R I S E
REGENERATIVE INTELLIGENCE STILL EVOLVING
Advancing Freedom of Inquiry, Expression, and Association
Bounded by Equal Justice AND OPPORTUNITY, thus
enhancing sustainable global progress
Simulating a human requires simulating our emergent global civilization, including Aristotle and Shakespeare, Bach and Einstein, science and law, as well as simulating the evolving institutions, values, and “unarticulable major premises” composing our cultural hardware, software, and (most interesting of all) in-between-ware. That simulation requires, in turn, simulating our solar system, our galaxy, and our universe — which, by definition, is One … no matter how multi-dimensional or mysterious.
Every observation, description, measurement, distinction, thought-experiment, or theory regarding this One, or any of its components, calls forth “information” (broadly defined, including erroneous assertions and theories); and such information, in turn, invites or requires further “information-processing” — further observation and inquiry, reconsideration and refinement.
To simulate all this information-processing probably requires a computer about the size of, well, our universe. Conclusion: There will never be another Aristotle, Shakespeare, Bach, or you. So, make the best of being real, as you cannot be improved upon in any simulation.
Your reality must, however, accord with the impossible-to-outdate epiphany that, as we humans are products of biological and cultural evolution, so we should never presume to be the “end point” of those coevolutionary processes. Instead, we and our successors must become increasingly-competent agents of further evolution, deliberately and deliberatively “playing God” — that is, making creative and responsible choices enhancing the healthy progress of regenerative intelligence in our galactic neighborhood.
In effect, we must establish a new global religion, an embodiment of our best logic, science, historical insight, and future-affirming commitment to liberty bounded by justice. This embodiment of knowledge and optimism composes the moral undergirding and navigational constant of pan-planetary necessity and resulting constitutional invention.
Unlike all previous religions, this one must be self-testing, self-correcting, based on free inquiry rather than blind faith. In short, it must be cybernetic, the constitutionalization of self-knowledge and self-governance.
This essay illuminates how humanity can sustain and advance the “necessary invention” of Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving.
Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving — RISE — is a metaphrand, a place-marker to facilitate the gathering and “impoundment” of content and meaning for a presently-nonexistent metaphor denoting or pointing to a “much-of-a-muchness” that we, children of unfathomable mystery and inestimable potential, seek to explore and invigorate. Maps are not territories, names are not the things or relationships named, and mathematical formulas are — at best — beclouded windows into the ineffable mysteries of time, space, gravity, indeterminacy, and quantum electro-dynamics, etc. Yet words and formulas and the impoundments of literature and the arts are what we are confined to; they are tool-making tools — rough hewn, perhaps, yet no more so than we. Indeed, they less confine us than they liberate us by embracing humanity within a hierarchy of values upholding that highest value, freedom of inquiry. Homo sapiens unitus must be united in upholding that freedom of inquiry which most characterizes humanity, without which we are indistinguishable from the lower forms of life.
Whatever RISE “is” depends on what our inquiries can make of it, although — as we shall see — it must be based on “faith” (is there a better word?) supporting the best possible logic, science, and cybernetics. The latter concept is especially complex; it refers to the art of constructing a “self-knowing” ecology of values and institutions aimed at “self-transformation”; on examination, we see that its highest value (for all others depend on it) is freedom of inquiry, and its highest embodiment — distributed intelligence “making” distributed governance — is what modern constitutional democracy will, we dare hope, evolve to become.
That “faith” is not usefully distinguishable from a firm conviction based on the fruits of thousands of years of intelligence — individual and societal perception and cognition — distributed vertically through time and horizontally through space. In simplest terms, we must have faith that we live and learn, and that “trial and error” learning — which lies at the heart of cybernetics, properly understood — is the life-breath of distributed intelligence and, hence, constitutional democracy. As our best science is based on logic, yet goes beyond, so our best cybernetics — governance — must harvest all the sciences, yet go beyond. That “beyond” is our focus here.
We stand on the shoulders of past intellectual giants (vertical distribution) and we feed from the bounty of contemporary intellectual giants (horizontal distribution), including — increasingly — institutions aimed at refining distributed intelligence and governance. Let there be no doubt: The most important such institution is an emerging global constitutional democracy dedicated, above all, to freedom of inquiry, which in turn depends on freedom generally, which in turn depends on wise limits on freedom, which — history teaches us — undergirds the perennial quest for Liberty bounded by Justice.
This “book” focuses on illuminating that elevated concept — Liberty bounded by Justice — by transcending the limitations of a conventional “book” by supplying hyperlinks to selected writings, both mine and others’, which open out to a vast literature spanning all recorded history. The printed or hard-copy version of this work provides footnotes that, in turn, provide those hyperlinks.
Intellectual freedom is a self-evident concomitant of intellectual evolution. Yet I shall not be content merely asserting a self-evident relationship between the evolution of understanding and the evolution of freedom. It is essential at this time — in what some call a “cultural war” — that free humans formulate and assert their most powerfully persuasive arguments favoring freedom of inquiry, freedom generally, and Liberty bounded by Justice.
For example, some might believe that it is too obviously true to bother saying that freedom of inquiry is “free” only insofar as it is disciplined by intellectual rigor, by openness to new evidence (including fundamental research into how our brains function), and by a larger commitment to responsible “peer review” spanning generations. But this “obviously true” fact is nonetheless worth spelling out, if only because it leads to less-obvious corollaries, including the following: As intellectual freedom evolves, it must coevolve with other evolving processes, the most significant of which transcend, indeed transform, logic and science … and are, in a word, cybernetic. These writings seek to move from the well-known to the less-obvious, thereby illuminating (1) the relationships among modern logic, science, and cybernetics; (2) the roots of those relationships in ancient Mythos, Logos, and Nomos; and (3) how all this relates to our current task, understanding ourselves better that we might govern ourselves more wisely.
Being cybernetic — a self-correcting and self-organizing embodiment of distributed intelligence and governance — RISE composes an increasingly social rather than solitary enterprise. Yet this must never detract from the central fact that individual liberty and individual accountability are the bedrock of any civilization worthy of human striving. Accumulated evidence has taught us nothing if it has not taught us that.
Liberty and accountability compose two sides of the same coin; yet this “coin metaphor” is inadequate, because — as we shall see — any civilization worthy of human striving is more akin to a multi-faceted diamond, a multidimensional organism, a much-of-a-muchness, a babe-in-arms . No metaphor can suffice. It is its own best metaphor. It is what it is, and “RISE” is the best place-marker I can devise to denote it. Future generations will doubtless devise better vessels of wisdom, choice, and action.
The map is not the territory. The name is not the same as the thing or activity named. For a moment, dear reader, dismiss from mind all words, all metaphorical constructs, and look at the “thing itself”; look deeply at reality unmediated by the names of its constituent parts and their relationships; and then emerge, refreshed, grateful for language — for all tools of thought and communication — yet determined not to be a slave of “literal truths” supporting certitudes and zealotries that impede free and responsible inquiry.
Distributed intelligence and governance too easily degrade into herd idiocy and mob rule unless each individual takes personal responsibility to uphold “spirit” over “letter” and thereby uphold RISE-affirming thought and communication, evidence-based speculations about the meaning of existence, and feedback-sensitive governance that celebrates how much remains uncertain or wholly unknown. Our most elevated logic, science, and cybernetics must support wise choices and actions premised on a healthy Conversation of Democracy.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Apology, 38a) As we examine the truth of this assertion, we come to its corollary, that unexamined truths are not worth having.
If Socrates’ assertion is worth both having and propagating, it is so because it has withstood 2,400 years of experience, of fact-informed debate, and of conditions in which freedom of inquiry was suppressed … yet did not die. The proof is in the pudding: Even the most dictatorial regimes seem unable to extinguish the ideal, the human necessity, for “examined truths” based on free inquiry.
At least some people raised in dictatorial cultures, as I was, find that they cannot suppress themselves. They cannot ignore that “small voice within” which yearns for freedom, especially freedom of inquiry. This yearning is probably innate, part of human nature, yet it seems to have been culturally selected for. Put differently, it is part of the “Coevolution of Mind and Nature” which, especially among humans, has cultural as well as biological components. True, we find “culture” within other species, especially dolphins and chimpanzees; but cultural evolution that “drives” biological evolution has arguably set Homo sapiens apart from all other creatures on this planet. It is now set to become decisive.
The coevolution of nature and nurture among our ancestors during the past millions of years was crucial to what we have become. In simplest terms, the most intelligent tended to select and nurture one another as mates, and their offspring tended to be advantaged in ways that advanced the “cause” of natural and cultural coevolution. The coevolution of “biological intelligence” (brain power) and “cultural knowledge” (logic, science, cybernetics, participatory governance, etc.) reinforced each other, each becoming more probable and — over eons — more necessary, generation upon generation. Cultures that promoted this coevolution tended to have distinct survival advantages. That is, the most adept “learning cultures” demonstrated their superiority, over time. And implicit it the concept of a learning culture is the advantage, and hence ascendancy, of freedom of inquiry — the tendency favoring “examined truths” over unexamined superstitions. I emphasize “tendency”; contrary examples abound; yet tendencies, over thousand and millions of years, tend to generate certainties. Freedom, in short, has evolved.
People living under the yoke of unexamined truths and “official party lines” tend, nonetheless, to yearn to live a “normal life” — as my law students in the former USSR phrased it. They could barely articulate what they meant by this phrase; indeed, they sought my help in illuminating its fullest meaning. These Jurlandia writings have grown out of that endeavor. And it was within this context that I dusted off the concept of RISE, which I first employed in my 1970 “Third Year Written Work” for Harvard Law School entitled Cosmic Synergism and the Global Village Discontinuity.
We already know enough to guess with considerable confidence that the concept of RISE, and the obligation it imposes on us of further inquiry, is well worth our continuing, open-ended, synergetic explorations … but these must be “self-limiting” or cybernetic.
Synergetics and cybernetics are intertwined, indeed interdependent, concepts (see Note on Synergetics and Cybernetics); together, they help mark the road to RISE. They are tools of thought and communication — including tools for making new tools, new cultural hardware and, most important, new meta-cultural software. Lots more tools will be needed.
Those tools having greatest value will enhance distributed governance based on distributed intelligence — the stuff of constitutional democracy, of Liberty bounded by Justice — the stuff of free and responsible inquiry premised upon the time-tested realization that unexamined truths are worthless.
Synergetics and cybernetics are a sort-of “on the one hand this, but on the other hand that” stereoscopic viewfinder through which we discover that more hands are budding forth. An octopus is in the making, less stereoscopic than holographic, less a thing than a becoming.
If we choose wisely, RISE becomes us: An orchestration of metaphrands seeking metaphiers to form ever-more-stately metaphors — an embodiment of “metaphorical unfinishedness” seeking to know itself better so that it might remain youthful, still evolving … free, creative, regenerative.
Although more than four billion years old, our planet is potentially young in relation to what it — through our efforts — might become: a deliberatively self-transforming “creature” of distributed intelligence and governance (no metaphor suffices) that can harness our solar system’s physical and intellectual capacities to magnificent purposes.
Natural evolutionary processes have formed a biological substructure upon which a cultural superstructure is coming into astonishing existence, generating seeds of more-astonishing potential. This superstructure, including its increasing scientific and cybernetic capacity to know and improve itself, is less a fixed destination, a settled accomplishment, than an ongoing project, a continuous journey; less a noun than a verb.
I am, that journey is, and we are (from Sanskrit asme, to breathe), a verb — contingent, open-ended, a story unfolding — an emerging metaphrand searching among available metaphiers for dew-sparkling metaphors that can breathe “is” … existence … into worthier ecologies of inquiry, knowledge, wisdom, choice, action, feedback, lessons learned, goals to be refined, and cultural know-how to be further forged on anvils of unrequited individual and societal inquiry.
This emerging metaphrand “is” (breathes) regenerative intelligence still evolving, RISE, a verb, an instruction, a commandment — the basis for a new global religion, a pan-planetary synthesis of the true and the good, the ultimately relevant and the indisputably beautiful, by which we humans are privileged to play, or collectively simulate, “God” … and, indeed, are obligated to do so better, ever better … with excellence, with impeccability, with what the ancient Greeks called areté.
Human creativity is indissolubly tied to human freedom — above all, freedom of inquiry. As noted in my Introduction, advanced intellectual endeavor is essentially a societal phenomenon — a product of distributed intelligence and distributed governance. Accordingly, all must be free to know about and inquire regarding others’ factual and theoretical assertions, no matter the field: logic, science, cybernetics, theology, law. My focus here is law, but it implicates all other fields, especially cybernetics.
Feedback, peer review, an inquisitive free press, and constitutionally-guaranteed free and fair elections, etc., are among the “feedback cultivating” processes that evolving areté requires humanity to advance; without them, “feedback harvesting” and, more generally, the blessings of a vibrant, creative, democratic Open Society, are impossible.
In short, without constitutional democracy — premised on enhancing liberty bounded by justice — RISE is impossible. These writings explore this topic, examine its implications, and thereby seek to help humanity participate brilliantly in Creation.
I conclude that our greatest areté, brilliance, must be focused upon advancing global constitutional democracy: an Open World of equal liberty, and hence equal justice, and — through such liberty and justice — the advancement of RISE.
The historical linkage between liberty and justice is very profound, and must be the starting-point for every discussion of what law “is” and must become.
RISE informs, instructs, illuminates, ordains, and thereby (let us hope!) makes more probable the development of that Open World reconceptualization — indeed, “reconstitutionalization” — which “is” (breathes, animates) RISE.
This child must be conceived as the parent of that Open World nomosphere it can eventually become. It requires a thorough reconceptualization and reconstitutionalization of the human condition, premised on freedom of inquiry — humanity’s quintessentially-defining attainment. You cannot think “human” without thinking “thinking” and, hence, freedom of inquiry!
That freedom (1) requires freedom generally, including freedom of association and expression, and (2) necessitates simultaneous inquiry into how all freedoms, rights, privileges, and immunities (similarities are more important here than differences, see Note) must be balanced and “bounded” by justice: the Rule of Law based on the Rule of Reason — a special kind of reasoning that transcends logic and science.
It is an art. RISE is humanity’s greatest work of creation.
RISE is a metaphrand, a place-marker to facilitate inquiry regarding the healthy development of “a mind made of many minds” — distributed intelligence and resulting distributed governance, of which modern constitutional democracy is an early form. RISE composes, among its activities, a gathering, growing, evolving Conversation of Democracy aimed at securing rational governance, balanced liberty, improved justice, and the ever deeper, broader, profounder Advancement of Learning.
I use initial-capital letters for terms like “Open Society” and “Advancement of Learning” to signal that these are elevated terms of art; I discuss this protocol in Footnote #2 of Rule of Law; many but not all of these terms are also titles of Jurlandia essays, some of which are provided as hotlinks in this essay. The “art” here referenced honors logic and science by transcending them through cybernetics. Cybernetics is the “art” of converting knowledge and know-how into feedback-dependent, self-corrective choosing — deciding — that leads to action, further feedback, enhanced inquiry, and improved knowledge, etc., especially in the realms of “self-governance” and government generally.
Much of this know-how is actually “how-not-to” knowledge, including knowledge about avoiding observational and intellectual error. To cite an important example: The uses and abuses of “argument from authority” in logic, science, and cybernetics, and especially in “legal reasoning” as distinct from “theological reasoning” (in systems where these are held to be distinct), is a topic that deeply unites ancient as well as modern ontology, epistemology, and teleology, as we shall see. This topic is crucial to our world’s progress, indeed “salvation” (some might say); and it cannot be dumbed-down, for doing so debases humanity’s very essence — our individual and cultural embodiment of evolutionary complexity, including irreducible intellectual nuance and elusiveness. What is hardest to see is often most necessary to see.
