Posts Tagged ‘Stoicism’

ETHICS ARISE FROM NATURE, THROUGH LIFE, And Its SPONSOR, REASON (Rise & Collapse of Rome, Part IV.)

October 1, 2017

 

The ancient Greek word êthikos means “relating to one’s character“. Stoicism was an important characteristic of the Roman Republic and its citizens, individually. King Pyrrhus observed that his victories against Rome would lead of the annihilation of his army (as they did), because the Romans took their defeats stoically, and kept on coming, destroying Pyrrhus’ officer corps.

Stoicism is a Republican virtue, all Roman soldiers and officers shared, because it was drilled in them, whereas Pyrrhus’ officer corps was held together by greed.

So how come did I savage old fashion “Stoicism” (and Buddhism, and I should have included Confucianism, as I was at it)? As in many behaviors, the problem with Stoicism arise if it abused.

Greek cities, at the time of their greatest greatness, knew Stoicism (although it had not been formally invented). Certainly, Athens pursuing the Peloponnesian War, in spite of horrendous losses in population and army (up to 50%), was stoic. But, after Stoicism was made into a religion (also known as a philosophical movement), it became a submission (at least in Greece; arguably, Athens had submitted earlier to the Macedonian Pluto-fascists).  

My argument in “WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses”  was that basically Stoicism in Antiquity (and India, and China) became a way hypocrites, weaklings, creeps, opportunists, and gangsters on the make found to accommodate themselves with plutocratic fascism of the oligarchies which ruled those countries.

Thus, I reckon, Stoicism contributed to the Collapse of Roman Civilization: instead of resisting with force, even violence, Stoics went with the flow, as plutocratic tyranny took over the Greek world, and then the Roman democracy. Sure enough, Stoicism merged smoothly with Christian theofascism in the Fourth Century. As Nietzsche, and others, yours truly included, there are few behaviors more unnatural than the noble Stoics’ insistence to follow what they call “Nature” by laying prone and submissive. 

Here is Nietzsche on Stoicism: 

Nietzsche should be mandatory reading for would-be “progressives”, “Antifa”, and those who claim to “resist” the established order.

I go a bit further, as I observed that “Noble” Stoics could be quite ignoble (see Seneca, Marcus Aurelius). And stupid besides: Stoicists are living according to “Nature”, we all are, so why are they trying so hard to promote what we all already do? I gave the answer: to occupy their minds, and those they preach to, away from criticizing the masters too harshly, and having emotions conducive to that. However, in the present essay I rescue “New Stoicism” from the fascist abyss and Nietzsche’s scathing critique.

***

New Stoicism: De Rerum Natura, Including Ethics?

However, there are more modern ways to claim a “New Stoicism”. Massimo Pigliucci’s analysis of  Becker’s A New Stoicism, II: the way things stand, part 1 is quite interesting. I sent a comment, which Massimo generously published. It’s reproduced here in an expanded form:.

***

Most of the texts we have from Greco-Roman Antiquity were preserved by Christian monasteries (150 out of 160, roughly). That does not mean that Christians saved us, it means that most of them killed us, while robbing us of our own civilization, whereas a few braves saved some remnants to tease us with (critical texts, say on Constantine, often went conveniently missing, although secondary works from the same historians were preserved).

Considering that, starting in 363 CE, under emperor Jovian, Christians burned books and libraries, and considering that, after 391 CE, thanks to Theodosius’ law, it was open season on intellectuals judged to be “heretic“, while the Roman imperial government merged with Christian “saints” and bishops, one can be sure that only texts and authors which pleased the Christians in charge, survived.

Greco-Roman civilization if far from us, and, for the longest time, we have looked at it with a telescope equipped with a Christian filter. (Now things are changing, because we have independent means to know antiquity, such as archeology.)

Thus all the big names and their big books and the big philosophical movements of Antiquity which were known or popular in the Middle Ages, bear a Christian stamp of approval. The rest of the gigantic intellectual production of the Greco-Romans mostly disappeared, and can only be found out, or inferred, with exquisite difficulty (such as fragments, or partly erased parchments).

For example we know the Greeks developed Non-Euclidean geometry, more than a century before Euclid, because there are six non-Euclidean geometry theorems in… Aristotle (the Christian fascists loved Aristotle, because Aristotle destroyed democracy, so they preserved him). Aristotle was not a mathematician, the survival of this mathematical activity (rediscovered 22 centuries later) was entirely accidental.

We suspected the Greeks had mechanical computers, because Cicero said so. Then one was found at the bottom of the sea. Thus we know that old arriviste Cicero, who early in his career bought himself a $100 million house (constant 2017 dollars), didn’t make that one up (how could he?)

A text such as Lucretius’ De  Rerum Natura was found by the personal secretary of several Popes, Poggio Bracciolini, in January 1417, in an obscure monastery (Fulda?). There was just one copy (and it got lost after having been copied; there were fragments in other places). Poggio loved to search for old books hidden in secret places; he found several.

The average Christian in charge of the empire around 400 CE, was busy destroying anyway to look at the world not thoroughly compatible with their apocalyptic Jihad. The Book of the Apocalypse promise the Final Judgement, once civilization had been destroyed, so they destroyed civilization. Christians detested physics. They detested Epicurus’ philosophy, inspired by Democritus’ atomism. (Lucretius is centered around atomism, the most important scientific discovery.)

Theology assumed that the universe was in some way a living being (“God”, or “Gods”). All the laws there were, were laws of God, not physics. So books with laws of physics therein, had to be destroyed.

However, we are way smarter (more exactly, we are not intellectual fascists, we just one idea, in their case “God”). Before rejecting that idea outright, that idea that the universe is in some way a living being, we need to inquire all what is meant by “living”. Nobody knows, and this is a question exobiologists, or now Quantum theorists, would like to answer. So, indeed, the search for a modern version of the deity, or deities, is incomplete. So, at first sight, it looks as if we couldn’t anchor ethics upwards.

But ethics can certainly be anchored downwards, as we are chained by the long anchor of billions of years of evolution. Indeed…

“Living according to Nature” faces the problem that, on Earth, “Nature” is life. Indeed, although “Natural”, “Nature” is an art onto itself: what is more artificial than life?

Life evolved, as it is, in part from chance and necessity, and other factors science is barely scratching at as we speak (see the mighty struggles of Quantum Computer engineers, mathematicians and physicists, to get a glimpse of the possibilities q-bits are starting to offer).

So life is an anchor for ethics, but it seems an arbitrary one. If two themes dominate it, they seem to be collaboration and predation. Yes, good and evil, light and dark. One can fairly assume that so it is throughout the galaxies. (And let the vegans recoil in horror, as we reveal to their uncouth selves that the animal most feared by African children when walking around is the elephant, a most clever herbivore…)

If life means mayhem, what is the wise to do? Well, precisely, a discourse, wisdom. And wisdom is central to life: wisdom is basically intelligence, and life is intelligence. (I maintain here a distinction between consciousness, and intelligence!)

Thus, indeed, one should follow reason, as reason (however happenstance it may seem sometimes) is the skeleton of life. (interestingly, the Gospel of John starts by saying “God” is the “Logos”, that is, Reason, a thesis obviously planted to seduce Neo-Platonists and Stoicists (because Bible-God doesn’t seem very rational most of the time). But may be the author of the idea God = Logos really believe it; certainly many did, then…)

Building character according to reason does not mean just controlling reason, but the emotions, and the circumstances giving rise to the emotions. For example, it means inspecting, controlling, even rejecting, the emotional circumstances which mold most people’s minds, while encouraging others (for example don’t expose children to team sports on TV, but expose them to “Nature”).

Ethics, according to “Nature” encompasses much more than what moderns value as “moral” (most ancient religions had human sacrifices; Carthage found ethical to crucify poorly performing generals, while Athens and 18C Britain executed admirals for the same reason).

