Metaphysics of Wonder - Kazis Kripaitis
In which we derive moral realism from the irrealist paradigm
We now have our first clear view of the sunlit summit stabbing through dense fog into midday cerulean gleam! The unblazed forward way is clear to see through an overplus of parentless questions, but before we scale the final cliffs of our climb to make our approach on the culmination of this work, let us pause and fine-tune our definition of relevant terms. Intrepid reader, let the light of my thesis illuminate what has kept the book you are holding from being written until now!
Perhaps the main question in metaethics is whether or not there are such things as moral facts; broadly stated, realists believe there are, irrealists do not. This is squarely a matter of epistemology and knowledge, but as a question about the kind of things that exist it is, in part, an ontological question. Putting aside the myriad flavors of realism and irrealism, realism is a belief system that declares with a firm hand the innocent idea that the actual world exists, and that our knowledge about it is, to the best of our capacity for knowledge, an accurate reflection. An obvious but not so innocent consequence of the realist conviction is the corresponding persuasion that we can derive facts about the ‘real world’, and even that such things as facts or the ‘real world’ exist. On the other side of the binary, irrealism is a belief system holding deep skepticism that knowledge can ever provide an accurate, precise, or reliable reflection of the ‘actual world out there’, beyond the mind’s border. The realist pounds their fist on the table, attesting, ‘even with heavy curtains drawn in our parlor of philosophy, we know that the moon exists outside!’ while the irrealist snides, ‘prove it’. The more thorough irrealist elaborates, ‘we can agree that what we call the moon is there, but neither of us can evince the fact, or can prove that we have definite knowledge of it that is true for everyone, all of the time; the intensity of your percussive insistence will never influence the defect.’ To irrealists, the idea doesn’t have to correspond to reality to be useful, it only has to correspond to repeatable observation or statistical extrapolation of a standard model. The findings tell us something about the model, but we are alone to decide if we will brave the belief that the model corresponds to the world. Philosophy, far from reinforcing our requirement, works against us!
Even the most seasoned researcher, starched by the academic tower, must agree that in its core purpose, science is little more than the adult manifestation of the child’s curiosity and wonder about what they don’t know of how the world works. Science is knowledge that displaces wonder and is unafraid to discover supplementary wonder.(Footnote 1) By contrast, modern epistemology has over-complicated our most basic, instinctual interrogation of reality and has lent an odd flavor to science. Scientists know to steer clear of questions that cannot be addressed with concrete, repeatable observation; for example, while they agree that the model-concept of ‘electrons’ explains data gathered from scientific observations, they don’t agree that we have definite knowledge that there really are such things as electrons in whatever the actual world ‘is’. In fact, when cornered, physicists will reply as Eddington did, “even the physicist is unconcerned as to whether or not atoms or electrons really exist”.(62) Scientists don't talk about what the real world 'is', only about a model of what it is; when we speak of electrons, we speak, in fact, of scientific models of electrons. Irrealism applies stasis to the cycle of wonder-knowledge-wonder, forcing science to amend its mission from one of understanding the world, to one of understanding itself in a lonely context, such that the entire culture of modern, formal science is severed from its philosophical roots in wonder, in order to finance the certainty of our irrealism; it is shameful that there are so few brave souls in science to fight back and allow intuition to energize the pursuit, that same intuition which seduces the scientist to science!
As a peculiar example, Einstein was a staunch realist about Relativity, while the vast majority of modern scientists are almost exclusively steadfast irrealists about Relativity, even as experiment after experiment ‘prove’ Einstein's theory.(63) That is to say that while the redoubtable philosopher Einstein genuinely and adamantly believed, to the end, that Relativity accurately describes the physical nature of the actual world, modern scientists are skeptical that any scientific theory has explanatory power about what the actual, physical world really is. This is a basic skepticism about our means to ‘prove’ the materiality of the material we assume intuitively is the basis of the actual. Theory is reduced to an adequate instrument for organizing and understanding observational data, but they will not brave the leap to a belief that their theories explain the nature of the actual beyond the context of observation, for the epistemologer is always near at hand, ready to slather sophistry over scientific method. They don’t see that their own wild findings give them license to realism while preserving the wonder that they maintain by their irrealism. Science holds to theory over truth by always assuming it will overcome itself when it learns more; it is by theory that it derives adequate knowledge, and in this adequacy splashes in the child’s wonder – but it does so with a firm commitment to irrealism. Meanwhile, scientists and epistemologers miss the shining causeway to realism hiding not-so-subtly in the data of modern science, illogical and absurd, but real. If we were to affect this shift, preserving our epistemology of adequacy in the frame of our probabilistic ontology of relative entities, wonder would follow our lead to the other side. Metaphysicians retreat from the debate exhausted, finding their only peace in brambles of irrealism and the uncut leaves of academic journals.
Who among us is not complacent to this great tragedy of our time? Irrealists assume the same ontology as realists, ignoring the possibility that if we explore other ontologies, our capacity to know facts about the actual may surprise us. Our own genius to irrealism becomes the undermining of naive wonder, with science stifling the impetus of its own provenance: the bewondered child’s passion which survives in the adult and distinguishes humanity from other life in its intensity and expression, is cauterized in quibbling over pseudo-epistemological questions like whether the moon exists or not – this is our post-modernity! Our stolid physicists, stewards of wonder, will not brave the ‘correspondence claim’; to them, observations correspond only to observations, not to whatever the actual world ‘is’, which, they hold, we will never know for sure; they know that logic cannot contort to explain science, that the tool does not fit the task. Ascertaining the absurd with science, we remain silent on that about which we believe we cannot speak, rather than saying confidently that the world is inherently absurd. Science becomes the sterile exercise in career building that we know it to be in our philosophically pulseless age, when our greatest creative thinkers only feel safe commenting on society.
My critique of logic and knowledge plants this work’s feet firmly in irrealist soil. But my ontology takes us into territory unfamiliar to realists and irrealists alike: irrealism compliments the reality described by modern science by agreeing that if a thing is real, it is also by its own definition, absurd. Because my ontology is based on the ephemerality of thingness demanded by particle physics and the relativity of time and motion from Einstein’s theory, I conclude that the impossibility of individuation and the adequacy of probability are conditions that support irrealism about the nature of parts and precision, while it is also a commitment to realism by the ontology of relativistic continua – at the same time my irrealism compliments and reinforces the mechanics of that ontological realism. To wit, if physical reality is an active approximation of itself as we saw in the ontology chapter, our incapacity for truth and precision describes the nature of reality, and is in some way, true and precise, resulting in a paradoxical realism. The absurdity and error of absolute truth is the basis of irrealism, and radical relativism corrals us to an unexpected form of unconditional reality, one which is actually radically relativistic, erroneous, and absurd. To make the case, and with none of the moist-browed fist-pounding common to realist argument, I maintain that the irreconcilability of quantum physics and Relativity is to be expected – our inability to match science with the expectations of logic compliments my epistemological irrealism. From this springboard we cross the bridge to realism defiantly, aligning the adequacy of knowledge to the ontology of adequacy. If I fail to demonstrate my deep intuition about our world, I blame the utility of words to distinguish knowledge from the actual.
Turning to metaethics, I would have us unearth a surprisingly realist foundation about the kind of moral knowledge we can claim by virtue of the same mechanism which goads us as fools to irrealism. We should stand our ground with irrealism about the physical paradigm of parts, in the overall context of epistemological realism; adequacy suggests that probability and Relativity are an ontologically real compatible contradiction, for irrealism surprises us with realist metaethical conclusions when we synthesize the irrealism of my logic chapter with the realism in my ontology chapter. I will head off critics at the pass: this is not a formal argument meant for the journals of epistemology, and we should draw existential claims from prepositionally structured premises unapologetically, if we wish to reach new summits. My intuitions sprint uphill, scrambling up an interpretive path in the hopes of uncovering novel ways to comprehend the problems inherent to both realism and irrealism – make of them what you will! I concede that despite my effort and sweat on our steep incline, the medium of writing constrains my intuition to adequacy – I have no alternative to the futility of individuating meaning with words. My exertions in this brave book can only be in vain, never more than adequate, only ever ‘good enough for jazz’. The physiology of words ensures that counter-argument to this work makes more sense than my argument, which, assuming my argument, is excellent evidence of my claim.
But if I have covered any ground in deconstructing formal logic then I have also laid adequate groundwork that explains why the central concepts of this chapter on metaethics have not been adduced by other philosophers. If we wish to stand together at the summit, we must now shimmy-out onto precarious ledges and limbs, and I beg the reader’s willingness to experiment, to embrace the absurd, maintaining a healthy skepticism, but leaving the toxic impulse to academic cynicism for another hike. My deep claim is this: that our first-hand knowledge of the chaotic nature of Self as a real but decentralized entity, as a swirling slop of reckless forces, corresponds with and compliments what science has uncovered about the world in such a way that by identifying ourselves as an absurd, but cohesive part of that world, we can claim first-hand knowledge of the decentralized world as a real thing, and subsequently at knowledge about the actual, despite the adequacy of logic to externalize first-hand knowledge.
A model of Self as something more chaotic than lawful, something smeared into the blurry world rather than confined to the constraints of individuation and the individual, compliments the province of physics. This assumes that we take the ontological implications of our sciences seriously and manipulate belief to understand the real and actual not by the constraints of logical perception, but by that which science actually shows and tells us, no matter how illogical it is, or how much it defies the requirements of reason. Consequently, our direct access to Self, and to this chaotic aspect of Self, gives us direct, ontological and epistemological access to the ‘real world’ – the same world shown and told to us by physics, which is a physics of rational absurdities. And because logic and language are based on the world we perceive, we have never articulated the actual to anyone’s satisfaction beyond what amounts to mysticism and poetry. Metaphysicians who have advanced similar theories, like Schopenhauer, hide behind stressed ontologies of unverifiable mysticism for lack of corresponding scientific observation. We have always failed to root the claim of direct access to the world by means of the Self in the soils of knowledge, being forever forced to choose between science and reason, or mysticism and intuition – are we still so primitive? Let me give us the benefit of my doubt that at this late date in our uncertain futures, we can do better! We can make reasonable advances on the absurd through both the intellectualization of mysticism in a connected global network, and in the segregated studies of our best scientific researchers. We are capable of so much more, and only the epistemological leap to realism stands in our way – but this categorization is tragically erroneous. The only leap is an ontological commitment to the idea that we existing creatures are here and are real – leave aside creative speculation about holographic universes, evil trickster demons, and other epistemological quagmires so that we might cover ground!
And on these grounds we exist, in the condition of our existence: direct access to the absurd world through direct access to our absurd Selves. For the purpose of our metaethical adventure toward a transindividual basis, we will concern ourselves with compassion, its nature and mechanism, since the Selves entangled in compassion are not lawfully constrained by individuation of Self. In the world there are no individual parts, only a continuum of fields and forces; in the person there is no individual Self, only a continuum of Self. We can look no further than four dimensional perception, which convinces us that there are both individual parts and an individual Self. We grammar zealots burn with fire-eyed faith that we have evidence of individuation, dancing with greased shoes at the edge of our perch, believing we can mince the hazy meaning of intuition into discrete words and assiduously sliced numbers. We prescribe silence about anything that does not fit our erroneous logic, dismissing all of the evidence to the contrary with aplomb.(Footnote 2) By the same insight, the precision of communicated meaning is only ever illusory, and at best approximative.
If the reader feels an unsettling vertigo from these heights, the author sympathizes, for our investigations have demanded a frequent zooming-in and zooming-out of the various objects of our analysis. We have zoomed-in to the deepest parts of the sub-atomic neighborhood to discover that the “world is not analyzable into parts”, and have zoomed-out to apprehend black holes supermassive enough to swallow entire stars, yet small enough to defy the rationale of differential geometry. We have zoomed-down into the number line far enough to notice that numbers defy individuation, and have zoomed-up and out of the entire universe far enough to wonder if the Parmenidesian oneness of everything can be understood as a single, incomprehensibly unified Heraclitan wave-particle. But now we will train the philosophic scope on a human perceiver, and zoom-in on the quality and essence of Self. We will burrow into the nucleus of individual ego, to challenge our expectation that Self is cohesive, and ask if Self is not complimentary to the atom and the number-line. We proceed with the thesis that Self contains no hidden ‘Selfness’.
Our adventure into the atom peeled apart sub-atomic things so that we could see that they only appear to be individual, and that everything we perceive is a composite of a decentralized continuum of force and energy. In this chapter I aim to show that this is also true for the nature of Self as we brave the messy mud of an inward voyage. Our exuberance uncovers an unexpected correlation between physics, Self, and moral realism; I focus on this three-fold function as it is manifest in the experience of compassion, which is at the slushy core of why existence is imbued with a complex moral sense. While it may be impossible to imagine an individuated Self actually ‘suffering-with’ another, an externalized and decentralized Self would not be bound to the same existential barrier, so that compassion may be regarded an actual, physical possibility.(Footnote 3)
What we find when we zoom-in to the kernel of Self is nothing short of a miracle, for it is consistent with the physical world exposed to us by quantum physics and Relativity, analogous to what we find at the heart of the atom: the nature of Self is a complimentary reflection of the ontological nature of the actual, and the logical nature of number and symbol! Why evoke new-aged mysticism when we have direct, a priori access to Self if we have direct access to anything? With the extension of access to the actual by way of the Self, the only thing holding us back is speculation on whether we, or the world are here at all, speculation which relies on Newtonian ontological presumptions, which do not extend beyond perception. The role of perception in collapsing probability into a four-dimensionally perceivable reality is adequate demonstration of our access to the actual, and our active role within it. In this insight we find fresh soil on which to stand when we try to grasp the concept of absolute morality and the complexion of compassion.
As I established in chapters one and two, individual things never exist. The things of perception are engaged in doing, never achieving realization, never stopping at actual – never being done. Things entitate; if we must pause them in a bony noun, let us call things entitations. In the present chapter, I extend the insight to Self, which I maintain also never exists outside of perception. The entitating Self is the estuary into which flow the rivers of ossified identity, protean psychology, reflexive physiology, and the reinforcement of transactioned experiences, all of which synthesize within us in a swirling flood of those factors, funneling into the tireless mechanism of belief which solidifies and codifies the faculty of understanding. It is a synthesis without center, perceiving itself as a centered unity. The illusion of Self employs logic to recapitulate the mystery in a struggle to articulate meaning, to individuate source insight with symbols and other semiotes, and stitch the head back onto the body.(Footnote 4)
But formal logic harbors a fatal rot in the marrow: it is founded on the validity of the principle of individuation, the axiom that individual things must exist.(Footnote 5) Suitable for concepts at scale, fine-grained logic reduces knowledge to adequacy and prohibits realism. While the potency of the present book is dependent on principles of physics which tell us that individual elementary particles can behave as though they are not individual, the apparent and perceived tangibility of particles is restricted to the scale and dimensions of the observer. My work so far has not contradicted physics, even keeping in line with its explanatory shortcomings on these precarious limbs. And while physics shows us how to overcome logic and even seems to beg us to do it, it does not resolve the existing, perceiving subject’s place as part of the absurdity and wonder; in contemporary physics, logic encourages the cowardly refuge of ontological irrealism.(Footnote 6)
Covering ground, let us plant the Self firmly in the stinky dirt of the dirty world given to us by physics, and show that there is no distinction between the Self and world, conditional to the idea that existence and the world are a continuum: no man vs. nature! Rather, a continuous world which stretches into reality through the leafy limbs of the sycamore and sings through the vocal chords of the organic person, as an entitating experience of itself complete with the moral ‘thou shalt’s of neurological compulsion. Planting us in earthy humus gives us a philosophy of continual Self with a metaethical corollary to my ontology. This metaethics reflects my conclusions on logic also, synthesizing the three into a complimentary system of metaphysics that throws open the curtains on fresh aesthetic, political, and social critique. All of it signs the way to a philosophy of wonder: we can ponder ‘Creation’ and the vast ocean of the cosmos, but to bob in the eddies of it and comprehend its continuous eddy in us, evinces an alternative to the pessimism with which our age is naturally pregnant.
