Indeed, there is no logical reason to reject Essentialism, whether one is a postmodernist, an idealist, or an existentialist. The term "postmodern" itself is somewhat ambiguous in interpretation. Generally it refers to cultural influences beginning in the middle of the last century. I think it is clear that the technological achievements of our modern era,
particularly in the Western World, have persuaded academics and intellectuals that scientific objectivism is the only valid approach to knowledge. This has led to a nihilistic view of reality where intuitive concepts, spirituality, and idealistic beliefs are regarded as part of the "mythos of man's evolution" prior to his enlightenment by scientific understanding.
I'm a History student in the UK, and found your 'Empires Also Die' article whilst researching an essay entitled 'Empires contain the seeds of their own decline'. Needless to say I found the article quite provocative and also very relevant to the issues I'm discussing.
I have to say, I found the piece to be quite a mixed bag - some of the issues raised were things that I've found myself saying before, especially the point you made about the declining role of the family - in the UK it's very much a prevalent problem that, whether families are single parent or not, a lot of parents are simply not prepared to take any responsibility for their children anymore, nor provide them with a basic understanding of how it is acceptable to behave within society. Needless to say I'm a little right wing!--CM
I am in total agreement with your sentiments regarding the failure of parents to teach responsibility to their children. The tragic consequences of this neglect are even more apparent here in the U.S. where nearly half of all children are raised without fathers.
In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn says: "Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers. ...Today, the principal cause of fatherlessness is paternal choice...the rising rate of paternal abandonment". Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality. As my essay points out, 70% of all prison and reform school inmates come from fatherless homes.
I've tried to stress the fact that in a nation, as in a home, there can be no freedom where individuals shirk personal responsibility. When people begin to take freedom for granted, they tend to disregard the moral, fiscal, and educational obligations that are the backbone of a free society. In a democracy, this leads to a welfare state that penalizes the successful to support a dependent underclass, lowering the standards of all concerned and weakening the security of a free nation. Such a decline is fostered by an ideology of 'political correctness' which makes it virtually impossible to identify the problems and take the necessary steps to correct them.
You needn't be ashamed of your conservative leaning, Chris. Let's face it: the solution to this malady is not going to come from the liberal left in the U.K. or the U.S. --HP
From: Tony J. Sent: Tuesday, 9/10/02 Subject: To Be or Not to Be...
Impressive start to what promises to be an exceptionally promising website...!!!!
My question is this: If the lover and the love object are reunited, is the lover consciously and eternally aware of this, or is consciousness and the sense of identity that goes with it dissipated into a nebulous state of "non being"? Nihilism or "non-being" only present themselves as powerful alternatives to the absence of proof of "Continuity of Consciousness."--TJ
As the first Forum contributor, you pose an intelligent question that gets right to the heart of the matter. I have deliberately avoided the use of "being" as a metaphor for Nature or the material world for reasons that should be obvious from the thesis. To regard "being", "beingness", or a "Being" as Reality is a mistake that is largely responsible for bringing civilization to its present predicament. For the Essentialist, Reality is not being but Essence. All things (including individual consciences) have their source in Essence. Were it not for our illusion of a differentiated space/time existence, Hamlet's enigma would be self-resolving.
To answer your question, Love is the perfect consummation of Desire and Value, whether it applies to Romeo and Juliet or the quest for Truth and Beauty. We seldom, if ever, even approach this joyful state in our differentiated existence; but we all sense its reality and pursue it daily. In the Oneness that Eckhart and other gnostics refer to, Self and Other are no longer impediments to Love because the division between them is extinguished. The Soul becomes the Value it has longed for, since both are unified in Essence.
You speak of "non-being" as a "dissipated, nebulous" state. But that is precisely the state in which we find ourselves as individuated creatures. The dissipation and isolation are a result of the nothingness that separates us all and prevents us from realizing Essence as perfect fullness------the timeless Absolute that we can only conceive as a hypothetical entity extended in space. As to "continuity of consciousness", the Soul is a far more encompassing identity than the memory of a single individual in a differentiated environment. Yes, we must surrender personal identity in order to gain unconditional fulfillment. Remember, however, that in Essence nothing is lost.
