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Is Social Media “Ripping Society Apart”?

There is yet another voice of concern, a former Facebook executive, raised about the pernicious influence of social media: “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth“. The technology, says Chamath Palihapitiya, is “ripping society apart”.

But is it? No. Not really. The divergent, disjunctive, disintegrative and chaotic social tendencies were there before they were projected, amplified, and reinforced by the technology and by social media. Social media has simply amplified the crisis of consciousness. What is travelling through the “global brain” or global “nervous system” is what we call “the stream of consciousness”. And that stream of consciousness is largely impulsive and chaotic. Anything that can pass through the human nervous system now becomes extended through and passes into the global nervous system — the malignant as well as the benign, the dark as well as the light, the conscious as well as the unconscious. The global internet, and social media, are making the stream of conscious manifest.

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The Well-Rounded Against the Well-Adjusted

I awoke the other morning with an insight. It was one of those forehead-slapping moments when you realise you’ve been seeing the truth of something all along but never really recognised it until that moment. After years of pouring through books and essays on the riddle of the technological system, the role of propaganda within that system, and the meaning of the technocrat (and of “technocratic shamanism”), I suddenly realised that it all boiled down to a simple contradiction between the machine-world’s requirement for the “well-adjusted individual”, but life’s and the culture’s drive for the “well-rounded personality”, by which is meant the fulfilled, the complete, the whole.

It became quite clear to me, in that moment of revelation, that when I thought back over all the critiques of the technological system or the “Megamachine”, that this was the essential issue and tension in society — the well-rounded against the merely well-adjusted. Let’s unwrap that a bit further.

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Jean Gebser on the Collapse of Complex Societies

One of the main reasons that there is such an investment in artificial intelligence today is owing to the belief that society has become too complex for human beings to adequately manage, and therefore has become unsustainable. The attempts to turn human beings into multi-taskers or induce men and women to be “more productive” attests to that growing complexity, but the results were, and remain, very unsatisfactory  in terms of stress and human well-being. The belief is, that robots are much better multi-taskers, do not fatigue, and are more adept at handling complexity. Artificial intelligence is conceived as a techno-fix for Overwhelm and for the problem of managing complexity and assuring sustainability and continued growth. Something akin to “fate” is at work here.

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Daniel Bell and Jean Gebser: Reason and Revelation in Post-Modernity

Reading Daniel Bell’s The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism is a very rewarding experience. It is more rewarding, though, if one also knows something of the cultural philosophy of Jean Gebser. It’s a peculiar experience to read and compare them. Bell and Gebser see the exact same malignancies and pathologies in the culture of Late Modernity — many of which we’ve discussed here in The Chrysalis — but they seem them in entirely different ways reminiscent of the paradox of the half-full or half-empty glass that recalls also Gebser’s notion of “the double-movement” of our times.

In some respects, the relation between Daniel Bell and Jean Gebser is an example of the emissary and master relationship of the “divided brain” described by Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Not a dualism or a dialectic, but a polarity of Reason and Revelation. Bell and Gebser are so similar. Bell and Gebser are so different. And the only way I can think of what finally distinguishes them is this polarity of Reason and Revelation which they represent. I think it was Bell’s commitment to “cultural conservatism” that inhibited him finally from making that “leap” or “mutation” that Gebser felt was necessary to overcome the now manifest malignancies and pathologies of Late Modernity by a metamorphosis: embracing a new consciousness structure — the aperspectival, arational, or integral.

So, let’s explore that polarity here. Let’s explore Daniel Bell as representative of Reason, and Jean Gebser as representative of Revelation, and in so doing I think we’ll get a relatively good idea of the difference between perspectival and aperspectival modes of consciousness.

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In Your Dreams!

Owing to my distressed kidneys, I’m periodically required to have lab work performed by the local hospital, which I did today. The nurses’ station there also regularly posts “fun facts” about this or that subject. Today’s “fun facts” were about dreams, and so while the nurse was draining me of my precious bodily fluids we engaged in some banter about their posted “fun facts” and dreaming.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that I might also share that conversation with the readers of The Chrysalis, as it just might also aid you in gaining insight into your own dreams, and perhaps even why you dream at all.

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Paradox and Paranoia

Man is a paradoxical creature. Ultimately, it is what distinguishes the human from the machine. The machine cannot handle paradox. It is paralysed by paradox. That is why the Mechanical Philosophy and its logic had to deny and suppress the paradox in favour of “clear and distinct ideas” (as Descartes put it). But in doing so, it also had to deny and suppress Man in everything but Man’s mechanical aspects. In fact, dialectics and dialectical rationality breakdown in the face of paradox, which is connected, in logic, with what is called “the ears of the wolf dilemma”. When thesis and antithesis become one and the same, thinking dialectically collapses into perplexity, bewilderment, and confusion. The dialectic becomes a self-devouring, self-negating, self-contradictory process.

In earlier posts, I suggested that paradox and paranoia were intimately connected. Today, I want to explore that further as it pertains to the meaning of “chaotic transition”, and how paradox and paranoia can be transcended in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia“, or Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness”.

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Inquisition

The Inquisition has become symbolic of the irrationalities, disproportionalities, and reactionary paranoias of decaying regimes. The Inquisition was the form of that self-negating, self-devouring logic of the Age of the Church that is revisiting our time as well. It is the shape of the so-called “New Normal”.

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