A synthesis for a “preparadigmatic” science suggested by the philosophy of A. N. Whitehead.
Read the article here: Anticipation, anthropology, Bennett
A synthesis for a “preparadigmatic” science suggested by the philosophy of A. N. Whitehead.
Read the article here: Anticipation, anthropology, Bennett
Empirical evidence indicates that anticipatory representations grounded in the sensorimotor neural apparatus are crucially involved in several low and high level cognitive functions, including attention, motor control, planning, and goal-oriented behavior. A unitary theoretical framework is emerging that emphasizes how simulative capabilities enable social abilities, too, including joint attention, imitation, perspective taking and communication. We argue that anticipation will be a key element for bootstrapping high level cognitive functions in cognitive robotics, too. We thus propose the challenge of understanding how anticipatory representations, that serve for coordinating with the future and not only with the present, develop in situated agents.
Article here: Anticipation and cognition Pezzulo
In many languages around the world, the equivalent of the word joy has been slowly replaced in recent decades by three letters from the standard universal language: fun. As is often the case when a word is inserted in the global communication network, it becomes less rich and expresses a generic and formatted version of more complex feelings.
Words are not just conceptual bags, they are also corsets and social control tools. While more and more global individuals have mimetic “fun” moments, less and less have access to all the depth, richness and singularity of joy. Besides, to play on words a little, in Latin, funus means death, funeral. It seems sometimes that fun is reactive, sectarian, like the egocentric exclusion of many parts of the world, while joy affirms the world and anticipates it creatively and generously.
There are many forms of joy: childish, religious or mystical, loving, intellectual, friendly. This time to mention an exact etymology, the Latin word source, gaudia, was a plural noun — meaning rejoicings — formed from the verb gaudeo, I rejoice, itself formed on an Indo-European root related to the word admiration. Joy is a physical and spiritual experience: perhaps it is the human experience par excellence that expresses the fact that the spiritual and the physical are, from time to time, in symbiosis and unification, the body expressing the vibrations of the spirit and the spirit celebrating an admirable and glorious presence in the world. Joy of the mystic, joy of the lovers, joy of the children who play, joy of the thinker who swims in the ocean of concepts, joy is an enjoyment, but which always includes in it an angelic part: it is the presentiment that in a dimension unknown to worried realists, we develop ample white wings that make us capable of flying, we are both responsible for earthly harmony and intoxicated by the divine wine of life.
Joy is never entirely selfish or exclusive: it connects us to the world by introducing us to hidden and sublime dimensions. Joy renders us talkative, pushes us to forgive and to understand. As it is not only enjoyment or fun, it also makes us more responsible and ready to fight for the harmony it suggests. The archangel Saint-Michael does not only have wings, he also comes with a sword. He is active in the fun-eral of evil. “It is in joy that courages are reshaped,” wrote the author Victor Cherbuliez in the nineteenth century.
While fun can make us blind to all those — and even cruel to those — who are not in our little circle of enjoyment, joy asks us: how is it that our earth is not a kingdom of common harmony? Even childlike joy is generous and inclusive. In this sense, joy brings with it gems of politics. Who knows, perhaps we should build a new global political proposal based on joy? Communism was too obsessed with work, which no doubt involves its magic and joys, but indirectly. Capitalism is too obsessed, as its name indicates, by capitalization, accumulation, while joy, conversely, is an abundance that disperses rather than seeks to retain at all costs.
Joy is a direct connection to the richness of the Creal and the cosmic love story between the Multiple and the One. Theoretical anarchism is no doubt close to a politics of joy. And the distrust it inspires reveals our more general fear of joy: it is the terror we experience in the face of dissolution and dispersion, it is our escapism from disorder and our refuge in order. We cling to our identity — and in that process we are not fully wrong. Because realized joy is not only dispersion, it is also access, beyond the pettiness of the Ego, to the greatness of the Self.
The creative universe is a love dance between the pure Multiple and the pure One — for every multiplicity supposes ontologically Unity, as pointed long ago by philosopher Plotinus. Deep joy is simultaneously the apprehension of our infinite richness and the intuition of the singular person we are, the identity which makes us angelic, in the image of the divine. Someone who is in joy is both out of herself and in herself.
