Saturday, September 28, 2013

Educating For the Fifth Stage

Some readers may have observed: accounts of the Fifth Stage of Civilization have been somewhat vague and generalized. I'd have to respond, "That's right. They are." The one precedent for this might not be the best: if one reads Karl Marx closely, his work is a detailed analysis of capitalism as he saw it; he doesn't have a whole lot to say about socialism beyond its having stripped the bourgeoisie of their economic power, much less about communism.

Be that as it may, part of my reasoning is that while we can identify tendencies today that might contribute to a Fifth Stage, it would be a mistake to try to plan our way into it. The Fifth Staqe of Civilization will not be a Platonist Republic type of society. It will embody the realization that central planning was a mistake from the get-go.

One consequence is that we can begin building endeavors with this in mind. We'll be building from the bottom up instead of imposing from the top down. This makes all the difference in the world.

I write this following the first week of the Exosphere Bootcamp which began in Santiago on September 23. What exactly is Exosphere? The very difficulty in pinning a label on it is actually a strength!

It's education, for sure, but imagine an education without classrooms and tests in the traditional sense (although there definitely will be tests in a larger sense!). Imagine education for independence and self-reliance, and without meddlesome bureaucrats (thank God!). Imagine education that provides a path to assuming full ownership over your situation and over your personal future. Imagine education that draws people from multiple countries and many cultural backgrounds, all wanting the same thing: self-improvement and financial independence. Imagine education for entrepreneurship that begins with a discussion not of markets but of pain and suffering: their meaning and their causes, which are universal. Imagine breaking down the boundaries between traditional "business school" (which is seldom about entrepreneurship anyway) to incorporate personal development--something therefore very much for those of us who have come to understand that we need to make some changes in our lives. Imagine conversations during "leisure time" that still have sufficient depth that what you want to do is continue taking notes, listing topics and what was said about them: Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Taleb's Anti-Fragile, the meaning behind the structure of poetry, the value of thinking in terms of heuristics, how the marketplace given sufficient time has acted as a filter to leave us with the best of the best in art, music, philosophy, and so on--topics to which the marketplace is frequently deemed hostile. We recall Hume's Treatise; but who recalls the reviewers who scoffed at Hume?

To be more specific, it is great to have grand ideas about the future of civilization but not so great to be wondering how you are going to pay the bills a couple of months down the road. As a source of stress and distraction, this interferes with one's best thinking about the future of civilization. It's also a sign of lacking in one's own life. Socrates would probably have called out the person who told him that earning money and becoming prosperous is the final end in life; but I'd like to think he would also have questioned the person who is presumably able-bodied and mentally sound but doesn't have the skills to earn a living.

The other day I wrote some notes about the possibility of a "unified field theory" of the good life, which is, of course, the successful life which can define success on its own terms, not someone else's. That's a place to begin, but the "theory" side is still a bit too prominent. The good life must integrate theory and practice, philosophy and action. It therefore must have solved the problem of how to put food on the table. This can best be done by having created value for some group of others by solving a problem for them. I used to tell my philosophy students in classes: in an important sense, we are problem-solvers. Some of us are very good at it. This was in the context of an introduction to philosophy course that converged on the idea that civilization is the aggregate solution to people's problems, which invariably creates more problems in its wake. A problem is any source of unease or discontent that motivates action; and once solved, the result is an improvement in someone's life.

Little did I know how true that was, but that we have to live the idea, not just grasp it intellectually or be able to teach it in a classroom. Just the first week at Exosphere has shown me how this might happen. I've had a sense of being in contact with some really first rate minds with huge hearts as well!

We are in the early stages of building an educational community, studying what this means as we go along. Behind this is an assumption none of us are dwelling on, as it's potentially a bit negative, but it's there: the premise that the universe is utterly indifferent to whether we succeed or fail. It doesn't care. How could it? But its laws are surely comprehensible to us, at least up to a point. Successful actions are therefore possible for us. We've always known this. Civilization proves it. But to novices at entrepreneurship, or even veterans with sufficient battle scars, that world is probably still intimidating. So why not create a community of mutual interaction, learning, and support? Why not create something that will survive the duration of this Bootcamp, which is just 11 weeks, after all, and pave the way to larger projects both entrepreneurial and educational. There will be more Bootcamps; they will be better than this one, because those in them will be in a position to learn from our mistakes. (An important lesson: when having made a mistake, it's always useful to ask, "What did I learn from this?" And then: "What can others learn from my mistake?")

Assuming the viability of the Stages framework for now, where are we? Contemporary Western civilization, with its blend of multiple stages (the third and fourth being dominant) has problems. Some threaten to overwhelm us. Many specific groups of people have more specific problems which are easier to tackle. If we are problem-solvers whose mission (not job) is using our intelligence and creativity to solve people's problems, then we must learn to live the notion and not just intellectualize about it. Our "unified field theory" of the good life is then more than theory as it integrates theory and practice. Living the notion means that putting food on the table is not a problem for you. You are even in a position to help others learn to do it--especially important in a world in which the employer-employee model has broken down, jobs that pay really, really well have largely disappeared, and job security is a thing of the past.

So here's the question: does Exosphere exemplify educating for the Fifth Stage of Civilization? The question is too simple, in that the last thing I want is for its founders (or anyone else) adopting this Stages model as just the latest ideology and then trying to force-fit their endeavors into the conceptual boxes it supplies. It will encounter the immediate problems it encounters and improvise the best solutions available--perhaps, as it grows, being carried by this dynamic in what may very well be a Fifth Stage direction. The Stages model is a way of looking at civilization in light of its remote and recent past, its present with all its problems, and the prospects for having a future that is better than the past. It's a system of description, that's all. What matters: solving people's problems in the here and now, to solve our own of personal sustenance as well as lighting the way for others, gradually building the community systems that we need, always working from the bottom up and never going where we are not wanted (every ideologue makes the mistake of thinking his/her ideology ought to be embraced by everyone). In this light, Exosphere may be just the first of many such endeavors, others focusing on education for the solution of other problems. Given our need to be able to grow and store food, and prepare it in healthy ways, I can certainly imagine a "school" with that focus. I thus prefer to leave the Fifth Stage of Civilization only partly-specified, in terms of what we may have learned from the limitations of its predecessor stages. Stafford Beer, the British cyberneticist, described the matter this way in his magnificent Brain of the Firm (1972). In distinguishing algorithms from heuristics, he wrote of the latter: "To think in terms of heuristics rather than algorithms is at once a way of coping with proliferating variety. Instead of trying to organize it in full detail, you organize it only somewhat; you then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go" (p. 53).


Did you think this post was valuable, or that this blog adds value to the conversation on the future? If so, please consider donating any small amount to help sustain the project.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why I Write

This blog is approaching its first birthday (I penned the first entry I believe on Sept. 1, 2012). It gets some traffic but not a whole lot. Obviously, this being a heavy-duty intellectual blog, it is in no position to compete for attention with far better known (and better supported) mainstream sites or even blogs dealing with popular topics such as Lady Gaga's wardrobe catastrophes. It isn't just that, however. I'd be the first to admit: I'm not a great self-promoter. I hope to learn more in the near future that will help, but that's another story.

Given that this site doesn't generate huge amounts of traffic, has as its purpose something fairly obscure -- developing a relatively new way of thinking about the future, under the assumption that the future is going to come and so it might be a good idea to think about it in the present -- and it doesn't sell anything or attempt to do so, and so doesn't make any money for its author (donations have amounted to less than $25 to date), why bother? Why not just do what I'd been doing, and work the ideas into articles posted online?

In response, let me tell you about one of my favorite online essays, "Isaiah's Job" by U.S. author Albert Jay Nock. In a very recent conversation at Exosphere, I told two of its leaders that this essay saved my writing career twice. I meant that. I was ready to hang it up back in 1997. Then I discovered "Isaiah's Job." Its powerful ideas came as a shot in the arm. Due to my not having found a publisher for a book manuscript I'd written on the deterioration of logical and critical thinking in our time, and to frustration with having to work at a job that made no use of my actual strengths, I was ready to throw in the towel again in 2004. Again I ran across "Isaiah's Job" and gave it a careful rereading. I thought, okay, why not get into one place, in one concise package, what I've learned about the rise to power of the Western power elite and its efforts to establish world government? And if nothing happens, that's it! Since The Matrix was still fairly recent, and its themes coincided with mine, I had a hook to leverage. I began with some well-known dialogue about "taking the red pill." I circulated the 28-page manuscript, and ended up with an essay published in seven parts entitled "The Real Matrix."

Of everything I've written, this one came the closest to going viral online.

Within 24 hours I'd received over 500 emails--all but a couple positive. A handful noted that I'd left this or that out. It is a failing of "The Real Matrix" that it doesn't do enough to discuss the rise of the Rothschild family or say anything about the operations of the City of London based Fabian Society to shift the English-speaking world leftward. So it doesn't fully connect the dots, in terms of the formation of the natural alliance between the Fabians and the global financial elite, forming what I call the superelite, in the early 20th century. Because of the problems I turned down an opportunity to have a print edition published and went back into the manuscript to fix these things. It began expanding, eventually turning into something so long and unwieldy that I was sure no one would read it (we're talking about well over 400,000 words!). So I scrapped that project and began something more manageable that eventually evolved into Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic.

Without "Isaiah's Job" I am sure I wouldn't have accomplished anything further as a writer. So what was in this essay that was so important?