Freedom and compassion are the fulcrum of my metaethical study, and I argue that compassion cannot be avoided pre-emptively from a state of existential freedom; we may fight against and overcome it, but only ever after we experience its gravity. When we regard existing entities as physical things we arrive at the insight that compassion is a fundamental force. All of this rests on the formation and mechanics of human belief.(Footnote 7) I begin by describing how my ontology deduction and logic deflation argue for a deterministic metaethics underlying the human experience, and also give us an alternative which is rooted in freedom and compassion – I provoke the mechanism of that metaethics. I wend my way into this metaethical study with the thesis that until now, the words empathy and compassion have been used synonymously, but only because we do not factor the underlying physics of compassion. Do we have two different words because we know intuitively that there is something physical that distinguishes the two phenomena?
Setting forth, a few terms require definition: existential refers simply to the experience of existing, living entities as things which have life and exist in the otherwise purposeless world; purpose only becomes ontologically substantial by virtue of the fact of existence. Metaethics describes the fundamental principles behind the moral ideas that inform ethical prescriptions. Deterministic metaethics is metaethical insight based on causality (determinism) rather than pure, existential freedom. Existential freedom is a temporary state in which an individual has dissolved all traces of belief and static identity, and in which Self is either neutral to all outcomes, as in Buddhism, or invested intentionally in action or belief, as in economy or sexual occult. Self is the illusion of thingness cast by perception, but also the paradox of individuation, akin to a flame. Compassion is externalized empathy which, as manifest entitation in the world is a transcendence of Self by Self – we could also call this love, but in any case I argue it is a fundamental force of the actual, physical cosmos. Compassionate malice is malice directed toward a free subject by another, often the same, subject, for the achievement of a desired outcome or effect, intentionally or otherwise — not inspired by idealistic or mystical insight, but by physics and mechanics. Not lawful ‘states of mind’, but chaotically enhanced perspectives are how we achieve our complicated approach to freedom.
All science, even psychology, distills to physics, suggesting that the neurological experience of compassion is an aspect of physics at the juncture of Self and world.(Footnote 8) The conditions leading a person to react compassionately, combined with the reaction itself, is a whirl of Self and world functioning as one at the fulgurant moment – a physical force of nature. I regard compassion and malice naturalistically, which is to say that nature forms the parameter by which I question how these metaethical modes can and do exist. I reject psychology and mysticism outright and regard humans as an actual thing in the actual world; I will not waste anyone’s time with bickering about what distinguishes the noumenal and the phenomenological – my goal is not to impress the academy! Understanding compassion as a natural mechanism requires that we account for the entire chain of causes, but my approach to causality will be simple and physical for these purposes: reality is organized in such a way that entitations which appear to be particles coalesce into objects which form the belief that they are subjects who experience events which cause chemical and neurological reactions that are sensed and perceived as the compassion response. Let us not rub our fingers in the gritty ointment of mystical ideas about the mind; toward this end it is my experiment to adopt the de facto paradigm of our age, material realism, in this next stretch of the stony trail.
For the sake of this argument we will reduce psychology to physics, against the preference of our age. In this model, I assume that the ego of psychology functions as a complex information system, mechanically, causally, with no free will. In general, I regard the mental experience neurologically rather than psychologically, to emphasize a congruity between mind and world, between identity and physics. We start with the basis that we must speak about reality from within our perspective, whatever the deeper, actual reality may be, and infer that the world is material (not Idea), and is real, which is to say that it is largely as we perceive it, whether we are here to perceive it or not. I brazenly assume that the moon exists whether or not we are looking at it!(64)
Now the material and the reality of material realism may indeed be as unusual, unexpected, and non-local as I suspect, neither simple and atomic, nor immaterially probabilistic, and I have proposed that the apparent world can be described in realist terms because it adheres to the principles of irrealism. In other words, the ‘real world’ is not the one that realists expect, but irrealists never imagine that the actual world really functions on the ontological principles of irrealism! As such, garden-variety irrealist skepticism is informed by the premise of the realist’s assumptions about the world, just as material realism depends on a standard assumption about material and about reality, one based on perception and individuation-based logic, and one which does not factor the material and reality provided by physics. But science itself now defies our definition of material, and the reality of modern science shines light on a view of material that logic can only call absurd. Shall we hold to logic and irrealism, only to maintain our gentle definition of absurdity?
For the sake of simplicity, and to respect the reader’s sanity, I hold to logic and irrealism at the onset of my analysis, and proceed from materialistic realism to prove my theory on compassion in the most widely accepted paradigm first. I expand this perspective later in Section G of this chapter when I introduce a distinction between the lawful and chaotic existential paradigms. It will be up to other philosophers to explore the degree to which these theories either correlate with or dissolve further systems of metaphysics and how to express the origin and cause of compassion if it is indeed something more than empathy or pity. My own thesis, that compassion is a physical force, is derived from four points. First, that the usual experience of what we call compassion issues from a non-free state that I call the ‘lawful’ paradigm, and that in this paradigm, compassion is never more than empathy. Second, in contrast to the lawful paradigm, the ‘chaotic’ paradigm permits and facilitates non-empathic, genuinely non-local compassion. Third, compassion presents a principle of absolute moral realism that does not contradict the basics of moral irrealism. Fourth, compassion in the chaotic paradigm is an example of a metaethically ‘real’ principle. This last point could be reformulated to state that my thesis supports a principle of moral realism which is rooted in the irrealist paradigm, and is congruous with my ontology in such a way that it describes a fundamental force in the natural world, while both accommodating and challenging the epistemological needs of realists and irrealists alike.
It should be clear that I aim to expand the established definition of physical forces to account for the noumenal spirit of the human as an ontological thing in the world, aligned with the physics in the ontology chapter, to break and infiltrate the existential with the actual, to invade the sanctity of Self and reveal it as a dusty thing in the world, and to correlate the world with modern physics. And since compassion does not derive from one of the four fundamental forces of physics, it must be a fundamental force itself, since forces which are not themselves fundamental are in some way derivative of fundamental forces.(65) If compassion is a fundamental force, it is reasonable to ask how universally it is perceived by forms of life since it is exclusively through life that it is manifest. It is clear that we experience compassion in varying degrees of property and strength, but in every case it stands at the core of what we call the human moral sense. When it is tethered to identity we can only call it empathy, which is constrained reciprocally by ego, so I associate true compassion with the free Self of the human chaotic existential paradigm, a paradigm triggered by existential freedom. Our definition of humanity is consequently utmost in understanding compassion as a force. I have already shown how logical systems fail by design to reveal any underlying truth that could qualify as a sign of ‘humanity’, so I question the distinction between humanity and our existence as homo sapien animals. Turning to metaethics, I want to show that while empathy exists in the animal kingdom, it is only belief in the possibility or impossibility of moral truth that qualifies as a distinct metaethical trait of homo sapiens.
If we want to describe this metaethical anomaly accurately, we must identify that which distinguishes the human and non-human moral experiences, for whatever we call human is built necessarily on the bones of the non-human animal, the wild earthling. This share of our climb frames the inherent limit of available resources and power as the primary existential crisis, common to all life outside of the aegis of civilization and societal abundance. It is enough to begin an exegesis of an adequate metaethics, one which is brave and challenges the real by the unreal ontology of physics. From our new perch, we can fine-tune a definition of ‘humanity’, and explore a concept I call comparative dentistry by analyzing the condition of our variable teeth, to see how a full set of flat teeth or sharp teeth resolves moral questions before they arise. And o, reader, this is a daunting pass where we will be suspended from each other by ropes! We risk a tooth-pocked hide by peering into the morality of the maw, but it clears a path to the physics of compassion by the lessons of bloody anatomy. For us, compassion is not a psychological capacity but a force that arises from pre-existing physical conditions, natural circumstances surrounding an immediate event in time, and the neurological state of related individuals in the context of material realism.
Anyone who would frame existence as a neurological state must answer to outlying factors like the fire of spirit and the ontology of Self, but it is as easy to disregard the mystical as it is to regard emotion in the light of my ontology. So the corollary of my thesis on resource and power shows that access to moral truth is the only relevant trait distinguishing non-human animals and homo sapiens. And we can feel it in our jaw: our dental posture allows for compassion to the degree that it is experienced by homo sapiens because civilization affords us occasional reprieve from the endless pursuit of resources and power in a world where both are limited. Subsequently, it would be more accurate to describe ‘humanity’ as something toward which we aspire, but something that most of us only achieve in rare moments of existential freedom, the neurological state in which metaethical certainty becomes possible.
There is rich fat in whatever force causes phenomena like compassion and malice. Spooning into the buttery marrow, I seek to demonstrate three central points: empathy is not exclusive to homo sapiens while compassion is; belief in metaethical truth, whether we grasp that truth or not, is perhaps the only relevant metaethical trait distinguishing homo sapiens from other animals; and by a shift in authority over belief, from automation to intent, from machinery to freedom, from homo sapien to human, we gain access to something we can only call ‘the good’ in the context of moral realism – that is to say, a real principle of metaethics that demonstrates unconditional, absolute ‘good’. In this discourse on species, I prefer to use the term homo sapien in place of the term human in a neurological state I call the lawful paradigm, reserving ‘human’ for what I call the chaotic paradigm. This is no arbitrary architecture – I define a ‘paradigm’ as more than a loose framework, implicating delineated belief and the ontological state of self into my definition. While belief is lawful, freedom of mind is a chaotic revelry, and beliefs compliment the logical axioms from which they are derivative. For humans, we can begin by saying that logic is either logical or it is not, and that in this distinction we have two clearly defined ‘paradigms’. For the safest pass through the steeps we will follow this delineation through the course of the present chapter. I draw on psychopathology in a neurophysical context with a hope to remain objective and avoid judging the value of any particular neurophysical state. And while it may seem reckless, I hold that all homo sapiens are capable of humanity, and that humanity is a temporary, transitory condition like the chaotic paradigm itself.
Before we go any further, I sharpen my spear: it is easy to get lost in the spectrum of moral relativity, in the idea that because this idea is morally bad to one person, but is morally good to another, that morality is relative, and no moral facts exist. Moral irrealism is, from this perspective, a simple matter of holding morality to the very highest standard of logic, and casually dismissing all arguments for realism with the smug, squinty-eyed grin of sated reason, ignoring that ethics is the question of ‘what should we do’, and that this we is actually nothing more than the fleshy, emotional, acne-pocked, mistake-prone human existence, which must therefore factor into our metaethical calculus. Moral irrealists want to imagine that metaethics only concerns the pure, abstract logic of epistemology, and has nothing to do with existence or existentialism – that human life is as perfect and predictable as pi. To combat this, I wish only to show that there are some scenarios that everyone would agree, in heart and mind, are morally bad, except by those whom everyone but the psychopathic agree are in some way psychopathic. And while the spectrum of psychopathology is also wide and mostly relative, everyone can agree that a child rapist is morally bad, except perhaps fellow child rapists. If this scenario is too morally relative for the irrealists among us, simply make the situation worse until you arrive at the absolute knowledge that, if anything ‘is’ bad, this is it: imagine the parents and siblings of the victim being forced to witness the horrid act before themselves being subjected to the same trauma, before each is slowly tortured and murdered. Have we ‘all’ arrived at moral fact? Does it still bother anyone that we should exclude psychopaths from epistemological realism? My work gains its foothold at these extremes to first demonstrate that moral fact, ‘moral realism’, is, at the very least, possible – that the universe allows for it, and is in some way set-up for it. I then wrestle with the sophomoric response that, ‘moral facts do not exist because all of morality is existentially relative’, by demonstrating the inherent connection between ontology and existentialism, which is why, in part, I have taken such pains to establish my ontological points.
In commencing, our goal is clear: I seek a natural metaethical theory reflexive to my strong perspectivist ontology, one which incorporates the observer-subject and the hidden-actual into what is their natural resting state. We must cast mystical and religious speculation aside to understand the idea of homo sapiens as a mechanical ‘sum of parts’, as physics would have it. But knowing that the ontology in this text announces a controversy, and because the ‘sum of parts’ landscape can only deliver a neurological and chemical explanation of an experience like compassion, the reader is reminded that physics never speaks of a thing as a ‘sum of parts’ when it is being honest about parts.(Footnote 9)
We will hold physics to its word by first assuming the validity of the belief that parts exist, then proceed to untangle the consequences of an ontology that is contrary to its own premise, because we must begin with the tools at hand, and our every tool for this work is bound to logic.(Footnote 10) Neuroscience, for example, depends upon the validity of the belief that parts exist, and that a homo sapien is a ‘sum of parts’, but it outsources the ontology of parts, and all interpretation of how parts themselves behave, to physics, where it is never resolved in a formal realism; neuroscientists adore the idea of parts, but check-out the moment we remind them that physicists observe parts existing exclusively as non-parts (‘probability waves’ or ‘fields’). Our entire culture of knowledge should be embarrassed for this head-in-the-sand posture, for the cowardice of seeking solace in the tautologies of science. Witness Hofstaedter’s desperate explanation that the sciences are “sealed off” from each other, “...one does not have to know all about quarks to understand many things about the particles which they may compose. Thus a nuclear physicist can proceed with theories of nuclei that are based on protons and neutrons, and ignore quark theories and their rivals. The nuclear physicist has a chunked picture of protons and neutrons – a description derived from lower-level theories but which does not require understanding the lower-level theories. Likewise, an atomic physicist has a chunked picture of the electrons and their orbits, and builds theories of small molecules, theories which can be taken over in a chunked way by the molecular biologist… Each level is, in some sense, “sealed off” from the levels below it.”(66) These scientists can “proceed” alright! But to what end? Or is the sole purpose of the modern sciences to shuffle freshly minted PhDs to their cagey offices so they can get to work on their hamster wheels? What progress! What contribution! The problem here is that the neuroscientist uses only that aspect of the underlying physics that correlates to their presumed ontology. In other words, while the physicist is “unconcerned whether or not electrons really exist”, the neurophysicist bases their science on an ontology in which they do exist. If all physical sciences are dependent upon a reasonable explanation of the building blocks of reality, and if particle physics returns from the lab with statements like, “the world is not analyzable into parts”, we would be wise to ignore the bugs in our code, and concern ourselves instead with the buggy programming language that we are using to code. Since when has philosophy been satisfied to “ignore” its own precedent? Humans thus mimic the parable of the commentator at the physics lecture who protests that the universe is standing on the back of a tortoise, replying to the question of what the tortoise is standing on, “it’s turtles all the way down!”
I do not aim to put shoes on the cosmic tortoise. Instead I want to show that if we hold a thorough course and extrapolate neurophysics from my ontology, we find the mystery of morally-neutral nature in chaotic moral realism. In our adventure toward absolute principles of moral motivation, physics suggests that the existential struggle to survive should be factored with our private view of compassion. This is reflexive to other ideas on natural forces, like the idea that gravity is an absolute principle of physical motivation, but are we prepared to shift our paradigm to notice that life is a continuous and vital aspect of the universe, and not a separate reflection of it? Who can object that life is a physically actual facet of the cosmos – and effect this shift without the resigned alienation of passive nihilism or mysticism?