Thus an ethical system embracing “Nature” will come to embrace much that is considered “immoral” today (therein Seneca’s amazing moral limberness).

An ethics embracing “Nature” is not just correct, it’s eminently practical. Experts consider that the risk of nuclear weapon conflict is the highest ever, and the world’s ethical system is not ready for this. It is actually because it’s not ready for this, that we got into the present predicament.

Embracing “Nature” ethically shows that no quarters shall be given by the hand of fate: “Nature” is an indifferent master. Nuclear Armageddon could kill seven billions, and “Nature” would breathe a sigh of relief. “Nature” is realistic, our masters, too, as they secretly plot our demise, consciously or not, hubristically or not…

We humans are the top predator, to the point of preying onto ourselves (something bears do). A fact & a warning. I disagree with defining as “Stoicism” as the full embrace of reason, human or otherwise, whatever “human” means.

Why? A stoic attitude, and by “stoic” I mean “stoic” in the usual sense, is, all too often, the only reasonable attitude to adopt. However, sometimes, absolute rage and fury, for example, is more appropriate. It’s so very true, many advanced species have these behaviors as completely natural outcomes (“instincts”). Including, of course, humans, and nobody does this rage and fury trick better than humans (something conventional humanism has neglected, to its eternal shame and impotence. That’s how Neanderthals extinguished Cave Bears, and Native Americans kept at bay, and destroyed the formidable galloping giant carnivorous bear, Arctodus.  

Yes, “human” may just be a qualificative for the survival of the fittest. Those at the receiving end will embrace Stoicism as the Romans of the Republic did, but they embraced much more: reason, with its full metal jacket, passion, with all the love and cruelty it implied, and fitness as certified by survival.

When Rome went down, and down, and down, plunging into the abyss of ever more functionality, the upper classes had rejected stoicism, and embraced luxury and corruption instead: Seneca, a multi-billionaire from influence trafficking alone, or even Cicero are examples of this (Cicero bought a mansion in Rome worth 100 million 2017 dollars). Yet Stoicism took ever more importance in Roman society, below the elite, as most of the Roman People had  to submit to emperors and their infernal cortege and of plutocrats.

Stoicism was the behavioral trap the best of the SPQR, Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, fell into. Sometimes one needs a revolution, and it better be violent.

Patrice Ayme’

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WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses

September 27, 2017

Seneca was one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. He talked wisdom as haughtily as Hitler talked about protecting minorities and correcting injustice. It’s one of the shortcoming of philosophy as usually taught to being unable to see, and explain what a creep Seneca was. Verily, once we can explain the horror therein Seneca, the horror therein Hitler, and the like, starts to make sense.

Seneca, looking as disheveled as his ignominy made him. Arguably one of the worst thinkers in history, still, much admired. Especially by Christians, of course. Here are extracts: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”
“Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”

***

Stoics we all are,

We, the humble animals of planet Earth,

Nature is our yoke.

Stoic,

We all have to be,

Just because we go through life

Much has to be endured and suffered

And we all find out,

Babe or old, crippled or splendid,

Human or beast,

There is only so much we can complain about and aloud

Unending tears do not bring a ploy, or a joy

Neither is too much sorrow a buoy, or a toy.

We need humor, so we all have it.

We need joy, so we all find it.

Thus what is it Seneca insisted so much on?

What are we supposed to do with this bloody multibillionaire’s

Mellifluous advice?

Why so loud, Seneca, you old criminal?

Your artful trade?

To hide your crimes, and those of your master.

And what of that other “stoic”,

Marcus, ruler of the world?

What do they teach those,

All of us,

Trudging in that valley of tears we call life?

That words of the haughty do not have to match their lives,

That we shouldn’t complain too much,

When we live in the times when only few rule?

Why? Can’t we talk to our heart’s content?

Not when infamy is in power, sure we don’t,

It’s clear that when Nero is the boss,

Not complaining enough is all the truth worth having.

Any alternative hypothesis means death.

When Marcus couldn’t pay for the army,

As the plutocrats kept all the wealth,

Not complaining, even for an emperor,

Was all the truth worth having:

Even for an emperor,

Complaint invited assassination from the other few,

Who also ruled,

And they were not joking.

So yes, stoics lack a sense of humor,

Telling us to follow nature,

When they do the opposite.

We have seen it all before,

Preaching the exact opposite of one’s true nature,

A basic trick of the vicious,

In all points similar,

To the dots of light and dark,

Adorning a forest cat’s coat.

We have seen it,

When racists accuse their victims of racism,

To better drown them in gore.

Stoicism, as philosophy,

And the closely related Buddhism,

Preaching common sense,

Supposedly,

While insisting to divest from all the senses,

And the emotions they relate to,

Starting with anger and indignation,

And figuring out infamy,

Until it makes sense,

A preaching to accept the unacceptable,

We may as well start with killing humor,

The poison of power, when it’s concentrated in a few hands.

Stoicism may be what’s left to good men,

When resistance to infamy is futile,

When weakness is erected as a virtue,

Thus drenching sorrow with the dubious pleasure,

Of the deepest anesthesia of most passions, and senses,

Conveniently, and comfortably, forgetting,

Passion is to reflection,

What looking is to sight.

If you want to think well,

Start with emoting well,

And emoting well,

Even earlier than breathing well,

Emoting right precedes all,

And die with us,

Never killed,

And only mitigated by the powers of reason.

So meditate, you the Apostles of Stoicism:

You are teaching the air we all breathe.

***

Technical Background On Stoicism:

Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. Zeno taught from his front porch (“stoikos” in Greek).

At the time, Athens was officially and effectively a plutocratic dictatorship owned by fascist Macedonia. Thinkers had to be stoic, or they would die like Demosthenes and other philosophers assassinated or suicided when the Macedonians took over. The Stoics taught that emotions resulted in errors of judgment which were destructive, due to the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.

This is obviously idiotic, because, for at least five million years, our direct ancestors have deliberately imposed their will on nature, with the conscious goal to make nature serve us. Moreover, for several billion years, life has done the same with the entire planet, however seemingly unconsciously (depending upon what conscience really is, as our friend the Quantum physicist would point out).  Nature is the nature of life, and, in this context, life, we don’t even know what’s natural and what’s not.

Stoics flaunted their philosophy as a way of life (lex divina, they humbly said), and they claimed that an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of nature, since everything was rooted in nature.

But of course, this is silly, as it ignores the nonlinear nature of human nature… which happens to be the greatest influence on nature. Humanity is grounded in nature, and the nature of humanity is to go beyond all and any limit, that’s how and why we evolved.

Stoicism blossomed in antiquity, while and because tyranny and oligarchy blossomed. Stoicism was not just a symptom, but an engine of the decay of civilization. As Seneca and Marcus Aurelius were. Seneca defended Nero’s assassination of his mother in front of the Senate (extending Nero’s rule for years; much later, after Seneca’s assassination by suicide, the Senate would finally order Nero’s execution; so Seneca’s backing up of Nero had a huge influence on history; it keeps on having one now, as nobody has bothered to enquire seriously on how such humongous creeps can become Masters of the Universe!).

Marcus persecuted Christians for no good reason, making sure Christianism would only get worse, as it did. But Marcus steered away from what was truly needed to save civilization, terrorizing plutocrats.

Here is Marcus: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” (Retort of mine: In particular you don’t need democracy, or even a Republic).

Here is Marcus again, pain is all about you not thinking right: “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” (In particular, I would observe, if the Christians Marcus burned alive suffered, that’s just because they didn’t think right, proving it was tight, indeed, to burn them…)

When not lost in hypocritical obscenities, stoic philosophers are good at truisms everybody always agreed with (so did Hitler, explaining why Hitler, Seneca, and Marcus were incredibly appreciated by those who can’t see much further than the most trivial evidence…) However, deriving higher wisdom is not something everybody agrees with, when it happens.