Nock's reference was to Isaiah 1: 1-9. The time was near the end of King Uzziah's reign (around 740 B.C.). The people had turned away from the Lord, and the Lord had commanded Isaiah to preach to them, telling them what a worthless lot they are, that if they do not get their act together they will get what's coming to them. Oh, and of course, they won't listen, and you'll be lucky if you get out with your scalp intact. Isaiah's question to the Lord was the same: then why bother?

You do not understand, the Lord told Isaiah (I am paraphrasing, of course). There is a Remnant out there you know nothing about. You do not know who they are or where; they operate invisibly, unlike a king or politician or celebrity. They work competently and diligently at whatever it is they are doing. They've discovered how to leverage their strengths no matter how hostile their environment. They were the ones that built civilization in the first place; and when everything goes to pieces, they are the ones that will build up a new civilization.

You are preaching to the Remnant, the Lord tells Isaiah (1:9 is the key verse). Your job is to encourage them, shore them up, motivate them to keep trudging along. In the present environment you only know two things about them: that they exist, and that if you do your best, they will find you. But if you compromise, and water down the best you have to offer, they will smell a rat and head the other way. Message: while doing whatever it is you do to make sure you can eat, pay the mortgage, keep the lights on, etc., have at least one written product that does not compromise itself. For me, that is this blog.

Taking care of the Remnant: that's the best job description available for what the Lord had told Isaiah to do, and it's what he did. And so this is what this and any similar blogs are about. We are not writing for the masses, but for those who have it in them to take Western civilization into a Fifth Stage ... shaping its exact nature not through defunct efforts at central planning but as they go along, building from the bottom up, amidst the chaotic and deteriorating present.

That reminds me:

A book recently brought to my attention (within the last 24 hours, in fact) that looks very much worth reading is Nassim Nicholas Taleb's latest effort, entitled Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. I could wait, as I've only read the introductory matter and part of the first chapter, but what I've read is a truly phenomenal, mind-altering package! This is definitely Fifth Stage of Civilization material!

Taleb is best known, of course, for his The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, which makes the point forcefully that we don't know as much as we think we do; generalizations about complex states of affairs in the world will inevitably be disrupted by Black Swan events that (1) were not predicted, at least not by most of us, and (2) have enormous consequences.

What I've read of the new book begins the compelling case that fragile systems are those in which everything is predictable but which are easily disrupted and even destroyed by the unpredictable and chaotic. Antifragile systems, on the other hand, thrive and grow in environments of unpredictability and chaos; they can withstand disruptive influences by absorbing and incorporating them. The equivalent notions in systems theory hold that systems can become too ossified or rigid; or they can become flexible and learning. The former are easily perturbed and sometimes cannot respond effectively to challenges from their environment; the latter either have structural defense mechanisms to ward off such challenges or the built-in capacity to withstand or absorb them or incorporate them as part of a systemic change.

I am not in a position yet to develop more fully the ideas behind Antifragile, but I suspect strongly that Antifragility -- becoming Antifragile -- is going to be a key to taking civilization consciously into its Fifth Stage and then not just surviving but thriving at that level. There are people and institutions that are already there. What is worrisome is -- as usual -- the masses. They are not ready, for reasons that vary from case to case. Some will pay dearly for their inattention to the breakdowns going on all around them: the deterioration of the job market which is no longer producing sources of long-term viable income, the deterioration of the culture which is all about mass consumption for instant gratification (i.e., short-term thinking), and the deterioration of the political system which is becoming more thieving, more violent, and less responsive. All of these are fragile systems. What emerges very clearly from the situation with the deteriorating job market is that to be employed, or to seek standard employment, is to be fragile. To work towards self-employment is to work towards becoming Antifragile. That's the personal level; what about the civilizational? The idea here is that to build the future it is necessary to encourage a Remnant that can operate outside the first two and will instinctively avoid the third as much as possible until the financial and political systems' lack of sustainability leads to their inevitable collapse. The collapse will, of course, be the collapse of Stages Three and Four. We will hopefully have learned from these stages which had their strong suits even if their weaknesses finally did them in (see previous entries for the details).

We must, in this case, write for the Remnant, some of whom have probably gone into survival mode and perhaps have become Antifragile without knowing it, and we must work to become Antifragile ourselves. Otherwise, as also noted in a previous entry, there is no guarantee that a Fifth Stage of Civilization will happen. What will happen instead is a techno-feudalism which will continue to draw upon Stage Three and Stage Four thinking. This being an exercise in futility, standards of living will drop everywhere, leading to a new dark age from which it could take the human race centuries to recover, if it ever does.

These themes thus continue to be important whatever the size, scope and composition of their present readership. I do not know, and so am not making any predictions, about how things will turn out. As I have at most 35 years left in this world, I will probably not live to see how everything plays out. But as we said at the outset, the future will come, and it is up to us, prayerfully, to do the work to make it better than our war-torn and impoverished past and present. Although we can say that it's all in God's hands, I am sure that as with Isaiah, He doesn't expect us to sit on our butts. That we can rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done continues to be my hope.

________________________________________________________________________ Steven Yates is the author of Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (Spartanburg, SC: Brush Fire Press International, 2011) and numerous articles in both refereed academic journals and online. Read the Introduction and part of Chapter One of Four Cardinal Errors here. Order your copy by following the link to the Amazon page.

Steven Yates will be teaching a philosophy of science course (in English, yet!) at Universidad de Santiago de Chile; he also "free lance" teaches English and GRE Test Preparation courses; a would-be entrepreneur, he also owns a small editing company called Final Draft Editing Service. He lives in Santiago, Chile.


This blog has no means of support other than its author's personal resources and donations. If you've read to the end and believe these ideas are worth supporting, please consider making a donation.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fifth Stage of Civilization? Or a New Dark Age. The Choice is Ours -- Yours & Mine

It's true: I haven't posted here in quite some time. Some will say I've neglected this blog. I'd thought so myself, but then wondered: was I under an obligation to post on a schedule regardless of whether I had something useful to say that day? I think not. I've always been a quality-over-quantity person. Not sure if traffic dropped. I didn't check. It never was high (except, oddly, for the initial post). Getting ideas discussed seriously in the English-speaking world has always been like pulling teeth. But along with Albert Jay Nock & Isaiah, I'm satisfied that there is a Remnant out there. We intellectual bloggers don't know who they are for sure, or where they are, but if we deliver our best, we trust that they will find us.

We in the West need to further the conversation that will help us discover the Fifth Stage. One thing that means is exposing and then avoiding, as much as possible, the distractions mainstream media & mainstream politics are always throwing our way. What host Mike Adams (the Health Ranger) just called racial theater, its newest chapter opened by the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial, is a textbook case of a distraction. Helping further the distraction is the prevailing, politically correct mythology of racism in contemporary America. One need not deny that the U.S. has a racist past, or even that there are isolated incidents of racism in the present. But one of the prevailing premises of the currently reigning intelligentsia in the U.S. is that the U.S. is still fundamentally, systemically racist, because nowhere is to be found exact, politically-approved ratios of black-to-white, on corporate boards or in workplaces or in other centers of influence (which would include Congress). This leads to the further myth that blacks are systemically oppressed in America. What makes it clear, this is a myth? By the very fact of a black president in America (Barack Obama), a black attorney general (Eric Holder), black mayors all across the country, successful black entrepreneurs, wealthy black entertainers (think: Oprah Winfrey), black sports heroes (think Tiger Woods, although he partly self-destructed), etc.

Obama could not have been elected and then re-elected president without the willingness of the white majority to vote for him, whatever else one says about their judgment. Blacks only constitute a little over 12 percent of the population of the U.S., after all. That's not enough to elect a president. I tend to think Obama will go down as the worst president in U.S. history. For saying that I would be condemned as racist if anyone in the intelligentsia cared enough to spread the fact that I said it. My judgment, however, is based on his policies, not on his race (for whatever good it does to say this). He's furthered both the domestic and the foreign policies of his predecessor, protected the interests of the powerful and wealthy elite; his Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will arguably ruin whatever is left of health care in the U.S., but possibly not before being exported elsewhere in some "free trade" agreement to come down the pike. Do I know this last? Of course not, but who really knows what is in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (for example)? The agreement is not available online, and all discussions--which Obama is pushing--are being conducted behind very tightly closed doors!

Enough of racial theater; it stands exposed for what it is, a distraction from our world's real problems. These range from spreading unrest all across the developing world, a product of the realization that the desire of peoples to be free is quite real however manipulated, and on collision course with the tightening authoritarianism of the global elites, whose home bases range from the City of London, Basel Switzerland, Brussels Belgium, New York City and Washington, D.C. A real question is whether we will ever outgrow our tendency to solve our problems--economic, social, etc.--by resorting to domestic force and wars fought on foreign soil (which, if our ruling elites were honest they would admit was over control of the world's oil supply). In the U.S., meanwhile, over 47 million people receive food stamps. This is an all-time high--additional proof, for anyone interested, that the federal government / Federal Reserve complex cannot micromanage anything as complex as the U.S. economy. While of course there are some who are probably abusing the food stamp system, the majority either cannot find a job at all or cannot find a job that pays sufficient wages. Where else are they going to turn?

