Meaning is Healing: Generative Philosophy Against Pandemic Totalitarianism

In common parlance, poetry and philosophy are often considered to be inoperative, beautifully vain, gratuitous as would be our flights of fancy. Poets and philosophers are often seen as marginal or passive observers, masters in escaping the seriousness of realism. But philosophy and poetry are here to remind us that the object and the subject, the Real and the creative source of reality are a present conjugation that generates future fruits with a patience of slow growth, contrary to the artificial growth of unhealthy forms of capitalist and arithmomaniac politics. There is a continuous creation at work in us and all around us. At every instant the world is recreated, and we are a more or less active part in this process. A generative philosophy can heal the blindness of viral capitalism, provided that we remain aware that we are neither the measure, neither the originators of all things, thus working in tandem with the regenerative Creal, with life.

Donna Haraway calls this philosophical co-creation a “sympoiesis”, a becoming with and through each other: “We experience ourselves as a collectively-producing system with the sum becoming greater than the individuals or parts, because “nothing makes itself; nothing is really autopoietic or self-organizing”. Real space, out space, inner space and virtual space are intertwined in the crealectic collective process of allowing Gaia and its inhabitants to regenerate and repossibilize unexpectedly, moving away for analytic control and the reactive humanism that could not imagine much, before and during the coronavirus crisis, beyond “preventing people from dying physically”, thus freezing the vital flows while still digitalizing, distancing and screening our lifeworld: “Productionism and its corollary, humanism, come down to the story line that ‘man makes everything, including himself, out of the world that can only be resource and potency to his project and active agency.’” (Haraway: 1991, 297).

To favor a regenerative politics, the kind of authoritarian realpolitik that is activated in the face of macroscale dangers (the German word here is fit since Germany was leader in pandemic extreme biopolitics in 2020, the Merkel government being guilty of reawakening the national ghost of totalitarianism) may be replaced by a “Crealpolitik” of the absolutely creative Other (see link below). This quasi-absolutist anti-totalitarian crealectic strategy can be understood as the positing of an open common ground compatible with epistemic, social and existential pluralism, now that the general war on personal integrity and the schizoid-paranoid form of individualism produced by capital-humanism have failed to counter the law of globalisation in which the axiom “laissez-faire” mostly liberates financial markets, viruses and mimetic behavior.

In our times of chaos and crisis, philosophy is revealing its true generative nature. Thinking crealectically will change the world. Meaning is healing.

More here about the Creal global social contract

Not All Those Who Wander are Lost

The drive that Lewis Mumford called “the will-to-order” is at the core of technological progress. To exemplify the damage that can be generated by monolithic forms of analytic intelligence attempting to rule biodiversity and neurodiversity, we can take the recent example of French management of national forests. In the early 2000s, the French government introduced the analytical accounting methods of New Public Management into the management of the Office National des Forêts. Two decades later, a report from the Commission des Affaires Économiques of the French Parliament mentions a crisis in which no less than forty-eight forester employees committed suicide as a result of the rationalization of their practice, while tree diversity became seriously endangered because of the financial decision to focus on coniferous monoculture.

What are the principles of New Public Management? The notion that a national institution is part of a market or quasi-market and needs to make significant profit according to a factual short-term cost-based control system, a focus on citizens as customers, and, last but not least, the introduction of analytical accounting. This form of arithmetic management now enhanced with the use of predictive analytics tends to read the complex realities of a biopsychosocial system in terms of credit and debit. If a forest caregiver is wandering among the trees, apparently doing nothing but in fact in intuitive and careful dialogue with the forest, this will be analyzed by the grid as an unproductive slice of time – a cost that should be cut. The result in this case was suicide or depression, loss of meaning and joy at work, and an endangered life diversity.

In the long term, the national economy also suffers from its arithmomania. The coronavirus pandemic itself felt like a long computational list of new cases of illness or death, and many measures were taken based on these numbers only, as per the scheme of reductionist measurement concepts that govern biopolitics. Oversimplifying our decisional grids with a predictive analytics lens leads to a loss in neurodiversity and biodiversity.

In the Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Hegel discusses the different ways that people confronted the absolute through nature, symbolised by the god Pan. For Hegel, Pan represents not just an alien totality that has no relation to humans, but something “friendly to the human spirit.” Nature or Pan is represented, not as the objective whole, “but that indefinite neutral ground which involves the element of the subjective; he embodies that thrill which pervades us in the silence of the forests.” We need a pan-democracy. We need to be able to meander while working:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Riddle of Strider, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Less We Die, The More Enslaved We Become

There is at Cambridge University a Centre for Existential Risk, the mandate of which is to examine and help to reduce the risks that could lead to human extinction or civilizational collapse. But perhaps the most dangerous risk for humanity lies in the idea that we can eliminate existential risk. Existence supposes risk. The phantasy of the abolition of death is the ghost that floats over the current pandemic politics or over the technocratic and transhumanist coup for the control of life. Saving and extending all lives at all cost is our most dangerous idea, now revealed to be dominant: if we are prevented from the possibility of risking our life to defend what we believe in, then, as shown by Hegel, we may all become slaves of our own fear and securitarism.

Pathologies of Free Will

Free will is the individuative concept upon which modernity is built, but a hyperdigital normative society may function like a self-inflicted determinism in which subjects are produced by reductionist and statistical protocols, and therefore might loose their access to self-possibility, and self-demonstration (the real deployment of a singular destiny).