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Madame Einzige: A Thematic Outline (Part 1/2)

Introduction — “Ex Nihilo”: Origins in European Nihilism — The Banality of Evil — Germany: Unified, Conquered, Divided, Occupied — Germany: The Legacy of the Statist Frankenstein —

(Written by Ismael Sarepta)

Madame Einzige is an upcoming philosophical epic Cypherpunk novel series, drawing from the author’s intense research of political science, technology, computing, philosophy, psychology — in which historical pattern is combined with speculative imagination, into a prophetic synthesis.

It is a novel series, where religious theocracies weave technologies of virtual-reality, cyberspace, and mass surveillance into State-wide system of totalitarianism, in order to magnify the holy and majestic feelings with God and Clergy;

Where disenfranchised, disillusioned, cyber-prosthetic U.S. veterans violently take up arms against a government that failed to re-integrate them into society, and failed to uphold the American values they risked their lives for;

Where socially neglected computer nerds and failed upstarts realize themselves as the medium through which democracy may defend itself — through hacktivism, and going beyond mere website vandalism to do it and discover the political empowerment of the personal computer.

[Caption: Disenfranchised young U.S. Veterans throwing away their medals during protest. Historically, discharged war veterans that have failed to be re-integrated into society have been the first to organize revolts against the State. Will the same happen to the United States in the 21st century?]It is a novel series where occult-obsessed mathematicians and computer scientists crunch combinatorial sets and sacred permutations in order to develop algorithms for self-aware, disembodied Artificial Intelligences that instantly prophecize the future from petabytes of mined Informatics data;

Where war vets and megalomaniacs form Private Military Companies, offering their services to dictators and warlords, and are paid in land, market-monopolies, drugs, and an exploitable labor force;

Where certain corporations, under the guise of faux-humanitarianism and anti-piracy (and knowing that most piracy actually takes place outside of Western nations), attempt to replace the personal computer in developing countries, by selling mass, nationwide Cloud-computing, Mainframe-like networks to these countries, enabling their governments to data-mine the Cloud for anyone deemed a dissident, criminal, revolutionary, or spy–

[Caption: Topological Map of the “Backbone” of the Internet (click to enlarge, PDF) — how much is humanity’s presence on the Web an accurate portrayal of us? How much does your online presence accurately portray you? Can the sum of humanity’s recorded interactions with a computer really be used to predict our future?] 

Madame Einzige is epic storytelling in which reality and art, analysis and imagination, science and mythopoesis, narration and reporting, blend seamlessly together for the Zeitgeist of the Third Millennium.

Art imitates life: life imitates art.

“Ex Nihilo”: Origins in European Nihilism

The origins of our protagonist, our Cypherpunk (anti-)heroine take us to the very beginnings of this postmodern era of Pax Americanaour era, following the Second World War, defined by the political and cultural ascendancy of the United States, and prevalence of what we have come loosely to understand as “free market capitalism” and “democracy”. The origins of our Cyberpunk protagonist take us to the Climax of Europe’s collective paranoid angst — that is, the Two World Wars — that angst that unwitting drove Europe’s hegemonic, imperial, nationalistic, war-hawk path to self-destruction.

[Read more]

huesoflife asked you:
Hi I happened upon your tumblr because you liked one of my posts. Your posts are very intellectually stimulating so that makes me wonder, what are some of your favorite books? Also, I noticed that you have a myriad of interests, what major did you pursue in college, if you don’t mind me asking?

Why thank you!

I apologize if this post is a little long, but do hope it will be interesting. Probably best to read it in small bites.

As you may have guessed, since I do have a very wide range of interests, it’s quite a task for me to pick out my favorite books! I do read a lot of books, but I also learn by watching lectures, documentaries, listening to audiobooks, talking to people, and even just taking what I’ve learned and applying it to experiences. I also read academic papers, encyclopedias (not just Wikipedia), or sometimes I’ll just read a chapter from a book. I think how I’ll reply to your question is that I’ll mention at subjects and bodies of work in general. Here goes—

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, especially Beyond Good and Evil, his essay called On Truth and Lies in a Non-moral Sense, and a book called The Gay Science (sometimes translated as The Joyful Wisdom). Unlike many philosophers, Nietzsche’s writings are very accessible for anyone with a pretty good command of whatever language they’re reading him in.

Among many things, Nietzsche’s work centers around highlighting the inherent dissonance between human consciousdesires, reason, and our spontaneous organic nature (actually, for Nietzsche, reason is intimately bound up in being afunction of our organic-nature selves. Same goes with our conscious desires.) Put in modern Cognitive Science/Psychology terms, he’s pointing out the dissonance and the unity of humanexecutive functions, instinct, personality characteristics, habituation, and the subconscious, but also the unity that this internal conflict leads to.

These were revolutionary ideas for the 19th century, hugely influential on Freud and the foundation of modern psychology, and still remains a prominent force in modern philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology. However, I don’t believe Nietzsche’s critique has been fully appreciated or realized by the public at large, or by science.

As well, I do like Nietzsche’s breaking downexceptionalism and the sorts of myths we tell ourselves in order to conceive of such exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is the belief that a particular group is superior because this group is totally separate from underlying patterns and conditions that affect all things — it either wasn’t effect by them, or overcame them wholly. He does a lot of critiquing ofGerman exceptionalism (he was German himself, and German nationalism was starting to pick up as a prominent political force when he was writing in the late 19th century [Germany didn’t become a unified nation until 1871]), Western Christian exceptionalism(especially Protestantism), European exceptionalism and Europe’s imperial heritage, and I think most importantly, Human exceptionalism, and our tendency to try to separate us from Nature and animals.

Yet, another major theme in Nietzsche is the universal nature and diversity of humanity, and the universal nature ofconditions and patterns that make up all organisms, including humans.

His concept of “Philosophical Genealogy” (this warrants a future essay to get into!) is also a major influence on my approach to human history, politics, and even to some extent my approach to what’s cutely being called “Big History”.

Big History is a vast interdisciplinary approach to history that looks over mass time scales of the past 14.5 billion years of the universe. It studies the evolution of physical forces, the elements and substances, the origin of life, biological systems and the biosphere, and in particular how all of this has formed human origins and history. David Christian is the main figure in this discipline — and while I’m not 100% in agreement with all of his work, I do strongly recommend his work, and I think his approach to history is just awesome.

The Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft) by Immanual Kant. This book is a dense read. It was written in the late 18th century, and it’s a critique of the philosophical-scientific traditional as it was known at the time. The main thesis of the book is pointing out that  reason, judgement, sensation, and the sorts of insight we can gather from experimentation and speculation, are entirely dependent on us as a spontaneously organized orgasm. Reason does not exist in a void — reason is conditioned by the limitations of our experience and the mind. There’s a tendency in many of us intellectual inclined to naively value this “pure reason” and totally ignore the spontaneous, non-rational conditions that make all of our experiences possible (including what we can and cannot think about) in the first place.

Of course, the Critique goes much deeper than this. It immensely influenced Albert Einstein, many scientists from the 19th century, and many Quantum scientists of the 20th. It was probably a reading inspired by Kant that got Einstein to seriously think about the nature of the Observer, and how the Observer influences the very experiment he is trying to conduct by just observing it. (Probably also some Hegel in there, and Ernst Mach.)

Unfortunately,  Kant’s work is neglected by scientists these days — which I don’t blame them for, because “professional philosophy” practiced in the academia is becoming a very, very, very pedantic and pretentious subject, filled with useless dogmatic schisms over hair-splitting trifles. There’s also a lot of hyper-specialization going on in the academia, which prevents these multi-disciplinary insights. (See my essay on this subject [link].)

But I do think Kant has some very valuable insight into modern scientific practices and investigations. For instance, we see how much emphasis is placed in science nowadays onsimulation, data-mining, and certain paradigms that neglect the influence of the observer; or how there is a tendency in science to assume a one-to-one congruency of human conception about an observable phenomenon, and with what’s actually happening. We humans — as thinking, sensing beings — are intimately part of the very experiments that we conduct, and the very patterns we try to investigate.

A reading of Kant can give us valuable insight into this… But if you’re not already into philosophy, it’s a *very* time consuming process to go back and read Kant. I don’t recommend it. You’d have to read who he’s reacting to, reinterpret him in his historical context, and view him in the light of recent developments in science and math if you want him to be a gainful read, etc etc. Basically, we need a new commentator to step up and have another look at Kant for 21st century science and math. Maybe that’ll be me in a few years 😉

Writings of Stephen Jay Gould. He does a lot of work on Evolution, especially breaking down myths about evolution (mths both by Creationists, and people who accept evolution). He does a lot to smash this notion of teleology in evolution (the view that things evolve for a purpose), and a lot of valuable insight into human nature, underlying patterns in biology, etc. He’s also a very accessible and fun read — I highly recommend all of his books!

Favorite historians are Oswald Spengler and Ibn Khaldun — not that I think they were entirely right about everything they wrote (hardly!), but their approach to history is revolutionary. They focused on the collective, aggregateresults of human nature, especially human historical and sociological behavior, as something that can be understood in a greater World-System. There is also an understanding of human civilization, or particular kinds of civilizations, as a kind of organism.

As far as literature goes, hmm. Ludimagister has reminded me how much I love Goethe. The Romantics of the early 19th century — I love their seamless mixing of philosophy, mysticism, and science. William Blake, Percy & Mary Shelley,Schiller… Many 19th century poets actually drew a lot from the scientific tradition, like Robert Frost who actually wrote quite a bit about entropy and heat-death (which arrogant English majors don’t even realize!)

Also am quite fond of political writers like Joseph Conrad,George Orwell.  Russian literature, especially Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Turgenev, Gogol.

Very fond of cyberpunk, certain science-fiction, historical fiction. And I read a lot of old religious texts and mythology.

Second part of your question:

In university, I majored specifically in Archaeology and Philosophy. (Double-major was required at the particular institution)

But I’ve been self-taught in many subjects since a very early age. As a small child, I used to spend hours at a time watch Discover Channel and TLC (back when it was aboutactually learning) on evolution, astronomy, psychology. My parents weren’t into such things, but they were into politics, so I had an early age exposure to political arguments at the dinner table. Slowly, that turned into an interest into philosophy and politics, then into history, I’ve stuck with it since.

Not to discourage others who, but at least in my particular case, university was the least productive learning experience in my entire life.

Update:

Btw, I absolutely love your art. Phenomenal astronomy work, wow, completely awe-inspiring. I highly recommend everyone to check it out! [Link to gallery]

ludimagister said (and I strongly recommend his blog. It’s quite good!):

In (hedonistic) utilitarianism, the goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. The utility of an action is defined with reference to its consequences on the senses. But, as admirers of Nietzsche, we regard pleasure and pain as accidental outcomes, we choose to ground ourselves in our Will.

Here, in existential utilitarianism, the objective is to maximize existential well-being. The utility of an action is therefore defined with reference to one’s embodied values, grand passions, and life-project—i.e. one’s Will. Instead of pleasure and pain, we focus on meaning and value (not as ‘objectively’ defined, but as defined in relation to one’s own Will). Thus, we would welcome challenges, we would seek challenges, since we seek the fulfillment of our Will. And, the ultimate success for us would be amor fati. This mindset, as a practical tool, would be useful for self-actualization, for self-becoming.

But, beware, this idea is not to be confused with existentialism. Existentialist ideas like the other, the look, bad faith, etc. are irrelevant for us—even misleading.

Any thoughts?

My reply:

The problem with Utilitarianism — and I understand here that Existential Utilitarianism you’re proposing is different the usual school of Utilitarianism, but just bare with me for a moment— is that it’s really just a disguise for the enforcement of some standard of Normativity, especially the enforcement of normative morality and normative value judgement. It assumes that every action and its moral consequence is predictable and equal. It assumes that everyone places the same value on the same things, and that everyone will interpret/react to the same things in the same way. Also assumes that everyone all has the same information available to them.

Worst of all, like many moral theories, it’s based on the biasthat the rational, level-headed, reflective mind, who has been schooled in philosophy, ethics, and the delicacies of high culture, is always there to make good moral judgement with allthe information available. It does not foresee the breakdown of the human organism under mob behavior or in the complexities of political authority. It doesn’t foresee how humans behave under indecision, stress, suffering, sickness, violence, or even less extreme states of being like leisure, happiness of the decision-maker, and removedness from the situation.

That said however…

It seems that you’re proposing spreading the gospel of self-actualization and self-sublimation — spreading the ethos of individuals becoming responsible for their own freedom, and all the awesome stuff that goes with that. This is good! We need more of this, however—-

The only problem with such movements — and I don’t mean to use you as the reference point in particular, because this is an issue inherent to the very condition of movement-making— is that it attracts droves of people who are just looking for something to identify themselves with, and who don’t actuallythink for themselves, but just follow. They may quote Nietzsche or Ayn Rand or Camus or Sartre, but their very inclination and behavior is that of the slave. They need aGroup for the sake of the Group.

