virus: Why wasn't this included?

From: joedees@bellsouth.net
Date: Wed Jul 10 2002 - 22:20:06 MDT


I am flattered to have several of my works included in the "best of virus"
archives, and at the same time conceited enough to wonder why the
following essay was not included there.

A Short Philosophy of History
By Joe E, Dees
I. An Improved Theory of the Past
There are many existing philosophies of history, and each has its
own elements of truth, insofar as they authentically explicate an
understanding of past events and the reasons for them. However,
either
by not following through with their premises to deduceable
conclusions
or by actual error in such an attempt, all of them are in some
respects
incomplete. This, of course, is a reason for their multiplicity and
diversity. The theory to be expounded here is to the greater degree
a
decanting of the elements of each which, from our present
perspective,
can be said to possess some validity. To a lesser degree, it draws
from
the synthesis of these elements further conclusions as to both a
structure which may be consistently applied to history, and both
empirical observations and logical deductions which lend support
to its
perceptual soundness and conceptual validity.
Before we proceed any further, a disclaimer must be made. In no
manner do we intend this theory to be construed as either final or
complete. The evolution of historical conceptions is a staircase of
successively more broad and profound conjectures which shall
only end
with the end of humanity when this unfortunate yet inevitable
event
occurs. This theory only proposes to be another step; another
synthesis of preceding views which itself is destined to be
subsumed by
a more inclusive view. In addition, any theory, by the very
definition of
the term, is necessarily restricted to the realm of probability; any
theory
asserted absolutely is irretrievably mired in self-contradiction.
This is
true of any theory; however it is doubly true of any historical
theory; it is
impossible to either fully recapture the significance of the past as
it
appeared as a present, or to a priori apprehend and interpret as yet
nonexistent future events. Even dealing solely with a hypothetical
œpresent, it is practically impossible to empirically verify all
logical
consequences of any given theory, including a theory of history.
With
these necessary limitations firmly in mind, we shall attempt our
synthesis...
What, however, is a philosophy of history, or to put it more
succinctly, what are we here attempting to do? Any philosophy is
a
theory; a theory seeks to discern patterns and regularities within
its
object (or subject) of perusal. History itself is a succession of
more or
less purposeful actions or events occurring within the experiential
realm
of a perpetually changing cast of human agents of change. For
example:
the view that God moves history with an œinvisible hand is
empirically
unfounded; otherwise, the hand would have to be visible to the
theorizer, and this is self-contradictory. However, no one can
reasonably
deny that the idea of God in the minds of human agents has had a
profound effect upon the evolutionary direction of events. Thus a
philosophy of history seeks to discern regularities within this
perceived
temporal succession, as a philosophy of personhood seeks such
regularities within the universe, etc. In addition, a philosophy
seeks
logically coherent reasons for such patterns as may be discerned,
and a
philosophy of history is no exception.
II. The Synthesis
Spengler is correct (as were his predecessors) concerning the
multicyclical nature of cultural rise and fall; he was incorrect in
his
assertion that nothing passes on from fallen cultures to succeeding
ones, and Toynbee corrects this error. Neither of them noted,
however,
the combination of successively greater pinnacles of achievement
and
successively shorter spans of duration to be found within
temporally
successive cultures. Cultures do fall, but not to the point that
nothing is
left (that possibility is uniquely ours); however, neither do they
advance
unimpeded. The actual progression is somewhere in between.
Toynbee
did not realize the true force of Spengler™s (and Sorokin™s) raison
d™etre
for the falls. For both of them, the denigration of the unifying
cultural
belief in the face of the counterexample of knowledge fragments
the
culture. This contention, synthesized with Toynbee™s position that
each
succeeding culture begins with both more breadth of knowledge
and
more depth of same than its predecessors, suggests that within
each
succeeding culture the advance of knowledge to a position
contradicting
belief is accomplished in a shorter time span. Therefore, although
greater
syntheses are produced by succeeding cultures, they also suffer
successively shorter life spans. We called these (at first) dolphin
oscillations; we now tend to call them pre-adolescent culture
traumas.
We state that the anthropomorphization of a cultural identity is
both
useful and veridical, because cultures are collections of people
sharing
common ground perspectives. We then explore the parallels
between the
infancy of a culture and the infancy of a composite human, a la
Piaget.
Piaget states that the infant is egocentric and mentally matures in
the
