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September 13, 2016: Vivantology and Non-Violence: Introduction


Good morning everybody. This is your host, Kevin Boileau, at EPIS Radio, fighting his way through the studio to emerge as himself and the host of this show.  I’m here. It’s September 13, 2016, and it is 11:30 in the morning, Central Time, in the U.S. of A.


I’m pleased to announce that we’ve started production of two volumes of radio conversations concerning design, architecture, innovative thinking in self structure related to design, and I’m looking forward to our production staff fighting their way to the finish line of those two volumes.


I’m pleased to announce that today, which is September the 13th, 2016, we’re starting a whole new block of shows on some new concepts, very creative concepts, the most creative, innovative, and it’s a frontier, and in a frontier, anything goes. Certainly, in brainstorming and considering and thinking, and that’s the beauty of doing this sort of media. Frankly, you know, when you sit down and write a book or something like that, there’s a certain thinking process that goes on, even if it’s deeply theoretical, or if it’s literature, obviously, very creative. There’s something unique about radio, that you listen to yourself talk and (then) talk with another person, possibly interview somebody. It is a really different experience. I’m bringing attention to it because we’re embarking on some new thinking, right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise, and the thinking comes out of a book we published last year—I think it was last year—called Vivantonomy: A Transhumanist Phenomenology of the Self, which is in our ZeroPoint series, 2015.


I’ve been told that we have a couple of other books that we’re getting ready to release some time in the next six months. One is called Killbox. Of course, we have our 2016 journal. We have a book on the work of Henry Elkin, a great existentially-oriented psychoanalyst, so we’re looking forward to having those books released somewhere toward the end of the year, January-ish, something like that. So, stay tuned, enjoy the fall, and we will have those books released.


So, in “vivantonomy,” which is the naming of life, the denomination of life, we take issue with and quarrel with a certain kind of way of being in the world that comes from the Enlightenment. It is an aggressive, acquisitive self-structure. It’s how we relate to ourselves, how we relate to others, how we relate to the Earth, how we relate to things in the relationship between being and having, how we treat all other human beings, and by and large, there is a greedy, possessive element to it.


We’re just, by the way, just setting some ideas today. This is going to be 40 shows and possibly 50, so we’re going to ramble a little bit in the beginning so as not to unduly sediment the road ahead, but we do want to bring forward certain important ideas. One of them is [the concept of] human anthropology. What I mean by that is how are humans, human? How are we being humans? How does that manifest in how we treat those around us? I believe Nazarita Goldhammer is on her way in a limousine to the studio and if the limousine shows up in time I’m going to get her on the show and we’ll start dialoguing with her about these concepts.


The title of the show is Vivantology, which means the “logos of life.” So obviously very related to the naming of life, is the logos of life. Logos is how things work, how we can understand things, a basis for meaning. It obviously involves naming, and so it’s called Vivantology and Non-Violence. We want to take on a long-term dialogue about this human anthropology, the effects of this human anthropology on other sentient beings, including other humans and other primates, other animals, all living beings, all living things, all living systems, and we want to start introducing in this dialogue the concept of non-violence, both violence and non-violence, which is a very interesting topic. We must define violence. We must define non-violence.


Let me give you a couple of preliminary thoughts. More and more people in my experience are concerned that human beings are destroying the planet. We have tons of evidence now about how [there is] in some cases irremediable pollution, where we have destroyed waterways. They’re unsafe. You can’t even be on them let alone use them. We have very clear quantitative evidence about numbers of species that have recently gone extinct. They’re gone. There are no more. There are no more members of certain species. There are many other species that are critically endangered because of human encroachment. It’s not because of anything the animals are doing. It’s because of what we’re doing. Some people argue that we’re in the sixth great extinction. There are debates about whether this is true and there are debates about the degree, but some people believe that up to 75% of the current species will go extinct within the next century or less time. We see this now with African elephants. It will be a miracle to save them. It may be that saving them means that there will be a couple of thousand in one or two highly protected, quarantined parks in Africa. That’s it. It’s unbelievable. The grizzly bear population is very small, the wolf population is very small, the world population of tigers is very small, on and on, and from time to time we will give some of these facts because they’re important and you can’t argue with them.