Fascism gave birth to Stoicism, a case of a madness and exploitation creating the own mental environment it needed.
How do we know this?

One can look at the dates: Stoicism was created and taught 35 years after the fascist plutocracy was imposed on Athens.
More generally, fascism advocates a shrinking of (free) thinking, and that’s best implemented by a shrinking of the emotions (viewed as noble).

Christianity went further in all this intellectual fascism, as only thoughts validated by the fascist god were allowed. Conclusion? Books were destroyed, libraries burned, intellectuals terrorized, chased down, and assassinated. Civilization collapsed. In great part because of the infamy and corruption all too much of a stoic attitude enabled to thrive, unimpeached.

Voltaire recommended to “crush infamy”. We can’t crush what we learn to live with, as the Stoics advised to do.

Patrice Ayme’

p/S: The essay above was inspired by “Do The Stoics Lack A Sense Of Humor“, by Massimo Piglliucci, and the comments I sent there (the comment was not published, perhaps because would-be Stoics also lack a sense of humor!)

Enraged Stoics

March 5, 2016

MARCUS AURELIUS, REVEALED FOR WHAT HE WAS, HIS ENRAGED “STOICS”, and related context.

[One of my readers told me to remove a more offensive title which depicted better how I felt about Marcus Aurelius and his clueless critters. Otherwise she won’t read the essay!] Yes, I know, it is curious that people who call themselves “stoic” would actually be enraged. Yet, they are. How they were led to rage, under the guidance of your truly, is instructive, and reveals much on human nature. Basically, I revealed them the truth, knowing full well, they would explode (that makes little different from Daech, aka ISIL).

And, yes, I know, Marcus Aurelius is one of the most adulated celebrities, viewed as a top intellectual, a great stoic philosopher, a towering right of life and death emperor, etc. However, my word is stronger than his sword, the true philosopher knows.

There is nothing which enrage liars more than the truth, to all revealed.  By revealing to them the truth, namely that one who, to this day, is one of their greatest leaders, is a piece of mental trash, who led humanity astray, I brought them to the abyss, where, lemming like, they jumped passionately.

Rage permeates the human condition, and reveals its nature. It’s a failing of traditional humanism that it has not yet enlighten the causes of why this happens.

Emperor Antoninus Pius Ruled For Twenty-Two And A Half Years. Pius, A Stoic, Was The Immediate Predecessor of Marcus Aurelius. Yet, A Truly Wise Leader, Following Republican Tradition, He Nominated None Of His Numerous Male Descendants Successor-Designate (“Caesar”)

Emperor Antoninus Pius Ruled For Twenty-Two And A Half Years. Pius, A Stoic, Was The Immediate Predecessor of Marcus Aurelius. Yet, A Truly Wise Leader, Following Republican Tradition, He Nominated None Of His Numerous Male Descendants Successor-Designate (“Caesar”)

Just as the Buddhists had Buddha, the Xns love Jesus, the Muslims venerate Muhammad, the Stoics are overwhelmingly psychologically dependent upon Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, and their hero. Today I will demonstrate further why Aurelius was garbage. (Do I look enraged myself? Not really, but against Nazi-like cultish methods, only the strongest answers are appropriate. The case against Aurelius may be more serious than the case against all the monarchs of the Middle Ages, as second only perhaps to Aristotle, he generated them all. As I will show below.)

Stoics, in their admirative folly, tell a lot of (traditional) lies about Marcus Aurelius. That these lies are traditional does not excuse them, or transmogrify them into the truth. Confronted to the details making blatant that those lies, however much repeated on the Internet, are lies, would-be stoics use the traditional methods deriving from what I call “intellectual fascism”. (At least that’s coherent, as Marcus Aurelius described, one could say, invented, and sang the praises of that mental method I call “Intellectual fascism”.)

I have attracted the anger of bankers, Muslims, Christians, American fanatics, and many other critters such as “Antisemites”. Unfortunately, apparently overwhelmed by a mountain of evidence and scholarship, bankers and Muslims have become exceedingly quiet.

***

The Fascist Instinct:

The ancestors of human beings for many million of years were primates pretty much exposed, far from a thick tree cover. The survival of the genus depended upon adopting with gusto the  following behavior: when confronted to danger the whole group gathering together behind a leader, and acting as one. We will call that the “fascist instinct”.

(This depends upon a piece of mathematics observed in the wild: when two groups of predators fight, the side with the greatest total mass generally wins; by acting as one, a human group could overwhelm any predator; predators cannot afford injuries, so they avoid any potential prey potentially all too injurious.)

We do not know how a behavior, necessary for survival, becomes “hard wired”. (I have just argued against simplistic ways of doing so.) However, I think the “fascist instinct” (for want of a better phrase) is “hardwired”, whatever “hardwire” means.

I also think that the next big progress in humanities will consist in admitting that various “hardwired” traits of the human genus are actually demonic. So, instead of denying that they are there, we should recognize, own, manage, mitigate, domesticate, and civilize them.

Intellectual fascism is such a trait. Celebritism, the cult of celebrities is an aspect of it. It brings forth the confusion between knowledge and hero-worship. For example the discovery of gravitational waves was attributed to “Einstein”, a content-empty concept. In truth, gravitational waves should be attributed to field theory: any moving field source generates an energy wave radiating outwards (that can then be explained further; ironically, Einstein vacillated on the waves, for years, so he had not understood how simple they were).

***

Roman Emperors Were Generally Nominated by The Senate or Adopted By Their Predecessor:

An example is Tiberius, top general in the Roman empire, adopted son of Augustus. After Augustus died, Tiberius retired in the country and waited many weeks, until the Senate begged him to become Princeps (Tiberius was de facto already head of all Roman legions, thus imperator, from his long top military command).

Marcus Aurelius was the first emperor with a son. That’s completely false. For example Tiberius, the second emperor, had two full grown sons. Both followed the cursus honorum, and became famous generals: Germanicus reconquered the part of Germany lost by Arminius’ treachery, and in particular the locale where three legions had been lost in an ambush.

What was new, is that Marcus Aurelius used a logic that brought him to make his son a “Caesar” at age five. It is not that Marcus did not know right from wrong. He did. And what he did was obviously wrong. But, somehow, Marcus found a psychopathic LOGIC to justify his perverse action.

It was psychopathic logic, because it explicitly contradicted the explicit wisdom to choose the next emperor very carefully, if possible among the most meritorious youth after they received the best education (as Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus had been selected, and educated by the famous Grammaticus Fronto).

***

Even With An Imperator Cum Princeps, Rome Viewed Itself As A Republic;

Indeed, the truth has been in plain sight, so many can’t see it:  Why? One has to know first this striking fact: until after Diocletian’s rule, around 300 CE, the Roman Imperium was actually a Republic.

Historians have come to use the word “Principate” to qualify Rome until 300 CE. Because the Imperator was also “Princeps”, the first man in the Senate. Right now in the USA, the Vice-President is first man in the Senate: as President of the Senate, the vice president has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College. The distinction between “president” and “prince” is that between “sits first” (president) and “takes first” (princeps/prince).

The Republic was supposedly going on, and “imperator”, supreme military command on a set of legions, was a military title from centuries of Republic. There were cases, during the Republic, when imperators saluted each other, with the “imperator” title.

***

A Professional Philosopher Makes A Correction:

“Patrice,

once more, your statements are incorrect. It isn’t that Marcus was the first emperor to have a son reach adulthood, but he was the first emperor of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty dynasty who had that opportunity.

And one more time: drop talk of fascism and psychopathy, it is adding nothing to the discussion.”

Well, dear Massimo, if you want to dine with the devil, you will need a longer spoon. I replied this:

During the Nerva-Antonine dynasty, an important qualification to become emperor was to be a stoic.

