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According to WikiPedia:Cornelius_Castoriadis, individual autonomy consists of making our own rules, with full awareness of our desires and the oppressive patterns of our existing society. Freud believed that people are driven by the gratification of libidinous instincts, but Castoriadis claims it is actually awareness of them and self-conscious choice that give liberation.

However, individual autonomy is only possible when we also have SocialAutonomy (we cannot be free alone), so autonomous communities must:

Autonomy is contrasted with heteronomy. A heteronomous society regards rules and institutions as legitimate based on tradition, an interpretation of history, claims of natural laws, or some external authority, such as God; autonomous individuals view institutions as social imaginary significations, with no source outside society. While our current heteronomous society tends to compel people to compromise, retreat into a general conformism, and accept the authority of representatives or a GodKing, Castoriadis argues that instead an autonomous society should endlessly and explicitly re-institute itself by critical self-reflection.

In a historical analysis, Castoriadis describes heteronomy as the norm, and SocialAutonomy as an ideal that will perhaps never truly be achieved, but in becoming autonomous one should "contribute as much as you can to the autonomy of others".


Discussion

Earlier Discussion

I'm a big fan of autonomy (together with transparency and participation), but I think the concepts of this page are misleading and need discussion. Basically I think, autonomy is very simple, it is just the ability to make your own decisions. The larger group just needs to accept, that the individual makes his own decisions, as far as possible. It seems neither necessary that the community is autonomous (it can provide more freedom/autonomy than it has itself), nor is it necessary to make rules. There are also conditions that do not come from human environments, communities, societoes, neighbours, but from than surrounding nature, from physics, from logic, that can't overthrown by individual autonomy, at least not in a resonable way. So autonomy imho should not be misunderstand as a quest for constructivism. Neither individual nor social autonomy are based in a general ideal, but they are an abstraction from individual acts, they can only be generated by individual taking and giving of autonomy in the "now". -- HelmutLeitner

But how do we make our own decisions? I think they're always made in reference to our social norms. Even 'in the now' our desires are heavily influenced by our society (since our current societies require relentless economic growth, we're taught to want all sorts of things). Fundamentally I think autonomy is about rules, and involves governing yourself according to your chosen rules, rather than by someone else's. In my mind, autonomy definitely doesn't mean being left to do whatever we please at any instant -- I think what you are describing is either total independence or individual freedom. In my understanding, autonomy requires us to explicitly impose our own rules on ourselves, and this will inevitably affect our communities -- the only way to give every member autonomy is to make our rules collectively. So I didn't see autonomy as a matter of 'taking and giving', but as something that could only be developed in a community. To have autonomy when you're entirely on your own seems meaningless. And can you really gain autonomy at someone else's expense? Presumably that depends on whether (in your unconscious) you really want to govern over others, or whether (given ideal autonomy) you'd prefer to organise collectively. In terms of institutions, of course I agree there are physical environmental conditions that do affect our actual communities. So an example of a more questionable claim to natural law, that might be used to legitimate existing institutions, is this cynical view of human nature: "wiki will never work, because most people will want to abuse it" -- JamBaltine

Jam, I think you pose interesting and important questions. There seem an hen-and-egg relationship between community and individual. I do not know whether my intuition is correct, but just as I know that the egg was before the hen (because birds derive from reptiles that already use eggs for reproduction), I believe that autonomy originates in the individual (any tree in the wood is autonomous) and needs only to be preserved or reinstituted if it has been taken away. Individuals can give autonomy (e. g. by an islamic father to his daughter to chose her husband) ad-hoc, much easier than to change the standards of a community. With respect to the personal decision situation, I stand an the basis of PatternTheory that assumes that all good decisions are based primarily on our feelings for a situation, not on something intellectual. When you have feelings for someone (bible: become like the children) you can act towards him and help him much easier than if you try to do the same based on a moral law or obligation. If you act on rules, you would say: if I help this person, I should create a rule from that and help all others. Why me? Shouldn't the rule apply to everyone? No, it's you and this single moment and place in the universe, where you can make your singular decision, whatever it is. And nobody can take this chance and responsibility away from you. Just as the past is not binding you in that magical moment, you need not and can't bind yourself in this moment for the future. -- HelmutLeitner