So, in prior work we have pointed out something about how human beings are with each other, and that’s aggressive. You would do well to think about your own aggression, how it comes from your own anxiety and your own fear, and really think about why you are aggressive, and whether there is a better way. What goes along with aggression is violence. We can talk about aggression in sociology and aggression in psychoanalysis. We can talk about violence, which is the related term, violence. You could be aggressive to various degrees of violence. But what’s happening now is we’re seeing more and more evidence of violence in this way of life. [Also, there are] devastating effects of human violence on other humans, there are unbelievable levels of violence. Don’t we want to survive? Why would we be killing each other if we want to survive and flourish? It makes no sense.


The violence towards domesticated animals (animals that we have brought in from the wild, and then in some cases perpetrate harm on them) is to such a degree that is almost unimaginable. But there are subtle forms of violence, such as structural violence, hidden violence, and the violence that we become attuned to. It is like we become desensitized. So, for example, it’s legal to trap animals in heinous ways that cause an extraordinary amount of suffering. [It is] unbelievable. If you have any idea how much it hurts to be caught in a trap, and then when the trapper comes along they’re often very abusive and shameful towards that scared, trapped animal before they kill it, before they murder it. Another sentient being.


So, there’s something happening in the human pathology, there’s something going on in who we are as a species being. For some people, there’s a concern that this is getting worse, and a concern that we might end up being violent to such a degree that there will be a tipping point that we reach. Once you cross a tipping point, that means chances of recovering from it are almost zero. That’s the concern. I want to talk to Nazarita Goldhammer a little bit about violence. There’s going to be plenty of time to talk about non-violence and strategies to get there. We’re going to have many months to carry on that conversation. But let’s open a conversation about violence and what it means to be violent. Nazarita, are you on the show?


NG: I am. Can you hear me okay?


KB: I can hear you just fine. How about you, can you hear me okay?


NG: Yes.


KB: Fantastic. Okay. Fantastic. So here you are on the show, we talked about non-violent design recently. We’ve had conversations about human anthropology recently, and I’d like to get some of your initial thoughts about violence, non-violence, vivantology, how a science of life or a science of vivantology, a philosophy of life, really pushes up against the ways that we’ve been operating in the world for a long time. I’d like to ask you to explain to our listeners if you would some of your perspectives on this possessive, acquisitive, greedy self that we’ve developed out of the Enlightenment that gets so focused on taking, wrestling away, keeping, squirreling away. There’s a deep, competitive way of being, and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on that as we go forward in the conversation.


NG: Okay. This is, there’s a lot that I’ve been thinking of lately. It concerns humans. [the question] of which race I am, their duality perception, and their limited perception, like designing a relationship in aggression. What I’ve been thinking about lately is that it’s interesting that humans will destroy their own neighborhood, they’ll destroy their own food source, and if they were rational they would go destroy some other area. They wouldn’t destroy their backyard, but we tend to destroy our own backyard and then blame it on someone else. So, I’m looking at this kind of way that we are that we think that we’re trapped in a dualistic, nihilistic egotistical existence, where we think it’s okay to have destruction within our words, within our actions, within our relationships because there might be for the immediate gain. I’ve been reading a lot on water and grains and the way that people use water around the world. I was recently really struck by how people will destroy their own water table, their own source of water to make money in the moment, knowing that the consequences of that, in a very short time, [will be] to cause suffering. But it didn’t matter, because they would be suffering with everybody else [and] they were okay with destroying the immediate present to make a profit knowing that they were going to suffer. So, this really struck me, it struck me in terms of how humans think. For example, designing an environment. Sometimes people will do everything beautiful in their living room, but the back rooms are trash, [as if] there’s nothing good in them. They don’t care, but the public eye sees the living room and therefore they put all their money into this one part of their house to show other people that they’re good and yet the rest of their house is in shambles.


I believe that this is like everything else that we do. We want a source of food, we want to enjoy. There are people who, like me, don’t eat meat. I’m a vegan, but I know that people will enjoy meat for now, knowing that it is destroying the world and destroying the water tables, the grasslands. It’s killing other species, but they tend to enjoy what they have now, knowing that they will suffer in the future with everybody else for their own actions. I hope this gives you a view of what I’ve been thinking. I’m thinking of two things, and others. There’s a big story out now that porpoises obviously have a very complex language that “scientists” are discovering, and the reason that they didn’t discover it before is because they studied porpoises that were enclosed and of course they had nothing to say to each other because they were trapped but they found that they have complex communication with each other. Not just communicating about something, but normal, everyday talking conversations. It reminded me that there are humans who think that humans are the pinnacle of highest intelligence and growth and they just disparage animals and there are other people who think animals are the highest level of compassion and beauty but they disparage humans. I think that we must really start looking at (it’s called an equalization of our views) like why do we want to destroy the future with what we do now, like what is our motive to do that, why are we drawn to do that for immediate gain? We will destroy all possibility of the future and that’s intriguing.


