File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 80

Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 20:05:56 +1000
Subject: Re: A religion for cyborgs


Definitions again.  A reminder that only the one who speaks knows what
he/she is trying to say.  Perhaps we can go beyond the dictionary:

Main Entry: cy·borg
Pronunciation: 'sI-"borg
Function: noun
Etymology: cybernetic + organism
Date: 1960
: a bionic human.

Plato and Aristotle knew less about cyborgs than you and I, but they must
have known about conflicting desires similar to those you describe.

With all these statements about the sublime it is being splintered  to

If  "sublime", is re-defined by a thousand philosophers it will have a
thousand sets of meaning.  There must be 10 or 15 thousand institutions of
higher learning in this country alone, and most have resident philosphers,
plus other experts, bosses, boards, and friends of learning, who know what a
philosopher should think..

Whether an organism possesses or is posssessed of a "self" may be
undecidable, but it seems to me that organism/environment is a necessary
duality for being(s) to "be".

After mutually accepting explicit statements/definitions/presuppositions as
a basis for a logical proposition, we may study, decide and  explain why we
consider that proposition to be true or false, or at least why we agree or

Unity of self, as I understand "unity", is not a necessary condition for the
concept of self.  A normal human organism has mental experience, identifies,
reflects, reasons, communicates with others, as best it can, the content of
its experience.  What one knows of another's experience is known only
through the others's language and behavior.

If self is the incarnation of a God-given soul, as portrayed in religious
doctrines, believers may prefer divine revelation to their own experience,
consider their own experience as illusion, or deceit by the Devil.

If self is the manifestation of consciousness, it is a result of Darwininan
evolution, the organism's experience of living a life-on-Earth. Other
primates and other "higher" mammals apparently have similar forms of
consciousness and self-awareness.

Your examples of conflicting desires, choices, unity and disunity, describe
conditions of life each organism faces as it continues its existence.  The
future is unknown to cyborgs or saints.  The outcome of today's rational
decision about one's future is determined by tomorrow's uncontrollable

A philosophy of seeking ataraxia or religious bliss seems extremely personal
and the opposite of involvement with others, joys in learning, enacting new
scenarios, enoying social bonds, participating in and social action.
Involvement may be a fulfillment of needs and desires, the opposite of
emptying the mind of difficulties and discord.  Happiness is spending time
with those you care about, said Bobby Valentine, quoting  someone..., I
know who..

Don't most philosophers, deliberately, from emotional blindness,
constitutional necessity, or accident, assume others are like themselves?
When they dream their personal conceits, concepts, abstractions, write them
into philosophical papers, and tomes, lecture their disciples, indulge in
rhetoric with rivals, are they not
trying to understand and explain their deepest thoughts and experience?

You "are" what you "do",  You are what your physical body and physical
environment create and store in the database of memory.   Memory supports
your conscious acts, creates a self, a self-image, the movie of your life,
your "place", your function in the world.  That creation is the personality
that "lives" in the minds of those who share your life, and survivors who
will remember.

Aren't philosophers also very much aware of the plurality of different
cultures, languages and personal experience, spectra of actual and possible
lifestyles and possibilities found today among the several races and skin
colors, the  thousands of tribes and dialects of 6 billion humans who
inhabit the Earth?

Ataraxia sounds like an absence of politics or action.  How can the masses
be persuaded towards an Epicurean philosophy whose guiding principle is
personal good feeling?

On the other hand a refusal to buy what capitalism sells, i.e.  ideology and
objects, by eliminating unnecessary possessions, by reducing  exposure to
Communications and Entertainment, the distractions on-screen and off which
crowd out one's bliss. Could this bliss-chase spread like a virus from
person to person, motivate a mass migration to ataraxia?

"Follow your bliss" said Joseph Campbell.  All of us???
What do you get when you deconstruct the sublime.  As many sublimes are
there are speakers who name them., To each his own.  Epicurus, Kant, Burke,
Lyotard.  I prefer Rilke (beauty and terror). You could assign numbers to
each sublimity S1. S2 etc.

Additional comment at ** below


P.S.  After writing the above I saw the movie:  "The Man Who Wasn't There".
It's billed as comedy.  It is absurd and funny and sad.. If you're thinking
ethics, its a jarring journey into a  "no-man's land" (in an old-fashioned
military sense) or a "wasteland" as in Eliot.

> Hugh,
> In your recent posts you have been discussing both self-interest and the
> sublime.  I want to respond here in a way that attempts to connect both
> of these concepts.
**Somehow my notions on State interests got warped into self-interest - not
what was intended.