Suffice it to note, at present, that common-law “jurisprudence” (a slippery term) grew out of early canon-law jurisprudence — especially 12th century penitential-law, which was primarily case-law (casuistry) — and this nascent Christian jurisprudence was itself massively influenced by Jewish and Muslim scholars, especially in medieval Spain, where a millennium ago civilization reached a glorious, albeit brief, flowering. Yet, after ten centuries, the shalls and shall-nots composing modern common-law jurisprudence (and, increasing, global jurisprudence, with important exceptions) have a fundamentally different “origin” — namely, systematically recorded experience — from the shalls and shall-nots of modern canon law and, of greatest significance to our world’s current plight, modern sharia law, that is, as generally conceived by the weight of current Islamic scholarship. Accordingly, “argument from authority” in common-law jurisprudence is very different from “argument from authority” in Muslim societies. This topic requires deepest examination. That examination is impossible unless one starts with the premise that unexamined truths are not worth having.
Part of the difference between these distinct approaches to “argument from authority” has to do with the continuing evolution of our understanding of “no” in logic, science, and cybernetics. Inventing “no” was crucial to the origin and evolution of thought, communication, and civilization. The no-parking sign — a “P” with a diagonal slash through it — reminds us how “yes” and “no” dovetail in life, and especially in law, including constitutional law. Likewise, the “action” resulting from our know-how leads often to non-action. Refraining from action is “action” from a cybernetic standpoint. A legislature that “fails” to enact a law it considers imprudent, is not a failure. A global parliament that “declines” to bless a war of choice until less-draconian options have been fully examined, is not an agent of decline but, on the contrary, thereby enhances our world’s emergent power to (for example) overthrow dictators whose thuggish regimes are beyond redemption and endanger global wellbeing. Saying “yes” makes sense only when “no” is a meaningful alternative.
We distinguish governmental wisdom from folly when it is informed, indeed inspired, by a cultural inheritance of history-savvy know-how composing “prudence” — instructing us how to avoid hubris, unbecoming certitude, and the strutting of tin-horn-tooting self-aggrandizers. This prudence undergirds what are often called “checks and balances”: how-to and how-not-to instructions embodying wisdoms that are precious beyond words. These wisdoms, together, “are” jurisprudence.
“Checks and balances” is a term of art that stands not only for volumes of literature but, more important, eons of tacit, unarticulated, unarticulable wisdom regarding the Cybernetics of Society — in essence, the art of governing governance.
Common-law, case-based jurisprudence “argues” from the authority of historical experience which, being context-dependent, is simultaneously fine-grained and “writ large”: ultimately contextualized by the totality of human knowledge. Its questions always elicit the threshold response: “That reminds me of a story.”
Each story contains, in essence, a recipe: how-to, how-not-to.
Most cybernetic know-how gets gathered, aggregated, processed, and “impounded” in unarticulable “cultural software” — including parables, traditions, customs. The ancient Greek word nomos — generally translated as “law” — originally referred to such unwritten or “conventional” rules of conduct. One gets a good flavor of such rules by googling (for example) “How to air-kiss?” Such cultural know-how is often harder to describe than to prescribe … as in a recipe.
If you want me to “know” your wonderful cake, please don’t write a letter describing it; instead, send me the recipe. I’ll make it, taste it, and then “know” its taste and texture. But the recipe or blueprint or operating manual for a constitutional democracy prescribes most effectively by proscribing — forbidding — governmental tyranny.
A competent democratic constitution must go beyond describing “the good”; its fundamental task must be to ordain, to command — empowering, triangulating, balancing, and expressly or implicitly limiting — legislative, executive, and judicial authority, etc.
For example: “Parliament shall not ordain, nor shall any executive or judicial officer enforce, any unreasonable restraints on free inquiry, expression, and association.”
Too many constitutions passively describe the good: “Freedoms of inquiry, expression, and association are guaranteed to all.”
Why that passive-voice-style of constitution-making is inadequate deserves humanity’s deepest inquiry.
Why must constitutional law explicitly instruct — who, what, when, where, how, how not?
Why is law an art, not (except as noted below) a science?
Why must RISE formulate instructions?
Why is RISE “imperative“?
These questions are elements of the most worthwhile question confronting our seedling global civilization: Is regenerative intelligence evolutionarily viable?
As we shall see, law is a “science” only in the exhilarating yet sobering sense that humankind, we, are conducting a long-term “controlled experiment” upon ourselves, our global Self, testing whether the evolution of intelligence — specifically, the constitutionalization of distributed intelligence and resulting distributed governance — is evolutionarily viable in this small nook of our vast universe.
RISE is the “tool-making tool” — the evolving cultural software — by which we continuously ask and answer this most worthwhile of all questions … without “outsmarting” ourselves into mental suffocation and physical oblivion.
The cosmic wilderness cries lonely for a thoughtful voice.
Cultural software answers:
Product is process.
Law is art.
There is no better example of cultural software than Anglo-American (and increasingly global) jurisprudence setting forth the constitutional requirements for Due Process of Law — perhaps the most beautiful phrase in the English language. It is beautiful because of what it stands for, the territory it maps. Better yet, it is beautiful because of what the blueprint it composes instructs us to “make”: equal justice serving equal liberty.
Due Process of Law is impounded in many scholarly articles and, more significant, in thousands of judicial opinions rendered since the 1215 Magna Carta — the “Great Charter of the Liberties of England” — and its successors, including especially (1) the 1355 statute that explicitly translated Magna Carta’s Latin phrase meaning “law of the land” into the English phrase “due process of law”; (2) the 1628 Petition of Right, the model for subsequent assertions, especially in the British colonies of North America, that “government” must be “under law” or, more precisely, must be subordinated to Due Process of Law; (3) the 1787 Constitution of the United States, and especially its 1791 Fifth Amendment and its 1868 Fourteenth Amendment “Due Process of Law” clauses; and (4) the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, albeit this document is flawed to the extent that it employs the passive voice and presupposes that “rights” emanate from constitutions, etc. Rights, constitutions, responsibilities, and the enforceable judicial remedies that *****celebrate ******** them, coevolve.
The fundamental premise of competent Due Process of Law jurisprudence is that the components of constitutional democracies, including liberty and accountability, coevolve. They are co-causal.
Specifically, (1) fundamental rights that imply judicially-enforceable remedies, (2) “positive” (that is, enacted) laws, including constitutions, (3) customary and unarticulable undertakings that subordinate all governance to Ordered Liberty, and (4) a truly independent judiciary empowered to enforce these rights, laws, and undertakings, are co-causal.
The Fifth Amendment provides a superb exemplar of that fundamental premise: “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The meaning of this command derives from history, including a special kind of history: casuistry, case law.
Casuistry has a bad reputation, due largely to its misuse, especially in medieval penitential law that interpreted an authoritative “static document” — the Bible — as part of what became a lucrative business aimed at selling “indulgences” or official forgiveness. This was one of the great abuses leading to the Protestant Reformation.
Casuistry’s reputation must be rehabilitated by deepest understanding of what is truly at stake: interpreting not a static document but, rather, the “Book of Life” — the Lessons of Living. Properly understood, casuistry is moral reasoning that (1) is grounded in accumulated experience, systematically recorded, and (2) is focused on developing a coherent body of principled adjudication that instructs, that guides future conduct, that serves to enhance what these Jurlandia essays call the Ecology of Mind governed by an Ecology of Values.
Some definitions of casuistry posit a false dichotomy between case-based and principles-based reasoning. This is reminiscent of the arid nature-versus-nurture debate, and even in our own time some scholars seriously advocate for one or the other view. See Nicolas Wade, Scientists find the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior, New York Times, March 20, 2007, here.
It would seem too obvious to say — yet, obviously, isn’t — that “modern humanity” results from the coevolution of nature and nurture, biology and culture, genes and memes.
Likewise, it seems obvious that moral and legal “reasoning” reaches deep into our biological and cultural ancestry; it is both genetic and memetic; we live and learn, and it is absurd to separate our learning from our living, whether as individuals or as societies. Unless we are “frozen in time” by a sacred text, etc., we intuitively allow new experiences (including reports of others’ experiences, etc.) to instruct us.
Casuistry presupposing the coevolution of “is” and “ought”; in its broadest reach, casuistry composes and shapes principles of conduct — including institutional conduct — growing out of a multigenerational “conversation” or dialectic or, better, “multilectic” that integrates logic (the rules of clear thought and expression), science (the sum and substance of all empirical knowledge, including knowledge about how to generate further empirical knowledge), and cybernetics (the art of empirically-validated, evidence-based, feedback-cultivating governance). Casuistry is quintessentially cybernetic, self-corrective, normative. It seeks the true so that it may advance the good.
That integration of logic, science, and cybernetics started long before these three words had attained their current meanings. Indeed, it is their coevolution that has invested these words — what they stand for — with their current meanings. And this process of meaning-making must continue, must be enhanced, based on further feedback-cultivating casuistry. Nothing that “has” a history can be understood without recourse to its history, and hence to all history; yet history is at best a guide, not a God.
The word “impounded” should not imply an “impounder” any more than “designed” should imply a “designer”; words should be maps for guidance, not icons for obeisance. Syntax cannot excuse the sin of idolatry. Perhaps “embodied” is a better word to denote how distributed intelligence is incarnated, embraced, and otherwise brought alive.
Probably the best word or phrase to denote this “much-of-a-muchness” awaits creation of a currently-nonexistent metaphier within which this currently-unarticulable metaphrand can find an apt metaphorical home.
When that home is found, it will nonetheless remain a metaphor. The map is not the territory.
What is unarticulable today might be the stuff of common parlance tomorrow. Consider “google” or “wiki” or, better, the aggregated and impounded implications for American democracy — for the worthwhile survival of humankind — of a self-described Decider whose mispronunciation of “nuclear” conjures the image of a deer caught uncomprehending in the onrushing headlights of a logical, scientific, and cybernetic rescue brigade. Then consider how “congressional enabler” and “skewed intelligence” and “K-Street Project” and “Halliburton cronyism” impound networks of mutually-reinforcing lessons to be learned.
The land of the free and home of the brave has — through negative example — reinforced a lesson that every generation must relearn: It is far too easy to hoodwink or scare a country into eviscerating the fundamentals of constitutional democracy, including free and fair elections, effective checks and balances, a genuinely independent judiciary, and the impartial interpretation and enforcement of the Rule of Law.
We must cultivate genuine reverence for free and responsible inquiry among all, and especially among those who would be Free World leaders, continuously asking — and by our thoughtful conduct answering — that most worthwhile of all questions: Is regenerative intelligence evolutionarily viable?
Is regenerative intelligence still evolving? Is RISE secured by liberty bounded by justice? Can free and responsible inquiry regarding these questions be enhanced, deepened, broadened?
Freedom is — asme, breathes — that human civilization may be, from Sanskrit bhu, to grow. These kinds of metaphorical relics are strewn wherever we turn. Some find such etymologies spooky; some consider the search for word origins to be a pedantic diversion from “modern understanding”; but surely none would seriously deny the inescapable truth that language, cultural software, and specifically our capacity for free and responsible inquiry, have coevolved, each participating in the composition of the others’ environment, each providing decisive context for the others’ existence, its being … its growing … its becoming.
Responsible freedom has coevolved with reasoned justice, accountable governance, the Advancement of Learning. As conjugating the verb “to be” embraces our supposedly “solid existence” within evolving, contingent “tool-making tools” — anvils of free and responsible inquiry constitutionalized — we are reminded that these tools are less machines than organisms, and less beings than becomings.
What “becomes” is distributed intelligence and governance, liberty bounded by justice, freedom secured by order. These words and phrases denote serious business; they must never be allowed to degenerate into conveyances of hackneyed truisms.
Of course, the thing to remember about truisms is that they tend to be very true. Their deliberative “breathing” and conscious “growing” — their cultivation — conjures dew-sparkling existence, morning freshness, perennial renewal.
They impound vastly significant, interpenetrative webs of meaning and instruction — transcending logic and science, inviting our thought-filled confrontation with cybernetics:
Many hands make light work, but too many cooks spoil the broth. Logically, this is suspect; empirically, it is true but trite; cybernetically, it becomes true and profound.
Have the emerging arts of “open source” development and “wiki” management, etc., progressed much beyond this long-remarkable starting point?
The main complication and compensatory exhilaration of thinking about the evolution of thought, language, culture, civilization, global constitutional democracy, and the earlier-mentioned “deliberatively self-transforming ‘creature’ of distributed intelligence and governance” (again, no metaphor suffices), is that cybernetics — unlike logic and science — is normative, aimed (I reiterate) at knowing truth for the sake of doing good.
The best of the ancient Sophists appreciated, based on bitter experience, that truth divorced from ethics — from living with excellence, with areté — invites hubris and madness, both individual and societal. To say we are the “measurers” of things is a step towards humility; to say we are the “measure” stumbles into hubris. Not only is our world not the center of our solar system, galaxy, and universe (as dogma once taught); modern astronomy now deduces that the “known universe” of discernable energy and matter — of photons, atoms, molecules, monkeys, planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy-clusters, and black holes, etc. — accounts for only 4% of whatever “is” … the other 96% being “dark matter” and, even more mysterious, “dark energy”: an unknown almost-everythingness to contextualize our (somewhat) known almost-nothingness.
Taking note, we redouble our determination to safeguard freedom of inquiry — logical, scientific, and cybernetic. Born of humility, ever warring against hubris, never content with unexamined dogmas, our moral commitment to freedom of inquiry contextualizes all other truths and values.
Insignificant as we may be, we humans — as an historical aggregate — are the only “agency” we know of by which energy and matter and perhaps our universe seeks to know and indeed improve itself.
Significant as that historical aggregate may be, its capacity for improvement depends upon the integrity of each individual agent of free and responsible inquiry.
The success of our emergent global civilization requires our commitment to the success of each free and accountable participant in this global enterprise.
Diminution of any such individual participant threatens, perhaps dooms, the evolutionary prospects for that aggregate whole.
Why? As we shall see, the answer requires us to confront the significance, in evolution, of human empathy.
Our capacity for empathy continues to evolve, and that evolution is being institutionalized.
Indeed, it is being constitutionalized.
That ineffable “creature” of distributed intelligence and governance — delighting in well-mixed metaphors — is a house of many mansions; some we visit, fewer we name.
This is largely because, to the cybernetic artisan, the proper definition of “self” is always “at issue”; the omnipresence of “environment” is always assumed; their boundaries remain supernally ambiguous yet unambiguously precious; assigning names distinguishing between this or that side of ambiguous boundaries tears the fabric (to mix metaphors further) of a reality that exists beyond metaphrands (doohickeys), let alone metaphiers (thingmebobs), let alone the metaphors we eventually — and always tentatively — make do with.
The mitochondria that power our cells have their own DNA, distinct from that of humans “themselves”; about 2000 of those little critters munch merrily during their garden party, as it were, and the happy result nourishes one small cell of you “yourself”; you and I are “motile colonies” of those munching “things themselves” that compose us. Moreover, humans “themselves” are far simpler than humanity in the aggregate. Words like “multilectic” — a multitude of coevolving, juxtaposed standpoints — point to that “creature’s” complexity. Humanity in the aggregate is arguably more complicated than anything we know of, including that 96% of our universe we call “dark matter” and “dark energy”; we, after all, reflect upon ourselves, and upon our universe, and upon the implications of our current incapacity to fathom, even glimpse, why our “known universe — that 4% — could be so seemingly irrelevant. What could be more complicated than a universe’s organ(s) of self-knowledge?
Our emergent global civilization digests and incarnates the myriad interpenetrative DNA-analogues of disparate cultures spanning millenniums. And upon deepest contemplation we see, through a cultural-lens starkly, that each lonesome one of us teraflops into the future by the seat of our computer-mediated, internet-enhanced, nomospheric pants — asme-ing, growing, bhu-ing. Not only are we verbs, we are gerunds. We are that we may be becoming.