KB: Well, excellent. Thank you. That’s an excellent start. A couple of other notions here, in a preliminary way, are to think about what’s sometimes called the autonomous self. [This is] because we’re really focused on self-structure, aren’t we? Isn’t that where we’re really focused here? Sure, because as people, it is how we wire ourselves. How we continue to rewire our plastic brains through culture and through individual decision-making that determines a kind of self and determines a kind of strategic decision-making positions, how we go, how we deal with things, how we deal with conflict. So, we have created this self that in the Enlightenment that is a kind of autonomous self who supposedly can think and make decisions, act upon the world and shape the world, and constitute meaning. The problem with that is it comes with a lot of negative qualities, baggage as it were. You end up with a social political system that valorizes competition, valorizes alienation, valorizes private property.


I’ll give you an example of that. The American appetite for hamburgers is so great that cattle ranchers can do almost anything they want to produce beef. That means they can, through various procedures, kill anything that comes on their land that threatens their beef production, whether that is a wolf, a coyote, or even wild horses. We’ve learned that the BLM, the U.S. government, has authorized, they’ve now authorized it, to kill 45,000 wild horses that were rounded up, 45,000, that they kidnapped, who they took away from their families. A lot of them died, and they’ve been holding them in pens, large pens, and they didn’t know what to do with them. They’ve never known what to do with them, from the get-go. Some of them have been illegally sold to slaughter, but they have taken these people, they’re horse people, from their lands where they’ve been for millions of years, and they’ve rounded them up because cattle ranchers want to ranch in these areas, so they want to lease land from the BLM, and they don’t want the horses there. That means these beautiful wild horses are going to be killed. It’s a perfect example of how human, this human, alienated, competitive, possessory human, destroys to get. We’re seeing it right now. I want my hamburger and I’m willing to pay for it, and then the cattle rancher goes out and produces it and they kill. They slaughter their cattle.


But the way it’s going, we’re going to see larger and larger and larger, mega, farms for cattle. We will never be able to keep up with it. The mathematics shows that we will not be able to feed the American population on a beef diet. We can’t do it. It won’t work. So, I predict that what’s going to happen is we’re going to keep producing more and more cattle, more and more beef. We’re going to kill anything that gets in its way, whether it be grizzly bear, wolf, horses. There’s going to be a lot of annihilation of other species, and of course the annihilation of all the cattle. We’re going to create an enormous amount of pollution through slaughterhouses. We already have. But it’s going to increase, it’s going to be an unbelievable amount of pollution that ends up in the waterways from slaughterhouses.


This is a perfect example of a violent way of life that comes about from a certain kind of human being. Of course, there have been theorists who have argued that we can change, that we don’t need to be that way, that we can see violence for what it is, that we can transcend that kind of acquisitive, ego-based, selfish, self-structure. It’s a selfish self-structure. We see theorists like Levinas, Buber, in some cases the very late Sartre, Gabriel Marcel, and these guys are not the only ones, but they’re very important thinkers [making these common points]., What we’re starting to understand is that we don’t live in a bubble, we don’t live in a vacuum, and that has been eye-opening for some people.


I’m one of those persons. I’m shocked at what we do. I’m starting to accept it so that I can help deal with it and help change. But what we have is people living in a bubble where they don’t realize what we’re doing. Then [there are] the very few of us who are starting to get glimpses of these horrendous outputs that we’re producing. It is a large task. But the truth is we can change the self. We can transcend the ego. We can correct a certain anthropological mistake, we can finally admit that capitalism doesn’t work. It really doesn’t.