Thanks Helmut, I didn't realise the original PatternTheory was so wide reaching. I heard that it came from architecture and thought it would be just as specialised as the software patterns. Anyhow, I agree that autonomy would not be meaningful before the individual, but I suspect the only reason it is ever meaningful is that we are social animals (a tree is not and it is never autonomous). I think that exploring concepts intellectually, and reflecting on moral rules and obligations, tends to also affect our feelings in later situations, and I hope we instinctively make 'better' decisions as a result -- it almost seems like studying design patterns. In this case, the dichotomy of autonomy vs heteronomy is certainly more stimulating for me than AntiAuthoritarianism (which I would consider one analogue of SocialAutonomy) -- as usual it is more interesting to explore what something is as opposed to what it isn't. When it comes to moral laws and samaritanism, I would say that even with 'self-government', our rules are made to be broken; we can be autonomous yet not automatons. I find it important to continuously develop my own guiding rules, principles, and purpose in life, but you're right that these things shouldn't suppress humane instincts. So perhaps one other requirement for autonomy is for an individual to internally balance the unconscious with logic -- neither should dominate. Also, I will raise one thing you said, which was: to increase autonomy for some individuals is "much easier than to change the standards of a community". I don't deny that it is easier, but given the current ecological/economic/social crisis, I think it's urgent for us to do all we can to transform our society. If we continue to organise ourselves like this, the consequences are unthinkable. -- JamBaltine

Jam, you touch numerous interesting topics. Yes, PatternTheory is very far-reaching, its reduction to architecture or software is hiding its large potential. // Whether trees are autonomous or not is probably a question of definition. To me they are, because no system of control exists to tell them how to develop, how to grow their twigs or turn their leaves. // Yes, I'm also reflecting and looking for principles and rules that can support my life and help them make my decisions, they are a useful pattern. (if one always remembers that rules exist to be followed and broken) Your picture of a balance between logic and intuition seem quite adequate to me. // Apart from that, the need to change in face of crisis exists for all parts of society, the individuals and the organizations. If the individuals are seen as fully dependent on their social environment, then where should the potential to change this environment come from? Probably there is a spectrum of individuals, from a maximum of power, insight or autonomy to a minimum. // The consequences of continuing the status-quo seem very thinkable, even predictable to me. It's much more difficult to see, what must be done to avoid the worst and in what sequence this must be done. -- HelmutLeitner

I am moved by the idea that we can curl a stream from the main stream, and explore fresh paths, if we want to. I hesitate before the idea of transforming our society, because I appreciate the "do it small first, and if it works, people can scale it up themselves" ethic. Revolutionary "let's change the whole world all at once" thinking of the 20th century led to enormous wars and upsets, and benefits beyond exploring-and-learning are unclear. But we can point to myriad successful & growing experiments in new societies that bring great hope -- and these experimental new societies are convening, and they are developing shared works. For example, there is: [Gaia Education], which has developed and distributes [Beyond You and Me,] as a collaboration between myriad existing communities. This is all very practical, because it comes from direct experience.

I worked to making a fresh society here in Seattle for several months, and failed. I am presently studying and reflecting in preparation for another effort. I broadly call the vision I am seeking: OpenSourceSocieties?. -- LionKimbro

My basic model when thinking about societies works by the metaphysical "law of correspondence" -- individuals correspond to societies, and vice versa. A society is like a person within a still larger society. The individual (or the new-society) can define itself, but it cannot ignore its social, natural, and idea-formed context, which is invariably the ground of meaning. And the individual is a society of multiple personalities, promises, and talents.

To address the given points at the beginning of the page:

I can imagine a society that is about making spaceships, and "you're either into this, or you're not." I see no reason why a new society cannot have a rigid hierarchy; Countless churches do just that, and -- I think for good reason. It comes down to, "Do you want to support the effort or not? If you do, join. If you don't, don't." Consensus, representative -- none of these seem essential to me, as long as participation is entirely voluntary.

In short, I believe in the capacity of an individual to make a choice, and I believe in the capacity of an individual to sign a UlyssesContract?. I don't think that these things mean that an individual has lost autonomy. Ulysses is free to cross the Sirens, and coerced if he cannot evade their infinite knowledge. If I didn't believe in these things, then pretty much all of society falls down and breaks apart, and we need to liberate art students from the coercion of dreams and their demanding (and often degrading) art schools.

More broadly, (and this is another conversation,) I believe that we need to create a new layer of contract in our society. Our society is presently two tiered: There is "the individual," and there is "the main stream society." I believe that we need to add a third tier: "the individual," "the new society," and "the main stream society." As long as new societies are marginal and marginalized, they will not go far.

-- LionKimbro

I had intended to lump "corporation" in main stream society -- The vast majority of us work and substantially live in one corporation or another.

What I am thinking about is things like indigenous cultures, cults, religions, and new society efforts -- things which are not main stream, and that do not create a module that fits into the existing main stream (for example: a club, a company, a product, a bar, etc.,.)

My "middle tier" is about: "Can we main stream non-mainstream societies?" Or at least open the door a little?

Jam? Are you still here?

-- LionKimbro


JamBaltine -- Wed Aug 26 12:03:18 2009

Sorry Lion. I want to reply to everything, but I think you'd be waiting all week!

I think there are crucial differences between individuals and societies that could be suppressed by a 'law of correspondence'. In particular the individual has a sentient mind, whereas society does not (when we talk about the public mind, we are really talking about an aspect of culture). Meaning is produced only within an individual's mind. Lion, you ask "In service of what? In what context?" Well not necessarily in service of anything, but sometimes to serve communication, and always in the context of our culture. By developing a shared culture, a group can 'make its motions meaningful' at least within itself.