In the end, joy is always mystical, a movement of admiration for the All and for its echo in each of us. “There are joys that are an inexhaustible source of strength for the soul,” would add novelist Laure Conan. Joy reveals to us the soul of the world, and our participation in the destiny of it.
An article by James Kobielus, overly optimistic. Please add your own critical thinking.
“AI is essentially a predictive technology. No matter what its algorithmic underpinnings, its core function is to make sophisticated inferences about what’s likely to happen based on myriad variables that have been distilled both from historical and real-time data. When it’s embedded in every device and refined continuously with fresh data, AI becomes a ubiquitous resource helping us all to anticipate what’s coming and do what’s necessary to keep our lives running smoothly.”
Read the full article here.
We tend to see the future as caused by the past. But biology for example shows us that causes can be in the future. The growth of a child is in part the fulfilment of models. This is true organically and culturally.
In my forthcoming book, Being and Neonness, a revised version of L’être et le néon (2012), I initiated a reflection on creative anticipation via an analysis of the philosophical character of Merlin the diviner. I have slowly come to see crealectics as an exploration of anticipatory systems from the point of view of the realization of the Creal. This year, I will try to produce the lineaments of an intellectual history of anticipation during my research postdoc at Örebro University. Anticipation is a richer concept than prediction, because it indicates more transparently that there is an element of creativity in the prediction of the future, as opposed to only statistical or probabilist prediction. The future is not an object.
Let’s consider this definition:
“An anticipatory system is a system containing a predictive model of itself and/or its environment, which allows it to change state at an instant in accord with the model’s predictions pertaining to a later instant” (Rosen, Anticipatory Systems, 1985, p. 341).
The models are not only predictive, but composed of desiderata, affirmations and negations.
Roberto Poli is right, in my view, to claim that:
“Life in all its varieties is anticipatory, the brain works in an anticipatory way, the mind is obviously anticipatory, society and its structures are anticipatory, even non-living or non-biological systems can be anticipatory.” (Poli, “The Many Aspects of Anticipation”, Foresight, 2009).
In my book L’art d’être libres au temps des automates (2010), I mentioned Alain Berthoz and his now influential research on the anticipatory brain – what he called simplexity: when the brain must take a decision and act, it has to simplify creatively according to certain models of its complex environment. The brain’s preaction is to project creatively into the real. Today, the view that the brain is predictive has gained momentum among mainstream analytic philosophers of mind (Clark et al.), although it will take a bit more time before these philosophers — who tend to rediscover much later what continental philosophers already foresaw earlier — realise that prediction is creative. For example Durkheim already knew in the nineteenth century that the mind is extended and embodied, and even collective.
In the next months, I will be referring to current research on artificial intelligence (in dialogue with computer scientists here in Sweden (for example Carlos Azevedo, from Ericsson Research or Alessandro Saffiotti and Lars Karlsson from Örebro University) to nourish my reflection on anthrobotic anticipatory systems. If it is true for example that the next step in AI is about world-models, as claimed by Yann LeCun, then the engineering of anticipatory features is worth observing from the point of view of the philosophy of technology and the history of ideas. What makes us (or what will make us) different from machines might turn around the idea of anticipation and world-realisation.
Poli offers a short bibliography on anticipation that I reproduce below, and that I intend to explore this year to contribute to anticipation studies from the point of view of the crealectician.
As I noted in Being and Neonness, our perception of the future cannot be only mechanistic, statistic, or probabilist. There is an element of creative intuition of what is to be realised that is part of our action on the real. Of course we live in anthrobotic systems, whether we like it or not (see my collective paper “We Anthrobot”, 2016): we need to integrate technology in our systematic approach, but we need also integrate the spiritual — what Gregory Bateson called “the mind” or what Spinoza called the third-kind knowledge of the body, which can be defined as an art of realization, a reading-shaping of the futures by intuiting the signs – the crealia – of the present.