> The classic problem of self is simply that it does not appear to be a
> unity.  This fact led Plato in his Republic to propose a tripartite
> theory of the soul which was a kind of miniaturization of the ideal
> Greek city-state.
**Some aspects of  a modern self were known to Plato, but not the
cyborg-self, nor the self produced by DNA, the self produced by
Communications and Entertainment. (Spectacle?)

> Aristotle opposed this and argued that the soul is a unity, but even he
> recognized there was a distinction between reason and the appetites.
> The problem he identified in his ethics is sometimes referred to as the
> problem of incontinence.

> A simple example will illustrate what I mean.  Suppose in terms of your
> self-interest, you have decided to quit smoking.  However, after a long
> and stressful day, you found yourself in a bar with a drink in your hand
> and you're dying for a smoke.  The ethical question then becomes; "what
> is my self-interest?"
> Do I have the momentary pleasure of a cigarette (which I truly need
> right now,  I can still quit tomorrow) or do I endure the pain for the
> sake of a somewhat idealized notion of my self-interest beyond the
> moment?
> In Lyotard's terminology, this might even be construed as a case of the
> differend.
> Now, consider the sublime.  I recognize that in Kant this terminology
> becomes rather abstract as it supports the rather complex machinery of
> his philosophical doctrine of the faculties.  However, if we focus upon
> the sublime as a state in which an initial state of pain gives way to a
> state of negative pleasure (or what Burke referred to as delight)  it is
> possible to provide some simple illustration.
> Imagine you are in a boat in the middle of the lake and it capsized.  As
> you find yourself in the water, you fear you will drown.  Your entire
> life flashes before your eyes as your hang unto the boat for dear life.
> Then a motor boast appears in the distance. You wave and shout.  It sees
> you.  You are saved.
> Coming to shore, you are aware of a different feel.  While in the water,
> you knew only fear, panic and terror.  Now we know a kind of quiet joy.
> I is a very different pleasure than those found in eating and drinking
> and making love, but it is complete and whole and perfectly satisfying.
> Through the grace of chance, you are alive.
> It is said that when Epicurus was young and survived a shipwreck and
> some have speculated that this is the source of his sublime and ethical
> notion of happiness.
> For in the ethics of Epicurus, it is stated that all pleasure is a good,
> but not all pleasure is desirable because it may merely lead to greater
> pain and suffering (consider the case of smoking above). Instead it is
> possible to achieve another state in which the pleasure is abiding and
> constant and it is sublime condition we should seek.  He called it
> Ataraxia or tranquillity and it is characterized by absence of pain in
> the body and absence of anxiety in the mind.
> What I also find interesting about this is that the state is exactly
> like the one identified in various religions as the state of the
> blessed.  It is typically realized by various means such as prayer and
> fasting, yoga and meditation, contemplation.
> What is so intriguing about Epicurus is that he deconstructs the
> supernatural base of religion and state a way in which these religious
> ideals can be realized in purely materialist terms.
** Are social bonding and caring materialist?
> As we search for a way to confront politically the commodity nature of
> our current society, a way must be found to make alternatives viable.
> The promise of Epicurus for me is that his ethics point the way to a new
> hedonistic society in which individuals remain responsible for their
> actions without having to fortify themselves with conspicuous
> consumption.  If there was a cultural movement that began to live on
> these terms and made an exodus from the current society, perhaps this
> would provide one of the foundations for a political movement.
** I think movements are made, not found.  They don't sprout like weeds
after rain.

> Beyond this, there is also a mystical dimension.  As many have pointed
> out, in every religion there is a more esoteric component which provide
> what Eliade once referred to as the technology of ecstasy.   History
> from time to time has thrown up mysterious individuals such as Meister
> Eckhart, Rumi, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi etc.
**Yes.  Such lives are worthy of study, but study of living persons who
share our world of today is also worthy and some, like those on the List
will enter into a dialogue...

> What if such individuals were harbingers of a future state in which
> which work do longer defined existence or the very notion of self.
**Work is not the only thing.

> Then, perhaps a different self could be realized, one that is perhaps
> more sublime.  The foundations of this society would be created
> politically, perhaps, but in this new society, the political might no
> longer predominate.
**Small utopias might be better than nation-state or global utopias.  Give
people the freedom to create  small communities protected from the financial
power and military power of remote others. The encroachment of powerful
outsiders communities having common interests is  the eternal political

> Such a society might be described as religious, perhaps, but not in the
> conventional way we mean it today.  For there the old god and goddesses
> would be recognized as components of the psyche, facets of the diamond
> self.  The goal of life would be found in ecstasy as all the various
> conventions and form of social life were outshined in a a greater
> bliss.  This would truly be a religion for cyborgs.
**For some, not for others.

> eric


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