I agree that marginalised communities have limited reach. But any new communities that genuinely challenge the mainstream will always be marginalised. If they ever become a challenge to HierArchy they are either co-opted or suppressed. My only experience is in the UK, where the government and nationalised media are widely expected to "control the public mind" by marginalising any disruptive culture. We are expected to have 'toleration' for radical groups, but only when they pose no threat to established authority.

If we view our communities as a middle tier of society, then I suspect it will be even easier for the established authority to pigeonhole us and start to legislate over us -- I think this is already seen in the concept of a 'third sector' of the economy -- a means to regulate and co-opt community activity under mainstream HierArchy. Within any HierArchy, "indigenous cultures, cults, religions, and new society efforts" cannot have SocialAutonomy, because they will only ever be tolerated if they can and will conform to mainstream rules. This is why direct consensus democracy is needed: so that rules are only imposed when they have the consent of everyone affected.

You ask "Can we main stream non-mainstream societies? Or at least open the door a little?". The problem with opening the door to a powerful stream is that we're likely to get sucked straight through, or be drowned. Perhaps its better to keep that door shut.

The question of UlyssesContract? is interesting, but is it only relevant when people are 'temporarily insane'? And how would we know when that was happening?


LionKimbro -- Wed Aug 26 16:17:12 2009

Meaning is always a relationship between parts and contexts. Minds are part of the universe, and when the ecologist says "our actions destroy the environment," this is not merely a "production" within his mind -- trees and rivers are producing the contents of his mind as well. Conscious thought never moves without purpose, and I challenge you to show me a single instance where we see otherwise. The Dadaist does absurd things to prove otherwise, but the Dadaist does aburd things to prove otherwise. That is, the Dadaist makes my point. Acts in service of communication are transitively acts in service of some aim, some purpose. The context of that purpose is, as you said: in the context of our culture. And there is a context for that culture, as well -- the history of the culture, the political and natural world it finds itself in, and -- very importantly (and often neglected): that cultures imagination, which by far is not a neutral or unimportant actor. Context assigns meaning to actors the way two charged particles assign charge q to arbitrary points in space around them. I am arguing against scare quotes around "make its motions meaningful," because we are talking about real things here. Meaning is concrete reality, and human motions are not separable from the history of the universe.

If new societies are not here to serve the main stream, then I do not know what they are here for. We should desire to work for the main stream, not kick (away from) it. The aim is not to challenge the main stream, but rather, to carry main stream ideas even further, as scout ships. Realize that your libertarian efforts are extensions, not contradictions, of the central pillars of our society. The desire to be separate from society can only be the product of anger and fear.

I once agreed with your perspective on consensus, but that was many years ago. Life is too complex to hold a meeting on anything that could affect anyone; I see no surer way to make a dream-destroying society, than to do that. Kat Kinkade observed countless times that people would come in with great ideas, enthusiastic energy, and fresh visions. In every case, the Twin Oaks community shut down all of the above, in favor of the existing status quoue. Consensus breeds high conservatism. I have no problem with societies that want to live that way, but for myself, the magical power of dream is a higher priority. If the society is like a person, than the consensus-oriented society is like the person who over-thinks all the time, constantly muttering, "No, that wouldn't work because, ..." -- and doesn't act. Hierarchy is the structure of human bodies; Forbid hierarchies, and you forbid people. Open Source is not anti-hierarchical, but it is self-organizing. I believe it's this magical self-organizing principle that we seek.

It is not the government that prevents new societies from forming. It is not the media that prevents new societies from forming. It is not corporations that prevent new societies from forming. Rather, it is you, me, and our neighbors that prevent new societies from forming. I honestly do not believe that the hypothetical new societies, pose any threat of overtaking the main stream. Virginia is in no danger of being swallowed up into Twin Oaks. Italians do not beg to live like Damanhurians. Findhorn attracts a few hundred people. Nowhere do I find hoards of people just begging to escape their lives to live in a new society. The great vast majority of people want to live normal main stream lives. The masses that radicals sign up generally want better pay, more humane treatment, and more time to spend with the kids. Obama noted the banality (not in that word) of what people want in the very first pages of his book "The Audacity of Hope." (Paraphrasing from memory:) "The people don't want much! They just want clean water, good schools, good health, fair relations at work," etc., etc.,.


JamBaltine -- Wed Aug 26 20:05:47 2009

Lion, I don't understand your use of the word 'motion' (that's why I used the 'scare quotes' above). You say "Conscious thought never moves without purpose, and I challenge you to show me a single instance where we see otherwise." I am not just mischievously making this discussion more complex when I say that, like meaning, purpose only exists within individual minds. If we cannot conceive a purpose for someone else's actions then we describe their thoughts as delusions. If I could describe thoughts that are made without purpose, then you would see them as delusions.