Developing wholesome, hale, healthy relationships for each “self” with all “others” — within an ecosystem of interdependent participants — not only refines cybernetics but also triangulates logic and science with self-corrective sensibility, the best guard against hubris and solipsism.
The United States has of late let itself and the world down by surrendering to hubris and solipsism, both of which are manifestations of unhealthy, unbalanced, “self-centered” dysfunctionality.
Yet this very dysfunctionality carries the potential — I believe likelihood — of a rebirth of “liberalism” in its best sense: commitment to competence in forging liberty bounded by justice.
The relevant datum of analysis is not the rise or fall of this or that country but the rise or fall — the success or failure — of liberty under law.
Elevated terms of art like Advancement of Learning and Open Society are “tool-making tools” intended to secure free inquiry by increasing the likelihood that it will be responsible inquiry. These elevated terms must not be trifled with.
The worst enemy of democracy is incompetent, dumbed-down varieties that, failing, cause people to give up on democracy without having tried a competent, elevated, feedback-cultivating, self-correcting constitutional democracy. The worst impediment to the potential genius of crowds is the lack of metalogues focused on avoiding the madness of crowds.
Open Society institutions promote metalogues whose participants accept as axiomatic — self-evident — that (1) the the best remedies for bad ideas are better ideas and (2) the best curatives for dysfunctional people or institutions are persuasive exemplars of competence and rectitude.
The best “education president” teaches by example — radiating a command of nuanced facts and ideas, personifying the desire to learn more.
These qualities cannot be faked. To “know” and to “not do” is … not to know.
We promote the Advancement of Learning and the Conversation of Democracy as goods unto themselves, as intrinsic goods.
We also promote them as instrumental goods that equip humans to compete constructively in the “marketplace of living inquiry” instead of rioting destructively in the charnel house of dead certitudes.
What a sentence!
Metalogues invite “stepping outside” and commenting on comments, etc.
Metalogues do not stand on, or necessarily endorse, scholarly ceremonies and conventions, though few get far without intellectual rigor.
Here, “competition” results from higher-level “cooperation”; these two words denote not a dichotomy but a continuum of multidimensional reciprocity among individuals, groups, ideas, and other cultural tools. Yes, you and your thoughts, etc., are “tools” of others’ perception and cognition … or, alas, too often, of others’ misinformation.
Distributed intelligence must focus, above all, on institutionalizing “error-correction” without penalizing creative and courageous exploration. To err is human; to correct error is the job of logic, science, and especially cybernetics operating under conditions that reward rather than stifle free and responsible inquiry.
A so-called “government” that stifles such inquiry is not “cybernetic” and, hence, is not a true government. The words “cybernetic” and “government” have the same ancient Greek root; a government, to be worthy of that word, must bhu (grow) self-correction. It must be a learning organism.
The “tool” of non-violent conflict is made with the “tool-making tool” of persuasive democratic discourse. In this sense, constitutional democracy is a tool-making tool that secures and institutionalizes freedom of inquiry by keeping “truth” responsive to unfolding reality and “good” responsible to future historians; this, as discussed below, elicits a special kind of feedback, namely, the feed-forward empathy of present humans “interfacing” with hypothesized future humans.
All feedback must be institutionalized, indeed constitutionalized, guaranteeing not only freedom of inquiry but also its corollaries, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and political participation; frequent free and fair elections that translate free inquiry into accountable governance; checks and balances that are horizontal (the so-called “separation” of legislative, executive, and judicial functions) and vertical (including “federal” structures, from most local to global); majority and coalition rule balanced by minority and individual rights; and the many other ways in which freedom is constitutionally secured and bounded in the interests of rational self-governance.
Again, a constitutional democracy is a learning organism, a tool-making tool “intelligently designed” by tacit, ultimately unarticulable cultural know-how (including “how-not-to” knowledge).
Its most essential constituent “ingredient” is each freely-inquiring citizen who, while respecting the potential brilliance of the wisdom of crowds, values — for this very reason — the necessity for each able adult to take personal responsibility for the Conversation of Democracy.
Individual accountability is the other side of the coin of individual liberty. How to keep this coin from being debased — overwhelmed by unexamined dogmas and “mental viruses” that defy logic, science, and cybernetics — is another way of posing that “most worthwhile” question:
How shall we cultivate genuine reverence for free and responsible inquiry aimed at keeping governance accountable, self-corrective?
RISE composes the Ecology of Mind governed by an Ecology of Values. As noted, the word “governed” shares the same root as the word “cybernetics”; understanding the deep relationships among governance, self-government, cybernetics, feedback cultivation, democratic theory, Ordered Liberty, and the necessary coevolution of ethics, jurisprudence, and constitutional democracy is central to any “human condition” worthy of humankind’s best potentials.
The defining characteristic of humans is our capacity to stand in each others’ shoes and (1) see the world as others see it, (2) see ourselves as others see us seeing them seeing us, etc., and (3) see ourselves individually as participants in a “society of the mind” spanning space and time. These three “insights” are often referred to under the rubric “theory of mind”; that phrase is somewhat problematic, because it involves less “theory” than “recognition”; indeed, it is a theory of cognition that recognizes personal imbeddedness within a “society of mind” in which each sane adult carries weight and corresponding responsibility. Thus, this so-called “theory of mind” is often indistinguishable from the forging of relationships among people, groups, and other cultural software.
Any apt “theory of mind” must focus on our recognition — starting early in life, and gathering sophistication as we mature — that our “biological brains” are each embedded within a “cultural mind” of distributed intelligence, distributed consciousness, and (upon deepest examination) distributed conscience …. and its necessary corollary, distributed governance.
This “creature” of distributed intelligence and governance (yet again, no metaphor suffices) transcends space and time; not only do we “stand in others’ shoes” in the present, but — to employ an interesting juxtaposition of metaphors — we also “stand on the shoulders of giants” from the past.
Employing “time binding” (to use Alfred Korzybski’s evocative phrase), we harvest past information and insight, including past scientific errors, historical blunders, and cultural know-how that (seen in retrospect) teaches us — by negative example — what to avoid. Thus we know that the “Weimar model” of constitutional democracy was (and surely remains) untenable, and that would-be dictators like Hitler thrive on the chaos resulting from flawed constitutional models.
To get to “yes, this” we generally pass through “no, not that”; indeed, as already suggested, the capacity to say “no” seems deeply imbedded in the evolution of language and distributed intelligence. Inventing “no” was especially essential to the evolution of that cultural “how-not-to” knowledge which undergirds distributed conscience, and hence law. Rational and just law offers a superb example of the advantages of defining “not this” and then (if the problem is sufficiently serious) forbidding it, according to the principle that what is not forbidden is allowed; this principle must, however, be supplemented by a societal recognition that having the right to do something does not mean it is the right thing to do.
The opposite principle — what is not allowed or required is forbidden — cannot serve a complex, evolving polity and is, in fact, utterly absurd and tyrannical; examination of why this principle is so dysfunctional offers deep insights into why “the cybernetics of society” are so crucial to law, law-making, and liberty-securing.
More generally, identifying “not quite this” creates metaphrands, invitations to metaphor-construction, whose results — “standing on the shoulders” as distinct from “standing in the shoes” — contribute to the generation and evolution of differences, similarities, and above all relevancies (differences and similarities that “make a difference”) undergirding the Advancement of Learning. See Framustans.
The Ecology of Mind governed by an Ecology of Values reveres freedom of inquiry, above all, because what is to be inquired about is relevance — the significance of some thing or person in relation to something or somebody else; these relationships are usually co-causal, coevolutionary; thus, finding significance is often indistinguishable from making significance … and further developing relationships.
Our highest “abiding values” keep us inquiring how to trim our sails to accommodate the winds of change. We ask “What is?” and “How do we know what is?” in order to answer the greatest philosophical question of any specific time and of all times: “So what?”
Finding and making significance is dynamic, cybernetic. The best remedy for “the banality of evil” is to institutionalize — to constitutionalize — the continuous examination of our premises, putting ontology and epistemology in service to teleology.
See First Trinity.
No man is an island, and no individual “human condition” can be meaningfully understood in isolation from the entirety of our emerging “planetary condition” — including the progressive development and constitutionalization of empathy.
The capacity, indeed necessity, to “stand in other’s shoes” was the focus of Adam Smith’s first book, A Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Smith developed this theme later in his more famous book, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), a systematic exploration into distributed intelligence as it relates to generating free-market economic prosperity.
There is a popular misconception that Smith advocated “selfishness”; what he advocated was free enterprise (and liberty generally) “bounded” by justice, by the Rule of Reason: in essence, what we now call cybernetic reasoning — feedback-dependent distributed intelligence, including that “invisible hand” guiding distributed governance. None of this is possible without empathy. As any good capitalist appreciates, “Know your customer.”
Again, the free market arises when customers “cooperate” (usually tacitly) and thereby force producers to “compete” (usually grudgingly); too often, however, “competition” and “cooperation” are thought of as opposites, but that usually foists a false dichotomy upon a complex reality that deserves deeper probing. Competition and cooperation are good or bad (usually some of both) depending on context; and we — ultimately our entire ecosystem — must supply that context. The “free market” of information and ideas is likewise rooted in our capacity for empathy that engages a continuum of multidimensional reciprocity among individuals, groups, ideas, and other cultural tools.
But, as we must forever remind ourselves, free “markets” of all kinds are destroyed by corrupt market manipulations, including “marketing” that is sheer hucksterism. When hucksters invade the realms of religion and politics, the results are especially corrosive. The Ecology of Values serving the Ecology of Mind must “devalue” all marketing that is dishonest, that hides inconvenient truths, that relies on junk science and faith-based certitudes cut off from cybernetic, error-correcting feedback.
Implicit in Smith’s philosophy was an idea that was already “in the air” and was central to then-emerging democratic theory, namely, the Idea of Progress. Its deepest discernment was that liberty bounded by justice leads not merely to the evolution but also to the improvement of ideas, institutions, the lives of humans, and the wellbeing of Civilization Writ Large. It carries within itself the capacity for further progress, including improvements in our understanding of liberty and justice … and their relationship to the Advancement of Learning. Smith was a “political economist”; his focus transcended “mere” economics, and was rooted in “moral philosophy” (a term that has fallen into disuse, and needs resuscitation); he was, indeed, a student of the entirety of the human condition — and an advocate for its betterment. Of course, there is nothing “mere” about “economics” when we realize that the word “economics” denotes, in essence, the law of the (planetary?) household.
Smith saw the human condition as dynamic, not static, and — if rightly “guided” by healthy distributed intelligence — as capable of improving goods, services, prosperity, and that highest good: equal freedom under equal law. He discerned that the “motive force” of freedom and equality under justice is, in essence, that highest moral standard, the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would be treated. And he celebrated what we now call “evolution” — a word that did not then exist; his work helped prepare the ground for this world-remaking Darwinian breakthrough.
Lastly, and of greatest significance, Smith saw (or at least glimpsed) that evolution is “designed” — not by a single intellect but by distributed or dispersed intelligence, countless choices and actions linking countless participants in the Ecology of Mind coevolving with an Ecology of Values.
In a sense, yes, each of those choices is “selfish”; but, as previously suggested, in cybernetic theory the definition of “self” is always “at issue”; and all selves and their choices should be “bounded” by equal justice grounded in empathy, the basis of the Golden Rule.
Lincoln proclaimed that, as we would not wish to be slaves, so we should not wish to be slaveholders. This principle, deeply rooted in our capacity for empathy, was violated by the original U.S. Constitution.
Korzybski said “the map is not the territory”; likewise, blueprints are not mansions; good constitutional texts are “about” constitutional democracies.
They are intended to bring constitutional democracy alive, ever more vibrant, in service to the Idea of Progress.
Those who seek the “original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution must recognize that its most “original meaning” was that it was an instrument of progress, of improvement — of Advancement — in understanding, in enlightenment, in Learning Writ Large. It was a creature (once again, no metaphor suffices) of the Age of Enlightenment. It is a creature of RISE.
The Conversation of Democracy undergirding any constitutional democracy worthy of this term “is” (breathes) a living quest for improved understanding of the meanings and implications of all the words and phrases, all the maps and blueprints, composing any “constitution” (a verb) worth ordaining.
And, as I have argued, the highest good that is being “constitutionalized” is freedom of inquiry as the foundation of healthy distributed intelligence and distributed — i.e., democratic —governance.
The most important question for our embryonic planet is how to secure and enhance that freedom … and everything it implies: constitutional democracy.
The “original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution was and remains that constitution democracy is improvable.
Our world has by any meaningful definition “progressed”; by extension, our world’s future can become much better than its present. As suggested, one of the key areas of progress has been our understanding of the significance and nature — or better, second-nature (that is, culture) — of Ordered Liberty: equal rights and opportunities bounded by equal justice and responsibilities. Such understanding comes in the nick of time, for new challenges confront us, awesome difficulties associated with what I shall call “third-nature” enhancements in which we deliberately change and extend biology, especially our own … through genetic engineering, mechanical implants, sophisticated brain-to-computer linkages, etc.
This is no mere far-distant, theoretical issue. Sooner or later — much sooner than we might be culturally prepared — humankind will be capable of becoming “trans-human” (some say “post-human” or “super-human”); and, among the many questions this raises, the most important is essentially a restatement of the most worthwhile question already posed: How can we allow, welcome, and magnificently benefit from such changes unless we can concurrently uphold the integrity of the idea that each human is equal under the law, is equal in liberty and therefore equal in restrictions on liberty?
How can Ordered Liberty survive, how can the Advancement of Learning thrive, and how can the Conversation of Democracy continue evolving “deliberatively” if some or most humans are Alphas, blessed with genetic and other enhancements, while some remain Betas? How can we maintain the integrity of the worldwide goal that arguments shall be won or lost based on the superiority of evidence and reasoning, not breeding or trans-human enhancements? For no matter how exulted the individual intelligence of any Alpha might be, it will still be trivial compared to the distributed intelligence of a well-functioning Conversation of Democracy.
Precisely because the health of that Conversation relies on individual liberty, individual responsibility, and the equal dignity of all sane adults, the introduction of Alphas who are “more equal” (like the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm) is likely to become problematic, perhaps the kiss of death for what the ancient Greeks called Isonomia (equal liberty implying equal justice), the indispensable foundation of Demokratia. We have not progressed to outlaw slavery, second-class citizenship for women, and caste-systems generally, only to introduce a new and ultimately more damaging form of human inequality. Our “progress” must not become our undoing.
The topic of our capacity, through the brilliance of distributed intelligence, to “outsmart” ourselves, leading to socio-political arrangements that might defeat the Conversation of Democracy on which healthy distributed intelligence must rest, is raised here to indicate the scope of issues that deserve our systematic inquiry. I will return to this topic in due course.
As suggested, not only are we conscious of other humans being conscious, we are increasingly conscious of “human consciousness” as a distributed aggregate, a much-of-a-muchness worth investigating, learning from, and guiding. Selecting healthy seeds, jettisoning worthless chaff, ever winnowing and cross-pollinating, we participatorily shape that distributed consciousness as it anticipatorily shapes us.
That is, our capacity for empathy increasingly impels us to cultivate “feed-forward” perspectives, standing in the shoes of contingent futures. To sustain and improve Ordered Liberty, we must “posit” future interlocutors — future historians of our current “being” (Sanskrit bhu, growing), future judges of our current wisdoms, choices, actions, feedback harvesting, and “feed-forward” cultivation. This is a tall order, an astonishingly-sophisticated enhancement of consciousness, both individual and distributed.
