Posts Tagged ‘Stoicism Modernized’

Seneca’s New Order Of “Security & Tranquility” (Fall of Rome XII)

April 15, 2018

I accuse the philosophy of Stoicism to be fascist compatible (and that is why it flourished under the fascist imperial Roman regime, ultimately morphing, after three centuries, into Christianism). This is not just about what happened two millennia ago. Some of us are making the same mistake, all over again.

Stoicism is making a come-back, and strangely, among those opposing (they self-allege) right wings policies. Whereas I claim Stoicism was a philosophy invented to thrive in symbiosis with hard-core fascism. A total hero of Stoicism is Marcus Aurelius… However that emperor was a disaster for Rome (Common Wisdom claims the opposite!)… Marcus started an imbecilitic drive against Christianism, protected the wealthiest, promoted his ridiculous, ill-minded biological son… Those following Seneca and Marcus Aurelius are not suspicious enough, they remind me of sheep going to the slaughter, happily bleating all the way…

Seneca, Nero’s teacher and adviser is highly esteemed by would-be modern Stoics (Claudius gave Seneca to Nero at age eleven, to teach him the ways of the world; the result of Seneca’s teaching speaks for itself). Instead of admiring Seneca, I view him as a liar (that Seneca has some excellent quotes is a fact, but it can be said about any author, any author whatsoever). An engineer of huge lies, one of them being that he wanted to “perceive the truth in all its completeness” (dictators are prone to preach the exact opposite of what they do; thus Hitler was a protector of peace and minorities… At least so he screamed for two decades… And was believed by most Germans, so they voted for him).

Seneca said: “The happy life consists solely in perfecting our rationality … What is a happy life? It is security and lasting tranquility, the sources of which are a great spirit and a steady determination…” Security and tranquility are a must, once one belongs to the .001% as Seneca did: one enjoys power and property, thanks to industrial crime, the perpetuation of which rests on imposing “security and tranquility” on the oppressed masses. (Seneca once joked (?) that he didn’t even know how many large properties he owned on all the continents.)

So We The People imagined that they were suffering under the dictatorship of Seneca and Nero, when, in truth, they were not…

The definition of happiness was certainly different for the 99% under the Principate led by Seneca and his pupil. The 99% couldn’t not enjoy “security” (the secret police and its informants watched their every breath), nor “tranquility” (they knew they were one bad idea away from providing free entertainment at the Circus…) Actually emperor Domitian (a few years after Seneca) executed systematically all philosophers who didn’t exhibit “great spirit”. Not an anecdote in the history of ideas: it means that the philosophies which survived Domitian were those compatible with the Principate.

Result? Increasingly deficient thinking among those advising the leadership of the empire. This is why the Principate turned away, deliberately, loud and clear, from technological innovation (which had fostered the rise of the Roman Republic). Just when innovation was a matter of survival for civilization itself.

The Decline and Fall of Rome was first philosophical and started as soon as the New Order of “security and lasting tranquility” was imposed on all minds. Mental creativity of the highest sort is antagonist to “security and lasting tranquility” (even Christ spoke of this, and shared this observation). One can’t understand the world ever more, without going through periodic turmoil of the greatest kind.

Periods and places of great mental creativity, like Normandy, or Italy, starting in the Eleventh Century, the true start of the so-called “Renaissance”, were places of enormous turmoil.

As the eleventh Century enfolded, most cities were basically in revolt. Higher authorities like popes, kings and emperors were often completely disobeyed, so they had to go to war, which they often lost; clerics like Archdeacon Berengar of Tours preached that Christianism was all about rationalism, not blind submission to simplistic interpretations of sacred texts (and had to fight them all, during his entire life, all the way to the Pope). William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, king of England, is on the record for evoking heliocentrism as a possibility.

The extreme political and philosophical turmoil in Europe, starting in the Eleventh Century, is no coincidence: the regrowing of grassroot power (consider Italian republics), was a regrowing of ideas. Technology blossomed, another ecological crisis (circa 1300 CE) was avoided.