In this case, the Group they will be trying to fit into is the one that takes the rhetoric of Individuality as its Group mascot/god/slogan. The rhetoric of actual individuality and self-sublimation thus becomes co-opted for the establishment of the Group, and this Group fashions its own dogma, customs, symbolism, value judgementsand creates the need for Group acceptance.

We see this happen with the individualistic movements like Objectivism and Libertarianism. We see this going on in outside of the Western world where power groups try to look “Individualistic” in the way that the West has packaged for them, in order for them to meet the West’s approval (the institutions of the State, “secularism”, etc.)

We see this in the West itself with the Walmartbranding of rebels, revolutionaries, and other free-spirits on T-shirts, pop music, the Mass Media. We see this in Western counter-culture movements like the Hippy movement, Punk, Goth, Hip-Hop, even hipsters and yuppies.

Clothing, Body modification, style, slang, language — the whole style that identifies one with one of these advertised-as Counter-Cultural, Individualistic, Rebellious groups, thisstyle become the *Normative* way to express your individuality — you may self-sublimate *only* on the terms that Society has given for you. They no longer are an actual expression of individuality — they are an expression of branding for a movement that will only declare its individuality with framework given to it by society.

(*No, I do not hate the style of these subcultures, I don’t hate art. I despise how they are co-opted and Normativized.)

“Fuck the system” isn’t wearing the t-shirt, or a tattoo, or spray-painting a graphic — that’s just advertising for the idea (or at some point it was), and advertising that gets confused for the fight for self-sublimation itself. To “fuck the system” is taking the fight directly against the institutions, and against your own self-limiting weaknesses, that are the condition of your own oppression.

Again, as I said above, this feature I just described whereIndividualism is co-opted for the Group is just the pitfalls to the very condition of group-making. It goes way back to the foundations of the first religions, cults, tribes, and societies. Humanity can be so disgustingly slavish.

In other words, slaves will be slaves. The slave has just learned to disguise themself — to deceive themself — by wearing the “Fuck the system” T-shirt only insofar as the slave has met society’s terms of what can and cannot be called adequate resistance.

But the slave is not destined to be always be slave. The slave can be liberated from this tragic cycle of slavery, and from the lies that maintain slavery.

Madame Einzige: Amor Fati

A Novel Synopsis

(Due for 2013 release, copyright© 2011, 2012 Ismael Sarepta)

Madame Einzige

In the once glorious homeland of the great spiritual-philosophers Zarathustra, Bodhidharma, and Rumi, on the frigid decaying steppes of Central Asia, amidst its bleak Modern condition of mafia-oligarchies, ruthless oil politics, extraordinary rendition torture and execution, corporate exploitation, and the proliferation of private military companies, a new Spring of Revolution breaks out.

But, unlike the Arab Spring years prior, this Central Asian Spring receives no international attention. These Eurasian States and their foreign puppet-state masters have learned from the bloody examples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, of the necessity to systematically patrol and monitor regional Internet activity for dissidence and revolutionary activity. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the multi-trillion-dollar enterprise of mass State-wide Surveillance, Censorship, and the total State takeover of all inbound and outbound digital data, has been opened up for anyone with the resources, skills, and money to engineer Big Brother. Its sole contractors are the secretly founded subsidiaries of European and American Computer Corporations that operate outside of the law of their home countries, in order to engineer this Dystopic Nightmare of the Information Age.

And unlike the Arab Spring, this Central Asian Spring receives no blessing from Moscow, Beijing, Washington, Brussels, or even the United Nations — not even an attempt to co-opt the Spring for a Superpower’s proxy war against another State — they are the unmemorable, the reviled, the censored. This is a refusal of the Spring’s recognition all for the sake of protecting the State’s geopolitical oil and economic interests in Central Asia, and out of the irrational phobia of the most misunderstood and most diverse force reacting against the Nihilism of Westernizing “Globalization” Modernity today: political Islam.

Madame Einzige is thrown onto the front lines of war-torn Central Asia gripped by the thoroughs of Revolution and Counter-Revolution. Takes up arms alongside these unknown, unsung rebels, she participates full-on in the brutality, carnage, insanity, and surrealism of warfare in the Information Age: the terror of the unmanned aerial drone, the cyber-war of mass disinformation, the ubiquity of the Superpower State’s self-preservation instinct, and the mercenary looting, pillaging, and massacring of the Private Military Company—

Yet, despite the privatization of totalitarianism, despite the industrialization of destruction, despite the mechanization of slaughter in modern warfare, Madame Einzige witnesses the emergence of a new, enlightened, counter-culture movement — a counter-culture movement that combines the Hacker Ethic and reverse engineering, populism and Social Democracy, with the Mystical, the Philosophical, and the Rational of the Islamic tradition.

Inspired by the enlightened spiritual-warrior Sufi orders that once populated Central Asia and the Middle-East, and armed with jury-rigged cyber-warfare devices, homemade weaponry, salvaged old Soviet automobiles, camels and horses, these new techno-spiritual rebels carry out their revolution against the Corporate Machinery of the West, against the corrupt Oligarchies of Eurasia, and against the torrent of regressive Puritanical extremist interpretations of Islam.

Madame Einzige: Amor Fati is where speculative fiction, the political thriller, and the war novel meets the philosophical narrative, in a hyper-real, Postmodern Nietzschean Epic. Amor Fati is the first installment of the Madame Einzige series.

(Click here for Madame Einzige series general outline)

I think I officially love this person’s Tumblr. Here’s a reply, which sent me into my usual entranced philosophical diatribes and insights–

antigravity000:

Heat can be measured, there are values for its presence whereas ‘coldness’ is simply a description for absence of heat. Cold is the void, heat is space. Nihilism, atheism, absurdism are the voids, faith in god(s), in creative forces, is space.

I like this.

It’s funny, isn’t it? Once we stick that -ism on Nihilism, we have Nihilists — followers — who consciously adopt a system of philosophy they want to associate with Nihilism. But in adopting a system, they affirm an identity, and in affirming an identity, you now have an identity — a positive thing — associated with yourself. It’s quite literally counter-intuitive for someone to consciously adopt Nihilism.

I’ve always thought true Nihilism would actually be closer with simply lacking in  self-criticality, or any thinking what so ever — this McDonalds, MTV, Nike culture of the 21st century is true Nihilism, for example.

