A Good Man

To be outside of tradition is to have no shared vision of the 'good' - no shared moral vision. The meaning and purpose of 'man' is now in dispute, subject to competing claims in the marketplace of ideas. 'Man' ceases to be a 'functional concept' and becomes instead an evaluative concept, no longer tied to specific roles nor an underlying nature. 

Facts and values drift apart - 'is' loses its mooring to 'ought' - and we get 'value-free' facts that float in a neutral, objective space. Free from the operating system of tradition, individuals are now free to agree or disagree on the 'good for man'.

Instead of a shared vision of the 'good for man', we have a set of explicit rules. The virtues lose their proper context, float free.

[...] the concepts of a watch and of a farmer [...] are functional concepts; that is to say, we define both 'watch' and 'farmer' in terms of the purpose or function which a watch or a farmer are characteristically expected to serve.

It follows that the concept of a watch cannot be defined independently of the concept of a good watch nor the concept of a farmer independently of that of a good farmer; and that the criterion of something's being a watch and the criterion of something's being a good watch - and so also for 'farmer' and for all other functional concepts - are not independent of each other.

Now clearly both sets of criteria [...] are factual. Hence any argument which moves from premises which assert that the appropriate criteria are satisfied to a conclusion which asserts that ‘That is a good such-and-such', where 'such-and-such' picks out an item specified by a functional concept, will be a valid argument which moves from factual premises to an evaluative conclusion.

Thus we may safely assert that, if some amended version of the 'No “ought" conclusion from "is" premises' principle is to hold good, it must exclude arguments involving functional concepts from its scope. But this suggests strongly that those who have insisted that all moral arguments fall within the scope of such a principle may have been doing so, because they took it for granted that no moral arguments involve functional concepts.

Yet moral arguments within the classical, Aristotelian tradition - whether in its Greek or its medieval versions - involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function; and it is when and only when the classical tradition in its integrity has been substantially rejected that moral arguments change their character so that they fall within the scope of some version of the 'No "ought" conclusion from "is" premises' principle.

That is to say, 'man' stands to 'good man' as 'watch' stands to 'good watch' or 'farmer' to 'good farmer' within the classical tradition. Aristotle takes it as a standing-point for ethical enquiry that the relationship of 'man' to 'living well' is analogous to that of 'harpist' to 'playing the harp well' (Nicomachean Ethics, 1095a 16).

But the use of 'man' as a functional concept is [...] rooted in the forms of social life to which the theorists of the classical tradition give expression. For according to that tradition to be a man is to fill a set of roles each of which has its own point and purpose: member of a family , citizen, soldier, philosopher, servant of God.

It is only when man is thought of as an individual prior to and apart from all roles that 'man' ceases to be a functional concept.

To call a watch good is to say that it is the kind of watch which someone would choose who wanted a watch to keep time accurately (rather than, say, to throw at the cat). The presupposition of this use of 'good' is that every type of item which it is appropriate to call good or bad - including persons and actions - has, as a matter of fact, some given specific purpose or function. To call something good therefore is also to make a factual statement.

To call a particular action just or right is to say that it is what a good man would do in such a situation; hence this type of statement too is factual. Within this tradition moral and evaluative statements can be called true or false in precisely the way in which all other factual statements can be so called.

But once the notion of essential human purposes or functions disappears from morality, it begins to appear implausible to treat moral judgments as factual statements.

It is thus not a timeless truth that moral or otherwise evaluative conclusions cannot be entailed by factual premises; but it is true that the meaning assigned to moral and indeed to other key evaluative expressions so changed during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries that what are by then commonly allowed to be factual premises cannot entail what are by then commonly taken to be evaluative or moral conclusions.

The notion of 'fact' with respect to human beings is thus transformed in the transition from the Aristotelian to the mechanist view.

On the former view human action, because it is to be explained teleologically, not only can, but must be, characterized with reference to the hierarchy of goods which provide the ends of human action. On the latter view human action not only can, but must be, characterized without any reference to such goods.

On the former view the facts about human action include the facts about what is valuable to human beings (and not just the facts about what they think to be valuable); on the latter view there are no facts about what is valuable.

'Fact' becomes value-free, 'is' becomes a stranger to 'ought' and explanation, as well as evaluation, changes its character as a result of this divorce between 'is' and 'ought'.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.69-70, 92, 98-9

[...] reason for [Kant], as much as for Hume, discerns no essential natures and no teleological features in the objective universe available for study by physics [...] and what is true of them is true also of Diderot, of Smith and of Kierkegaard.

All reject any teleological view of human nature, any view of man as having an essence which defines his true end. But to understand this is to understand why their project of finding a basis for morality had to fail.

The moral scheme which forms the historical background to their thought had, as we have seen, a structure which required three elements: untutored human nature, man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-telos and the moral precepts which enable him to pass from one state to the other.

But the joint effect of the secular rejection of both Protestant and Catholic theology and the scientific and philosophical rejection of Aristotelianism was to eliminate any notion of man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-telos.

Since the whole point of ethics - both as a theoretical and a practical discipline - is to enable man to pass from his present state to his true end, the elimination of any notion of essential human nature and with it the abandonment of any notion of a telos leaves behind a moral scheme composed of two remaining elements whose relationship becomes quite unclear.

Hence the eighteenth-century moral philosophers engaged in what was an inevitably unsuccessful project; for they did indeed attempt to find a rational basis for their moral beliefs in a particular understanding of human nature, while inheriting a set of moral injunctions on the one hand and a conception of human nature on the other which had been expressly designed to be discrepant with each other.

This discrepancy was not removed by their revised beliefs about human nature. They inherited incoherent fragments of a once coherent scheme of thought and action and, since they did not recognize their own peculiar historical and cultural situation, they could not recognize the impossible and quixotic character of their self-appointed task.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.65-6

The project of providing a rational vindication of morality had decisively failed; and from henceforward the morality of our predecessor culture - and subsequently of our own - lacked any public, shared rationale or justification.

In a world of secular rationality religion could no longer provide such a shared background and foundation for moral discourse and action; and the failure of philosophy to provide what religion could no longer furnish was an important cause of philosophy losing its central cultural role and becoming a marginal, narrowly academic subject.

[...] moral judgments are linguistic survivals from the practices of classical theism which have lost the context provided by these practices [...] Moral judgments lose any clear status and the sentences which express them in a parallel way lose any undebatable meaning. Such sentences become available as forms of expression for an emotivist self which lacking the guidance of the context in which they were originally at home has lost its linguistic as well as its practical way in the world.

[...] the moral vocabulary had become detached from any precise central context of understanding and made available to different competing moral groups for their special and differing purposes.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.58, 71, 271

Ronald Dworkin has recently argued that the central doctrine of modern liberalism is the thesis that questions about the good life for man or the ends of human life are to be regarded from the public standpoint as systematically unsettlable. On these individuals are free to agree or to disagree.

The rules of morality and law hence are not to be derived from or justified in terms of some more fundamental conception of the good for man.

In a society where there is no longer a shared conception of the community's good as specified by the good for man, there can no longer either be any very substantial concept of what it is to contribute more or less to the achievement of that good.

Hence notions of desert and of honor become detached from the context in which they were originally at home. Honor becomes nothing more than a badge of aristocratic status, and status itself, tied as it is now so securely to property, has very little to do with desert.

Distributive justice cannot any longer be defined in terms of desert either, and so the alternatives become those of defining justice in terms of some sort of equality (a project which Hume himself rejects) or in terms of legal entitlements.

