Correspondence on Earth and Economy

The following is a series of emails exchanged between Mat Wilson and I over the course of the last several months (my messages will be in bold, Mr. Wilson’s not):

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Mat,

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that just yesterday I watched a video where an objectivist read something Rand said about the encounter between European colonists and the many indigenous populations who originally inhabited North America. Basically, she tried to justify the genocide by saying the natives had no concept of individuality, rights, or property, and so it was somehow moral for the colonists to just take the land and kill them all in the process. I find this absolutely appalling, both because of how she seems to ethnocentrically apply the idea of non-aggression, but also because of how she conceives of the earth as something to be “owned” and only valuable when produced and sold by humans. This kind of anthropocentric attitude has lead to the largest extinction event in 65 million years (approx. 20,000 species are going extinct every year; the background rate is about 1 a year) and caused a forthcoming change in climate that could very well spell the end of civilization as we know it. So even though I am rather unsettled about her perspective, I will try to approach Rand’s philosophy “objectively”, as they say.

I just read Rand’s epistemology on Wikipedia. I know, not the best source, but its good enough for an introduction, eh? I have a few issues:

1) While I reject the extreme relativism of post-modernism, I think there are some very important insights it has provided that any serious philosophy today needs to take into consideration.

a) there is the issue of logic. There are many kinds of logic aside from the Aristotelian. There is no one absolute and correct Logic, as philosophers once thought. Logic is normative, in other words. So long as all involved agree on the kind of logic to be employed, it is ‘objectively’ true. In a similar sense, there is no longer one kind of geometry. Euclid’s geometry is now only one possible form of geometry, next to Riemannian, projective, etc. geometries. This is important considering how Rand dismisses the necessary/contingent distinction. We can say that there are many possible space-time manifolds because we know there are many possible geometries. So our particular space-time manifold is not necessary, it could have been otherwise.

b) there is the issue of multicultural sensitivity, which obviously Rand does not understand, as her opinion on the colonization of NA shows. Her “rationality” is not Absolute. It arose out of a particular cultural and historical context and is not necessarily objective for all people. There are many ways of knowing, each valid in its own sphere. Again, I’m not a relativist, but nor am I an absolutist or objectivist. I think there is truth, but we must always be careful to remember that truth can be approached from a whole variety of perspectives.

2) I think Rand’s epistemology neglects the importance of emotion for cognition. fMRI scans of the brain in action show the limbic system (associated with emotion) and the prefrontal cortex (associated with rational thought) are always active together, mutually dependent one on the other. This is true even when subjects are evaluating the truth of statements such as 2+2=4. This is true for us not only because it is logically correct, but because it is somehow pleasurable for us emotionally.

I could go on but I’ll stop now and wait for your response. Thanks for your interest in engaging me in all this, by the way!

take care,

Matt

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Dear Matt,

I’m so sorry I completely forgot about this. Take a moment to review what you wrote as I rightfully reply now:

The only race we should care about are each other.. human beings. What value does nature hold apart from man? There is none. Animals and insects (among countless other organisms including plants) do not have rights. They do not have rights because since time immemorial they never formed rules or laws or demonstrate that they could be reasoned with and understand and have empathy.

Only until recently were females and non-whites recognized as human-beings.. finally. We should not worry about extinction of all these species.. extinction has been going on for a long, long time without humans.

Isn’t it kind of arbitrary to say that everything and every organism is “sacred”? Just because it exists we must become slaves to ensure its protection and make sure it continues to reproduce?

Besides.. if you really like a certain species.. you will go out and study engineering and biology and eventually re-invent that animal or organism.

The natives that originally inhabited America may or may not have been reasonable. Likely they were unconscious brutes operating on the god-level of consciousness in an immutable state of hypnosis taking commands from the tribal consciousness or the gods directly. Who knows? I do not know the conditions back then.

Yes, it was absolutely immoral if the natives made no threat and came in peace and were negotiable. They could even say, “Please leave us.. this land is ours.” and that would be fine too. Again, I don’t know what happened and more and more I’m finding quite-a-many bad things about many of the founding fathers themselves.. One instance: what a hypocrite Jefferson was to have slaves?? And then I heard he not only impregnated the one.. but made his children become slaves too!?