This, of course, is a problem affecting all: white, black, Hispanic, and so on. The "American Dream" of a middle class existence working for a corporation is effectively dead whatever your race or ethnicity (for all except for those fortunate enough to have very specific skills the corporations want). What has killed the "American Dream" is a combination of factors. Too much government is the obvious killer of all genuine prosperity: too many taxes, too much strangling regulation, too much interference in our lives generally. Globalization hasn't helped. It has been the scene of corporations--many of which are able to write the rules enabling them to control governments--moving operations to where labor is the cheapest, and that isn't the U.S. Another factor, however, is more mundane: changing technology, which enables even smaller companies to be more productive with progressively less labor, meaning there is less and less work for human beings to do. Of course, if human beings are earning less, they have a choice of spending less or going massively into debt (at present we see both). A few writers are describing this as a structural flaw in capitalism as it currently exists--although I prefer the term corporatism for the prevailing economic system of the dominant powers of the First World (Robert Locke's short essay remains the standout explanation of corporatism, offering good reasons for thinking outside the set of boxes Marx's thought supplied). Whatever we call it, however, the flaw is there and will have to be addressed at some point in the future. The alternative is a world with a very small and very wealthy minority ruling over utterly impoverished masses--a future looking so much like our feudalist past that I call it techno-feudalism.

Recent events in my life, including materials I've gathered on entrepreneurship to presentations I've recently attended about financial markets and sustainable systems, and more besides, have made it even more clear to me the role Philosophy needs to play in evaluating the present state of affairs in civilization and working towards taking it to the next level: the Fifth Stage. (My book manuscript What Should Philosophy Do? is up to 35,000 words.) I recently had a discussion over just the need for ethics and its role in creating and maintaining institutions that are sustainable: self-supporting, growing, helpful, in harmony with their surroundings; and not self-destructive and destructive of whatever they touch (like today's corporate leviathans of high finance, as well as most of the world's governments). We don't need to delve into theory here, or even go deep into the theology (although I think a review of what Jesus Christ actually says in the Sermon on the Mount and in his Parables couldn't hurt us at all!) to develop what I could call a common horse sense ethics.

A common horse sense ethical system would consist of the following beginning with the old-fashioned Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or to paraphrase Hobbes from his Leviathan: Do not exercise more liberties against others than you would want others to exercise against you. To some, such prescriptions will sound naive. To the extent they do, is an index of where we stand in our materialist world today, part of it still in the Third Stage but much of the culture in the Fourth. There are other ethical rules that can be logically inferred. Respect life, especially if it has the capacity to suffer (for you can suffer). Honor your agreements with others (for you do not like promises to be made to you & then broken). Do not see yourself as the center of the Creation, but rather live with humility: none of us is at the center of Creation. Realize that most people do need leadership, motivation, encouragement ... and to be held accountable. Be prepared to supply it when needed. Note that to err is human: forgive others; and also forgive yourself. Avoid conflict and the use of force--if your ideas are any good, that Remnant I mentioned will embrace them voluntarily. But do be prepared to unleash your inner warrior to stand on principle and defend the innocent.

Recognize cause and effect, however we cash it out. Ideas and actions have consequences; they affect others. Recognize, too, that the consequences of our ideas and actions do not manifest themselves all at once, or even in a few days or even months. The really important ideas and actions manifest themselves over a lifetime. They can affect many others, for better or for worse. Finally: reality always gets the last word. Results do not lie. The results we see around us, wherever we are, are the sum total of our premises, our thoughts, our actions, and their consequences--in aggregate. The laws of nature including human nature are what they are, but they allow sufficient flexibility to make it fair to say: we have shaped our world. If that is true, then up to a point, we can reshape it. That brings us to the choice before us as a civilization: forward, to a Fifth Stage, or continuing on our present course. In earlier posts I've attempted to characterize what ascension to a Fifth Stage will amount to. I've tried to do this in a particular fashion: learning and employing what we can learn from the previous stages while keeping the concept sufficiently loose and indistinct that it can continue to shape itself, in terms of events and developments none of us can foresee. Part and parcel of Fifth Stage Thinking is what I think of as bottom-up sustainability: we rebuild the systems of civilization, through entrepreneurship of various sorts, from the bottom up instead of from the top down, and we keep in mind the need for the long view: long term goals, including those which will take years to bring about, designing short term objectives as we work toward those goals piecemeal. The idea is to have systems that will sustain themselves with less and less effort on our part, as we ride in the direction we want to go. The country--indeed, the English-speaking world as a whole; the West as a whole--needs a re-examination of its philosophical first premises (including the materialist view of the universe & of the human condition) as a condition for assuming some control over the changes embroiling us all. If we assume control, I would hold out some hope that we can carry civilization forward to its Fifth stage, able to further the genuine unity of an ethically grounded international community, liberate people from the chains of authoritarianism, and build real prosperity (not the debt-fueled pseudo-prosperity of the mass consumption culture. That's the choice. For a while now, we've been at this crossroads. If the English-speaking world in particular continues on its present path of materialism, centralization, poor education based on outdated models, short term thinking, and distractions such as the present racial theater, it can look forward to what will prove to be a very long and painful dark age, and its peoples will have only themselves to blame.


Do you believe the work on this blog is of value? Please consider making a donation for its continued support. Thank you in advance.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter and the Road to Fifth-Stage Christian Belief

It’s Easter weekend, the weekend Christians all over the world pause to remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to Christianity this was a unique, supernatural occurrence. A lot of intelligent people have had a problem with this. David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, made the doubts of his time concrete with his famous criticism ("On Miracles") of the idea that a special set of unique events called miracles could ever be the basis for belief. A major theme of Third Stage thinking (Auguste Comte’s 19th century “scientific and positive” proposals) is the movement away from the idea that supernaturalism of any sort is compatible with a rational view of the world. I’ve attempted to outline the aftermath (my suggestion of a Fourth Stage or condition: “postmodern and negative”). Where do we go from here? With Western civilization experiencing massive crises: economic and financial, political and geopolitical, moral, and spiritual, or just in terms of the increasing army of unemployed and underemployed people trying to survive, this—it seems to me—is one of the most urgent questions we can ask. It is a shame very few professional philosophers seem interested in it. Many of those that are, mouth the same old leftist canards about “capitalism” (which arguably hasn’t existed since 1913 and possibly ended before that).

I’ve argued elsewhere (in my book Worldviews, 2005), that Western thought supplies us with essentially two worldviews, with several variations on each. There is Christianity, and there is materialism. (There are, perhaps, a few lesser ones such as “Platonism” that have remained essentially without large scale influence outside tiny academic or other enclaves, or perhaps "New Age" beliefs of the pseudo-spiritualist crowd.) Christianity places a personal God at the center: morally, metaphysically, and in every other sense. God, according to Christianity, was/is the Creator, and all of physical nature depends upon Him for its existence. (There are, of course, different interpretations of this, but we need not get into those here.) According to materialism, the universe — physical nature — is self-existent and uncreated; it came into being — however this happened (physical cosmologists like Stephen Hawking have expended enormous amounts of time and energy trying to figure it out) — by an entirely natural process. Reality just is physical nature, the world of space, time and causality. All events have physical or material causes. There are no supernatural events if materialism is true. If materialism is true, there probably is no such thing as “free will” as we tend to characterize it (taking actions — somehow — outside the causal structure of our surroundings).

Eventually you have to decide: which is it? Regarding Christianity: belief or unbelief? Some prefer to “sit on the fence.” You can’t do this indefinitely. You have to make a decision. To be an agnostic is to opt for unbelief. A good part of your decision is whether to commit to the idea that something really stupendous occurred on a single weekend a little over 2,000 years ago — when God took the sins of the whole human race and placed them on a sinless Jesus Christ — who was then resurrected from the dead, again sin free! One very good book, Peter Walker’s The Weekend That Changed the World: The Mystery of Jerusalem’s Empty Tomb (London: Marshall-Pickering, 1999) goes well beyond Frank Morison’s classic Who Moved the Stone? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1958; orig. 1930). But neither of these is going to convince a really determined Third Stage materialist or Fourth Stage postmodernist. What will?

Let me approach this in a different way.

Part of what I do in political philosophy is study why our various attempts to organize ourselves as political beings have failed. Recently I had a lengthy debate via email with a gentleman attempting to persuade me with very thoughtful, carefully considered reasoning, that anarcho-capitalism, Hans Herman Hoppe style, held the solutions. Hoppe has written a number of quite original tracts building on earlier writings by Austrian school economist Murray N. Rothbard in particular. He argues extensively that social governance involving a state (an institution with a legal monopoly on the use of coercion) is hopeless if your intent is to secure and preserve liberty. His best known work is Democracy: The God That Failed (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2000). Anarcho-capitalism holds, essentially, that free markets can solve every problem in civilization and do so better than any state mechanism, including establishing and maintaining institutions of governance (police to apprehend those who initiate coercion against others, courts for adjudication of disputes, etc.) however limited: a private law society, Hoppe calls it. The correspondence appears to have ended; apparently the gentleman decided I was hopeless. But as much as I wanted to — I have also attempted to argue that liberty is superior to anything else — I cannot accept anarcho-capitalism: Hoppe’s or anyone else’s?

The problem is sin. That is the Christian term. We are sinners. All of us (Romans 3:23). It is in our blood, and has been since the first humans chose to follow their own paths instead of God’s path. This is the Christian line of reasoning. As sinners we are separated from God. We can be redeemed through Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sins on the cross (Romans 6:23). Moreover, only through accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior can one be redeemed and be assured of going to heaven in the afterlife (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). You can’t earn salvation (Ephesians 2: 8-9). But it is not difficult to obtain. All one must do is confess your sins and believe sincerely that Jesus Christ paid the price, invite Him prayerfully to come into your life as your personal savior, and you are saved (John 3:16, John 11:25-26, elsewhere). He waits, even now (Revelation 3:20). It is true that this calls for a decision made on faith. Faith, however, is not bad or evil. It is a necessary part of the Christian worldview (Hebrews 11).