Emperor Hadrian adopted in 136 CE one of the ordinary consuls of that year, Lucius Ceionius Commodus, who took the name Lucius Aelius CAESAR. Lucius did not look the most qualified, and historians suggested he was Hadrian’s natural son. After another successful consulship in 138 CE, Lucius died (of natural causes).

Emperor Antoninus Pius, predecessor of Marcus Aurelius, had two natural, recognized sons: Marcus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Marcus Galerius Aurelius Antoninus. However, the emperor Antoninus Pius did not name them Caesars during their childhood or adolescence. That would have been… unwise.

Antoninus’ two sons died young without issue. However, their sister Faustina the Younger had thirteen children, and their descendants are attested in the Fifth Century. As Antoninus had the longest reign since Augustus, he could have named a direct descendant Caesar (as Marcus would do). Antoninus was a stoic.

Marcus Aurelius differed from his numerous imperial predecessors in two ways: he did not adopt a qualified, adult heir. He also nominated a very small child as heir (a royal habit which would reappear in the Fifth Century, and thereafter through the Middle Ages).

This is not a full case against Marcus Aurelius. His attitude against Christians was also a disaster.

***

If You Want Civilization To Survive, Reject Celebritism, Intellectual Fascism, etc., & Embrace Direct Democracy:

Marcus Aurelius sank the Roman Empire, just as surely as the Captain of the Titanic sank the Titanic. His designation of the baby Commodus as Caesar, heir-designate, at the grand old age of five, tells us he was no wise man. However much he repeated like a parrot in Greek what Greek philosophers had said before. Thus he covered his tracks for 19 centuries, but as Donald Trump would point out, here I am, to say the obvious.

The rage of the professed ‘stoics’, confronted to my naked truths with whom I crush them, tells volume. First it says that Stoicism falls short. Half of humanity lives in East Asia, and should not scoff too fast. East Asia is permeated with Buddhism and its variants and fellow travellers (Confucianism). One can viewed all these as forms of stoicism. Or, more exactly, forms of stoicism a la Marcus Aurelius. (It’s not that Aurelius influenced them directly; it’s more that to the same problems, the same solutions.

Marcus Aurelius, as world dictator, devised a system of mind compatible with his elevated role as fascist-in-chief. Many a ruler in East Asia, and their obsequious servants, such as Confucius, were drawn to the same broad conclusions.

Thus (much of) Stoicism-Buddhism-Confucianism can be viewed as an overall mentality (there are variants of the three of them which differ wildly.

As long as We The People do not admit that individuals are prone to failure and demonicity, always, we will not progress to the sort of perfection we now need for survival as a genus of mind.

That packs of stoics can exhibit the ugly side of man, reminiscent of an angry pack of hyenas, is no wonder. When a pack of hyenas of roughly equivalent mass confront a pack of lions, they attack. However confronted to one of a few humans, they flee. Why? Even hyenas know that humans are the worst of the worst, in some most important ways. And that’s why stoics love Marcus Aurelius: because he was the worst of the worst, under Stoic guise, he was ready to lead them, straight into the Middle Ages, and its hereditary absolute power, from father to new-born babe.

Marcus Aurelius, the first hereditary king? Yes. A philosopher? No.

Patrice Ayme’

Marcus Aurelius, INTELLECTUAL FASCIST: Why Rome Fell

February 16, 2016

Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (“Marcus Aurelius”) is generally revered as emperor and philosopher. Both attitudes are grievously erroneous, and have a bearing to what very serious people have considered, ever since, as the highest wisdom to be embraced. I will presently roll out some (new) reasons why this is so wrong.

What endangered the Roman State? The question has been considered since the Third Century’s turmoil, the time of the “Barrack Emperors”. In 360 CE emperor Julian explained why Christianism was bringing Romanitas down. Christians worshipped a secondary and “evil God” (and that the Serpent, bringing knowledge, was “good”!). Julian removed Christianism’s extravagant privileges (such as the right to execute heretics). However, Julian ruled only three years as Augustus. Immediately thereafter, the Christians came back with great vengeance, burning libraries to the ground.

Inventor Of Intellectual Fascism Catches Flies With Philosophical Honey

Inventor Of Intellectual Fascism Catches Flies With Philosophical Honey

The thesis that Christianism nearly destroyed civilization is obviously true, and was supported in detail by Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of Rome (eighteenth century). However, it’s not the whole story. In truth, it’s plutocracy which brought Rome down, through a succession of ever more dreadful instruments to insure its reign. Christianism was only plutocracy’s latest weapon of civilizational destruction. Political and intellectual fascisms had arrived centuries earlier, rabid theocracy was only a twist therefrom.

Marcus Aurelius, emperor from 161 to 180 was the last of theFive Good Emperors” (his abominable son succeeded Marcus at the grand old age of nineteen). Marcus is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. Generally revered, he will be condemned here as a stealthy, sneaky, subterraneous yet explicit proponent of INTELLECTUAL FASCISM. Marcus’ elevation of Intellectual Fascism to a virtue explains a lot of things, from the “Fall of Rome” to the present sorry state of world governance.

I agree that this is shocking, and all the little ones will run for cover, squealing: Marcus Aurelius has a saintly, superficially justified reputation (and that, per se, is revealing: Marcus is a bit to philosophy what Einstein is to physics: a naked emperor whom the commons imagine fully dressed; critters prefer to have 140 characters anchored by a few celebrities they adore, like simple baboons adore the alpha females and males).

Even more shocking, Stoicism is supposed to be the behavior one adopts when a victim of fascism. Thus Stoicism is a behavior one would not expect from a proponent of fascism…. Until one realizes that, precisely, stoicism is, par excellence, the behavior in the masses which makes fascism possible. So Marcus fed what made him possible.

So let me severely criticize, as deserved, the following passage of Marcus Aurelius kindly provided by Massimo Pigliucci:

There are four principal aberrations of the superior faculty against which you should be constantly on your guard, and when you have detected them, you should wipe them out and say on each occasion thus: this thought is not necessary; this tends to destroy social union; this which you are going to say comes not from the real thoughts — for you should consider it among the most absurd of things for a man not to speak from his real thoughts. But the fourth is when you shall reproach yourself for anything, for this is an evidence of the diviner part within you being overpowered and yielding to the less honorable and to the perishable part, the body, and to its gross pleasures. (Meditations XI.19)”

[I don’t understand Marcus’ last sentence, he seems to take himself for god, but that’s besides the points I will make, so I will ignore this obscure sentence. I will address the two “principal aberrations” accented above. They define what wrecked the Roman State, what will wreck any state, and any civilization: intellectual fascism in its purest form for the first one, and even explicit political fascismo for the second.]

This thought is not necessary.” Says Marcus Aurelius. The emperor calls the apparition of ‘unnecessary thought’ one of the “four principal aberrations”. Sorry, Your Highness. When is a thought not necessary? When it’s not necessary to Your Excellency? And if a thought is necessary, what is it necessary for? Necessary to worship you and your kind, such as your five year old son, Commodus, whom you made a Caesar then, such a genius he was? No Roman emperor had been that grotesque, prior to you. Is that a non-necessary thought?

Is a thought then necessary when it embraces the desire of been guided by only a few thoughts reigning over the entire mind, just as Marcus Aurelius reigned over all men? In other words, is a thought necessary, and only then, when it embraces intellectual fascism? Or is that the big “stoic” philosopher thinks like the general of an army (something he was)..

Another of the Marcus’ “four principal aberrations” is lying… or more exactly “you should consider it among the most absurd of things for a man not to speak from his real thoughts”. In other words, the idea of “bad faith”. To trash and condemn Bad Faith is good. Many philosophers have done it, all the way up to Sartre. But then notice that Marcus Aurelius puts ‘unnecessary thoughts’ in the same category as “Bad Faith”.