B) Relatively Human, Morally Animal
Homo sapiens exist mostly as non-humans, or ‘humanity’ is an incoherence, or both. But let us not be accused of topical pessimism, for relativity rules the capacities and values by which humans believe they are distinct from non-humans. By this I mean that if, for example, our capacity to construct towering, marvelous structures is objectively impressive, it is only impressive relative to our capacity to do so. Hypothetically, an advanced being from another world with far greater capacity could be less impressed with the greatest human architectural capacity as we are by a termite’s capacity to construct a soilen mound. If we define humanity as the most impressive and desirable aspects of that which is uniquely homo sapien, almost all traits of humanity that we believe set us apart from non-humans are also felt and expressed by some non-humans to a relative degree, such that degree distinguishes, not trait. For example, knowledge of one’s own death, ability to plan, creation and use of tools, relatively complex philosophic reflection, deep reasoning, environmental manipulation, proclivity to partisan politics, compound linguistics, idle contemplation, formally honoring the deceased, aesthetic study, introspection, appreciation of joy, etc., are all expressed, exhibited, or felt to greater or lesser degrees by humans and some non-humans. When we think past all of these, what non-relative, objectively real trait of ‘humanity’ remains which is unique to the human experience, and what qualifies our valuation absolutely? To what degree are traits like planning or morality only relatively valuable? Non-humans would be impressed to know that homo sapiens can make plans months or even years in advance, but we are hopelessly incapable of planning decades ahead, let alone centuries. What liminal threshold do we imagine that transforms ability into absolute value? Relativity rules the sway of cosmic gravity, but much as we do not notice ourselves experiencing physical relativity, we are conveniently myopic to the limits of value when comparing ourselves to the limits of other animals, to existential relativity. Subsequently, capability is always relative and rarely unique; the degree of our capability is distinctly human, but never the activity itself, nor the trait.
And on morality? Why should the ability to experience moral or anti-moral traits be unique to our species? Setting aside all obvious disparity, the answer pits existential difference against what it feels like to be as morally single-minded as a hawk, or as morally ambivalent and ethically insecure as a homo sapien. Let us frame this in the context of two reflexive, involuntary circumstances, in which all earthlings find themselves: survival and compassion.
When the priority is survival, compassion is not on the to-do list. The inverse is also true: when one experiences compassion, survival is a conspicuously low priority. The wrenching tug of compassion is potentially life-threatening for non-humans, as the priority concentration on survival must necessarily lapse during the period of time spent experiencing compassion. Complex civilization affords homo sapiens a circumstance in which compassion’s pull does not threaten existence, where the luxury of non-dangerous compassion is beyond the threshold which bounds our expectation of survival.
And how are we afforded this capacity? By terran hegemony and the natural organization of our societies, or by some fundamental epistemic difference between the homo sapien and the non-human? Something within each one of us, or the supremacy of our collective operation? Do we each continually invent civilization by individual commitment to the social contract? What seeds of civilization are fertile and sprouted within each of us, and why then so much these days on the ‘death of civility’? How many of us painted the Mona Lisa, discovered electricity, invented the microprocessor, won a Nobel Prize, or did much of anything unmistakably, remarkably ‘human’ or ‘non-animal’ during our short lives? Indeed, left to our own, we are only relatively impressive, but because a rare few of us achieve the remarkable, the rest of us regard ourselves highly, subscribed to the belief that we embody the greatest potential of our species. Desperation defines us by rare outliers, like a bathetic sports team fan associating themselves by metonym as they taunt the fan of another team, “we beat you last night!” The effect is always pathetic, often comical, and we are all guilty of it. Believing that we are on the same species-team as Einstein, daVinci, Shakespeare, and Archimedes, most of us share more in common with rodentia than with great minds when it comes to art and invention expressed and embodied. We exhibit traits present in many species to greater or lesser degrees. Impressed by our relative place on a relative epistemological ladder, we believe in our ‘humanity’ like we believe in our religions, desperate to draw mystical insight from insufficient evidence, and pointing to religious, political, or economic grounds to excuse our many and creative inhumanities.
Disassociated from survival, modern life guarantees surplus power and resource beyond what is necessary for an individual to endure in all but the most dire circumstance; we call the glut of surplus ‘wealth’. Assured survival and with needs placated, we cease the pursuit of either, doing so only to enhance comfort, to wallow in luxury, fulfill programmed ambition, cultivate pleasures, or to meet the trap of social expectations – our nature alone is no virtue. Society eventually overpowers us as material and physical circumstance mires us to our nature; causal determinism steers us into belief-contrived identity and the disease of our addiction to it, into a destiny which none of us alone can drive for anyone but ourselves. Who denies that the priority concern for life is amassing enough power, resource, or both, to ensure survival? Still, life provides no built-in mechanism for determining satiety or surplus, no machinery indicating when to stop – when enough is enough.
Here we should draw a clear distinction between pity (empathy) and compassion (sympathy) to note that while empathy is the internal experience of a distinct ego, the emotional reflection of a Self programmed with the conviction of its own individuation, Selfless compassion would need to be an external experience beyond the illusion of Self by definition, a necessarily reflexive and external participation of structured, deterministic forces reciprocating with the condition of suffering in the world. While compassion contains a component of the empathy reaction that generates from within the illusory individual, empathy is not predicated on the transcendence of Self that, by definition, distinguishes compassion. Non-human animals are capable of a richly developed ego and all of the distractions of a relatively complex internal dialogue, but the only animal capable of the profound social reflection required to transcend the illusion of lawful ego is the domesticated primate homo sapiens. By the conclusions of my first two chapters, compassion requires just such a committed, externalized leap, such a distinct transcendence of identity. And while empathy abounds in the animal kingdom, it comes at the price of security and survival, and as such is not built-in to the basic programming of Self in the wild.
Consequently the compassion force is dormant but omnipresent until neither power nor resource are concerns. Until that point, compassion manifests relative to the degree of concern, and usually not at all. Because power and resource are always the concerning priority for almost all wild animals, the empathy of compassion must always be associated with a form of relative psychopathology.(Footnote 11) Even so, the impulse is mechanical, and not unique to homo sapiens. It feels distinctly homo sapien because our species doesn’t usually need to focus on survival; indeed most in the modern era have never concerned themselves with the natural violence and anxiety of the murder-and-corpse-chew survival cycle.(Footnote 12) Contemporary homo sapiens are swaddled in the comforts of a social order that dulls the tension and stress of survival, to the extent that most homo sapiens regard survival a ‘human right’. Indeed, the basic duplex of right/left politics seems to prioritize survival or compassion correspondingly as the ideal social focus; such systems balance in the best circumstances, and the mechanism always follows the threshold of perceived surplus.(67)
No one doubts that non-humans experience and express deep empathy. We know that marine mammals have been known to save drowning humans, that primates mourn the untimely death of a child, etc.(68) But non-human empathy always requires the individual to both drop their guard, and to halt the process of pursuing survival for the duration of the empathic experience. For this reason, we can only regard these as the amockery of psychopathic acts.(Footnote 13) That any person, homo sapien or non-human, could be compelled to indulge in empathy is an event which warrants our analysis.
Dissecting the sequence within Self, we note causes and effects occurring within a set span of time: beginning at a normative state, circumstances modulate, empathy is experienced, dissolution of Self leads to an externalization of empathy as an act of compassion, action ends (or never began), and we return to a normative, internal state in which survival is again the dominant psychologically motivating force governing decisions and actions. The normative trance of survival is distracted as Self confronts the metaethically absolute, digesting it internally, within lawful ego as empathy, or chaotically, as the externalized compassion response. Nowhere in this span does a person consciously decide to be motivated by survival or by empathy; there is no choice, so it does not at first appear to be an act of choice, volition, or freedom. The circumstances in which the survival and empathic emotions are possible at all are imposed on the individual person by the arbitrary factors of time, place, velocity, disposition toward existence, agency to change things, by the very fact of existence, and in the form and size in which one exists in the first place. Is one existing as prey, as predator, as ambiguous scavenger? Do we move swiftly past the situation in a car, or stroll by on a Sunday afternoon? When we arise in the morning, do we have sharp or flat teeth in our head? Or worse – both?
Observe, we have identified two separate phenomena: the circumstance or feeling of empathy, and the compassion response itself; where empathy is disengaged, internal, and passive, compassion is an active, entangled engagement of Self with the world as the world. The feeling spawns from a combination of physical and neurological conditions, while the response generates from the individual who has suddenly succumb to the feeling. If we regard the person as an ‘entitation in the world’, we can identify the combination of these two conditions as the compassion force. By an ‘entitation in the world’, I mean a part of the natural world not drugged by the ego’s artifice of identity and belief – a person beyond subjective identity, existing as an extension of nature itself.
But zoom-in on the experience of empathy further, and see that it strikes us with a certain fulgurance. It happens in the impossible moment, and the individual is never in control of the conditions which solicit the sensitivity. A child is suddenly struck by a car and suffers in the street, and a person whom only moments before flexed a Self-stroked ego in their sidewalk strut is suddenly transformed in a flash as they succumb to empathy and possibly to compassion. The feeling and the response meet at the blinding fulcrum of a blinked moment, where the will of the individual is nowhere found. When we apply our ontology to the metaphysics of Self discussed later in this chapter, we unveil the mechanics of compassion by analyzing time against the person as ‘entitation in the world’, the continuous extension of nature as itself into itself, blended into the circumstance that evokes the response by a state of existential freedom and a subsequent annihilation of Self; the mechanism of this physical force is as natural, dependable, and unavoidable as gravity. If we can say that we, and our emotions, are part of the world, and compassion is a reflection of something good which reflects relative values back onto the neutral, natural world, we have identified the good in the world, and we have an example of natural metaethical realism based on physics and neurology alone. I qualify this by noting that, by my definition, the good is as ontologically absolute as existence and as existentially relative as my ontology. Compassion as a force of nature is conditional to humans on Earth at least, which is to say that it might also affect other complex, sentient life forms elsewhere in the universe, but at least definitely affects this species here. In other words the universe contains an absolute principle of moral good which is only manifest when certain physical conditions are met with the physical presence of a certain species; if you are an earthling human, no matter where you are in the universe, you are subject to what I will call Mitleidsverstrickung, “compassion-entanglement”, a pre-existing natural condition tied directly to the natural limit of power, resource, and the neurology of dental morality.
Realistically, that is to say, in the frame of logic-based material realism, the standard definition of true compassion is impossible and amounts to nothing more than empathy and action. The etymology of the English words compassion and sympathy is ‘suffer-with’, and it is clear that the individual Self would have to be in some way liberated from bonds of identity and ego at the time of the compassion response in order to transcend themselves enough to literally and actually ‘suffer-with’ another, for the reaction to be something more than emotion, something beyond psychology. We are left to fumble at the distinction in homo sapiens that would enable a capacity for compassion beyond empathy. It would have to be a feature of our kind which stems from the mechanism of intuition, instinct, and the natural social condition of the “political animal”.(69) Guilt is that feature, and the most ancient root of guilt is the primitive requirement to kill and consume another in order to survive, a skill with which homo sapiens are more adept than any other. Shame may be the mechanical motivation, in this case, the shame of prey, of not being able to defend oneself against being killed and consumed, which outweighs even the shame of the bloody-faced predator. Nietzsche was perhaps the most mordant commentator on the topic, when he summarized the deterministic, naturalistic complex of guilt and shame poetically in an anatomical, biological gnomic, as “a question for dentists”.(70)
C) Comparative Dentistry
And so we pry open the complicated mouth of homo sapiens for an intimate, ordinate examination of the basis of morality. We occupy a unique place at the ancient dinner table, one which demands that we confront the shame and guilt of eating meat and not adopting the vegetarian alternatives which provide an escape from the cycle – one which demands that we submit to the certitude that “meat is murder”.(71) We engage corpse-chewing with a comparative dentistry – a combination of sharp teeth and flat teeth: our sharp teeth deliver meat to our flat teeth to mash and chew, giving homo sapiens a comparative experience in the mouth: a mentality associated with consumption of corpses that is not available to earthlings with only either sharp incisors or flat molars. And what other earthlings can claim such a confused maw, can boast such a culinary conflict?(Footnote 14) Indeed, all other animals are locked into the binary of either sharp predator teeth or flat prey teeth. And so we are subject to our unique crisis: sharp predator teeth tearing meat that we have generally not killed ourselves, and flat prey teeth mashing flat-toothed meat of prey – prey that we also were at a bygone time in our history.
In our confusion of dentistry, prey teeth mashing prey meat, we find the original wellspring of morality – all moral questions have their source provenance in the epistemological uncertainty which stems from this prehistoric, molar root, a consequence of our superior cleverness and adaptability as a species. And the reason is so physical: only flat teeth could lend slow, meditative contemplation to the guilt-laden experience of eating another person’s body. The duration required to patiently chew someone’s body generates the guilt, making the exercise metaethically distinct from the way a predator will ‘wolf-down’ meat; the sensation of being eaten generates a complimentary shame. We are forced, consciously or subconsciously, to contemplate what we are doing when we eat a corpse by a simple function of the time that it takes to chew, and the physical feeling of a corpse in the mouth and on the palate, for a period of time that is dentally impossible for predators. Conversely, non-human predators are denied the moral crisis evoked by the act of chewing. The mysteriously absent moral ambiguity is a form of pure knowledge for non-human predators, a source of metaethical and epistemological certainty.
To be clear, non-human animals have unmediated access to a species of metaethical certainty that we cannot experience as homo sapiens: a real moral fact, or ‘moral realism’ in scholar’s parlance. Their moral truth is that consuming meat is not morally ambiguous, as it is for humanity, for they have no access to the moral crisis evoked by the consumption of meat that exists whether it is perceived or not: the moral crisis is resolved into unambiguous moral fact before they can experience the crisis. And this is a truism for non-human predators – for all predators who have no prey teeth. For non-humans, certain knowledge or ‘truth’ about morality is categorically possible, such that we can say that life on earth, and by extension, the universe, contains the possibility of moral realism – it allows for it. Not dentally equipped to access the moral dilemma, predators never encounter the crisis of the moral shame of meat, while prey also lack the teeth which could give them access to the moral uncertainty of the act of eating. Metaethical truth is not only a possibility in reality, it is the everyday experience of most toothful earthlings. Homo sapiens are forever alone in our inability to experience any form of metaethical certainty, and our uncertainty is by virtue of comparative dentistry. Stated another way, moral realism is an impossibility for homo sapiens in their default existential paradigm, which I call the lawful paradigm.
Entire traditions of moral thinking hinge on the question of whether morality is relative, subjective, and psychological, or if conditions of nature articulate moral fact. Non-humans have no direct access to the moral crisis of guilt and eating meat, but the crisis itself does not require the precedent of subjective perception. This is not a relative, subjective morality generated by emotion – the crisis is real, rooted in physics and flesh. No living creature desires to be eaten, and all react to the threat of it adversely; the crisis is either experienced or it is not. We can even say that it is good to eat prey and sustain life, as much as it is good to not be eaten and stay alive. The distinction lies in how we categorize humanity, how we separate the human and non-human animal world, and in the intersection of humanity with the functions of nature and existence. Schopenhauer brushes against the thorns of this moral thistle when he says, “A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten”.(72)
Let us catch our breath after the climb, to realize that the function of metaethical belief qualifies as an existential trait that distinguishes homo sapiens from all other earthlings, and gives us a standard something by which we can define humanity. Note that the qualification is entirely physical, and in this way, associates my ontological and existential conclusions, for even speaking of a moral sense insinuates not only the meat of the mind, but the body of the prey. Our moral senses permit us to be subsumed in belief, but we can never achieve moral certainty in the default lawful state, as lack of metaethical knowledge is unique to homo sapiens. This fact is accompanied by a yawning gape of questions about the nature of knowledge, and the distinction of truth and the real. Analyzing the moral roles of prey and predator, notice the juxtaposition in homo sapiens and ask: is metaethical belief enough to justify the grand vision that comes to us when we use the term humanity?