Above I cited over a half dozen Scriptural passages. Why, in this day and age, should you believe Scripture? One answer is that when reading Scripture, you are reading the most analyzed, examined, and carefully preserved texts in all of human history. Nothing written by any of the ancient philosophers — Plato or Aristotle — has been as carefully analyzed or preserved as, e.g., the four Gospels. The earliest manuscripts we have of Plato’s and Aristotle’s works date to early medieval times. The earliest manuscripts we have for the Gospels date to the first century A.D., probably within the lifetimes of witnesses to events such as Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Early Christians went willingly to their deaths at the hands of the Romans. Sometimes these deaths involved suffering on a level we probably can't imagine. (Just study crucifixion and its effects on the human body; it’s the very definition of torture!)

How does this point us toward a role for Christianity in a Fifth Stage thinking that is still indistinct and unformed, much as Fourth Stage thinking was in the late-19th century? The road to a prospective Fifth Stage Christian belief runs through two realizations.

First, does sin really exist? Of course it does. It is manifest in our lives as political beings, and hence in civilization. If asked to do so, and we are honest about it, we human beings could produce a catalog of all the attempts we’ve made to organize ourselves socially and politically and why they failed. Our explanation would be: human sin. Different brands of sinfulness have affected different people at different levels in society. For some, it’s the sin of greed. Money becomes the end-all, be-all of existence. For others, it’s the lust for power. Domination is their raison d’être. For others, it’s just the sin of pride. For others still, it’s slothfulness. Christians are not exceptions to this rule. Christian institutions are as prone to dysfunction, abuse, and failure as those of non-Christians. The Christian doesn’t cease to be a sinner. All he can say is that he’s been saved from the ultimate consequences of his sin (eternal damnation in hell). There’s no room for pride here.

Sin explains our failure to produce a political system that doesn’t coerce or allow physical harm to come to somebody. It explains, as I maintained consistently in my end of the correspondence, why (1) there is no reason at all to believe an anarcho-capitalist civilization could come into existence on a large scale, though small-scale communities bordering on such might be possible; and (2) even assuming (1) to be false, why such a civilization wouldn’t be sustainable: people motivated by the desire for advantage — or just power — would organize and if they did not recreate the state openly, would create a surrogate that would have a de facto monopoly on coercive authority. There is no evidence that the masses, as such, are willing to give up all the advantages that come with having a state, for which they pay in ways both large and small however much they might grouse (about, e.g., income taxes). For those who want genuine independence, small-scale communities — I know of several in various stages of development — are a fantastic idea and I support them wholeheartedly! But again a threat emerges: to the extent these become visible successful oases of liberty and prosperity, they could easily become the targets of those who want power, which typically incorporates rejecting the very idea of people living independent, sustainable lives ... or just sheer resentment at the successes of others.

What we are in a position to do is look back at history — at our efforts: over 2,000 years worth of them. History is a gold mine of information, however disturbing. It all points in one direction: we will never build Utopia, because sin will invariably get in the way. That goes for “capitalistic” as well as “socialistic” Utopias, and it goes for the small scale as well as the large even if relatively speaking, “small is better.” Catalog could be compiled on why “capitalism” is under attack in West despite magnificent results in increasing the standard of living everywhere it was allowed to take root. Ultimately, factors ranging from pride to self-indulgence and the general lack of vigilance to which comfort gives rise all get in the way, allowing encirclements of control to take root and gradually thwart freedom. Other factors come into play as well. Consider education: for liberty to take root at all and for free markets to continue to operate, a certain body of ideas must be in place and maintained (the masses need not obsess over them, of course, but the bulk of common people must be exposed to them as part of their educations and must internalize them and live them). If within a free market, these ideas are no longer marketable, free markets will eventually face a problem — especially given increasingly indifferent masses that either don’t really want freedom or are ignorant of what went into building it. In this way, a free market system is vulnerable to deterioration from within if its participants cannot maintain the marketability of its own foundational ideas and thinking. While there are a number of endeavors (the Mises Institute being the obvious one) that have not only survived but done quite well on their own terms, especially given the entertainment-saturated marketplace of Stage Four civilization, their influence has been limited. They can only do so much. They cannot, for example, open people’s skulls and internalize liberty ideas for them. That, of course, would be a form of coercion. Thus the U.S. federal government continues to increase its secular power even in the face of magnificent defense of liberty. Something is missing. What’s missing is that internalization of ideas of genuine liberty and the zest for independence, plus the energy to carry it forward, among the masses.

Second … and with this we return to some unfortunately difficult philosophical and theological notions (did we ever really leave them?) … is the realization that finite human reasoning will never be sufficient to decide between the two worldviews. I believe that however it develops — if it develops — Fifth Stage Christianity will be presuppositional, drawing upon a specific apologetic of the sort theologians such as Cornelius Van Til have supplied.

Let me cite the philosophers and theologians from the various past stages to support this thesis.

From medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (Stage Two) we inherit the idea that a rational God — the foundational Logos (John 1:1) — created a rational universe, including ourselves, with a capacity for reason, and therefore both for knowledge that (episteme) and knowledge how to (techne): science and technology, neither of which would make rational sense otherwise. In other words, the idea of a rational God as Creator stands as the cornerstone of the very idea that physical nature is intelligible, and can be tamed through technology.

From the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (Stage Two) we inherit the idea that our reason is essentially limited to the world of space and time. Our “categories of the understanding” are simply not designed to address such questions as the existence of a supreme being or the beginning of space and time. It follows that we cannot, in principle, really understand supernatural events such as the Resurrection or states of affairs such as the Holy Trinity (God in Three Persons). Hence reason alone, whether all by its lonesome or acting on empirical information, unless founded on a presupposition or first premise to the contrary, is going to drift towards a de facto materialism because it while it can accept what it sees, smells, and touches, it finds discussion of a “realm” outside of space and time to be rationally unintelligible.

The first philosopher, I suspect, to grasp fully the impact of our limitations to the world of space, time, and human experience (including human suffering) was Søren Kierkegaard, the “melancholy Dane” (proto Stage Four). Part of his “subjective theory of religious truth” involved repudiating the idea that we could “reason” our way to God, as in, e.g., the teleological argument (or argument from design). Such arguments, he believed, would be more apt to provoke doubt than belief. In the end, there’s still no proof — not even a reason to believe the “laws of nature” won't change in the future and obliterate our convictions about them! (Maybe Kierkegaard had read Hume. Or maybe not.)

From Friedrich Nietzsche we inherit the full realization of where the philosophical rejection of God would take civilization: to a “revaluation of all values.” Nietzsche was a full-fledged Fourth Stage thinker in my sense. He warned of the “advent of nihilism” which the 20th century fully brought to fruition with its wars, the most destructive the world had ever seen; its acts of genocide; and the rise to dominance of the superelite whose ancestors had realized that the road to power over nations was through control over their monetary and financial systems. In 1913, this resulted in the U.S. Federal Reserve System. The rest, we might say, is history. In the 19th century, moral philosophers (especially the utilitarian school) had supported the idea of meliorism: science, technology and education will all make us better persons in the moral sense. They might even help us perfect ourselves! It seems to this writer that the 20th century has laid utter waste to this notion, although a few nutty transhumanists still appear to believe it!

Nietzsche, more than Kierkegaard, worked out both the ethical and some of the epistemological consequences of the rejection of a God who created a rational world order: there becomes no fundamental reason to see this world as rational or the events in it as explicable! First modern existentialism, especially in modern literature, and then postmodernism across many “academic disciplines” worked out many of the consequences of the idea that the world is not rational. For the latter, even those not obsessed with race-based or gender-based collective grievance, claims to knowledge or truth are easily “deconstructed” as power-motivations (which, sometimes, in a civilization bent in the direction of materialism, they are! The internalized philosophy becomes self-fulfilling!).

After Comte, professional philosophy largely fled the “big questions” in favor of analysis and has hid out ever since in academia. Theologians such as Cornelius Van Til bring us back in the only way possible: through the first premise, or presupposition, of a holy God who is perfect in every respect, is supernatural in transcending spatiotemporal physical nature (leaving aside the myriad debates over “transcendence” and “immanence”), is all-knowing in a manner we, as finite beings, are incapable of understanding with our reason and so must either embrace the first premise or not, and has revealed Himself to human beings in Scripture.

What helps us accept this first premise as a basis for a Fifth Stage Christianity? Perhaps, for those who have studied the history and examined the failures of political systems, just the realization that Western civilization has tried the contrary premise, either assuming that God does not exist or (what amounts to the same thing) dismissing the question as of no importance. We see the consequences all around us — as financial systems threaten to go down in flames and latent totalitarianism rears its ugly head in, of all places, the United States of America (the first nation to be founded explicitly on the principles of liberty and of Constitutionally limited government). We see, that is, the consequences of not having institutions or a population with a moral center, having internalized (however imperfectly) basic Christian principles. The modern world seems to be growing increasingly mean, and brutal — and we have to remind ourselves that a certain level of meanness and brutality has been part of the warp and woof of human life for all of history. Western civilization and its “capitalistic” institutions had begun to lead the way out of our likely “default” status; now, as these institutions crumble under the weight of secular materialism, our “default” status is increasingly coming back!