Baianu, I. (Ed.). (2006). Complex Systems Biology and Life’s Logic in memory of Robert Rosen. Axiomathes.
Baianu, I., & Poli, R. (2009). From Simple to Super- and Ultra-Complex Systems: A Paradigm Shift Towards Non-Abelian Emergent System Dynamics. In R. Poli, M. Healy, & A. Kameas, TAO-Theory and Applications of Ontology. Vol. 2 Computer Applications. Dordrecht: Springer. Berthoz, A. (2003). La décision. Paris: Odile Jacob. Bloch, E. (1995). The Principle of Hope. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 3 vols.
Brown, R., Glazebrook, J. F., & Baianu, I. C. (2007). A Conceptual Construction of Complexity Levels Theory in Spacetime Categorical Ontology: Non-Abelian Algebraic Topology, Many-Valued Logics and Dynamic Systems. Axiomathes , 409-493. Foresight 2009
Butz, M. V., Sigaud, O., & Baldassarre, G. (2007). Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning Systems: From Brain to Individual an Social Behavior. Berlin: Springer.
Butz, M. V., Sigaud, O., & Gérard, P. (2003). Anticipatory Behavior: Exploiting Knowledge about the Future to Improve Current Behaviour. In M. V. Butz, O. Sigaud, & P. Gérard, Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning Systems (pp. 1-10). Berlin: Springer.
Camacho, E., & Bordous, C. (1998). Model Predictive Control. Berlin: Springer. Dubois, D. M. (2000). Review of Incursive, Hyperincursive and Anticipatory Sustems – Foundation of Anticipation in Electromagnetism. In D. M. Dubois, Computing Anticipatory Systems (pp. 3-30). The American Institute of Physics.
Ehresmann, A. C., & Vanbremeersch, J.-P. (2007). Memory Evolutive Systems, Hierarchy, Emergence, Cognition. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Hoffmann, J. (2003). Anticipated Behavioral Control. In M. V. Butz, O. Sigaud, & P. Gerard, Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning Systems (pp. 44-65). Berlin: Springer.
Husserl, E. (1991). On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1903-1917) . Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Kercel, S. W. (2004). The Role of Volume Transmission in an Endogenous Brain. Journal of Integrative Neuroscience , 7-18.
Leydesdorff, L. (2008). The Communication of Meaning in Anticipatory Systems: A Simulation Study of the Dynamics of Intentionality in Social Interactions. In D. M. Dubois, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Computing Anticipatory Systems. Melville NY: American Institute of Physics.
Louie, A. H. (2008). Functional Entailment and Immanent Causation in Relational Biology. Axiomathes , 289-302.
Louie, A. H., & Kercel, S. W. (2007). Topology and Life Redux: Robert Rosen’s Relational Diagrams of Living Systems. Axiomathes , 109-136.
Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 2 vols. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Luhmann, N. (1995). Social Systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Maturana, H. (1981). Autopoiesis. In M. Zeleny, Autopoiesis: A Theory of Living Organization (pp. 21-33). New York: North Holland. Maturana, H., & Varela, F. (1980). Autopoiesis and Cognition. Boston: Reidel.
Mikulecky, D. (Ed.). (2007). System Theory and Biocomplexity (commemorative Issue, Roberto Rosen). Chemistry and Biodiversity .
Mulcahy, N. J., & Call, J. (2006). Apes Save Tools for Future Use. Science 312 , 1038-1040.
Nadin, M. (2004). Anticipation. The End is Where We Start From. Baden (Switzerland): Lars Mueller Publishers.
No matter what neo-conservatives would have you believe about universal archetypes and the perenity of human worlds, social reality is not a true universal, but a slowly built construct of convention.
What is a city – a polis? It’s a world, a co-created environment, a network of realizations “knotted” together to define a territory that is more or less shared, shaped by discourses, symbolic crystallizations, viscous ideological grammars serving the interests of temporary dominant groups and forming a bulwark both against external turbulence and internal ambitions. The hyperrealist prejudice has it that on earth there is only one, just about coherent world, i.e. the “capitalist-humanist” system, which strikes a delicate balance between maximizing financial surplus-value and controlling empathy. In the capitalist-humanist system we endure, our suffering is explained in terms of capital and humanism: the two fake-absolutes of money and human nature operate as a reassuring or controlling duo and are the means to a reification of life and corseting of subjectivities.
