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Alex Fauque IA Final Draft

Alex Fauque IA Final Draft

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Published by: Alexander on Dec 14, 2010
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Everything All of the Time
A new work by
Alexandre Fauque
Using my experience in Liberal Arts as a microcosm for Western thought, I’ve come to realize that theWest has been engaged in a Hegelian style dialectic between the camps of reason and passion since the time of ancient Greece. As the West has been a male dominated society, reason has ruled supreme throughout the ages.Ironically, science, the flagship of reason, has begun to undermine our very notions of an ordered and objectiveuniverse as quantum theory and relativity attune us to what many cultures have known intuitively for quitesome time. As the industrial age grinds to a halt, it will prove essential for Western culture to integrate newideas as we shift from a fundamentally dualist outlook to a more holistic approach. My chief concern whenfaced with the issue of dualism is that when one operates in binaries, one side is always devalued as we tacitlyexpress a desire for “this, and not that.” The West has been a culture of men so we have come to place chief importance on our ability to reason and suppressed our powers of intuition and ability to nurture, much to thedetriment of women, the environment, plant and animal life, other nations and our selves. As we look to thefuture, dispelling the boundaries between self and other, men and women, mind and body, reason and passion/intuition, objectivity and subjectivity and so forth, will be crucial to not only our mental health, but our very survival as we face an age that will require co-operation on an unprecedented scale. In an effort to avoidconfusion, I will refer to the Apollonian side of the binary (objectivity, self, order, consistency, hierarchy,mind, soul, reductionism, quantitative, intelligible, action, knowledge, state, etc) as male and the Dionysianside (subjectivity, other, chaos, fluidity, equality, body, the void, synthesis, qualitative, unknown, passivity,intuition, church respectively) as female.I will begin by briefly chronicling Western philosophy and literature in order to demonstrate how they boil down to the same fundamental tensions mentioned above, with the underlying understanding that reason issuperior. A summary of the effects of this outlook will follow. For this section I will use Edward O. Wilson’s“Consilience” to epitomize the Enlightenment world-view we must begin to move away from. Next will followa synopsis of the Western mind from a Jungian perspective. This will lead into a discussion of Taoism inrelation to the new physics. Lastly, the Mayan conception of time will garner some attention in an effort toadvance new, and from our point of view quite radical, ways of thinking we may consider integrating.Western thought takes its origins in the philosophy and culture of ancient Greece. So much so that it has been proposed that all philosophy is but a footnote to Plato. In many ways, this holds true in that Plato was thefirst to thoroughly articulate the breed of dualism that plagues the Western mind. For Plato, the soul originatedin the perfect world of the forms whereby it proceeded to fall and become trapped in a body
.From there, thesoul must recall the forgotten perfections as it pursues a life of the mind. In this basic schema is contained theseeds of the Christian tradition in that the body and soul are distinctly separate and conflicting entities. ThePlatonic worldview suggests that the physical universe is riddled with deception and so we must employabstractions in order to grasp reality. It is through knowledge of the forms that we escape the limits of thetemporal body. We can see in Plato the clear devaluation of the physical in favor of the intangible. As his ladder of loves suggests, the love of a body is lowest and the love of the idea of beauty highest
.This hierarchicaloutlook is inherent to dualist thinking; there always exists the understanding that there is an ultimate andunattainable reality and we, as imperfect beings, can experience only the various degrees of perfection.Placing Plato in a Hegelian context is simple as the anti-thesis appears in the form of his pupil Aristotle.However, Aristotle is far from expressing the polar opposite of his master as he too values reason above all else.The difference is that Aristotle, as a biologist, placed much more emphasis on the day-to-day world. He does notinvoke a separate reality to account for this one and he remains very much concerned with questions of ethics,
 Translated by Benjamin Jowett , http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/phaedo.html.
translated by Benjamin Jowett (Tudor Publishing Company, New York, 1993), 31.
 politics and science. Aristotelian ethics is a question of habit
. There is no external transcendental truth that mustcome to be known through reason because ethics is something undertaken as a community with theunderstanding that trial and error is a viable way to ascertain what works. Most importantly, he established theidea of causation that would come to dominate until the time of Einstein. In this linear model, all phenomenahave traceable causes and operate in isolation and while we do not hold to his theory of the four causes
, wethink of events as results of their efficient causes only. Hence, we can apply reason to the natural world toelucidate an understanding of its fundamental principles based on sense data.The same tension arises in the literature of ancient Greece. In an effort to keep the discussion focused, Iwill only make reference to Euripides’ Bacchae as I feel it is the best example of the Apollo/Dionysian tension.The conflict arises when Dionysus arrives in Thebes and drives all the women into a frenzy of dance andorgiastic rituals. When Pentheus, king of Thebes, arrives on the scene he immediately starts imprisoning theecstatic women, claiming that Dionysus is an upstart god. Eventually, he captures Dionysus who tricks him intodressing in women’s clothes and brings him to the grove where the dancers have congregated. There, in a wildfury, Pentheus’ mother Agave rips him to shreds and carries his head back to Thebes. Upon realizing what shehas done she is immensely grieved and must leave the city in exile.
While Aristotle remained within theconfines of a reason-oriented worldview, Dionysus fully expresses the unconscious and insatiable nature of thefemale side of the binary. Pentheus, on the other hand, is clearly the proponent of reason as he values control,the conservation of the norm and order. As a result, he is torn to pieces by the awesome power of the frenziedrituals. The play illustrates how either extreme is dangerous in that Agave, in her passion, brings about her owndestruction just as Pentheus’ need to control the power of the unconscious literally destroys him. The truly wisecharacter in the play is the blind seer Tiresias in that he accepts the rituals but is not carried so far as to lose hishead. The play then is a call for balance as both parties are ruined by their devotion to one side of the binary.St-Augustine and St-Thomas Aquinas will keep Plato and Aristotle at the fore of the philosophicalenterprise through to the seventeenth century. It is at this time that the tension reincarnates in the form of therationalist and empiricist schools as founded by Rene Descartes and John Locke respectively. Where Descartes posited the existence of innate ideas of the mind