As imperial Rome was suffering from a unique party (the plutocratic party leading Rome: until emperor Septimius Severus from Libya, the throne was passing among only a few families), and from ecological collapse, a sober assessment of what reality was made of, was in order. However, that meant great mental, even civilizational, turmoil (as happened every few year during the Roman Republic), the exact opposite of the “mental security and lasting tranquility” imposed by those few families who ruled. 

Patrice Aymé

Note 1: Some may say my depiction as the Flavian dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) as among the few Roman families which ruled is off . But that’s correct, as Vespasian’s family rose in 4 generations under the Julio-Claudian dynasty and was entangled with it (the great-grandfather was a tax collector for Augustus, thus becoming immensely rich…)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flavian_dynasty

Note 2: Roman emperors would pay inventors for not exploiting their inventions and even for not making their inventions public.

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MINIMIZING EVIL As the Greatest Good

January 27, 2016

Do the ends justify the means, or the means, the ends? Neither. A completely different answer awaits. We have to change our considerations of complex issues from unsophisticated, uncouth, flying blind, to something much more subtle, inspired by the turn towards more subtle analysis that physics itself had to take, in the last three centuries (just post-Newton).

“Maximization of agency towards greater good”… is the only good. Why?

Because the world is fast, and getting faster, exponentially. We are confronted to an increasingly violent shoot storm. Philosophy is not just a consolation anymore. Philosophy has become the only pragmatic way out of a gathering multidimensional cataclysm.

Yes, it is also an excretion storm. Humanity is excreting, all over the planet, creating lethal imbalances all over. Contemplate the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, one of the world’s greatest biological structures. 2,300 kilometers long, 350,000 square kilometers in area. Yet, it is suddenly threatened by utter destruction. Why? Australian agriculture, all these plants, eaten by all these hungry vegetarians, out there. (In full truth, sugarcane is the primary culprit.)

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Yes, of course, the spikes will make you bleed, and they are venomous.

Massive production of plants requires a lot of phosphates, and other fertilizers. The latter gets into the sea. One thing leads to another. And then the babies of a killer starfish, the Crown of Thorn starfish, survive at roughly 100 times their natural rate. And the ladies Crown of Thorns are rather prolific: they produce up to twenty million eggs each. What is the Crown of Thorns prefered diet? Live coral. Crown of Thorns have already eaten their way through roughly half the Great Barrier Reef.

It is a science fiction situation, it requires a science fiction solution (philosophy will tell you as much). There are too many killer starfishes already. One needs killer robots. They are been developed: the starfish terminators have eyes, and they recognize Crown of Thorns with 99.9% precision, and inject them with bile, to which the Crown of Thorns is highly allergic.

Autonomous killer robots at sea: what could go wrong? Are sharks next? Of course! Not to terminate the species, but to make the swimmers safe (we could reprogram for plutocrats, some will insinuate…). Proper usage of philosophical evil optimization theory shows that, only this way, is evil minimized.

So welcome, killers robots!

Take another example: lack of awareness, and the evil Clintons, helped by the Bush of Oblahblah, let the financial plutocracy grow completely out of control. The silly ones will give money, clothing, even food, and feel emphatic, happy about themselves, and their pacific tendencies. Does the Will to Peace generate peace? A philosophical question. And the answer is awful: when a bushel of wheat goes from the American Middle  West to Africa, it is bought and sold virtually, by the financial traitors… No less than 2,000 times! Then they live in plush mansions. Of course those traitors are culprit. But so are those who let them thrive, namely all those ready to vote for crooks (names starting with “C”).

Shoot storm? Yes, not just animal waste and dirt that is flying, but outright bullets. To wit: extremely violent wars out of nowhere. Contemplate Rwanda, Somalia, the Islamist State. Worse could be around the corner: a (nuclear) war of India with Pakistan, quickly generalizing, is imaginable.

Science fiction, some will sneer, from the bottom of their feel-good ignorance.