Capitalism is a structure that is inciting really bad behavior. I mean, people raise dogs, they breed dogs from the time they’re puppies, as soon as they’re old enough to breed they breed them, and breed them, and breed them. Then they throw them into the garbage, for money. [They do this with] pit bulls or blood lions in South Africa [that they breed] to shoot. They breed lions to kill. Some people would say the way that we are being selves is going to result in our ultimate destruction and the destruction of everything else, along with it, and perhaps before. I think the issue about beef is one of them. We just simply can’t keep up with it. It takes too much water and too many resources to raise one cattle unit, just one. It doesn’t feed that many people. So, we’re spending more to produce than we get out of it. It’s a loss. I guess that’s the right way to put it. There’s a loss, an economic loss. So, we all know that if we’re constantly spending more than we make that eventually there’s going to be a tipping point, and then it’s all over. But some people just don’t realize that. You must, therefore, stay out of that tipping point. [This is] because once you’re there, even if business becomes good, you must just stop, move, and do something new.


So, we argue in our book Vivantonomy for a new kind of, a new standing of solidarity, and a new kind of responsibility. I just wanted to point out that there are fewer than 50,000 [wild] horses that exist in the United States. I just wanted to mention that, because what this means is if we kill the 45,000 that we’ve already imprisoned, we only have 5,000 left. What that means is the population is so low that we might not be able to protect it. I’m just now reading something here about Oregon mustangs, they were captured last Wednesday in a roundup. They’ll never run free again, they’ll never see their families again, and it’s unconscionable. It’s absolutely unconscionable.


I’ll give you another example. It’s part of this example. So, part of what the BLM was going to do was to implement a humane plan to sterilize these horses, but what they did instead was to create a way of sterilizing the horses. I’m going to describe it to you because this is an example of violence. What they do is a veterinarian reaches into a female horse’s vagina with a knife and makes an incision in the vaginal wall and manually twists and severs the ovaries with a tool with a chain on the end of it, which obviously causes bleeding and infection. This is unbelievable. We’re doing all of this to get rid of anything that would get in the way of cattle.


This is unbelievable to me. I mean there are 50,000 wild horses, and I’m harping on this because there are many, many examples of this, but it’s good to stay with one, because we’re doing this. It’s good to stay on this example because [it is important]. Sally Jewell is the Secretary of the Interior. Her phone number is (202) 208-3100. You could call her, actually, and tell her what you think. This is unbelievable [what the BLM is planning.] But we’re doing this across the board. [For example,] there are other people who want to build great big condos all around the Grand Canyon. Now, if we do that, we will kill 99% of the animals who live there. No question about it. We will end up polluting, we will end up polluting one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is unacceptable.


So Nazarita, and here’s another thing that’s going on in Korea and other countries: [In China] they’re breeding teacup puppies where they can almost fit in your hand, so that people can carry them to work and put them in their purses, and they’re now cutting them out by C-section before they’re even mature. They’re doing everything they can to make them these little designer dogs. This is madness, it’s utter madness, but this is what we’re doing. In our book Vivantonomy, Nazarita Goldhammer and I started developing several related concepts. One of them is solidarity, a new kind of a solidarity to where we don’t just have solidarity with our best friend, or with a spouse or a family or a community. [Instead], we have solidarity with life. In other words, we are so loyal to life, and we always promote life in such a way that we create this other concept. It’s a new level of responsibility, and it means that we become responsible for the responsibility of the other. That means not hurting somebody, not excommunicating them, not killing them, not being violent to them, but taking the responsibility to teach them. Teach them, train them, to help them learn things that they need to know. These interrelated concepts of solidarity and responsibility are very important for the development of a new anthropology that’s based on vivantology. So, I’m going to ask Nazarita Goldhammer if she would to dialogue with me a little bit about solidarity and a new kind of solidarity and this new level of responsibility. Nazarita?


NG: Yep. Yep. Yep. Solidarity and responsibility for the other. Those are deep, profound, important words that should have meaning to everyone. They should trigger some deep place inside of us that gives us a way to go forward as better humans, better people who are solid with each other that fight for things that are not right. I think we must start with something that says why do you have a view that you have? Where is your view from? Do you believe that you need to eat protein to be healthy? Do you believe that you have animal protein to be healthy? Where is that view from? There’s another view that came out in the news, today, this morning, and it’s how the sugar industry made some damning evidence of heart disease, linking sugar to heart disease disappear, and to blame it solely on saturated fats.


I know if you ask most Americans what they believe [about this] is that saturated fat is the cause of heart disease. Maybe sugar is linked to diabetes. Maybe, you know I think so, but they won’t really link it to heart disease because the sugar industry covered up this evidence and more importantly, they paid the researchers to skew the evidence. The person who was in charge of the skewed evidence became part of the food pyramid for the nation which everybody [now] believes. That’s why and when you’re really looking at what is your real belief, what do you think of solidarity, what do you think of the responsibility for the other?