I definitely disagree that "Meaning is concrete reality", at least not outside of our own neural activity and blood flow to the brain. When we experience reality, we each produce meanings for ourselves. Similarly, we observe relationships and find purpose for ourselves.

This is my perspective on reformism: Radical new communities cannot provide alternatives to the mainstream, but they can help us develop the culture, skills, and technology, that may lead us away from it. Hopefully we can provide inspiring scout ships, but some of the central pillars of our society are roots of our current predicament, and must be knocked down. Our current institutions are not pinnacles of historical 'progress', but unsustainable arrangements that are short-lived (on the scale of things).

You say "The desire to be separate from society can only be the product of anger and fear.". I cannot remember who said "If you're not pissed off you're not paying attention," but that does strike a chord with me. It's not that I'm afraid -- by living where I do, I benefit more than most -- it is the inequity that makes me feel angry. While I certainly don't want to be separated from society, nor do I believe in centralising it, or unifying our culture.

I recognise problems with consensus, and have also grappled with it. Bookchin criticised it very convincingly, but I believe in consensus on the basis of autonomy “the majority has no more right to dictate to the minority, even a minority of one, than the minority to the majority.” I agree entirely that "it's this magical self-organizing principle that we seek.", and I am attracted by the principle of self-management, which I understand from the basis of participatory democracy: everybody should be involved in decisions in proportion to how much they are affected.

Yes, "The great vast majority of people want to live normal main stream lives." Who would want an 'abnormal marginalised life'? Only really obstinate people of course. This is true, but isn't it self fulfilling? We are encouraged to believe that we should want 'normality' or 'reasonable compromise', and the bounds of normality are impressed on us by others, so when we are presented with a stark choice, with little understanding of the alternative, we do choose the norm. They call this the 'easy option', but it isn't necessarily (it might be so depressing that a quarter of people in our society end up 'mentally ill').

You say: "It is not the government ... the media ... corporations that prevent new societies from forming. ... Nowhere do I find hoards of people just begging to escape their lives to live in a new society." The government (where I live) prescribes many things, formalises many organisations, and licenses increasing amounts of activity, they even set a curriculum to be taught in schools. They are even proposing to regulate home education! The media make us behave passively to consume their output, and actively to be receptive to the corporate advertising they carry (from which they make most of their money -- although I understand it's dwindling). All of these organisations promote the idea of HierArchy without discussing it directly. We are taught about the GreatMen?; leaders who transform society. People like WikiPedia:Mlk and even WikiPedia:Gandhi are presented as the necessary catalysts of radical change, when in fact many other people really laid the groundwork and organised themselves; We are taught that we are powerless to make change outside of the mainstream, unless we rely upon prize winning, red brick/ivy league, or exceptionally talented individuals.

The point I'm making is one that Chomsky made again and again (perhaps it should be somehow added to the main page above), that the government/media/corporations set the range of debate, control our culture, and thereby set the context within which we make decisions -- they 'manufacture consent'. This is how they control the way we organise ourselves, and only by self-consciously working to escape these influences can we claim SocialAutonomy. The controlling influences inevitably result from social HierArchy, so the only solution is to organise ourselves without it.

Unfortunately, the people who tend to rise through the ranks of any HierArchy are those who favour leadership with concentrated authority. People in corporate positions of power tend to unconsciously and egotistically promote people, or choose protegés, who are like themselves. In democracy, we cannot merely wait for a BenevolentDictator (even a relative egalitarian like Obama) to devolve power, because power must really be taken and used regularly. For this we need empowering cultural change to ensure that control becomes and remains decentralised.

I don't suggest that "hypothetical new societies pose any threat of overtaking the main stream", but ideally they would render the meaning of 'main stream' obsolete.


LionKimbro -- Wed Aug 26 22:55:38 2009

We've opened so many threads, it is hard to choose between them, but choose I must.

Meaning:

(By "motion," I mean the interior acts within the mind. It is not only the threads of conscious thought, but the placement of antaenna and sensors as well, and the releasing to the imagination. These are all interior "motions.")

If you turn meaning into mere hallucination, then you (A) revoke the possibility of true meaning, thus leading to dis-enchantment, and (B) lose grounds for any real activism. Effectively, you hang yourself if you argue that meaning is hallucination.

Meaning is concrete because you and I are concrete. Your hands and feet dance in accord with your nature and your purposes. There is a process whereby meanings and dreams rehabit inherited structure: I desire a woman but avert my eyes for ideals of fairness. Garden bloom and the concrete pours in accord with these purposes. This is what I mean when I say that meaning is concrete reality. To argue that meaning is hallucination is to make people trip over their feet.

My challenge stands: You say I will call your thoughts delusions -- and that may be true. But you will not hear me say that they are not oriented towards a purpose.