Marcus also frowns on as a ‘principal aberration’: Any “thought [which] destroys social union”. Thus “social union” is part of the leading intellectual principles which should rule on the realm of ideas, just as Marcus Aurelius rules on men.

Now, any mental progress will disrupt brains, thus the “social union”. A society which knows “social union” and no revolution is condemned to stagnate mentality until the situation becomes uncontrollable. And this is exactly what happened to Rome the day Marcus died and his teenage son succeeded to him. A spectacular fall, driven by his son Commodus’ fateful decisions, in a matter of days, from which the Roman State never recovered.

Marcus Aurelius had decided that embracing intellectual fascism was the highest behavior, and imposed for more than two decades on 25% of humanity. I would suggest removing that element, that drive to mental shrinkage, from modern stoicism.

Those who know the history of the period with enough detail will not be surprised by my scathing critique. Instead they will realize that this was the missing piece to the logic of the disaster which befell civilization.

Indeed, immediately after Marcus Aurelius’ death Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (“Commodus”), at the grand old age of 19, inverted all his father’s decisions (after saying he won’t).

Where did Commodus’ madness come from? Commodus, had been named “Caesar” at age 5… by his father, the great stoic parrot. How wise is that? It would feed megalomania, and indeed, Commodus was much more megalomaniac than the present leader of North Korea.

Commodus was accused of being a megalomaniac, in his lifetime. Commodus renamed Rome Colonia Commodiana, the “Colony of Commodus”. He renamed the months of the year after titles held in his honour, namely, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius, Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, and Pius. Commodus renamed the Roman Senate the Commodian Fortunate Senate, and the Roman people were given the name Commodianus.

Cassius Dio, a senator and historian who lived during the reign of both Commodus and his father wrote that, with the accession of Commodus, “our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day.” Soon, it would descend even lower, in part because Marcus’ poisonous ideas would be revered so much.

It is probable that Marcus Aurelius was assassinated by his 19 year old son (officially Marcus died suddenly of the “plague”; but sophisticated poisons were well known, and had been used before in imperial affairs: Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, did not realize, for more than 15 years, that his two own adult sons, both of the most famous generals, had been poisoned to death by Rome’s prefect Sejanus: that was revealed after Sejanus tried a coup, and his accomplices talked). Commodus would kill his own sister shortly after his accession (she had opposed him).

In a way, Marcus’ assassination was well deserved. His superficially noble, but deeply despicable stoicism, and his brazen advocacy of political and intellectual fascism enabled Roman plutocracy to own the entire empire as if it were its own colony.

Whereas imperator Trajan had brought up taxes on the wealthiest to make education free for poor children, Marcus Aurelius went the other way: he did not have enough money to pay the army, when savage German tribes were trying to cut the empire, civilization, in two.

Some may sneer that I am condemning Marcus Aurelius for an unfortunate passage or two. Not so. Marcus’ entire work, both in philosophy, and as imperator, is an extension of his fundamental view that thinking should be restricted to what was useful. As if one could know in advance what thinking will be useful for. In his context, to boot, what Marcus meant by “useful” was what was useful to him, the one who proffered the thought.

Thought reduced to what was useful to just One, the One? How much more stupid and immoral can one be?

Nowadays, we face the fast rise of colossal inequalities which foster impoverishment, be it material, intellectual, or even cognitive. We have to realize that some of the apparently wisest, most respected and ancient philosophy is fully compatible with, and an engine of, this lamentable development.

Philosophy, poorly done, is the ultimate propaganda for the demise of the many by the self-chosen few.

Patrice Ayme’

Stoic Me Up!

February 10, 2016
Intelligence Without Patience is Just Somebody's Else Dinner

Intelligence Without Passion is Just Somebody’s Else Dinner

Plato observed that Socrates became so wise, probably because he had tried everything else before. Did he? The inventor of Cynicism, a bit later, went further by claiming there was a lot to learn from dogs, or, by viewing man as a dog. That sat well with Alexander the Great (the creator of cynicism and the creator of much mayhem met), as the latter wanted to show how philosophical he was.

Cynicism, in turn had an offspring, Stoicism. Astounding times: thinkers who knew each other, gave rise to great current of thought (it all broke down with the rule of Macedonian plutocracy, and its heirs, the “Hellenistic Kingdoms”). Stoicism, in turn appearing more than three centuries before Christianism, bequeathed a lot to that faith. In general philosophy, in the most general sense, a discourse, the logos, was made into one of the aspects of the Christian god (so Christianism did not subdue philosophy in a frontal assault, but used a sneaky method).

Massimo Pigliucci, a Roman-New-York biology cum philosophy tenured professor at CUNY runs a site “How To Be A Stoic”, and his latest was “Stoic spiritual exercises: I, from the Enchiridion”. I approve of all the suggestions made 23 centuries ago by the Stoics (and of the comments of Massimo). However I am a baboonist rather than just a cynic. Namely I think all we can learn from dogs, we can learn even better from baboons, and many things baboons do, dogs don’t have the brains for. Thus, in turn, I have higher requirements for Stoicism (as my Stoicism grew from Cynocephalism, rather than simple Cynicism, as original Stoicism did; the Latin name for baboons is “Cynocephalus”, dog-head).

Further SUGGESTIONS FOR UPDATED STOICISM:

[Some may argue that my view of Stoicism is far removed from the texts we have; but we have little of the original Greek texts; instead we have Roman texts focused on Ethics, written 4 to 5 centuries afterwards. Moreover, I view Socrates as (too much of) a Stoic (although he lived a century before the invention of official Stoicism. So, observing official Stoicism is poorly defined, what I generalize philosophically as “Stoicism” arises also from the common meaning of the word “Stoic”. Although I make a scathing critique of Roman Stoicism, I have no reservation against the original Stoics… But for their naivety.]

Original Stoics viewed the life full of “virtue” as the only free life. However, what they view as “virtuous”: was not necessarily so (as the top Stoic philosophers Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, who were both intimately involved with the Roman empire’s dirtiest business demonstrated magistrally, albeit very unwittingly!)

The original Stoics were naive, indeed. Although they understood the importance of practice, they did not understand that passion leads to practice. Only enough passion leads to enough practice.

This is precisely where Marcus Aurelius failed in the education of his imperial son, and thus led the empire to ruin: Marcus gave his son Commodus the empire, instead of giving him the passion for life, ambition, hunger, and thus smarts. By giving his son everything, Marcus removed from his son all passion. But man needs passion to think. So Commodus searched passion somewhere more outrageous. As Commodus had everything, Commodus assassinated everything, from the dignity of the imperial position, to the empire, to his sister, and others close to him. Because that was not passionate enough yet, emperor Commodus joined the gladiators in the circus.

It was all the fault of the naive view Marcus Aurelius had, that acting according to a simplistic view of “virtue” was enough of a virtue. As If “virtue” were easy to define.

OK, let’s cut off the chase, and do some real philosophy:

If one wants to climb a wall, it’s not enough to know where to put the foot. One has to do it just so, pushing into the rock to hold it there, but not so much that it does not provide support against gravity. How does one do this proficiently? Through practice. Plenty of practice. Practice is not just something which happens according to happenstance. One cannot wait for happenstance “stoically”. It’s something one looks for.

One may view the Will to Stoicism a Will to the Mastery of Moods, to optimize… To optimize what? Avoiding to be distraught? Avoiding others to be distraught? Or is it to optimize personal, or general happiness according to some measure? Which measure? And what if one is driven by various shades of sadomasochism?

Don’t laugh about sadomasochism: it’s found in any serious effort the capability for which has been honed by evolution, such as the hunt, or Sisyphus-like activities. A bit of masochism helps for the more dubious pleasure of the chase, or any serious struggle. Thus giving and receiving pain, breathing pain in and out, is ubiquitous in the depths of human ethology. This makes “goodness as minimizing evil” a rather complex, even baffling proposition, as it implies handling psychological, even physiological metastructures.