Rules become the primary concept of the moral life. Qualities of character then generally come to be prized only because they will lead us to follow the right set of rules [...] a stance characteristic not just of liberalism, but of modernity.

Hence on the modern view the justification of the virtues depends upon some prior justification of rules and principles; and if the latter become radically problematic, as they have, so also must the former.

The virtues are now not to be practiced for the sake of some good other, or more, than the practice of the virtues itself. Virtue is, indeed has to be, its own end, its own reward and its own motive.

[...] when teleology [...] is abandoned, there is always a tendency to substitute for it some version of Stoicism [...] It is central to this Stoic tendency to believe that there is a single standard of virtue and that moral achievement lies simply in total compliance with it.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.138, 269-71

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The Technological Paradigm

Few people deny that technological change has political consequences; yet equally few people seem to realize that the present "system," in the widest sense, is the product of technology and cannot be significantly changed unless technology is changed.

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities ... has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.”

If the bourgeoisie did all this, what enabled it to do so? The answer cannot be in doubt; the creation of modern technologies.

Once a process of technological development has been set in motion it proceeds largely by its own momentum, irrespective of the intentions of its originators. It demands an appropriate "system," for inappropriate systems spell inefficiency and failure. Whoever created modern technology, for whatever purpose, this technology or, to use the Marxian term, these modes of production, now demand a system that suits them, that is appropriate to them.

Maybe what is most wrong is that which has been and continues to be the strongest formative force - the technology itself.

If our technology has been created mainly by the capitalist system, is it not probable that it bears the marks of its origin, a technology for the few at the expense of the masses, a technology of exploitation, a technology that is class-orientated, undemocratic, inhuman, and also unecological and nonconservationist?

I never cease to be astonished at the docility with which people - even those who call themselves Socialists or Marxists - accept technology uncritically, as if technology were a part of natural law.

The implicit assumption is that you can have a technological transplant without getting at the same time an ideological transplant; that technology is ideologically neutral; that you can acquire the hardware without the software that lies behind it, has made the hardware possible, and keeps it moving.

People still say: It is not the technology; it is the "system." Maybe a particular "system" gave birth to this technology; but now it stares us in the face that the system we have is the product, the inevitable product, of the technology. As I compare the societies which appear to have different "systems," the evidence seems to be overwhelming that where they employ the same technology they act very much the same and become more alike every day. Mindless work in office or factory is equally mindless under any system.

I suggest therefore that those who want to promote a better society, achieve a better system, must not confine their activities to attempts to change the "super-structure” rules, agreements, taxes, welfare, education, health services, etc. The expenditure incurred in trying to buy a better society can be like pouring money into a bottomless pit. If there is no change in the base - which is technology - there is unlikely to be any real change in the superstructure.

In other words, the new technologies will be in the image of the system that brings them forth, and they will reinforce the system. If the system is ruled by giant enterprises - whether privately or publicly owned - the new technologies will tend to be "gigantic" in one way or another, designed for "massive breakthroughs," at massive cost, demanding extreme specialization, promising a massive impact - no matter consequences." The slogan is "A breakthrough a day keeps the crisis at bay."

[E.F. Schumacher]
Good Work, p. 38-44

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Answering the Challenge

Men today plan explorations in the stratosphere and trips to the Moon. The Earth itself, our planet, will be transformed into a space-ship [barco-espacio] bursting into the cosmos.

And yet, this interpolation merely rehearses an old response, a desperate insistence on the continuity of an earlier historical response to the "Challenge" of the open sea(s). Men today imagine the present "Challenge" as merely an inflated version of the discovery of the Americas. We have already said that such a response is entirely comprehensible, from a psychological point of view. Back then, Earth’s new continents and oceans of the Earth were just emerging on the horizon. But I do not see some new cosmos opening up in the same way; nor do I hear a cosmic call or "Challenge."

The apparent continuation of the old Response under a more modern guise leads us to regard history in ahistorical and anachronistic terms. It is completely natural for the conqueror of a past era to fail to accommodate history's later call. After all, how can the conqueror understand that even his victory was to be a victory made only once?

The one who succeeds in corralling unfettered technology in order to dominate and insert it into a concrete order, is the one who offers a true response to the present call, not the one who attempts to land on the Moon or Mars with the resources given to him by that unfettered technology.

Taming unfettered technology would be, for example, the work of a new Hercules. It is from this direction that I await the new call, the "Challenge" of our present.

[Carl Schmitt]
‘The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea’, Chap. V

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Land and Sea

Land          -        Sea
Finite         -         Infinite

The retreat of nature as an obstacle to man's progress, which he achieves by means of his labor in culture and civilization, proceeds differently when man works on and through ships rather than by cultivating the earth and creating pasturelands.

The house remains the nucleus and center of terrestrial life, together with all its concrete orders: house and property, matrimony, family, and inheritance. All these concrete orders are born and grow upon the soil and under the stamp of terrestrial life, specifically agricultural life. The fundamental institution of law, dominium or property, receives its name from domus, house. That is obvious. But even legal jurists do not realize that the German word for laborer, “Bauer,” does not refer to the cultivation of the soil, but rather the act of building: Bau, Gebau. Labor thus designates in the first instance, the man who builds a house.

Terrestrial life revolves around the house. In contrast, maritime life revolves around the ship, which one must navigate. The house is rest: the ship, movement. The space in which the ship moves is distinct from that of the house. As a consequence, the ship belongs to another environment with a different horizon. On the ship, men engage in a different kind of social relation(ship) amongst themselves as well as with the outer world. They also have a fundamentally different relation to nature, above all with respect to animals. The man of the earth tames and domesticates animals—the elephant, the camel, horse, dog, cat, ox, mule—and makes them domestic animals. Fish, on the other hand, can never be domesticated. Never: they are fished and eaten because the house is foreign to the sea.

We bring these simple historical-cultural examples to mind here, in order to recall the profound difference between terrestrial and maritime existence, land and sea life.

We are looking for an answer to the question of why the industrial Revolution, with its unfettered technology, remains tied to maritime existence. A land-based order, with the house at its center, necessarily has a fundamentally different relation to technology than an order of life that revolves around the ship. The absolutization of technology and technological progress, the conflation of technical progress to mean progress in general, everything that one might understand under the catch-phrase "unfettered technology" [técnica desencadenada] develops only when fed by the nutritious subsoil and climate of maritime existence.

By following the call of the open seas, by actualizing the passage to sea life, the British isle gave a magnificent historical response to the historical call of the age of discoveries. With this it created the foundations of the industrial Revolution and the beginning of an era whose problematic we are experiencing today.

We have spoken concretely of the industrial Revolution, which is our present destiny. To reiterate, it could not have originated in any other country but England in the eighteenth century. An industrial Revolution signifies the freeing of technological progress: this liberation is solely comprehensible from within maritime existence; here it appears logical, up to a certain point.

Technological inventions have been made everywhere throughout the ages. The British contribution to technology is no greater than that of other nations. It always comes down to knowing what becomes of the technological invention, and this depends on the context, the concrete order, in which the invention turns up. Within the context of maritime existence, technological inventions develop unfettered and free, as opposed to when they emerge from the fixed organs of terrestrial life and remain surrounded and integrated to these.

The British, who in the eighteenth century were responsible for all the discoveries that led to the industrial Revolution (the coke oven, etc.) were in no way more brilliant than the men of other times and other countries that, while remaining tied to the land, had in an equal manner brought to realization many of the same eighteenth-century inventions. Technological inventions are not discoveries revealed by some mysterious, higher power. They fall within their time. They develop or decay according to the corresponding and concrete order of human life in which they have emerged.