This endeavor carries us beyond the classical nature/culture — or nature/second-nature — dichotomy, calling forth a sort of “third-nature” virtual culture which, through time-binding global consciousness, “exists” wherever humans are wise enough to listen, learn, obey. From a cybernetic standpoint, such “feed-forward” is a special case of the general phenomenon of feedback cultivation and harvesting. In the general case, our empathetic capacities impel us towards a global enterprise in which hope-instilling idealism is bounded — checked and balanced — by evidence-reflecting pragmatism. In the special case, we are guided not by “actual facts” but by “virtual facts” — including nightmare scenarios that we plan, or at least hope, to avoid.
Our planning, like our hoping, must be based on non-hubristic confidence born of self-corrective competence … among individuals, within societies, and — encouraging “remoter dawns along the gloomy sky” — throughout Civilization Writ Large. “CWL” … pronounced “swirl” by aficionados of sustainable progress. Ah, when the swirl was young!
Ungainly giants still stumble across our planet’s fair face, seeking to advance civilization by uncivilized means; “pointing heavenward, [they] live themselves in hell” (as Aldous Huxley’s Chrome Yellow puts it). But hope is justified!
Asking what is worthy of humankind’s best potential — CWL, the embodiment of RISE — is the most worthwhile question, I conclude, because the parameters of any answer that dovetails with the parameters of this question, and is therefore fully responsive to it, will require us to recognize that, being a result of evolution, we must honor natural and cultural evolutionary processes by remaining, in essence, “unfinished” … embryonic, indeed neotenous (“childlike” in “adult form”).
To achieve that best potential, these Jurlandia writings argue, we must never forsake individual liberty, especially freedom of inquiry and hence freedom of expression and hence freedom of association. To be, to grow, to bhu this embryonic planet, cannot be dumbed down; it is an “elevated” endeavor. It requires that equal liberty and hence equal justice (what bj, already mentioned!!@!, the ancient Greeks called isonomia) — including equal limitations on freedom, hence equality under the law, and hence equal rights in the making of law (isonomia’s child, demokratia) — must compose a “much of a muchness” that constitutes, indeed constitutionalizes, CWL as the “outward manifestation” of the “inner reality” of RISE.
As suggested, not merely humankind but our entire “planetary condition” has, or should be viewed as capable of achieving, a fundamentally embryonic — or, more precisely, neotenous — existence. Words like “embryonic” and “neotenous” are metaphrands, of course … invitations to inquiry regarding the unarticulable and, perhaps, the ultimately mysterious, without which freedom of inquiry, and all it implies, becomes pointless.
The ineffable, where words fail, has spawned much of our world’s best literature. To assert that ours is a “neotenous planet” is merely, albeit gloriously, an invitation to inquiry — including inquiry into why freedom of inquiry is among the most precious values secured by Ordered Liberty.
Our world is its own best metaphrand and, hence, metaphor — significantly like many things we know of, yet even more significantly unlike anything other than itself. The quintessence of the human condition should be to know, love, protect, nurture, refine, improve, and ultimately reconceptualize the planetary condition, secure in the “self-evident truth” that the unexamined life is not worth living — for homo sapiens — and that unexamined truths are not worth having. Does this “self-evident truth” ensnare us in a contradiction? In logic, perhaps, but in practice, no. As with similar apparent contradictions — many hands make light work, but too many cooks spoil the broth — we are invited to examine contexts, the engines of comprehension, and such examination will often uncover “exceptions that prove the rule” (a logical absurdity, but we all know what we mean by it). As Aristotle observed, only similars can be usefully contrasted; the key is not whether something is similar to or different from something else, but whether a perceived similarity or difference is significant within context. And who supplies that context? Who indeed! Distinctions, like distinguishers, have belly buttons. Contemplating the human condition, we can be comforted in the knowledge that (to mix metaphors) many have dived into this plowed field before.
Indeed, reconceptualization of the planetary condition is inevitably rooted in words, metaphors, and philosophical insights originating in ancient Greek Mythos, Logos, and Nomos — which “first trinity” itself reflects earlier origins — developing into what this Ecology of Mind governed by an Ecology of Values has evolved into: a legacy and hence birthright of facts, ideas, values, and institutions that compose — among their most significant splendors — Constitutional Democracy, to wit, majority and coalition rule balanced by minority and individual rights.
Ecologies of ideas, values, and institutions upholding Ordered Liberty are … breathe … any planetary condition worth our contemplation. While logic might propose that all components of an ecology are of equal value, experience teaches that values are by nature hierarchical. Highest in this hierarchy are values that enhance further inquiry, further discovery, further intellectual and moral evolution, which (on principle) can refine that hierarchy, even (under compelling circumstances) dethrone it. In that sense, RISE constitutes our most precious organ of perception, cognition, and creativity, for it aims at its own improvement.
To say that this traps us in circular reasoning or self-referential absurdity is a cramped and ungenerous way of acknowledging the exhilarating gift of each to all: distributed intelligence and distributed governance aimed at increasing the scope of equal liberty and its corollary, equal justice. See Isonomia.
If we secure equal liberty and equal justice, RISE has a promising future. Our successors in interest might look upon us as we now look upon chimpanzees, with this crucial difference:
They will know that we willed and planned their greater glory. Accordingly, they must bequeath even greater glory to their own successors, ever mindful to secure liberty and justice.
Constitutional democracy will be the result: for, if we are equal in liberties, and equal in the restrictions upon our liberties, then we must be equal in the making of law.
Our successors will see that we asked the most worthwhile question: How can distributed intelligence translate into distributed governance?
RISE embraces us in the Conversation of Democracy — a metalogue on synergetics and cybernetics (as these three intertwined concepts are defined in that essay), in which the “subject” always includes our relationships with our knowing, our doing, our fellow humans and their “artifacts” (including institutions and assemblages), and our capacity to reflect upon, and thereby improve, all these relationships.
In this connection, I quote from Barak Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope — Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006), at pages 92-93:
What the framework of our Constitution can do is organize the way by which we argue about our future. All of its elaborate machinery — its separation of powers and checks and balances and federalist principles and Bill of Rights — are designed to force us into a conversation, a “deliberative democracy” in which all citizens are required to engage in a process of testing their ideas against an external reality, persuading others of their point of view, and building shifting alliances of consent. Because power in our government is so diffuse, the process of making law in America compels us to entertain the possibility that we are not always right and to sometimes change our minds; it challenges us to examine our motives and our interests constantly, and suggests that both our individual and collective judgments are at once legitimate and highly fallible.
Asking what is “worthy of humankind” is the most worthwhile question. As suggested, answering this question requires us to ponder the evolution of life, of intelligence, of constitutional democracy, and of understandings and values that can enhance further worthwhile evolution.
Securing and enhancing the Conversation of Democracy undergirding Ordered Liberty is the best starting point towards a better tomorrow for generations yet unborn, towards civilizations more liberated and hence motr responsible than we can currently conceive.
Part Two five?
Biological evolution, for which there is staggeringly-persuasive evidence in every fossil of past lives and every filament of current DNA, is explainable in terms of random mutation and natural selection operating “mindlessly” over eons.
Such natural evolution has brought forth, in recent times (as measured in terms of those eons) an “is” — humankind — capable of cultural evolution that is characterized by increasingly non-random changes, increasingly “mindful” choices.
These choices increasingly affect biological evolution, for good or ill. While “intelligent design” employed to explain pre-human evolution must be trimmed off by Occam’s razor, the advent of humankind has increasingly introduced “design” (whether wise of foolish) into nature, thereby mixing “nature” and “second nature” in ways that are fundamentally changing our world.
What we have heretofore called “human nature” — without adequately appreciating how dependent it has become upon cultural evolution — relies on “institutions of choice-making” that are among civilization’s most complex creations. Indeed, the most complex of these is civilization itself. It makes not only tools, but also tool-making tools, literally and figuratively.
And, in a manner of speaking, civilization’s most fascinating tool-making tool — “intelligently designed” by that distributed intelligence which guides not only the marketplace of goods and services but also, most significantly, the “marketplace” of ideas, asserted truths, and proposed values — is each free, accountable, ever-educable individual. As I write these words, I do not feel demeaned by asserting that I am a tool-making tool; and I am pleased to hope that, having taken my lifetime for civilization’s honing, I remain improvable, educable.
As a consequence of a vast aggregate of individual seeking, cultural evolution seeks (I darintelligent “self-design” and “self-governance” in which defining “self” is the inalienable right and non-deligable responsibility of each free, sane, adult participant. This right cannot be given away or sold; and that responsibility must not be shirked or refused. This right and that responsibility are (in a manner of speaking) the twin faces of the coin of Ordered Liberty. Yet it is less a “coin” than a multi-faceted diamond; as we explore and name its facets, we must be mindful that
This tool-making tool, each an organ of all others’ perception and cognition, serves to improve our world’s capacity for wise choices, including choices that will increasingly affect biological evolution.
I place “mindlessly” and “mindful” in quotes, above, because I think “intelligence” (another tricky word) is immanent in all complexity, especially biological and cultural complexity. Clearly, the evolution of humans and of human cultures has introduced “design” into our world, although how “mindful” or “intelligent” it has been depends largely on ones definition of these concepts. I’ll return to this theme. Evolutionary progress is beyond dispute; the evolution of intelligence, consciousness, and “global conscience” is manifest in Shakespeare, Bach, Einstein, the Nuremberg Trials, the Mars Rover, and much of modern civilization. Whatever is “worthy of humankind” — that most worthwhile question — is whatever keeps RISE regenerative, intelligent, still evolving.
The key conclusion — the Conversation of Democracy undergirding Ordered Liberty — implies confronting what historically has been a theological question. In modern garb, this question is not whether we “play God”; we have been doing that for a long time, creating cows and desserts, constitutions and extinct dodos. The key question, rather, is how we can get better at cooperative, participatory “divinity”; for starters, I submit, we have to recognize that (1) participating in Creation and Salvation (what the word “synergism” used to mean) is not a game, (2) “cooperation” and “competition” are words denoting a continuum of participatory activities allowing “synergism” in its modern sense — the behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their constituent subsystems — and (3) religious faiths based on received dogma provide the worst starting point for enhancing what “intelligent design” is, and ought to become.
As suggested, the intelligence of greatest interest in this intelligent-design process is distributed intelligence operating over centuries and incorporating the knowledge and insights of hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of observers, thinkers, planners, and (most significantly) humans who respect, indeed revere, the role of tacit, unarticulable, institutional know-how … especially in securing and enhancing ethical sensibility, personal accountability, and the self-governance of individuals, corporations, governments, etc. See The Cybernetics of Society.
The genius of constitutional democracy is that it institutionalizes distributed intelligence that preserves individual liberty, initiative, and accountability, thereby avoiding the boring stupidity of the hive mind, the terrifying abyss of mob rule, and the equally boring, stupid, and terrifying alternatives of dictatorship, despotism, and might-is-right gangsterism by whatever name. What I have here articulated is a mere “shadow” of the unarticulable major premise undergirding constitutional democracy based on the the Rule of Law, which must itself be based on the Rule of Reason — a special kind of reasoning, essentially cybernetic reasoning that cultivates and harvests feedback, thereby transcending logic and science. As precious as these are, logic and science are inadequate tools of thought when our focus shifts from the true to the good. It is not our doom but our highest glory that we honor those unarticulable major premises by seeking, nonetheless, to give voice to their leadings.
Our biosphere is forming a memesphere that can intelligently redesign both nature and culture, including our biological selves and our emergent global self — a being or “becoming” that is fundamentally unlike anything else we have ever encountered, although an embryo comes to mind. Whether it grows healthy will depend on good luck, about which we can do little, and inspired design, about which we should do our best.
That design is ultimately the province of constitutional law: authoritative distributed intelligence and resulting distributed wisdom, choice, action, feedback, etc., and — in a word — governance … securing liberty, justice, reasoned debate, and an “educational system” (most broadly defined) that serves constitutional democracy’s highest goal: making of civilization a learning organism that is continuously educable, never closed-minded.
This learning organism is enhanced by a constitutional system that is neotenous: “infantile” in its “maturity” — a civilization that celebrates that “childlike wonderment” which characterizes great astrophysicists, great thinkers of all kinds: always asking questions, never too certain, servants of what Francis Bacon called the Advancement of Learning. This system-wide neoteny embodies the literal meaning of “education” — leading out, reaching beyond, always in discovery mode.
The “natural environment” within which human evolution occurs, including both biological and cultural coevolution, is not always usefully distinguishable from the “cultural environment”; a good recent example of this is the adult capacity, most prevalent among peoples who domesticated cattle earliest, to digest milk and milk products. This genetic advantage seems to have arisen independently in several areas of the world.
A more subtle and much more significant neoteny is that of delayed development, including long-delayed adulthood; this phenomenon allows not only a large-headed infant to pass through the birth canal (biological neoteny) but also a long-educated youth to obtain a doctoral degree (cultural neoteny); and this phenomenon carries over to civilization — culture writ large — as such.
As the “truly mature” individual never stops learning, is forever playing with things and ideas, so the truly progressive civilization is forever “playing” with change, with potential improvements.
Winnowing among “changes” to select “improvements” is not “mere play” however; it is, or should be, very serious business.
It is the business of government by the governed, the business of constitutional democracy.
That is what “regenerative intelligence still evolving” is, breathes, requires.
That education-affirming constitutional system, properly conceived, is our emergent global culture. The African saying “it takes a village to raise a child” needs to be modified, in the sense that it takes a global village, a world. Indeed, to say “think globally, act locally” reflects a problematic dichotomy between thought and action, for thinking (mental activity, whether based on facts or superstitions, whether wise or foolish) is humankind’s most species-defining activity. Moreover, thinking is not, primarily, “localized”; rather, it is — or should be — a global enterprise embracing humanity’s past, present, and future. No person is an island, and all islands inhale and exhale — asme — a global environment, physical and intellectual.
To make a human one must first make a memesphere, biosphere, solar system, galaxy, universe. Put differently, perhaps, it seems obvious that simulating a “human life” requires simulating a civilization, and hence (in our time) a world, including Aristotle and Shakespeare and Bach, all of which requires simulating a solar system, this galaxy, indeed an entire universe … which, by definition, is One. To simulate all these requires a computer about the size of, well, that universe.
There will never be another Aristotle, Shakespeare, Bach, or you. So make the best of being real, as you cannot be improved on in any simulation. Our universe is fourteen billion years old; it took all those years to make you.
As an evolving embodiment of distributed intelligence — including distributed conscience, choice, and will — our world must be an ever-improving learning organism, never finished, ever young.
It must incarnate open-endedness, unfinishedness. This requires improving Open Society values and institutions, which — as the expression of an advanced humanity’s spiritual evolution — can intelligently elevate liberty bounded by justice, creativity circumscribed by accountability, Open Society values refined by Open World explorations.
How shall we secure and extend this global experiment in Ordered Liberty — equal rights, equal justice, accountable governance, and the continuing Advancement of Learning?
That is the most general statement of the most worthwhile question confronting humankind.
Our world is what it is, its own best metaphor. No metaphrand or enticement to metaphor-making can suitably name that Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving (RISE) which — Mind in Nature giving birth to Mind in Culture — “is” whatever this planet is capable of becoming.
“… Prophetic, I descry
Remoter dawns along a gloomy sky.”
Discerning, naming, mapping, blueprinting, and systematizing significant similarities and differences lies at the heart of that intelligence which defines and refines us.
Perhaps the most illuminating “significant difference” that makes our world so astonishingly unlike anything else we know of — and the key, above all, to ordaining, establishing, and securing global constitutional democracy — is that, while focusing on the wellbeing of the whole, we must never ignore the wellbeing of its most significant parts: ourselves, each human self, all successive generations of humanity, including “trans-human” enhancements.
