Welcome to the Pons Asinorum

There is no easy fix

Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon

Facing the Reality of a Lack of Moral Courage

Joyous Insurgency & the Long Game?

A Strategy for People Celebrating Life

Three basic insights over the course of the June 28, 2017 meeting:

  1. Consider the memes not on a one-to-one basis but as a set.
  2. Consider this set of memes as the equivalent of an ecosystem with its own specialized environmental niche.
  3. Once well established, these memes will create the very conditions under which they can survive and thrive, i.e., they change the good of order to a state so that supports the individual’s actualization for freedom is negated. In effect, they alter their environmental niche to support their own “needs” for survival.

Our analytical/evaluative approach to understanding these Gramscian memes is grounded in the schematic’s four strata that in the whiteboard are titled The Human Condition. Generally speaking, this schematic poses and answers four distinct questions:

  1. How does the world function? This is an inquiry into the fundamental world processes of the universe, which Lonergan lays out in his world view of emergent probability. This is the base level for all subsequent strata.
  2. How do we exist within the world? Humans, unlike animals, do not live in a pure sensate world but in a world mediated by meaning. It is in the construction of these symbolic representations of reality that our true being is made manifest. While each world mediated by meaning in grounded in the ontological reality of the individual there is a collective cultural world mediated by meaning that has its own dynamics. Lonergan’s transcendental method provides the critical standards for individuals while his functional specialties lay out the fundamental operations and their associated criteria for the communal development of meaning.
  3. How do we select what is important within reality? As creatures existing within a given set of environmental and ecological conditions, humans create worlds mediated by meaning that support individual and collective interests. These sets of interests and concerns become the playing field for all human action, an arena represented by Lonergan’s invariant structure of the human good.
  4. How do individuals come to know the good? Humans are not born complete and perfect; instead, we grow through the various levels of the human good, actualizing whatever potential lies within the individual and opportunities and operations provided by the subject’s society. For this we develop the upper level of the schematic that refers to the human life cycle as the individual’s animal development is eventually superseded by a shift to a transcendental control mediator: entanglement, infusion, and redemption.

All the six elements of our investigation follow this scheme but in greater detail. Special importance is given to the operations and hand-offs operative at the reflective level of the human good.

Memes reside in the individual, but they are modified at the collective cultural level
. In a sense, each meme represents the equivalent of a single species in any given ecosystem. Each has a probability of emerging and once in play a probability of continuing into the future. Following this analogy, we can anticipate that there are three sets of factors associated with these probabilities: the internal coherence of the meme as a “thought/belief”, the conditions of the collective appropriation of what there is to be known, and the foundational stance of each individual so exposed to an incoming meme. The point is that such attack memes as represented by this set of eight Gramscian memes requires an environment that supports and enhances each member of the set. Given that these can only represent counter positions, they can only exist when conditions are broken or breaking down. For example, the first meme “There is no truth, only agendas” can only exist if the individual and the culture are alienated from God—atheism and a secular society, mutually reinforcing positions.

So we ask ourselves: under what conditions will these memes flourish and under what conditions are they likely to disappear?

Memes are the equivalent of common sense proverbs in that they act as additional insights into the situation at hand that allows the individual to operate efficiently and effectively within that cultural matrix. They fail utterly when transposed to other realms of meaning, say that of theory, philosophy, or theology. For example, the meme “There is no truth” is a contradiction in terms, for if it is true then the statement cannot be true and if the statement is false than there is truth to be found. But this is not a problem for common sense intelligence. As Lonergan notes:

The scientific generalization aims to offer a premise from which correct deductions can be drawn. But the generalizations issued by common sense are not meant to be premised for deductions. Rather they would communicate pointers that ordinarily it is well to bear in mind. Proverbs are older far than principles, and like rules of grammar they do not lose their validity because of their numerous exceptions. For they aim to express, not the scientist’s rounded set of insights that either holds in every instance or in none at all, but the incomplete set of insights which is called upon in every concrete instance but became proximately relevant only after a good look around has resulted in the needed additional insights. Look before you leap! (Insight, 1992, p. 199.)

