Perspectivism, Thinking, and the Self-Interest
One of the things I’ve noted about climate change deniers is their assumption that all thinking is mere self-interest. In those terms, climate scientists are beholden to the self-interest and so have confabulated the climate crisis for self-interested reasons of monetary gain.
Once you assume that all thinking is just self-interest (except that of their own — the “righteous mind” — of course) then you must assume there is no such thing as “objective truth”, but only self-interested “points-of-view”. “Truth” becomes whatever self-interest decides it is. This is also an aspect of the egoic “isolation” of the perspectivist consciousness structure, ie, the “point-of-view” consciousness.
The political principle of self-interest — and the “pursuit of rational self-interest” — was a development upon the invention of perspectivism itself which, as Gebser has pointed out in The Ever-Present Origin, intensified the experience of self-consciousness in the point-of-view and, so, abetted the development of an aggressive individualism which has now decayed into ego isolation. It was against this principle of the self-interest and the isolation of the ego in the point-of-view that John Donne penned his famous poem “No Man Is An Island“.
There’s a huge element of double-think, of course, in the assumption that your thinking is all self-interest, while mine is not — mine is pure. That’s what makes for what Haidt calls “the righteous mind“. And it’s for that reason that Gebser sees the mental-rational consciousness as having become “deficient” and counters that intensification of deficient self-interest with his “universal way of looking at things”. And it is something also addressed by Rudolf Steiner in his book The Philosophy of Freedom, in which thinking is reconsidered as a “spiritual activity” that can approach authentic universality.
To a certain extent, then, what Gebser means by “aperspectival” consciousness and an authentic “universal way of looking at things” can be seen, in utero as it were, in Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom.
But, for the time being, at least, we seem stuck with this very aberrant form of perspectivism that sees the narrow self-interest as the sole determiner of what constitutes — or even should constitute — truth. Truth is whatever my self-interest says it is. That is the basic problem of Blake’s “Urizenic Man”.
It has become rather evident that the self-interest has become the sole judge and final arbiter of what is truth, leading into today’s problem of “fake news”, “alternative facts” and “post-truth”, reflecting that atomisation and isolation of the ego-consciousness that marks the deficient mode — the decadence — of the “modern mind”.
It’s in connection with this hyper-trophy of the self-interest that “freedom” — and especially “Free Speech” — also takes on a sinister aspect, being no more than an excuse for libertinism and self-indulgence — the freedom of the self-interest from all proportionate, moderating constraints or obligations that is implied in the meaning of “post-rational” as the immoderate, the unmeasured, and the disproportionate.
Of course, climate change deniers (amongst others) all deny that they themselves are motivated by self-interest, which results in a lot of lip-service to “principle” or “higher truth” and such rationalisations for their own duplicity and mendacity. The real problem of the “righteous mind” is that it sees self-interested or narcissistic thinking everywhere but in itself.