True atheism isn’t the scientific rationalization of the universe and coming to the conclusion that gods don’t exist — true atheism is just the complete lack of any form of theistic insight of belief: apathetically avoiding religion, or apathetically/ignorantly following religion. (This was Nietzsche’s point about atheism, actually, and how atheism is actually just the deification of humanity sublimated over the Abrahamic God. Hence, why he’s quoted for saying “God is dead”, and not for saying “God doesn’t exist”)

And true absurdity, is just the doing absurd things without reflecting on them. This is just the common condition of daily life.

So basically, what I mean to say is, the greatest of the Nihilists are not the suffering, paralyzingly self-critical characters from the pages of Dostoyevsky or Turgenev, or that angsty youth clad in a leather trench coat. The greatest Nihilists are the Kim Kardiashians and Paris Hiltons of this world.

meta-mash:

Does atheism = dogmatic materialism? How would Nietzsche feel about this?

No. Not necessarily.

Nietzsche frequently ridiculed dogmatism in all its forms — and the world-views of physicalism and materialism. And he pointed out the origins and functions of dogmatism in the unconscious, historical formations, in power structures, and in abstracted lies.

Further, while Nietzsche disparaged most modern forms of religiosity and many forms of theism, Nietzsche himself was not necessarily an atheist. A god has to exist first before the we who kill it kills it. (Not to mention what God’s deathmeans to Nietzsche!)

I believe (and I’ll write a more thoroughly on this someday) that the entire project of Nietzsche’s philosophy, was precisely this: the smashing of dogmatism in all its forms — especially the residual slave-moralities that persist after a particular dogmatism has been supposedly destroyed. We see this with the rise of dogmatic science after and with the Enlightenment — the destruction of the old aristocracy and new universal suffrage — modern free market economies creating effectively new aristocracies without the need to call on Divine Investiture — modern medicine, especially modern psychiatry, and prison systems taking the role of the Christian confessor and enforcing Christian penance.

Madame Σinzige

Madame Einzige

Madame Einzige (Image by imorawetz )

We live in an age of illusionary freedom — where choice is reduced to the brand name; where the Corporation has taken the place of the Feudal Lord; where the wage has replaced indentured servitude in nothing but name.

The fate of Technology — the greatest capacity for individual empowerment, or for collective enslavement — perpetually redefines itself between these two extremities. This Age of Information still is yet to prove itself: is this an age of grassroots emancipation, or one big experiment in mass surveillance and control? It will be us, through both our action and inaction, on who this historical experiment takes place; it will be us who are the ones that will be doing the proving.

[…]

The State is the strongest it has ever been in human history — yet, also the subtlest. Its reach has conquered the entire world: every territory, every society, every venture, every single human being. We are the conquered, the occupied — we have been branded Citizens, subjects of this faceless, nameless entity — yet, many of us have learned to imitate and to love our conquerors; others have been trampled under the boot; even fewer of us have become powerful shareholders in the State. And the State continues to grow — sinking its mechanical tendrils into cyberspace, the gene code, and into the very fabric of space-time itself.

How shall we survive the suffocating weight of the State, and guard against the abuse of its mechanisms? To what is your dissent, against the corporate dynasties that oil the State’s cogs? To what is the maxim “well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny”, against the Standing Army? To what is the firearm against the UAV-Drone?

If and only if the pen is mightier than the sword, then the keyboard is mightier than the combined nuclear force of the ICBM.

By the tragic consequence of Technology’s fate, we shall finally learn this: that Freedom is not about entitlement — to beseech the mercy, and ask for permission from the State to give you what Nature has already imbued in you. That Freedom is about empowerment — that Freedom is about doing it.

– Madame Einzige, The Aufhebung Manifesto

Madame Einzige is an upcoming novel series inspired by my studies in history, politics, social science, technology, psychology, philosophy, and religion, in which I have allowed my obsession with historical pattern and speculative imagination run wild.

It is a novel series, where religious theocracies weave the technologies of virtual-reality, cyberspace, and mass surveillance into their state-wide system of totalitarianism, in order to magnify the holy and majestic feelings with God and clergy; where disenfranchised, disillusioned, cyber-prosthetic U.S. veterans violently take up arms against a government that failed to re-integrate them into society and failed to uphold the values they risked their lives for; where socially neglected computer nerds and failed upstarts realize themselves as the medium through which democracy may defend itself — through hacktivism, and going beyond mere website vandalism to do it and discover the political empowerment of the personal computer.

Young U.S. Veterans throwing away their medals during protest. Historically, when discharged war veterans that have failed to be re-integrated into society, they have been the first to organize revolts against the State. Will the same happen to the United States in the 21st century?

It is a novel series where occult-obsessed mathematicians and computer scientists crunch combinatorial sets and sacred permutations in order to develop algorithms for self-aware, disembodied Artificial Intelligences that instantly prophecize the future from petabytes of data; where Western war vets and ideologues form Private Military Companies offering their services to warlords and dictators, and are paid in land, market-monopolies, drugs, and an exploitable labor force; where certain corporations, under the guise of anti-piracy (and knowing that most piracy actually takes place outside of Western nations) and faux-humanitarianism, attempt to wholly replace the personal computer in developing countries, by selling mass, nationwide Cloud-computing networks to these countries, enabling their governments to scan the Cloud for anyone deemed a dissident, criminal, revolutionary, or spy.

Topological Map of the “Backbone” of the Internet (click to enlarge, PDF) — how much is humanity’s presence on the Web an accurate portrayal of us? How much does your online presence accurately portray you? Can the sum of humanity’s recorded interactions with a computer really be used to predict our future?

Madame Einzige is storytelling in which reality and art, analysis and imagination, science and mythopoesis, narrative and reporting, blend seamlessly together. Art imitates life: life imitates art.

The Metamorphosis: From Marxist-Leninist Camel to Nietzschean Lion

The series follows the titular protagonist, Madame Einzige, who is a former Communist East German Nationale Volksarmee specialist. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of Soviet-Communism, she has struggled and failed to find a way in the new post-Socialist world. She, like other East Germans, were ‘liberated’ (or annexed by the West, others have argued) from the DDR’s confines of Marxism-Leninism, Freie Deutsche Jugend, Cold War intrigue, STASI secret police, smuggled British rock records, Ampelmännchen pedestrian crossing lights, and Trabant cars–

Parade in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), 1989.