Hierarchy: The media, corporations, government, and religions implicitly promote the idea of hierarchy, -- But I do as well, because I speak for form: You must win me over.

I ask, "What is form for, if not to evolve?", rather than "How can we live formlessly?" I will not engage in political quietism. Arms & legs & head connect to the torso, and the torso to the heart. No body, no form, no existence. Even consensus society puts the document of consensus at the head: Without doing so, it cannot form.

Set vertebrae right; Don't make bodies without them. Fit forms to our dreams, feelings, and realities, like an artist. Architecture is not about structure, but it does need structure. The question is not hierarchy, but politics. (And on how to do that, I look at things like HelmutLeitner's PatternTheory.)

The Main Stream: My aim is joyful solidarity. In the future, it may be that there is not a "main" stream; I do not claim to see that far. But I know that humanity and life is the cosmic stage on which true meaning rests, and I know that our small streams run in parallel and interweave. Love connects every person, plant, and ant.


JamBaltine -- Thu Aug 27 01:17:07 2009

"My challenge stands: You say I will call your thoughts delusions". Yes, but more than that, if I tried to represent thoughts in existing symbols, then I would immediately defeat my argument (I would have a purpose). Besides, I don't mean to say that thoughts occur inexplicably, just that there is no higher purpose (or conscious purpose) to much of our neural activity.

At the risk of sounding like an enchanted relativist, I don't believe there is any 'true meaning' in an absolute sense. Yes, we can observe reality, and persuade ourselves (and others) that some things are objectively true, but we cannot define 'true purpose' or 'true institutions'. These are all things produced (and moving) in our minds, so a qualification of trueness is meaningless.

Coincidentally, can we define 'true truth'?

'Hallucination' is the wrong word to describe the process, particularly because of its negative implications. I prefer the word 'imagination'. It is only because we share and construct our social imagination together that it appears to take form in reality. While things in reality often correspond to similar meanings in many people's minds, sometimes it is only because we interpret history or context according to a shared culture and experience.

"If you turn meaning into mere hallucination, then you... lose grounds for any real activism" How so? We naturally have moral values, principles, a sense of purpose, and we form institutions, but we needn't believe they are absolutely true. It is adequate that they are collectively shared and consentingly agreed to be right among us. In an absolute sense ThereIsNoEvil?, and this view does not debase our activism. If something is wrong according to our consciences then we have a moral obligation to do something about it -- but I cannot say that such morals are true, only that I hold them, and I want you to share them.

Don't get me wrong, I value hierarchy within patterns and for design. Where would we be without the binary tree? And I quite like ThreadMode too.

However, some people are naturally assertive, even domineering, others are more meek, and this does not mean they naturally form hierarchical relationships! Even when we have a heated debate, or we give instructions, we can do so on the same level with no special privileges or positions of authority. I agree there is often a hierarchy between individuals in a conversation, but this is normally based on prejudice from our socialisation.

The reasons I oppose SocialHierarchy? feel multitudinous. Sure our society cannot be formless, but it must be anarchistic for us to have true autonomy!


LionKimbro -- Thu Aug 27 04:03:16 2009

Jam, I don't understand -- The small field protocol of equality that appears in small groups is limited to that small bubble. Should the small group share a sense of the world, then a context forms. The context gives rise to shared sense of meaning, and then the people commit to act in that context. Roles are divided, and the body begins to form. As the body grows, the hierarchy takes shape.

This does not mean that people begin brutalizing one another -- a conclusion accepted to hastily. It does require that people value the purpose of what they are doing over their egos, but there is solidarity in doing this, and people in solidarity will treat each other with love and kindness. Seeing truly, we understand that each task is precious, no matter how small it is.

My concept of the person is not that the person is separate from the universe -- Rather, my concept is that the person is universe. We are not human beings in a universe; We are the humaniverse alive. (One day, we will discover that we are the sentieverse alive.) The conscience and the exuberance within the individual are necessarily a tiny and folded budding of the universe's conscience and exuberance -- but the individual's conscience and exuberence is a tiny and folded budding of the universe's conscience and exuberance.

I appeal to you not to say that your morals are not true; But rather, to say that they are incomplete.

Should you feel compelled to live meaningfully, and in proportion to the degree that you feel compelled, see the largest context that you can, (including your recognition of incompleteness,) and act accordingly.

I ask you not to believe your purposes are phantasmigorical; But rather, to discern the space where the imaginary and the real are the same. The virtues are imaginary, but they are also real. The personality is imaginary, but it is also real. Plans and timelines are imaginary, but they are also real. The space of identical real and imaginary has been (I find) tragically overlooked by almost everyone, but it truly is a necessary place of exploration -- we ourselves and the heart that moves us is both imaginary and real.