We and our successors must embody the proposition that all responsible participants are equal in liberties, and hence equal in restrictions on liberties, and hence equal under “the law” or, more precisely, the Rule of Law … a sort of genetic code which, if improving, can — let us be optimistic! — generate the worthwhile future of that Mind in Culture which seeks evidence-based truths, the stuff of science, so as to build evidence-transcending consequences, the stuff of cybernetics.
The above paragraph offers a mouthful, including the vastly worthwhile question: What does it mean to be part of “humanity” and its trans-human enhancements? Those who shrink from this question are cowards. It must be posed in our own time, and will be answered more fully (let us hope) in future times that can thereby honor our courage in posing it now.
The ideal that each adult shall be equal under the Rule of Law has important implications for child-raising, including the ideal of equal opportunities generally. These ideals should also not be confused with the pragmatic reality, discussed below, that it is better for some to be fully free (see Isonomia) than for all to be partially free.
To summarize so far: Freedoms of inquiry, association, expression, and political participation are of the essence in securing, maintaining, and enhancing distributed intelligence, conscience, choice — the cybernetics or governance of society. Each individual is sacred to that quest.
I am convinced that a new “cybernetic paradigm” is needed — an extension of Darwin, albeit based on the “Mind in Nature” perspectives propounded by Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1971) and Mind in Nature (1979). These perspectives are especially congenial to common-law jurisprudence, in which fundamental rights, ordinary law, and constitutional jurisprudence coevolve interdependently. So far, few lawyers or cyberneticians recognize this kinship. That needs to change.
This cybernetic paradigm proposes that the really interesting and significant datum of analysis is not the evolution of “species” but the evolution — indeed, the coevolution — of the ideas immanent in (1) species; (2) the fact of evolution; (3) non-organic “idea embodiments” such as molecules, atoms, the “universes” of sub-atomic phenomena, and (probably) the structure and composition of the Whole Universe, however grandly conceived; (4) idea-embodiments generally, whether in the biosphere, memesphere, or (arguably) any other imaginable sphere; and (5) “cultural tools” specifically, such as (a) language, literature, and the time-binding of history (starting as Mythos), (b) logic, mathematics, and the evolution of empirical science (starting as Logos), (c) ethics, law, and social cybernetics, including the coevolution of tacit and explicit feedback conventions (starting as Nomos), and (d) synthesizing those three, all intellectual and institutional systems composing, securing, and enhancing that Advancement of Learning to which the Conversation of Democracy is (or ought to be) dedicated … thereby enhancing liberty, equal justice, broad-based liberal education, massively-parallel distributed intelligence and distributed governance, and the eventual development of that “single book” which all linked knowledge — if self-corrective — can embody.
Liberty, justice, and the Rule of Law have coevolved within that larger “idea matrix” immanent in advancing civilization. Without them, worthwhile progress is impossible.
Questions worth asking should not focus on whether the future “belongs” to this or that region, country, religion, or race, etc. Rather, if our planet is to have a worthwhile future, we should focus on the following:
(1) What natural and cultural processes brought our world this far, and how can we advance those processes in ways that honor them while also fine-tuning them to meet — and splendidly enhance — the changed circumstances they have caused and are currently causing?
(2) Specifically, what cultural processes define human civilization, and how should they be improved?
Obviously, cultural processes cannot be divorced from natural processes; most notably, our planet’s biological carrying capacity implicates issues of human population density, for example, while global warming implicates the future of lowest-altitude population centers; and these topics in turn implicate potential advances in “clean-energy” generation, etc.; in short, the natural and the cultural, like the scientific and the cybernetic, coevolve, each forming the “environment” of the other. Yet, for reasons that should soon become clear, I proceed with this inquiry into “worthwhile questions” by focusing on cultural dimensions.
For those who wish to dip into the historical and philosophical dimensions of distinction-making between the natural and the cultural, see Note on Framustans and the First Trinity.
The word “processes” as used above is intentionally vague. I would rather err on the side of intentional vagueness than inadvertent concreteness. Here, “processes” should denote — in modern cultural context — balanced embodiments of the following deeply-interpenetrative values:
• reasoned justice;
• equal rights, equal opportunities, and (with important exceptions) equal responsibilities;
• accountable governance of individuals, corporate entities, political subdivisions, and our emergent global civilization;
• freedom of inquiry, association, expression, and political participation, as essential components of rational governance, scientific and technological advancement, the Advancement of Learning in its deepest and broadest sense, and (of crucial significance) those resulting manifestations of distributed intelligence and distributed conscience, etc., which most distinguish modern humankind from more primitive life-forms; and
• finally, returning full-circle to liberty, albeit now focused on its practical implementation, Due Process of Law — our most precious cultural invention, guaranteeing that no person may be deprived of life, liberty, property, or other fundamental rights, privileges, or immunities, except according to rational laws that are fairly applied.
Rationality and fairness are the touchstones of all these values and processes; without them, Open World liberty rings hollow. They are “terms of art” whose definition is imbedded in science that transcends logic … and cybernetics that transcends science.
The focus of all these values, processes, and resulting institutional arrangements “is” (breathes) scientific advancements serving cybernetic enhancements: facts informing purposes, truths illuminating consequences — wisdoms incarnated into choices, actions, feedback cultivating, feedback harvesting, “feed-forward” goal refinements, and (where essential) corrections and even thorough reconceptualizations of scientific theories and cybernetic or governmental practices.
These processes and their institutional embodiments have coevolved with each other and with all components of worthwhile, future-affirming, liberty-based civilization. Together, they allow us to aim effectively at finding, refining, and achieving a “moving target” — not a plateau of perfection but a path of progress — which, as proposed above, I call “Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving” or RISE.
This target is premised on the proposition that the evolution of our biosphere has “given rise” to RISE, whose embodiment is the memesphere, the InfoSphere, our emerging global civilization. Its distributed intelligence and distributed conscience “is” (breathes) a babe in arms, an unfinished global creation.
Its worthwhile future requires, above all, firm yet evolving ethical standards. Empathy and reciprocity define us, and the the Golden Rule — treat others as they should treat you — undergirds Due Process of Law: rational rules, fairly applied.
Word made Flesh, these fundamentals compose the life-blood of distributed intelligence and conscience. Modern “government under law” — more precisely, under the Rule of Law — must itself govern, and be governed by, that distributed Ecology of Mind and Ecology of Values which “is” RISE.
RISE requires a “cybernetic reconceptualization” of the human condition. This reconceptualization will characterize any Conversation of Democracy worth having.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is correct, as far as it goes, but (to extend the point already proposed) the really interesting topic or “datum of analysis” is not the evolution of species, as such, but the evolution of that “thinking” which is immanent in, or embodied by, bacteria, worms, cats, chimps, and humans ancient and modern.
Even more interesting, however, is the evolution not of natural but of cultural embodiments of thinking. Thus, while “Mind in Nature” is fascinating, “Mind in Culture” is potentially far more so, and this is especially true where “scientific method” and “accountable governance” — both essential to the healthy self-governance of society — combine, through constitutional democracy, to produce desirable improvements in civilization … thereby enhancing nature through culture. While nature does not need “intelligent design” to explain its existence, a constitutional democracy based on liberty and justice, etc., obviously does.
Capitalism, as generally conceived, is flawed. It is not adequately cybernetic; it is not sufficiently self-corrective “in the public interest”; and it must be made much more so, else constitutional democracy and worthwhile human progress — based on liberty, justice, accountability, and other Open World values — will be imperiled. Those values should undergird free and fair markets no less than free and fair governments. Their ultimate rationale must be to secure and enhance distributed intelligence and conscience. Both require that we retain our capacity to be perturbed, even outraged, by unjust deprivations of liberty and corrupt evasions of accountability.
Such accountability must extend, so far as current science requires, to securing a healthy biosphere. Any morality, socio-economic system, or constitutional arrangement that flies in the face of “the ecology” — the natural laws without which human laws would never have arisen — is, or ought to be, highly suspect. Securing a healthy biosphere requires developing a healthier memesphere. Logic, science, cybernetics, and massively-parallel distributed intelligence and distributed conscience must govern, obviously; yet they must themselves be governed. That begs the central question undergirding the Rule of Law: How shall we govern governance? Far too little attention is being given, worldwide, to this ancient yet urgent question.
“Who will watch the watchman?” This is a constitutional question. It must have a constitutional answer. In a government of laws, not of men, what “cultural tools” shall we rely upon to secure Ordered Liberty: equal freedom bounded by equal justice?
And to what extent must our answers be circumscribed by our realization that — as already suggested — it is better for some to be fully free in a fully-just society than for all to be partly free in a partly-just society? If we conclude otherwise, we risk forever losing the ideal of liberty under law.
Indeed, “idealism” and “pragmatism” project a false dichotomy. To be fully free in a fully-just society is an ideal whose existence, if only as a “virtual-reality” touchstone of constitutional jurisprudence, shapes evolving reality.
True pragmatism knows that the desirable and the attainable are co-creative. Feedback loops between the desirable and the attainable “constitute” constitutional democracy, which — as I discuss in The Conversation of Democracy — embodies the institutionalization of feedback cultivation and feedback harvesting as humans conduct a sort of slow-motion controlled experiment upon themselves.
Indeed, in this overwhelmingly-significant instance, “science” and “cybernetics” are identical. Feedback, self-examination, and self-transformation must be institutionalized by being constitutionalized — so that, by knowing ourselves better, we may govern ourselves more wisely.
We humans are what we are due to our capacity to learn, as individuals and societies. Personal and societal self-examination are often painful. The latter requires robust public debate in which claims of “official secrecy” are presumptively trumped (the presumption can be rebutted) by the public’s right to learn about official misconduct and incompetence. Open World values — including freedom of inquiry, association, and expression — are essential to the health and security of “learning societies” … of which constitutional democracies are the highest form … and only “learning societies” are truly secure, or, indeed, worth securing.
ASK ANOTHER WORTHWHILE QQQ
Their goal, as already suggested, is the enhancement and advancement of distributed intelligence and distributed conscience. The hypothesis of humanity’s experiment on itself is that this goal is evolutionarily viable. so far, it seems to have been.
Post-9/11 constitutional jurisprudence in the United States must not tolerate the evisceration of our previously-well-earned reputation for wise self-examination, self-criticism, self-improvement, and judicious self-governance in which liberty-centered justice animates and illuminates all our other values, including physical security.
Eviscerating American constitutionalism will harm constitution-building worldwide. On the other hand, if America upholds highest standards of justice, of rational and fair governance based on Due Process of Law, then global civilization will benefit greatly and our post-9/11 world will be able to consolidate and extend the blessings of both security and liberty.
Current debates on whether Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions provides ascertainable and enforceable standards governing the laws of war, etc., should bear the following in mind:
The phrase “due process of law” has been infused with meaning through hundreds of years of common-law jurisprudence, that is, case-by-case evolutionary development. This jurisprudence has defined — has constitutionalized — the central characteristic of “government under law” (as previously noted): that no person may be deprived of life, liberty, property, or other fundamental rights, except by rational laws fairly applied.
Common Article III forbids “outrages against personal dignity” and “degrading and humiliating treatment”; those who assert that these phrases are unconstitutionally vague want to “amend” this legal standard; they miss the crucial point that it is precisely the “vagueness” of phrases like “due process of law” and “outrages against personal dignity” and “degrading and humiliating treatment” that infuses law with thought, conduct with circumspection, constitutional language with the necessity for “conversations of democracy” that illuminate as they themselves are illuminated through case-by-case determinations whether this person, or that action, is “outrageous” or “degrading” or a denial of “due process of law” as these terms continue to evolve. Freeze-framed law elevates letter over spirit; lists of specific “outrages” allow the inference that newly-minted outrages that are omitted from such lists are permissible. The letter kills; the spirit animates.
Constitutional democracy is a living organism. Due Process of Law (not the phrase but the evolving reality) is part of the genetic code of an evolving U.S. Constitution; indeed, it pre-existed American independence by hundreds of years with animating values that would eventually compel Americans to separate from England in order to more fully enjoy those blessings of liberty which Due Process of Law evolved to secure, and continues to evolve to secure more firmly. In somewhat similar manner, Common Article III is part of our world’s evolving genetic code. That evolving code should evoke not anxiety but celebration.
Ill-conceived capitalism and dumbed-down democracy are premised on metrics of truth and virtue that are increasingly dysfunctional. They distort our sense of what “the public interest” is and how it should be secured. We would all understand this better if our institutions of “living and learning” — of feedback-cultivating and feedback-harvesting, and hence of developing, sustaining, and “growing” the Conversation of Democracy — were working better.
Institutions of “finding truth” and “constituting virtue” are primitive, even retrograde; medievalism coexists with instant messaging; GPS-enhanced rafts toss on blustering seas of ignorant certitude; broadcasts and narrowcasts deliver a cacophony of junk science, toxic ideologies, doggerel entertainment, and infomercial bunkum. Name your poison, the hokum hucksters offer it! Yet multiplexed upon this cacophony, I hear a baby crying, and it comforts me. Massively parallel distributed intelligence and conscience, this “thing” that humanity and our tools are becoming, is that infant. As already proposed, it embodies an evolving “genetic code” whose content looks indistinguishable (in its fundamental characteristics) from that above-referenced “global constitutional” code.
Sloppy metaphors abound as we try to comprehend this infant. Inelegant analogies become indispensable as we grapple with envisioning the institutions our world must develop for its healthy self-governance. A bawling burping puking punk, perhaps … but every Lincoln and Einstein starts out that way.
The knees of our hearts bend low as we contemplate the learning tasks ahead. Our world needs America to be a superb student, and hence exemplar, of federated constitutional democracy, because lessons thereby learned have been and must continue to become of greatest value in establishing democratic, law-based, multi-cultural governance worldwide. Our world needs the very best America possible.
Obviously, if America falters, others must step into the breach. But at present I see no likely alternative to American leadership. And this, in my view, places a special burden upon American law and lawyers.
Any “answer” that does not start by upholding the paramount value of liberty-based justice is no answer worthy of human evolution.
The “New World” must live up to its name. Composed of representatives from throughout the Old Word, it must demonstrate by example that liberty, justice, equal opportunity, and constitutional democracy — majority and coalition rule bounded by individual and minority rights — can compose a viable foundation for a sustainable future.
Tolstoy famously asked: “Knowing what we know, what then must we do?” An obvious threshold answer: Everything necessary to keep the Conversation of Democracy elevated — capable of further illumination, deeper exploration, profounder self-examination, and resulting transformation of the human condition … to ensure that liberty, justice, accountable governance, a sustainable biosphere, and a robust memesphere shall prevail.
This threshold answer reaches deep into history, including the history of thought and language. It is evident that the tools of thinking and communicating coevolved; yet, as questions precede answers, so metaphrands precede metaphors (see below). In the beginning was not the word but the need for a word. Thinking precedes language, but it does not get far without language. This is partly because most thinking rests on previously-communicated thoughts, assertions, questions, and answers. Indeed, thinking and communicating have coevolved.
The life of wisdom is not logic, as precious as that might be, but experience, including systematically-harvested experience relating to ourselves, the human condition, and what it means to go forth into the future with wisdom — with questions, answers, follow-up questions, and more-refined answers … ever examining, ever inquiring.
The limits of our questions compose the limits of our wisdoms. More precisely, the parameters of our “recognized ignorance” compose the parameters — the scope, depth, and character — of any “reduction of recognized ignorance” that we could recognize as responsive to our thirst for understanding. We do not always find what we seek, yet we almost never find unless we seek
Words like metaphrand (denoting what we observe — for example when a ship moves through water — but have no name for); metaphier (a plow moving through the earth); metaphor (a ship plowing through the ocean); paraphier (humanity moving through history); and paraphrand (ah, not so fast!) have been discovered or invented to map or illuminate that “blueprint-generating” activity which is so pivotal to our biosphere’s most glorious creation, the memesphere.