I submit in conclusion that materialism was a Third Stage (and, in its own way, a Fourth Stage) worldview and perspective. It will have no place in the Fifth Stage except as history — in the form of studies on what not to believe, and as a warning to those who will come after us. An attempt to continue it, as many intellectuals are wont to do, will ensure that there will be no Fifth Stage, which would be most unfortunate.

As we move into the future, let us celebrate Easter tomorrow in full and open realization that what we are celebrating is something truly miraculous — the supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Let us embrace the Christian worldview that this both presupposes and supplies for our lives.

Did you enjoy this essay? If so, please consider supporting this work by making a donation. Thank you in advance.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

On the Marketability (or Lack of) of Philosophy. Or: Philosophy As Worldview Oversight

[Note to those who have asked, “When are you going to post more about your life in Chile?” A promise: somewhere down the pike, perhaps on the weekend of my one-year anniversary in this place, I will post on what there is to like about Chile versus what I dislike—in light of the fact that any place one chooses is going to have definite plusses and definite minuses. It’s not Utopia here; although while I was away in the South I saw sights that could easily be taken for slices of Utopia! And I don't have to worry about a SWAT team or drone coming my way for having said politically incorrect things about the Obama regime’s latest caper or Homeland Security’s latest weapons purchase. Hopefully this will do for now—as a kind of teaser.]

Recently I was offered something I’d hoped and prayed for—a philosophy teaching job in Chile, with the bulk of the lecture to be offered in English (Spanish on PowerPoints), my first since arriving in Santiago slightly over eight months ago. Not to belabor this, but naturally I sent out an announcement to my network and chanced to include the salary—low, possibly due in part to the need to pay some new dues in a location where I am hardly a known quantity (yet)—but also possibly due just to philosophy’s not being a priority item at the institution (Universidad de Santiago de Chile—USACH) any more than it is at any major university in the U.S. Moreover, it’s just one course, suggesting that this is just a first step and not a final state of affairs (whatever that might turn out to be—full-time at a good-paying private institution would be the ideal, of course). At least one recipient of my announcement did a quick comparison between the CLP and the USD given the exchange rate of the day and offered the opinion that my pay was a slave wage not different from the adjunct wages I’d visibly walked away from in the States. The matter triggered a brief flurry of email exchanges, whose focus was on the marketability of philosophy—here or anywhere. Having some pressing business to attend to, I didn’t participate, but made a few mental notes. Those notes evolved into the present essay. My focus here: to what extent is the low pay awarded the professor of a philosophy course (as opposed to a course in, say, economics, or in chemistry, or in engineering) a reflection of the market, and to what extent does it reflect other matters—e.g., university politics, or the still larger cultural ambience of disdain for, or hostility to, philosophy, a discipline which among other things, ought to encourage critical thinking which often means distrust of the kind of authority that says, “X is true because I say so,” the subtext of quite a number of decisions by governments these days.

Is it a “bad thing” in some sense that philosophy pays less in universities than those other subjects? Wasn’t philosophy once at the core of a well-rounded education, and should this matter here, one of our concerns being the role philosophy ought to play in the civilization of the future—the Fifth Stage, if there is to be one?

Since this essay is long, let me state its envisioned role for philosophy at the outset. Philosophers consciously taking civilization towards its Fifth Stage, if it can be made to happen, will be worldview overseers; their enterprise, one of worldview oversight: identification, precise and clear formulation, development if necessary, and critical evaluation of worldviews as cultural artifacts within civilization, entities that will often be tacit (implicit, aside, possibly, from specific religious views or stated assumptions of science). A worldview, as explained in previous entries, is a comprehensive set of beliefs about what kind of world this is (what reality is like, fundamentally), how we as human beings fit in, and what kind of beings we are, at base. It provides a set of answers for what we should do based on its diagnosis of problems within our civilization and suggests remedies, themselves open to scrutiny and evaluation—including rejection if they turn out to be uninformed or misguided.

All of which implies that the philosopher should be more than an academic micro-specialist. He or she should know some science, some technology, some history, something of economics, something of business even (if a philosopher can by some chance learn to operate a business successfully, he is ahead in this endeavor!).

To be sure, this is not what philosophy is today. Today you will find a Stephen Hawking stating as he did recently in The Grand Design (2010) that “philosophy is dead.” If it is dead, it most assuredly cannot subsist at the core of education, traditional or otherwise. One thing should be clear, easily understood within our Stages of Civilization framework: the “queen of the sciences” has indeed abdicated her throne. In Auguste Comte’s Third Stage, philosophy is replaced by science, taking us to positions like Hawking’s. As we’ve noted previously, Comte could not have foreseen that Stage Three would be replaced by Stage Four (except, of course, for those remaining in the hard sciences like Hawking, or a few others working in, e.g., evolutionary biology such as Richard Dawkins). It was during Stage Three’s rise—amidst a triumphant Newtonian empire in physics, the emergence of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection in biology, the appearance of such new areas as Freud’s psychoanalysis, etc.—that philosophy all-but-voluntarily stepped aside in favor of the idea that the sciences alone yield truth about the world. (This very statement is not a scientific claim, but never mind that just now.) With the fall of the Newtonian empire—at the hands of Einstein, the emergence of quantum-mechanical reality, and all that’s happened since—one would think that the door to philosophy’s comeback would be opened wide. The realization that a lot of what we thought represented edifices of “objective knowledge” or “universal truth” had failed to stand only provided source materials for hundreds of specialized doctoral dissertations and dust-gathering journal articles. Meanwhile, Stage Three was replaced—culturally, educationally, spiritually—by Stage Four: roughly speaking, the Postmodern Stage (key philosophical representatives: Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty; other useful names to drop include Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas S. Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Jean Baudrillard).

Stage Four, in other words, has retained philosophy’s abdication. Within the general strictures of postmodernism, philosophy remains an academic decoration—along with the rest of the humanities. It elucidates power relationships instead of the rationality of science or confused uses of language (the standby of the tradition that grew out of Wittgensteinian analysis). Its denizens use phrases like structures of domination. They emphasize history’s victims (usually women and minorities) as against victimizers (white men—never mind the fact that white men invented civilization in the first place). Stage Four postmodernist philosophy is clueless about real power. It never mentions the City of London or the Fabian Society or the Bank for International Settlements or the Federal Reserve System. What it does emphasize is the local, the particular, the specific, in all things; its major writers find such concepts as objectivity unintelligible; they warn against any attempts to elucidate the nature of, e.g., Truth with a capital T (Rorty offers a good case study in the massive introductory essay of his Consequences of Pragmatism, 1981). Stage Four epistemology—if one can call it that—eschews viewing commonplace truths (“snow is white,” “cruelty is wrong”) as amounting to more than cultural consensus, exemplars of solidarity instead of objectivity. This, of course, hardly seems worth serious pay—even in university settings—when there is real work to be done! Small wonder that philosophy is not marketable, if this is the best that it can produce! There are a few writers—I have known several—who would insist that philosophy can be marketable, because it has been. They would point to Ayn Rand, whose philosophical novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) certainly proved marketable; not just did they sell well (they continue to sell well), but now they’ve both been made into major film productions. Rand’s nonfiction essays have also been widely read—to an extent far greater than that of any academic philosopher. Every so often her ideas garner new attention—a few years ago, when Alan Greenspan discussed his supposed debt to her in his book The Age of Turbulence (2007), and most recently, when Paul Ryan—Mitt Romney’s choice for running-mate—cited her as an inspiration (I do not believe either one understood her). Articles both celebrating and bashing Rand appeared both in print media and online.

Most academic philosophers, of course, dismiss Rand out of hand—often with a sneering belligerence sufficiently out of proportion to her actual influence in American society (she’s hardly up there with Madonna, after all, or even Suzanne Somers!) that one suspects an envy for which she had no patience. Rand’s writings appealed to a certain segment of the population: realistic, business-focused, enjoying new technology, psychologically oriented towards independence and economic self-sufficiency, and intelligent enough to appreciate a need for a thoughtful and systematic justification for modern capitalism. Some of these people are intellectuals in any reasonable sense of this term; they just aren’t professional intellectuals in universities or “think tanks.” All of which has to lead a fair-minded person to suspect that the problem of the marketability of philosophy isn’t with philosophy as such but with the kind of philosophy that developed within Stage Three and became ensconced in the higher-educational bureaucracy: micro-specialized, esoteric, remote from “real world” problems and issues—and by its very nature unable to identify and challenge real power systems or structures of domination in the world (philosophers who do so openly will find themselves quickly weeded out in an academic search as “conspiracy nuts”!). Some will object that whatever else one says, Rand’s Objectivism as a systematic philosophy wasn’t very good, that it was simplistic and uninformed about its own historical antecedents including an unacknowledged debt to Nietzsche, that it wasn’t addressed to her fellow philosophers but to the public, and that it was strawmannish and occasionally juvenile in its dismissal of historically important thinkers (e.g., one of her essays characterizes Kant as the “first hippie”). This characterization isn’t entirely wrong, but it is exaggerated, and begs a question: should philosophy be written exclusively for specialists or an educated wide audience? This depends on what problems we view philosophy as needed to solve—what problems philosophy is uniquely able to formulate and address—and suggests that we need a different approach than the academic one whatever evaluation we accord Rand’s philosophy.

