visions; conversations with rocks, trees, and animals; and patient observation of the world around them.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.264


With the present-at-hand one has (in contrast to "ready-to-hand") an attitude like that of a scientist or theorist, of merely looking at or observing something. 

In seeing an entity as present-at-hand, the beholder is concerned only with the bare facts of a thing or a concept, as they are present and in order to theorize about it. This way of seeing is disinterested in the concern it may hold for Dasein, its history or usefulness. This attitude is often described as existing in neutral space without any particular mood or subjectivity. However, for Heidegger, it is not completely disinterested or neutral. It has a mood, and is part of the metaphysics of presence that tends to level all things down. Through his writings, Heidegger sets out to accomplish the Destruktion (see above) of this metaphysics of presence.

Present-at-hand is not the way things in the world are usually encountered, and it is only revealed as a deficient or secondary mode, e.g., when a hammer breaks it loses its usefulness and appears as merely there, present-at-hand. When a thing is revealed as present-at-hand, it stands apart from any useful set of equipment but soon loses this mode of being present-at-hand and becomes something, for example, that must be repaired or replaced.

Heidegger, who in Being and Time claimed that the theoretical attitude of pure presence is parasitical upon a more originary involvement with the world in concepts such as the ready-to-hand and being-with.

'Heideggerian terminology' and 'Metaphysics of presence', Wikipedia

The realm of number, the crystalline mathematic of Apollonian purity, was invented early on by western man as a refuge from the soggy emotionalism and bristling disorder of woman and nature.

Women who excel in mathematics do so in a system devised by men for the mastery of nature. Number is the most imposing and least creaturely of pacifiers, man’s yearning hope for objectivity. It is to number that he —and now she—withdraws to escape from the chthonian mire of love, hate, and family romance.

Emotion is chaos. Every benign emotion has a flip side of negativity. Thus the flight from emotion to number is another crucial strategy of the Apollonian west in its long struggle with Dionysus.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.18

It is in this capacity of the self to evade any necessary identification with any particular contingent state of affairs that some modern philosophers, both analytical and existentialist, have seen the essence of moral agency.

To be a moral agent is, on this view, precisely to be able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment on it from a purely universal and abstract point of view that is totally detached from all social particularity.

Anyone and everyone can thus be a moral agent, since it is in the self and not in social roles or practices that moral agency has to be located.

This democratized self which has no necessary social content and no necessary social identity can then be anything, can assume any role or take any point of view, because it is in and for itself nothing.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.36-7

For liberal individualism a community is simply an arena in which individuals each pursue their own self-chosen conception of the good life, and political institutions exist to provide that degree of order which makes such self-determined activity possible.

Government and law are, or ought to be, neutral between rival conceptions of the good life for man, and hence, although it is the task of government to promote law-abidingness, it is on the liberal view no part of the legitimate function of government to inculcate anyone moral outlook.

By contrast, on the particular ancient and medieval view which I have sketched political community not only requires the exercise of the virtues for its own sustenance, but it is one of the tasks of parental authority to make children grow up so as to be virtuous adults.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.227

In the conceptual melange of moral thought and practice today fragments from the tradition - virtue concepts for the most part - are still found alongside characteristically modern and individualist concepts such as those of rights or utility.

[...] the need to enter into public debate enforces participation in the cultural melange in the search for a common stock of concepts and norms which all may employ and to which all may appeal.

Moral philosophy, as it is dominantly understood, reflects the debates and disagreements of the culture so faithfully that its controversies turn out to be unsettlable in just the way that the political and moral debates themselves are.

It follows that our society cannot hope to achieve moral consensus. Marx was fundamentally right in seeing conflict and not consensus at the heart of modern social structure.

It is not just that we live too much by a variety and multiplicity of fragmented concepts; it is that these are used at one and the same time to express rival and incompatible social ideals and policies and to furnish us with a pluralist political rhetoric whose function is to conceal the depth of our conflicts.

What this brings out is that modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means [...]

The truth on this matter was set out by Adam Ferguson: 'We are not to expect that the laws of any country are to be framed as so many lessons of morality ... Laws, whether civil or political, are expedients of policy to adjust the pretensions of parties, and to secure the peace of society [...] 

The nature of any society therefore is not to be deciphered from its laws alone, but from those understood as an index of its conflicts. What our laws show is the extent and degree to which conflict has to be suppressed.