Today we have much more knowledge. If we came across land and found a primitive colony.. we could likely form empathy with them through communication skills and demonstrating authority. We could systematically learn there language and show them the world and even possibly trade or just learn with them.

There is no excuse now for the same acts of what you described several hundred years ago.. except for imminent danger of a native putting a spear to one’s throat.

Onwards elsewhere:

1)

a) I must go forth and learn about these other geometries as I only ever formally learned Euclidean. I have read a couple hundred pages of Aristotle through his various books.. but it was scattered and I did not systematically study any of it.. only soak it in for pleasure and to ponder it on a walk. I must go and take a look at his logic v.s. others. I’ll make that an assignment this weekend at the library.

b) But we should have no sensitivity for the psychos in Iran and North Korea. We must show them no mercy. Our ideals are better than there’s because we love life. They, on the other-hand, hate the now and will do anything by means of force to destroy us.

c) Nope. Ayn Rand actually believed that emotions are powerful forces that give one instant results like a computer about how their beliefs, actions, and mode of living are sustaining there life. Even in the Fountainhead, Katie Halsey (Peter Keating’s original darling), for example, starts to take Uncle Ellsworth’s every word and accepts faith and service to others to the point where her emotions are so overwhelmingly negative and clearly telling her that this isn’t right.. she starts to fight them and continue doing what she was taught..

I don’t remember exactly what happens to her after that but usually a person eventually becomes so numb, after while.. they just can no longer feel.

Also, Atlas Shrugged has many instances where especially Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart have strong epiphanies and ‘revelations’ and great insights that triumph or even heed them of imminent danger.

But, still.. regardless of how anyone feels.. 2+2=4. A is always A. Given that a is defined as a particular thing and immutable.

It is true once one gets good at math, you can perform all sorts of operations and you know you made a mistake because “something doesn’t feel right”.. but that is exactly true (what you said).. as humans logic and emotion often does practically work concurrently during cognition and actual information assimilation and comprehension. But, when righting rules and laws of logic.. they must be formulated and based off principle alone and a proof must not consist of, “2+2=4 because I had a profound and exaltant revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ”

No.. 2+2=4 because 2 is defined as two of something.. like ** (2 asterisks) and the operation of ‘adding’ means to join those group of things so ** + ** = ****.

In reality, 2+2=4.. but indeed, what the hell does it matter if we are dead or never existed?? Logic is supposed to serve our Ego. 😉

(but of course, we must come to realize that we cannot manipulate reality through wish alone.. otherwise we will live short and horrendous lives!)

Ok, I promise I will respond much sooner! (like within 1-3 days from now on)

If I feel I would like to respond later, I will let you know and approx. what time or we can move onto another topic. Again, sorry about this!

– Mat

(P.s. I’m sure there are some spelling, grammar, and semantic errors in all this.. I don’t care to proof-read though… this is just conversation for the most part! So if you are confused on anything, let me know.)

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Mat,

Thanks for the response, even though delayed (as is my response to your response!). I’ve not got much time (writing term papers), but I want to recommend a book to you about industrial capitalist economics. It is my feeling and understanding that human beings are not the only makers or possessors of value and meaning on this planet. We are one species in a vast community of life, but our dominant economic ideology obscures this (along with many other things). I’m familiar with Rand’s economic philosophy mostly because her (or a nearly equivalent version) “free market” ideology is taught in American schools as the only natural way. I’m wondering if you’ve read any of Marx’s work? The book I want to recommend takes a Marxist perspective, but expands it in light of ecological concerns and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I promise it will make you see the world from a different perspective, at least if you give the arguments an open-minded chance. The book is called “The Power of the Machine: Global Inequities of Economy, Technology, and Environment” by Alf Hornborg.

Yours,

Matt

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Matt,

I will definitely check it out for the weekend. It’s funny you messaged me today as I was driving this morning on my way to McDonald’s I had a flashback, after seeing a golden retriever dog, of when I was very young (maybe 4 or 5) I questioned the nature of animal consciousness.. I was told they had no soul and had limited memory.

I tried to imagine what that would be like.. unable to have words or concepts or thinking in terms of prepositions (on, off, through, against, et. al. .. all in relation to space.. as if there was some sort of “space” “in” the mind… whereas the mind is not physical and is not the brain.. it is just a process)

I don’t know how accurate that is though that all animals are only instinctual and largely unconscious.