Please allow me to digress further. (Hopefully I can be forgiven for the complexity and unwieldiness here—but the problem we are grappling with really does have a lot of facets.) Those who know me really well, know I have a strong interest in the music, life, and thinking of Brian Eno: British musician, experimental composer, producer, visual artist, activist, and occasional essayist (author of “The Long Now” unfortunately only available online in a shortened version, from which the San Francisco-based Long Now Foundation took its name). Where does a British musician fit in here? In interviews given long ago—and as reported in David Sheppard’s biography On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno (2008)—Eno relates that formative experience that shaped him—well-intended criticism of his interest in art that came from someone he respected as a somewhat precocious teenager, wondering why someone with his intelligence want to waste it becoming an artist. Let’s look at it:

[The criticism] set a question going in my mind that has always stayed with me, and motivated a lot of what I’ve done: what does art do for people, why do people do it, why don’t we only do rational things, like design better engines? And because it came from someone I very much respected, that was the foundation of my intellectual life.
Many of Brian Eno’s “fans” will see him with the lens through which they would view any “rock musician”: a former member of the British art rock band Roxy Music who then went on to pen his own skewed tunes with names like “Baby’s On Fire.” Eno should not be regarded as an intellectual dilettante, however (in my humble opinion). He’s read his way through some weighty material—in systems theory applied to organizations (Stafford Beer’s Brain of the Firm, 1973,for example), a possible biological basis for the arts (e.g., Morse Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior and the Arts (1965), and a great deal of political theory in addition to his interactions with other recognized avant garde composers such as John Cage. His approach to music actually reflects a strong preoccupation with the use of systems to generate and maintain creativity—creating musical systems that will “run themselves” and develop without the composer’s continued interference. Many of his recordings, with names like Music for Airports (1979) and Generative Music 1 (1996)—available only as computer software since the tracks are intended to come out different with each play—reflect this preoccupation.

So what’s the big deal here? What does any of this have to do with philosophy, much less its marketability?

I encountered Eno in the mid-1970s as a university undergraduate as just another art-rock musician (I was a maniac record collector at the time); then I encountered his ideas through interviews in music magazines (late-1970s, early-1980s), and determined to remember quotes such as the above. They apply to philosophy no less than they do to art! Perhaps they apply even more! What does philosophy do for those of us who “like” it, who were drawn to it? What should it do for civilization that art and poetry can’t do? Why shouldn’t we apply the formal-logical and critical-thinking skills available in philosophy to practical problems such as writing useful software (“designing better machines”)? Does it have anything to contribute to an advanced civilization—a Secular City (to use Harvey Cox’s provocative term from his 1965 book)? In an advanced civilization, the dominant forms of life are technical / technological and specialized; many organizations will tend to be large, complex, and global in scope; hierarchy will be omnipresent; the “business of business will be business” as the breadwinning denizens of the expanding Secular City focus on earning their livings and supporting their families.

In this environment, ethics tends to be utilitarian in a broad, tacit sense (it is interesting that several leading Austrian school economists, e.g., Ludwig von Mises, were utilitarians, not Randian rational egoists). It should be no mystery why pragmatism (later: neo-pragmatism) became, and has remained, the distinctively American philosophy. For there is a sense in which pragmatism and neo-pragmatism are “nonphilosophies”: even more than logical positivism, they are expressions of the collective mentality of the Secular City which has set philosophy aside when there is “real work to be done.” In this light, again: is there any wonder why philosophy isn’t considered marketable, and why even in universities, philosophy teachers tend to be the lowest paid of all adjuncts (although strangely, English teachers tend to be paid even worse)? Thus for philosophers anyway—the role philosophy either does or should play in civilization is of some urgency. I hope to make the case that a role for philosophy in helping guide the civilization of the future is also of interest. If mainstream academic philosophers will not do this work, then others must.

For it is also clear: academic philosophy is aging and dying. The youngest academic philosopher of historical significance, Saul Kripke, is in his 70s. Without going into details that would extend this essay indefinitely, the majority of the “work” being done by younger generations holds out little hope for contributing to the future: I just don’t see efforts by radical feminists preoccupied with finding masculine domination over feminine nature in science as helping much in making the case for the value of philosophy (as opposed to being a queen-sized embarrassment!).

The hostile job market, mentioned briefly above, has surely also exacted effects here, effects that almost no one has examined. Very bright and potentially talented philosophers have doubtless looked at their own marketability as prospective Ph.D.s and gone elsewhere (into computer science, for example). The field has thus suffered from a “brain drain.” Most poorly paid adjuncts who stuck it out and received their Ph.D.s are too busy trying to survive to write good philosophy—with survival often meaning dissembling and pretending to be politically correct while seeing clearly the fundamental irrationalism of political correctness. Many eventually decide they can’t do it. They leave academia, furthering the “brain drain.”

These problems for the future of academic philosophy, however weighty in their own terms, do not quite get to the heart of an important matter. Academia itself—the environment that nurtured Stage Three logical positivism and philosophical analysis and then Stage Four postmodernism and political correctness—may come to be seen as increasingly outmoded, the product of an earlier age, as civilization moves forward. Higher education, including philosophy, is now more easily dispensed online for those inclined to do so (the results are sometimes awkward but I expect this will disappear as technology improves and brings more and more of the features of the traditional classroom into the virtual classroom, including people on different continents interacting in real time on Webinars, using Skype, etc., as if they were in the same room). New educational forms of life will emerge, and we can’t predict what they will do. They won’t play by the “rules” of older forms—preoccupied with curricula and degrees. Philosophy must move forward into this environment while looking at it—both as observer and as participant—if it is to contribute. Perhaps if God establishes His Kingdom on Earth, philosophy will not be necessary. But unless, or until, that happens, I believe civilization will suffer if the specific correctives and guidance philosophy can offer never develop. What correctives and guidance are we talking about? We come at last to our main thesis about philosophy as worldview overseer.

First, what conditions render philosophy both possible and useful, and what it has contributed when these conditions were satisfied? Philosophy needed—it is true—to separate itself from dogmatic religion, for no reason other than dogmatic religion is inherently authoritarian. Philosophy cannot really exist in a Stage One cultural environment. It can only develop and flourish when civilization has developed enough to support a plurality of opinions—which admittedly may mean nothing more than an inability of authorities to stamp out competing points of view. Such conditions existed amongst the ancient Greeks, which is why we had not just Plato and Aristotle but also Stoics, Epicureans, and others. Philosophers could ask, within their communities and generally for posterity, questions of better versus worse ethically, epistemically, politically, existentially. This brought into focus realizations that logical norms, evidential relations, ethical values, etc., existed in some sense independently of either individuals or priestly authorities or political ones. Philosophers were in a position to begin formulating and evaluating the prevailing worldviews in their surrounding civilizations. They could develop them, defend them (or criticize them) with arguments, apply them further, etc.—even if their methods were largely a priori. Thus arose Stage Two civilization. Its greatest achievements: the systems developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and others without whom early modern science might never have developed—or might have developed centuries later. Science and technology do, after all, have a philosophical foundation and basis! They require their practitioners to begin with certain very general assumptions about the world we inhabit—that events in the world manifest order and not randomness however random they may seem! Absent those assumptions—which came about primarily in the West—there will be no motivation to do science, or develop new technologies! (Quantum indeterminacy might suggest counter-considerations, but these will have to wait for another time.)

We’ve previously seen how, under Stage Three, philosophy became a “handmaiden to the sciences” as the latter advanced. By the time Comte was writing, it made at least some sense to say that the natural sciences were the future intellectually, and that meliorism ought to be the guiding assumption of a utilitarian ethos. Philosophers would have to content themselves with the reduced role of analysts (or bad psychologists—the view most analysts had of existentialism, already jumping the gun on Stage Four). This modest, reduced role for philosophy fitted the enterprise nicely into the emerging bureaucratic structure of the modern university. This role led to its above-described abdication. Philosophy ceded its intellectual authority to science—which in turn, as historians and sociologists of science have shown in great detail—owed more to the authority of monied interests than its practitioners cared to see. (The cynical remark that cognitive science consists of six academic disciplines in search of grant money does, after all, have some basis in reality.)

Stage Four thinking turned philosophy from handmaiden to potential critic of the sciences, occasionally seeing them as one form of life among many and hardly deserving of dominance (Feyerabend). Unfortunately, with the collapse of the job market and the rise of political correctness, nothing of the sort happened. Philosophy became a handmaiden to the political agenda (“the personal is the political” is a mantra of radical feminists).

A few philosophers married the historicism of Kuhn and Feyerabend to positive science; captivated by new findings in neurophysiology, they theorized that perhaps our commonsense descriptions of ourselves as beings with beliefs, etc., have no more basis in reality than Ptolemaic astronomy, that they characterize a “folk psychology,” and that we should become eliminative materialists (see works such as Paul Churchland’s Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind, 1979) and Patricia Smith Churchland’s Neurophilosophy, 1981, as definitive statements of these proposals; interestingly, both Feyerabend and Rorty defended versions of eliminative materialism in early papers). Worldviews as beliefs held tacitly within a cultural consensus would be, of course, utterly mysterious to an eliminativist—linguistic products of a “folk sociology,” one might call it. This notwithstanding, is it not clear to the most bleary-eyed that eliminative materialism is no less a worldview (or part of one) than any other form of materialism? Pointing out the logical paradox involved in stating the belief that beliefs, worldviews, etc., have no real existence—a staple of eliminative materialism—is something philosophy can certainly do that is very specific. In fairness, this issue has been raised several times in the literature—I know of one philosopher who took it seriously enough to try to refute it—but it refuses to go away.