Do you think “Oh, you know they’re Italian, I’m not responsible for them Italians, I’m only responsible for my ethnic group. That ethnic group is on their own. I’m not responsible for animals because God gave us mastery over all of them to use as we will, so we have to really look at beliefs, at desires, the way that we process information and we have to ask: “Where does this come from? Do we have beauty strips in our minds that we don’t really want to look at where something comes from?”


I just want to point out that there’s a big movement of humane treatment of animals so that we can eat them.  [Food industries are promoting the ideologies of] no hormones, no bad preservatives, [for example with] chicken. But what that means the person who raises the chickens can’t sell them in that way, cannot give any antibiotics so chickens [who] are sick and they can’t help them because people don’t want to buy antibiotic-filled chicken. So, I think we need to really look at the way we’re using the earth, [how]we’re using animals, [how] we’re using each other, and see that we are [in a mode of] anti-solidarity and we need to change that. We need to really look at what [is in] our hearts, really know what is really the future of our world. If we don’t change now I believe that we’re heading for the tipping point as you like to say and which is true and that we will never recover from, we will annihilate ourselves and everything else on the planet. We now have opportunities to choose what we’ll do.


KB: Let’s focus then on that responsibility that Nazarita Goldhammer is pointing out. We have just about three minutes left. I want to just talk about that responsibility and clarify that. In American jurisprudence, responsibility has always been that you can do whatever you want with your life if it’s lawful, if it’s not directly impeding on a legal interest of another person. Beyond that, responsibility may come from your ethnic group, your family, your culture, your religion, some other place, which is more informal. There’s no jail penalty if you violate it. You might be in trouble with your church or your family, and sometimes that can be severe, but in American jurisprudence we let people do whatever they want to do. We don’t have a notion of what I would call a strong version or a proactive, deep version of responsibility. We are advocating in our work a much deeper level of responsibility that is proactive, which means number one, I must be responsible for everybody else’s responsibility. I must make sure that everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do. That means I must reach out. I need to talk to people. I need to engage in critical dialogue with them in a kind way but [also] to challenge them. [I must] challenge, perhaps, their lack of the exercise of responsibility. I must challenge myself. It’s a way of deepening your self-structure, and the way we do that is by constantly challenging ourselves and rethinking the ways we approach others, rethinking the way we approach the world in general, and developing a new kind of self. Frankly, it’s a new kind of self.


What’s happening around us—and this is no joke—the amount of extermination and violence and eradication of life is huge. That’s part of what we’re going to be talking about over the next ten months, perhaps even a whole year, because what could be more important. We’ll see you next week. We’re going to talk about the six axioms presented in Vivantonomy just to get some concepts out on the table.


This is Kevin Boileau, your host at EPIS Radio, signing off and wishing you all a good week.


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September 29, 2015 – Psychoanalytic Approach to Conflict Resolution

Good afternoon everybody, this is Dr. Kevin Boileau with EPIS Radio. Good afternoon. It is Tuesday. It is Tuesday, September 29th. September 29th. Yes, it’s the end of the month. September 29th, and it is 1 p.m. Mountain Time. It is noon on the west coast, in San Diego, it is 2 pm in Chicago, and it is 3 pm already in Florida. Excusez moi. When we come back at you next Tuesday, we will revert to our normal 10:30 a.m. scheduling time, and we apologize to all our listeners who had expected a 10:30 show. Here we are at 1 o’clock. As you know, all of our shows are archived in perpetuity. You can access them on your way home from the store, surfing on the west coast, flying back from your business trip to Texas, whatever you need to do.

We have concluded, at least for now, our work on the radio on trans-humanism and we’re going to shift gears for the rest of the fall, that means today, and October, November and December, and then we’re going to start a whole new block. We [will] have this block for the rest of the fall. It’s going to be on conflict resolution and psychoanalysis – a psychoanalytic approach to conflict resolution. In January, we aim to start a whole new block. So please enjoy the next twelve or thirteen weeks of programming.