So, this is to say that the inventions that inaugurate the industrial Revolution only become its foundation where the passage to maritime existence, sea life, has taken place. The passage to a purely maritime existence has as its result and in its most far reaching and intimate consequences, the freeing of technology as an autonomous force.

Notwithstanding all that had been developed before the arrival of technology in the context of essentially terrestrial life and existence, technology in an absolute sense had never arisen. It bears repeating here the observation that thalassic culture—limited to the coasts and interior seas—does not even signify a definitive step toward maritime existence. Only upon the ocean can the ship become the counter-image of the house.

Faith in absolute progress is a sign of having accomplished this passage toward maritime existence. The reactions caught up in a continuous and limitless process of invention are born in the historical, social and morally infinite space of sea life.

We are not referring here to the difference between sedentary and nomad peoples, but rather the opposition between land and sea as the possibilities of living in one of two elementally distinct forms of life. It is for this reason mistaken to speak of naval nomads, in comparison to nomads on horse, camel, or other nomads belonging to Terra firma. This is only one of the many incorrect homologies between land and sea. The space in which historical human existence localizes itself is fundamentally different between earth and sea, both in terms of their horizon of possibility as in terms of their very foundations; and essentially different forces lay behind human culture, on the one hand, and human civilization, on the other. These affect the one who views the sea from the land differently than the one who views the land from the sea, insofar as culture is determined more by the terrestrial (land-based order) and civilization by the maritime; and the maritime image of the world is first and foremost technomorphic before being sociomorphic.

"The principle of family life is dependence on the soil, on land, terra firma. Similarly, the natural element for industry, animating its outward movement, is the sea".

[Carl Schmitt]
‘The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea’, Chap. V

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Enabling Contraints

Short Term       -          Long Term
Unknown         -          Known

Unpredictability and teleology therefore coexist as part of our lives; like characters in a fictional narrative we do not know what will happen next, but nonetheless our lives have a certain form which projects itself towards our future.

Thus the narratives which we live out have both an unpredictable and a partially teleological character.

If the narrative of our individual and social lives is to continue intelligibly - and either type of narrative may lapse into unintelligibility - it is always both the case that there are constraints on how the story can continue and that within those constraints there are indefinitely many ways that it can continue.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.250

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Certainty          -        Uncertainty
Solid                -         Liquid
Known             -        Unknown 
Actuality          -        Potentiality
Closed              -        Open
Rest                  -        Motion
Planned            -        Random
Control             -        Chaos
Simple              -        Complex

The weakness in radical critiques of sex and society is that they fail to recognize that sex needs ritual binding to control its daemonism and secondly that society’s repressions increase sexual pleasure.

There is nothing less erotic than a nudist colony. Desire is intensified by ritual limitations. Hence the mask, harness, and chains of sadomasochism.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.36

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Femme Fatale

Sky           -        Earth
Father       -        Mother
Culture      -        Nature

Daemonic archetypes of woman, filling world mythology, represent the uncontrollable nearness of nature. Their tradition passes nearly unbroken from prehistoric idols through literature and art to modern movies.

The primary image is the femme fatale, the woman fatal to man. The more nature is beaten back in the west, the more the femme fatale reappears, as a return of the repressed. She is the spectre of the west’s bad conscience about nature. She is the moral ambiguity of nature, a malevolent moon that keeps breaking through our fog of hopeful sentiment.

The femme fatale is one of the most mesmerizing of sexual personae. She is not a fiction but an extrapolation of biologic realities in women that remain constant.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.13

I have been speaking of assaults of male on female. But some of The Faerie Queene’s boldest sexual aggressors are the licentious femmes fatales [...]

Their greatest power is in womblike closed spaces, in bedchambers, groves, and caves like the leafy grotto of Homer’s Calypso, where the male is captured, seduced, and infantilized. Spenser’s great word for such places is “bower,” both garden and burrow. Embowerment is one of The Faerie Queene’s primary processes, a psychological convolution of entrancement, turning the linearity of quest into the uroboros of solipsism.

Spenser’s femmes fatales tempt their male victims and paramours away from the pursuit of chivalric honor into “lewd sloth”—languid indolence and passivity [...] The rule of The Faerie Queene is: keep moving and stay out of the shade. The penalty is embowerment, sterile self-thwarting, a limbo of lush pleasures but stultifying passivity.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.187-9

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Sky-cult / Earth-cult

Sky           -        Earth
Father       -        Mother
Culture      -        Nature
Apollo      -        Cybele
Mono        -        Poly
Light         -        Dark

Tragedy’s inhospitality to woman springs from nature’s inhospitality to man. The identification of woman with nature was universal in prehistory. In hunting or agrarian societies dependent upon nature, femaleness was honored as an immanent principle of fertility.

As culture progressed, crafts and commerce supplied a concentration of resources freeing men from the caprices of weather or the handicap of geography. With nature at one remove, femaleness receded in importance.

Both the Apollonian and Judeo-Christian traditions are transcendental. That is, they seek to surmount or transcend nature. Despite Greek culture’s contrary Dionysian element, which I will discuss, high classicism was an Apollonian achievement. Judaism, Christianity’s parent sect, is the most powerful of protests against nature. The Old Testament asserts that a father god made nature and that differentiation into objects and gender was after the fact of his maleness.

Judeo-Christianity, like Greek worship of the Olympian gods, is a sky-cult. It is an advanced stage in the history of religion, which everywhere began as earth-cult, veneration of fruitful nature.

The evolution from earth-cult to sky-cult shifts woman into the nether realm. Her mysterious procreative powers and the resemblance of her rounded breasts, belly, and hips to earth’s contours put her at the center of early symbolism. She was the model for the Great Mother figures who crowded the birth of religion worldwide.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.8-9

Men, bonding together, invented culture as a defense against female nature.

Sky-cult was the most sophisticated step in this process, for its switch of the creative locus from earth to sky is a shift from belly-magic to head-magic. And from this defensive head-magic has come the spectacular glory of male civilization, which has lifted woman with it. The very language and logic modern woman uses to assail patriarchal culture were the invention of men.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.9

The male has to will his sexual authority before the woman who is a shadow of his mother and of all women. Failure and humiliation constantly wait in the wings. No woman has to prove herself a woman in the grim way a man has to prove himself a man.

Man’s metaphors of concentration and projection are echoes of both body and mind. Without them, he would be helpless before woman’s power. Without them, woman would long ago have absorbed all of creation into herself. There would be no culture, no system, no pyramiding of one hierarchy upon another.

Earth-cult must lose to sky-cult, if mind is ever to break free from matter.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.16, 19-21

Women have borne the symbolic burden of man’s imperfections, his grounding in nature. Menstrual blood is the stain, the birthmark of original sin, the filth that transcendental religion must wash from man.

The Bible has come under fire for making woman the fall guy in man’s cosmic drama. But in casting a male conspirator, the serpent, as God’s enemy, Genesis hedges and does not take its misogyny far enough.

The Bible defensively swerves from God’s true opponent, chthonian nature. The serpent is not outside Eve but in her. She is the garden and the serpent. Anthony Storr says of witches, “At a very primitive level, all mothers are phallic.” The Devil is a woman. Modern emancipation movements, discarding stereotypes impeding woman’s social advance, refuse to acknowledge procreation’s daemonism.

