Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Religion

Anarchists are typically opposed to religions of various kinds. I don't think it is very useful to talk about religion as distinct from ideology; as distinct from the general procedure of applying a form of ideology as a tool to conceive the way things are.

I have spent most of this blog undermining, simultaneously, the idea that there is a way that things are, as well as the complete conclusion that the way things are is that there isn't a way things are. Following Kant, one can only be agnostic about the way things are. We test to see if the way we think things are, follows; whether it requires appending, modification.

Having faith in the unseen has always been the kid brother of hope. To listen to the remark of faith is to either suppose that one doesn't know, that such is a matter of faith; or that faith is a different kind of knowing, similarly certitudinal. I know that I am writing a blog presently (June 22, 2014, 10:06 est); and I cannot be trapped by a demon in my own mind of unknowing on this indexical score because, as Davidson argued, the demon still has to convince me that I do not know, so that what the demon says must be true, etc., In any event, if the demon also doesn't know, then the worry is lost. Peirce said that scientific modes of inquiry do not apply wholesale doubt, and for this reason, Descartes' epistemological ground up apparatus, was just irrelevant. Davidson glosses the point by saying that the demon can only cause us to doubt some things, if so, because language must be used, and language is a truth speaking medium. In any event, it isn't clear what kind of knowing is present in articles of faith. It usually has something to do with fear. And it might have something to do with fear for a good reason, say because the consequences would be unwelcome. But faith is better construed as non-knowing. Is it then a matter of ignorance?

It would be ignorant to think that we can live without ignorance. This is also Peirce's point. We do take our theories of the way the world is as given; we do not doubt them; precisely the opposite; we hold to them, tentatively, come what may. One might argue that there is a better way of conceiving the world according to an ideology. But the construct is always a matter of faith. I do not have faith in science for all of the obvious reasons. I have faith in what has proven itself; and science has either black-boxed its conclusions, which is merely pragmatic, or tested every theory, turning it to rubble, which implies, not the progress of knowledge, but an approach to underdetermination. Importantly, Popper's method of falsification is not a species of science per se; any content can be tested; even those rejected by positivistic ignorance. Empiricism only goes so far.

William James has a theory of truth that flies in the face of rationalist discourse. He suggests that we supposed that something is true because it is useful to believe. Now, to repeat, science does this all the time. The concept of the black box is essential to the faith of these new unquestioned masters; a black box is that which has been parceled and made true via selection and 'reasonable' testing. In order to get anything done, the scientist supposes the method is rational, and helps build the progress myth. All that I'm saying is that mystical experiences and bizarre occurrences are events that may be useful to believe too; for these may help us get by.

So I am not saying that there is a way the world is, following the rational scientists that seek this ignorantly; and I'm not saying that there is not a way the world is, in a manner that would still be keeping with the first horn of the dilemma like a pure nihilist; I'm carving a middle ground, rupturing both, on the grounds that I get to decide how I live my life; that I get to decide what is useful to believe, according to what I mean by works.

So I take what I please, and I long for the event. If something happens, I am interested in testing out how it hangs together for me. I am not saying that I can conceive of this clearly, in a manner of knowledge. I am merely following the concept of usefulness so that I can get by with constructing a series of events in my life under the heading of a story, a myth. Science creates myths that help us get by. Religion creates myth too. Neither Science, nor religion then: let us open ourselves to the mystical, to the concept of truth as usefulness for living well, and simply see what happens. If it works, so be it; if not, so be it. It makes no difference. Our hope is not certitudinal. Our hope is that we do not become burdened with ideology, that we are continuously opened to our own exploding desires.

Being open to anything goes makes one eventually select things in a coherent fashion. Being told by others that one should only start with a method that has worked for them, and then listening to them as well, makes one pretty clearly not capable of free thought. One might then deserve the chains of ideology. Being light on one's feet is to accept non-knowing in the arena of faith; and the faith that we have is that we will overcome our lack of lusting for life, for fruit.