Why is this important? Why are we doing this? Well, it’s because the human world is a mess. And yes it’s true that there are beautiful things, and yes it’s true that some human beings do amazing things. It’s also true that most human beings don’t. Most human beings are selfish; they live in their aggression cycles in their limbic brain system. They, in situations of difference or conflict, have a very difficult time moving into their cerebral cortex and searching for solutions that are positive and constructive for everybody involved. Today in the studio is one of our mediators at BCS [Mediation], Nazarita Goldhammer. She’s also the Director at the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute and Society. She was able to take just a few minutes from her busy work schedule to pop into the studio and make sure everything’s going well, just like a director is expected to do, even though we also expect directors to work well into the evening – that’s why they’re the directors. So we really appreciate very much that Miss Goldhammer could actually come into the studio today. Thank you, Nazarita.

What’s really motivating this show is an intense amount of research into dispute resolution design, which we’ve been doing for a number of years. And we’re eyeball-deep into that research. We’re studying game theory mathematics as it relates to applied psychoanalytic theory, phenomenology, both existential and transcendental, and critical theory. If you look around you, you’ll see that the way that people solve conflict is not always what we want. It’s not always ideal. You know, there’s the gun, the knife, the fist, the adversarial court action, the duel: they’re all the same. They’re about winners and losers, and this goes right along, hand in hand, with a competitive, capitalist, free market economy, which is killing the world. We have some people who have tens and tens of billions of dollars and can satisfy any whim they want to at any time, I mean literally, anything they want to do. We have other people who, today, will actually starve to death. They’ll starve to death because they don’t have enough food to eat. This is a huge problem. This is a huge justice issue. But even beyond the justice, the socio-political, the moral, is the economic. And in the economic, there is simply no way that this can continue. The disparities in wealth, the way that we’re murdering the earth, murdering non-human beings for food, is not sustainable. Just do the math. If you don’t believe me, go out and start doing the research and do the math. We are on a one-way ticket to oblivion.

And so part of this leads to a structuralization of our culture, of our societies, our communities, that fosters, and that means in an evolutionary way, promotes competition for goods that one person or one group gets and another person doesn’t get, or another group doesn’t get. So you can see all kinds of unrest that occur, also, in just a local level in the organizations that you’re a part of, or in your personal life, your social life. So we have these structuralizations in conflict resolution that when we look at it [them] from a game theory mathematics approach, rarely lead to both parties or all parties being satisfied. And it’s unfortunate because we miss the boat on a lot of these so-called resolutions.

So in our institute, we’re looking at other forms of design for dispute resolution. So we want to focus on psychoanalysis, phenomenology, critical theory – these interrogating disciplines that actually have a lot of merit and a lot of power to them. Mediation. I want to focus on mediation. I don’t want to focus on litigation directly, at least not right now. There is a psychoanalysis of litigation, to be sure, and there’s a psychoanalysis of any kind of structuralization of a dispute resolution process. So mediation has gone through the informal stage. It started to become professionalized and [is] called settlement mastering, or settlement agreements, [that] largely focused on the law. Again, [this is a] kind of a dogmatic substantive approach that was adversarial in nature, and once upon a time not so long ago, somebody came to a very clear idea that instead we should focus on what parties really want, what they think they want, what they need, to be sure, and what their preferences are, ranking some preferences; and then somehow put all those together in a creative algorithm, and create solution sets. And indeed, we have needs-based, or interest-based negotiation and mediation.

An even newer development is the transformative phase of mediation where people actually realize that their self systems are not static; they’re not sedimented. They can change; they do change; a person’s rankings of value in their life change. They go through lots of evolutions. And in a conflict situation, it’s a perfect time for a person to reexamine his or her value rankings, and possibly deliberately change their self-structure to something that’s more suitable to their future. And it’s also true that underlying this way of thinking is the challenge to the Cartesian translucent self –  this idea that somehow the mind is potentially translucent consciousness or that we can become fully aware if we have clear and distinct ideas if we use the right methodology. Freud comes along. Marx comes along. Nietzsche comes along. A lot of people come along and start attacking this notion.

Psychoanalysis is one of these attacks: the idea that the self is far more complicated than this translucence and that part of the self is unconscious, either by choice or other factors that we can get into as we go. And with this new philosophy of mind, it changes how we approach conflict resolution, how we approach litigation, how we approach mediation, because we start to see that people aren’t these fully moral agents who are aware of what they want; and instead we find that people are mostly unaware of what they want. And so in this new philosophy of mind we’ve got this unconscious set of forces; this unconscious level motivating a person towards thought, intentional structures, emotional experience, and then behavior in the world, and certainly behavior relationally, and certainly relational behavior that involves stepping into conflict in dealing with it.