–into this charmingly decadent world of capitalism, personal automobiles, personal computers, shopping malls, MTV, Americanization, fast food, Hollywood, credit cards, “globalization” (or: corporate imperialism)–

Times Square, New York City

Surviving both the collapse of Soviet-Socialism, and the dramatic decline of Anglo-American Capitalism (both which curiously occurred during their respective invasions of Afghanistan), Madame Einzige moved from one failing system to another. Attempting to atone for her allegiance to the oppressive ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘ that existed in her native Communist East Germany, she gave the new Western system of democracy and Capitalism the benefit of the doubt, and embraced it at first.

But Capitalism quickly felt meaningless and alienating with its frenzied obsession with consumerism, fake promises of personal empowerment, and the mind-controllingly annoying advertisementsCapitalism was almost exactly what she imagined it was, having learned about it in her East Berlin school, only worse. Was she better off as a slave to the moralizing, collectivist ideology of the Marxist-Leninist State, or as a slave to vapid the materialism and time-wasted wage-earning of the Corporation?

Embittered, cynical, and barred from taking up any meaningful work in this new capitalist society of Europe because of her past involvement in the East German Dictatorship, she radically uprooted everything she had previously thought and felt about society and civilization. She saw things. Politicians hiding behind ideologies to garner support — the co-opting of popular protest by new ambitious elites — the bureaucratic kakistocracy and corruption that is fated to degenerate within barely a generation — “merit” that rewards the Noticeable, and not the Skilled — economies based off scarcity, its illusions, and unnecessary wants. As far as she was concerned, there was only one maxim any and all kinds of human social organization: the survival of self-interest. And how myopic, decadent, destructive, ignorant, ill-intended, base, and petty, the rabble’s self-interest is…

But self-interest it always was for humanity, self-interest it will always be. And what about those with more progressive, universal, benevolent, ‘altruistic’, enlightening interests? Yes, even those are self-interests by what else could those interests even survive, if humans didn’t invest their lives into them?

After trying her hand at so many post-Communist career paths, she realized that she only excelled at one thing — maybe the only thing she had the taste for — and one thing only: carrying out the State’s Monopoly on Violence. But now far be it for her to embrace the State or the Corporation as an enforcer (or “security contracts” they call them now), with what she had realized. On behalf of who or what would she be carrying out violence, now…?

“Durch die Worten des unsere Amerikaner Eroberern:
Jetzt gibst mir die Freiheit oder gibst mir Tod!!

The Child — Narration as Hyper-Reality: The Breaking the Forth Wall

“Hyperreality” is a state in which human cognition uses the filtering/mediation of a certain kind of reality-construct in order to navigate an experience. The “Hyperreal” feels more “real” than the thing itself.
Example: Hollywood as Hyperreality: Whenever many Western people experience something truly exhilarating, profound, and monumental impacting their own lives, a common response is: “this feels like a movie!” The simulated reality of the Hollywood blockbuster has become the filter through which many of us can make sense of the world.

Madame Einzige is speculative fiction — with firm grounding in history and social science, and not without disturbing plausibility. I wanted to create a novel series that portrays real social and political phenomena — exploring the diversity and multifacetedness of their deeper roots and causes, rather than haphazardly panning over these for a romanticized oversimplification, as is so often the case in fiction. Every character, no matter how obscure or commonplace, is a consequence of a greater historical and social context. No character exists in a void. No character is ex nihilo.

Technology, both the future of technology, and its history (expect to find a lot of retrocomputing in Madame E.!), is a major focus of the books. My focus is not on providing detailed descriptions of the gaudiness of new technology — it is on providing a stimulating, plausible, thought-provoking scenarios of Technology’s interfacing with its consequences on society, politics, economics, culture, biology, and psychology: and how it does so in unintended and unexpected ways. A specific technology’s deployment, appropriation, dissemination, and consequences, are also my concern. Having also worked in the tech sector myself, I am familiar with the cultures of technologists, the economics behind Information Technology, as well as the science and limitation of these technologies.

In approaching social and political conflict, Madame Einzige does not repeat the failures of humanitarian aid, foreign intervention, sanctions, incentives, as is also often the case in fiction — she is perfectly aware of them, calls them on their inefficiencies and destructiveness, and is often the one fighting them. Politics is about competing interests, and often about survival, not merely dogmatic-ideological adherence — and this is something that I have written carefully into my books.

The Heroine: A Knight-Errant for the 3rd Millennium?

Philosophers talk big. So much so, that often are they the biggest mother fucking badasses of the literary world. But seldom do they have the opportunity carry out their ideals. Even rarer, do they actually hold influence on leaders, policymakers, and enforcers, with which their philosophy is concerned. I’ve always wanted a character with that same intellectual cunning, biting sarcasm, boldness, and badassry of the philosopher, mixed with those very same traits of the epic hero.

Madame Einzige is exactly that. But she herself isn’t a mere mouthpiece of philosophy. She is an astute, active observer; a kind of pawn/knight of circumstance, convenience, and context. She is inclined toward DIY-libertarianism, virtue ethics, and the will to power, but she is not removed of her spontaneous, biological human nature to err, miscalculate, overextend, second-guess, biases, and failures. She is weary of dogmatism and the intellectual narrow-mindedness it brings (including dogma of science, atheism, and political ideology). She does not swear by anything but her own jugular vein.

Madame E is a mix of a kind of independent investigative journalist, private-eye, and when required, a paramilitary. You will see her blog-report on war veterans’ poverty and discontent over secured underground networks for hacktivists to chase, gather evidence to indict Western IT corporations for setting up surveillance systems in the post-Spring Middle-East, and participate first-hand in a rebellion in the oil-rich backwaters of Central Asia.

Warum ein Deutscher? (Why a German?)

The Germans occupy a very special path in modern history (no pun intended). Two World Wars, Nazism, supremacy in industry, economy, science, and technology, a history of militarism, nationalism, key contributions to philosophy, psychology, the arts. The last of the great Anglo-American “hot” wars for global supremacy. Ground-zero of the Cold War between East vs. West and Communism vs. Capitalism. And now the weight Germany is feeling from the expansion of the Eurozone.

To our modern narratives, the Germans represent the pinnacle of  a modernity, Western, civilization, industrialism, and science, all gone horribly wrong — a big part of our Reductio ad Nazium creation-myth of defining what a democracy is and isn’t. Of course, what disturbs us is that the same country that gave us Bach, Goethe, and the Volkswagen also gave us two World Wars and the Holocaust.