Many humans prefer to suffer in a familiar and consensual frame of reference rather than adventure into their fear of the meanders of creal perception. In sociology, the Thomas theorem attributed to William Isaac Thomas in 1928 has it that “If humans define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. Of course, social articulations are more complex that this, but it is fair to say that a city-polis, a social structure are the product of daily reconducted or modified agreements, drawn from among an infinite number of possible interpretations and configurations, extracted from the panphony of the Creal, the chaosmos as infinite network of virtuality. As the earth becomes globalized under the law of capitalist humanism, alternate possible words tend to be more difficult to establish sustainably; such is the paradox of laissez-faire that it produces mimetism.
If a majority agree in believing that the current global ideology is acceptable, then most actions will converge to validate and realize this belief: particular rites of passage will be repeated, for instance, perpetuating money as the means of universal symbolic exchange. Karl Marx wrote in his 1844 manuscripts: “By possessing the property of buying everything, by possessing the property of appropriating all objects, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as an omnipotent being. Money is the procurer between man’s need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me. For me money is the other person.”
Everyone knows from experience that our habits shape reality. It’s what we call the “force of circumstance” in common parlance. At the level of society, a “new” convention always appears within a system of conventions that precedes it. If the new convention is too far removed from its basis of application, it won’t be adopted easily. This is why social creation, societal renewal is a slow, viscous process, and radical individual creation even more difficult. For Thomas’s theorem to conform more closely to experience, we could reformulate it as follows: “If humans define a situation as real, and that this definition is not too far removed from the definition previously agreed on by most people, then the definition can in the mid-term become real in its consequences.” Let’s take the representation of a wave function of a violin string on a horizontal and vertical axis: generally speaking modulations are curved. As the physicist Leonard Susskind explained, a vertical rise of the wave function would mean that the string breaks. To change reality, you cannot attack it vertically, because it will break you faster than you manage to break it.
The world becomes sometimes what an efficient web of belief admires, provided the group actively relays the fervor underlying this admiration. More often than not the world becomes what most people reproduce out of frustration, confusion, and lack of cognitive integrity.
Neo-conservatives, Jordan Peterson and like-minded followers, condemn postmodernism and social constructivism, but they are themselves postmodernists: they are willing to shape the world in their image. Their strategy, one among others, it to refer to universal archetypes and eternal moral values. Don’t be fooled: they also are social-reality creators and want to impose a new domination. They are sad postmodernists, because they use the rhetoric of moralism and display a form of Sartrean bad faith by claiming that the past is the model of truth.
The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. W.I. Thomas and D.S. Thomas. New York: Knopf, 1928: 571–572
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1959; Translated: by Martin Milligan from the German, p. 59: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/preface.htm
It may seem unexpected to suggest that freedom is a lost value. Are we not in a democracy? Are we not even, according to some conservatives, “too free” and not responsible enough? Perhaps we have been so in the second half of the twentieth century, but things have changed imperceptibly. We live in the era of automatons and the art of being free is lost. Worse, the total monitoring of our actions, coupled with an ubiquitous police of thought, makes us live rather in a period of totalitarianism, even if apparently smiling.
Intelligent and different minds, in times of freedom, make their ideas heard without fear. Today, they prefer to keep quiet because ideology is back. And indeed a unique form of thought is established, one that is most compatible with commercialism: the freedom to consume outweighs the freedom of expression, so that those who do not agree with the values or the absence of values of our civilisation seem doomed to identify with so-called “reactionary” thoughts: nationalism, traditionalism, communism. Radical Utopians today are moribund because they are precarious; or they are confused with the creators of digital start-ups. At first, the latter have a seductive language that everyone takes for a desire to create a better world. Then we realise that they work mainly for the success of a completely deregulated capitalism, imposing their market shares in an oligopolistic way. They are ambiguous beings, as is freedom today, between progress and subjugation, which La Boétie called “voluntary servitude”. What is happening?