In regards to government though, it would be incompatible to our existence (since we are the ‘rational animal’) to try and provide protection of rights to animals and other species.. as you cannot negotiate with them. We have incompatible interfaces beyond voluntary adoption to take them as our ‘pets’ or to the zoo.

Last night, too, I thought as I fell asleep on how the fact is that I perceive the entire world as me and other people… ignoring all other forms of life and the source of it.

I suppose it’s easy to unconsciously fall into that belief as we have intertwined so tightly into our transference of communal thought.. just because the rest of the world isn’t thinking (i.e. other life-forms), doesn’t mean they are (i.e. exist)…

It’s easy to think that man is the center of the universe.. just as they thought the earth was the center a long time ago.

This is largely a good thing though.. as it gives us Identity. It can also be a bad thing, too, when we have the wrong identity and self-destroy.

Do not confuse “capitalism” with “free market” and economics. Capitalism is often defined as when resources, values, money, energy, etc.. is privately operated.

That definition is only a surface definition.. a result of the actual moral principle. Capitalism, in the sense of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, is a political treaty across all individuals (conceptual beings only.. that can understand and abide within a written set of laws and think and act for themselves) that each individual is an end-in-himself and has a right to their life and property (as naturally claimed from the environment (read John Locke)).

It is very anthropocentric or man-centered. But if we are to blindly start extolling the sacredness and divinity of the environment AND that it must be left untouched and protected at all costs to not be disturbed from its ‘pristine’ and intrinsic state of nature.. that consequently turns us into a self-sacrificial animal as reality has already dictated that we need to exploit the environment in order to survive. We have physical bodies and they need energy like any sort of machine in order to produce our very existence.

Just because we live comfortably now in industrialized nations and not always in a constant, direct threat of our survival.. doesn’t mean that we must redirect that energy back into the very ground in order to ‘save’ nature and all the species.

We are at no fault that reality made us to eat and exploit other beings and forms of life. We cannot control that. We have governments only because our most dangerous enemy is each other.. not other species as they aren’t so sly, clever, and conceptual.

I will take a look at this book though! I read almost all of Communist Manifesto..

“It is my feeling and understanding that human beings are not the only makers or possessors of value and meaning on this planet.”

Yes, qua other beings can consciously appoint value and meaning.. we don’t have the same ‘interfaces’ in order to share those values. They are irrelevant in large part. I would need to give specific examples:

E.g. A basic organism gives immediate value to acquiring energy or food. If a human had ONLY this process.. she could not survive if an alternate condition came by and she needed to protect itself to avoid death.

Now, exponentiate the countless possible situations that can arise from a simple goal such as acquiring something of value… such as food. No other organism was ever to come up with the idea of a ‘constitution’ or even a ‘farm’ in order to preserve their life beyond the immediate moment.

We have different interfaces and are incompatible with sharing and/or respecting other beings’ values.. qua they can attribute values. (which I believe some animals can.. but most species.. like a ladybug… I don’t know…)

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Mat,

The philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead has helped me conceive of how animals are thinking and conceptualizing beings despite the fact that they do not speak. Whitehead writes (in “Process and Reality”) that propositional thought does not require language. Dogs, for example, DO think spatially about object relations. Otherwise they would not be able to catch a frisbee. The pervasive Cartesianism that separates mind from body in our modern culture prevents us from understanding how bodily motility (human or not) is already a form of cognitive articulation. Language is simply a further development of the silent propositional logic of the body; it allows us to reflect upon our own meanings, to reframe situations and so define more appropriate and complex behaviors in a way not accessible to non-speaking animals. Obviously, as you go backwards down the chain of complexity, organisms become less conscious and more instinctual. But there is no sharp line separating humans from animals. Dogs are conscious, in my opinion. Insects are not, though certainly they are still experientially-aware in some limited sense (not blind machines or mere automatons).