What philosophy can do in its effort to serve as a corrective and a guide for the civilization of the future is what it has always done best: identify and formulate the prevailing worldview, and then subject it to rigorous testing: is it logically consistent or self-referentially inconsistent? Is it consistent with fact, to the best we can tell (and there is, of course, room for differences of opinion)? Perhaps most importantly: is it helping us or harming us? That is: is it bringing us increasingly into harmony with each other and with our surroundings, or is it damaging all our relationships? Is it helping us accept and further our lives as they are in the world as it is, distinguishing what we ought to change from what we must accept because of our nature and because of how reality works? These questions precede specific decisions about what kind of worldview we ought to embrace versus what we should reject. (While I believe we should reject materialism in all forms, this is a separate thesis I will not argue for here.)

Many writers—some of them academic philosophers—need to bash Ayn Rand. Some of the specifics raised by her critics may be valid—I’m not arguing that issue one way or the other here, either. The point I would make is that Rand’s philosophy did the above. It was comprehensive and systematic. It placed value on logical consistency. It is not self-refuting. Rand offered Objectivism as solving a problem of the first magnitude: a philosophical justification for capitalism that (she argues) capitalism did not have and without which it would be destroyed, taking civilization down with it (a major theme, obviously, of Atlas Shrugged). It laid out a worldview: a perspective incorporating a metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of government and of economics for how human beings could both compete and cooperate harmoniously, based on a set of premises about our nature as rational agents of volitional consciousness to the rest of a reality of objects with determinate natures of their own.

And Miss Rand’s philosophy turned out to be marketable! Is this a test of its truth? Of course not. But clearly it resonated within our particular civilization in the grip of Stage Three. It met a need. It solved problems, for those who perceived capitalism’s absence of a philosophical foundation as a problem (to my mind, Mises offers the best sense of what constitutes a problem: whatever prompts unease in a person and motivates the person to consider action to relieve the unease; cf. his discussion in Human Action, 1949). Conditions have changed considerably since Rand’s writings. But the problem of how to take civilization forward—how to get past the present terminal adolescence of perpetual war, empire building (economic as well as political), the destructive idea that central banks can print and governments can spend their way into sustainable prosperity, the problem of how to balance competing claims of personal freedom and sustainable liberty as a societal phenomenon, and what to do about claims that present-day civilization is out of harmony with the natural environment on which it ultimately depends (a core contention of anthropogenic climate change arguments).

These are all problems that cry out for the sort of work philosophers can do as worldview overseers. Could such philosophy be marketable? I don’t know. If enough people with educations were able to learn of it, and find that it solves problems in their lives, or in matters of public policy regarding war, government untruths, the environment, etc., all going beyond matters of mere economic sustenance—if it could be seen as guiding a lost world back towards genuine flourishing—than I could see philosophy as worldview oversight as marketable. At the very least, it seems worthwhile to make a sustained effort to find out!

Did you enjoy this essay? Do you believe the work it calls for is worthy of support? If so, and if you can afford it, please consider making a donation. Any size will do.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Fifth Stage of Civilization: Proposed Introduction 2013

Greetings from Santiago, Chile. This is the present draft of the Introduction to a work that I fully expect will occupy years, given the environment in which it will be researched and written (doing a small business, teaching, possibly looking after an elderly person although that remains to be seen at this point). Labors of love are like that. This is something more than a labor of love, however. It is not self-love, surely; nor it is simply the enjoyment of writing, although I do. It is with a sense of urgency that I write--a sense of urgency that the larger civilization of the West, with which I tend to identify, is gradually slipping away as the years pass. As I've often said, looking at the U.S., it is not the country I grew up in. I don't think Western civilization as a whole, with its aggregate uncertainty and anxiety, is the place it was 60 years ago during the post-war years--although there were storm clouds on the horizon then if you knew what to look for (the prevailing philosophy & especially the literature). We've seen the advent of nihilism Nietzsche warned about over a hundred years ago, but not any "new values" he urged be created. Professional philosophy, unfortunately, is barely aware that there is a problem.

There are some small scale signs of good things happening, however. There are people beginning from where we are now and forging ahead. A few institutions are either in the business of thinking creatively about the future (The Long Now Foundation comes to mind), or in creating new educational dynamics that bypass existing ones that are proving inadequate (I have been watching an enterprise due to launch here in Santiago in three months called Exosphere). And then there are TED talks, of course, always creative, colorful, and thought-provoking. So there is activity. Where this activity will lead is, of course, something none of us can know for sure. However, every large scale positive development began with a small scale venture, and today's small scale ventures have something their ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest dreams: the Internet. Yet we've a lot of inertia and negativity to overcome. Perhaps this is the nature of the sort of endeavor we have embarked upon: moving, however haltingly, from Stage Four, a stage characterized by skepticism and negativity, to Stage Five, characterized by-- Well, that's still a bit hard to describe in any detail at this point, but evidence is emerging, even here in Chile, that the dynamics of several systems are riding in essentially the right direction.


The purpose of this project is unabashedly to reach for a “big idea” about civilization and develop it.

Such an effort may seem at first glance quixotic and outlandish—even pretentious—but there is everything to gain from making the attempt.

Western civilization faces a crisis of major proportions. We can try to turn away, but the crisis is there. The crisis spans the global economy and is wreaking havoc within national economies, but is far more than merely economic. Our political systems appear to be broken. We are more divided than ever before, as our “leaders” answer not to their peoples but to corporations and pressure groups of various sorts, some of whose irresponsible activities were responsible for precipitating the crisis. Those who refuse to bow to these powerful interests, however, are consigned to oblivion. They may have followings, but no capacity to initiate the necessary fundamental changes. Our educational systems appear equally ineffective. There is, however, something to the allegation that our schools, from elementary up through university, were designed for another age. Charged with “educating” youth for the “jobs of the future” which change annually, even if we accept this vocational model of education we may be asking from them the impossible, at least given their current credentials-centered structure and tendency toward specialism. Our religious “leaders” appear unable to help; many, over the past several decades, have been exposed as charlatans. Perplexed and bewildered, many have turned aside. Philosophers, with rare exceptions, have retreated into invisibility in a culture and marketplace that sees little use for the “free play of ideas.”

Even confidence in the sciences has broken down, not just in their ability to bring about a better human world but in their capacity to deliver value-neutral truth at all. It is not just a cliché that we now inhabit a postmodern world—a world where all is in flux and nothing is stable. This kind of theme permeates the arts, literature, music, TV and film, fashion, cuisine, you-name-it. Media messages scream at us from all sides with the latest you-must-haves. In this world some cling to technology as savior (and employer!) while others see many of our technologies as having jeopardized the very ecosystems on which the sustainability of life itself depends. Fearing cataclysmic breakdown, some have become “preppers,” storing food, clean water, other goods, against a future that isn’t what it used to be! Most people, of course, are less apocalyptic in their outlooks, but nevertheless see the West as in decline and expect U.S. influence to wane in the future—as its people face ever greater struggles to secure the necessities of life.

Where do we go from here? This essay tries to wrestle with this question in a fresh and bold way—in the spirit that again, given the trouble we are in, we have everything to gain from the attempt!

What’s the plan? First, a multitude of writers—philosophers of history and sociology mainly, but also others—have tried to grasp and lay out sweeping “laws of history.” While the present writer sees this phrase as a misnomer, the idea is compelling. Auguste Comte developed the most visible effort with his Law of the Three Stages, which saw the ushering in of an age of science (and technology) as the path to a quasi-utopian order—or, at least, an order allowing a quality of human life vastly superior to all that had gone before. The Comtean vision, one might call it, envisioned a world of advancing science and technology and moral meliorism as we improved social, political and educational institutions with the thought that these could actually make us better human beings.

Today, in the wake of world wars, the breakdown of so-called democratic institutions, the fear of environmental calamity, and the sense that would-be dictators are just waiting to pick up the pieces of the looming fiscal holocaust, we are clearly in a position to see where this vision was wrong—the postmodern world has ushered in a “Fourth Stage,” we will come to call it. This stage is characterized by what some believe to be a devastating critique of all that went before, especially the Comtean vision. The present writer believes the West must get past Stage Four as a condition of civilization's long term survival—and reach a Fifth Stage of Civilization. Unfortunately, we are hardly able to do more than sketch where we should go, or what the Fifth Stage of Civilization will look like. Marx, of course, couldn’t describe Communism, so our position is hardly novel! And surely, given the past century, we can build in proscriptions that will prevent the Fifth Stage from becoming another example of the sort of dictatorship that rose to power during the twentieth century!

There has long been a consciousness of the role of systems in the world and in human life. This consciousness also goes well back into the twentieth century, and almost constitutes a parallel development. This project seeks to tap into this development, and thus “peer beyond” postmodernity into deep systematicity: both by examining how we got here (Auguste Comte’s Law of the Three Stages), considering how the cultures of science, technology and corporatism have broken our confidence in our institutions and in ourselves, and then inviting readers to envision a future which seeks to harness the best and avoiding the worst of what came before. What were best in what came before? Hope, principle, freedom of action, faith, courage, the willingness to innovate, and a devotion to humanly important truth. What were worst? Despair, expediency, slavery, cowardice, deceit, and the lust for power (and to live at the expense of others). Given the rich material recent history supplies, we should know what to promote and what to avoid. What we do not always know are the specifics. Human ingenuity has given us what is best in the present, however. Allowed to develop unhampered, perhaps human ingenuity will give us a future, however unpredictable.