In any society where government does not express or represent the moral community of the citizens, but is instead a set of institutional arrangements for imposing a bureaucratized unity on a society which lacks genuine moral consensus, the nature of political obligation becomes systematically unclear.

[...] the tradition of the virtues is at variance with central features of the modern economic order and more especially its individualism, its acquisitiveness and its elevation of the values of the market to a central social place. It now becomes clear that it also involves a rejection of the modern political order.

Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.292-5

John Rawls is an extension of Parsons’ and Bellah’s liberation theology, if somewhat secularized.

His famous “original position”—where one is asked what world he would want if he had no idea where or to whom or with what qualities he would be born—is simply the logical conclusion of Locke’s blank slate, where man is utterly shorn of all background and context, freed from the “accident” of birth, as though it’s an accident that you are your father’s son.

This “accident” is theologically significant. In separating the self from the particularities of birth, Rawls simply continues the separation of body from soul begun millennia ago, but in secularized form.

[Imperium Press]
'Communism a Fortiori: A Response to BAP’s GNC', Imperium Press, Substack

It’s worth finding out what we can about the likely effectiveness of a given policy proposal before we drift off into battles guided only by our personal opinion and biases, expressing our opinions about other opinions.

Opinion-based battles rather than fact-based ones: That’s the direction in which I fear this country is headed.

[James A. Thomson]
Colorado ACLU Speech, 1 October 2005

The Outlook of the West is that broad middle way about which the fads and foibles of the West oscillate.

It is what is implied by what the West says it believes, not at one moment but over the long succession of moments that form the history of the West. From that succession of moments it is clear that the West believes in diversity rather than in uniformity, in pluralism rather than in monism or dualism, in inclusion rather than exclusion, in liberty rather than in authority, in truth rather than in power, in conversion rather than in annihilation, in the individual rather than in the organization, in reconciliation rather than in triumph, in heterogeneity rather than in homogeneity, in relativisms rather than in absolutes, and in approximations rather than in final answers.

The West believes that man and the universe are both complex and that the apparently discordant parts of each can be put into a reasonably workable arrangement with a little good will, patience, and experimentation. In man the West sees body, emotions, and reason as all equally real and necessary, and is prepared to entertain discussion about their relative inter-relationships but is not prepared to listen for long to any intolerant insistence that any one of these has a final answer.

The West has no faith in final answers today. It believes that all answers are unfinal because everything is imperfect, although possibly getting better and thus advancing toward a perfection the West is prepared to admit may be present in some remote and almost unattainable future.

Similarly in the universe, the West is prepared to recognize that there are material aspects, less material aspects, immaterial aspects, and spiritual aspects, although it is not prepared to admit that anyone yet has a final answer on the relationships of these. Similarly the West is prepared to admit that society and groups are necessary, while the individual is important, but it is not prepared to admit that either can stand alone or be made the ultimate value to the sacrifice of the other.

Where rationalists insist on polarizing the continua of human experience into antithetical pairs of opposing categories, the West has constantly rejected the implied need for rejection of one or the other, by embracing “Both.”

[...] In fact a correct definition of the Christian tradition might well be expressed in that one word “Both.” Throughout its long history, controversy over religion in Western society has been based on a disturbance of the arrangement or balance within that “Both.”

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The Future in Perspective,’ p.778

[…] it is an irreducible part of the human condition for humans to be limited, so that they can never know anything about the nature of humanity. To ask a question about human substance, or the teleology of humanity’s power, leads to debates as meaningless as “whether the best Relish were to be found in Apples, Plumbs, or Nuts.”

In the place of human nature, Locke leaves us with an unknowable “X." This awareness of ignorance provides the low but solid ground on which the American Founding takes place. The human “X” may have certain wants and preferences, but nobody is in an authoritative position from which to challenge those desires.

And so, in a somewhat paradoxical manner, the unknowability of “X” leads to classic liberalism and the very strong assertion of the different rights that belong to that unknowable “X”: the freedom of religion, for we cannot ever know what people are truly thinking in the temple of their minds; the freedom of speech, for we cannot irrefutably criticize the way people express themselves; the right to property and commerce, for we cannot second-guess what people will do with the things they possess.

[…] the general principle of the unknowability of the human “X” would encourage a gradual expansion, over time, of the field of human freedom.

[Peter Thiel]
‘The Straussian Moment’

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