Nature is serpentine, a bed of tangled vines, creepers and crawlers, probing dumb fingers of fetid organic life which Wordsworth taught us to call pretty.

I contend that the premenstrual woman incited to snappishness or rage is hearing signals from the reptilian brain. In her, man’s latent perversity is manifest. All hell breaks loose, the hell of chthonian nature that modern humanism denies and represses. In every premenstrual woman struggling to govern her temper, sky-cult wars again with earth-cult.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.11-12

Happy are those periods when marriage and religion are strong. System and order shelter us against sex and nature. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the chaos of sex has broken into the open.

Paganism recognized, honored, and feared nature’s daemonism, and it limited sexual expression by ritual formulae. Christianity was a development of Dionysian mystery religion which paradoxically tried to suppress nature in favor of a transcendental other world. The sole contact with nature that Christianity permitted its followers was sex sanctified by marriage. Chthonian nature, embodied in great goddess figures, was Christianity’s most formidable opponent.

Christianity works best when revered institutions like monasticism or universal marriage channel sexual energy in positive directions. Western civilization has profited enormously from the sublimation Christianity forced on sex. Christianity works least when sex is constantly stimulated from other directions, as it is now.

No transcendental religion can compete with the spectacular pagan nearness and concreteness of the carnal-red media. Our eyes and ears are drowned in a sensual torrent.

Male aggression and lust are the energizing factors in culture. They are men’s tools of survival in the pagan vastness of female nature.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.25-26

In psychology, philosophy, and art, classical Greek imagination sought, in Eduard Fraenkel’s words, “λóγος, ratio… the intelligible, determinate, mensurable, as opposed to the fantastic, vague, and shapeless.”

The Apollonian, I said, is the line drawn against nature. For Harrison, the Olympian gods are patriarchal betrayers of earth-cult and mother nature. The chthonian is her test of authenticity and spiritual value. But I say there is neither person, thought, thing, nor art in the brutal chthonian. It was, ironically, the west’s Apollonian line that produced the matchless Jane Harrison.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.73

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The Three Logos

Apollo        -     Dionysus     -     Cybele
Separate     -     Amorphous  -     Connected
Inflation     -                           -     Deflation
Sky             -                          -     Earth
Day            -     Twilight        -     Night
Paranoia     -     Normality     -     Schizophrenia
Outer          -                           -     Inner
Order          -    Criticality      -     Chaos
Clear          -    Complex        -     Chaotic

The imaginaire is structured in early childhood and later on determines the fundamental points of personality formation. Although the imaginaire necessarily encompasses all three regimes, one of them is always dominant and represses the others, thereby erecting the structure of consciousness in accordance with its own geometry and topology.

The Diurne

The diurnal regime fully corresponds to what we call the Logos of Apollo. This is the solar, masculine, heroic, noetic universe.

The domination of the postural reflex (which pushes the child up into the upright, vertical stance) organizes consciousness in accordance with the diurnal regime. This regime is dominated by diaeretic operations, such as division, dismemberment, the establishment of clear limits, contemplation, vertical hierarchy, severe logical laws, and is characterized by the concentration of identity towards one end (i.e., the construction of a consolidated subject) in parallel to the dissection (down to miasma) of the subject of perception at the opposite end (e.g., analyzing an object, dismembering a sacrificial animal, etc.).

In the diurnal regime, the subject recognizes itself as a hero confronting time and death, with which it wages endless war. Vertical symmetries, images of flight (and fall), and masculine symbols such as the straight line, the sword, the scepter, the axis, arrows, light, the sun, and the sky are predominant in this mode.

Our thought is based on the development of this kind of imagination. We imagine things separately. We separate things and [in doing so] consolidate our subject. Everybody is against us but we [beat] everybody. In the field of mental illness, it corresponds to paranoia. Paranoia is absolutization of this diurne.

This is the creation of hierarchy, of verticality, with the most paranoid subject at the top of the society - the tsar, the king that destroys everything and consolidates himself. Paranoia is the illness of the kings because everybody is against them and everybody is planning to overthrow them […]

The Mystical Nocturne

This regime is marked by the absence of clarity, as consciousness enjoys the continuous and unlimited tissue of hardly distinguishable things. Sensations of digestion, saturation, napping, comfort, stillness, gliding, and slight immersion are dominant.

The prevailing elements are water, earth, and warmth. The relevant symbols are the cup, the Mother, twilight, reduced objects, centripetal symmetries, the infant, the blanket, the bed, and the womb.

This is the feminine, maternal regime. The mystical nocturne is based on radical feminization and is an antiphrasis. In this mode, dangerous and ominous phenomena (death, time, evil, threats, enemies, and misfortune, etc.) are given softer or contradictory names:

Death = dormition (literally falling asleep) or even birth (resurrection);
Time = progress, becoming, improving;
Threat = a game resolved in peace and bliss;
The enemy = a friend who is not dangerous, and to whose side one must necessarily cross as soon as possible (Stockholm syndrome)
Misfortune = happiness (a temporary challenge designed for something good), etc.

A person with a dominant mystical nocturne is prone to seek compromise, is distinguished by conformism and hyper-conformism, is peace-loving, easily adapts to any conditions, is feminine, is drawn towards serenity, and sets comfort, satiety, safety, and harmony above all else, believing that the best is guaranteed to come naturally.

It is not to separate something that is outside of us and to consolidate something that is inside of us, as in the case of the diurne, but […] to unite everything that is around us and to divide ourselves. This is a schizophrenic attitude, in the extreme case [because] the schizophrenic is separated inside. There are voices and different egos inside and there is the world around it that has reason, that is more powerful than the subject. So the world is united and strong and the subject is weak and problematic and ill.

Here we can unmistakably recognize the structures of the Black Logos, the noetic world of Cybele, the Great Mother, and the chthonic worlds of the womb.

The Dramatic Nocturne

The third regime of the imaginaire is also nocturnal, but is dramatic, dynamic, and active. It can be placed between the diurne and the mystical nocturne. It is built on a copulative dominant, on rhythm, movement, and dual symmetries. Its symbol is the bisexual being, the Androgyne, a pair of lovers, choreia, the circle, dance, rotation, repetition, the cycle, motion returning to its origin.

The dramatic nocturne does not struggle with time and death like the diurne, and does not cross over to the side of time and death as the mystical nocturne does. It closes time in a cycle and keeps death in a chain of births and deaths regularly replacing one another (reincarnation). In this regime, the subject is reflected in the object and vice versa, and this game of reflections is reproduced in an infinite sequence.

If the diurne is the masculine regime, the realm of the day, and if the mystical nocturne is the maternal realm of the night, then the dramatic nocturne correlates with twilight (dusk and dawn) and the male/female pair (sometimes united into one).

While the diurne rigidly divides one from another (diaeresis) and the mystical nocturne unites everything (synthesis), the dramatic nocturne unites the divided and divides the united – never entirely, but retaining differences in their merger and sameness in division.

Those who have a dominant dramatic nocturne exhibit developed artistic abilities, psychological flexibility, eroticism, lightness, mobility, the ability to maintain balance in motion and to perceive events in the external world as a never-ending, shifting alternation of dark and light moments (the ancient Romans’ dies fastus/dies nefastus).

Durand’s dramatic nocturne perfectly fits the description of the Dark Logos, the noetic universe of Dionysus, the god who fuses opposites in himself – suffering and dispassion, death and resurrection, male and female, high and low, and so on. Hence precisely why the “search for the Dark Logos” led us to Dionysus and the broad complex of his situation.