The dynamic is a simplex for non-humans: the threat of not surviving motivates endlessly, as each waking day is met with a need to fill the belly. For many the method is murder and corpse consumption, while the remainder must avoid being killed and consumed. This is never ambiguous, and even most predators must fear other predators. Genetic predisposition mutes the horror of the murder act, reducing the psychological nightmare of being pursued, and we must imagine that the prey experience, (the daily experience of the majority of earthlings), is, to some relative degree, desensitized to the never-ending threat of being pursued by a world which seems designed for the violent ending of life. The minority are the murderers, and the clever scavengers who have transcended the struggle, such as most homo sapiens and vultures.
This third category is comprised of earthlings who have developed a method of separating murder from survival, while retaining the corpse-chewing, non-prey part.(73) Homo sapiens scavenge grocery aisles, and hide the murder part of the food chain systematically, in windowless buildings at the village edge (slaughterhouses). We mask our comprehension of the reality of meat with obscuring euphemisms like ‘HappyMeal®’ or ‘Chateaubriand’, while we slap our thighs with expressions like ‘Pig Pickin’ for less civilized, more animal-like feeding events.(Footnote 15) In many languages we ambiguate the person and the body, the subject and the object, for example, the Germanic/Latinate distinctions like pig and pork, chicken and poultry, cow and beef. A morally sterile root describes the object, and an earthy root is used for the meaty subject.(Footnote 16) We are unable to shed the murder part of the cycle completely, and we retain it for focused exercises in which we rebel against society’s moral superficialities; in such events we seek to re-connect with an animal aspect, like ‘canned hunts’ or ‘safari’, pretending-away the social contrivance. In truth, humanity is not the default homo sapien condition, and no earthling is free of the murder-and-corpse-chewing cycle.
We have also mastered preservation by chemistry and refrigeration, giving us the ability to inject time between the slaughterhouse act and corpse consumption. Vultures too, are akin in this capacity, as their famously robust digestion is capable of processing corpses which are not fresh. By the will of their gut, they inject time between the circumstance of death and when they eat a dead person.(Footnote 17) And because the vulture is eerily liberated from the cycle, it should make us wonder whether they are perhaps subsequently capable of some species of moral reasoning, subconscious or otherwise, and like homo sapiens, incapable of metaethical certainty and knowledge. Is this a matter of morality, of convenience, or of an uncanny blend of both? It is easy to argue that this is evolution toward a convenience that provides a survival advantage, but to what degree is this informed by the moral crisis?
For ourselves and our humanity, we can catalogue how the chronological effect of the slaughterhouse process modifies our morality. Let us use the example of the pig, a creature capable of the intelligence of an eight-year old human child: we begin with the knowledge that our pig who will be slaughtered has personality (that is, is a person), and enough of a capacity for intelligence to evoke the moral crisis. The person who is about to be murdered enters a state much like Schrödinger’s cat as they vanish into the slaughterhouse: for an outside observer, this person is both alive and dead at the same time, suspended in a state of indeterminacy. As the meat emerges on the other end of the slaughterhouse, enough time has passed and enough space has been inserted between our attention and the murder act by the privacy of the slaughterhouse, that we are distracted sufficiently from the moral crisis of murdering the person, and can proceed unrestrained by the bite of conscience or the threat of compassion to the act of biting and chewing the corpse and surviving – the sensing subject has become edible object, guilt is sterilized, the pig is now pork. The homo sapien reduces themselves to an animal to avoid the moral uncertainty of the human.
So, there is something important about the physical and metaphysical circumstances surrounding a situation which affects how we digest it morally, namely proximity and time, critical factors in our exegesis of the compassion entanglement dynamic in the final climb of this work (Mitleidsverstrickung). The faceless package of flesh we purchase long after the act of murder, under the soothing music and creepy fluorescence of a grocery isle, completes the almost infantile act of sleight-of-mind, not far from what the vulture has achieved by evolution. And as morally sterile as we have made our shopping experience, modern homo sapiens purchase their survival such that if our meat markets abruptly vanished, we would sling rifles, bows, and spears and hunt flesh directly with no delay. Yet moral sensitivity and our ambivalent dental posture would steer us forever away from guilt, toward some escape from the pre-existing moral crisis, toward the palliative cure of the grocery aisle, where survival is simplified, sterilized, convenient, and less of a bloody mess, toward our humanity. Our aversion to the moral quagmire may not even be a trait unique to homo sapiens, as evidenced by the evolution of the vulture.
Because the condition is constant, and only vegetarian homo sapiens have escaped the murder and corpse-chewing cycle, the pursuit of power and resource is immediate, perpetual and endless.(Footnote 18) The luxury of compassion is rare and we are only capable of identifying with the sufferer when we are outside of the cycle, by satisfying the need for power and resource, and by distance and time between slaughterhouse and dinner table; we either transcend the cycle (vegetarians), or convince ourselves that we have done so (distracted meat-eaters). But because almost all of our time is spent not engaging in the act of identifying with the sufferer, we exist mostly as non-humans with the occasional distinction-by-degree of the homo sapien. We are locked into the lawful, orderly, mechanical belief systems over which we have no power, and which result in the formation of identity and the illusion of consciousness, foiling access to freedom and sacrificing creative capacity. With no access to freedom, Self is contained by the lawful illusion of individuation, unable to extend as nature – compassion remains empathy, moral realism remains relative to ego. Valuating individuation as existential ontology, moral relativism depends upon the same illusion as individuated Self, so whenever we could exhibit compassion but do not, it is by virtue of the fact that the norm on Earth is murder and corpse-chewing.
D) Compassion Theories
For a more commodious view of how we interface this complex, let us define ethics, morality, and metaethics, and then digest a few essential moments in the history of moral philosophy. Numerous book-length studies have been written on this topic, but this feeble section seeks only to gloss the field and provide a modicum of useful context for the interested reader. With a wide lens, all philosophic questions can be categorized as questions of physics, logic, or ethics, the schema followed in this book.(Footnote 19) The branch of ethics covers questions of normative ethics, morality, and metaethics. Normative ethics answers the question, ‘what should we do?’, (e.g., ‘should we have the death penalty?’). We derive ethical principles from our morality, which answers the question, ‘why should we do that?’, (e.g. ‘because God says so, that’s why!’, or ‘because compassion compels us to be kind to all life forms, that’s why!’, etc.). We extrapolate moral principles from our metaethics, which answers the question, ‘why do we have these moral principles?’, (e.g., ‘the fact that God exists, and commands thus, that’s why’, or ‘because life is suffering and our own suffering steers us to be kind, that’s why’, etc.). Among other things, metaethicists debate whether the good exists as a real thing, or the alternative, in which moral ideas are culturally relative accidents or logical contrivances. Metaethicists are concerned subsequently with the possibility of the existence of moral facts and truths, and the modalities and mechanisms by which we arrive at conclusions about knowledge.
Where should one begin to wonder at the genesis of ethical philosophy, at the source of our confusion about what we should do, at the deepest root of our metaethical uncertainty? At what point in our history were we forced to choose between following instinct or acting counter-intuitively, a history which begins in the earliest records as a mirror to the moments when we became more than animal? We would miss a rewarding entertainment if we did not begin at Western Civilization’s modern age, our most endearing and pathetic point, though nearly any point would suffice. A curious metaethical narrative begins with Kant’s complicated Categorical Imperative, which assumes that the good is ontologically real, something that exists in reality, independent of the presence of subjects – a deep ontological claim about is-ness and being versus do-er and doing, about the thing-as-subject and the world-as-object. Kant states that the true, genuine moral motivator is duty, that is to say, duty to the principles of God’s lawful ‘good’. Among others, Schopenhauer picks up where Kant left off, following to a point, then systematically deduces that the true moral motivator is compassion. He holds that human ethical decisions are motivated by egoism, malice, or compassion, and he finds the latter to be the ‘genuine’ moral motivator. Formal debate about metaethics began almost one hundred years after Schopenhauer, with G.E. Moore’s 1903 Principia Ethica. One could argue that Moore’s adamant moral realism is a reaction to not only the prevalence of Hegelian Idealism in English philosophy at the time, but also the thick trend of chaotic metaethical irrealism in mid-to-late 19th century European thought and associated pessimistic and creative nihilism of continental philosophy at the time. And one could identify the predominant catalyst for this trend in the work of Nietzsche; Nietzsche’s primary influence was Schopenhauer, and he established himself as Schopenhauer’s primary antipode.
In the texts, one word assaults the reader ebulliently, chronically betraying the author’s obsessive struggle; the word is "Schopenhauer". This word appears more than any other in indices of key words in Nietzsche’s writing. Once we distill Nietzsche’s rage at Schopenhauer’s insuperable tyranny over 19th century philosophy and his need to overcome him, it becomes clear that it is not the general mysticism underlying Schopenhauer’s philosophical Idealism that fuels Nietzsche’s wrath, (he could turn to any number of other thinkers in the tradition of Idealism for that), rather, Schopenhauer’s root metaethics, his principle of compassion. But Nietzsche does not attack on this point in isolation, seeking to discredit him elsewhere in an effort to neutralize his entire system, compassion along with it.
These are desperate measures: Nietzsche knows that the principle of compassion is the foremost threat to his entire philosophy, and it presents a serious and vexing obstacle requiring the full force of his dynamite. He states unambiguously, in numerous places, that the concept of compassion presents the greatest challenge, even describing compassion as a "demonic force".(74) His strategy against compassion is to align it to the weakness of religions, and dismiss it as a consequence of the passive nihilism of belief systems like Buddhism and Christianity. This does not account for compassion in the context of any other paradigm.(75) Here is a pest which won’t go away despite a drastic ontology and Heraclitan metaphysics. His anxiety is justified – only an extreme position can undermine the effect of the naturally occurring force we call compassion, and only ever after the fact, as compassion cannot be preempted! One can only say, ‘compassion holds us back from achieving our potential, because the world presents a dog-eat-dog situation – on account of the latter, why should a free-thinking creator be constrained by the former?’ Nietzsche’s alternative is complex, and manifests either as a rejection of Schopenhauer, or as advocacy of Heraclitanism, all in the context of Nietzsche’s romanticized anti-romanticism and the evolution of style in Germanism as it related to the nature of Self and the genuine.(76) We must ask, why did the otherwise fearless Nietzsche, a thinker who described himself as “warlike by nature”, fear compassion?(77)
It should surprise no one to learn that as sensitive a thinker as Nietzsche, who attempted in the course of more than a dozen volumes to contrive an alternative to compassion from many different angles, was a deeply compassionate person in real life, who once wrote in confidence to his close friend Köselitz about his own books: "I can no longer stand all this stuff”.(78) Nietzsche himself describes compassion as a "demonic force", indeed “the greatest danger”. This presumes that one is not psychopathic – that is, that one is susceptible to compassion in the first place; his prescription to “overcome” compassion presumes that one is at least capable of compassion, and further, that it is overwhelming to the point of being a force that can knock one off of their path and away from their goal. Reciprocally, for a person lacking empathy, compassion is no danger at all. Nietzsche’s audience in his call to “become harder”, are the sensitive, the soft, the weak, those who, like him, are overtaken by sympathy, and unable to maintain focus on their “yes”, their “no”, their “task”.
And here is a great danger in Nietzsche’s ambiguity on these topics: he appeals to those who are, by nature, hard and lacking compassion; in his work, they discover justification for their psycopathos. The typical “Nietzschean” is someone who is self-absorbed and only concerned with their own challenges, their own struggles, their own suffering. This is clearly not his intention, which is to be controversial and provoke the selfless among us, people who are overcome with sympathy for all who suffer – those who feel compassion. Compassion is only “the greatest danger” to those who feel the deepest sense of compassion, those who cannot evoke an inner hardness and accept the nature of life and the world as a place rife with suffering and pain.
Nietzsche was hypersensitive, “not hard” but prescribed that we affected ones “become hard”, was moved and affected by compassion to the extent that it presented “the greatest danger” to his ability to enjoy life; indeed, he drank too deeply from Schopenhauer’s well of dark insight. The only option for such a deeply feeling soul is religious treatment – the salvation of Christianity or the non-action of Buddhism. With his profound distaste for the groundless metaphysics, freedom-depriving slavery, and mindless placation of religion, Nietzsche’s only option is to fight back against compassion itself, internally – to overcome the danger of compassion. That this topic poses the central punchline of his favorite of his own books, Zarathustra, demonstrates the impressive petrifaction by which compassion gripped Nietzsche’s heart. He felt the pain of the world with too much intensity, experienced the trauma of the suffering of humans and animals with his whole life, and needed extreme measures to regulate the assault of compassion on his peace of mind. This is the ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ approach to overcoming compassion.
Nietzsche fine-tunes his prescription at the end of Zarathustra: overcoming “compassion for the Overman” becomes the final challenge. In other words, accept the suffering of the world, and indulge in a sane and steady compassion for the reality of limited power and resource, and the suffering that accompanies that situation. But overcome compassion for the Overman, because the Overman, like Nietzsche, has worked through the deeply troubling, indeed overwhelming complication of compassion. The Overman is one who does not need the sympathy of others, having learned first, to be free, and second, to accept their own suffering as that which “makes me stronger”. Only those who have not learned from life’s school of war need compassion, and they need and deserve compassion.
In the final section of this work we will try to understand why Nietzsche would have set his sights so intently on compassion, and what it is about compassion which allows it to withstand a heavy-duty irrealist’s assault. Toward this end, we step, circumspect, toward the mystical, and evoke the Upanishadic concept ‘tat tvam asi’, which appears numerous times in Schopenhauer’s writing. He provides the translation, “dies bist Du”, or “this art thou”, writing, “Individuation is mere phenomenon… And so even the plurality and diversity of individuals are mere phenomenon, that is, exist only in my representation. My true, inner being exists in every living thing as directly as it makes itself known in my self-consciousness on to me. In Sanskrit tat tvam asi (this art thou) is the formula, the standing expression, for this knowledge. It is this that bursts forth as compassion, on which all genuine, i.e. disinterested, virtue therefore depends, and whose real expression is every good deed.”(79) Despite Nietzsche’s criticism of Schopenhauer as an “unriddler of the world”, this is a mysterious doctrine which turns from lawful morality by not evoking the Abrahamic deity.(80) To describe the condition with a quantum physics metaphor, we could say that the two persons involved in a tat tvam asi relationship are in some way entangled, such that the fate of the one affects the other intimately, in ways which are not explained easily by Newtonian physics.(Footnote 20)
Five things must be real and present in order for the compassion force to manifest: we require a suffering person; a person receptive to the plaintive appeal, (that is, a person who is not psychopathic); a reality context not bound by material realism as we usually define that term; an existential circumstance in which compassion is a possibility; and the condition of freedom resulting from the dissolution first of identity and subsequently of Self. Entanglement begins when the individual perceiving the suffering feels, very suddenly, that the well-being of another is a priority concern as important as their own well-being, provoking a temporary transcendence of Self, what I will call the chaotic paradigm, and which I identify as a state of existential freedom. I set my sights on that instant that a person’s physical body jerks and turns toward the well into which a child has just fallen – what is going on in that moment, and is it something more than emotion or psychology?