Capitalism has absorbed communism, not by killing it, but by merging with some of its characteristics. First, the bureaucracy. It infiltrates everywhere today: the natural is the enemy of the regime. It is necessary that the words and gestures of the worker are controlled, conformed, timed, corseted. Everyone spends too much time filling out forms, which are not more lightweight because they are online. Then, egalitarianism. The hunt for elitism and difference is a war against the heads that stick above the values of the system. We want the lowest common denominator. Under the pretext of humanism, we create regiments of sentimental idiots, infantilized, incapable of logical thought and firm decision. We produce a uniform humanity, and behind speeches of tolerance we prepare the automata of tomorrow. A humanity, a Reich, and a führer who has no face, because his name is Big Brother. George Orwell was right when he described 1984: it’s happening today.
But this painting is too black, and a flame remains, of course. Freedom is in our hearts, buried somewhere under comfort, conformism and the fear of loneliness or social rejection. What is then true freedom? To live the life that our soul suggests to us, to make the world our intimate co-creation, and to cultivate early enough the necessary intelligence to understand our desires, keeping the noblest, the most authentic. To be free is to be able to surround ourselves with peers and create the community we wish to create without artificial obstacles. Freedom is about being aware of our automatisms. It is obvious that we are beings of protocol, of conditioning, if only because we are prisoners of a language, of an era, a society, laws, our body. But by understanding ourselves we gain the right to say NO to those who do not understand us or who do not want to understand us. In the end, freedom is the love of mutual understanding rather than common imitation. Freedom is the love of parallel universes, of possibilities. It is the fidelity to the idea that whatever our comfort, or our distress, a world that is no longer open to radical change, to experimentation, and to the consideration of all ideas without moralistic condemnation, a world that is not multiple and deeply pluralistic, is a dead world. Liberty is, as Rabelais put it, a temple above which is marked the formula Do what you want. When we have solved the political equation in which every living being does what she wants, we will have crealised the state of freedom. It is an asymptotic utopia, an impossible one, but one can be faithful to its ideal. Because if you do not target the stars you will not not take one step forward.
1 Au coeur du réel agit une création continue, matérielle et spirituelle. “Le monde est/doit être ma création” est l’éthique différentielle des sujets singuliers. Vérité dont l’événement inter-relationnel ne cesse de surgir çà et là au fil de l’Histoire. Vérité souvent oubliée face aux humiliations décourageantes du “monde comme il va” et des “humains comme ils sont”. Le créalisme n’est pas un anthropocentrisme qui séparerait artificiellement une nature-objet d’un humain-maître et possesseur. Il y a des complicités et des affinités actives entre le cosmos et celui qui se rend digne de l’écouter et de l’oeuvrer.
4 Le créalisme pose le primat de la créativité au coeur de l’être, et loin d’être agencé aux seules disciplines artistiques, il concerne la dynamique d’extension des territoires vivants, une praxis éprouvable et collective de la singularité. Sous cette acception, le Créel est un bourgeonnement imprévisible, un tissu vif d’interrelations à vocation non-déterministe, tandis que le Réel est son compost, son encadrement automatisé.
6 Contre les castrations des sinistres contempteurs d’envol, contre la colonisation de l’intime par les impératifs publicitaires duplicitaires, les créalistes ont toujours été de relatifs sacrificateurs de confort standard (un certain luxe leur est pourtant essentiel). Ils ont été des filtres de l’être, des haut-parleurs, des raffineurs de chaos. Suivons leur exemple, ou supportons encore et toujours les conséquences schizonévrotiques d’un monde rendu stagnant par notre abandon ou notre collaboration avec la misère marchande, la morose émulation simulatrice, la soumission à l’argent que nous confondons, comme l’écrivait Marx, avec autrui. Agir ou subir la honte quotidienne que tentent de nous infliger les soldats (autant de femmes que d’hommes) de la société de classes. Se faire so(u)rcier des formes, des intensités et des coïncidences, plutôt que d’accepter la banalité des codes d’une époque saturée de culs-de-sac.