If the regime of diurne is paranoid and the regime of mystical nocturne is schizophrenic, what is the mental disease that corresponds to the dramatic nocturne? There is no mental disease: It is normality. In a normal situation we use this dramatical nocturne, the Dionysian approach to reality. Sometimes there is effeminization and sometimes there is radical separation and differentiation. So we are using both strategies at the same time.

The Three Worlds in Mythology

The realm of the Light Logos corresponds to Olympus, the heavenly world, and the king of the gods, the thunder-god Zeus, his wife, Hera of the air, the solar Apollo, the warrior Athena, the goddess of justice Dike, and other analogous figures.

This is the highest horizon of the celestial Olympian gods in the maximal purity in which the Greeks tried to imagine the gods free from chthonic or archaic elements. This series of gods can be called the diurnic series, for their primary realm of rule is the that of the day, wakefulness, the clear mind, the vertical symmetries of power, and purification.

The second realm of myth, corresponding to the mystical nocturne, is that of the chthonic deities associated with Gaia, the Great Mother. This includes the “Urania” of Rhea, the deputies of the titan Cronus and the mother of Zeus, all the generations of the Titans overthrown by the gods, as well as other creatures of the Earth, such as the Hundred-Handed Ones (Hecatoncheires), the giants, and other chthonic monsters.

The third kingdom, situated between Olympus and Hades (Tartarus), is the domain of the intermediate gods. The undisputed king of this mythical realm is Dionysus, who descends into Hades as Zagreus and rises to Olympus as the resurrected Iacchus of the Eleusinian mysteries and Orphic hymns. Here should also be included the psychopomp god Hermes, the goddess of harvest and fertility Demeter, as well as the countless series of lesser gods and daimons – the nymphs, satyrs, dryads, silens, etc.

[Aleksandr Dugin]
‘Introduction to Noomakhia: Logos of Dionysos [Lecture 5] - Alexander Dugin’ & The Three Logoi: An Introduction to the Triadic Methodology of NOOMAKHIA, Chap. 2

The Geometry of the Logoi

Logos of Apollo

[…] the Three Logoi represent three primordial positions of viewing the map of the Universe: from above (by Apollo and Olympus), from below (by Gaia, Cybele, and Tartarus), and from an intermediate position (that of Dionysus, Demeter, and humanity) […] the basic figure of the Universe will change depending on the arrangement of this or that “observatory point.”

The Logos of Apollo believes itself to be the center, the foundation, the top of the triangle or the peak of Mount Olympus (Parnassus). The view from here is a view looking down upon the base of the triangle. The descending vertical of the solar Logos sets at the opposite end of itself its opposition – the flat, horizontal Earth.

Logos of Dionysus

The intermediary world of Dionysus is structured differently. Its height rises up to the heavens and its depth reaches down to the center of hell. Dionysus’ center is in himself, while the above and below are the limits of his divine path – formed not by themselves, but over the course of the dramatic mysteries of his tragic, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection.

The Logos of Dionysus is dynamic; it embodies the abundance and tragedy of life. Dionysus’ universe differs radically from the Universe of Apollo, insofar as their different views yield different worlds.

The Logos of Dionysus is a phenomenon, a mutable structure of his epiphany. It is far from chaos, but it is not the fixed order of Apollo. It is a kind of playful combination of both, a sacred flickering of meanings and minds constantly threatening to plunge into madness – a madness which is healed by the impulse towards the higher Mind. It is not the fixed triangle of the mountain, but the pulsating, living heart that composes the paradigmatic canvas of thinking.

Logos of Cybele

The geometry of Cybele’s Universe is completely different. On the one hand, in her we can see the inverted image of the Universal Mountain turned upside down into a sort of cosmic funnel.

The symmetry between hell and heaven was vividly described by Dante. The Ancient Greeks believed that there is a black sky in Tartarus with its own (suffocating) air, its own (fiery) rivers and (foul) land.

Yet this symmetry should be not merely visual, but also ontological and noological. The world of the titans consists of the refusal of the order of the diurne. The horizontal thus acquires the dimension of a downwards vertical, a horizontal of the depths. Differences fuse while identities are split asunder. Light is black, and darkness blazes and burns. If in the world of Apollo there is only the eternal “now”, then Cybele’s world is reigned by time (Kronos – Chronos), where there is everything but the “now”, and instead only the “before” and “too late”, where the main moment is always missed. The torture of Tantalus, Sisyphus, and the Danaids reflects the essence of the temporality of hell: everything is repeated to no end.

The inverted triangle, as applied to the worlds of Cybele, is most akin to an inverse “Apollonian hypothesis” – and thus indeed Apollo understands this opposite to himself. Mother Earth thinks otherwise: she has no straight lines, no clear orientations. Attempts to separate one from the other cause her unbearable pain. Her thinking is muffled, gloomy, and inconsistent. She cannot break away from the mass which de-figures and repeatedly dissolves all forms, decomposes them into atoms and recreates them again at random. This is how monsters are born.

Therefore, the three views of the universe from these three positions represent three conflicting worlds, and it is this conflict of interpretations which constitutes the essence of the war of the minds.

[Aleksandr Dugin]
The Three Logoi: An Introduction to the Triadic Methodology of NOOMAKHIA, Chap. 2

[…] the Logos of Cybele, Logos of Dionysus, and Logos of Apollo are deep inside of any form of thought.

They are inside of thought and not in front of thought. They are the paradigms that are very difficult to grasp, to seize, and to understand because they are dealing behind our mind, defining its structure. We could not see [them] as images that are in front of us.

When we are speaking about the Logos, we are speaking about something that is deep behind our […] consciousness that defines the roots of our mentality.

[Aleksandr Dugin]
‘Introduction to Noomakhia: Logos of Dionysos [Lecture 5] - Alexander Dugin’

It is easily noticeable that the three synchronic worlds of this model can be taken to represent the calendric cycle: the upper half (the kingdom of Apollo) corresponds to summer, the lower world of Cybele to winter, and the intermediary worlds of Dionysus to autumn and spring.

The latter can be interpreted as the cardinal points of the drama of Dionysus, his sacrificial killing, dismemberment, resurrection, and awakening.

[Aleksandr Dugin]
The Three Logoi: An Introduction to the Triadic Methodology of NOOMAKHIA, Chap. 2

Related posts:
Apollo / Dionysus

The Liberal Day-dream

Ideal           -        Real
Global        -        Local

If you do a full lifecycle analysis of an average large EV, it's a worse option ecologically overall - and also culturally and socially because of the slave labor involved in the mining, refining and manufacturing - it's probably a worse option than a standard internal combustion vehicle.

And yet taxpayers are now being asked, in fact, to subsidize an option which is really engineered not to solve the climate, not to solve overshoot, but to keep the machine going - to maintain investment, to maintain jobs, to increase the span of the economy.

In other words, to maintain business as usual by alternative means. But it's business as usual that has got us into this situation.

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

The truth is that all human societies, even liberal democracies, have aristocrats.

Whether their aristocracies are formally acknowledged with ranks and titles and special badges, or whether they slum it with the rest of us, matters much less than you might imagine. Humans are hierarchical chimps and we recreate the same social structures over and over.

In fact, I think one of the greatest defects of modern liberal democracy, is its promotion of an informal elite – people who, for reasons of birth or social standing, wield significant power, but because of liberal democratic principles, are allowed (or compelled) to do so in underhanded, informal, less-than-legible ways.

