Archive | January 2015

Overreach and Nemesis

We are reminded by historians now and then that the breakdown and collapse of empires and civilisations is often due to something they call “overreach”. In a sense, the reach of empire exceeds the grasp, or “pride goeth before a fall”.

In effect, “overreach” is just another term for what the ancient Greeks called “hybris”, and what others called “sin” or “transgression”. Hybris was inevitably followed by Nemesis. “Nemesis” is what I’ve often referred to here by other names as “revenge effect”, “perverse outcome”, “unintended consequence”, “reversal of fortune” or “ironic reversal”. It is, of course, connected with the meaning of enantiodromia — the tendency of all action to negate or contradict itself at the extremity or limit. Enantiodromia is the result because coincidentia oppositorum is the rule, not the exception. And all these — hybris, nemesis, enantiodromia, coincidentia oppositorum — are aspects of the karmic law of action and reaction.

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The Seventh Generation Event

In the broadest terms, our era is being referred to as “the sixth extinction event”, or the Holocene extinction. It also happens to correspond to what some are calling the Anthropocene Era in recognition of the significant impact of the human species and its activities on the Earth System. That influence was again highlighted recently by a report of the Stockholm Resilience Centre suggesting that this present, existing Earth had entered a danger zone (“Climate change, extinctions signal Earth in danger zone — study“, Reuters).

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Only Human

I don’t know if anyone has noted the odd polarity that exists in the cultural representations of the monstrous. I suppose we might call those representations “memes”. On the one hand, you have the zombie, which is mindless. On the other, you have the Artificial Intelligence, which is hyper-rationality. These memes seem to me somewhat unique to the mental-rational structure of consciousness, as being its boundary conditions. What it means to be “human” is conceived as  somewhere between the zombie and the machine; or, between the completely non-rational and the hyper-rational. What is the meaning of these extremes? What do they represent for our self-understanding?

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