“You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
Skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised.”
Gill Scott Heron
We sometimes speak of public intellectuals to designate a figure who is invited to think the world in the media or public space.
But the adjective “public” seems in fact to be redundant.
It is impossible to be a private intellectual as one can be a private detective.
While the private investigator seeks to solve domestic cases, most often the intellectual cannot seriously say that he is dealing with domestic thoughts.
Thought cannot be a domestic matter, otherwise it risks self-destruction.
As the philosopher Deleuze said, it is not true that each of us can have his own private portable philosophy.
Philosophy is not a solipsistic nor autistic practice like listening to music in public spaces with headphones on, to negate the other or the possibility of an encounter.
We often hear the expression “my philosophy of life”around us, but if there could be as many philosophies as human beings, it is not certain that we could communicate or speak the same language.
In fact, when the average person speaks of her personal philosophy of life, she refers to some maxims borrowed here and there, of the type “man is a wolf for man”, or “do to others what you wish that others do for you”, or “women are emotional and men are logical”.
These are acts of faith pertaining to collective webs of belief.
To believe that your thoughts belong to you only is narcissism and immaturity.
One is always thinking with others.
Philosophy is the study of the consequences of our beliefs.
Philosophy is the never ending process of lucidity about our webs of beliefs, our belonging or lack of belonging to such and such web of belief.
Of course, we can also create concepts, but even this creative thinking is a co-creation.
Even the greatest philosophers produced their system within a network of thinkers that we have forgotten because we live in the ideology of the self-made man or woman.
Even small portable pseudo-philosophies like mindfulness are collective creations related to our tendency to imitate others, our tendency to negative groupthink or to positive cognitive esprit de corps.
Philosophy cannot be private or domestic.
It is the essence of philosophy to be public and political.
To think seriously is to think about, with or against the world, the cosmos, society.
This is why the “analytic and logical” philosophy, which dominates in the Anglo-Saxon countries, as opposed to what is called the “continental philosophy”, is often a parody of philosophy that seems to put society in parenthesis like mathematics or physics put human consciousness in brackets.
Any process of symbolic production that excludes the subject is not thinking but calculating.
The intellectual is the one who knows that to think the world one must think beyond private and domestic affairs, but also beyond science.
To think domestically is called worry.
To think mathematically is called calculation.
To really think is to go beyond personal concern or scientific concern and put thought back into a political, civilizational and even cosmopolitical context.
Philosophy is embracing the Other, or as Hegel said, to have the courage to look at the Negative in the eye and walk through it.
Philosophy is although a deep meditation on what we should call positive.
A web of belief, what Foucault called a discourse, revolves around one or a few hyper-positive values, absolutized axioms.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we tend to follow, in our everyday life, absolutized axioms.
It is important to be aware of the rules and axioms that shape your life, to take ownership of these axioms, to co-create them, to embody them consciously, because we don’t want to be puppets of values that are killing us.
What is familiar? Who is the same? Who is the other?
Sometimes we see the other as a monster, a dragon for example in Peterson’s terms.
What is a monster?
A monster is a reality that has not been yet de-monstrated.
To think is to de-Monstrate the other: to decipher a world ofso-called opaque “monsters”, to decipher the symphony of our times behind the cacophony of opinions.
Now, once established that the true intellectual, the thinker, is always a thinker of the public, of the world, and of civilization, there is however a difference between the mediatic intellectual and the intellectual who writes or thinks for the happy few.
One of the criticisms that some mediatized intellectuals address to those who are not in the spotlight is that they are not read, they have no followers on the internet, in short that they have no social impact.
One of Jordan Peterson’s models is Nietzsche.
For Nietzsche, the past was key to understand the present. He wrote: “Direct self-observation is not nearly sufficient for us to know ourselves: we need history, for the past flows on within us in a hundred waves.”