For example, Rome would have been better served, if Marcus Aurelius had treated his biological son, Commodus, with enough appropriate passion, that means, in this case, enough severity.

So there will be various notions of stoicism, according to what it is one tries to minimize, or maximize. (Or both: in advanced mathematical calculus, there is a method known as mini-max.)

In any case, the question remains: how does one train one’s moods actively (instead of waiting passively for the world to happen)? First one has to ponder: how do moods originate? They do not originate from the digital logic alone (the type of logic found in books on logic, the type one can put in a discourse).

There is another logic, as Blaise Pascal pointed out: “The heart has his reasons that reason does not have”. Well, so does the amygdala. The amygdala has its reasons that reason does not have.

The brain is full of sub-organs generating their own moods. Pascal did not know about the role the amygdala in fear (hence being distraught, among other things; distress was a passion the Stoics viewed as below them, erroneously enough!). And so it is all around the brain: diverse subsystems in the brain have their own reasons. And then, overall, fifty neurohormonal systems or so, can tweak parts of the brain, or the entire mind, this way, or that (pointing then in more than 50 dimensions, among other possibilities).

From this incredibly complex machinery, moods originate. Think of the solo climber, 10,000 feet above a glacier, standing on a square centimeter planted in brittle ice. Pure mastery of moods and logic, otherwise the climber’s life is over after 15 seconds of ultimate pain and terror.

Such a mastery is the fruit of years of training in logic and moods.

How does one acquire such mastery? Through passion. Training driven by passion, again and again and again. Training for solo climbing in the Himalayas, the Italian climber Reinhold Messner would run uphill for hours in heavy mountain boots. He concluded that training the mind was not enough, but he had to train his liver and kidneys (a conclusion Nietzsche would have agreed with, as he pointed out the importance of the gut, in his own solo climbs in Upper Engadin, nearby; yes, I climbed the same mountain).

Thus training for stoicism in full will imply the gymnastic of passion. It’s not enough not to get angry. One has to find oneself in situation where one should get angry, and then optimize, just as the climber’s mind learns by the practice of climbing.

“Discovering” in oneself self-restraint, self-control, and endurance is not enough. One has to train. Train under conditions one has chosen deliberately to learn to become much tougher. Staying calm under ultimate pressure is ultimate stoicism, and it is the attraction of extreme sports. Extreme sports are rendered possible, and acquire meaning, as research in ultimate stoicism (Messner drew a similar conclusion about his own life: it was a research into what a human could do).

If you want to think properly, think in full. If someone thinks in haste, don’t say they think badly, but in haste, and that thinking in haste is often bad.

And if you want to think properly, address in full why is it that you feel the way you do. Don’t just keep the feeling in check, analyze it. Ideas are great, but they live in the universe of moods. Passions educate the latter, and those in turn come from engaging the universe in full. Stoicism has to be understood dynamically. In particular, as a passionate engagement with the world, because only then is dynamics as fulfilling as it can be.

Patrice Ayme’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’

Non-Linear Us

October 22, 2015

Nature is not nature, ever since there are humans, and they think. Earth has been terraformed, made into a garden, a human garden, in the last few million years. By ours truly.

Neanderthals started to used coal (lignite), 80,000 years ago.They also domesticated (that is, modified) European wolves, and invested in real estate, by exterminating Cave Bears.

Thus, following “nature” is a non-linear activity, as, by following nature, we also follow the new nature we deconstructed and rebuilt, that is, we follow ourselves.

Linearity Is The Penultimate Mathematical Simplification

Linearity Is The Penultimate Mathematical Simplification

The simplest thing is to view all causes as constant. The next simplification is to view them as linear. After that quadratic, cubic, and all powers etc… The exponential, an infinite sum of powers with fast decreasing coefficients, grows as fast, at any point, as its own value. So it’s all over nature.

“Following nature” thus does not just mean hugging trees. It also means dealing with trees the old fashion way: cutting and burning them, to favor plants and animals human beings were involved with (fires in Indonesia are contributing at least one gigaton of carbon to the atmosphere in 2015, making them an appreciable source of CO2). “Following nature” also means using genetic engineering on plants and beasts alike.

Nature has been artificial from even before the rise of civilization. Prehistoric men in Europe already conducted advanced and successful surgeries, from trepanations, to amputations, complete with anesthetics and antibiotics (parts of that knowledge got completely forgotten during the European Middle Ages… to this day!) “Facts” nowadays are all what influences humans, because they, in turn, change nature. Including hopes, systems of mood (“austerity!”, “Islam!”).

The fundamental calculus assigned to (say) Stoics, is the fundamental calculus of humanity. To mostly quote Massimo P’s “New Stoicism, Part IV”:

“physics” (i.e., natural science and metaphysics), “logic” (i.e., logic, epistemology and psychology), and “ethics” (i.e., ethics)… the first two are instrumental to the third one: one cannot decide how to live (the proper domain of ethics) if one doesn’t know how to reason well (logic) and doesn’t also know whatever we can know about the reality of nature (physics). This implies that whenever our understanding of physics changes we need to update our beliefs accordingly, and then examine (via the use of logic) whether and to what extent that also affects our ethics.”

Human evolution discovered, so to speak, this virtuous spiral of understanding and behaving. The species modified itself accordingly, it became that spiral. it is now more energetic than ever.

One cannot read morality straight out of scientific facts, because facts are about the world, and the world is about what we constructed. Thus the calculus of human hope, desire and risk evaluation has to be factored in… And it keeps on changing, the more it reflects on the agitated waters of its darkest soul.

Fundamentally, then, the human species is immensely adaptative (see future Martians): to act, human agents consider human minds, and what their activities wrought (nature). We can call ourselves new names, but our new game is the same as our old game: changing the rules as we see fit, the more we learn, and the more we change nature.

There is no general theory of non-linear mathematics. How could there be? It would be as having a theory of us. Yet we are all about the changes we decide. And how do we decide? This is not an obvious question, it has hounded fundamental physics, ever since the EPR paper of 1935. It is so non-obvious that it is the last loophole to check in the Non-Local aspect of the universe. See the New York Times, October 21, 2015: “Sorry, Einstein. Quantum Study Suggests ‘Spooky Action’ Is Real.”

To quote from there: “the National Science Foundation has financed a group of physicists led by Dr. Kaiser and Alan H. Guth, also at M.I.T., to attempt an experiment that will have a better chance of ensuring the complete independence of the measurement detectors by gathering light from distant objects on different sides of the galaxy next year, and then going a step further by capturing the light from objects known as quasars near the edge of the universe in 2017 and 2018.”

Translation: our presumed influence on the universe is so vast, subtle and pernicious, that quasars apparently receding much faster than the speed of light, are called to the rescue of physicists who want to make sure they reach beyond man, to an unspoiled universe.

We are everywhere we look, at least in our terrestrial neighborhood. Everywhere we reach, human influence has already changed everything. It’s not just about the melting icecaps.

Patrice Ayme’

We Better Be Stoic, Especially On Mars

October 13, 2015

I have to die, and, probably, suffer. If now, well, nothing to do. If not now, then I may as well have lunch, pointed the founder of Stoicism. After lunch, consumed only if it were excellent, or really necessary (thus excellent), I would have fun, make fun, give fun and offer love (a philosopher in New York, Massimo, pointed out this Epicureanism, not Stoicism. Well I claim they are related, see Note to appear soon…)

My integral of love, fun and games better be greater than my unavoidable integral of pain and suffering.