But 2015 was considerably warmer than 2014, which was, itself, the warmest year, ever, by a long shot. Greenland is melting, fast. A collapse of ice shields in Antarctica, little talked about, looks imminent (at least to me).

Science fiction, some will scoff, and turn around, to study nothing. Yet, look at the Zika virus, propped by global warming. The USA is scrambling to study it. It did not exist six months ago, as a problem for WHO. Now it’s a total panic. Brazil just attributed 4,000 cases of microcephaly to that virus carried by mosquitoes. Four countries advised women not to get pregnant, more will follow. Tomorrow.

Genetic engineering may be a way to stop Zika. Otherwise, massive usage of poisons (which

already started). This sort of question are all highly philosophical, they are always choices between an evil, and the other.

In Libya, the West, led by France, destroyed a bloody despotic regime, practicing mass murder, but then, the West dropped the ball. On the philosophical ground of non-intervention, and Obama “leading from way behind” France, the West let the Natives argue between themselves to find out how they would organize this country, which is more than 4,000 years old.

That was a serious debate: Libyans have had some outstanding issues, of civilizational grade, for millennia (so do Algeria, Tunisia, even Morocco). One of these issues is whether the 3,500 years old alphabet could, or even ought, to be used, in parts where it still exists, rather than the youngish alphabet brought by the invading Arab armies, armed with their “Submission” (= Islam).

However, profiting from the chaos, the Islamist State moved in. And now it’s moving ever more, as the West is destroying it in the Orient.Now France wants to attack and destroy the Islamist State in Libya. Is this philosophically correct? (I think so, can’t wait!)

Philosophical questions are everywhere, and they are not just fascinating, but they have to drive policy. The situation is much more acute than when Seneca was advising emperor Nero, or when emperor Marcus Aurelius was playing stoic philosopher.

To all these questions, only one context in which to frame the answers: relativity. Relativity of knowledge, relativity of evil, relativity of consequences, relativity of action.

So yes, “maximization of agency towards greater good” is where it’s at. Not just where ethics ought to be at, but where action should be.

(Massimo P. and his friends have what seems to me roughly the same approach to goodness of “maximizing agency“; see: “From ancient to modern From ancient to modern Stoicism — part I“. It’s pretty clear that it was always the overriding principle of my approach to philosophy. I thank Massimo in passing for giving me the occasion of planting my claws and fangs into something juicy, in other word, making my thoughts more, well, effective by providing a debating ground.)

Can we find some inspiration in science? Yes, of course. Look at physics: energy is not of the essence. The essence is the potential, not the absolute energy. It is the potential which sits on the right hand side of the De Broglie-Schrodinger equation. Thus it’s the potential which acts (contemplate the Bohm-Aharanov effect).

Physics is dominated by the principle of least action (found by Maupertuis, during the Enlightenment). Least action of evil, such is modern stoicism. Keeping in mind that inaction is itself a form of action.

Notice that the old problem of the “ends which justify the means” has been completely reformulated in a much larger physical and philosophical universe. The entire, immense power of modern logic, mathematics and physics can then be brought to bear. It is not a question of carrying the equations over: equations constitute only logical foam. What is deeper than the equations, what really gets the logic going, is the context they represent.

For example, a way to formulate Quantum Physics, related to the Least Action Principle, is to consider the “sum over histories”… Well, just as human history itself. Causalities, entangled, are all over histories.

Ethics has got more complicated, but, in this vastly richer landscape, minimal energy, minimal evil solutions abound.

This is not just the great age of science, it’s the greatest age of philosophy. In the age of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was in danger, from forces, in and out. Now civilization itself is in question, and even worse, the biosphere itself is threatened. It’s an ecology most propitious to a blossoming of philosophy. The greatest questions ever, await the greatest answers.

And much inspiration has to come from science, whose main job is not just to find the facts, but sophisticated logics to give them meaning. Today’s most sophisticated logics and mathematics are far ahead of the best known yesterday.

We want goodness? Let’s maximize agency towards goodness. The Principle of Least Evil, in other words.

Patrice Ayme’