“Kollektivschuld der Deutschen” (Collective Guilt of the German People) Germany portrayed as a monk performing self-flagellation to vindicate their collective guilt.

Germans in real life are well aware of their dark legacy. Because of the collective guilt Germans are constantly bombarded with (the peak of the white-man’s guilt), they ironically have blossomed into some of the fiercest proponents of democracy, liberty, rights to privacy, protecting individual freedoms, political non-intervention, welfare, social justice, and other such things. (On the other hand, the Germans also seem to have some of the highest levels of political antipathy in the world — please note that what this video calls “apathy” (not caring) is actually “antipathy” (realistic approach to government bullshit and refusing to participate in it))

…But a woman?

My choice of Madame Einzige’s gender is conscious decision, situated right at heart of feminism, gender questions, and women’s liberation. (Although Mannzige may make a cameo in a future novel.)

Abortion is an issue where an ultimately private matter has become a heated moral-political issue, which is now entirely mediated by the state. The fact that a law must be passed in order to permit or to ban the practice, is an example of the State holding itself supreme. Must the resolving of women’s issues require the approval/blessing of the State?

This choice goes deeper than merely providing a female presence or perspective — as if to fill some sort of women’s quota in order to wishfully validate the perception of gender equality and women’s issues. Madame Einzige goes much, much deeper.

Madame Einzige is born out of the programme of female empowerment, especially with regard to Woman, State, and Civilization. To what extent must women rely on the benevolence of the State — the institutions of policy-making, laws, enforcement, bursaries, and punishment — to safeguard her place and interests? Are women vulnerable without the existence of the State? What about the Family, and lovers? How has the State co-opted the political support of women to strengthen its own position? Have women’s interests inadvertently been hijacked into becoming agents and enforcers of State power?

For Madame Einzige, if feminism is about female empowerment, then, like all great powers (to quote a familiar cliche I’m rather fond of), comes great responsibility, and owning up to one’s actions. If that responsibility — just like that empowerment — merely falls on the State, then what kind of position does that leave women in, but perpetuating State-dependency, State-intervention, and seeking State-validation? Must women’s self-interests and empowerment continually refer itself up to a higher authority, as it was under Patriarchy? Madame E is the embodiment of “No” to that question — woman, like man, can be the end in herself.

“To Spring from the Mind”: Influences and Origins

Max Stirner: “Sacred things exist only for the egoist who does not acknowledge himself: the involuntary egoist. He is always looking after his own, and yet does not count himself as the highest being; he serves only himself, and at the same time always thinks he is serving a higher being; he knows nothing higher than himself, and yet is infatuated by something higher… He debases himself only for the sake of ‘being exalted’, and therefore gratifying his egoism.”

(Section to be expanded in the future)

I love science, history, philosophy, technology, and a plethora of other subjects, sure, but when it comes to bringing these serious subjects to fiction, there tend to be an oversimplification for the sake of getting on with the story, rather than truly being written for the sake of there being a story to begin with. (*Not always though, there are some excellent philosophical-fiction writers.) I understand that this is the case for mass appeal, but it isn’t to my taste.

It is time to bring these subjects out of the lecture hall, out of overly expensive academic publications, and out of the memories of “oh, I remember learning that in college! Now I forgot it all!”, into the public aesthetic-cultural matrix. And with the increased exposure and widespread mass availability of such ideas (cf. the success of TED and Khan Academy), this certainly seems to be trend already. We’re adapting on a mass scale to be more receptive and curious of cosmopolitan, universal, big ideas, and Madame Einzige will play its role in this.

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Eternal Reoccurrence vs. Finite Progress

How repetitious is history? — Human Consciousness of Change and Persistence — The Age of Darkness before the Myths of Creation — Fandom Cults of the Academia — Origins of the Wheels of Reoccurrence — Whither be thou, O Sweet Progress?

(Now with fixed footnotes. Hover cursor over footnote to reveal it, or click!)

 

One of the major themes in my Weltanschauung that shows up in my novels, nonfiction, and others nuances, is the concept of historical reoccurrence: the notion that history repeats itself. As with my previous post regarding the death of philosophy, this is not a particularly revolutionary idea in this day and age. It’s wisdom you would’ve heard everywhere from children’s books, elementary school history class, newscasters, comedians, political propaganda, angry tirades, and is often its own butt in joke-telling. It’s a cliché that we take for granted, but also one of the few clichés that we actually take seriously when heeding to the warnings of economic forecasters, political soothsayers — even the advice of our friends telling us not to pursue a certain career path, or to avoid dating a special someone.

What’s interesting is that, our own mass awareness of this notion — that history repeats itself — is a mutually shared understanding, crossing cultures, classes, nations, ages[1], and eras. What’s also interesting (ironic even) is that this hasn’t always been the case everywhere in the history of human culture. What’s even more interesting is how we like to consider our contemporary era of freedom, democracy, mass communications, cheap beer, video games, cell-phones, and the Internet, as something that exists outside of this frame of historical reoccurrence — our contemporary era as an exception to historical reoccurrence, rather than belonging to it, because it’s so “new” and “revolutionary”.[2] And what’s further even more interesting [x4], is that we tend to exclude ourselves as individuals from reoccurrence ‘warning wisdom’ about our lives, eg: “I won’t be the one to make that mistake everyone else has done! Other people made that mistake because they’re stupid / weak / unskilled!”

Now before moving onto what I think is interesting in the above paragraph[3], I’d like to identify a few types of reoccurrence[4].

  1. The reoccurrence wisdom that concerns us as individuals carrying out our daily lives on a micro scale. Life-wisdom like: “she has a history of being flakey”, or “don’t become a writer because the Internet has made their profession obsolete!”, or “don’t wear Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops and baseball caps when haggling in foreign marketplaces, because you risk being pick-pocketed, and merchants will know you’re a tourist and will rip you off!”
  2. That which concerns us on a macro scale: our place in greater society, civilization, and the world. History, economics, politics, society, culture — the big questions, claims like: “allowing the government to strip us of our rights and freedoms in times of terrorist threat will lead to government tyranny and totalitarianism. Just look at the Nazis!”, or “all economies follow the trend of bubbles and bursts, growth-stagnation-collapse”, or “the West has always been the most progressive and innovative than any other part of the world”
  3. Finally, that which concerns observance to laws and axioms of natural phenomena, which requires a ‘reoccurrence’ paradigm. This is a key part of our cognitive understanding of the world as human beings: taking generic rules/concepts, and applying them to particular instances that are likely to repeat. Without it, we cannot have a) or b). These are things like: “F = ma”[5], [physical constants in nature], “don’t touch a hot stove or you’ll get burned” [pain avoidance], “whenever you speak to her about her dead husband, she gets upset” [human psychology as natural phenomena], and “Are you seriously wearing wear jeans and a t-shirt to my wedding tonight? You look like an idiot!” [social norms]

For our purposes here in this entry, we have two essential types of historical reoccurrence that are, I argue, closely linked — (a) life-wisdom, and (b) history-wisdom. Let’s move onto the two main schemes of time.