In the garden of eden, it is purported that the blinders were taken off. So let's aim to put the blinders back on, to dance ignorantly, without the burden of ideology. Let us travel where we don't know; and leave the realm of knowing entirely. Protected in this place of faith without knowing, because such is mine and therefore my right to dance without ideology, might be sufficient to be opened to an interesting life, in confrontational opposition to the everyday predictability of scientific thinking. Such may be useful to believe to create a life worth living.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On Hope

There is a time in human history where the idea of hope for a better future is taken to be evident. It still exists and connecting it to more concrete histories will always be possible, no matter the distinctions we desire to make. For instance: heaven, as an eventual resting place, is similar but of course not identical with the idea of a syndicalist utopia. The goal in both situations is to have a certain problem (sin, fascism, et cetera) overcome; only in the latter, there is always the potential problem of difference; in the former, qualitative difference has already been occluded.

People are saturated with hope because they carry within themselves a series of unassailable beliefs, to which no healthy application of reason or pessimism has affect. We want things to turn out the way we want them to, and we keep our eyes on this prize no matter the counter-proof. If we deserve our dis-ease, perhaps a life without expectation is our darker redemption.

I can speak from personal experience on the topic of hope, coupled with an extremely unhealthy obsession. The desire for communion with a partner that may return the desire, may cause one to seek out some kind of proof. Perhaps that text message indicates something. Do they like me? Are they into me? Is it going to happen? But how would anyone know? The future doesn’t exist yet.

In Christian theology the term we are turning over is Providence. It was assumed that God, as perfect necessary referent, could be represented by a set of propositions. These have been referred to as divine attributes; and the classic problem of evil dissects this set by way of denying its consistency by the light of reason. And the trouble is that reason is also true; and truth doesn’t admit disunity. So, there is a set of true propositions; and truth generates a method--the use of reason; and consistency is a property of truth. In any event, such is the way the matter is conceived by those working out their theodicy.
There are higher orders of truth, if there are, but the way that consistency works is that the higher orders translate or illuminate the meaning of the lower order truths. So consider classic theodicy. It was primarily philosophers that argued that
1. God is Omniscient,
2. God is Omnipresent, and
3. God is Benevolent.
The classic problem of evil, a view from below by way of reason, provides an interpretation, arguing against the consistency of 1-3: if God is all knowing (1), how could He generate the reality of hell (an accepted truth) without doing something about it (2)? If God is all powerful, and hell exists, God must not be Benevolent.  Hell exists, a place where people from the beginning of time have been fated, if God is all knowing (1); therefore, God is not Benevolent.
There are many ways out. I'm only really interested in one, advocated by Leibniz: (1) is false because we have free will. God knows what we could do, but not what we will do; God therefore knows potential futures, not actual ones that will be the case. But we know potential futures too. The difference for Leibniz? We don’t know all the potential futures as well as God does, if God does. In any event, demanding God to be what we expect on our terms strikes me as the height of arrogance. And that’s why a negative theology currently has purchase in our nihilist times. We think it is impossible to suppose that Mind transcends space-time; and yet, we keep the baby.
Of course this is difficult. Saying that God influences the way the world is becoming seems possible only if God is outside the world; and since we are suggesting that God is not--because God is not all knowing, that is, following Leibniz--we have a problem with God’s extension. If God is watching the show too, and influencing it to some degree, the difference is a matter of capacity to influence. We become lesser co-creators, or in some profane versions of Self-transcendence, we become God. In the production of political-aesthetics, beautiful writing, the claim might be here that various musical movements are generated by something larger than ourselves. Politics might be a matter of actively nihilist religious experience, something akin to William James. 
Perhaps this is trivial: isn't everything about experience also about something larger than the boundaries of our bodies? Aren't bodies porous? To deny that external forces move through us co-generating our acts fails to address materiality for what it is. 'Something larger than us', then, requires specificity. Minimally, I am saying that orienting yourself towards this open-ness is better in the sense of more fruitful for the goals that we may desire. 