The core elements supporting or contesting any given meme or mutually reinforcing meme set reside in the individual’s foundational stance and his or her associated appreciation of value, i.e., discernment. But no matter how closed any state of the good of order can be, there is always one fundamental dialectical issue at play: good vs. evil. In this conflict within each individual and because of this within each culture there are two generative principles that each person can draw upon to create themselves. On the side of the good lies the Divine Mystery’s love of life itself, expressed in such commandments as “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here mystery and awe bring a certain humility and obedience to a transcendental reality to human actions, leading to intellectual, moral, and religious conversion. The opposing generative principle in very much anti-life and rather that humility is grounded in the drive to dominate. This is achieved through description and lies that may at first seem very pleasing but soon reveal their hollow soul.

There are two things that one needs to keep in mind. The first is that each individual is faced with a clear choice to follow one or the other of the generative principles—but not both, for an individual cannot have two masters. If the individual choses to dominate those around him or her, to in effect play god as master of all they survey, then such Gramscian memes may find a ready home in which to live. One would expect this meme set to support any drive for power for its own sake, namely to dominate others as they will.

The second point is that any consideration of the existing state of the good of order, the “spirit of an age”, needs to take into account the interplay of both positions, both generative principles, as they emerge in social and political life. The Divine Mystery “resists” the opposition by reversing the evil that the anti-life fraction supports, while the “satanic” generative principle constantly tests and probes each individual for ways to usurp the power and authority of the Divine. As long as mortal life remains, this conflict is in play.

RCB Notes

May 5, 2017

Gramscian Meme #1: There is no truth, only competing agendas.

(Why is it important to understand Gramscian memes? Adopting such "truths" leaves a culture vulnerable to a hostile take-over such as the practice of Da'wa and Tiqiyya on the part of radical Islamists. Da'wa refers to the wide range of mechanisms used by such radicals to advance their goal of imposing Islamic law -- Sharia -- on society, a practice that involves converting non-Muslims to political Islam while instilling Islamists views on existing Muslims. Tiqiyya is the obligation to lie to non-Muslims in order to protect the faith and spread the practice of Sharia.)

All that follows is not meant to be definitive but only explorative. It suggests an approach to understanding much of what is going on in the world in the context of an historical consciousness that is aware of underlying cultural influences evolving out the rationalization and/or justification of power on the part of individuals and groups over the span of human history. Such intellectual support has opportunity costs, some of which are outlined below.

Entering the reality of such a common sense group is carried out in four steps:

  1. Placing the statement within Lonergan’s scheme of conditioning and sublating levels of consciousness, four different “selves” of passive/active/intentional acceptance of reality, of being a detective in search of truth, of being a dispassionate judge of what is, and of being the creator of meaning in a search for a sound terminal value with which to guide individuals and societies.
  2. Working out the primary elements as the position conditions higher level cognitive operations while sublating lower levels of being.
  3. Giving examples of how all this is working out in society, with particular references to current events.
  4. Examining the foundational position justifying the position.

 Is/Is Not

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 The statement “There is no truth, only competing agendas” is a political decision to use this statement as a weapon in a class war that is intended to disarm one’s opponent by reframing the search for truth as an example of social and political oppression. It is a political act in the sense that it puts something out there in the world. Furthermore, its very elimination of a higher moral authority like God means that the only source of data derives from the brain’s preoccupation with scarcity, loss, and death—something that conditions human understanding, judging, and deciding. This circle of sublation/conditioning reinforcement contains no elements of the kind of cognitive dissonance the springs into being once a single moral authority is removed from the universe.

