After reading this. R. Scott Bakker , Visions of the Semantic Apocalypse: A Critical Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus – thinking through Youval Noah Harari’s new book Homo Deus.
Michael Murden a regular commenter on Scott’s site commented on a passage I’d written on Scott’s site:
“…but a reason to see things without us, without our illusions, without our anthropomorphisms, without our so called belief in ‘truth’ as anything more than a device,…”
Michael Murden asked: How is this different from despair?
Because despair – a term from Old French desperer to “be dismayed, lose hope, despair,” implies one had “hope” to begin with. I never did. Pessimism is not a turn toward despair as many deride it, but rather just the harsh truth of both the human condition, and of the world stripped of its human illusions: stark realism. One can trace this in Schopenhauer, Hartmann, Mainlander, Julius Bahnsen, Zappfe…. and so many others. Why be dismayed that the human condition is not what we thought? Why lose hope when hope was false? Why despair of the truth because it shows you the world stripped of our illusions? To me such is the problem not of pessimism, but those ardent believers in optimism who have taken hope as the sign of health, joy, and all those erroneous and fictional accounts of reality from myth, religion, and – dare, I say it, philosophy and literature. If one eliminated the illusion of hope what is left? It is not despair, but the truth of the world without our disguises… no longer can the human animal hide itself from reality in its fictions, wander in its abstractions, find escape in its vein exceptionalisms… this is the truth of a realist pessimist. And, it need not lead to tears, but can (as in Nietzsche) lead to a heroic and Dionysian acceptance of amor fati – of the love of that fatal truth of existence as it is without our additions (our positing). In some ways such a path was there all along in the Homeric World in which the notion of heroic pessimism of “Seize the Day!” was already sparked as the Agon of the Greek and Homeric Spirit out of which the Olympiad and other forms was spawned. Instead our culture has either immersed itself in the “past” (historicism) or the “future” (futurism), seeking in the fictions and dreams of the Mind (Idealisms) what it could not do in reality.
Far too long we’ve displaced our modes and conditions of being toward past or future without ever living out our lives in the moment of this world’s affairs. We’ve live retroactively through our condition of being: philosophy, sciences, poetry-literature, mathematics, politics, and love. Through these we apprehend the world as in a prism, a refraction of both mirror and representation. Already we are bound to ignorance within this duplicitous system, given only the base interference patterns the brain needs to fulfill: hunger and sex. Nothing more. To see more in it than this is to construct out of ‘medial neglect’ (ignorance) the illusions of meaning that our species has built up over thousands of years into vast and complex belief systems as if they gave us insight into the world, life, and the universe. The sciences, engineering, and technology and technics – which from the beginnings in Greek thought have developed specialized tools, prosthetics, etc. by which to investigate further the environment, manipulate it, and use it for the brain’s own goals of survival and replication has brought us to this point we are in on this planet. Others before us, other civilizations, using other technics and technologies also overreached themselves (i.e., in Greek harmartia: a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero), and brought about the demise of their civilizations either through natural depletion, war, disease, famine, or any number of other factors. We, too, are no different. We are moving in that direction, and are even now in a Sixth Extinction cycle well documented, and are changing weather patterns that may eventually bring this civilization to its knees as crops fail, disease runs riot, war for remaining resources kicks in, and political, social, and religious and ideological worlds collide that shape our real world.
To see this without illusions is not to despair as some might think, but to wise up and challenge ourselves to complete this elimination of illusions, to strip the lies of political, social, and religious myths of their traction; to realign our knowledge of the earth and her ways, to bring to bare the sciences not to manipulate but to make healthy our planetary systems, to create a society and civilization based not on fiction but on the truth of things as they are, not as they might or ought to be as in both Idealism and Neorationalist normativity. We have to come together but not in the ways of us vs. them rhetoric and policies. There is only one foundation upon which politics and philosophy and the sciences can be built: the earth itself, but this is not to follow those mythicizers of Gaia as some Great Mother, etc., but to accept the naked unveiling of a world and its processes without us. And, by “without us,” I do not mean a literal death of the human species, but of a world stripped of our anthropomorphisms and our exceptionalism… a flattening to the world to its bare and minimal truth as the only platform of organic life we might survive in and replicate within: fulfilling the old hunger and sex, survival and replication of natural evolution. While at the same time developing other modes of being: AGI and robotic progeny that may adapt to environments hostile to humans.
In our age we need Sages (Wise Men), not endless critiques of the past failures. We are directionless and rudderless fools on a Ship of Fools guided by political, religious, social, and cultural chicanery and mediatocracy that offers not solutions or paths forward, but rather profits for a marginal group of Plutocrats and Oligarchs across the known world who would keep us battling each other and false issues localized into identity power struggles and end game wars of attrition that would leave our world in an apocalyptic ruin the likes of which humanity has never seen, and may not see again if it survives it. There is another path, but is darker and more troubling, because people do not like to give up their illusions and delusions. I think Freud, Adler, Jung, Lacan and so many others have show us that, so no need to repeat their prognosis. Despair? Sure it is, but not in the passive sense of laying down and lapping in decadence and apathy; but rather in accepting our lot, and in jouissance, that bittersweet heroic pessimism of the old Homeric Greeks facing the world as it is on its terms, not ours.
Of course, skeptics will ask: How? Obviously with great difficulty, for the first task is to actually strip humanity of its crutches, its illusions, its political, social, cultural, and religious ideologies and delusions. Not something that could be done at all easily, and some might pit despair just there: that such a path is impossible. But is it? Is it really? Have we tried it? Even as we look back at the great Sages of Greece, religious leaders from both Monotheistic and Polythestic systems we see men that tried to strip humans of their false beliefs… and, yet, in their wake, their followers built up, constructed, and fabricated even more powerful illusions, myths, and subterfuges, and delusions into the mix that the one’s originally attacked; systems built to entrap the believer under the power and control of dark priests and kings. So what to do? Isn’t that the struggle of our time? Are we not faced with an insoluble dilemma, faced with an insurmountable conundrum that cannot easily be cut like Alexander did with the Gordion knot? But as we’ve seen our species must answer not in the singular as isolated individuals, but in the collective as united in our global effort to transorm this erroneous and false system of power and dominion that has lead us to this end game of apocalyptic demise? The answer is not to seek some Master (Savior) who will save us, but for humanity united in itself to arise to the challenge of the coming catastrophes ahead as One (unified) not Two (divided).