We like to think of ourselves as the rational animal, but I think this is largely a future aspiration and not a current reality. Our current global socio-economic situation is about as inefficient and irrational, not to mention morally egregious, as I could imagine. Inefficient because it (industrialism) is thermodynamically unsustainable, morally egregious because it (capitalism) is feeding off the poor periphery (global South) to accumulate wealth and resources at the industrialized, “developed” centers/cities (in the West). One of the things Hornborg discusses at length in his book is how money/wealth is never “created,” but is rather part of a zero-sum game in which any gain for one party comes at the loss of another. Capitalism is inherently exploitative and based in unjust social relations. Money is fetishized (as Marx recognized) and obscures inequitable personal relations by raising a veil of abstract exchange value between us. We think some invisible hand, or intrinsic goodness of “the market” maintains fairness, but this is just ideological medicine for a deeply rooted psychological sickness alienating us from one another and the earth which birthed and sustains us. Human beings and their economy do not produce anything but new symbolic/cultural relations–the only true producer is the Sun, or perhaps plant life, which converts light into food and air for the rest of the biosphere to eat and breath. Until we recognize that ecological relations trump any contrived “economic law,” we will continue to pillage the planet and exploit the labor and resources of “undeveloped” people. The logic of capitalism requires that there be a class of poor people and cheap resources to be exploited by a class of rich owners. We will never live in a just and equitable world until we totally re-think our economic relations.

Another thing that needs critiquing (in my humble opinion) is the Anglo-American (since at least Locke) tendency to abstract the “individual” from the society/culture in which they are embedded. Individuality does not come before society. Everything you as an individual know and do is provided for you by a cultural matrix of relations. Your “individual rights” arise from and are protected by “collective responsibilities.” Your identity is at least partially constructed by those you interact with on a day to day basis, as well as by the language you happened to be born into. Don’t get me wrong, individuality is a wonderful thing. But it is not an end-in-itself. We cherish individuality because of the expression it affords us, and expression is a communal value. We individualize because we want to share our authentic selves with everyone else. Autonomy is always in communion.

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Great point on the dog.. how could it calculate the proper steps to catch a frisbee? I was actually thinking of the dog when writing that there is evidence that it does have a ‘ghost’ in its ‘shell’.

“We like to think of ourselves as the rational animal, but I think this is largely a future aspiration and not a current reality.”

Yes, the unique part of of being rational does imply volition. And each person must choose out of their own volition to operate through reason (i.e. concept formulating and hypothesizing and testing). It seems the average person, though, lives in ignorance and happily lives passively never pondering on philosophy and just hoping good luck or fate will continue to provide them of their wants and needs. They don’t care about history, or what makes things works.

“Inefficient because it (industrialism) is thermodynamically unsustainable”

What is your definition of, “industrialism”? And I hope it’s not something to do with factories or cars.. that is technology. (including the waste it may produce. All organisms produce waste of some sort. Humans just happen to have ugly smoke come out of their cars. But cows fart grass and deteriorate the ozone.. or so I’ve heard!)

“morally egregious because it (capitalism) is feeding off the poor periphery (global South) to accumulate wealth and resources at the industrialized, “developed” centers/cities (in the West).”

Capitalism doesn’t do anything. Capitalism doesn’t even exist. It is only a word to describe the interpersonal interactions among people as traders (not just monetary trade either.. but any sort of relationship where each party has the intent to make a mutual-benefit that will further enhance and/or sustain his life.. including love, conversation, etc…).

So, if we break it down: I take what you’re saying as, ‘It is morally egregious to use one’s mind and live as a human being through free, rational thought and trade amongst one’s self and others.’

You must be more specific. Who is committing a crime against whom? In a politics that recognizes and upholds the individual.. it is only the individual that is prosecuted and not his neighbor that had no part in it.

“Money is fetishized (as Marx recognized) and obscures inequitable personal relations by raising a veil of abstract exchange value between us.”

Money is a unit of credit remunerated to a person for his contribution to a society’s economy and livlihood. We cannot eliminate money and say, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scracth yours.”

If we relied on that bromide.. it may be that simple in certain cases but it’s just like arithmetic v.s. algebra. We can deal with simple, direct addition and multiplication of known, simple numbers but when several other ‘factors’ (pun intended.. think polynomials 😉 comes into play and exponents and unknown exponents, etc…. No one can control what is beyond their mind’s direct, perceptual capacity so we must resort to “abstract exchange value between us” because properly-formed concepts are valid pointers of what exists in actual reality. It all has to do with ‘unit-economy’ or what Ayn Rand called, “crow epistemology”.