“In the Martian”, the stranded astronaut is turning as much as he can, into a joke, or turning to good humor. This is not just because he is a happy fellow. It’s because he is also an engineer, absolutely obsessed by “science the shit out of this“. Cheerfulness moves him into action, it’s the engine which gets its engineering spirits in gear. Cheerfulness as the engine of humanity is an everyday lesson. Action, by opposition to depression, requires to celebrate the animal spirits. Should we never celebrate animal spirits, what’s good being an animal? Moreover, never letting the animal spirits roar is contrary to the owner’s manual (as many writers and philosophers have pointed out, including Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Abelard, Sade, Nietzsche, Foucault…).

Stranded On A Spaceship. Some May Not Feel Like It, However, Such Is Humanity's Condition

Stranded On A Spaceship. Some May Not Feel Like It, However, Such Is Humanity’s Condition

I remember once sneaking onto a mountain antelope. It was too busy having fun, it did not see me. Antelopes are not supposed to have fun. Their lives are supposed to be all about sex, supremacy, fighting for females, flight, survival, grazing, climbing impossible cliffs. To my amazement that chamois had found a suitable snowfield, and would slip on it on its back, as if it were skiing. Then it would rush back up, and repeat. It looked delighted, It’s all the more amazing, because the area is prowled by wolves and lynxes (and I have even seen a wolf hunting a chamois; it missed because I intruded).

Thus fun is not restricted to primates and other advanced animals. All birds and mammals are more or less social, and many probably need to have fun, be it only to operate their brains properly.

I read critics who were mystified by the stranded astronaut’s cheerfulness. How could it be? He is stuck on Mars! His food is going to run out! What about his oxygen?

Well critics ought not have been mystified by the good humor of the astronaut: good humor was the key to his survival. (Or actually to anyone’s survival: a mass injection of good humor in the Middle East would do wonders!)

For the stranded astronaut, it was either a cheerful disposition, or depression, thus death. But not just that: the astronaut is not really alone. He is in a dialogue with posterity, even before he re-establishes contact with NASA. Indeed, he records everything.

That makes the fictional, yet stranded, astronaut just as the best thinkers ever were in the history of humanity. He is happy, because he is not working for himself, but for the ultimate patron, humanity itself. No wonder he is cheerful: by working for the greatest moral “person”, the greatest moral entity, out there. So doing, one gets on our side the only god the existence of whom we can demonstrate. Humanity, or, at least, the Holy, Loving and Cheerful spirit it certainly has to exhibit for nurturing others, and, necessarily, children.

Patrice Ayme’

Against Emotional Shrinkage

December 29, 2014

Is Rejecting The Human Condition Wise? Or Simply Inhuman?

In Against Invulnerability, philosophy professor Todd May has walked some of my way, and I will help him with some of the rest (empathy in action!). Here is Todd, in the New York Times, for “The Stone”, a succession of rather stony essays in philosophy:

“Like many of us, I am often troubled. I am distressed by my failure to be more than I am: a better philosopher, a better family member, a better person. And I know that if I could take a little more distance on the daily goings-on in my world that trouble me, I would probably be better in many if not all of these ways. This knowledge leads me to think of those philosophies that counsel rising above the things that disturb me so that I may arrive at a tranquil state of mind. Philosophies like Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism, and possibly Epicureanism (the ancient philosophy, not its modern association with pleasures of the flesh) offer different ways of achieving such a tranquil state, and so they are tempting. I believe, however, that for most of us they are a false if beguiling path.”

Chameleons Are Not Stoic, They Anticipate The World

Chameleons Are Not Stoic, They Anticipate The World

[Chameleons are found in the Namibian desert, not just tropical rain forest; there they have to cover huge distances in search of prey… while avoiding to become dinner, so they change colors just as fast as they run across. The chameleonic way of life is not Buddhist, just begging inertly for crumbs from the rich, dressed in bright orange.]

Let me applaud Todd May. There was some predictable screaming on the Internet from Stoics and Buddhists, claiming for both that they do not shun emotions, but bears them.

However, that’s somewhat besides the point. Indeed, not enough is, in crucial situations, the equivalent of not at all: if a plane tries to fly, and it does not have enough speed, it crashes.

Stoicism and Buddhism, and the sort of Fatalism connected to Christianism (Dieu le veut!) or Islam (Inch Allah) have crashed civilization repeatedly (at some point, before a crash, Buddhism controlled most of India).

Here is more of what the heroic (by academic standards) Todd says:

“Buddhism, at least in its official doctrine, argues that if we abandon our desires by coming to understand the true nature of the cosmos and follow the Noble Eightfold Path, the end of suffering will follow. Stoicism similarly (but distinctly) counsels that we rid ourselves of emotion, and similarly (but again distinctly) offers a path of recognition of our place in the universe to help us get there. I do not wish to claim that either or both of these or related doctrines are mistaken. Instead, I want to say that most of us, when we really reflect upon our lives, would not want what is officially on offer, but instead something else.”

But the author is right on target on his main point, the excellent notion of “invulnerability“:

“In their official guise, these doctrines are examples of what I am going to label “invulnerabilism.” They say that we can, and we should, make ourselves immune to the world’s vicissitudes. What is central to invulnerabilist views is the belief that we can extricate ourselves from the world’s contingencies so that they do not affect us. We are capable of making ourselves immune to the fortunes of our bodies, our thoughts, and our environment, and we will live better or happier or more pure lives if we do so. Whether the task involves the abolition of desire, the elimination of emotion or the recognition of the ultimate oneness of all things, the guiding idea is that we can and ought to make ourselves invulnerable to the world’s vagaries.”

Todd makes implicitly the point that, fundamentally, the invulnerabilists deny the human condition:

“For invulnerabilist views, what matters is only the present. After all, as they argue, the present is all there is, and therefore the only thing we can have an effect upon. Moreover, we can only be assured of having an effect upon ourselves in the present. Our effects upon the world are always uncertain. The task of invulnerabilism, then, is for us to inhabit the present fully and without reserve, letting go of the grip of our past and our desires for the future. Only if we do this can we render ourselves immune to the predations of our psychological tendencies, tendencies tied up with hope, regret, expectation and mourning.

Invulnerabilism recommends that we secrete a distance between ourselves and the world so that ultimately it cannot touch us.”

This is all very true. Its major defect is that it denies what the brain is made for. The brain is made for predicting the future. Even a chameleon’s brain anticipates the future, as it focuses, and prepares its tongue. Stoics, Buddhism and the like, want to have no tongue, and no focus on anticipation. They want to amputate us, please help! Are they why there is so much plutocracy, and nobody is doing anything about it?

As I have argued for years, that, by reducing emotions, one reduces the human condition, and, thus, the very ability to reduce pain. Invulnerabilists are self-defeating. Todd touches upon that:

“Most of us want to feel caught up in the world. We want to feel gripped by what we do and those we care about, involved with them, taken up by them. The price of this involvement is our vulnerability. We must stand prepared to feel the loss of what we care about, because that is part of what it means to care. Caring requires desiring for the sake of others, which in an uncertain world entails that that desiring can be frustrated.”

Stoicism, as defined by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius is centered on trying to achieve emotional detachment from what one cannot change.

Of course the problem is that one finds out what one cannot change from thinking, and thinking arises from emoting. So, if you don’t emote right, or not enough, you won’t think right.

By insisting that acceptance and tranquility are the most important, somehow most noble moods, invulnerability theories shrink the imagination, and mental reach.

Thus making acceptance and tranquility into a religion dwarves the human spirit into a shadow of its former self..

Are we going to accept infamy, too, because we cannot change it?

Marcus Aurelius is exhibit number one. Somehow he decided that he could not change the old way to select an emperor, and it had to be simply the son of himself. Thus he named his own son Commodus on a whole succession of honors by the age of 12, then made that boy a Consul, and finally co-emperor by the age of sixteen (16).

