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P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728
http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/

Issue number 26
25th February 2002

CONTENTS

I. 'Toward a Radical Metaphysics' by Richard A. Schain

II. Poem by Jim Martin

III. 'In Pursuit of the Amoralist'

-=-

I. 'TOWARD A RADICAL METAPHYSICS' BY RICHARD SCHAIN

In all eras, metaphysical thought is the driving force of civilization. Today
this force is largely unacknowledged. It is unacknowledged because the
metaphysical will to development has no place in the paradigms of modern
science. Yet all of the values, the aspirations, the ambitions and compulsions
powering societies have their basis in unacknowledged metaphysical phenomena
underlying human activity. The tendency to neglect the metaphysical aspect of
human life has always existed in the history of mankind but no era has so
depreciated and disparaged metaphysics as the current one. Metaphysics is
relegated to the realm of scholarly study or traditional religions where it
exists in a tethered, tradition-bound form of little use to those seeking to
develop their position in the universe. Parenthetically, it should be noted
that the need for metaphysics is widely utilized by profit-seeking individuals
who take advantage of the yearning for something more than the limited
materialist approach to life.

One does not have to look far to discover the reason for the absence of
influence of metaphysics in contemporary life. It can be found in the dogmas of
modern science that have pervaded all aspects of our culture. Materialism is the
foundation of life, any ideas lacking a material basis are regarded as lacking
reality. Scientific study of the brain has replaced metaphysical study of the
mind. If a concept is not based on weights and measures it is thrown out of
court. These statements are not mere assertions, they represent the
intellectual foundations of "developed" societies in the world today. In these
societies, the media have grown to vast proportions, molding the tastes and
values of the society to a degree previously unimaginable. Finally, the
computer has become the central feature of modern life illustrating the powers
and reach of technologically-based science.

Today, any independent metaphysics is regarded as radical thinking, far removed
from the mainstream of modern thought. However, in spite of the pervasive
influence of the materialist dogmas, there is a need for metaphysics, to
utilize a phrase from Ortega y Gasset (one of the last metaphysically minded
philosophers of the twentieth century) that continually emerges in individuals
with an independent mentality. Consciousness of the interior self is the
principal factor developing the mind in a metaphysical direction. Scientific
knowledge is of no value in this effort no matter how many studies of memory,
language functions or neuronal activity enter into the scientific literature.
As for Christianity, the principal source of metaphysics in the western world,
one may say its main virtue is that at least its ideas and values are
metaphysical ones, albeit suited more for those with a limited intellectual
conscience.

Paraphrasing Nietzsche's remark that there was only one Christian and he died
on the cross, we may say that Soren Kierkegaard was the first and last absolute
existentialist to achieve public recognition, albeit occurring long after his
death. Existentialism merely means that an individual is committed to his
metaphysical nature, i.e. his own feelings, thoughts, values and desires, and
gives them priority in his philosophical expression. Kierkegaard's repeated
statement that "truth is subjectivity" contains the entire existential point of
view and is far more meaningful than Sartre's more famous sophism "existence
precedes essence". By 'truth' of course, Kierkegaard does not mean two plus two
is four or any form of factual knowledge but rather the scriptural concept that
Jesus must have had in mind when he said, "I am the truth." Subjectivity is put
forth as the supreme value in human life. One has to remember that the word
"subjective" has pejorative implications in our culture indicating the vast
divide separating the scientific mind-set from the metaphysical one. There is
no great difficulty in grasping existential thought once one accepts the
reality of the metaphysical self and the necessity for human beings to
cultivate this aspect of their being.

"Truth is subjectivity" means that the essential feature in the life of an
individual is his valuation of his interior self, i.e. his subjective self.
There is no greater tragedy than the failure of an individual to realize this
value. What hinders this development, however, is the modern view that there is
no such thing as the self, that there is only a complex arrangement of synapses
and neurons in the brain, giving rise to the illusion of self. Without a belief
in the metaphysical self, humans are at the mercy of their environment, which in
the present age cares little for the development of an interior self. Only a
radical metaphysics will save the individual from drowning in the swamps of the
materialist dogmas of contemporary society. There is a pressing necessity for
metaphysics for any individual in today's world who has respect for himself as
an independent being.

If there is a common denominator that the materialist viewpoint shares with the
metaphysical one, it is to be found in the "search for reality." There is
general agreement that reality is what is to be valued and illusion is to be
avoided. Henry David Thoreau remarked that the instrument the world is in need
of is a "realometer" that will locate reality. All agree that the truth refers
to what is real, falsity indicates the presence of the unreal. If Kierkegaard
claimed that truth (reality) is subjectivity, the entire world of science and
technology has replied "No, truth is objectivity". The real world is the
objective world subject (sic) to measurement, analysis and control. Whatever
one's values and attitudes, it is the object world that in the end is what
counts.