‘Liberalism, Progressivism, Leftism’, eugyppius: a plague chronicle

According to the chivalric code, which had a decisive influence on the development of the notion of military honour in Europe, it is not honourable to attack an enemy without putting yourself at risk.

It is only honourable to attack the enemy on the battlefield. It is dishonourable, by contrast, to kill the enemy in an underhanded way - by poisoning, for instance. Symmetry and reciprocity must be ensured.

An enemy in a war is not a criminal who must be destroyed at any cost. Rather, he is an equal opponent, a competing player. Such an enemy is afforded equal rights.

With drone warfare, we reach the pinnacle of asymmetry. The degradation and transformation of the opponent into a criminal is the precondition of targeted killing, which resembles a kind of policing.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.71, 73

And the computer we’re talking on, rather than being a two or three-thousand dollar Apple, might be a million dollar Apple. If you factor the real cost of what it takes for the supply chains to make this thing, then you’re like, “Okay, we would actually not even do manufacturing the same way.”

We only do manufacturing this way because we’ve been able to externalize all the costs to the environment. Now, we’re hitting planetary boundaries. We’re not going to be able to keep doing that.

And so nobody is thinking seriously enough about what does an economy that does not externalize costs look like and how do we retool our total global infrastructure in that way? And how do we do it in the time we have, factoring that we’re already in diminishing returns on hydrocarbons and everything is oriented towards growth, and you have to completely change the financial system?

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'Homegrown Human - Daniel Schmachtenberger - Existential Risk'

Modern liberalism suffers unresolved contradictions. It exalts individualism and freedom and, on its radical wing, condemns social orders as oppressive. On the other hand, it expects government to provide materially for all, a feat manageable only by an expansion of authority and a swollen bureaucracy. In other words, liberalism defines government as tyrant father but demands it behave as nurturant mother.

Feminism has inherited these contradictions. It sees every hierarchy as repressive, a social fiction; every negative about woman is a male lie designed to keep her in her place. Feminism has exceeded its proper mission of seeking political equality for women and has ended by rejecting contingency, that is, human limitation by nature or fate.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.2-3

Rousseauism’s Christianized psychology has led to the tendency of liberals toward glumness or depression in the face of the political tensions, wars, and atrocities that daily contradict their assumptions.

Perhaps the more we are sensitized by reading and education, the more we must repress the facts of chthonian nature.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.38

Related posts:


Representational     -    Non-representational
Conscious               -    Unconscious
Symbolic                 -    Pre-symbolic
Formal                     -    Dynamic
Explicit                    -    Implicit
Narrow                    -    Wide
Focused                   -    Distributed
Spectator                 -    Participant

Connectionist networks cannot represent '... higher order relations. This representational poverty leads to an incapacity for generalisation to higher order relations since a network can only learn what it can represent.’

The first objection merely states a commitment to a strong theory of representation. It is true that networks do not 'represent higher order relations', but that is only a problem if representation is insisted upon.

This commitment is made explicitly by Chandrasekaran et al. (1988). For them there is an abstract level of 'information-processing' which is higher than any specific realisation thereof, whether that realisation be symbolic or connectionist. It is at this abstract level that the 'explanatory power' resides.

Like Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988) and Lloyd (1989), they claim that connectionists remain committed to representation, and the fact that this representation is 'distributed' makes no difference to anything. I will argue in detail […] that distributed representation makes all the difference; that, in fact, it undermines the whole concept of representation. The fact that connectionist networks 'cannot represent' becomes a distinct advantage.

The second objection reflects the urge of symbolic modellers to reduce the domain to be modelled to a finite number of explicit principles using logical inference. We have already argued that, when dealing with true complexity, this is often not possible. Connectionist models can implement aspects of complexity without performing this reduction. That is their strength.

One cannot make use of a priori domain knowledge because one often does not know which aspects of the domain are relevant. This also largely answers the third objection, i.e. that the connectionist model is too general and does not reflect the 'structure' of the problem. The structure cannot be reflected, precisely because it cannot be made explicit in symbolic terms. The fact that the same network can be taught to perform 'very different' tasks is not a weakness, but rather an indication of the power of this approach.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.20

In a representational system, the representation and that which is being represented operate at different logical levels; they belong to different categories.

This is not the case with a neural network. There is no difference in kind between the sensory traces entering the network and the traces that interact inside the network. In a certain sense we have the outside repeated, or reiterated, on the inside, thereby deconstructing the distinction between outside and inside.

The gap between the two has collapsed.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.83

Models based on formal symbol systems have the classical theory of representation built in.

The main problem with representation lies in the relationship between the symbols and their meaning. There are two ways of establishing this relationship. One can either claim that the relationship is 'natural', determined in some a priori fashion, or one has to settle for an external designer determining this relationship.

The first option is a strongly metaphysical one since it claims that meaning is determined by some kind of fundamental, all-embracing law. Such an approach has to be excluded here because the main thrust of my argument is that an understanding of complexity should be developed without recourse to metaphysical cornerstones.

The second option where the relationships are the result of the decisions made by a designer - is acceptable as long as an active, external agent can be assumed to be present. When a well-framed system is being modelled on a computer by a well-informed modeller, this could well be the case. However, when we deal with autonomous, self-organising systems with a high degree of complexity, the second option becomes metaphysical as well.

As soon as we drop the notion of representation, these metaphysical problems disappear.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.86

A last, and a most important, principle requires that the memory of the system be stored in a distributed fashion. The importance of memory has already been stated, and in neural networks the connection strengths, or weights, perform the function of storing information.

Specific weights cannot stand for specific bits of symbolic information since this would imply that the information should be interpretable at the level of that weight. Since each weight only has access to local levels of activity, it cannot perform the more complex function of standing for a concept. Complex concepts would involve a pattern of activity over several units.

Weights store information at a sub-symbolic level, as traces of memory.

The fact that information is distributed over many units not only increases the robustness of the system, but makes the association of different patterns an inherent characteristic of the system - they overlap in principle.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.95

I have already argued that a pairing off of words and objects in a direct fashion—classical mimetic representation—is not acceptable. It does not give enough credit to the fact that language is a complex system.

It assumes the existence of an objective, external viewpoint and begs the question as to the identity of the agent that performs this ‘pairing off’.

The relationship between language and the world is neither direct and transparent nor objectively controlled, but there is such a relationship—without it natural language would not exist. By understanding language as a self-organising system, we can start sketching a more sophisticated theory of this relationship.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.125

In an essay entitled The Ontological Status of Observables: In Praise of Superempirical Virtues’ (139–151) [Churchland] positions himself as a realist asserting ‘that global excellence of theory is the ultimate measure of truth and ontology at all levels of cognition, even at the observational level.’

His realism is more circumspect than may be deduced from this passage, but he remains committed to the idea that there is a world that exists independent of our ‘cognition’, and that we construct representations of this world.

Since different representations are possible, they have to be compared, and the best selected. The selection cannot be made on the basis of ‘empirical facts’, but ‘must be made on superempirical grounds such as relative coherence, simplicity, and explanatory unity.’

It should be clear that from this position he is not about to explore contingency, complexity and diversity.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.133

There's a contradiction between the Darwinian notion of reality and the Newtonian, or Cartesian, idea of reality because there's a reality that has something to do with this notion of ‘fit’ - of relationship between the subjective and the objective.

The Newtonian and the Cartesian are formal systems. Darwin's theory of evolution is the first significant and important dynamical systems theory within science, in which the self-organization of this system and its coupling to the world are constitutive of the kind of entity it is.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘A Conversation So Intense It Might Transcend Time and Space | John Vervaeke | EP 321, YouTube

Related posts:

Symmetry / Asymmetry

Symmetry     -    Asymmetry

An important secondary principle is symmetry-breaking.