The son was Commodus, one of the most atrocious Roman emperors, and certainly the worst one (he gave up huge chunks of the empire, next to its core).

Marcus Aurelius, and the four emperors before him had been selected on merit. But merit and performance, selecting the best, were apparently antagonistic to Marcus Aurelius’ acceptance and tranquility.

Marcus Aurelius ought to have cracked down on plutocrats who did not pay enough taxes to sustain the army, then engaged in desperate defense. There, again, Marcus opted for acceptance (of infamy) and tranquility.

Stoicism is comfort, but duty is not always comfortable.

Moods and emotions are at the root of thinking. Cancelling the former would cancel the later, and turn us into beasts. That would be counterproductive to the oftentimes loudly advocated aim, reducing human suffering (people behaving like beasts do not live optimal lives in the complicated civilization we have).

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/moods-rule-thoughts/

Trying to reduce pain through invulnerability theories is a bit hypocritical, because one could swallow a great quantity of sleeping pills, or take other drastic measures, to achieve a pain-free coma… Or death, surely an end to suffering in this allegedly terrible world.

So why are these theories arise so popular? Two viewpoints, as usual: those of the masters, and those of the slaves.

A meta question ponders who pushed, and pushes these theories on the masses? The mechanism is obvious: it is easier to domesticate the emotion-deprived, and thus thought-deprived ones, than fully intelligent human beings.

Thus invulnerability theories and religions are actually optimal for great masters who want to have many emotion-less, inhuman little slaves, with reduced intelligence.

That’s why the masters love Buddhism and company. But then why do the small people love this mood which serves to oppress them too?

Acceptance and tranquility should not be the end-all, be-all. Except, of course, for people with frayed nerves living in denial. Or then people who wants to live gloriously.

Anger is crucial to crush infamy. Absolutely excluding anger is absolutely accepting infamy as a matter of principle. Instead one should follow Voltaire’s advice: “Il faut ecraser l’infame!”. One ought to crush infamy.

Some specialists of Asian sociology believe that a lot of the problems in Asia (for example the holocaust in Cambodia) originated with too much tranquility and acceptance for the intolerable.

Obsessively focusing on acceptance and tranquility is self-serving, as it persuades the beholders, and those who look at them, that they are good, elevated people. And yes, it gets hot and passionate, where civilization is progressing. Yes, as with a kitchen, it gets hot there. But those who stay out ought not to get the respect they crave for.

Get angry, expand thinking, crush infamy!

Patrice Ayme’

Logos, Neurology, Stoicism, Christianity, Higher Morality

November 21, 2014

My statement:

“THE LOGOS IS MADE OF ELEMENTS OF BRAIN SIMPLIFIED”

Brought the observation: ”I’m afraid I can’t imagine what this means.” (Massimo from Scientia Salon.) Others have asked for more details. Here they are.

The statement was admittedly abstruse. It is supposed to mean that the Logos as speech is a representation of the Logos as more complex brain processes. (Here the word representation” is used in the mathematical sense, more general version: this is a new example of philosophy using fresh mathematics!)

How does this representative mechanism can be suspected to work? (I already wrote this, but this version has more definition).

Stars Inside. By Varying Myelin, Oligodendrocytes Act As Meta Controllers (2014)

Stars Inside. By Varying Myelin, Oligodendrocytes Act As Meta Controllers (2014)

Suppose we have brain “elements” X, Y, Z (to simplify, say X, Y, Z are neurons, but they could be organs in the brain, like the amygdala, or the geometric structure of some neighborhood in the brain, whatever… yes, here “neighborhood” is used as in General Topology, another mathematical field).

Yes, “brain elements” is an allusion to “elements of reality” as in the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen paper on non-separability in Quantum Mechanics.

Then suppose we have the situation X > Y, and Y > Z.

X>Y means that the brain element X acts on the brain element Y. In the simplest case, “>” are axons. But the first “>” does not have to be of the same nature as the second “>”, which could be, say, some neurohormone or transmitter, such as Nitrous Oxide, or even a burst of oxygen and sugar in an area of the brain, thanks to some gateway neuron.

This innocent sounding remark allows to incorporate all three forms of the Logos defined by Aristotle. Aristotle distinguished the Logos-as-reasoning, from the Logos as Pathos, and the Logos as Ethos.

Pathos implies emotion, sensation… Ethos judgment on these.

The Logos done in my most general way incorporates all these, logic, pathos and ethos, because it allows for emotions: a relation between Y and Z can be through, or about, neurohormones or neurotransmitters.

Logos in that most general X>Y way even includes some forms of interactions we can’t even imagine, such as Quantum Effects… which show up in magnetic field vision in birds, whose simplest explanation is something having to do with spintronics, a type of Quantum Mechanics scientifically elucidated, but not yet incorporated in technological devices.

Then X>Z. Now there will be some meta-structure attached to all these relations between brain elements: I feel that the brain is all about different levels of “meta” piled upon each other. The structure of axons allow for this.

Namely if an axon (say) is active between Y and Z, another neuron, higher up in the meta-structure, can know about it (axons have varying level of myelin along themselves, and could be none; this differentiated activity of oligodendrocytes was observed in 2014).

The “meta” simplification works this way: whereas we started initially with three objects (X, Y, Z) and two relations (X>Y and Y>Z), that can be reduced two just two signals (X>Y and Y>Z) going to say, just one meta neuron.

Thus, aware of all these activations, higher meta neurons can then communicate the whole thing to the Broca or Wernicke speech area will convert all this in a speech.

Then we get something like : x>y & y>z & then x>z, where now “>” is just the verb “implies”, in plain speech, or a hand gesture. Thus a potentially very complex and variegated Brain-Logos activity has been simplified into Speech-Logos as usually interpreted.

WHY & HOW A GOOD TALK CAN SAVE THE WORLD:

Speaking of my preceding essay, and my observation that Christianity had to make the Logos into god, Massimo observed that: “The Stoics were talking about Logos / Nature / God / Zeus well before Christianity.” Indeed, pretty much something the imperial cooks of Christianity had to do . Christianity is a vast salad, artfully mixed with plenty of goodies.

Massimo also said: “The rest of your [essay] is interesting … but I fail to see what it has to do with Stoicism.”

It has to do with the Logos, recognizing its centrality in Stoicism. The best path to stoicism may be to talk calmly about a situation until it goes away. Talk it to death, so to speak.

Any short Logos, say 500 words, will miss many perspectives. But a good new perspective can pick in depth, where no pick has gone before.

Massimo opined that: “there is more value in Zeno and his followers than in Jesus”:

Indeed. Basically Jesus’ teeny-tiny Logos goes only that far.

Jesus is in love with one man, his dad. He also loves love. Nice, but such a ridiculously short a Logos can’t fill an entire universe. We need a bigger boat to handle that enormous ocean, and its giant sharks.

By making the Logos into God, one can talk like Jesus, love mummy, and daddy, and love itself, but also say much, much more, thus become like Jesus’ own dad.

There is indeed more value in all-encompassing complexity… As long as one is not a person with feeble mental capabilities. Persons who are not smart at all are better served with just a few instructions, the way Jesus had it (if one just picks the crème de la crème of what Jesus said, and not the mud of his mud). People at large are also best served if those who are rather stupid love their dad, and love. And stick with this, not trying to go beyond.

Christianity is a religion for the herd (consult Nietzsche for more on this, including sexual interpretations of the cross). Masters used something more robust (Nietzsche again, following meekly the more exuberant Marquis de Sade). Roman generals, under the Republic, before the Greek Stoics became prominent, were masters of stoicism. Stoicism on the largest scale is pretty much how the Roman Republic grew.

The Republic went down when too many in the Roman elite quit Stoicism for Greed (thus bringing along Plutocracy). It was sadly pathetic. Without forbearance, no exuberance!

Patrice Ayme’