JamBaltine -- Thu Aug 27 10:19:04 2009

Moral judgement has no truth value. You mention being "compelled to live meaningfully", but I doubt that compulsion can ever effect moral commitment. Instead, we can validate moral judgements by entering into consensual agreements -- between autonomous individuals, who are not co-opted or coerced. When we agree moral judgements, or understand and consent to rules, they will guide the way we behave later. This belief, and perhaps my natural instincts, mean that moral values are of utmost importance to me even though they have no absolute value in my mind.

It's less important to unify rules and values on a large scale than to gain full consent. Globally we just need enough shared context to begin dialogue, and avoid violent conflict. However, I think we could eventually achieve very wide agreement with federation of small self-managed groups.

"Seeing truly, we understand that each task is precious, no matter how small it is." -- No! This is a religious meme (it is incorporated into a series of religious dogmas) that (conveniently) serves to encourage acceptance of a lowly, unempowered existence, and thereby protects established HierArchy (including religion itself). In contrast, I'm very keen on the Parecon ideal that everybody should be involved in a BalancedJobComplex?, which balances: some wrote work, some specialisation, and some empowering form of coordination. Surely we cannot have autonomy if we spend most of our time doing wrote work, leaving little chance to understand and practice coordination? Similarly, our central rules, technologies, and skills must be made sufficiently simple for everyone to participate in equitably.

The sort of federations I imagine (of individuals, through small groups) are unlikely to achieve uniform equality for all, or a single idealised model of 'democracy'. But our most developed countries currently have growing inequality, and subsequently increasing social problems (not to mention what we're doing to industrialising societies). I believe the pursuit of SocialAutonomy could at least start to redress the balance.

You suggest a progression: from existing context, "Roles are divided, and the body begins to form. As the body grows, the hierarchy takes shape." But there is a difference between necessary specialisation of roles, and harmful stratification in our society. Domination and prejudice can be subtle or passive rather than brutalising. The everyday processes (typical in SocialHierarchy?) of: ranking ourselves, selective promotion, privileging authoritative viewpoints, systematically giving benefits to people who are lucky, and inequitable remuneration all create rivalry and resentment, and enormous social problems[1]. We combine HierArchy with meritocracy, so people with particular talents will naturally rise above others to authority, making no more effort than other hard-workers -- and we are taught to believe that this is somehow just.

We can reward merit without concentrating power or wealth. BarnStar"s might be a good example if democratically awarded.

I don't understand (and am interested in) the concept that a PersonIsUniverse? -- I have heard someone else say this recently.

I chopped out my discussion of meaning and illusion, and moral relativism from here -- I'm not very confident about it and the post was just far too long. Perhaps we should get back to SocialAutonomy. Coincidentally, I just found this: [2].


LionKimbro -- Thu Aug 27 16:56:54 2009

Great inequalities can produce great problems, of course, but honestly, our world has 6 billion people in it, and there is no way to live this way without stratification and coordination. For example, environmental protection requires laws and so on.

I'm having difficulty communicating now, because there's just so little shared understanding between us now; I believe our conversations on meaning and hierarchy have given their contributions, and it is time for time and action to teach us their lessons.

The idea that the human being is universe (not part of the universe, or a universe,) though -- I believe there is still something to say here.

The illusion is that we are separate from the universe. We look at the vastness of space, and we say "we are so small."

But if we look at the universe on the axis of liveliness, then human beings -- as far as we know -- are at the tip of the axis. (Yes, there is probably alien life out there somewhere far, far away, in some other galaxy, but this does not break my point.)

Science reveals to us that your hand is made of the universal substance: quarks, atoms, molecules, and interactions of forces. But not only your hand, -- but your very consciousness and conscience; further still: the totality of the human soul, are made of the same universal substance. (I am not referring here to anything that Richard Dawkins would argue against the existence of, or anything like that; Think of "soul," as in what you touch in music, or think of "heart," though not limited to the cardiovascular sense.)

When you feel, it is the universe that feels, and when you breath, it is the universe that breaths, and when you reason, it is the universe that reasons. When you imagine, it is the universe that imagines.

It is not sufficient to say that we are just a demarcated part of the universe, because then we forget that it is the universe that is conscious: What else is there that could be? Do you follow? We imagine ourselves to be separate, what Einstein called an "optical illusion of consciousness," but that could not be the case.

The living motions within the human being reshape the world around it. We could easily be colonizing space. I don't know the details of how and when; You have to talk with Nikolai Fyodorov and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and their modern descendants to learn about those kinds of plans. Thus the universe will be colonizing the universe.

You see the en-cultured separation, when you see that scientists are ready to embrace the geosphere, when you see that scientists are ready to embrace the biosphere, -- but halt before embracing the NooSphere. "That is human, it is not part of our picture of the universe."

But intelligence clearly exists, and intelligence is clearly in the universe. It is (to draw a crude analogy) something like another phase of matter, or like another element on the periodic chart, or like a kind of chemical.