“We think some invisible hand, or intrinsic goodness of “the market” maintains fairness, but this is just ideological medicine for a deeply rooted psychological sickness alienating us from one another and the earth which birthed and sustains us.”

That “invisible hand” is your mind’s [volitional] power of abstract reasoning and ability to form concepts. You cannot know everything.. no one can know ‘everything’ (at least directly/perceptually ;). The market does maintain fairness as long as a gun (or any form of force or fraud) is NOT involved to acquire value. We are far from that though and politicians are currently trying to take over the medical industry in America.

The Earth, as a planet, is an unconscious piece of rock (if I may be so crude ;). The sun has no consciousness either. It is true that they have given us our existence, but they are not dieties and did not volitionally intend to create us. We cannot ‘thank’ them.

“Human beings and their economy do not produce anything but new symbolic/cultural relations–the only true producer is the Sun, or perhaps plant life, which converts light into food and air for the rest of the biosphere to eat and breath.”

Yes, but aren’t those “symbolic/cultural” (and material formations, too! 😉 wonderful and grand!? And like I said, the Sun has no volition and is not some kind of diety. It is not a producer.. it’s just a great resource that happened to be put in the right spot. ;P

(Some people like to get nice tans, too, with it. Others think about how they’ll make a solar panel out of it to power their entire city. But we don’t give it thanks or money.. it demands none.)

“Until we recognize that ecological relations trump any contrived “economic law,” we will continue to pillage the planet and exploit the labor and resources of “undeveloped” people.”

These “underdeveloped people” are humans, right?? Or are you referring to plants and bugs? There are no “underdeveloped” humans (unless the person has down-syndrome or similar.. then you’re missing a chromosome or whatever and really missing out on major qualities of life). There is really only irrational cultures that have psycho dictators or politicians leading them.(actually.. ‘forcing’ would be a better word)

“The logic of capitalism requires that there be a class of poor people and cheap resources to be exploited by a class of rich owners.”

I hear that argument all the time. It always lacks the context of volition and current reality. The latter, reality, argument: The poorest people in America today, are farrrr richer than some of the richest kings and tribesmen in history… Those bossy monarchs sure as hell didn’t have internet, tv, heating and air, running water, grocery stores, sugary goods, microwave and fast foods, etc. etc. etc.. even a couple hundred years ago!)

And volition: Success is not an accident. Anyone that is willing and determined to, can become rich beyond what they dreamed possible. It doesn’t mean everyone will make several hundred million dollars.. but pretty much anyone willing to refine their studies, work, and discoveries and maintain it.. will do something tremendous (or even small!) that will reward them justly.

But when politicians start pointing the guns for pursuing one’s own interests.. that’s when jobs and poverty start pouring down.

“We will never live in a just and equitable world until we totally re-think our economic relations. ”

I absolutely agree! (just not in the same way you do 😉

Alright, this will probably be my last letter for the night. Write me a short reply on whether or not you still disagree and if I cleared up anything or confused you…

I still have yet to respond to your last paragraph. I will do so tomorrow but I do agree that identity and autonomy is largely inherited and “is provided for you by a cultural matrix of relations.”

I think that statement is written eloquently! (namely, “cultural matrix of relations”)

Btw, I think we could get away with some animal rights. I think it’s absolutely horrific when these weirdos scrape fur off of *living* animals and leave them in pure agony… I also don’t like when people allow their dogs to get in dog fights and bet on the dogs….

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Well, I wouldn’t want to say the dog “calculates” the proper steps to catch the frisbee, as if it projected a Cartesian grid onto the world in order to decipher its coordinates and direction. Rather, the dog’s knowledge of the frisbee’s spatio-temporal arc is implicit and embodied: a “know-how” rather than a “know-what.” It is much the same for you and I when we, say, encounter a flight of stairs. We don’t need to logically analyze each movement of our legs in advance in order to walk up the steps; instead, our legs do the “thinking” for us in real time.