Here we must remember that Nietzsche, who certainly became a posthumous media intellectual, during his lifetime was only read by a dozen people and had to self-publish some volumes of the Zarathustra, because he could not find a publisher for his masterpiece.
No publisher saw it as a masterpiece.
Very few saw Nietzsche as an important man.
But in one hundred years, we will probably still read Nietzsche.
Even today there are hundreds of powerful, exciting thinkers who never go on television and who are not onFacebook or Twitter.
There are also intellectuals who are popular for their least interesting, easy book, while their more difficult work is not read.
This is not new. Many thinkers are known for a single sentence or for an ism, like Sartre’s existentialism.
Almost no one has read the 700 pages of his Being and Nothingness, but a few used to know the sentence “existence precedes essence”.
The problem today is that when I ask university students I sometimes teach “who was Descartes?”, they have forgotten.
I have realised by teaching pupils or students between 15 and 30 years old that what used to be part of the general culture of an averagely educated man is lost, and that many young people have been deprived our cultural references that predate WWII.
Classics are not known by name anymore, and even less read.
Without reading some classics of western civilisation we lose our capacity to evaluate the present critically.
Being only in the present, online, is very dangerous.
To think properly we need to confront the pillars of the history of philosophy and of literature.
We need to dialogue with the dead.
We also need to be familiar with the history of modernity, at least.
Can we learn and assimilate the foundations of western culture by listening to contemporary public intellectuals?
When a thinker is invited by journalists on a set, several factors can prevent thought from manifesting itself and developing in a fecund way.
The intellectual is a figure largely produced by text, reading and writing, that is to say that thought is produced by a series of editorial revisions, several drafts, or several simultaneous readings which spread out over decades, while orality and interview involves improvising, here and now.
A Youtube introduction to Hegel or Freud by someone else will never replace the confrontation with Hegel’s Freud’s original words.
Classics are very different from what we say about them.
You need to discover your own Freud, your own Nietzsche, your own Plato, your own Whitehead.
Now, does that mean we should not pay attention to living intellectuals and read only classics?
A living famous intellectual can be positively influential, if he or she creates a desire for thought, a desire to train the muscle of thought.
This seems to be the case of Jordan Peterson, among others.
But a mediatic intellectual can also be negatively influential if he or she is used by the system as a means to prevent people from accessing more fundamental thoughts that are more radical.
For example, the Marxist and Lacanian thinker Slavoj Zizek is often used as a joker that might prevent many people to read Marx or Lacan.
It is also possible that Jordan Peterson is used to deflect the desire of a certain part of the population for more radicality and to lead them towards a semi-radical domesticated position.
The relative scandal that Peterson or Zizeck create is still acceptable by the mainstream media.
They might be shocking for some, but they are less shocking than people who you will never see on television.
The revolution will not be televised.
This has to do with how much the audience can take emotionally.
Our emotional muscle, today, is generally hypertrophied while our thought muscle is atrophied, so we often react and are trained to react without really understanding the logic of an argument first.
All possible radical propositions are not heard in the media, and semi-radical thinkers are used by the media as diversion.
An intellectual who wants to be in the media without taking the risk of simplifying his or her thinking must stay in tune with his deeper system.
This is difficult because our inner system is a web of belief that is a process, and because of the respect any serious thinkers owes to the past pillars of our civilisation.
The respect for tradition slows down the process of thinking because it syncs it with natural growth in a world of artificial growth.
It is important to slow down in order to think, in order to extricate ourselves from imposed and trained automatisms and all the mimetic habits that transform the social sphere into a deadly trap.
This takes time.
Natural growth time, not media time.
To be a public intellectual is to help co-create relationships that are lucid forms of well-belonging and natural spiritual growth.
I all boils down to the idea of primary source.
One could argue that all major thinkers are trying to decipher what is our primary source, or as Aristotle put it, our “first mover”.
Who is your first mover?
What is your primary source?
What is the first mover of our society?
What is the primary source of this society?
Does your primary source and the primary source of your society coincide?
If not, then we have a problem to solve!
As a philosophical counsellor, in my consultation office in Kungsholmen, it is my job to have individual conversations with people who want to connect to their primary source via thought.
