Thursday, March 19, 2015

Part 16: (The Natural Slave?): Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

With this post Flora Sapio and I (and friends from time to time) continue an experiment in collaborative dialogue. The object is to approach the issue of philosophical inquiry from another, and perhaps more fundamentally ancient, manner. We begin, with this post, to develop a philosophy for the individual that itself is grounded on the negation of the isolated self as a basis for thought, and for elaboration. This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts. Your participation is encouraged. For ease of reading Flora Sapio is identified as (FS), and Larry Catá Backer as (LCB).

The friends continue their discussion around the problem of natural slaves and in which the friends banter, joined by a new friend, Robert Mariott. 

Contents: HERE

(FS) [drawing attention to Huxley to Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949) in Literature, Philosophy, Politics, which included a reproduction of the letter written by Huxley, the author of Brave New World (1931), to Orwell on the publication of his Nineteen Eighty Four (1949).  The letter reproduced in Letters of Note reads as follows:

Wrightwood. Cal.
21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,
Aldous Huxley]
(FS) I like both, but Huxley's mode of oppression is much closer to us.

(LCB) Why choose when both are useful

(FS) because they were still under the spell of Aristotle and his wicked categories

(LCB) wait! I love those categories. The only problem is that you don't have to choose only one. And that of course was the essential insight of his very naughty classifications

(FS) Who would want to be pigeonholed as X or Y or Z?

(LCB) Our social order is based on the4 mania for classification, one of the great legacies of the enlightenment in the West. I suspect there is an Eastern analogue.Societal creatures create hierarchies and hierarchies require classification. Yet there ought to be a way to avoid that.

(FS) Larry Catá Backer step by step....

(Robert Marriott) There's certainly a way to avoid it, Prof Backer: the sweet embrace of death.

(LCB) Aaaaaak Robert Marriott too easy and anyway Dante reminds us that even in death we are organized

(RM) We'll be organized, but at least we won't do the organizing! -well, I suppose we proactively organized ourselves, but the classification is not our own.

(FS) A life others have organised for us is neither death nor a life worth living... there must be a better life we can live

(LCB) Aha! But the trick is to attain this state even in the face of societal structures

(FS) Larry Catá Backer different societal structures work in different ways on various sides of the individual, therefore a multiple approach is needed. Ramming into them, as Karen Halnon did when she spoke out against the US, perhaps was not the best tactical choice.

(LCB) remaining true to oneself, then Flora Sapio Imperatrix Maris becomes a more complicated mediation among our "selves"--one can almost become an economist of the self.

(FS) economist of the self? Never! But, I still believe that a very nuanced approach to societal structures is to be taken.....time to think.

(LCB) Yes, the individual may have to maximize the aggregate value to herself of the effects of action on her interior and exterior selves in the context in which action is contemplated.  But I am afraid that our friend Paul reminds us another overarching theme.

(PVF) [Referencing the comic strip Existential Comics, Existential Birthday, the first three sections of which depict Heidigger presenting Sartre with a birthday gift box which when unwrapped in the presence of an eager Heidigger reveals a piece of paper on which is written the phrase, "death is coming"]. The first line with Heidegger is great! Perhaps a topic for our philosophy of the individual? Larry Catá Backer, Flora Sapio Imperatrix Maris, Betita Horn Pepulim. I just love the excited look on his face.

(BHP) Interesting what you're proposing. It is pertinent. I am writing the answer to Flora and you gave me a good idea. rsrssr Don't worry i will not forget to give you credit! srsrsrs Thank you for this memory! The problem of the sense of being is exactly what i was thinking, and i was needing to develop my answer.! Thank you Paul Van Fleet!

(LCB)  Aaaaah reminds me of that line from Ghost Busters about not crossing the streams!
The dialogue:
Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
(FS) Ahahahahahah!

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