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Plagiarism, Ghostwriting, False Author Attribution, and Academic Fraud before the Modern Academia
(Postscript to “The Decline of Thinking’s Universality)

 Caption: “The Lyceum” — the School of Aristotle. Were these just Aristotle’s followers, or the ancient think-tank that ghost-wrote his entire corpus?

The issue of plagiarism and ghostwriting in the pre-modern world is something that doesn’t receive much press because it conflicts with:

  1. Our romantic notions of the past as somehow better or more authentic than the modern day, and,
  2. It conflicts with our Creation Myths of the great idols, great men and great civilizations revolutionarily founding the world we live in.

Apparently, it’s fine to call into question the existence of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, but to even question the originality and intellectual honesty of Shakespeare, Newton, or Darwin?[1] — what [secular] heresy is this!? (Seriously, folks![2])

I will offer an alternative theory here for so-called historic ‘polymathy’, why it was more prevalent in the past than now. The theory is pretty simple: that the great thinkers were never held accountable for the originality of their ideas at the time they were proposed — it was sufficient enough that they were just recorded (somehow, be it through primary or secondary sources) as saying it, and that it was picked up by a contemporary scholar (*assuming the text even survived). There were no elaborate academic institutions to keep this sort of thing in check — no Deans office that Descartes could be sent to for repeating Anselm’s Ontological Proof in his Meditations, no PhD committee/auditing agency stopping Al-Kindi from ctrl+c/ctrl+v-ing everything he read in Aristotle. Students were not graded for how original their ideas were — they were usually rewarded for how much they imitated their teacher. And they often went further in the academia-aristocracy based off their charisma and the profundity of whatever they were saying. (Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?)

Case example: In Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah (this is a lengthy book on history, sociology, economics, political science, etc.), when he discusses the role of climate in the success of civilizations — the notion (in sum) that temperate climates produce temperate peoples and thus leads to successful civilizations — the same ideas more or less appear Aristotle’s Politics. What is this?:

  1. Is this a coincidental convergence of two brilliant minds stumbling on the same ideas independently?
  2. Is Ibn Khaldun blatantly plagiarizing Aristotle (– everyone has read Aristotle)?
  3. Or were these ideas perhaps already widely circulated in an oral tradition that dealt with these topics of meta-history — say, oral tradition of the kinds of discussions that took place in cafes, mosque/temple courtyards, the marketplace, around the campfire, caravan at late nights, etc. — and Ibn Khaldun (and Aristotle?) got their ideas from that?

Now, knowing from my own readings on this, the Politics was not known in the medieval Middle-East, so that throws (b) out. A makes sense. What about A as consequence of C?

These kinds of questions are always hotly debated by usually a handful of unfamous scholars obsessed with seemingly petty questions like this, with no real definitive conclusion. I will say this though: oral tradition is never something considered by these scholars, because it’s allegedly not recordable. And we all know from our Grade 7 essay writing classes, that the academia has a bias for things written. If it’s not written, it may as well not exist to the academia.

These scholars also lack the funding/time/patience/motivation/ambition to reconstruct a kind of history of the spontaneous, grass-roots transmission of ideas, or to read the works of historians of ideas on the topic. But why? Oral traditions carry such a wealth of information, formed through peculiar events and in a historio-cultural matrix. I wonder if scholars of the future, when studying the great thinkers of our time, will still ignore the role of chatrooms, social media, and blog comments, even after they’ve been clearly recorded, in the history of the transmission of ideas.

–Again, Blind men and the Elephant paradox (of the Academia).

But plagiarism — even the whole notion that one had to be an original thinker — is a bit of a post-Enlightenment idea (not to say this didn’t exist elsewhere, but our current notion of it goes right back to the Romantics). Many students and thinkers were expected to emulate the great masters, and the great schools and traditions, and felt reward and satisfaction in doing so.

Now, through careful textual analysis of what actually survives of these great thinkers, it is revealed that they often did not even do the writing themselves. They were recorded by scribes, either during a lecture, after one, or long after their death. Plotinus was blind by the time he composed his Enneads, so required the help of scribes to write down his book. Aristotle’s entire corpus — according to tradition — wasn’t compiled until after his death, and his writing doesn’t even read like an essay; they read like scattered lecture notes.[3] Aristotle’s lectures on mysticism were never written down. Aristotle’s famed Dialogues (written like Plato’s dialogues) have not survived antiquity. Avicenna, al-Ghazali, al-Farabi, Meister Eckhardt, Ochkam, Anselm, etc., a whole slew of medieval thinkers, only received their fame in the books written by their students, compile from their lecture notes and discussions with the teacher. It’s a bit like your band becoming world famous for the bootlegs made off of your guitar tabs, where the bootleg isn’t actually of your band, but of someone else performing your music — and all of this taking place after your death.

As a scribe, like a good guitarist playing tabs, you must have a certain understanding of what your teacher/lecturer is saying in order to coherently record it, even if you don’t fully understand the whole thing. Many scribes might also input their own thoughts, beliefs and culturally-determined preconceptions when recording the lectures of their masters, much as how modern university students do nowadays when taking notes.

In other words, what was going on wasn’t this:

It was this:

Now I don’t want to give the impression that all pre-modern/pre-Renaissance thinkers never wrote any essays themselves — they certainly did, but what survives of their corpus is this hodgepodge of lecture notes, essays, hearsay, rumors, and misinterpretation.

Manuscripts also had to be re-copied by hand (after the 15th century: by printing press) in order to preserve the book’s transmission. This was the task of libraries, monasteries, universities, and churches / mosques / synagogues. Not all scribes are equal, sometimes only a part of the manuscript was copied, because the full length volume existed in a library (only to have the library be destroyed by the Seljuks, the Franks, or the Mongols, and the small part would be what is preserved.) There are also cases where manuscripts have just lost the title page or other ancient meta-data, and have been falsely attributed to this or that thinker.