In this way, the related suffering must be significant, as feeling sorry for someone is only empathy until the impetus to act is triggered by a more serious or immediate condition uninformed by ego. Reciprocally, the sufferer gains perspective outside of themselves by their suffering, also achieving a temporary state of freedom. The transaction between two persons in such a state is what I call entanglement, or Mitleidsverstrickung. I use the term metaphorically, never claiming that compassion is the direct result of a quantum physics effect. However, who can deny that a universe without quantum physics is one without compassion, for the simple fact that it would not be the universe we know, the one which contains both?
While Schopenhauer may have been content to understand compassion existentially and in the frame of Idealism, I want to comprehend the ontological components and functions of these moral concepts as ontological functions first, and how they are a consequence of the pre-existing physical and logical conditions exposed in this work. Perhaps then we will have a clearer sense of why compassion poses such a stark challenge to the immoralist and the irrealist, and also why I feel confident making the claim that the compassion force is not just a set of circumstances and an accompanying emotion, but a force of nature manifesting as a synthesis of circumstance and neurology in a reality devoid of individuation of world or Self.
First, I solicited quantum physics and Relativity in exploring the ambiguity of individual things in the context of an ontology of probability and relative time. I then had to show that the idea of quantified Self is illusory, by way of my arguments about logic and adequate knowledge. With that established, I will draw a correlation between the physical evidence for quantum entanglement with the physical evidence for the “tat tvam asi” doctrine. If we understand what is usually called the emotional state neurologically, and if we understand neurology as a specialized study of physics, and if physics leads us to the ontological conclusions we covered in Chapter One of this work, then we must apprehend emotion as something subject to our ontological deduction – we must understand emotion neurologically and in the context of Self as it relates to my ontology. All of this will lend its strength to the unique claim that compassion, an experience of entities embodying a wondrous ontology, is a fundamental and physical force of nature.
E) The Broken Line of Alignment
So much philosophy has been written on the nature of Self over the centuries – what could I hope to add in these gallant pages that would be worth the reader’s time? In short, my contribution concerns the relation of Self to the moral experience and the hypothesis that compassion is a physical force demonstrating evidence of an unusual species of moral realism. Concealed in the thick clouds of our final ascent, I propose that the phenomenon of decentralized Self is the key to understanding the function of compassion as an entanglement of the states of objectified subjects, and in this way we relate the morality of homo sapiens back to the central tenet of my ontology. The thesis stands alone in the annals of philosophy, advancing the postulate that compassion is a physical force. We will see that the usual ‘state’ of homo sapiens could be called lawful, and that a paradigmatic swing to what I call the chaotic state shifts perspective such that Self is temporarily disassociated from the discrete individual except by the illusion of individuation generated by our belief in the legitimacy of logic and the limitations of four-dimensional perception. In such a state, the neurology of a person is something in nature, something real and actual, something as ontologically mysterious as the electron, not something individually identified within the ‘psychology’ of ego-bound Self, not contained to identity, not enslaved by the mechanics of belief.
While compassion is generally indistinguishable from empathy in the day-to-day experience of the individual, it is the physics surrounding that individual which distinguishes compassion from empathy. Physical properties like proximity and time, combined with the idea that both the sufferer and the one who suffers-with are existing as much in nature as they are in themselves, establish a circumstance in which compassion is a vital face of the actual, entirely in nature, indeed a force of nature. For when we regard Self objectively, and we understand objectivity in the context of a reality without individuation, the physical Self and the physics surrounding the Self form a complex that may be regarded together. This complex is an aspect of what I call chaotic metaethics, and it is deterministic insofar as the underlying conditions can be explained reasonably in a deterministic, macroscopic physics like Relativity.
Our fresh view reveals a chaotic paradigm in which metaethical irrealism generates metaethical realism. My argument shows that by virtue of the irrealism from which the chaotic paradigm is woven, homo sapiens are capable of genuine compassion, and therefore the morally real good. Here, I mean that I establish compassion as a real thing in the actual world, that only becomes real by the action of a human, a human who values compassion as ‘good’. So while the valuation is existential and relative, the existential state transposes ‘the good’ onto the actual and makes it something real. Consequently, we embody in this transformation that which is more casually called humanity, as we move beyond belief in adequate metaethical knowledge and breech the domain of actual knowledge, knowledge correlated to the actual world. I demonstrated earlier that moral irrealism has its origin in our unusual dental condition; here I will show that the irrealism of the chaotic paradigm opens the door to moral certainty – a door that is otherwise closed to non-human animals. I call this existential function of homo sapiens ‘human’, and associate the distinction with the conditions of ‘humanity’.
The lawful paradigm gives us only an illusion about the nature of things, and the mechanics of belief work against us to this effect, for lawfulness is the existential mode of belief in individuation, and is the default perspective of four-dimensional perception. To delve the complex of lawful and chaotic metaethics, I will borrow a form of Plato’s Broken Line analogy from The Republic, adapted to the Gygax character alignment model to arrive at a post-modern metaethic.(81) Socrates explains the Broken Line to show the incremental pathway journeyed by the mind as a person incorporates the eternal Forms of his philosophy. His Broken Line details forms of knowledge through which we evolve as we are exposed to the insights of the philosophers: noesis, dianoia, pistis, and eikasia (intuition, discursion, conviction, and conjecture); the way we form understanding of each epistemological step by means of relational dialectics is the basis of Plato’s metaphysics. I apply a similar method to our own exploration of metaethical alignment, describing the epistemic path an individual could take were they to be subject to the paradigm-altering scientific and philosophic insight covered, for example, in this work. Our eikasia is apistemic, our mountainside dianoia leads us to a summit-leaning noesis.
We balance a ‘lawful’ paradigm with a ‘chaotic’ paradigm, though we could as easily call the lawful a ‘state of Self-fullness’ and the chaotic a ‘state of Selflessness’. A moral good/evil binary corresponds to the lawful paradigm, and a neutral/evil binary to the chaotic:
Simply mapped, the chart shows the lawful path pointing morally toward good or evil, and the chaotic path pointing morally toward neutral or evil.(82) The gulf between the two diagrams implies the transition of the subject from the lawful to the chaotic paradigm, where we find a neutral morality not present in the lawful mode, and a good morality missing from the chaotic. Though I will detail the existential and epistemological qualities of the chaotic model, my focus in this section will be how it illustrates morality. I propose that through the chaotic paradigm we can indeed access a form of the good not mapped in the chart, not part of the neutral/evil binary moral system. We could call this an example of non-binary, chaotic absolute, or ‘actual’ good, in the sense that the physics of the actual world is also chaotic, as described in Chapter One. As this revelation concerns the actual world and the real world, (the hypokeimenic and the perceived), we take the further step to call this ‘actual’ good, and this perspective ‘moral actualism’, as well as ‘moral realism’.
When speaking of the ‘chaotic’ or ‘chaoist’ paradigm, I mean that our neurology model follows causal principles similar to chaos theory in mathematics. Chaos theory gives us deterministic principles like the ‘butterfly effect’, where minor changes to the initial conditions of a dynamic system (like the weather, or a person), cause drastically diverging, but technically predictable results, and things that are mechanical and predictable appear, to human perception, to be disorganized and unpredictable when they are, in fact, simply too complex for the human mind to compute. For example, creamer in a cup of coffee appears to swirl randomly through the cup, but the movement is technically predictable, though humans have no means to predict it – the reality of perception cannot keep up with the actual in its waltz of order and the absurd. This suggests multiple realities, the actual and the perceived, both of which constitute a reality. Chaos splits reality into the realism of perception and the realism of the underlying essential mechanism; from our perspective we have no way of determining that the reality we perceive has a separate, actual nature. Perspective deceives with the fantasy of order, thus do we paint our blurry portrait of the actual.
Self in the chaotic model juxtaposes freedom as it is perceived by the lawful subject, and the ontological consequences of a world blended from deterministic relative physics and probabilistic quantum mechanics, consequences too complex to register in our perception. My thesis holds that the objectified subject is not bounded by the perceived perimeter of Self, existing instead in a complexus of the physics of consciousness with the physics of the actual – with the relative macroscopic and the probable microscopic. And while the ‘is-ness’ of lawful identity dissolves into the underlying ontology of neurological entitation, it is by virtue of the dissolution that we find evidence of two holy grails of philosophy, the nature of existential freedom, and the actual nature of things ‘out there’.
Existential chaos is a fleeting paradigm in which the sudden flux of the ossified ego-noun renders perfect existential freedom – close to what Schopenhauer called a state of “pure, will-less knowing”.(83) Our epistemology here is bright noesis; in such a state there is coincidence of the free Self in the actual world and the real world – with access to the Heraclitan natural world ‘out there’, the free Self becomes a continuous extension of it. Existential freedom resolves the ontological status of entitation in a splice of the probabilistic quantum world lurking beneath lawful perception, and the deterministic deep reality independent of observation in the Relativistic cosmos. With this premise, it is time to climb into the clouds, detail the lawful existential taxon, and turn to a description of the chaotic existential, before exploring how the differential weaves a reasonable contradiction from moral irrealism and moral realism in a reality which compliments and is indeed the functional thriving of such a contradiction.
We all begin life rooted in the lawful paradigm, and many of us spend most or all of it in this state. The paradigm’s scope is defined by perspective and limited to experience entirely within the usual boundaries of the standard definition of human perception and of material realism. In the simplest model of this cosmological world-view, we expect that the universe is Apollonian: orderly, regular, functioning on parts-based physical mechanisms – in a word, normal. We believe we have free-will, and that our neurology is not determined or automatic, that it tends toward the free and the psychological. We don’t question the idea of nature as a thing made up of individual atoms, if we understand even that much about the structure of things. If science fails to resolve the unexpected or inexplicable, we utilize divinity as a collective cerebral device; when we encounter riddles, we reach for the God-tool to unriddle. Alternately, we default to atheism, ignore the dissonance, and invest belief in the shaky knowledge that we have put our minds around all that is possible in the universe. In either case, we suspend belief and convince ourselves of baseless knowledge instead of suspending disbelief and embracing adequate knowledge as wonder.(Footnote 21) Because science has proven non-useful in explaining ‘matters of heart’, never bringing us closer to grasping how life can be saturated with the inverse of empathy, we feel comfortable with a simple harmonic dichotomy: the miracles of a deity and the laws of nature. The lawful paradigm’s orderly ethical prescription is a simplex: a deity is the ultimate moral judge and dictates moral code, whose influence extends even to agnostics and atheists by virtue of monocultural moral standards that prescribe behavior and usually have their foundations in spiritual belief; politics exploits this where useful or necessary to preserve the economy of social placation. We obey, behaving and conducting ourselves according to the relevant Holy or Legal Writ, and we punish rebels and revolutionaries accordingly.
Unexpected and unmanageable, the orderly life gives us the great organization and efficiency of our civilizations, but we pay a steep price. Society programs ego like sluggish, buggy freeware into deterministic identities, facilitating the automation of spirit – we become complacent to comforting addictions and lifestyle ruts as we are stripped of freedom of Self. Lawful identity denies us the quick pulse of the absurd, robs us of our natural creative energies, and quashes our impulse to play and to destroy. There is no moral neutrality; the metaethical divide is black or white, guilty or innocent: good or evil. We see egoism as morally defective, and compassion for the compromised as the genuine source of disinterested moral value. Self is a stone, singular, sturdy and definite in its articulation as a real and present individual thing in an unambiguously material world; we never question the existential material of Self, and hold identity to be sacred, protesting any constraint to identity as an injustice. Yet we do not acknowledge Self as a thing in the world and extension of nature because it does not reconcile with our brand of materialism, rather, we imagine it as a trick of psychology, as a hazy aspect of the mind, or even hazier – of the soul.(84) We embrace the limits of logic and language; as imperfect humans, we ‘shoot for holy and end up civil’, putting our faith in adequacy and the belief that words are effective enough at translating meaning, that numbers probably correlate to precise values; knowledge corresponds to the approximation that we pretend is accurate and precise. As the unyielding cornerstone of the lawful illusion, ego feels concrete, even as neurology struggles to explain the mechanical cause of spontaneous creativity, intuition, imagination, and emotion.
Though identity slides us snugly into the high-tolerance of the lawful paradigm, experiences of sudden, unintended moments of existential freedom, like compassion or the mortifying alienation of blinding pain, are grit in the lube. In these states, a person exists and perceives outside of Self in some way, either in suffering-with, or in seeing one’s own Self suffer. Existing outside of itself, Self attains a temporary state of freedom, in which action is at once interested but detached, invested but not dependent. Freedom is doubly effective, teaching our cerebral palate the flavor of autonomy, while shepherding a brief excursion to the chaotic paradigm, at once enhancing our potential for more enduring shifts while heightening the probability of such a shift occurring.
Scientific insight is often the first thing to nudge us resolutely away from the lawful paradigm as it resists any shift of its materialism paradigm even as its stranger findings force it to irrealism. This is not without an ironic tang, for lawful sciences seek to regulate the chaotic by uncovering the ‘laws’ of nature in their various fields: physics uses ontology to define nature without appeals to gods or the other-worldly; geology demonstrates an ancient Earth which predates biblical description; chemistry describes atoms and molecules as the logic of all structure; neurology teaches us the mechanics of the mind; biology shows us the development of systematic life out of chaotic mutations; astronomy introduces us to the inconceivable vastness of the scale and wonder of Apollo’s lawful cosmos. But the root ur-theories of fundamental physics, particle and relativity theory, are in sharp contrast with our familiar, lawful world. They describe the actual as something inconceivable, irrational, preposterous, absurd, forcing us to acknowledge two realities, which we are not logically equipped to do – this tends to suspend us in a state of wonder, but because our lawful reality is so advanced from our tendency toward overdeveloped reasoning, (by virtue of our sciences), we explain-away the two realities with erroneous ontology. We cannot synthesize the sciences with meaningful ontological commitments in either theory, theories which are at odds even with each other. In this story, the epistemological condition of modern humans commands sympathy, for we must live with the total rupture of our faith in logic and reason as a direct and contemporary consequence of logic and reason. The firm ground of the lawful paradigm shifts – we dip a toe into the river of the chaotic paradigm, for even the glut of knowledge afforded by physics cannot meet the expectations of logic. Suddenly faced with the possibility of a godless universe, we struggle to match existence and purpose, finding that the good is relative and cannot exist as a real, unconditional thing. The oscillation of cultures like Cambodia, Indonesia, or Germany, from thought and poetry, to genocide, cycling back to art and kindness, convince us that even evil resides on the sliding scale of relativity.(85)
We braver souls of post-modernity, sick with cultural overexposure and overdesperate identity, begin to understand Self as an artificial construction. Faith in the integrity of Self is shaken as static identity dissolves into a Heraclitan understanding that we are never the same person, the same Self, twice.(Footnote 22) We gain the cynical insight that identities and addictions are the generous gift of a world which smirks as it gives, and that we have been too weak to recognize or overcome the extent to which we are programmed by forces outside of ourselves. We rebel, seizing control of the enslavement of our drooling passions, struck with an impulse to resist the draw of the flaccid, marketed luxuries by which society imprisons us and mocks our humanity. All we know of ourselves is undone, annihilated in the realization that personal belief and friendships founded on identity are impermanent episodes with a relatively brief shelf-life. We focus our vision and gain control of the belief systems that have invaded us, an invasion perpetrated against our will by existential circumstance and chance exposures. We learn how little freedom we actually have in the formation of personality, how desperately society yearns toward a vapid happiness at the sacrifice of joy, a hollow suburban contentedness at the cost of bliss. Awakened and enraged, we arrive at the threshold of chaotic Self, and by the combination of inexplicability and regularity, even reason adjusts to the shift and begins to allow for and facilitate the unreasonable – starts even to nurture the absurd.