First mind evolves for the survival of some organism that produced it, but then it falls in love, senses virtues and ideals, and begins reshaping everything around it for the sake of those ideals. Houses, towns, art, and gardening; politics, ideas, gods, and realms take form. The material realm is subordinated to the judgments and plans of intelligence and heart. The universe itself is self-transforming; There is no other agency that could do so.

Post-Scripted: This is where your activism and your idealism come into play. This is where your motions direct. This is where conscience and joy compel motion. This is "that which you are trying to do."

It is not about ecological destruction or anything like that, because we (you and I and the others) love nature, love the Earth, love our home, and want to see it safe-guarded.

The Damanhurians say that there are three worlds to balance: the Divine, the Natural Ecology, and the Human. This strikes me as wise.

This is something of what I mean when I say "We are universe."

I still need to clarify my senses so that I can understand it and explain it better, but this is a rough beginning.


HelmutLeitner -- Fri Aug 28 06:19:10 2009

Lion, when we see the phenoma of "meaning" or "purpose", it is in our mind, or was in somebody else's mind and communicated, somehow. But that doesn't mean that it is rooted there. It can be rooted in the physical reality outside of the human mind, and only then it becomes really interesting.

So I'd say: there is objective purpose, purpose that is not only in mind, and give one example: the purpose of a leaf on a tree is to provide a space where the conversion of solar energy to chemical energy can happen. This purpose existed hundreds of millions of years before the first human mind.

PatternTheory could talk about the pattern of a PLANT-LEAF. Biology could explain how the PLANT-LEAF evolved and how various plants have adapted this genetical invention to various environments (contexts). This is neither a pure personal nor a pure social construction.

PatternTheory assumes that the formal system of structure-process-problem-solution-pattern is rooted in the "process of life". Only life has problems, a purely physical system has not. Our arbitrary languages and words (English, German) are constructions, our methods of descriptions are constructions (dialectic, pattern method) although sometimes of categorial and/or tautological character, but the phenomena are typically not constructions. The phenomenon of life is not a construction.

In everyday language the "universe" contains life, but it is not the same as life. I translate "we are the universe" as a poetic form into "we are part/children of the universe, so we should feel united with the universe and feel responsible for everything that happens". That's fine with me, but the original "we are the universe" is beyond reasoning, it is an emotional message like "Ick bin ein Berliner".

Jam, (me as the devil's advocate) when - as a social constructivist - you are so sure that there is no truth, on what basis do you defend your arbitrary constructions, e. g. of the "primacy of social autonomy"? Isn't any construction, in search of a social consensus bound to end in a process of propaganda and hierarchical dominance, to get it accepted? Isn't that the opposite to what you want?


JamBaltine -- Fri Aug 28 14:21:39 2009

Helmut I agree, but I don't think purpose and reason should be used tautologically.

In the case of the tree, I would say that the reason a leaf evolved was that it enabled grasses to prosper within the ecology. There is no purpose at all unless we anthropomorphise the plant by asking 'why do you propose that the plant did this?' Then we are searching for an objective purpose on behalf of the plant. The word purpose invokes the act of proposition, so I do not see the logic in assigning it to plants or objects.

Lion, you said "we are universe" (rather than "we are the universe"), and on that basis, are you saying that each of us is subjective universe unto ourselves? Can we agree that there is only one objective universe?

Helmut, I looked up WikiPedia:Social_constructivism, but admit I haven't studied this. When I say that Moral statements have no truth value, I have probably been influenced most by Simon Blackburn whose books once introduced me to moral philosophy. I understand this position is called WikiPedia:Quasi-realism. In my view, moral statements are not propositions and cannot be 'true' or 'false', but they are valuable as real expressions of real emotions. When I talk about ideals and the primacy of one thing or another, I am expressing my emotions and hoping you'll investigate this with me, but we cannot show any moral statement to be true.

In terms of language, if someone says "foxhunting is wrong", then I might respond "that's true" but I wouldn't be assigning it real truth value, just acknowledging that it is a valid statement that has my agreement. And the reason I use these figures of speech is just that they are natural in our tradition. I have to form and express my constructions in the language available.

In this article I am not in search of a social consensus, but in search of SocialAutonomy. And consensus within small groups of willing participants (which we can organise without coercion or hierarchic domination) must be the only way to achieve it.


LionKimbro -- Fri Aug 28 16:17:51 2009

No, I am very much not saying that each of us is a subjective universe unto ourselves.

It is true that we each have a subjective universe; That is right, clear, and obvious, but that is not what I am saying when I say we are universe.

I am saying that we are the universe alive; That we are real. We are not phantasms and hallucinations; We are the rock of reality. Our imaginations are not to be treated as unreal, because they determine the history of the universe as long as they exist.

Helmut: Can you explain to me how it is not literally true that we are Universe? On my side, I will work to make clearer what I mean by "We are Universe.") It is just that I do not see it as poetic or emotional as all (save in the sense that our emotions are the universe's emotions,) and all that you have offered is an assertion otherwise. My argument is basically: "If we are not universe, then what are we?"