Our paradox is that however unpredictable the future, it is up to us to create it: to learn to think really well about the kind of world we would prefer to leave to our children, and to their children—and what we are willing to do to build that world. If we do not, others will do it for us. Circumstances themselves might do it for us. I’ve said that we have everything to gain by making this attempt. I’ve not said, though I will now, that we have a lot to lose by doing nothing. That is, if as some claim, Western civilization itself hangs in the balance.

Do you like what you see? Consider supporting the future of this work by making a donation.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eve of 2013

We come toward the final hours of 2012, a year of vast changes for me personally (leaving a job that wasn't idea but was stable, moving to a new country, being immersed in a different culture, beginning to learn to speak a different language, and much more besides). Whether civilization moved forward is, of course, an entirely different matter. We could single out points of promising technological advance (3D printing comes to mind); but did civilization begin to move forward past its present amalgamation of Third and Fourth Stages, or is the West in a cul-de-sac that is destined to erode. As we said in the last post, despite Comte’s use of the word law for what he believed he’d observed in historical development, there is nothing inevitable in any advance forward. History is not “law governed” in that sense. It depends on what individuals do; it depends on thought leaders who emerge, if any, and what they are able to accomplish.

This past week has seen any number of predictions for 2013. These are hazardous, of course, if taken too seriously. None of us has a crystal ball. A few writers (e.g., here) have looked back on their predictions for 2012 and, to their credit, honestly noted their misses as well as the occasional direct hit. Anyone who predicted total economic collapse in 2012, however, missed it by a mile, obviously; such predictions reinforced my commitment to gradualism (the idea that if decline occurs, it will occur in slow stages, as was the case with the Roman Empire) as opposed to apocalypticism (the idea that we’ll see a relatively sudden and unstructured collapse, with cities in flames, riots in the streets, etc., etc.). My position: the latter is not impossible, of course; just not as likely as the former. The U.S.’s masses are, by and large, content as long as they have sports, reality television, hand-held gadgets, and the calming voices of mainstream media pseudo-pundits even when crises erupt.

So in that spirit, here are my predictions for 2013. Take them for what they are worth. I am not predicting revolution. My predictions are modest. I don’t consider them the product of genius. I consider them common horse sense.

(1) The standard of living in the U.S. has been dropping and will continue to drop. This both has had and will continue to have several causes. First, Ben Bernanke’s QE-to-infinity money creation machine will continue to undermine the value of the dollar; Congress will continue to approve whatever Helicopter Ben does. Only a small amount of the newly created money will enter the general economy, of course; most will go into the coffers of superelite-controlled banking leviathans. Otherwise we would already have seen waves of inflation beyond anything yet recorded. But prices of food, fuel, and other consumer goods in the U.S. have been rising steadily alongside QE’s 1 and 2, and will continue to rise. Taxes will also rise in 2013; this is a given.

(2) Real unemployment—that is, the actual figure (reported, to the best of my knowledge, only on—will continue to rise, possibly surpassing 25%. This will be the case even if the “official” (U3) figure drops. The “official” figure, after all, counts a person as unemployed only if he is out of work and has sought work within the past four weeks. Otherwise he drops off the radar. I continue to be amazed that so many Americans are so hypnotized that they repeat the “official” figure mechanically and see the U.S. economy as improving, however slightly, when the “official” figure drops from 7.9% to 7.7%. Exacerbating both unemployment and underemployment (both part-timers who cannot find full-time work and those with college degrees who are working at jobs not requiring degrees, e.g., as bartenders, bouncers, etc., because those are the only jobs they could find) will be Obama-care as more of its provisions kick in starting in January. Were I making predictions past 2013 and further down the pike, I would say that eventually we will see shortages of doctors, as those who can do so will take early retirement to escape a system controlled by the federal government (operating through Medicare and Medicaid) and the insurance and pharmaceuticals industries. Young people smart enough to read the handwriting on the wall will not go into the medical professions.

(3) Assuming Obama and/or the liberals in Congress cannot get significant gun control legislation passed, I predict we will see at least one more massacre of the Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. level. It will be a false flag, as those very likely were—I call them false flags because of specifics regarding these cases (countless links to material online on my Facebook page) that do not add up, and in some cases do not make any rational sense however we look at them. (Look here and here.) A strong anti-gun contingent will emerge within the general population. Whether this contingent will effect actual gun control remains to be seen. I will not predict that it will, only that the stage will be set for a possible violent confrontation, because there are a lot of people scattered throughout the Southwest, in the Northwest, and elsewhere, who will refuse to give up their firearms. If pressed, some will organize and prepare to shoot back if that’s what it comes to. Decisions will have to be made on who will back down. I am not any too sure it will be private gun owners, who recognize that a disarmed citizenry is at the mercy of both its own criminal class and its own government (sometimes the two are difficult to distinguish!). Behind the scenes: there are powerful people who would like to see a totally disarmed U.S. citizenry. Their variation on my Fifth Stage is World Government, not World Liberty. They realize that World Government is impossible as long as a Constitution with a Second Amendment is in force, with people willing to use force to defend the ideals represented in those documents.

(4) Foreign wars will continue on scales small enough to remain manageable, as in Syria. We will see continued skirmishes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and probably on the African continent with U.S. troops moving in down there now. All this continued ill-advised interventionism will cost money, of course, and will drive the U.S. national debt still higher. It will probably surpass $17 trillion by December 31, 2013. (Real indebtedness is, of course, much, much higher.) I am not going to predict a head-on confrontation with Iran, although an incident in the Strait of Hormuz that could precipitate such a confrontation is not impossible. I don’t think the global superelite wants such a confrontation; it’s simply too dangerous, given that Iran would likely have the backing of both Russia and China. The global superelite is not going to authorize any confrontation or event that could cause them to lose control over the situation, resulting in the sort of all-out war that could have them presiding over a radioactive wasteland!

(5) The Liberty Movement will still be around, but with Ron Paul’s retirement from Congress (his Farewell Address deserves to be listened to and read over and over again), it is ever in danger of being increasingly marginalized in 2013 if it does not develop some new strategies. The present ones have not been working. The libertarian wing within the GOP was ineffective against the brazen power-playing of the neocons—probably because they still believe that such decisions as who receives a presidential nomination are made rationally, in response to reasoned arguments, instead of based on lines of authority supported by habit and emotion. I wish I could predict that the Liberty Movement will learn to adopt a strategy not unlike that used successfully by the Fabians over 100 years ago: penetrate and permeate. I cannot. For starters, the Liberty Movement is fundamentally too honest for that, and in societies permeated by corruption, honesty works against you consistently. I do predict that some will take a cue from the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who advised his followers to withdraw from politics as a condition of achieving a tranquil life. The number of Liberty supporters who are moving to Chile is definitely on the increase, little by little. I have met several, three of which have already moved here and an entire family considering making the move, in just this past month. One may bemoan the fact that Liberty minded people are abandoning the U.S. If more and more such people come here, that leaves fewer and fewer to fight the good fight back home. But these people are thinking of their families, and looking at a society that may not be perfect but is well behind the rest of the West on the curve, with the hope of beginning new and better lives—historically the reasons people have always emigrated to new lands. Many people, of course, cannot afford a relocation of that magnitude. Having realized long ago that government is not their friend at any level, they will withdraw into themselves and their enclave-like communities, dealing only with each other as much as possible and having as little to do with the larger society as possible.

Where does all this leave the idea of a Fifth Stage of Civilization? I obviously will not predict that the West will discover, all at once, any Fifth Stage in 2013. The Third and Fourth Stages will continue to prevail, as so many still locked into the relevant worldviews (materialism, for example) are yet unable to conceive of the possibilities of anything higher.

But in future writings both here and hopefully elsewhere we will continue to examine the possibility of moving forward (we cannot move back, at least not systematically): away from the scientistic materialism of Stage Three and the postmodernist skepticism of Stage Four to the perspective of what would be Stage Five, based on Global Liberty (not Global Government). What might this mean? Were such a society to come to fruition, it would be characterized by freedom for the individual who wants it, who is willing to work to achieve it, and who can assume the responsibilities, moral and economic, that go along with maintaining it. On a larger scale, such a society also recognizes the Creator of all of spatiotemporal physical reality as the real Power behind the scenes. Its people would urge peace instead of war, with problems solved through careful dissection, discussion, and ongoing cooperation instead of by force. Genuine community with any hope of lasting can only be based on such premises. The Fifth Stage of Civilization may involve both the highest and most advanced technology in some of its aspects, if 3D printing indeed catches on and begins to live up to its potential; and it should also involve the “low” technology of, e.g., industrial hemp farming (most recently defended here). Hemp, after all, is one of the most versatile crops ever cultivated, and can be used to make very durable clothing as well as fuel that is environment-friendly in the sense that it burns clean and should provide the sincerely environmentally conscious with all that they need.

To be sure, however and finally, what Christians call sin will probably ever stand in our way, which only means that the struggle to create and maintain the good life, within even the highest civilization, is never complete and never to be taken for granted. The struggle never ends, in other words. My final prediction is that it will continue in 2013. I dare say this one is impossible to get wrong! The struggle for Liberty must continue! Moreover, it must be as global as the struggle to impose Authority has been. After all, all peoples deserve a chance at freedom, not just those of us fortunate enough to have been born in the U.S. In defense of these goals, and the ideals motivating them, the last thing we should ever do is give up!