For example, we never try to not believe in quantum tunneling when we first learn of it, precisely because we sense that it does not require suspension of belief, precisely because we trust we can trust our great scientists have done the hard work and have revealed the actual world for us. The wobbly wonder we feel when we comprehend the inconceivability of quantum tunneling overrides our need for knowledge and suspends disbelief. We apply belief intentionally and tactically, as a faculty or utility, and we tend toward precision of effect whether or not we are clear on this fact, always for the sake of our sanity. In so doing, we begin a slow procession toward mastery of the mechanics of belief-systems, the code underlying all programming of identity. In this mastery, lawful Self is experienced as chaotic spirit, and we arrive at the fourth cornerstone of the Metaphysikos, the insight that if is-ness is doing, Self is spirit.
Yet in this illuminated state we ignore the incongruities of logic (which root us to their provenance in the lawful paradigm) and the ontological quirks of particle physics (which push us toward the chaotic paradigm). We augment our natural experience of nature with empiricism and calculation, build on what we have previously learned in the shaky foundations of what we have already built, and erect our imperfect monuments to intelligence. Disregarding paradoxes that should prompt us to cycle back into the scientific process, and conceding to suspend belief as though frightened by the prospect that the cosmos defies the etymology we have assigned it, we fail to see that the order of the universe does not always match the order of our logic, that chaos is a perspective state in the existential domain – we recognize that existence and the actual can never coalesce in the lawful paradigm. For example, we cannot make rational sense of quantum tunneling and our immediate instinct is to explain-away, to dissolve the wonder that inspired us to investigate and learn by any means necessary. We swallow the academy’s bitter medicine: ‘quantum science is a statistical approach to understanding reality which can only be truly understood in the form of math by experts in the subject, and any translation or interpretation beyond symbol and number into words or philosophical conclusions is subject to the inaccuracies and inherently problematic decision-making of translators and hermeneuts’. Cut-off from wonder and reason, we cannot grasp something like quantum tunneling with the logic and language available to us. We must believe in the math in the absence of knowledge, whether we understand it or not, even while professional mathematicians are subject to the complications I raised in the logic chapter.
Reason slips when logic is not the primary source informing belief models, even as we savor the unreasonable salt.(Footnote 23) Epistemologically, knowledge does not depend on absolute value, for we derive a superior knowledge from an approximation about “some but not all” observations than we do from duplicated data.(86) Logic is the proving ground, demanding a kind of universe which correlates tangible examples to physical axioms (like a ‘one’ thing), while physics violates the logic underlying causal axioms like the principle of locality, when, for example, parts influence non-local parts in ways we cannot explain (“spooky action at a distance”). Let us shrug together at our irreconcilable axioms, for we are all of us left to suspend disbelief with conflicting theories, to approximate knowledge in disguised juxtapositions like relativity and quantum physics, material realism and real material, logical individuation and physical wave-particle duality. How can we not lose confidence in sound reason, the precision of logic, perception in relation to physics, the materiality of the actual, when we behold the sloppiness of our systems of belief and knowledge? And this is where the epistemic principle supporting Hofstaedter’s ‘chunked’ model fails, as molecular physicists do not inherit the unreason of the foundational theories, only the parts that work with reason – the parts that are functional and, indeed, demonstrate the chunked model in a fool’s tautology.(87) One plus one still counts for two on a student’s Quantum Theory exam, even while the paper of the exam is made up of parts that are meontologically actual waves of non-individuated probability transacting with themselves in the future. Physics makes it impossible to define a one and one that mathematics could, with no ambiguity, amalgamate, but the exam will be graded nonetheless, for a destiny depends on the grade.
In practice, a person locked into the lawful paradigm is free to coast through the days of life unaware of the focused influence of the mechanics of belief, even while we are prone to sudden moments which compel a drift toward the chaotic; in my system, these occasions are states of existential freedom. For example, genuine compassion transports us suddenly outside of Self, by temporarily dissolving identity, and all else that would otherwise influence the response. Experiencing compassion means to exist in some way externally, outside of oneself, to ‘suffer-with’ the sufferer. Moments of excruciating, compromising pain are likewise moments in which our connection to ego fails, fulfilling and reciprocating the transindividual tat tvam asi formula.
The shock of pain steals us entirely from ourselves so that we witness ourselves from outside, disoriented by the bad fortune of sudden incapacitation or acute pain, the dizziness of loss, or the jolt of trauma; witness the impossible calm of shock in a person who has been bisected in a horrible accident, expressing no pain, waiting calmly to bleed to death.(88) From this circumstance we access the chaotic paradigm in moments when we are overwhelmed by an experience of powerful instinct or pure sense, when the ego’s internal dialogue is silenced for a span of time, such as a moment of encompassing intuition, deep meditation, or orgasm. Athletes refer to ‘the zone’, when the mind’s internal dialogue is entirely mute, and the body can exercise an action trained into muscle-memory with uncanny precision. This is the basic internal condition of existential freedom, which bears the distinct fingerprint of chaos: only a truly free will can cause mechanical determinism with perfect precision. Duration fluctuates, but the condition is always temporary, imminently fleeting, always again subject to the lawful paradigm as imposed by the limit of perception.(89)
This work does not address the existential consequences of the chaotic paradigm outside of a focus on metaethics, on root moral causes or the lack thereof. But let it be noted that philosophic intuition, creative imagination, love, searing Dionysian rage, unmotivated artistic expression, the stroke of genius, free joy, wonder, and related expressions of personality, all issue from a state of chaotic existential freedom. When we train our eye on ethics in the chaotic paradigm, we find that metaethical irrealism is the root moral consequence, the paradigmatic belief that the ‘unconditional good’ is impossible. Inevitably, skepticism relativizes morality: did Mother Theresa act from a chaotic-neutral, non-disinterested ego, steered by want and need to devote herself to others in satisfying an extramoral, pathological impulse to embody and express altruism?(Footnote 24) “Nothing is true, everything is possible”, and we are fortified accordingly by irrealism to confront that which is beyond moral fact, beyond the sense of moral knowledge, the very real fact of moral relativity. Out of a great Jenseits we gain a summit view: neutral relativity is the morally-grey metaethical rule, even as the fact of existence itself articulates at least one example that the actual reflects our reality. Moral relativism reveals an essential quality of the actual: irrealism completes itself in contradicting the real, while the real returns the spectrum of relative good and evil. In either case we remain distinctly capable of malice as much as we are susceptible to sympathy, as the binary sways from good and evil to neutral and evil in the alignment transition from lawful to chaotic.
But even the most jaded are not satisfied with this metaethic, and tense their jaw at the practical utility of irrealism, when we must derive our sense of what is irreal from what we deem to be real – when it is precisely that which we have, in error, presumed is real that we are directly irrealist about. Value is relative, but it is Self that makes the rules and that values, and we want to account for Self as something in the world, an extension of the real, as the physically actual, of the reality detailed in my ontology – of a new real which reflects our new actual; only a healthy swing of the moral pendulum to the extremes exposes the rule. And as easily as we find the fact of moral evil, we can find the fact of moral good: when confronted suddenly with, for example, a life saved, exceptionally good fortune, or profound love, the darkest nihilist gains a sudden knowledge of relative unconditional good, suddenly understands ‘the good’, beyond pleasure, comfort, peace of mind, and ego-swaddled security as empirical, metaethical knowledge about natural conditions in the external actual. How does lawful irrealism get it so wrong?
Adequate knowledge gives us a real sense o f the actual, as we established in the ontology and logic chapters. As such, we can analyze subjective moral truths, and determine what has the most statistical consensus as ‘good’, or as ‘evil’, to arrive at adequate knowledge of real moral facts. This is especially true when so much of the statistical variation can be dismissed as psychopathy, and when the remaining grey area of subjective disagreement is too small to be relevant to adequate knowledge about real moral facts. It is only the binary requirements of the lawful perspective that hides these insights, from even the most brilliant minds.
Individuation informs the core logic and ontology of both realism and irrealism when they are viewed through the lawful lens, and few humans have ever suggested a logic or ontology beyond lawful realism, one that does not inherit the individuation paradigm by default. A more chaotic irrealism would account for Self outside of the individuation paradigm, but the lawful irrealism of modern skeptical epistemologies and related social criticism is really only the failure to couple and associate theories of knowledge and modern physics. From this farce, all theories of Self are bound to the primary lawful axiom: Self is a separate, individual part of a reality that exists somehow in a separate, existential reality, connected to the world by being while at once being disconnected from it. I take it as given that ‘good’ is relative to human valuation, but even if this value only manifests within us as physical neurology or subjective relativity, we can extend this to the world by my ontology: if it exists within us, it is real and exists within the actual world, an aspect of that world, just as we are a real and physical extension of the actual. In the end, the only question addressed by lawful realism is whether or not a material universe exists in the first place, in the way we have always understood ‘material’. Our deep belief that material matches perception is what locks logic to the absolute in the lawful paradigm, and the extension of Self beyond the individual that locks chaotic realism to the absolute, qualified here by the idea of the continuum of Self and the actual, the flowing Heraclitan reality, of which Self is an aspect. That which we could call ‘the good’ could only be experienced by the non-psychopathic perceiver with one foot in the chaotic paradigm.
While the lawful paradigm proclaims absolute good in a reality governed by the erroneous principle of individuation, the chaotic paradigm shows us that the good is as relative and approximative as an actual governed by probability-based ontology. But when we see that extremes of morality are approximately absolute, (absolute for some-but-not-all, or absolute for all who are not psychopathic), we can proclaim ‘the good’ outside of existential relativity. Furthermore, it is only by way of the chaotic paradigm that we can identify the good as something real, an epistemological metapode that is complimentary to a reality which is itself, approximative. As such, our metaethical map is incomplete when it only maps evil and neutrality to the chaotic paradigm, as has been the case until this work.
We could stop here at moral neutrality – for Mitleidsverstrickung is nothing less than the universe sympathizing with itself outside of any value, as the involved subjects are free from the subjective illusion, are in fact externally real in neutral nature. The entangled entities break from the ego’s illusion of individuated Self, and with the freedom of the flame, entitate as spirit embodied, the living extension of the cosmos which casts the illusion upon itself to misdirect the subject. In this chaos, we are the actual, the clear non-relative absolute generated within nature itself, as a first-hand, cohesive part of nature, from the Self that is but reality’s fantasy. Here is the universe under the illusion that it manifests as single Selves, generating and experiencing absolute morality in a way that is relative only to the perceived real, not to the actual as manifestation of the principle of entitation.
We arrive at the primary intuition that inspired this book: the arguments for unconditional good are soluble in moral relativism, while unconditional evil is easy to define conventionally; moral repugnance is salient while the morally agreeable is relative. To put it in a different way, moral irrealists have an easy time dismissing claims of ‘the good’, but must flex the philosopher muscle to dismiss evil as relative. We can always up the ante with evil, can always describe an even worse scenario which would guarantee moral disgust in anyone within the bounds of the relative scale of psychopathology.(90) But some misanthropic species of cynical pessimism numbs our creative vision for best-case scenarios of ‘good’ as a moral absolute, for we are never shocked into knowledge by ‘good’ things like we are with high-quality footage of a good old beheading. This knowledge is mother’s milk – moral irrealism is as essential to us as the knowledge that the moon exists when we are not looking at it. It is its own absolute knowledge, an epistemology beyond the sophistic exploitation of the limits of language I presented in the logic chapter. But as the staunchest academic irrealist who has spend the day debunking realism could never deny the manifest reality of the tumbler of scotch into which they hear ice cubes ‘clink’ when they arrive home at the end of a long day of ‘doing philosophy’, they also know the absolute good when they experience it, welling within like the intuitive nostalgia of wonder.
Note the rare occasions when we are incapable to maintain the ego’s healthy skeptical pessimism, if only for a moment. Precious but occasional encounters with compassion and malice keep us human, reinforce our humanity, and neutralize the complacency of dispassion, because we cannot easily explain-away the reaction with natural cynicism. We chaoist free-thinkers waver between conviction that truth and morality are relative, and the hope that there is something concrete that can be applied everywhere and everywhen; beyond good and evil we confront moral relativism in a physically relative, probabilistic reality. Far from implying that physical Relativity causes moral relativism, my argument from correlation is adequate and compliments my ‘good enough for jazz’ epistemological model. What happens if we correlate a cosmos steered by the physics of Relativity, the belief that the neurological experience of morality is a relative one, and the causal connexion between physics and neurology? Anyone brave enough to join me in upholding the causal realism of Relativity will agree: physics applies to the neurological experience such that moral relativity describes something real, complimentary and congruous with physics and not exclusive to human neurology. And so in seeking alternatives, we begin to reformulate the classic expression: “while no knowledge is true, relativity permits the morally actual”.
Stroll slowly through this extrapolation:
1. morality and values are relative;
2. regard the conscious Self as a person who has certain globally relative knowledge;
3. consciousness is pure neurology, pure physics in a physical world;
4. time and the physics of the macroscopic is ruled by relativity and the microscopic by probability;(Footnote 25)
5. we register positive knowledge by the adequacy of statistics when we limit the absolute to the scale of psychopathology, even as tuning perception wiggles the value to match the relative while remaining absolute;
6. an absolutely existing cosmos governed by relativity correlates to any absolute knowledge that accommodates relative experience;
7. there is no ambiguity about the definition of absolute good, even when we say that the existence of moral facts is relative to culture or personality; we ‘know’ that if a person saves a baby trapped in a well, that they have done something ‘morally good’, and something tells us that this is more than a subjective, emotional judgment, something beyond how we define morality.
8. dissolve point, line, and binary into the fuzzy approximation that is the probabilistic actual.
What is the ‘line’ between good and evil? If the rational knowledge generated by our neurology follows the science of our physics, we would see that truth and fact are as imprecise as the probability waves generated by all ‘things’.(Footnote 26) We, representatives of this moral thing in the universe, of our own metaethical condition, we know the unquestionably ‘good’ when we see it, which is enough to argue that it is real, if we can ever say that we ‘are real’. It is not a matter of cultural agreement – we know that someone who could easily save a child in such a situation but does not, registers as ‘psychopathic’ to some and to some degree, at least to a degree at which we achieve critical mass adequate to disqualify the alternative as psychopathic: we can draw a clean delineation between these two, but the binary dividing line can vanish like pi into irrational recess with no complication to the absolute value of the non-psychopathic. We can accommodate both moral relativism and a moral absolute in this example, as those who are not ‘psychopathic’ can value moral good across a range of relative valuation before coming close to psychopathology. So we have a relatively valuable moral absolute, and a clear delineation of its opposite, consequent of our epistemology and complimentary to our ontology. The integrated system illuminates the adequate absolute, which is as far as we should go toward realism in a real that is only actual by its own approximation of itself. And while illusion of Self is a convincing argument against our real existence, we can pin knowledge of our actual vitality on our entitation as spirit – as singular, vital, embodied fire.
Have we emphasized the etymology distinguishing empathic pity and sympathetic compassion sufficiently? The pathos in concordant pity resonates the Latin pieta, devotional duty to the gods – dike in Greek, aligned lawfully on the Broken Line by the concept of duty. As the unshared perspective of isolated Self in a confrontation with raw survival conditions of the world, pity is a function of empathy. By contrast, the Greek sym-pathy and the Latin com-passion translate to ‘with-suffering’, to ‘suffer with’,(Footnote 27) requiring two contributors: a sufferer and one to suffer-with; both participants engage the entanglement of compassion from a state of existential freedom. With familiar irony, conscience and force are coordinated in freedom, the pair extended from Self into a continuum in which they are mutually congruous, local, non-individuated – the universal substrate called the actual in which disambiguated fields of energy generate, propagate, blend, collide, and annihilate. Sympathetic entitation establishes the handshake of compassion in a furibund moment of extended transindividuation.