Consider this: We can't have the proof and remain free agents at the same time. However, if you can appreciate the concept of Freedom outlined here, you'll soon find your doubts vanishing and discover yourself to be an Essentialist at heart! --HP
From: Tony J. Sent: Thursday, 9/12/02 Subject: To Be or Not to Be... [Continued]
Many thanks for your reply. Yes it does make sense. My apologies for using the term "Being" for your "Essence" which as you rightfully suggest can somewhat confuse the issue. Perhaps the term "Pure Being" may be more akin to your "Essence"(?) From your views on Essentialism, how would you therefore describe the process of Death and what do you believe happens or occurs at this juncture which the individual so dreads? What (if anything) do you surmise that one "awakens" to? How would you attempt to describe or define it?--TJ
Tony, I've obviously had no first hand experience with dying and would not attempt to describe the experience. You would be better advised to consult your local library for accounts of those who claim to have had "near death experiences" (NDE). They appear to be proliferating as part of our New Age culture that keeps the book publishers in pocket change these days.
I will say that death, like birth, is a universal transition of Nature that should not be feared. Most of the fear stems from the fact that death represents the Unknown and, frankly, that a lot of unnecessary fuss is made about it by the survivors. There is also fear of losing consciousness; yet we do that every night without undue concern, placing personal identity, cognizant awareness and physiological functioning under the control of Nature. Do we dread the possibility that we may not wake up in the morning? Major surgery subjects the anesthetized body to severe trauma and pain; thanks to modern drug therapy, we either do not experience the discomfort or do not remember it. You were a non-entity for an eternity prior to your being born; what more is there to dread about returning to that nothingness again?
I don't mean to belittle the act of dying itself. But I ask you to consider the meaning implicit in the biblical passage, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; then we shall see God face-to-face". While the human brain is an exceptionally efficient coordinator of information required for the sensory perception and memory of individual experience, it is even more effective at screening out anything that would confuse our self-identity by supplying information beyond the finite present. When we shed the physical body, we also discard the negated self-identity along with the awareness limitations of its organic coordinator. This, also, is normal and logical. As to what it "feels like" to experience Absolute Essence ["Pure Being"?] itself, such knowledge is beyond the comprehension of any living creature. And that is also as it must be for Individual Freedom to operate as a viable principle. --HP
From: Tony J. Sent: Friday, 9/13/02 Subject: To Be or Not to Be... [Concluded]
As always, many thanks for your interesting and perceptive insights. I have to agree with your analogy that a certain amount of insight into the process of sleep can been useful in contemplating the nature of death. I suppose in the long run it is always fear of losing the "ego" or one's self-identity that causes most human beings so much dread and angst, and yet we have all had the experience of being deeply involved in something or just lazily walking down the street and suddenly "awakening" to the fact of where was the "I" during that moment? ...which doesn't necessarily mean that one was not aware; it just means that one was not aware of an "I" in that precise instance.
However as far as the individual is concerned Essence, Pure Being or existence itself is totally irrelevant if one is not "Aware that one is aware".One may as well be a brick! Consciousness is such a mysterious and fascinating thing, is it not.....!
Exactly! Now you see the problem with "being", and have discovered (I hope) the core meaning of this whole presentation. Essence is more than Being------but it must also encompass Being. Anything, taken by itself, is a differentiated entity. A brick exhibits Being; it is an "essent" with no sensibility. An individual possesses Being in the form of a physical body, but its consciousness (self-essence) does not. It is a "negate" without Being, capable only of perceiving certain attributes of the brick's "beingness" as a differentiated essent. In Essence, Being and Sensibility are merged as One. Self and Other are put behind us: there are no individuated personal "identities", no insensible entities occupying time and space. There is only the perfect all-encompassing Essence.
When we observe the "Universe" with all that we understand by the term, what do you surmise that "Essence" is trying to achieve; ie, what do you think is the purpose of all of this, or is it all just the "playground of the gods" as some Eastern religions have named it? In the great scheme of things Martin Heidegger proposed that "existence is neither worth living nor dying for." --TJ
Some say that we exist to "glorify God", and I believe there is much truth in that notion. I like to think of our purpose as providing the "sparkle" in the Gem of Essence by deriving its Value as free observers, much as the appreciation of Value adds sparkle to our life-experience. But it is left for each of us to discover the meaning of our own existence. --HP
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A more "scientific" philosophy link is Principia Cybernetica Web at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/
Also recommended: "The Philosophy of Individual Valuism" at www.indval.org