Other writers would write something and attribute it to a great thinker, usually in order to legitimize an idea, or make money off the manuscript (Aristotle and Plato were hot best-sellers back in the day) — but I also suspect that same sentiment that gives birth to modern fanfiction to be involved in these kinds of writings. Something recently in the news of this kind of authorship issue is with the Gospel of Barnabas.

In sum, our ancient texts, in their current incarnation, is the result of a grand, multi-thousand-year-old historic game of broken telephone, and the survival of best sellers.

Another case in point: there was a book in wide circulation in the Middle-Ages — mostly in the Middle-East and Byzantium — called The Theology of Aristotle, which was basically a copy-paste of Plotinus’ Enneads. Whoever made it, attributed it to Aristotle (hence the name), probably for economic reasons. The impact of this book is tremendous and often overlooked by scholars writing on this — if written by Aristotle, it would mean he was a Neoplatonist, which makes it seem as though Plato and Aristotle were generally in agreement with one another. Anyone who knows anything about philosophy today has been taught that two philosophers are opposites — that was not the case in the Middle-Ages. If this text’s authenticity was not doubted, and we still thought it belonged to Aristotle, we would have a radically different view of the Ancients, and the history of early modern science would’ve looked quite different.

That said, Aristotle has allegedly written actual mystical works, which have not survived (probably not even recorded?). But it’s not the Theology of Aristotle.

Given all of this, it is certainly, without a doubt, very possible that the corpus of Aristotle was mostly or entirely a production of his school — the Lyceum — in order to legitimate the school’s curriculum, status and prestige at the time. I can make the same claim about Plato’s corpus and the Academy of Athens, and probably many other pre-modern thinkers that were so-called “polymaths”. What I mean to say is: Aristotle and Plato, thinkers of this type, were brand names for ancient think-tanks that assembled themselves around a semi-mythical idol. Aristotle and Plato as their works have survived were products of an entire school writing an encyclopedia of knowledge attributed, and attributing it to their founding Master. What I mean to say is: they themselves were not actually polymaths, but idols who were ghostwritten for.

Again, this goes back to the human desire for Creation myths, Idols, and figures.

And again, this is just speculation. That said, if anyone reading this knowledgeable on this subject wishes to discuss this, please feel free.

Ismael Sarepta


[1] And I didn’t choose Shakespeare, Newton, and Darwin randomly out of a hat. These are all great men whose products of genius are shrouded in myth, and all have very serious authenticity, originality, and authorship issues. Isaac Newton invented Calculus “independently” (or so it is claimed) at the same time as Gottfried Leibniz did. Charles Darwin didn’t feel the need to public his theory of Evolution until another younger man came along (Alfred Russell Wallace) with the exact same theory, threatening to steal Charles’ thunder. And Shakespeare? Bitch, please, you think the Bible was bad with its authenticity?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question

[2] If you’re going to smash Creation Myths of human origins with Evolution, please be consistent, and do so with the rest of human history!

The Decline of Thinking’s Universality:
Against the Hyper-Compartmentalization of Knowledge (or the Hyper-Compartmentalizers)

It may be ironic that a blog which draws heavily from the philosophical tradition would start thus:

Philosophy is dead.[1]

Of course, that’s not a particularly revolutionary idea, and especially not in this day and age. We all know that philosophy has been replaced by hard, solid, objective SCIENCE!, that has no need for the empty, pretentious quibblings of philosophers, who confirm nothing with factual, real, physical evidence…! According the prevailing creation myths of SCIENCE!, no one before Galileo conducted experiments, and all human knowledge was purely based on religious dogma, superstition. It was the Dark Ages, because Rome — the sole guaranteer of Reason and Progress — had fallen to savage invading barbarians and its own opulent corruption. It was the Dark Ages, and life was poor, nasty, brutish and short.[2]

What rationality did exist was what Christian monks working in dungeons and monasteries, hunched over on copying tables, were able to preserve by scraps and bits of unoriginally copying manuscripts from the Greeks and Romans — because Augustine said it was what any good Christian ought to read, since he was such a squealing fanboy for people like Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, etc. And then finally, it took a handful of privileged white men in Western Europe to pull the ‘West’ up from its own bootstraps, out of the Dark Ages, and to dominate the world again, as they had meant to do, since they inherited the Greco-Roman legacy. Meanwhile, the Church burnt anyone at the sake who contradicted its dogma[3], so the ‘West’ had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the brave new world of innovation. In fact, before this “Renaissance” the West was so behind, that they had to learn and ‘recover’ what they historically knew about the Ancients from those fanatical, backward Arabs! Then thanks to these privileged white European men, we discover the world is not flat[4], revolves around the Sun (Heliocentricism), and Chris can finally discover America, the Reformation breaks the clerical stranglehold on PROGRESS!, and the rest (SCIENCE!)history:

^ Above ^ is a paraphrase of a cultural meme we see espoused by standard textbooks, teachers, TV presentations, Joe the In’ernet-Know-all-Tuff-Guy, etc., treating this subject of SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS! (and all the subtext notwithstanding.) Absurd as this narrative is, I’m not going to dwell on it here, as this entire blog is dedicated to smashing such creation myths of PROGRESS (aka positivism).[5]

Now in truth, things were, as they often are, actually a little more complicated. First of all, all knowledge — all SCIENCE! — was considered under the domain of Philosophy. If you were a thinking person — no matter how amateur or professional, no matter how shallowly or profoundly — what you were doing when pondering the universe, human relations, physical phenomena, God’s attributes, etc., all went back to that word: Philosophy.

  • When Galileo disproved prevailing beliefs about Aristotle’s theory of Motion, it wasn’t called Physics — it was called Natural Philosophy.
  • When Copernicus uprooted Geocentricism, it wasn’t called Physics — it was called Natural Philosophy
  • When Newton discovered the principles of gravity, and formulated MATH around this, it wasn’t called Physics — it was still called Natural Philosophy

( I’m just going to pause here and mention that Natural Philosophy was the discipline that is more or less what we would call science nowadays — philosophy concerning in the nature of motion, matter, astronomy, chemistry (shared with alchemy), geology, animals and natural history, etc. )

Intellectuality — the scope of things you would be educated in — was continuous, fluid, and organic. The Educated were well versed in theology, logic, natural philosophy, metaphysics, rhetoric, aesthetics, the Classics, politics, history[6], etc., because these were all universally recognized aspects of Knowledge of the Universetwo sides of the same coin — or, better put, different faces on the same die:

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