Where then is the real world really to be found? This is the burning issue
confronting every individual, young or old, male or female, white-skinned or
colored-skinned, Jew or Christian, free-thinker or traditionalist. Every
self-respecting individual wants to participate in the real world. How is one
to know where it is to be found? In the absence of a realometer, the individual
has to make up his own mind as to its characteristics. For the vast majority of
people, this decision is an unconscious one, framed by the culture and
traditions in which their minds developed.

In the "progressive" world of science, objectivity and material being represent
the real world and the successful life consists in obtaining the maximum of
materia and power available, utilizing the analytic objective techniques
developed in western societies. Possession and utilization of materia represent
participation in the real world. Tradition-bound societies have a different
approach; for them, reality is to be found in one's connections with the
members of one's family, race or religion, and the successful life consists of
strengthening and solidifying these bonds. This is a metaphysical attitude
toward life since it emphasizes social continuity rather than material
acquisitions. There is nothing concrete about one's relationships with those to
whom he is connected by genetics, tradition or belief. The metaphysical self,
however, is not emphasized; rather it is one's connections to the extended
group that are valued above all else.

It needs to be recognized, however, that the dichotomy between scientific and
metaphysical is a false one because all values or conscious orientations
inescapably have a metaphysical basis. No matter how objective or analytic one
may be, his preferences in life are based on personality factors that do not
have a material basis. One cannot demonstrate scientifically that the will to
material success is a desirable or undesirable trait. One can analyze the
consequences of this or that mental trait, one can perform correlations of
outcomes with attitudes, one can theorize about the causes of human behavior ad
infinitum, but in the end, the orientation of an individual is a subjective
phenomenon, not to be explained by objective analysis. The distinction between
various worldviews lies in the depths of the human mind. These distinctions are
greatly affected by one's culture and upbringing, but ultimately turn out to
hang upon the personal temperament and strength of mind of the individual. At
all times and in all cultures there have been unregenerate materialists and
unworldly metaphysicians. It should be remembered, however, that humans are
deceptive creatures and materialists are prone to use metaphysics for very
worldly purposes.

What I mean by radical metaphysics is a turning away from materialist or
tradition-bound metaphysical values to an emphasis on the metaphysics of self;
the one area where an individual can be certain his efforts will bear fruit.
The metaphysical self is the domain of the individual, it is where his
responsibility for development lies, it is the locale where he can be sure of
his purposes. There is nothing really radical about concentrating on the
development of self, it is the most natural and authentic arena for expression
of one's energies. Kierkegaard's aphorism "Subjectivity is truth" can serve as
the slogan for approach to the task of living, albeit minus his peculiar
obsession with Christianity. The reality of the metaphysical self is a reality
that transcends all others for the individual. Material things deteriorate and
lose their value, communication is uncertain, love is the frailest of feelings,
charity is usually misplaced. Social justice is almost always an illusion and
societal power corrupts the individual. Only the realm of the metaphysical self
offers a continuing source of fulfillment to the individual in search of the
real world.

(c) Richard Schain

Queretaro, Mexico
rjschain@lycos.com

-=-

II. POEM BY JIM MARTIN

     I walked alone that first spring day,
     in hopes the green could bribe its way;
      
     No book read sorrows to be found,
     I did not leave this day for town,
      
     But tramped a mud trail near the shore, I saw wild birds
     circle -- and heard them cry "not evermore"; 
      
     In my upward gaze I tripped and
     toppled me to rest on heaven's door.
      
     A sun lush filtered light sought nature's element, but
     had no name and did not ask for one.
      
     So brief I peered in nature's soul,
     whispered my own.
     
     (c) Jim Martin 2002

---

"That brief walk was a revelation Geoffrey...the reality that all material and
non-material objects are given manmdade labels -- and if fact, there are no
labels, names, categories or right responses to nature. It just 'is' -- and so
am 'I'. And perhaps you. I rewrote that piece about 30 times, but realize it
wasn't the words, but the recognition of my place through time and space.

Sincerely, Jim"

-=-

III. IN PURSUIT OF THE AMORALIST

Over the weekend, I was away at the philosophy conference at Shap Fells,
Cumbria, where I got the chance to read my paper 'In Pursuit of the Amoralist'.

It was great to meet Pathways students Paul Clark from Chesterfield, and Mike
Ward from Rugby. Both said they would send me their reactions to the conference
for the Pathways newsletter. Rather than steal their thunder, I shall leave it
to them to report in detail on the proceedings.

I returned from the conference invigorated and full of new ideas about the
problems of ethics and its foundations. Toby Smith, who has just started as a
lecturer in the Department of Continuing Education at Newcastle University,
give an illuminating account of Nietzsche's views on ethics in 'Beyond Good and
Evil' and other works, from which I learned a great deal. I also very much
enjoyed Michael Bavidge's paper 'Living Illusions'.

The philosophical discussions that followed continued late into the night. What
was most remarkable was the high degree of consensus that emerged from what
appeared to be at first, divergent approaches to the challenge posed by the
question, 'Is Morality an Illusion?'

My paper, 'In Pursuit of the Amoralist' can be found on the Glass House
Philosopher site at:

http://sophist.co.uk/glasshouse/documents/shap2.html

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2002

---------------------------------------------------------------
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