In the story of the Fall, Eve was purportedly tempted by the Serpent to eat of the tree, to eat the poison apple, to gain knowledge of the difference between good and evil, to be like God. But the very definition of God is that of the best, whereby better is limited. Here we capture the intuition that there is nothing better than the best. So then what could it mean to be like God? The temptation to have (or hold) knowledge sounds like the capacity to carry wisdom. Presumably, the more you know, the better off you are at laying down morality, the right thing to do in a moment. So God presumably has wisdom; and if we follow Leibniz, God’s wisdom is the best there could be, given a situation, given a partial understanding of likelihoods. Having full knowledge of what will happen is therefore not in Leibniz’ theodicy; it is therefore not ours to have, should we desire to be God. The right thing to do in a situation from every perspective is partial; and the only way that what we should have done could be contradicted is in the difference between perspectives, a difference ultimately predicated on contingency and necessity.
One way to think this difference of metaphysics is to consider whether it is conceivable to suppose that X doesn’t exist. Beings exist because there is a prior Being (Being Itself) that exists, and in which, all others exist. For Derrida, this is a matter of that upon which Becoming writes. Hence, we could say that the difference between God and us, on this account anyways, is that God has greater extension, and therefore, the capacity to perceive more clearly that which we see darkly. Yet, this writing, this becoming, is never quite certain, from any perspective on Leibniz’ rationalist reading. And this seems obvious given that tomorrow cannot exist (here) yet. There is only the Now; and the fullest possible grasping of this Now (God’s knowing in Leibniz), precedes a perpetual incomplete knowing.

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions. But I want to argue that a life of ignorance is better than a life of knowledge. Imagine that you know what will happen. That you just wait and wait and wait until it does; and then as it does, you knew it. Whence the variety? Whence the zest? Now suppose that you could change it all, that you could control everything according to your plans; that you don’t listen, that you run the network. I’ve met people like this. Since everyone sees darkly, these people tend to live ugly lives; they think they know what is best, and often they are simply repulsive; they claim control, but everything about them is loose in the sense of mismanaged. A management model that seems much better is one that is decentralized, predicated on equality of some kind, if persons can be deceived to give a shit about an others’ plans. And that’s the point. We have the capacity to say no; we have the capacity to will otherwise. And that is the bugbear of the one that desires omniscience. Not only is the future not yet written from any position, it is that, even if it was, it would suck, because it would be boring, and because one would become ugly. A universe of surprises is much preferable, perhaps too from God's perspective. Nothing is fixed; everything is open ended. Hence, there is no point in trying to close it down with claims.

Against Solomon I say that wisdom is not fickle because it is a womyn, but because it is fickle, and because one can never have a non-perspective, because there are always other people fucking up our plans. (Hence, the less to fuck up, the better for oneself). It is wise therefore to simply focus on being surprised, or, in the words of William James, to know what to overlook, which means, in this argument, overlooking knowing itself by way of developing humility and non-knowledge. But this doesn’t make us weak. On the contrary, weakness stems from hope for a return that is never fully given. Even if it were given, how would one know? For in the garden when the serpent tempted Eve, what was given wasn’t knowledge, but the desire to know. But without content, without a downloaded understanding, all that was given was the capacity, which can never be separated from doubt. In our world, everything nontrivial can be doubted, all of the important things that we hold dear can be doubted; hence, what was given to Eve and Adam was the desire or thirst for knowing without the capacity to know if one is growing in knowledge. The implied argument here is that knowing one is growing requires an external view. And as we saw, God may not even have this capacity because it is rational to prefer excitement and surprises.
How do we know that we have been given knowledge of the future? How do we know that we can make a world better for ourselves? I know that I can make my own better; I do not know if you will join me in my desires--and well you shouldn't, since you are strong. 
What was gifted in the garden? The capacity to discern good from evil, or merely the capacity to search oneself for answers, ad infinitum, ad nausea, without any guardrails? Given these two, how is one to discern? What seems clear enough is that one has been opened to make distinctions where one didn't have to make them before. If we forget the whole thing, are we back in the garden before the fall? If we take this seriously, what external thing makes it clear that we are selecting the good? How does Being write us into beauty?

Deflating Hope in something that just knows in this way permits us to be free from the burden of expectation. And this point goes both ways. No one just knows. Life would be better for us if we see that both hope and hopelessness should grow some wings and fuck right off.