  • It represents an act that demoralizes and disarms one’s opponent:
    • It is designed as a means to undermine the dominate culture.
    • Anyone who stands for a moral life is in really anything but moral; he or she is using their “moral” statements to oppress and subjugate.
    • It is up to “us” to resist any effort to maintain order, to follow the mores of the culture, for to do so is to participate in an act of oppression.
    • We are on the side of the angels; you are on the side of the oppressors.
    • We are on the side of history; you are an anachronism, a throwback to earlier more conflict ridden periods that now must be set aside.
    • It redefines all social and political, cultural and ethical, events as a struggle for power; nothing exists outside these boundaries.
    • This world mediated by meaning is a closed one: there is no way to escape from within its boundaries from inside its boundaries; the only way out is through an encounter with a person or society that has a higher perspective upon which to draw.
    • There can be no greater authority than man, for anyone who stands or God is only deluding themselves in order to maintain their own dominance over others.
    • Powerful groups cannot be discriminated against, for they are the very source of all oppression.
    • Science is subverted for political purposes; in fact science is nothing more than another tool used by the elite to oppress others for the search for empirical truths is not possible.
    • Rationality itself is set aside in favor of activist passion and intensity of feeling.
  • It sublates all judgments:
    • This decision sublates judgment itself, negating the very transcendental injunction to seek the truth; in fact, sound and reasonable judgment itself is not necessary in an arena where everything is political.
    • This political act negates any possibility of rising up to the transcendental precept to be reasonable, for the search for truth can never be a search for truth.
    • Intellectual conversion cannot be a desirable goal or standard; only political activism counts.
    • Such a bias constrains any discourse or dialogue by negating any quest for what is true, replacing it with a hermeneutics of suspicion: what is that person really up to?
    • Any search for truth is replaced by the “narrative”, an historical construction that cannot have any contact with the real world for the simple reason that the real world does not exist; only narratives are real.
    • Humans themselves are completely malleable, for what it means to be human is itself a narrative, a social construct, and not in any way a “natural” species with its own innate properties and characteristics.
    • All judgments are no longer based on reason but on emotions; these emotions are derived from the common sense world and the common sense need to belong leads to the practice of value-signaling.
  • It sublates understanding:
    • Whatever a person says, it is not what he or she says that is important, only the overt or covert agenda behind their words.
    • The good of order falls prey to suspicion, as trust in the reliability of others is displaced by an activism the pursues one social justice movement as another, a movement that cannot be ground in reason but only in the common sense moods swings, feelings, and delusions that often seize whole civilizations.
    • Socio/political discourse is reduced to conflict over who gets to determine what is or is not real.
    • The good of order disintegrates in an atmosphere of conflict and suspicion between individual and/or groups that leaves much of the populate vulnerable to the mechanizations of powerful people.
    • Racism is removed from any common theoretical understanding and becomes implicit in political discourse as a fundamental expressing of conflicting agenda in what is essential a contest over power, over who dominates whom.
    • Science as a separate realm of meaning becomes subordinate to political agendas, for there cannot be a scientific truth independent of the conscious or unconscious desire to control.
  • It sublates experiencing:
    • One experiences a highly politicized world in which everything is reduced to the exercise of power.
    • It negates any legitimate use of authority, for any authority only hides a hidden power agenda.
    • The world is experienced as raw nature, a “tooth and claw” mentality where survival belongs to the powerful and resistance to power is the only legitimate form of action.
    • Any transcendental reality is reduced to personal/collective will, the “superman” who is unconstrained by any outside or higher power and exercises his or her own will to dominate, to control.
  • It truncates or conditions the reflective level of deciding:
    • There can be no moral standards for any morality hides a hidden power/dominance agenda.
    • It automates the dialectic between good and evil, for the Divine Mystery has to be reduced to impotency (after all, people who assert that the Divine Mystery is real are only deceiving themselves, hiding their true agenda of maintaining power over others).
    • The only open avenue is to follow is the anti-live generative principle in the dialectic between good and evil, the “satanic” path of lies, deceit, gas lighting, and subversion of all that is good.
    • This truncation ends with the creation of a hell on earth, best represented in history by the National Socialist Party’s concentration/death camps but also evidenced by the killing fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia, the purges of Mao, or the gulags of Stalin.
    • The only possible terminal value is the power to dominate, an end point that reduces any and all institutions to one and one only reality—political conflict, value positioning, and exercising a “Critical Theory” that exposes the naked drive for enslaving others.
    • Co-operation between free people at the level of reflective understanding is no longer possible.
    • The lack of a free people eliminates the possible of challenges to the existing power structure because the decision to follow higher and better terminal values can never reach into the public sphere.
    • A secular attitude must be maintained at all costs, including the elimination or isolation of Jews and Christians from the public sphere.
    • Action becomes arbitrary, without any reason other than the need to exercise control and subordinate others.

 There exist opportunity costs. Certain possibilities for development are curtailed, and an emergent Cosmopolis is one of them. The destruction of the good of order diminishes the steady stream of goods upon which any society depends, thus eliminating the middle class and spreading poverty. At this point . . .

Educational Projects: Dialectical Exercises: Gramscian Meme #1