I love this conversation and this is my favorite thing, but I want to slow it, in order to focus on the aims of MeatballWiki, as per discussion on ConversationMode.

I invite an OffLine? e-mail conversation between interested parties (I assume you, me, and Helmut,) to carry on this conversation, so that we can in MeatballWiki refocus on the aims and present motions for MeatballWiki. These motions appear to include establishing a second channel to accompany the MeatballWiki, wherein we can represent our conversation OnLine?. My email is LionKimbro at gmail dot com, and if you send me an email, I can restitch us together in an email thread.


JamBaltine -- Fri Aug 28 17:33:59 2009

Lion, I've developed a strong aversion to email, partly because: (see [3]). I need every point I can get, and mine interrupts me the instant a message arrives. Perhaps I should create another separate, personal email account that doesn't interrupt me, but deep down I feel EmailIsEvil? for other reasons too. Is there an alternative wiki or web-based forum where we could discuss PersonIsUniverse??


LionKimbro -- Fri Aug 28 19:12:02 2009

CommunityWiki:PersonIsUniverse is a possibility. It would be interesting to see how CW responds. :) I normally don't talk about this kind of thing on CW.


HelmutLeitner -- Sat Aug 29 09:38:01 2009

Lion, I think you made it very clear, when you said "we are part of the universe". On this we can easily agree.

If you want to say "we are real" then I also agree, but I wouldn't understand you if you try to communicate this using the expression "we are universe". To "be real" is a property that we ascribe to phenomena. "universe" is not a property to me, but "the idea of all that is real". Again I arrive at a part-of relationship.

Jam, fitting to this context: I believe in the modell of an objective reality, that is perceived by humans in in form of personal perspectives, which are the base camps for searching useful/reusable propositional truths/theories.

I'm with Popper that verification is usually impossible, but I think contrary to him, that in many contexts the theories/worldviews are so vague and have so many unknown side-results, that we have to respect perspectives side-by-side and look what they can deliver.


HelmutLeitner -- Sat Aug 29 10:14:52 2009

Jam, I've a bit of a problem sticking with words in such discussions because of three reasons. First words are just labels that are sticked on reality like labels and they often do not fit it well. Second, I'm constantly switching between German (my mother-tongue) and English in my thinking and writing, and they have quite different words/concepts and connotations, which makes it quite doubtful to use certain arguments, because they can't be translated. I think an argument, that can't be translated in any language, is not an argument about reality. Third, there is a heavy overload of meanings onto words (I remember the classic "The Meaning of Meaning" by C. K Ogden giving examples of seemingly harmless words having 12-16 different meanings depending on context) which adds to the confusion.

Long intro, in short: when I talk about reason/purpose I mean the reality behind this, that there are cause-effect relationsships of various nature that we try to understand. It's where we ask and answer the question "why?". The connection between effect and cause may be e. g. "law of nature" or "genetic programming" or "instinctive behaviour" or "consensual planning" but in this context it seems to me secondary.

I think that moral statements can be true, but only in their correct form, as a suggested or accepted group standard. It is neither a personal opinion, nor a subjective judgement, nor an expression of emotions, although all these and others can be valid sources for moral rules.

PatternTheory would perceive a MORAL-RULE as a pattern, that can potentially solve a problem, in the context of a group that needs to coordinate behaviour. Otherwise people need a lot of time and energy for negotiation and argumentation (assume that murder or theft were judged based on arumentation afterwards, not ruled out). Of course the vague nature of MORAL-RULE makes it necessary to institutionalize/stabilize it in every possible way (make it a law, part of a constitution, write it in a holy book, declare it part of national identity, declare it as eternal truth or natural law, ...). PatternTheory also suggests, that all patterns are only inventions/creations, have positive and negative effects, can turn into anti-patterns when situations or contexts change, should be understood as one out of a number of alternatives, that exist or may be invented.


LionKimbro -- Tue Sep 1 05:49:38 2009

SunirShah has just asked me to leave, towards what's presently the end of ConversationMode. It's okay, it doesn't bother me; SunirShah and I just -- we are two elements that do not interact well with one another. He's a good chap, and don't let any of this bother you. This has happened before.

If you are interested, I would like to continue the conversation on the relationship between the person and the universe. I have collected my thoughts; Helmut, -- in English, (because I do not know German works,) -- if we see a bit of clay, we call it "clay," and if we see a slice of pie, we call it "pie." This is a rare quality; You can't do the same with most nouns, because the piece does not have the essential qualities of the whole. What "the person is universe" points to that "the person is a part of the universe" does not, is that the universe in essence has the quality of "within-ness," -- that intellect, feeling, conscience, and promise are intrinsic to universe like the oak is intrinsic to the nut.

I have more to say, but I overextend my stay; I have checked, and we can continue on CommunityWiki:PersonIsUniverse. And if not, it is good talking with the two of you.


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