Psychology, philosophy, feeling, vision, and community are all important in the confrontation with our destiny.
“The Revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that cause bad breath
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat.”
(I wrote this text as support for the keynote talk I was invited to give at The Syntheist Node in Stockholm on 18 May 2018 – the theme of the conference was Jordan Peterson.)
How to be Epic? “What should I do?” Most philosophical texts on duty begin by citing Kant’s question. Is it a duty to quote Kant when philosophizing about duty? In a certain academic discourse, yes. For duty is first and foremost a matter of “discourse” in the sense of community of practice and belonging. If you are part of a group of bodybuilders, your duty is to go to the gym several times a week. It’s a question of identity and collective consciousness. But does this mean that the isolated individual does not have duties towards himself?
To answer this, let’s go back to the source: etymologically, the duty is a debt, a transfer of belonging. How can I have a debt to myself? The answer is easy and is it even indebted to the literature on personal ethics, moral commitments, good resolutions, will, self-discipline, etc. But a devious mind might wonder whether the philosopher, as a good moralist, does not himself have the professional duty, the obligation to advise autonomy, to speak of duty towards oneself in the sense of respect for one’s commitments and one’s “highest values”. A thinker is not expected to sing the lack of responsibility, fun, suicide, inconsistency. Duty is associated with a form of predictability, trust. It is expected that the bus driver will drive his bus by respecting stops and schedules rather than suddenly dropping everyone in a ravine or taking them on an improvised trip. Duty is the courage to do what is not necessarily creative: to repeat, preserve, conserve.
That’s why in a time like ours, where creativity seems to be a categorical imperative, many are confused. They initiate risks that they do not push to the end, for want of control. Our era is full of flabby souls, beings who sketch adventurous actions out of a duty of originality but who do not lead them to completion by cowardice, conformism or prudence — they are rarely punished in our coolera, if by the gloom of their existence or the anger of the lured. But let us now consider a more taboo idea than the duty towards oneself.
Imagine a tyrant or emperor who considers that everyone owes her something. All would have the duty to dedicate their work to her and a part of their life, their time, or their body. Such a situation moves away duty from the lyric field (I owe myself) and puts it back into the political field (you must, we have the duty). If this tyrant is a State, then an entire nation is bound to serve the order. These are the two dead-ends of our modernity: the individual most often fails to be a being of pure duty to himself, that is of pure integrity, because lyricism, theI, is a position that cannot erase the desire for enjoyment; on the other hand, the citizen fails to be a perfect subject of the State because voluntary servitude is not totally possible for a conscious subject (but it is possible for an unconscious subject, and that is why Big Data and Google are coming to use us right now, because we are not well aware of our electronic servitude). How can one escape dialectically, or rathercrealectically, from the duality between the lyricism of duty and the sacrifice of collectivism? By a virtue that our modernism has forgotten or relegated to fiction: the epic sense.
Being epic is a co-creative middle ground between the lyricism of the ego-trip and the servitude of bad esprit de corps. It is a co-creative esprit de corps that blends community and personal heroism. The Greeks placed in the epicthe highest degree of humanity, as if the epic group were a super-individual composed of individuals who themselves do not yield to their fate. It is perhaps our highest duty: the duty of a destiny.
And there is no lonely destiny. Even a Van Gogh is the collective product of many human efforts and desires, a network of admirations: his brother, collectors, art critics, paint manufacturers, and so on. The folly of a Van Gogh is to believe he is alone in the world. The madness of a Caligula is to refuse that one is always alone in the face of one’s destiny. Between the two, there is for example the group Nicolas Bourbaki, who managed to unify and revolutionize the mathematics of the twentieth century because its members abdicated their ego under the same pseudonym and worked together, without failing, towards the same cognitive conquest. It was a group where everyone had a strong voice to be heard in the process of steering an ideal towards a common vision.
Visionaries have a duty to see and a desire to grow. Duty and desire then merge into the same integrity that meets history. Have the chance to be at the right time in the right place, of course, but also be ready to act — that is, to die — when you have to.