Values, Interests, and Evolution
Evolution, says Seth, is the process of value realisation. That seems self-evident to all but much of the contemporary evolutionary orthodoxy, such as Richard Dawkin’s meme of “the Blind Watchmaker“. In the contemporary orthodoxy, still too much under the spell of scientism and the “objective attitude”, subjective values are eliminated in principle and by establishment in favour of explanations of randomness and “chance mutation”. The “Blind Watchmaker” is only autobiographical of scientism and the objective attitude itself — the perfect image of Iain McGilchrist’s left-brain mode of attention. Even the most elementary understanding of evolution must acknowledge the influence of subjective states — of sentience, desire, and value.
That subjective states are an integral part of the evolutionary process is the “big picture” conclusion even to be drawn from recent research on the influence of emotional states on ecosystem sustainability — the big picture conclusion that most people seem to have missed about this research. So, here we want to discuss evolution as value realisation, why it is essentially value realisation, and the relevance of that for human social and political evolution, particularly in the context of what is happening in American political culture today.
Holling’s “adaptive cycle” or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” may both serve equally well to describe evolutionary unfolding as the process of value realisation. The whole of the Modern Era is the history of an experiment in value realisation — to realise the value of “Universal Reason” as the mental-rational consciousness structure in all its possible forms and ramifications, and particulary as the possibilities for the “rational self-interest”. In this development, it has become very one-sided and now extreme in the form of the culture of narcissism and the extremes of competitive egoism. And that is because other, just as vital values have been ignored as a consequence, and even deliberately suppressed.
Politics is, chiefly, the art & science of value realisation. People form political communities or parties because they want to collectively realise some value they sense is missing. And in contemporary terms, these values are not of a great variety — the individual, the family, the community or public, the environment or nature. The omission of any one of these values is sensed as a dangerous lack, as a deficiency. A political culture or social structure is stable only to the extent that these values, or interests, are harmonised and achieve a relative equilibrium. They are, in effect, the “Guardians of the Four Directions”, and they reflect that fact that the human form is also a fourfold structure of mind, body, soul, and spirit, and the harmonisation of these is called “equanimity”. So, social equilibrium and personal equanimity are mutual, and is what we call “peace”. It is the same pattern.
Thanks to Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic and “cross of reality” we can interpret these values in their proper arrangement in a functioning political culture. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism all represent some value conceived as a political unit — the individual, the family, the community, and nature respectively or, in Rosenstock-Huessy’s terms, the prejective, the trajective, the subjective, and the objective orientations of consciousness, respectively. And these are represented in the “cross of reality” as the forwards, backwards, inwards, and outwards vectors of the space and time matrix of the social order.
We have, of course, addressed this structure and its political applications earlier in The Chrysalis, but it has become relevant again as we reflect on the current political situation in the United States, where there is talk of the two-party system splintering and forming a possible four-party system. A four party system, far from being a “disintegration” (although it is that, in one sense) can be appreciated rather as a reorganisation according to the pattern of the cross of reality. In fact, much of the rest of the world has been bemused by the fact that a four-party system hasn’t yet emerged in the United States even as it is becoming the norm in many other jurisdictions.
Such diversification may look to some like social and political disintegration, and may provoke (and is provoking) reactionary responses. It is quite logical, however. Past and future times, and inner and outer spaces, are our experienced reality. Each social front needs to be adequately represented politically — the individual unit, the family unit, the community unit, and nature. In the United States, the Republican Party has largely stood for “family values”, while the Democratic Party has largely stood for the individual. What has suffered in consequence are the values of community (or fellowship, solidarity) and nature, and so there is a social crisis along with an environmental crisis. The political units of family and individual are over-represented while those of community and environment are under-represented in the political and social discourse.
It makes perfect sense, then, that the political culture would evolve into a four-party system. It is in accord with the implicit structure of our reality, which only a faulty dualistic rationality prevents us from seeing clearly. Some must take responsibility for the future (the “prejectives”), some for the past (the “trajectives”), some for the inner unanimity (the “subjectives”) and others for the health of the overall environment (the “objectives”). These are called “predilections” and conform somewhat to Carl Jung’s model of the “psychological types” in terms of the accent on thinking, willing, sensing, or feeling. Problems of social order arise when any of these are neglected. Each faction must be clear that its predilection is only a predilection, and has no meaning in itself except in relation to the other predilections. They all serve a social and political purpose and task.
The recognition of this diversity as forming a unity is the ecological sensibility proper. It should be appreciated, then, that any uniformity or conformity is eventually self-destructive. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism are secular society’s overall predilections for organising its time and space fronts. More importantly, though, they are social moods and in one form or another exist in all human societies. Before secularism, they were represented in Christendom as the four Gospels and the four evangelists — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. These were, especially in their zoomorphic forms, the same “Guardians of the Four Directions” for the Age of Faith. In fact, as noted earlier, the four main secular ideologies emerged from the schisms and sectarianism of the Reformation. Ideologies were once theologies, but have forgotten their roots in the splintering of the Christian crucifix.
Of course, as in the Reformation period, today liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism are at each other’s throats, because what is missing here is the unitary principle or ‘quintessence’ — the Logos that is still missing, one might say. But surely it must be clear that this “Logos” is the consciousness that knows itself as being present within these various modalities as multiform being, and as realising itself and its own implicit value in and through these multiform modalities of being? As thinking, willing, sensing, feeling being, all of which faculties must be developed in perfect equanimity?
Mind, body, soul, and spirit are values. They are the articulations of the singular awareness called “Logos”. They are the self-same “Guardians of the Four Directions”. The same are the “four Zoas” of Blake’s fallen, disintegrate “Adam”. Dualistic thinking simply perpetuates the division and continues to justify a deficient monopoly or duopoly of political power and the problem of “special interests”. So, the splintering of the duopoly may not be an unhealthy sign at all. It may actually be a movement towards health — the holistic.