direction of socialized thought. The infant early on believes in a
magical
and animistic lived world of relatively small dimensions which is
directed
towards the fulfillment of childish needs and desires. This is not a
conception; the child actually perceives the world in this way. All
things
seen together are connected by syncretistic logic “ this is known
as
assimilation. The world is juxtaposed by means of this
assimilation,
which follows the rule of œintellectual realism; the world œis as
the child
believes because it ˜must be, and this world-view colors the
child™s
perceptions to agree. The sun and moon follow the child around,
the
road rises to meet him/her, the birds sing because the child is
present to
hear, the scent of the flowers is tailored to please, and all of this is
managed by a noncognitive, magical and mystical animism whose
only
reason for being is to please the child.
As the child matures, this magic fades. When the child must
interact
with others, the necessity for developing both concepts by which
to
communicate and consistent logic with which to persuade
progressively
manifests. The child is no longer the absolute; his/her position
must be
justified to the other. De-centering occurs. The sun and moon
follow
others also, therefore they follow no one; the road stays put, the
birds
sing and the flowers bloom for everyone to see and hear and
smell. In
short, experience is present at hand to be taken up by all and is no
longer
directed exclusively towards the now maturing person. The living
presence fades from perception as the child™s world-view is
socialized. It
must therefore (for the child) be culturally preserved.
In the same manner, a culture is primordially egocentric and
believes
that the universe is somehow magically ordered for its benefit.
Such
beliefs are, to some degree, necessary for the perpetuation of the
culture,
but many are not sufficient “ this is why many cultures die a-
borning for
lack of the belief™s production of the Camusian byproducts of
human
dignity, industry and community. These cultures which survive
their
birth, however, eventually come into contact with œother
cultures.
Whether they subsume, are subsumed by, or coexist with the
other(s),
intercultural socialization begins. This process results in the
realization
that the belief system is not a given, but must be justified in
relation to
alternative beliefs which perform the same perpetuating functions
for
their cultures. (In the same manner, œlaws of quantum mechanics
mutually justify each other without any one of them occupying a
central
or fundamental position.) Also, such belief systems and their
empirically
testable consequences must agree with the ever-expanding
perceptions
of the world. This imperative is akin to both Kant™s dictum that
concepts
must be grounded in percepts, and Merleau-Ponty™s view of
reality as
inter-subjective. Together, these two necessities provoke the
evolution
of the bridge between individual and societal perceptions. The
foregoing also explains both T. S. Eliot™s observation that culture
and
religion are symbiotic and Toynbee™s contention that advancing
cultures
are accompanied by successively more complex belief systems,
this last
to accommodate successively more inclusive and detailed
perceptions.
However, the belief system ultimately fails, because of both its
absolutist
dogmatism and the inherent inability of animistic-mystical belief
systems
to keep pace with demythologizing explanations proferred by
technical
advances. According to Stephen Pepper, animistic world
hypotheses fail
due to inadequate precision (common-sense fails). They tend to
anthropomorphize magical presence into authoritarian spirit,
which is
crystallized into infallible, but, alas, all-too-fallible, authority.
This
authority breaks down under successively more central,
supportable and
precise criticism. Also, mystical world hypotheses fail due to a
lack of
scope. Their view originates with the acceptance of a œcentral
fact. The
entire universe is interpreted, whether it fits or not, as absorbed
within
this œfact. Where this absorption is implausible, the offending
fact is
denounced as unreal. The adherents of such œfacts are emotional
and
reductionistic. They believe themselves to be the vessels through
which
the œtrue fact must be promulgated according to a dogma of
certainty.
Both œcertainty and œinfallibility are illusions produced by
inadequate world-views. What opposes them is useful truth.
The pragmatists argue that the a priori of truth is utility and the
existentialists argue that the a priori of utility is truth. The
precedence
chosen depends upon the referential frame of the chooser, and we
tend
to view truth and utility as co-primordial, symbiotic and mutually
grounding. However, when useful truth unmasks by
counterexample of
the world hypotheses™ conclusions the fallibility and uncertainty
of their
premises, these premises inevitably crumble. Our beliefs have, for
better
or worse, chosen us long enough; it is now time to reasonably
choose
our beliefs to avoid such contradiction. Culture has never matured
(except for the perceptual side in the Orient) before in world
history; we
can end all hope of its maturation in the future or ourselves be the
first
culture which successfully matures.



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