, Locke countered with the notion that all knowledge wasderived from sense data and that we were in essence a blank slate to be written on from birth
. The rationalistsmaintained that reason alone could lead us to truth as we must disregard sense data on the basis that it isfluctuating and therefore subject to deception. They would also posit that objective certainty was the ultimateaim and available only to those who employed reason untainted by the sensory world. This led Descartes toconclude that animals were essentially objects
, God was responsible for placing the ideas of perfection withinhim
and that the “external” world’s existence was ultimately up for grabs as all knowledge is derived from theinnate ideas of the mind
. As with Plato, fellow mathematician Descartes split the world in two and chose toretreat into the shelter of his solipsistic intellectual world. The empiricist schools represents an attempt to voicethe opposite side of the binary though it remains on the male side in that reason is still esteemed as the greatestvirtue. However, with the advent of Thomas Hobbes, for example, an echo of the Aristotelian relative ethicalquest can be heard in that he believed that citizens should cede their wills to the sovereign in an effort to create a
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Translated by W.D. Ross,http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html, ch1, pt 7.
Aristotle, Physics; Translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye,http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/physics.2.ii.html, ch 3, pt 2.
Euripides; translated, with an introduction and notes, by Paul Woodruff,
(Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Pub. Co.,c1998)
Rene Descartes,
Discourse on Method,
 Transl. and ed. By Laurence J. Lafleur (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1956), 22.
John Locke,
 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Vol I
(New York: Dover, 1959), 121-122.
Descartes, 37.
common and subjective good for the polity
. David Hume will also offer an alternative, positing that absolutecertainty is impossible; the closest we can come to objective knowledge is a high degree of probability
.Herewe have a philosopher who wholly embraces the idea that the world is changing and does create an externalreality but instead attempts to create a system within the flux. The issue of freedom versus determinism becomescentral to the rationalist and empiricist debate and neither side can come to agree on a solution. I attribute this toeach philosopher’s inability to bring together objective and subjective elements in one philosophy.The literature of the 18
century also centers on this fundamental conflict. The Enlightenment andRomantic movements each embody a side of the binary. Voltaire, for example, had a profound respect for  Newton and advocated deism. William Blake, on the other hand, abhorred Newton and felt that allsystematization of the world must come to an end as it limits the influx of human experience and therebyreduces our ability to flourish as spirited and powerful beings. While their views appear to be opposed, asynthesis can be established if we consider the biographical information we have on both men. In “Candide,”Voltaire mocks those who have prejudged all to be good or bad and laments how they have incapacitatedthemselves through incessant philosophical intellectualization of life
. He deems it of prime importance that weremain politically active and work to understand our environment in a reasoned and ordered way. Advocatingsecularism, Voltaire sought to eliminate the forces that held us back from knowledge and activism. Blake wasalso politically radical and above all sought to experience as much as possible. In that sense, both figures werereformists who were heavily critical of the various oppressive forces in the world. The conflict between the twois in fact a cultural construct as Romanticism is the essential and complimentary force to the Enlightenment program. As in the Baccae, the ideas must be employed in concert if we are to lead any sort of meaningfulexistence. Literature seems to be more ready to express this need whereas philosophers have remained too hungup on proving themselves right to really attain a significant level of synthesis. Kahlil Gibran sums up this needin his book “The Prophet” so I will leave it to him to conclude my synopsis of the dualist Western mind. Hewrites: “Your reason and your passion are the rudder and sails of your seafaring vessel.”
The modern age is an awkward by-product of a male driven society that has resisted the integration of itsfemale side for too long; the Enlightenment project continues to serve as our model for how the world ought to be.. No contemporary author expresses the inability to become fluid better than Edward O. Wilson. While thegoal of his book “Consilience” is a noble one, I do not understand how he can purport to be unifying when he isin fact merely reinterpreting everything from a scientific materialist perspective. I have no intention of point-by- point arguing with Wilson; when it comes to the minute details, he cannot be surpassed. What he lacks is anysort of awareness of the greater dialogue that is unfolding as he remains fixated on the Enlightenment project of reductionism of data. This program is fundamentally linear and views the world as an infinite multitude of separate entities that can be understood through the laws of cause and effect as relayed by sense data.Essentially, Wilson is unable to delve into the female side of the binary. He remains firmly planted in the male-centered worldview that describes the world as a perceived set of objective phenomena. What he is failing toaccount for is the subjective element. He states that post-modernism and the Enlightenment are polar opposites
and indeed, no argument there. The issue arises when he says things like: “Let us begin by simply walking awayfrom Foucault,”
because this is his very problem, he cannot integrate. I do not wish to say that post-modernismis right, far from it. Instead, I would advise Wilson to find a middle ground between hard rooted objectivism andthe radical subjectivity of the post-modernists. Science itself has told us that there is more to post-modernist
Thomas Hobbes,
The Leviathan
David Hume, “Abstract of A Treatise of Human Nature”, in D. Hume,
 A Treatise of Human Nature
(New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1978), 652
Candide, or Optimism
; translated by Burton Raffel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005)
Kahlil Gibran,
The Prophet 
; with an introduction by Robin Waterfield (London: Penguin, 2002), 30.
Edward O. Wilson,
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge,
(New York: Vintage Books, 1999) 44.

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