Now for the paraphrand:
I want to see, understand, and impart to others what is going on behind — after humanity has passed through the present — my focus being upon the medium that has been plowed. I have no word or phrase to denote it yet, but I am in “paraphrand mode” (albeit seeking less a metaphor for a thing or relationship than an analogy for an institution) as I end the following excerpt:
Every distinction creates, not a duality, but a trinity — that which is within the distinction, that which is outside, plus the distinction itself, which is neither “outside” nor “inside” but which, upon the making, partakes of the whole. Upon deepest reflection, we see that every distinction — every perceived difference — bears a ghost-like relationship to the distinguisher, the perceiver. As humans find or invent distinctions, we see our “mental presence” imbedded within them, almost as if the act of recognizing a difference gives birth to a new-order similarity that “spiritually unites” what we have mentally parted. We are like a moving ship plowing through waves that then come back together behind us … leaving a ghostly path to mark our passing. Every cleavage of One, of Universe, of the Whole, bequeaths a “Holy Ghost” signifying the resulting similarities and differences.
The above excerpt is from my 2000 essay, Dedichotomizing Law and Economics by Recontextualizing Self and Society. The full essay is available here. The subject of paraphrands, etc., was first posed by Julian Jaynes. I remain unconvinced by many of his conclusions, especially those relating to the origins of consciousness, but I find his distinctions among the “stages of metaphor generation” to be instructive, indeed inspiring.
Recognizing that the parameters of an answer “fit” the parameters of a question is interesting and “progress-making” only if uncoerced. Such recognition usually occurs through participation in an Ecology of Mind — through discussion, collaborative exploration, and a cultural commitment to peer review, rigorous second-guessing, and a determination to leave no stone unturned, no alternative explanation ignored.
But, ultimately, only individuals can answer “yes” or “no” to whether the parameters of an answer fit those of a question. The “self” does not live in contradiction to the “society”; each is sustained at the other’s table; but the individual, and hence individual liberty, remains the basic building block of free societies.
Finding “meaningful fit” often has significance within a hierarchy of contexts, but the highest context must always be individual freedom of inquiry, including the right to say “no” when asked whether a proposition is convincing or even persuasive. The “self” that has such freedom is “fully human” and hence a full and voluntary participation in global self-reflection and (for lack of a better phrase) resulting “global conscience”: knowledge instructing conduct.
Only voluntary participation in composing the memesphere is healthy. Liberty, justice, equal opportunity, and constitutional democracy, are essential to everything we know.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” This observation is generally attributed to Socrates, who was obviously referring to the worth of human life, not that of cows or snails.
Being faithful to Socrates, we should first examine whether such attribution is needed or useful. Surely the truth and significance of this assertion rests on far more than Socrates could ever have known or imagined. Appeals to “authoritative ancient texts” too conveniently insulate us from the examined life.
The truth and significance of Socrates’ observation rests, today, on massively parallel distributed intelligence and wisdom, including lessons learned since time immemorial but now powerfully reinforced by (1) science — the totality of empirical knowledge, including knowledge about how to build this empirical edifice further — and (2) cybernetics: the art of converting knowledge into choice, action, and feedback-instructed further knowledge, choice, and action.
Dumbed-down “democracy” and ill-conceived “capitalism” fail on cybernetic grounds. The reconceptualization I propose must succeed on cybernetic grounds. Arguably the first feedback foray for examining why such grounds are so vitally important encompasses essentially the same question that Socrates’ observation poses: Is it possible to be “fully human” — as individuals and as societies — without asking, inquiring, and examining? Can “cybernetic truths” instructing conduct and governance, etc., ever be based entirely upon prior authoritative sources divorced from current inquiries?
Are unexamined truths worth having?
It is not merely that the answer must be a resounding No. It is that elevated “democracy” and well-conceived “capitalism” institutionalize the reification — the sacred reality, word made flesh — of individual and societal inquiry. Life, when inquiring, ascends to becomes the highest form of life. Accordingly, we must celebrate that resounding No.
As St. Augustine advised: “Quaeras de dubiis, legem bene discere si vis.” Inquire into them, that is how to know what things are really true.
As we shall see, “natural evolution” results from what might be called that “Mind immanent in Nature” which asks, in effect, What if?
And “cultural evolution” likewise results from asking, inquiring, examining, albeit in the realm not of the genetic but the memetic: the realm of humanity’s most elevated striving.
Obviously a meme is different from a gene, but in this respect they are decisively similar: Each exist as a question or packet of questions calling forth answers which, if reified (idea converted into reality), might prove to have survival advantages. Each asks, in effect, What if?
Answering these questions “composes” nature and second-nature, that is, culture. Arguably, without “unexamining” there can be no life.
Definitely, without “examining” there can be no culture, not “truly human” existence.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
I revere Aristotle precisely because I think he may have been the first human to have glimpsed that our world might eventually mature into a “knowledge sphere” in which the conventions he pioneered of describing, in effect, the previous steps to his “ecology of mind” — Thales said this, his student Anaximander said that, to which the younger Anaximenes proposed … and Heraclitus demurred … but Parmenides responded … and his student Socrates reminded … and my teacher Plato added … and I now therefore propose — would be superseded by more refined conventions and their reifications. These include universities, parliaments, business enterprises, judiciaries, the administrative state, etc., and all their interdependencies. Their recent further integration by computer-mediated and internet-enhanced “parallel processing” involves a change not of degree but of kind, a “singularity” in which past is never an adequate prologue. As Aristotle might have glimpsed the implications of systematic knowledge-generation, so we can at best glimpse a future of massively parallel distributed learning, intelligence, consciousness, and resulting conscience, wisdom, choice, and governance
Revering Aristotle no less than Francis Bacon, Adam Smith, and Charles Darwin, etc., I must move beyond as I examine the relationships among logic, science, cybernetics, capitalism, democracy, global progress, and the wisdoms and values sustaining — and sustained by — distributed intelligence, etc., and consequent healthy individual and societal choice, action, feedback-cultivation, and feedback-harvesting.
These explorations are inspired by my growing conviction that cybernetics — the “art” of feedback-sensitivity — proposes a paradigm shift which, albeit rooted in evolutionary theory, is of greatest significance not for the natural sciences but the social sciences; and this “cultural tool” is especially significant in law, governance, and the art of securing sustainable material and “spiritual” prosperity based on liberty, justice, equal opportunity, and personal and societal accountability.
I recently saw the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. What I find especially instructive is that Lay, Skilling, Fastow, and all those other rogues continuously proclaimed their fealty to “deregulation” and “free-market forces” yet, in fact, Enron benefited from billions of dollars of U.S. and Texas largesse — capitalist welfare — while Enron underwrote both Bush I and II with numerous sweetheart deals and campaign contributions during 1985-2000.
And then, shortly after Bush II became President in 2001, Enron benefited to the tune of $2-5 billion in a few weeks from the President’s refusal to even consider intervening with electricity price controls, as California Governor Davis requested, at a time when, to any intelligent observer, it was obvious that Enron was deliberately cutting supply in order to raise prices by (in some cases) a thousand percent! The President’s explanation: California’s problems were due to too much regulation, not too little. This was politically cynical balderdash, or worse: a big fat green light for Bush’s longtime cash-cow cronies to carry on with their hucksterism, manipulation, and wholesale theft.
Free-markets? It was early February, and California never comes close to hitting peak electricity consumption in the winter! The evidence of manipulation and fraud was stunningly obvious at the time (I happened to be in California when the crisis started in late January), and we now realize we didn’t know the half of it: We now have those foulmouthed Enron boys on tape giggling like hyenas as they deliberately gummed up the production and distribution of electricity so that the seventh largest economy in the world would have to pay Enron billions in ransom before its “free market” would deliver the power which (in effect) Californians had over previous decades built the plants to produce, reliably and at reasonable prices.
Enron’s control over that power-grid was based solely on its previous market manipulations, including its absurdly-leveraged purchases of plants, etc., secured by fraudulently-inflated Enron shares. Big-bucks “enablers” — what is still quaintly called “Wall Street” … including its lawyers, accountants, P.R. apologists, and political fixers — helped Enron to do this, but it would not have been possible but for the ideology (almost religion) of “free-market fundamentalism” undergirding deregulation that turned Thomas Edison’s dream of plentiful power for all into a casino of greed-is-good hucksterism. We now know this beyond doubt. Those free-market arguments by Lay, Bush, Wall Street, and their lackeys were sheer hokum!
Without those arguments, and bought think-tanks to lend them scholarly credibility, Enron would never have got so far during the prior 15 years. They took a good idea, Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor, and then, by cynically making a political religion out of it, they bilked trusting Americans and ran their free-market ideals into a global sewer of misinformation, disinformation, market skullduggery, and political chicanery. Even Newt should blush at the audacity of such mendacity!
At that very time, remember, Lay was being considered for the position of Energy Secretary, and he was already a key player in Cheney’s now-infamous energy cabal.
Aristotle also said our judgment cannot be better than our information. Enron, the Bush Administration, and their enablers were not only manipulating economic markets, they were manipulating the marketplace of ideas and information.
They were undermining the foundations of what it means to be human: a participant in our biosphere’s memesphere of distributed intelligence and judgment. They were subverting the Conversation of Democracy.
This crashing hubris, this arrogant dismissal of the quintessence of worthwhile participatory governance, has done incalculable damage to America’s global reputation, and rightly so. Indeed, if America’s good reputation had “survived” recent events, I would be far more worried. America’s current visit to the woodshed of global censure is healthy.
There is so much of highest value in “capitalism” and “democracy”; but dumbed-down conceptions of these and related fundamentals, especially where exploited for greedy and nefarious ends by those who know (or ought to know) better, must be resisted as powerfully as possible.
The best antidote against bad ideas is better ideas. Humans of discernment and conscience must speak truth to power. Our world must refine truth-finding and power-wielding in ways that support rather than undercut the Conversation of Democracy.
Straw-pigmy excuses for non-thought include the contention that some believe governmental decision-making should always be conducted in public. Thus braced by flimflam, the Bush Administration’s contempt for robust and informed public discourse — far too reminiscent of Soviet-style contempt for distributed intelligence — has made war on legitimate open-society discourse, thereby progressively debasing informed public choice, the advancement of accountable governance, and related concomitants of our planet’s healthy future.
Our world needs America to be both good and strong, its arguments to be persuasive within significant contexts, its standing to be based not on its weapons (necessary though they might be) but on its exalted example of institutionalized liberty, justice, openness, honesty, and all that these imply. These values have been irresponsibly debased, utterly trashed, during the past six years.
The best way to salvage America’s reputation would be for a new President, explicitly repudiating the current one, to apologize for our country’s recent example and to promise a new beginning … starting with a renewed commitment to truthful persuasion and contextual significance.
This would prepare the ground for that arduous task of earning back America’s reputation for sound governance, liberty under law, and constitutional rectitude.
Enron’s ill-gotten gains were not enough to keep it from collapsing under $30-40 billion of debt, accumulated — and hidden — using “enablers in high places”; these scoundrels allowed Enron to carry on, until the last moment, producing cooked books, vaporous profits, and newly-converted “useful-idiots” to help keep the piper from being paid.
Enron presents an instructive example of why “good governance” must include “regulation in the public interest” — especially regularization of accurate information flows.
This requires forbidding and prosecuting deeply-imbedded information manipulations and the resulting corruptions of “governance” most broadly defined, including manipulations of the marketplace for goods, services, political influence, and governmental decision-making.
Corruption of governance, thus broadly defined, is not confined to the United States, of course. Some day, starting sooner rather than later, institutions of global governance will have to be instituted and incrementally developed to forbid and punish crimes and torts of information-corruption that, unchecked, are polluting the memesphere as potentially-calamitously as industrial poisons, etc., are polluting the ecosphere.
Indeed, maintaining a healthy memesphere is deeply related to restoring a healthy ecosphere. As I discuss in Part Three, “information” and “biology” are deeply linked. But first, I want to delve more deeply into how misconceived capitalism and democracy are corrupting healthy individual initiative and constitutional democracy.
The story of Enron’s collapse is especially worrisome, I believe, for what it tells us about the wider “culture of misconceived capitalism” that allowed it, indeed encouraged it.
Before Enron collapsed, stock analysts, etc. — including many who were employed by financial institutions that were making vast profits off Enron — were regularly giving “buy” recommendations for Enron’s securities even while acknowledging (to one another) that they had no idea how Enron was “making its numbers” quarter after quarter, year after year.
Merrill Lynch fired the one analyst who balked at playing this corrupt game, and Enron immediately awarded Merrill with major additional financing work, which, by the way, included a patently bogus “sale” of barges to Citibank (as I recall) that was actually a loan secured by Enron’s absurdly-inflated stock, thereby giving Merrill and Citibank an even greater incentive to keep Enron’s share prices stable or rising. Is that how free markets are supposed to work? I might have my details wrong here. These various corrupt schemes all blend into one another, not merely in my memory but in their fullest implications.
It is hard to know, let alone catalogue, all the ways in which Enron gamed the system, flimflamming and trashing everything we supposedly hold dear. What we know is probably the tip of an iceberg. As near as I can tell, all those grandee Whose-Who Power Players were in on this abysmal game then — Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, First Boston, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, etc. And the question asks itself: Are those icons of capitalism any less corrupt now?
That’s the global, hundred-trillion-dollar question, and “mere” free markets cannot answer it. Only a reconceptualization of “governance” can begin the process of answering. All those corrupt enablers — lobbyists, law and accounting firms, titans of industry and labor, and bought politicians, think tanks, professors, and columnists, etc. — need to be called to account.
We must “regularize regulation” to obtain reliable information necessary for cybernetic, self-corrective, and (ultimately) “politically accountable” processes and institutions.
This must become an explicitly-developed component of advanced civilization — no less fundamental than liberty, justice, equal opportunity, and constitutional democracy.
All must together compose a much-of-a-muchness, interdependent parts of that life which “is” (from Sanskrit “asme” – “to breathe”) information.
Information. Trustworthy information. The Holy Grail, to which the knees of our intellects must bend.
Fortune Magazine awarded “best company” status to Enron at a time when nobody, including Fortune’s reporters, could figure out what Enron actually did for a living! What were those titans of Fortune thinking? Well, they were focused on what sells ads and magazine subscriptions. Whatever “makes” buzz, for to these titans, “is” truth, breathes authentic reality.
Capitalism, the triumph of buzz? Decadent wheeze, more likely!
Fortune romanticized the idea that Enron’s “black-box” operations — creating “markets” in energy futures, bandwidth overcapacity, storms over Saskatchewan, and doubtless the incidence of housemaid’s knee in Lower Slovobia — were too complex for mere mortals to comprehend!
Even the Great Greenspan couldn’t comprehend them, yet (alas!) he didn’t seem fazed — which might explain why Lay awarded him a fat public-service prize! Enron’s motto was “Ask Why!” But in fact it penalized all who did, rewarded only those who “went along” with its flimflam. Bush I. Bush II. Fortune. Greenspan. The Wizard of Oz. And ever-helpful God.
Are black-box spinners of “vapor value” in the 2006 derivatives and hedge-fund industries, etc., like the Enron of 2000?
Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, and similar boosters of free-market “fundamentalism” gushed then, and gush now, but … should that give us comfort?
I’m not saying that everything denoted a “derivatives contract” or a “hedge fund” is corrupt, or is evidence of a house-of-cards hokum economy. I am saying only that too much media hype regarding such “vehicles of wealth creation” is cynically concocted or, worse, reflects unexamined dogmas and mumbo-jumbo hallucinations — Tulip Manias on computerized stilts!
Yes, I believe in honest markets. I revere distributed intelligence that is self-corrective, and revere even more those elements that keep it so. Indeed, I revere the manifest reality that my understanding is intertwined within a larger observational and intellectual embodiment composing (inter alia) the invisible hand of free-market information-processing. And I appreciate how this “hand” guides free economies towards prosperity. Yet I am convinced (as discussed below) that the “invisible hand” metaphor is misleading and needs refinement, even reconceptualization.