If the initial state of the system is fully homogeneous, the evolving structure could be too symmetrical. This will inhibit the development of complex structure. Symmetry-breaking is usually achieved spontaneously by means of missing or incorrect connections (or other happenings of chance), as well as by the non-linearity of the system and the resulting sensitivity to small fluctuations.

The brain is pre-structured in a way that is general and non-specific, but with enough differentiation (i.e. enough asymmetry) to allow external influences a 'foothold'.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.95, 103

Non-linearity is a precondition for complexity, especially where self-organisation, dynamic adaptation and evolution are at stake. Closely related to the principle of non-linearity is the principle of asymmetry.

Linear, symmetrical relationships give rise to simple systems with transparent structures. In complex systems, mechanisms have to be found to break symmetry and to exploit the magnifying power of non-linearity. This is ensured by a rich level of interaction and by the competition for resources.

The social system is non-linear and asymmetrical as well. The same piece of information has different effects on different individuals, and small causes can have large effects. The competitive nature of social systems is often regulated by relations of power, ensuring an asymmetrical system of relationships. This, it must be emphasised strongly, is not an argument in favour of relations of domination or exploitation. The argument is merely one for the acknowledgement of complexity.

Non-linearity, asymmetry, power and competition are inevitable components of complex systems. It is what keeps them going, their engine. If there were a symmetrical relationship between infants and adults, infants would never survive. If there were a symmetrical relationship between teacher and student, the student would never learn anything new. If the state had no power, it would have no reason to exist. If women and men were all the same, our world would be infinitely less interesting.

These considerations have important implications for social theory. The fact that society is held together by asymmetrical relations of power does not mean that these relationships are never exploited. To the contrary, they are continuously exploited by parents, by lecturers, by the state and by men, but also by children, by students, by citizens and by women.

The point is that the solution to these forms of exploitation does not lie in some symmetrical space where power is distributed evenly. Such spaces cannot exist in complex systems that are driven by non-linearity. The hope that such spaces could be created in any enduring fashion is false.

To combat exploitation, there is only one option: you have to enter into the agonistics of the network. Since this approach does in no way guarantee success, there is very little moral high ground to be had, whether one rejects the abstract rules of modernist ethics or not.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.120

Related posts:

Nature / Nurture

Nature     -    Nurture

The 'general' structure is then modified through experience and behaviour in order to reflect the specific circumstances encountered in the history of the organism in question. The brain thus organises itself so as to cope with its environment.

Note that certain parts of the primary repertoire could be permanently 'hard-wired', and will therefore not be changed by experience. This enables the organism to transfer certain capabilities to its offspring genetically. Such capabilities would include the control of vital bodily functions necessary right from the start, as well as other capabilities the organism may need but does not have sufficient time to learn by itself.

The beauty of the model is that both the hard-wired and the adaptive components are implemented in exactly the same way (i.e. as groups of neurons), denying any real distinction between the two.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.103

A fantasy dogging feminist writing is that there was once a peaceable matriarchy overthrown by warmongering men, founders of patriarchal society. The idea began with Bachofen in the nineteenth century and was adopted by Jane Harrison, that great scholar’s one error.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.42

Related posts:


Malthus suggested that while technological advances could increase a society's supply of resources, such as food, and thereby improve the standard of living, the abundance of resources would enable population growth, which would eventually bring the supply of resources for each person back to its level prior to its original level.

Some economists contend that since the industrial revolution in the early 19th century, mankind has broken out of the trap.

Others argue that the continuation of extreme poverty indicates that the Malthusian trap continues to operate. Others further argue that due to lack of food availability coupled with excessive pollution, developing countries show more evidence of the trap as compared to developed countries.

‘Malthusianism’, Wikipedia

[...] creatures and plants live together in a combination of competition and mutual dependency, and it is that combination that is the important thing to consider.

Every species has a primary Malthusian capacity. Any species that does not, potentially, produce more young than the number of the population of the parental generation is out. They’re doomed. It is absolutely necessary for every species and for every such system that its components have a potential positive gain in the population curve.

But, if every species has potential gain, it is then quite a trick to achieve equilibrium. All sorts of interactive balances and dependencies come into play, and it is these processes that have the sort of circuit structure that I have mentioned.

The Malthusian curve is exponential. It is the curve of population growth and it is not inappropriate to call this the population explosion.

You may regret that organisms have this explosive characteristic, but you may as well settle for it. The creatures that don’t are out.

[Gregory Bateson]
'Conscious Purpose versus Nature', Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.436

Given a source of variation and a selection procedure, systems always evolve in a manner that is easy to describe in general and impossible to predict in detail. The overview is that they take up every opportunity available to them: that’s the part that’s easy to describe.

What’s impossible to predict is how and in what order they’ll do it. That’s true of cellular automata, and it’s also true of living things over time. Follow the evolutionary trajectory of any group of living things, from club moss to crocodiles to Galapagos finches to human beings, and you’ll see that same process at work.

Metaphorically, it’s as though you were inflating a big balloon inside a space too small to contain it: the balloon pushes outwards in all directions, now here, now there, until it runs up against the hard limits of walls and floor and ceiling.

Do evolutionary breakthroughs take place? Of course, and the process just outlined explains how and why those happen. Imagine for a moment that you’ve got a balloon made of some absurdly flexible substance, so that it can just keep stretching no matter how big it gets. You start inflating it inside your bedroom.  The door’s closed, the windows are closed, pretty soon the balloon’s outer surface is pushing hard against the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the furniture—but there’s an inch-wide gap under the door you forgot about. Once the pressure gets high enough, the balloon pushes out through that gap, and all of a sudden it’s in the hallway and there’s a vast amount of previously inaccessible space for it to expand into.

Whoosh! Before long it’s filling up the living room and pushing against half a dozen other doors and windows. If one of those happens to be open a little, another evolutionary breakthrough follows. It’s not a linear process, and many different lines of evolutionary development can—and did—unfold at the same time.

That’s the story of life on Earth. The walls, floor, and ceiling are the laws of nature and the limits of environment, and the balloon represents the range of niches occupied by living things.

[John Michael Greer]
‘Against Enchantment I: Ken Wilber’, Ecosophia

For the first long, long period, human population growth was held in check by negative feedback because we were part of ecosystems. And disease, famines, resource shortages, those sorts of things kept human populations in check, just like every other species.

Humans are no different from other species in our population dynamics. We have a natural propensity to expand exponentially, but we're held in check by the natural negative feedbacks of the human ecosystem.

Along comes fossil fuel, particularly in the early part of the 19th century when we began to use it in great quantity, as well as an advance of public health measures. Fossil fuel provided the means by which humans could acquire all the food and other resources needed to grow the human enterprise, and public health improvements increased the longevity and health of the population.

So for the first time in human history in the last, about one tenth of 1% of human history, humans were able to realize our full potential for exponential population growth. Until then, it had been suppressed […] We have found ways to relieve the negative feedback, allowing the positive feedback to take off.

We took the cork off the bottle and we've had this enormous population and boom of the whole human enterprise in just the past 200 years. So what we take to be the norm […] is the single most abnormal period in human history. We are like any other species exposed to an abundance of resources that goes through a population boom - there will be a bust, there has to be a bust because the boom can't continue.