Enigma surrounds the origin of the compassion response, even while etymology ushers us closer to the kernel of our inquiry – God need not exist, there need not be a purpose whatever to existence or the universe, for it is compatible with all forms of nihilism. The only requirement is physical and circumstantial, freedom in the context of limited power and resource: the limit governs our moral sense, and a Self-less state grants the existential freedom necessary for compassion.(Footnote 28) Do you see that the essential mechanism of compassion is distinct from lawful pity as compassion is both native to chaoist irrealism, and a challenger to it? Compassion has its provenance in the fervid freedom of the chaotic, functioning as a deterministic natural force and manifesting as an existential blend of fate and free-will I style destiny. Without the element of freedom, we could deconstruct compassion to a simplex, a motivation to satisfy the desire of ego, as in our Mother Theresa example, or in the psychological egoism school of thought.(Footnote 29) In my study, ego is an illusory composite of identity, desire, and the causal experience with its corresponding neurological condition; empathy issues necessarily from ego, and while it is in some ways admirable, it betrays a miasmic slavery to identity and belief.
With so much said on the vexing fog surrounding ‘the good’ and compassion, let us pivot on our moral map and consider the antithesis of compassion: if complacent dispassion is the opposite of compassion, malice is its antithesis. At the far end of the moral spectrum, malice is directed at one lawful subject by another lawful subject, manifesting as non-disinterested action. One who acts from malice in the lawful paradigm is interested, in some way invested, in exploiting a weakness for harmful, malevolent satisfaction or the reward of personal gain, and is for this reason regarded morally reprehensible. In the chaotic paradigm however, the ontological Self dissolves into a sauce of conflicting personalities and beliefs, guided by a rotating roster of ethical pilots. Chaotic malice surfaces as disinterested moral chaos, or as an interested means to effect positive change in the person toward whom it is exercised by the malapert creed, “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.”(Footnote 30) And while chaotic malice relates the objectified subject to the actual, the omnidirectional flow of chaotic determinism unmasks the function of probability in the compassion force; consider this sentiment from Nietzsche:
“Of the kind of men who matter to me I wish suffering, isolation, sickness, ill-treatment, degradation – I wish they may become acquainted with deep self-contempt, the torment of self-mistrust, the misery of the overcome: I have no compassion for them, because I wish them the only thing that today can prove whether a man has any value or not – his ability to stand his ground…”(91)
The chaotic paradigm encourages malice toward the Self by the Self, as Self liberated from the tendency exposes and exploits vulnerable traces of identity and steers Self toward the chaotic paradigm. Self-directed malice thrives in the complex of compassion for Self by Self, an assumption that acts of malice are more than random destruction, something we effect intentionally for positive outcome. Nietzsche’s statement rests on this sentiment: ultimately, he wishes the best thing for those at whom he directs his vitriol – he does have some species of ‘compassion’ for them. This is the face of compassionate malice, which, as a form of malice issuing from existential freedom, requires the freedom of the chaotic paradigm as much as it is reflexive to it. Like the yin and the yang, these opposing forces, freedom and determinism, contain the seed of each other in order to effect the approximated balance of lawful illusion, and convince us of an ontology of moral individuation.(Footnote 31)
As we accompany the lawful Self on the transmogrifying odyssey into the chaotic, it is clear that cognitive science demands a different species of morality for the chaotic than for the lawful. To begin, we observe a decentralized and fragmented Self beyond the embarrassing disappointment of static identity, reinforced by the joyful power of conquering lawful identity and its insidious social addictions. Chaotic Self gains mastery of the architecture of belief models, and in so doing, is empowered to either transcend belief or utilize belief intentionally to achieve specific effects. No longer constrained to the unambiguous stasis of being, theoretical externalization implies the possibility of Selfless compassion, and I identify the catalyst of this effect as a fundamental force of nature, one which can only act on entitations who are, by existential circumstance and overdeveloped person-ness, capable of ‘humanity’. The impossibility of individuation, the total lack of unified ‘one’ things in the world as detailed in my ontology, suggests that Self is also not individual, and that our lawful perception of individuated Self is as illusory as our sense that the branches of a sycamore are part of the same organism as the trunk of the same sycamore, or that a stone is an isolated identity, a singular thing. This continuum is the hallmark of the chaotic paradigm.
So we can conclude about the idea of an individual Self as we did about the idea of individual parts: while “parts have no hidden partness”, Self has no hidden selfness, such that Self in itself, like parts, is illusory: in this way, perception is perpendicular to physics. Reciprocally, as any part is made-up necessarily of multiple parts, the lawful illusion of Self is made-up of multiple Selves – constrained in number from the infinite only by the mechanism of belief, which shuts the doors of probable Selfness as we descend causally into an ever-narrowing scope of identity. In the auditorium of multiple Selves, each Self in the multiplicity provokes a different aspect of identity, belief clustering, cultural archetypes, and social addictions. And while the lawful paradigm encourages us to imagine a ‘pilot Self’, the core of chaotic personhood can only be the ever-changing, singular spirit that distinguishes one person from another, a signature flame that at once contradicts and mandates sameness. Not individuated in time or the world, spirit defies Heraclitus as the identical, unchanging entity over time, always identifying the individual without ever individuating into identity, like a piece of electricity or a part of a flame – the paradox of the continuously individuated, casting no shadow of individuation. It is that part of ourselves that is continual with the raw forces of the cosmos, and is that continuum of force which shows our Heraclitan diffusion as a reflection of grand Parmenidesian oneness. Behold! Heraclitus’ cosmology of fire as the mystically actual in the undividuated world, the flame of decentralized Self as the pulse of the living cosmos. It is the aspect of ourselves that suffers, that can suffer, and that in us which can ‘suffer-with’ – what the lawful Self would call the chaotic Self.
If lawful Self is the subjective illusion of identical unity, chaotic Self is a free entity, existing not within the individual but smeared and blended into the blurry, approximated world as an extension of the actual into itself, a handshake across the existential gap between lawful and chaotic – where the hand of nature grasps neurology by the physics. In the chaos of existential freedom the wisp of foggy Self manifests in the physical continuum as a free entitation causally determined by the boundaries of nature’s laws: free as liberated from socially programmed identity and belief; determined as a feature of that same nature that is subject to the causality detailed in my ontology and the relativity governing the cosmos.
Let us return to terms I used at the beginning of this chapter and reiterate that the nature of chaotic Self is externalized and decentralized; who can isolate the center of ‘a fire’ or ‘a lightning bolt’? Romantic dissolution challenges the center of meaning in seeking to commute noun to verb, lawful to chaotic, Self to spirit. This distinct externalized loss of Self characteristic to the romantic sense is what Schopenhauer wanted to isolate when he quoted Byron, “I live not in myself but I become // Portion of that around me and to me // High mountains are a feeling”.(92) The question wells within us, if all of us can relate to Byron’s words, to an “I”, who lives not in myself – a same I, an ever-changing but identical I… what of sameness and the identical? What of the distinct endurance and continuation of a person through time? What of the clear face of who we are that persists from our earliest memories of ourselves? What is this thing that continues to change while it remains the same, that we sense we can identify as an individual thing? In closing my dissection of the lawful and chaotic we should pause on a related, existential corollary: persistence and spirit.
Lawful Self is guided by belief in the persistence of who we are, in the persistent and centralized causal continuation of personhood. This delicate braid of body and mind, memory and identity, ossified belief and spontaneous creativity, is subject to sudden changes and gradual shifts over time. Change changes that which is changing in time’s flow, and in this way there can be no true persistence of what we call lawful Self – persistence of Self is the presentation of lawful illusion, and the intuitive hope for its preservation. We are all equally unable to pause the Heraclitan river of what we do with our time, to identify features of personhood that are causally related, for there is no persistence of any one object of our imagination, only a vapor streaming through time into fallible memory. What remains the same are dancing flames of decentralized spirit, an ever-changing constant: a causal and manifest weave of free-will and fate steered by intuition, a mash of the lawful and the chaotic – what I style destiny.
In turn we exchange Self for spirit in the chaotic lexicon, for this species of Self is spirited, enigmatic by externalization, and decentralized from the causality of existence as we perceive it. Observing the determinism of a person along the forward flow of time, spirit appears to us as the central, unperishing impetus that does not change even as it remains forever in motion – expiring in every impossible ‘moment’ as it is reborn in the next. Unrolling time and observing the reversal from grave to womb reveals no solid center, with only persistence fueling the causal roll. A person shines forth by a signature energy, unique and unable to pause time in blazing fluctuation, consuming and destroying the fuel which feeds it. In spirit, we have individuation that is not individuated, sameness that is never the same, determined in our freedom like the flames of a fire.
And now we stop to check our packs, as the final, imposing cliffs stand high before us, and a frosty wind ripping across the ice tells us we have reached our journey's end. But cornering points and concepts with the brute force of words as we must commits us to the lawful expressive mode: the logical failure of language to individuate meaning; we have no alternative but to use words like ‘parts’ and ‘Self’ even as we lay bare the errors of these futilities. We would require novel forms of communication to do otherwise, new methods of language in a lexicon that is intentionally addlepated, the very impossibility of which has obscured my insights to philosophy. What could be the exotic language of the chaotic Self, beyond how the lawful Self approximates it in music, dance, and revelry? For the tenacious optimism of the lawful paradigm is formalized in logic through pride in our translation skills! Nouns are to the faculty of understanding what identity is to Self: contrivance of the identical through an illusory correspondence of Self to the non-relative actual. But it is precisely in our dedication to the persistence of the identical, in our logical need for the possibility of sameness, that we are betrayed by the relativity of perception. While lawful logic derelativizes with nouns, chaos relativizes against lawful Self, and by its ontological devotion to verbs regards the illusion as another blur of the continuum. By my deduction, relative perception is relative to illusory Self, not to the universal, and in this we have a relative absolute and a real actual. But in writing, I can only corner my quarry with the wide net of metaphor.
F) Unrelated note on Love and God
How does the irrealist reconcile blanket nihilism with the radiant explosion of a nuclear blast? We are not so small and insignificant in the vast cosmos if love is actual, for in love all reality is manifest and demonstrated. Do we love alone and separately, alone in our minds, the arrangement of a shared delusion, or when two people are in love is there something more, manifested through the physical forms of the participants? And if “no man ever loved” and love is but a ghostly feeling within the spectral ego then the cosmos is likely pointless and cold from one end to the other. But everything needs physics to have its place in the world, from the probability swarm that splits through the nothing in an atomic explosion to the eternity-lusting joy that demonstrates the purpose and reality of life and existence. Nina Simone croons, “you’re spring to me, all things to me...”, but shifts to the unexpected objective, leaving herself out to conclude the line, “don’t you know you’re life itself?”(93) Nietzsche is a hopeless nihilist to say, “all joy wants eternity”, for love is all eternity all at once, and has no want.(94) And Oppenheimer should have recognized the physics of love in the Trinity explosion, should have beheld the blast and proclaimed, “I am become your loving God, inventor of real and actual worlds”.
Should we ever accidentally find ourselves unbounded by the preposterous notion that God created nature, we might see that nature can create God unintentionally. Escaping the linear time creation paradox of who/what created the natural cosmos by a three-dimensional model of time, nature provides the pre-existing conditions necessary for quantum mechanics, relativity, and existence. This is all that is necessary for the creation of God, gods, and love in the actual and in the actual.
In order to imbue the Metaphysikos with the force of evidence from the physical world, I return to the physics of my ontology with a related example from quantum mechanics. Theorists use the term entanglement to describe a circumstance which defies logic and belief in which the state or condition of two or more sub-atomic parts are intertwined: the physical condition of one is somehow causally linked to the physical condition of the other. Changing, influencing, or affecting one disrupts the other, non-locally. We are only able to describe the inseparable, collective system, and we can never articulate the parts as they are in themselves. Individual things are perceived, but we know that they are the entitations of a continuum, not individual things in a void as perception would have us believe. As a rough example, if we gave a number value to the state of each of two entangled parts (e.g. five and five), and added those numbers, the sum would not be ten, as we expect, the sum would be five. Entanglement gives us a situation in which the whole does not equal the parts, but is instead made up of parts that are in some way each other and not themselves.(Footnote 32) I reiterate that our base error lies in the assumption of parts, baked into the lawful ontology – it is the logic of individuation that breaks reason and belief. Beyond the discomfort of unreason and the fantasy of science fiction, quantum entanglement is an actual, fundamental principle of physics. In a state of entanglement, entities are not subject to lawful, Newtonian physics, and instead transform the reason of logic into manifest absurdity. Our universe allows for this condition to occur naturally – it is ‘set-up’ for it. If nothing more, retain the concept that such a state is possible in the actual world as we climb higher into the mountain and lose ourselves in the clouds.
Extending the metaphor without implying a causal link to the physics, compassion presents a condition in which the sum does not equal the parts, and the state of two individuals seem to be interdependent yet independently free. Compassion can manifest solely because of pre-existing physical conditions, without a deity’s grace or a conscious act; our universe allows for compassion to occur naturally – it is ‘set-up’ for it. I have proposed that existential freedom is the prerequisite for compassion, and that the state of freedom dissolves Self and world, so that compassion places the distinctly chaotic Self into the physically unreasonable world. Self suffers by identification with what appears to the lawful Self as an other entity. Compassion connects the two in the impossible moment, associating the chaotic identity of one entity with the other. In this way states are entangled, dependent upon and acting locally on one another from a distance, but by a set of well-defined physical properties.
I use the term ‘entanglement’ not to imply cause, but to underscore the correlation, for while quantum entanglement obviously does not cause compassion, there is a relevant correlation between the fact that the universe is set-up to allow quantum entanglement, and the fact that it is set-up to allow the entanglement of existentially free entities in the state we call compassion – out of all probabilities, ours is that kind of universe! And while quantum entanglement defies the logic of physics, and compassion is familiar mysticism, it is strange to me that we find it easier to suspend belief that the physical is explained by something mystical to logic than it is to believe that the mystical is rooted in physics – we must defy reason more than we know to see why this is so. From the fresh break, I suggest that the force of compassion couples a physical aspect of the absurd world with an existential aspect of the absurd Self, woven together like electro-magnetism or spacetime. With that, let us conclude our journey and claim the summit with a spirited, catechetical gait.
What is the existential essence of this physical force? Deconstructing compassion connects our trail back to the topic of the struggle for survival: thrust by birth into the coruscate daylight of limited power and limited resource, existence is torn forever between drama of will to life and will to power. In application, the survival response stifles compassion except in cases of psychopathology, but if there is no concern of survival, power, or resource at the moment of the circumstance evoking compassion, the contingencies motivating the survival impulse (realization of limited power and limited resource), subject us to compassion against our will. In other words, when we experience compassion, we react to someone compromised by the very conditions against which we fight to survive, a reaction to that struggle being lost; we identify with the fact that existence impels us to claw for support when we ourselves are compromised, and how fortunate we are that it is not we who must endure what we are witnessing. A natural compulsion overcomes us by force to lend surplus to need when it does not compromise our own striving against the limits of power and resource. The existential essence is as physical as the calcium that makes up our teeth.
Then what is the physical essence of this existential force?
Beyond generosity, beyond altruism, compassion is a forceful natural impetus blurring Self with the outside world in its requirement of non-local externalization. Like electricity or gravity, it is a force that arises from natural conditions, but unlike other fundamental forces, compassion generates at the nexus of living entities and the non-living continual world, a transindividual byproduct manifesting out of the continuum of the actual and the continuum of Self, like the flame of spirit and the fire that is the cosmos. Life is a process of physics, and the physical medium of compassion is the living human, existing and entitating as a part of the natural world – physical neurology casts the illusion of subjective psychology and ego. This species of force reflects therefore the fact that the physics of the universe is extended not only in that which is inanimate, but also in that which entitates as life – no ‘man vs. nature’! Existing subjects are exposed to the naturally pre-existing conditions that motivate survival despite individual will.(95) If you exist, you fight to survive, and in seeing the fight lost, the disappointment is personal and physical.