I should point out that even this formulation (“our legs do our thinking for us”) seems to suggest a dualism between “you” and “your” legs, as if there were some metaphysical chasm separating one from the other. It is more ontologically honest to say “I am a body” than “I have a body,” for who is this “I” apart from the body-as-lived? You are the active attunement of your body to others and the world. Your volition is a function of your biological constitution: animation-from-within, will, purpose, etc. are not exclusively human possessions. Rather, they are part and parcel of being alive. Every organism is in this sense ensouled. Even the biosphere as a whole constitutes a living system with its own intrinsic telos. In fact, human purposes are best described as derivative of the primary directionality of the cosmos at large (which are diverse, ranging from creativity to cataclysm). The human being is quite unique, I wouldn’t want to deny that. We are the leading edge of a 13.7 billion year cosmogenesis, leading because we are the first species, not only to know (to be self-conscious) in the general sense, but specifically to know transcendent love. Ironically, self-consciousness is only possible if we have internalized otherness. Internalizing otherness is synonymous with loving another selflessly, giving oneself to an other for the sake of something greater than either of you as individuals.

All this is directly precisely against the Randian ethos of enlightened selfishness. To my mind (as they say), such a doctrine ignores the discoveries of modern depth psychology (Nietzsche, Freud, Adler, Jung, Lacan, Hillman, Tarnas, Rozak…) concerning the various reasons and ways in which the ego is not the master of its house (the psyche). The notion of acting out of rational self-interest is a tautological platitude. It’s meaning is always self-referentially defined, and so the ego can perpetually convince itself that it is in control, even if in actual fact its life remains largely unpredictable and mysterious. The philosophical or reflective life is not the norm, not by any stretch of the imagination. It involves what I mentioned above, an incorporation of what initially appears foreign or other (in the case of philosophy, this is Wisdom/Sophia) by way of loving cognition. Philosophy is quite literally the love of wisdom.

Industrialism is the use of machines (both technological and social) to transfer extropy (negentropy) from the global periphery to “developed” centers of capital accumulation. In the process of thus transferring highly ordered energy and materials (i.e., extropy) from resource rich localities to technologically sophisticated cities, industrial machines produce tremendous amounts of entropy (waste, pollution, etc.). The net gain in “productivity” and “profit” for those at the center is at the expense of the ecosystems, peoples, and cultures surrounding them (for example, the US imports Ecuadorian oil in exchange for the exported weapons their government needs to secure the resource from rebellious peasants). Economics is a zero-sum game. There is no growth in one sector without the destruction of another. This is the main lesson we learn by applying thermodynamics to the global marketplace.

All organisms produce waste, it is true. But unlike global industrial capitalism (GIC), nature reproduces itself differentially, in myriads of forms and niches. This provides for long-term stability (evolutionary stability, no doubt… stability is here defined not as static conservation, but as the continuous movement toward diversity and mutuality). GIC reproduces homogenously, turning the whole planet into English speaking, McDonalds eating consumers because it is built atop a logic of general-purpose money whose value is so abstract that it can substitute for almost any cultural meaning. Hence the rapid commodification of EVERYTHING, from food to friendship, so typical of the waning years of the industrial system. Marx was right about at least one thing: capitalism is invincible to outside ideologies, but inevitably tends toward its own self-destruction (because of ecological inefficiency leading to biospheric crisis and moral egregiousness leading to class revolt).

I have nothing against mutually-enhancing relationships between people. In fact, I think they are our only hope! I’m arguing that GIC requires a general-purpose monetary system, and that such a system necessarily trends toward the commodification of all facets of life. If you define capitalism differently, that’s fine. But as I (and the economists I have read) use the word, it means a specific social arrangement predicated upon the use of abstract, general-purpose money not tied to any concrete social or material reality other than what neoclassical economists call “use value.” The result is alienation from oneself and one another, as the only valid way of relating to the world becomes instrumentalism (i.e., how am I to best use other people and nature to get what I want?).

We do have perceptual capacities limiting our interaction with others and the world, but such limits are also possible gateways. Relating to others (and even ourselves) via abstract use-value closes the door to the many other ways of being-towards-others and being-in-the-world. We should be careful not to naturalize the ideology implicit in GIC, that which turns the human subject into a disembedded consumer.