Any system that is primarily driven by positive feedback is self-destructive because it means that it will grow forever in a situation, in a context which is clearly not going to grow forever. And we're no different […] I'll put it bluntly, we are in the plague phase of a one-off human population boom bust cycle. We're nearing the top and we will come down because of the onset of negative feedback. Nature will restore balance between that positive and negative feedback and who knows what will come of that.

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

[…] K-selected species tend to always to press up against the available carrying capacity of their environments […] using whatever resources are available […] Our evolutionary success depends on high survival rates of infants and this constant pushing up against that carrying capacity.

By the way, that was Malthus's great insight. He realized that if more food was made available, human beings being K strategists would in effect always rise to the level of food availability.

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

[…] there's no inherent conflict between technology and ecological thinking. The conflict comes from assuming you can use the technology to overcome the biophysical reality within which we are embedded.

So if we decided as a species 200 years ago, that the carrying capacity of planet Earth indefinitely was say 2 billion people, we could have used technology at an appropriate scale to ensure the continued wellbeing of some 2 billion people ad infinitum.

But we didn't do that. The assumption was that technology can increase carrying capacity indefinitely […]

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

In many cases the relationships, the stable relationships that indigenous peoples have developed with their natural environments occur after they've obliterated the natural environment. They occur after they've hunted out all of the megafauna, the large easily caught species.

If you just think of New Zealand, which has been settled since 800 years ago or so, 12 species of gigantic birds went extinct as a result of the deprivations of the indigenous people that now occupy New Zealand. The decimation of populations of large mammals […] in Australia just follows the progression of the occupation of that subcontinent by aboriginals in the last 50,000 years.

So yes, we can develop a harmonious relationship with our ecosystems, but often only after we've inserted ourselves into those ecosystems and appropriated the habitats and food chains of many of the mammals […]

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

Any species capable of exponential growth will respond to a period of resource abundance. And many species in nature go through cycles. It's a boom bust cycle: things get good, we expand, then negative feedback kicks in, we crash, then we get good and expand.

Humans have never done that, not globally. We've done it locally.

But now for the first time we've managed to, in effect, colonize the entire planet. We've grown by liquidating our capital [but] you cannot continue to grow by liquidating the natural capital basis of your own existence. And so we get to the point where we become so large, there's simply insufficiency there to maintain even the maintenance activities, let alone further growth.

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

We can't avoid the reality that humans are biophysical entities, that we are ecological species that have evolved as components of nature and that we require a certain energy flow just to breathe.

Historically, that energy flow has always been solar energy through our food supply. We broke from that, oh, just about 200 years ago. And with this exosomatic or outside the body source of energy called fossil fuel, we vastly increased our capacity to exploit and destroy the planet.

And so we see everywhere measurements of the decline in forest fertility. North America has lost 50% to 70% of the organic nutrients that took 11,000 or 12,000 years in the Postglacial period to accumulate. So in less than 200 years of deep tillage agriculture, half of that's gone or 70% is gone. And the only way we maintain the productivity of the Great Plains is through the massive applications of fertilizers and pesticides and increasing irrigation.

[William Rees]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

William Rees: The biophysical reality is that human beings in the growth of the human system have displaced other species from their eco-niches. It's a concept I call competitive displacement.

Human unsustainability is a natural phenomenon. We are unsustainable by nature because all we're doing is following our natural propensity to expand and to fill all available habitat, but we do it better than any other species.

So if you go back 10,000 years, humans were fewer than, or less than 1% of the biomass of mammals on planet Earth. Then with agriculture and just more recently in the last couple of 100 years with fossil energy and the massive expansion of the human enterprise, humans have become 36% or 34% of the biomass of mammals.

And by the way, the biomass itself has gone up. But our domestic animals are another 62-63%. So that when you add all of that together, it means that wild mammals on planet Earth today are about 3%-4% of the total biomass of mammals. So all those great herds you see in Africa are a trivial appendage on the biomass of mammals, which has absolutely been commandeered by both humans and our domestic animals.

So there's been an enormous displacement of non-human species, and the remaining populations in the last 50 years have been reduced by 65-70%.

Nate Hagens: It's actually worse than that because it’s all mammals, including ocean mammals. So if it's only land mammals, it's 98%.

[William Rees & Nate Hagens]
‘William E. Rees: "The Fundamental Issue - Overshoot" | The Great Simplification #53’, Nate Hagens, YouTube

Archaic societies do not make a sharp distinction between life and death. Death is an aspect of life, and life is only possible in symbolic exchange with death.

Rituals of initiation and sacrifice are symbolic acts which regulate numerous transitions from life to death. Initiation is a second birth, following upon death, that is, the end of a phase of life.

The relationship between life and death is characterized by reciprocity. Festivals as expenditure imply a symbolic exchange with death: 'Symbolic death, which has not undergone the imaginary disjunction of life and death which is at the origin of the reality of death, is exchanged in a social ritual of feasting."

The age of production is accordingly a time without festival. It is dominated by an irreversibility, that of endless growth.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.51

The price we pay for our enslavement to matter, to the negative devouring Becky, is great.

Gathering food for a devouring mother who cannot get enough becomes a metaphor for a fully automated society in which human efficiency must aspire to the performance of an automaton.

Psychic automatons are addicted personalities, governed by mysterious, irrational fetishes. To wean them from their addictions - to food, to alcohol, to sex, to drugs, to work - is to wean Becko from Becky. It is not easy. To wean Becko from Becky it is also necessary to wean Becky from herself. She is literally eating herself to death. Like her, our society grows on what it devours. It is destroying itself on what it manufactures. Economists call that self-destructive phenomenon "economic growth," and economic growth has become the chief measure of society's health.

Anyone who weighs 300 pounds and is gaining 10 "pounds" a month on the stock market must sense that society's way of measuring its health is both perverse and crazy.

A society that is devouring its natural resources is not becoming more healthy and more realistic. It is dying as surely as a patient who has gone from 300 to 400 pounds is dying. America at the moment is 200 billion dollars overweight. Many economists predict it will be 300 billion by the end of the century.

The Becky I have in mind, i.e. our global negative mother, weighs in the neighbourhood of £300 trillion - roughly the price we are now budgeting worldwide for armaments. The Beckos of the world are feeding a ravenously destructive appetite and it is bound to explode unless Becko can be stopped, which is to say, unless Becky can be stopped.

Becky's compulsive behavior must be redeemed if we are to survive. She not only controls with machine-like efficiency our waking "conscious" hours, but our sleeping, unconscious hours as well. She works both above ground and underground. Underground, she is worshipped, served, propitiated in fetishes, addictions, ravaging diseases, marital break- downs, premature deaths.

Nothing can satisfy her hunger, which is unconscious, insatiable and autonomous. Her appetite feeds on its own power, endlessly giving birth to more and more and more, endlessly feeding on what is feeding on her.

[Marion Woodman]
‘The Emergence of the Feminine’, Betwixt and Between, p.204-5

The modern industrial system has a built-in tendency to grow; it cannot really work unless it is growing. The word ‘stability’ has been struck from its dictionary and replaced by ‘stagnation’.

Its continuous growth pursues no particular aims or objectives, it is growth for the sake of growing. No one, even inquires after its final shape. There is none, there is no ‘saturation point’.

Who, it may be asked, calls the tune? Fundamentally, the technologist. Whatever becomes technologically possible - within certain economic limits - must be done. Society must adapt itself to it. The question whether or not it does any good is ruled out on the specious argument that no one knows anyhow what is good or evil, wholesome or unwholesome, worthy of man or unworthy.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Good Work, p. 30

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