But how is this a force?
We have reached a new ledge with a shining view, where we come upon a compelling response to Nietzsche’s fear of compassion and his sentiment that overcoming it presents “the greatest challenge”: it is a great challenge because we experience compassion naturally – we cannot avoid it! We are subject to compassion – in this sense, it is out there waiting for us. Overcoming compassion entails first experiencing compassion, and only after the fact, reasoning a means or method to overcome it, transform or translate it, or otherwise succumb to the rapture of its draw. I define humans for whom this is not true categorically ‘pathological’, metaethically exempt from absolute principles of good and evil, more like non-human animals in the certainty of their dental posture, comforted by the smell of blood in their fur; retain the merit of psychopathology while not allowing it to force us to moral irrealism! The compassion force affects us prior to our response to it, as a side-effect of our existence as living entities. We can either struggle against its pull, or submit to it, but like a kind of gravity, like a “demonic force”, we cannot avoid experiencing compassion either way. It is something that we might resist and overcome, but can never avoid. Much as a stone is pulled by the earth under the influence of gravity, the human is affected from the outside by compassion as an entity in the world. We can try to explain-away this fact by convincing ourselves that the separation of man and nature is not only existential but also somehow ontological, but perspective can never magically remove us from the world or separate the ontology of our existence from physical reality. We are as free from the determinism of gravity as we are from the determinism of compassion, except that in the latter, psychopathy gives us an exemption from the absolute and reintroduces existential relativity. However, in the case of compassion, it is the distinctly human trait of freedom which is the cause of this relative and deterministic state.
How does this compliment the ontology?
The deconstructed Self present on both sides of the compassion equation is a metaphorical corollary to entanglement: there is a ‘Self that suffers’ common to both Selves such that they are not a sum of parts when added together, as they are both each other and not themselves, like we find in the “tat tvam asi” doctrine. The Self that suffers is by their situation able to see themselves from the outside, to sympathize with themselves, the unindividuated Self in the world with the illusory individual Self. So we have a concurrence of physics and compassion as a useful analogue, beyond conscience, manifesting the mystically physical. Granted freedom through the chaotic paradigm in which Self splits from the usual experience of itself, the condition is consequent to a pitiable situation, and the one who suffers-with must access the part of themselves that can Self-sympathize when they themselves suffer, to see themselves from the outside. In this way, both people involved in a situation of compassion dwell in the state of freedom afforded by the chaotic paradigm, a mode of objectified subjectivity – each outside of themselves. The subject-made-object locates Self in the world, as a ‘real thing out there’; as an entity ‘out there’, Self is an entitation of the natural ontology we traversed in Chapter One, in which objects are dissolved into subjective perspective. Here is our access to realism and wonder as the alternative corollary to realism, from Self as an immediate example and reflection of the world described by physics. A true irrealist epistemologer will nit-pick this point with an anxious giggle, insisting that even though we ourselves are an immediate example of what we know by extension is related to the nature of the actual, we cannot extend our knowledge beyond ourselves to make a correspondence claim, and as such, should never claim to have knowledge even of our own immediate condition. Let me maintain that even as we are dismissed by such unctuous snivelers as rationalistic, I stand my ground with wide-eyed intuition. After all, science itself demonstrates that the part of ourselves that corresponds to science, is built on logic that we invented to confirm our perception of individuation. This knowledge is ‘good enough for jazz’, but only as part of a cosmic soundtrack that is itself all jazz all the time. Beyond the music, the qualities of compassion that limit freedom and determine the moral entanglement effect demand deeper deconstruction.
How is this moral realism?
It should be clear to us, given the ontology and logic I have argued, that the entire conscious, subjective experience is our delusion, cast by ego on itself to suspend reflexive belief in identity and subjectivity; we do not require the usual popular mysticism to reach this conclusion. In a world-building exercise, we construct the real world from an ontology in which a subject can exist such that it imagines its objectivity, with the mad goal of reciprocating actual ontological substance to perceived ego. Far from dividing reality into ‘true’ and ‘illusory’ worlds, let me describe a continuum between the illusion of unreal Self and the actual world, such that the actual world is aspect of the selfsame physics of lawful illusion. We gain epistemic purchase of realism in this continuum, for the error of the subject trying to analyze the world into lawful parts is an extension of the same error of the subject assuming their own objectivity. Our increase is pistemic, and associating the absurd realism of Self with the absurdity of physical reality bleeds truth into our pulpy speculation on the actual. Physics makes it clear to us that the same world exists whether or not we factor perspective into science, and regardless of the subject’s epistemological hopes. Nonetheless convinced of itself, the moral sense that triggers the compassion force lives only in this subject. Conceding realism of a world which is lawfully unrealistic, we lean toward moral irrealism with epistemology tethered to ontology and logic, so that we may imbue the existential with the actual. Our lived experience reflects the same natural axioms, for the draw to existential irrealism is only natural. The absurd world engages us like a marionette, tugging the strings of our rational expression and speaking through us in a balanced prosopopoeia not unlike the ennepe in the opening lines of Homer’s Odyssey, when the poet calls for in-song from the Muse: “ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα...”, “sing in me, muse...”...(96) In our case we call for reality to tell us how to live, either programming us to “become who we are”, or to do what the universe itself is doing there and then.
Does the world's in-song reconcile knowledge and the actual?
Amplifying the song by confusing the binaries, we undo ratio and invite in-song to resonate in the consequent physics. This is a teasing-out of absurd moral actualism, from subject and object, order and chaos, number and dance, flux and identity, reason and the absurd – all moral relativity in an actual world, for the subject needs the soils of just such a world in which to plant the illusion! Realism manifests in the existential ephemera reflected in the physical world, which beg us to account for a physics of morality, for a meaty moral neurology. The physics of the very small and the very large sing of how the essential function of gnosis is parallel to the irreconcilability of quantum physics and Relativity. The meat and the mind reciprocate in a living pulse describing both the collapsed star and the electron interfering with itself, in the physical poetry of the actual: cradled in the balance of reason and the absurd, blurred between Self and the world as a bit of both, beyond what seems real to humans and the real absurdity of the cosmos.
Can a chaotic epistemology accommodate cosmic absurdity?
Analyze the absurdity of reality by stress-testing the chaotic compassion force with all the force of lawful ratiocination. Thorough deconstruction shepherds us from axioms of the world we believe is real, to the real world we perceive outside of belief, to our perspective as a vital aspect of the actual world, cycling finally back to our original axioms. My ontology proposes an actual world that facilitates and encourages existential freedom, while the interplay between lawful and chaotic in my broken-line analogy reveals the playful interface of perspective with the actual – the lawful reflecting the perspectival logic of classical materiality, and the chaotic describing how Self subsumes in a real world that does not reflect the logic we invented to understand classical material. The actual world in which compassion is possible exists, along with the axioms describing the world and Self as a continuum in moments of compassion.(Footnote 33)
But the reasonable mind needs lawful deconstruction — what does Mitleidsverstrickung look like when flayed by analysis?
The next slice of the deconstruction trains our focus on the existential, on the actual experience: my metaethics in the ethical context. With advance apology, stroll with me into a nightmare, and imagine witnessing a horrible accident: a small child struck by a car on a crosswalk agonizes hopelessly, while a witness endures a sudden, intense feeling of compassion, watching the child die. Only the psychopathic witness overcomes compassion here in the dispassion of reason and ego, the subsuming madness yields a simple moral crisis: psychopathic/otherwise. As before, we set aside psychopathos as valuable statistical variation while not invalidating the inherent value of madness – a topic for another climb.(97) Our epistemological model again follows the rule of probability – if most people are subject to compassion in the above example, it is critical mass enough to transform approximation into knowledge and adequacy into truth, to transpose jazz onto jazz, the irreal into the real.
Against the will of identity, we are necessarily subject to the compassion response when faced suddenly with the described circumstance. Such a mechanical response is the tidy function of four variables: physical proximity to the event (P); agency to change the conditions (A); degree of empathy felt (E); scale or dimension between the suffering entity and the witness (S). We can arrange this relationship such that the function of compassion-entanglement (M) is equal to the multiple of P and A, divided by the multiple of E and S:
f(M) = PA/ES
where M is Mitleidsverstrickung, P factors space, A is a measurement of volition, E is the neurological factor, and S sets the paradigm of perspective.
Mapping a ratio to a function is only so useful, but it amplifies our analysis of the compassion force as something other than an emotional or psychological reaction if we note that negative values for A tend toward psychopathology. Our equation renders the function of physical forces operating in decentralized Self, that we mistake for subjective psychology in the most general sense, a mistake responsible for the tangle of confused moral theories that have plagued the centuries. The challenge to the reasonable mind is to explain-away the basic paradox of compassion: a non-local ‘entangled’ state of non-individuated transindividualism, where the condition of one entity affects the other, by virtue of natural forces with origins that are unclear to the lawful, reasonable mind.
Science gives us no ontologically sound explanation of physical forces – it shows us how gravity exists, but not what it is. It explains the principles of electricity and magnetism, not by deigning to unclothe the ‘is-ness’ of electricity or magnetism, but by explaining how they behave; science does not detail forces in their being, only in their doing, for we can never tell gravity to become what it is, only to keep doing what it is doing. Just as we have concrete understanding of magnetism through the tactile surprise we feel when we life one magnet from another – but we have no immediate knowledge of what magnetism ‘is’, its inner essence, in this way, we have concrete understanding of compassion, we can feel its influence, but we struggle to explain what it ‘is’. We should slow our pace to notice that the real ‘is-ness’ of physical forces does not meet the requirements of truth science sets for itself. Physics rests on theoretical axioms about forces, maintaining its truth-value by irrealism – by never making ontological commitments.
But even if we commit to the world described by physics, relativity and probability govern everything in the scope of epistemology, which decides how far we can get our arms around the world, how completely we comprehend it. So we place the neurologically governed Self in this selfsame world, and give it the knowledge: ‘nothing is true’, and the morality, ‘everything is relative’. Existential relativity then frames our moral spectrum in the real world, and we again rephrase our classic expression: “while nothing is true, moral relativity permits good, evil, and neutral as real things in the un-real, relative cosmos”. Say instead, everything is true and lawful chaos permits truth to be useless!
The force of compassion has its vital root in the tat tvam asi dynamic, where inborn, lawful empathy provokes the initial response: we see someone suffering and think, ‘there but for the grace of God go I’! Sliding abruptly into the chaotic mode, transindividual Self identifies viscerally with another Self in the universe as though it were itself. Any sensitive soul will wince or wretch at, for example, sights from a slaughterhouse, or other worse-case-scenarios of doom and torture, and the reason is a natural impetus to overcome the threat of trauma and suffering. But if our proclivity to survival and dominance, the will to live and the will to power, trump the compassion response, why does existence contain the built-in reaction to want to help, why does it force us to be drawn by the gravity of a desire to change the situation, to do something so that another Self is not suffering? Why do we wish so strongly to overcome the limit of power and resource and create a new actual based on compassion? Why are we surprised when we learn of situations where passers-by do not stop to help?(Footnote 34) It is indeed because compassion is a force of the same nature of which we are a living continuation. Perhaps the only common traits to all existing creatures is that we are sometimes full of passions and sometimes full of suffering, and fulfill the tat tvam asi condition on these traits alone, which suggests that because existence is an expression of nature, compassion is experienced by existing entities as a natural force at a fundamental level. Access to the moral crisis by way of our dentistry in the lawful paradigm, and the existentially free Self in the chaotic paradigm, facilitates and encourages our transaction with that common force in acts of entanglement we call compassion. The next most obvious question is whether the entire cosmos could be described as a sometimes orderly, sometimes chaotic maelstrom of forces and nothing more, though the first sentence of chapter one resolved this with a resounding ‘Yes!’
Intrepid epopt! We have reached the summit of my argument, and having inhaled the thick air of this chapter’s dense, foamy clouds, we now see brilliant sunlight splashing on the mountaintop! Lo – a new view now comes into focus! The dense clouds that we pierced at the beginning of this chapter, and that we have intercoursed at this, its conclusion, are as an ocean before us, stretching flat to the horizon from our feet on the shore. Inexplicably, our apotheosis is negated, and we seem to be once more at sea-level, with a vista of high mountains that were obscured to us while we climbed up and through the trees and clouds, that have their base and lowest point in this misty ocean which stretches out to a new horizon. We have reached the bottom, and now that we have arrived at this low ground, we must aspire to climb higher, to test again our lungs and legs at new summits!
We have scaled a steep swath of topics in this metaethics chapter. My goal has been to demonstrate an absolute principle of moral motivation that compliments the probability and relativity of physical reality, and to weave the philosophic points covered in the three chapters of this work into systematic cohesion which shines light on the actual. My ontology analysis correlates philosophy and physics to describe how the nature of reality does not support the idea of individual things. In the logic chapter, I extended the ontological insights to human reasoning to expose the mechanics of belief, so that we could understand how the free Self is quashed by the formation of identity from belief. My metaethics argument has shown that the nature of the free Self is in concert with the conclusions of the other sections: compassion entanglement is a function of free Selves in a world without individuation, and is evidence of the morally real chaotic-good. All of this in the context of an epistemological model which reconciles knowledge with approximation, truth with the absurd, the relative with the probable, nature's continuae with individuation, flux with identity, the real with the actual.
To arrive at my conclusion, I argued that the inescapable problem of limited power and resource leads us to question what human traits are unique and what distinguishes humanity from homo sapiens. Delving comparative dentistry, we found that lawful moral realism is an impossibility. Identifying the contrast of the chaotic and lawful paradigms rekindled the topic of moral realism, and demonstrated how Self transitions from one paradigm to the other by way of the broken line of alignment. The chaotic paradigm shows us the function of the free Self beyond identity as a physical, neurological aspect of the partless world, concatenating my metaethical argument to my analysis of ontology and logic. Our exploration of freedom cleared the way for a new understanding of compassion and malice, which revealed compassion entanglement as a function of the morally-real good.
I am satisfied that this chain of argument is firm at each step, validated through the lens of modern physics and the immediacy of existentialism. Moreover, I find it is an accurate reflection of the actual world and of our experience in it, a corresponding reality shared by man and nature, of a moon that we know is there even when we refuse to look at it. This work has sought to associate philosophy and physics into a natural-philosophy relationship, but can be successful in the endeavor only insofar as physics and philosophy are independently capable of reconciling the epistemological quagmire of our creation that separates them. The central shortcoming of this work is to have relied on individuation of meaning in words to deduce its conclusions, which can only ever be an exercise in futility. Perhaps I should have written a symphony. In this way, while my work has reached a reasonable outcome, even the author must acknowledge that these adequate findings are an irrational approximation, and can only be ‘good enough for jazz’.
Through pinnacle clouds, breaking to the other side of my own revivifaction and draped in sheets of sunlight, I close this text and hoist myself up and out of it. Bounding with light feet from the final heights, landing with wonder and surprise above the haze in a pristine valley concealed above me until now, I behold this new range of mountains, higher, more treacherous and more alluring than those we confronted in these rambling pages. And so, with all well-wishing to the reader in setting-forth, I depart for higher air, with every hope that you will be at my side on fresh trails.
Fin – 02/02/2020
<< Back: Logic -- || -- Next: Appendix A >>