In short, despite my reverence for “the wisdom of crowds” I acknowledge that such societal thinking is too often delusional. Thus, “the insanity of mobs” blundering through crazy-mirror echo-chambers of mutually-reinforcing misconceptions should never be discounted. Accordingly, humanity must develop principled ways of distinguishing the former from the latter, especially with reference to misleading conventional wisdoms that bedevil our understanding and practice of “capitalism” and “democracy” — thereby exacerbating irrational “free-market” exuberances and related unexamined premises that imperil not only sustainable prosperity but also, more worrisome, bedevil sustainable constitutional democracy premised upon liberty, justice, equal opportunity, reasoned societal discourse, and the Advancement of Learning based on the Idea of Progress (see below).
Rugged individualist that I also am, I must of course take ultimate responsibility for my understanding, and act accordingly; truths imply consequences. On that basis, I have asserted that far too much of what passes for “free market thinking” is sheer nonsense — fevered “fundamentalism” as toxic and dysfunctional as religious fundamentalisms.
On analysis, such free-market fundamentalism projects into public-policy formulations an unsustainable reification of metaphors based (in modern parlance) on metaphrands calling forth metaphiers that, in reality, overemphasize misleading “similarities” at the expense of significant “differences” and, indeed, at the expense of staggeringly-more-apt analogies.
How can Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” guide when huge conglomerates engage in misinformation, disinformation, institutionalized lying, and political shenanigans aimed at shielding “the market” from self-knowledge, self-examination, self-correction? Bush II was a “useful idiot” of these corrupt forces long before they rewarded him with the Texas Rangers and the Texas Statehouse. He would never have become President but for his “incuriosity” about the world and his manipulability by the likes of “Kenny Boy” Lay. The President of the United States is the personification of what has gone so terribly wrong with America; he is a “construct” of America’s worst inclinations, its most corrupted mentalities, its cowboy-capitalism run amok, its triumphalism and hubristic insularity.
Some might say of capitalism what Churchill said of democracy, that for all its flaws it is the best we know of. But I think this evades crucial insights about how each can be made better.
(1) Free markets and constitutional democracies “come to us” through a process of coevolution — with each other and with all cultural phenomena.
(2) They, and all that they imply, are manifestations of coevolutionary processes that undergo what Schumpeter referred to as “creative destruction”; but its healthy functioning requires
ve further, and will.
(3) This coevolution can go wrong, however; but not for long; if humans do not “self-correct” wisely, wrathful nature will eventually intervene. (4) The failings of dumbed-down democracy and cowboy capitalism reinforce each other, creating an irrational, positive-feedback exuberance that corrupts information-flows between and among them; the resulting gung-ho boosterism debases information, and hence leads to yet further political and economic insanity; cyberneticians refer to such positive-feedback failure as “runaway”; it destroys steam engines, submerges democracies in pettifoggery, converts value-producing economies into snake-oil emproiums.. (5) Individuals and institutions need reliable information regarding the marketplace of goods, services, ideas, private choices, and public-policy formulations, etc.; processes and institutions enhancing “self-correction” must never be deemed subversive; (5) Unless elevated conceptions of Constitutional Democracy and Ordered Liberty reassert control over “mere” democracy and capitalism, America and our world will be imperiled.
To remain healthy, the coevolution of democracy and capitalism (and all they properly imply) must become part of a larger “school of life” (see below); we live and learn, if truly human, and by infusing life with such learning and resulting wisdom we convert this school into a sort of university of distributed intelligence and distributed conscience which we call, for lack of a better phrase, a healthy constitutional democracy.
It is a “research university” in the sense that we are conducting a slow-motion controlled experiment upon evolving humankind, thereby “making” (or “finding”?) contingent futures that give regenerative intelligence the best prospects for further improvement. Here, science and cybernetics, knowledge and choice, finding and making, merge into … hmm, a so-far-nameless discontinuity or, to use the vogue term, singularity.
As democracy’s majority rule must not ignore inalienable personal rights, so capitalism’s individual enterprise must not ignore compelling public interests, including the continued vitality of those rights. Most urgently, lovers of liberty and justice must refine the ways in which each “bounds” the other. Such “bounding” triangulates and reinforces civilization’s bridge leading from a “nasty, brutish, and short” life of savagery to the “more stately mansions” of civilizing ed humans.
Free markets, like freedom generally, must reinforce constitutional democracy and “accountable governance” as these are understood not only by logic but also by experience, including a variety of “virtual experience” which requires us to project ourselves into a “virtual future” that judges our present choices and actions. That nameless singularity depends upon our heightened capacity for “empathy”: standing in the shoes of contingent futures to judge our past and present in order to shape and secure the best possible future, the best “human presentation” that current prudent creativity can imagine.
In short, capitalism needs to be reconceptualized within deepest philosophical, economic, historical, jurisprudential, and future-affirming contexts. Zealous Market Fundamentalism, a civil religion with too many unexamined premises, will not suffice. Whatever will suffice, must evolve to serve larger goals — balancing liberty, equal justice, material and community prosperity, accountability in private as well as public spheres, and sustainable advancement of the Ecology of Mind grounded in an Ecology of Values which, while not changeless, must change only for compelling reasons … according to “rules of changing” that go to the very heart of what “civilization” ought to mean, and hence become.
I am convinced that a new “cybernetic paradigm” is essential — an extension of Darwin based on the “Mind in Nature” perspectives propounded by Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1971) and Mind in Nature (1979). These perspectives are especially congenial to common-law jurisprudence, in which fundamental rights, ordinary law, and constitutional jurisprudence coevolve interdependently. So far, few lawyers or cyberneticians recognize this kinship. That needs to change.
This cybernetic paradigm proposes that the really interesting and significant datum of analysis is not the evolution of “species” but the evolution — indeed, the coevolution — of the ideas immanent in (1) species; (2) the “fact of evolution”; (3) non-organic “idea embodiments” such as molecules, atoms, the “universes” of sub-atomic structures, and (probably) the Whole Universe, however grandly conceived; (4) idea-embodiments generally, whether in the biosphere, memesphere, or (arguably) any other imaginable sphere; and (5) “cultural tools” specifically, such as (a) language, literature, and the time-binding of history (starting as Mythos), (b) logic, mathematics, and the evolution of empirical science (starting as Logos), (c) ethics, law, and social cybernetics, including the coevolution of tacit and explicit feedback conventions (starting as Nomos), and (d) synthesizing those three, all intellectual and institutional systems composing, securing, and enhancing that Advancement of Learning to which the Conversation of Democracy is dedicated, thereby enhancing liberty, equal justice, broad-based liberal education, massively-parallel distributed intelligence and distributed governance, and the eventual development of that “single book” which all linked knowledge — if self-corrective — can embody.
Liberty, justice, and the Rule of Law have coevolved within that larger “idea matrix” immanent in advancing civilization. Without them, worthwhile progress is impossible.
Ideas coevolve, whether embodied as evolving cats, people, ethical systems, constitutional democracies, or emergent global civilizations.
This coevolution carries us beyond outworn “body-mind” or “perception-conception” or “God-Creation” metaphors, distinctions, and resulting dualities. Dilemmas resolve into trilemmas, allowing knower and known to sip from the same sacramental cup.
Sacraments ultimately trump metaphors. The word “singularity” proposed above is less metaphorical than sacramental: an outer manifestation of an inner state-of-becoming. As I discuss below, our world needs a new “religion” affirming liberty and justice, science and cybernetics, evolution and its progeny … Homo sapiens singularitas? Does that progeny need a name?
Nowadays, much of coevolution is affected, indeed consciously designed, by human knowledge, choice, and action. Even three thousand years ago, there was no such thing in Central Asia as a “natural” horse. Humans “made” horses, then as now, and I suspect that some (the wisest animal domesticators) knew this long ago.
Likewise, humans “selectively bred” humans, the smartest tending to make babies with the smartest. This surely contributed to the rapid increase of human brain size during the past few million years, and coevolved with our growing capacity (and need) for communication and “communification”: for the most complex “thing” we have evolved to deal with is other humans, groups of humans, and social systems made ever more complex by the division of labor, etc. Survival of the “fittest” became survival of the “smartest” — as required, initially, of those who cannot run, climb, swim, bite, fly, smell, see, or otherwise function as the “fittest” antelope can run, monkey can climb, alligator can swim, etc. We evolved in the general direction of “intelligent choices” among our many lackluster abilities. That put a premium on increased intelligence, information processing, educability, etc. Of course, some of our “fitnesses” became remarkable, such as throwing a spear to intersect a moving target, or planning a garden to “intersect” changing seasons.
Making better horses, apples, babies, clans, and civilizations, we “played God” and thought little of it — although our capacity to think about it at all should never be taken for granted.
Today, with reference to both cultural and biological evolution, we are “as Gods” and must get better at thinking about what this portends. Above all, it requires “tool-making tools” aimed at enhancing consciously-designed coevolutionary processes that also honor traditions, tacit undertakings, unarticulable values, and similar “unconsciously-designed” distributed intelligence.
For all our approving talk about Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” guiding free economies, the fact is that we also consciously regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of goods (for example, to ensure safe pharmaceuticals) and of services (for example, to ensure that doctors and lawyers, etc., are competent and honor — indeed, sometimes balance — their fiduciary obligations).
Surely both conscious and subconscious regulation and regularization of the market, of business practices, of economic activities generally, and of how these interact with other elements of society, are essential; indeed, “economics” used to have a broader meaning that included all these elements; and it still should. These elements each coevolve within an environment composed of all, and part of that coevolution is and must remain consciously designed, democratically accountable, and subject to ongoing refinement through deliberation “in the public interest.”
Deliberation on coevolution is becoming a new and powerful tool-making tool. Of course it is not “all new”; few ideas are; indeed, “pattern recognition” has deep biological components, and numerous sages of antiquity taught that “things” are less important than what links them, contextualizes them, and defines them in terms “meta” to surface appearances.
Through common-law development, peer-reviewed scholarship, accountability in economics and politics, and similar feedback-sensitive processes, we “live and learn” and, with healthy fine-tuning, “self-correct” and “self-transform”; this process allows what — in astonishingly erudite yet (in retrospect) crudest form — Francis Bacon preoccupied himself with 400 years ago in his two-volume The Advancement of Learning. Sixteen centuries earlier, however, Lucretius had glimpsed this same self-corrective dynamic in his astonishingly-modern outline of what we now call the Idea of Progress.
The common law (which Bacon, a common-law lawyer, seems to have employed subconsciously as the metaphrand, metaphier, and hence metaphor undergirding his examination of intellectual progress) is “designed” — by tacit, trial and error “distributed intelligence” as well as by deliberative and deliberate human choices — to facilitate that living-and-learning” Advancement … and, hence, Progress.
Of course this only works if lawyers and judges “make good arguments” that ground the Rule of Law in the Rule of Reason. Always focus on making the best argument, the best “presentation to date”! That is the highest obligation of areté.
Law lives by best arguments, which obviously must be based on best logic and science, the mot reliable information and wisdom. Humanity’s worthwhile future depends on this.
I call such “argumentation” the Conversation of Democracy because its implications are not merely scholarly but also, necessarily, political.
If what many call “God” is anything, I’m guessing it is “Mind in Nature” … inseparable from, and immanent in, “Universe” … and, by definition, there is only One.
Yet this One cannot be “known” except through distinctions (indications of significance) that convert it into the First Trinity — and its progeny, a seeming infinitude of tri-unities composing the “bridge” triangulating wisdom, choice, and action.
This First Trinity embodies that which is inside the First Distinction” (indication of any significant similarity or difference), that which is outside, plus that specific distinction itself, which (1) is neither inside nor outside and (2) says as much about the distinguisher (you and me) as about that which it seeks to know, understand, and … when so inclined … obey.
Historically, there have been many “first” distinctions. On principle, I think the most interesting is that of Mythos, Logos, and Nomos, although its “creation” required that Logos first call forth ontology, epistemology, and teleology.
The creation or “design without a designer” of that particular First Trinity offers the “purest” — perhaps because oldest — example of the Ecology of Mind at work in the memesphere.
I think it provides the best foundation for further Advancement of Learning and, hence, for further reconceptualization of the Idea of Progress.
Remember Socrates’ metaphor of the kybernetes. The pilot or steersman must integrate knowledge of the changeless (stars) and of the naturally changing (winds and waves) in order to knowledgeably “do” the humanly changeable (changing the rudder’s angle, the sail’s trim). This metaphor for “governance” is very powerful, and arguably synthesizes the entirety of ancient Greek philosophy. I address this in greater detail in The Cybernetics of Society.
Our world is arguably poised at the cusp of what some call a “singularity” — a quantum leap of evolutionary performance linking us decisively with our tools, including what the Web seems poised to become — which will require us to reify our capacity to choose among alternative “worlds” and, accordingly, to systematically and deliberately “re-make” our biosphere and memesphere, thereby imbedding “knower into known” so deeply that — for good or ill — our successors in the near future will properly belong to a new species: Homo sapiens singularitas, a regenerative motile colony of distributed intelligence.
We are already that, somewhat, but currently “firing” only fitfully on three cylinders; soon, finer-tuned, we might fire smoothly on six, then sixty, then six hundred, or (spanning solar systems) six hundred billion or more. It is essential, however, that individual liberty survive this singularity; indeed, liberty must be its foundation. Hence, equality under the law must also survive, as must constitutional accountability and a theory of cybernetic “checks and balances” more refined than anything our legal genius has yet divined.
Lawyers have their work cut out for them. See Isonomia.
Summarizing so far: Species are embodiments of evolving “mind” governed by that Mind in Nature which is immanent in every subsystem of our Universe; and so must be social systems, if they would be viable and future-affirming; and so, too — indeed, especially — must be accountable, mind-full governance … and, hence, all governments … whether of individuals, groups, societies, or the emergent global civilization of Homo sapiens singularitas.
This singularity, if it is to govern itself wisely, will require something amounting to a new global “religion” tying humanity firmly yet creatively to the depth and ground of evolutionary existence. In my view, developing that “religion” as an alternative to all current religions presents the greatest challenge for the near future.
I am ceaselessly amazed at how many Americans support the medieval, cramped, barren, musty, toxic proposition that all our choices and actions should be based on inerrant Holy Scripture, especially given that this is also Shiite and Sunni dogma (albeit with reference to their own warring “scriptures”) as well as the basis of the Spanish Inquisition and so much else undergirded by the inerrancy of (this or that) God’s Chosen People’s Holy Text, a boringly typical hubris uniting all religious superstition — i.e., faith.
Good God, what fools these zealots be! And George Bush, alas, is one of them! This is not merely a national embarrassment, it is an unholy planetary disaster — given our world’s desperate need for enlightened governance, wise leadership … another Lincoln!
Where shall our world find its new Lincoln? Can we “make” such a leader, in time? I am inclined to believe it must be a woman, not a man.
It is not that I detest Bush, it is that I am deeply worried about our world’s prospects so long as witless faith-junkies (of which he, like Osama, are powerful examples) rule the roost. Such junkies deserve pity, yet are no less toxic! They and their ilk must be defeated, and this includes countering their blindness with enlightenment. The best antidote for a bad idea is a better idea!
Free inquiry must be the first step towards such enlightenment. Holy scriptures of every ilk demand that we shut down our capacity for free inquiry — for that which makes us human! — and close our eyes and ears to empirical evidence, including the evidence immanent in the fact that geographically-dispersed peoples long ago (1) thought they each had a special corner on truth, and (2) had different “bibles” to prove that they were “chosen” and, hence, were secured against others’ claims to being chosen, blessed, and saved … saved, above all, from needing to think, and needing to live in a “society of thinking.”