The earth is best seen as a dynamic whole, but for the purposes of analytical understanding we can divide it into a core with several spheres. The core is (to the best of our scientific knowledge) liquid iron. It is spinning rather quickly and produces an electromagnetic field that protects the earth from solar radiation. Without the electromagnetic membrane produce by the activity of the core, life would not be possible on the surface. The lithosphere could be described as rock, but it is not of a single piece but 12 major plates. I don’t need to bore you with a lesson on plate tectonics, I’m sure you’re familiar. It suffices to say that the movement of these plates represents a sort of self-healing wound. The lithosphere is constantly remaking itself, keeping its surface fresh. The process occurs at speeds so slow relative to human life that it is no wonder we have trouble recognizing it for what it is. The biosphere is the thin film of organic life surviving between lithosphere and atmosphere, an atmosphere whose composition the biosphere created and maintains. The noosphere is hard to describe exactly (because it provides the very possibility of description), but most certainly includes the conceptual meaning you and I are exchanging here as language-speaking humans. All of these spheres of activity unite to birth a single living earth. The sun, of course, is the source of it all. We are basically inside the sun, surrounded on all sides by its heliosphere. Its multi-billion year process of dying supplies earth with the energy it needs to live. Perhaps you do not feel a sense of awe and reverence for these heavenly bodies. I can’t help it. Even if I understand rationally/scientifically how it all works, the mystery as to why it should be at all leaves me spellbound and mystified. The only authentic reaction I can muster is of a spiritual sort.

Sorry I have written so much, but I wonder if you’d mind if I posted our conversation on my blog? It is too interesting and poignant not to share!

Yours,

Matthew

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Actually, I was planning on publishing this elsewhere later on and asking you that… (why rewrite the same stuff over and over.. and why have to re-await another opportunity to express and consolidate ideas??) But not as soon you probably will.

I give you explicit permission to post whatever and ALL of what I e-mail you unless I explicitly note otherwise.

I will definitely say you did get very close to the source of your beliefs. I.e. I now understand much more your underlying cognitions and beliefs.

I will respond more tomorrow or this weekend. (including that last paragraph of your last e-mail)

For now, I want to make one comment: If the entire world was ‘Americanized’.. i.e. industrialized and materialized and everyone was motivated to find work, keep moving, and motivated to have material wealth.. we would not have such poverty and exploitation that exists all elsewhere in the world. And there would not be soo much of a gap of ‘socio-economic classes’. For instance, 15%-18% of the world’s wealth (possibly a bit more.. I can show you how I figured this out if you are interested.. just a quick calculation) are from people that are millionaires and above!

The global GDP per capita is $8,100 (directly from Wikipedia 😉 ). While $8,100 per person is pretty damn good…. I’m sure hundreds of million make only a few hundred a year at most. Is this because they are so worthless? I think not. It’s because their oppressive nation that they have no choice but to stand around idly wondering what to do with themselves. Also they were not born into a culture like you or I where there are so many ideas and fields to explore. Many have no concept of individual liberty like the wackos in North Korea… Many of them love their leader despite what a bastard and psycho he is!

And you totally refuted me (which I was prepared for as hinted in last letter) that the Earth is far more than a ‘rock’! I would have to agree. Also, it is quite bizarre that how old and BIG this universe is most of us still seem to think we are the center.

And how many thousands of galaxies exist without any evidence of sentience or consciousness beyond Earth.

More later.

– Mat

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Look forward to your longer response. I’ll just say, in response to: “If the entire world was ‘Americanized’…” that most estimates suggest we would need 5 earths to provide the resources necessary for everyone (all 7 billion) to have an American lifestyle. Regardless, I think the very logic of industrial capitalism is such that a majority of earth and humanity must be exploited in order to sustain the continual enrichment of a few. There simply would not and could not be “development” and material prosperity in the Western nations without systematic destruction of land and people elsewhere (South America, Africa, Asia). Again, economics is a zero-sum game, no matter the ideologically-driven rhetoric about economic “growth.” No energy can be created or destroyed, and all dissipative structures (whether organic or techno-industrial) survive by importing extropy and exporting entropy. The difference between natural organisms and the techno-industrial machine is like that between healthy cells and cancer. Organisms generally do not destroy their own habitats/biomes. The techno-industrial machine, on the other hand, is the most efficient destroyer of ecosystems ever to grace the presence of our planet.

BTW, from Wikipedia: “A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth.”

Wealth redistribution from the poor to the super-rich is the primary symptom of global industrial capitalism.

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