All “truth-seeking” divorced from freedom of inquiry, association, expression, and related “cultural tools” distinguishing us from animals, wails aberrant nonsense from minaret and foxhole alike. It must become the cardinal sin of any “religion” (call it what you will) that might — no, must — be worthy of a less cramped conception of what it means to be “human” than that of every religion arising before Darwin, Einstein, Bateson … and … well, before each morning’s dew-sparkled inquiry: Where today?
The “Ecology of Mind” which those cultural tools allow us to construct can free us from all such medieval, cramped, barren, musty, toxic religions and allow us, when gazing at a starry sky, to feel more awe than all those pathetically-limited religions ever could. I feel sorry for those whose “faith” so limits their capacity for awe. Can their children free themselves, as indeed so many have escaped the bonds of inherited dogma? Of course! Yet Bush wants to institute teaching the “controversy” whether evolution is a fact; I’d just as soon teach the “controversy” whether Torquemada and Auschwitz were historical excrescences.
This planet’s healthy future requires that each new generation receive a “liberal education”: the “tool-making tools” of enlightenment, tools formerly denied to slaves in order to keep them from obtaining their liberation. As Browning almost said: “Our reach should exceed our grasp, else what’s a meta phor?”:
“As God completed the work of Creation at sunset of the sixth day, we are told, God created the first set of tongs — the first tool — because ‘tongs can only be made with other tongs.'” See First Trinity.
When Prometheus made humankind and gave us fire, according to the Greek Mythos, he also gave us entekhnon sophian — “wisdom of the arts” — not merely fire, but the “know-how” to do things with fire (besides merely staying warm) and, more generally, the know-how to do things with knowledge, turning Logos into Nomos — ontology and epistemology into teleology and (arguably) into, well, eschatology: highest purposes.
That is the key: converting Logos into Nomos, science into cybernetics — self-knowledge, self-governance, and self-transformation, both individual and societal, into “facts on the ground”!
Societal self-knowledge is impossible without institutionalized freedom of inquiry and, hence, societal rejection of received dogma.
Unexamined truths are not worth having.
All this, of course, is metaphrand: an invitation to inquiry. As Torquemada might have said, “I have nothing to fear but metaphiers.”
I believe in individual liberty no less than did Thomas Paine or Ayn Rand, but (unlike them, apparently) I believe in it especially fervently because I am convinced that individual liberty, and nothing less, compels us each to begin to comprehend what every free thinker long ago recognized, albeit often “through a glass darkly”: individual understanding, and hence healthy selfhood, depends profoundly upon the understanding of others, past and present.
And, as every “me” should discover, my personal happiness today must take cognizance of a future “virtual judge” in whose shoes I must stand as I judge the likely consequences of my past and present choices and actions … as well as those of my contemporaries and, inevitably, of our forebears.
Judge as you ought to be judged. Judge well; judge fairly; but do not shrink from judging. To be human is to judge. To participate in God’s Creation (however this metaphor instructs us) requires participating in “God’s Judgment” (however this metaphrand entices us to further inquiry, as it must).
Individualism, thus conceived, is based on empathy … and is not antithetical to prudent altruism. Such enlightened self-interest is the engine, according to Adam Smith, of societal well-being. That was the thrust of his 1759 book, Theory of Moral Sentiments. One cannot comprehend his 1776 book, Wealth of Nations, in isolation from that earlier foundational work.
Individual liberty is rooted in individual consciousness. And, while we barely understand “consciousness” (despite books like Daniel Dennett’s 1991 effort, presumptuously named Consciousness Explained), we know this much: it starts with a “theory of mind” in which a person as young as five can empathize, can stand in another’s shoes, can see that this other also has a “theory of mind”: a recognition of the other as human, as self-conscious, as “each-other-conscious” … as “seeing you seeing me seeing you”! When we celebrate consciousness, we honor “rugged individualism” based on empathy; we celebrate the siblinghood of ruggedly-individualized selves who know they would be nothing without an enlightened community of similarly-free individuals devoted to honoring the gift of empathy.
I disagree with what many misconceive as “capitalism” (especially that of the “Market Fundamentalists” mentioned above); specifically, I am convinced that “good governance” (1) is essential to our world’s healthy prospects, including its economic prosperity and sustainable progress, and (2) is frustrated by a “capitalism” that is regulated only by market forces. The “marketplace of non-marketplace ideas” reflected in good governance allows “regulation” of a kind and quality that mere market-regulation cannot provide. In short, I believed in a “mixed economy” that balances market regulation with political regulation.
Good governments, as part (but not all) of good governance, must focus especially on generating reliable information “in the public interest” by which private and public decision-making can be guided. The cybernetics of society cannot function properly when, for example, businesses (or any others) corrupt the InfoSphere with systematic misinformation, disinformation, bought politicians, bought think-tanks, and even (alas!) bought professors.
Yes, I truly believe in the distributed intelligence of that “invisible hand” by which Smith said human conduct is guided and prosperity is secured. But misconceived “capitalism” so distorts the American government and, hence, its “governance” generally, that this “invisible hand” metaphor needs explicit revision: that “hand” needs “eyes” to inform it! Mere market forces are insufficient for the genuine prosperity of complex modern economies. We live and learn, and “theory” must adjust to reality.
Greed is corrupting, and that is that. Corporate governance is a major culprit here, and “governance-reformers” must attend not only to the political realm but also the corporate-governance realm. If the fiduciary obligations owed by managers to shareholders trump public-welfare obligations owed by producers to consumers, etc., those fiduciary obligations must be recalibrated, perhaps even jettisoned. The job description of every business manager should include the injunction that, if you must cheat customers or distort the InfoSphere so that the enterprise can thrive or even survive, then you are obligated to fail: to inform the shareholders that the business is fatally flawed because, to succeed, it must place private profit over the public interest. This is not a radical proposition; for 170 years co-ops have required their managers never to cheat the co-op’s customers. The obligation to fail if “success” harms the public, should be ingrained in every enterprise.
The constant push for short-term stock-market gains impairs long-term value creation, and societal frenzy for “success” measured in purely monetary terms distorts, even destroys, values that cannot be measured in monetary terms … and, indeed, cannot be measured in any terms cognizable by conventional capitalist theory.
Worse, such corporate greed spills over into the political realm, biasing public-policy formulation and dispensing favors to fat-cats masking (they call it “marketing”) their corruptly-obtained sweetheart deals with “free-market” rationales that are sheer bunko. Powered by institutionalized greed that is peddled as the “American Way” or even as ordained by Jesus, such kleptocracy feeds on itself, becomes a “positive feedback loop” in which the bad reinforces the bad. Cyberneticians call such feedback loops, typical of arms races and insult exchanges, as “runaway”: a good example is the way legal loophole artists force legislators to write ever-more-detailed laws that then entice ever-more-costly loophole artistry, until … well, the system collapses under its own weight. Societal (including economic) self-correction processes and institutions require fundamental reconceptualization and reform. Without genuinely-accountable political and economic regularization (I think that’s the best word), constitutional democracy dissolves into an ever-more-virulent kleptocracy.
Now, as Hayak asserted, it is better that some be fully free than that all be only partially free, else the ideal of liberty might die, never to be resuscitated. But those who misuse this truth to justify plutocracy — where, as in the revised motto of Orwell’s Animal Farm, “Some Animals are More Equal than Others” — are far from “fully free”; on the contrary, they are enslaved by kleptocracy-justifying self-deceptions.
And self-deception is the worst kind of dishonesty. Cybernetic institutions are nothing if not the regularization of self-knowledge, accurate feedback, and “inconvenient truth” aimed at securing the public interest.
When “government power” doles out “economic power” to its favored sycophants, this is not free-market capitalism but political and economic corruption. Using some of those ill-gotten gains to fund “think tanks” that justify chicanery, distortions of democratic theory, and K-Street poisons the Conversation of Democracy.
This “race-to-the-lowest-common-denominator” of ideas and values, masked as the American Way, is utterly calamitous. It must be attacked at its ideological heart. And it must be attacked, above all, with “good arguments” driving the bunko-peddlers from the temple of Progress.
Greed is not “evolution” unfolding according to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (to quote the Declaration of Independence); no, it is just greed.
To be “fully free” requires that one be willing to starve rather than grovel for scraps from the table of kleptocracy.
Note on Synergetics and Cybernetics: I wanted to write “sort of yin-yang concepts” but decided not to, mainly because the concept of yin-yang connotes something which is often given a concreteness that I am trying to avoid. Yin-yang also suggests a dichotomy where, I believe, a trinity provides a more accurate model — although “much of a muchness” evokes the idea even better. Wherever we find interdependent concepts, things, and their relationships, we must remember that our best tools of thought and communication are specialized, and hence limited to some tasks. Our best tools are superb for some tasks, worthless for others. See First Trinity. See Synergetics. See Cybernetics. (Go back)
Note on Notes, Footnotes, and Links: The Jurlandia website uses notes, footnotes, and imbedded links only where they are deemed to add something the reader could not otherwise easily obtain. This quotation happens to come from Aldous Huxley’s first novel, Chrome Yellow (1921), as the reader can presumably discover through intelligent use of the internet; this website seeks to promote such use by not cluttering its materials with unnecessary footnotes, etc.
Arguably, the author of this clichéd sentiment, which is important but not unusual as such, hardly needs identification … any more than do the authors of a vast array of “quotations” which, if useful, are so regardless of whether they originated with Socrates or with Old Ezra, who, when asked if he believed in infant baptism, replied: “Believe in it? Why, man, I’ve seen it done!” If interested, see footnote 34 (out of 797 in a 125-page law review article), in Sara H. Cleveland’s Our International Constitution, Volume 31, Number 1, Yale Journal of International Law (2006).
Writing html and joining the new Gutenberg Revolution allows, possibly requires, rethinking the role of notes, footnotes, and sources for facts and ideas that are “blowin’ in the wind” and are true or false, useful or useless, based not on their provenance but on their value within the totality of the Ecology of Mind, in which provenance is not always relevant and is sometimes a distraction. By providing hotlinks selectively, I am broadcasting a meta-message focused on relevance — significance in context. See First Trinity.
By supplying such links as Magna Carta (see Due Process of Law), I am guiding the reader to a site that I consider the best, and hence well worth my linking to. I supply links only where I believe they add genuine value. In short, the Jurlandia Website assumes that readers are able to search authors, phrases, book titles, etc., as they deem necessary, useful, or fun. This said, I should add that some Jurlandia writings were extensively footnoted when written, and such footnotes are retained. Those writings were, for the most part, written not for this website but for some other purpose that (at the time) required footnotes. Those writings have archival value as originally published. (Go back)
Note on Freedoms, Rights, Privileges, and Immunities: John Sherman, a senator from Ohio, provided a good summary of this subject in 1872: “[T]he ordinary rights of citizenship, which no law has ever attempted to define exactly, the privileges, immunities, and rights … of citizens of the United States, such as are recognized by the common law, such as are engrafted in the great charters of England, some of them in the constitutions of different States, and some of them in the Declaration of Independence, our fathers did not attempt to enumerate. They expressly said in the ninth amendment that they would not attempt to enumerate these rights; they were innumerable, depending upon the laws and the courts as from time to time administered.”
In determining the nature and scope of these fundamental rights, privileges, and immunities, said Sherman, the courts “will look first at the Constitution of the United States as the primary fountain of authority. If that does not define the right they will look for the unenumerated powers, to the Declaration of Independence, to every scrap of American history, to the history of England, to the common law of England, the old decisions of [British judges] Mansfield and Holt, and so on back to the earliest recorded decisions of the common law. There they will find the fountain and reservoir of the rights of American as well as English citizens.” Randy E. Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (2004), at p. 67.
Sherman should have used “unenumerated rights” (above) instead of “unenumerated powers”; perhaps. Except that it makes no difference if one adopts the “agency theory of government” in which individuals are deemed to have unenumerated powers, and hence rights, and are deemed to delegate some of their powers (the “enumerated powers”) to a limited government. That theory remains the founding premise of constitutional governance. It is based on the “social compact” — what some call a “necessary fiction”: that when we agree to be born we agree to enter “the human condition” in which each gives up absolute freedom in order to achieve “government under law” that secures equal liberty based on equal justice. The Jurlandia essays explore these maps and territories. See Isonomia. (Go Back)
Note on the Idea of Progress: The deeper one searches for “origins” the further back into the mists of time they seem rooted. When I was in college, I learned that the Idea of Progress arose during the Enlightenment. A decade later, I thought I had traced it to the 12th century synthesis of Greece, Rome, and the Judeo-Christian-Islamic “new learning” (regarding which I write extensively in various Jurlandia essays, such as here.) Now I see that the Idea of Progress has even older roots. But of course! A superb work on this subject is Robert A. Nisbet’s book, The Idea of Progress, which is available here. Consider the following passage from the subsection entitled “Roman Philosophers on Progress”:
“Perhaps the greatest description (in the sense of a systematic and developed awareness) of human progress to be found in all of ancient thought is the Roman Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things written in the first century B.C. It is an Epicurean account of complete sciences — astronomy, physics, chemistry, anthropology, psychology. In very modern fashion, Lucretius explains the beginnings of the world through atoms in the void forming clusters which then become tangible matter, and the eventual development of the world with all that grows and lives on it. Book V of this general evolutionary treatise is concerned solely with mankind’s social and cultural progress. It commences with primitive man living naked and shelterless, dependent upon his cunning and ability to join forces with other men in order to find safety from larger and more predatory beasts, in constant fear of the elements. To assuage this fear mankind generally formed religions for mental protection, and step by step (pedetemtim progredientes) advanced to huts, then to houses and ships, diverse languages, the arts and sciences, medicine, navigation, improvements in technology, making for an ever richer existence. And, Lucretius is careful to tell us, despite the grandeur of all that man has achieved on earth through his own efforts, the human race is still in its infancy, and even greater wonders may be expected.” (Go back)
Note on Framustans and the First Trinity: Part Three started, “Questions worth asking should not focus ….” Stating what it is not in order to define what it is implicates a line of “questions worth asking” that deeply link ontology, epistemology, and teleology. See Framustans. Suffice it for now to point out that a profound truth undergirds this “way of proceeding”; and this truth is central to cybernetic theory, the theory of “learning organisms” … whether natural, cultural, or beyond. See The Cybernetics of Society.
It is no accident, I believe, that the ancient God of Abraham — Yahweh, or Jehovah — is “defined” in terms of what it is not; likewise, Thales’ student Anaximander articulated the “first distinction” of Western philosophy by defining the Ontological Principle not affirmatively (as did Thales, who identified it as water) but negatively, as the absence of all identifiable qualities.
That “not this or that” was Anaximander’s First Principle. But, as Anaximander was Thales’ student, so he too had a student, Anaximenes. In seeking to reconcile Thales and Anaximander, Anaximenes started the process by which ontology (asking, What is?) begat epistemology (asking, How do we know what is?), thereby generating feedback processes that would in due course beget teleology (asking, So what?). Inventing the idea “not this or that” was crucial not only in converting the Mythos into the Logos, but also in converting that Duality into the First Trinity, namely Mythos, Logos, and Nomos.
The life of constitutional democracy is not logic or science (as precious as these are) but historical experience — often of the “school of hard knocks” variety — and this is because what cyberneticians call “negative feedback” is usually more significant for survival and progress than “positive feedback”; for example, avoiding high-potency poisons is usually more “immediately relevant” to well-being than finding high-quality nutriments. Indeed, negative feedback is in a sense more information rich. As anyone who has played Twenty Questions knows, vast amounts of information can be imparted by a “no”; for example, if the answer to “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” is no, then obviously it is smaller that everything larger than a breadbox. On the other hand, only one piece of information, albeit precious to the point of winning the game, is imparted by a final “yes”; for example: “Is it Eve’s odd mouse?” (Go back)
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