In these conflict resolution approaches, the litigation format is trial. And there’s a due process discovery procedure, questions that are asked, and answers, and all of this evidence is blossomed and is delivered to a jury or a judge, a neutral decision-maker who makes a judgment. Mediation formats are all over the board now because mediation is in flux. We have arbitration which is more like a court system than mediation. We have reconciliation. We have conciliation, and perhaps there are even other designs and newer designs that we’re not aware of right now. But our institute, it’s called BCS Dispute Resolution Institute, studies, with mathematics and logic, the way people deal with their unconscious motivations, their anxiety, their fear, and how they strategize or orient themselves towards a conflict situation, and we call those games. They’re just games. It’s very interesting to see how these psychoanalytic theories can help us understand the relationship between unconscious material and somewhat conscious strategies or games that people play in transactions of difference or conflict.

We always want to keep in mind that there’s an unconscious element and a conscious element in a self structure. They come together. I’s not a neat division, and as we look at some of the newer models in psychoanalytic theory, we see them very much unstructured, like there’s something above the waterline and something below the waterline. It’s much more complicated than that. For the sake of our discussion though, let’s suppose that everybody’s self system has some unconscious content and motivation, and some conscious. And I think that’s very helpful. And also consider that we can use a powerful way of diagramming conflict using any kind of diagram that’s helpful: storytelling, identifying games and how they come together, what the likely results are. If you want to use numbers, we can use numbers, as is used in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. There’s lots of ways of expressing these strategic positions and what their outcomes are.

And so if somebody’s trying to resolve a conflict and they’re not aware of game theory, they’re not aware of their unconscious, or that there even is such an element, they’re going to be trying to solve conflict with both legs broken and their arms behind their backs. They’re not going to have the tools necessary to solving them. We also find in our work that there is somewhat of an algorithm, a kind of a hard-wired matrix or filter constituted in early childhood due to a person’s situations, sufferings, deficiencies, whatever was going on at home, and [that] created a certain way of coping with one’s environment and certainly with other people. As you can imagine, these operate very below a pond or lake, at the very bottom. And so we might see manifestations up top, waves and such, seaweed growing, you know, whatever’s going on up top, but the strings are being pulled by whatever’s going on at the bottom.

Or if you don’t like that metaphor, we can use a different one. The strings are really being pulled from elsewhere, some other place other than a person’s conscious mind. This is very important because indeed, if you’re involved in solving a conflict as a professional person, if you discount game theory, if you discount this philosophy of mind with an unconscious, you might solve conflict. You might be very good at it, but you’re doing it by ignoring a very powerful and helpful dimension. And we think that if you take that dimension into account, you might actually do better work. So we have come up with a window into conflict resolution and we’ll focus on mediation. We’ll focus on mediation, and we’ll use the three-person model. There’s two conflicting parties and a third person [who] is hired to help them solve their conflict.

So the other element that is preliminary and important is to really get that every time you enter into a social environment of any kind, you’re infecting the environment in obvious ways and you’re also infecting that environment in unconscious ways. And so we call this the phenomenological field. It’s the field of all phenomena that occurs between all people at various levels. It can be very conscious; it can be very unconscious, but there’s something occurring. If you can just look at it like a fish tank, and there’s water in it. And above the line, we have these obvious things that we’re doing like conscious discussion, protocol formats for a mediation process, how we dress, how we talk, where we meet, etc., etc. And then there’s a lot of stuff happening under the waterline. But the fact of the matter is, the container of the fish tank is actually a phenomenological field. That’s my point. And we’re more or less aware of what’s happening.

The question is how can we use psychoanalytic theory to solve a case, knowing that we professionals affect what’s going on? Knowing that we don’t really and entirely understand the backgrounds of the individuals, let alone our own, and we really want to have that understanding, right? Because if we have more of that understanding, it’s safe to say that we’re going to have more information, more knowledge, about what will really work for disputing parties. Sure, I suppose it could be viewed as a giant reel of information and data. That’s true. That’s actually true. So the question is now, what sort of psychoanalytic approach could be helpful? Well, we’ve come up with some models.

So the model starts with the assumption that we infect the mediation process, and we have our own issues, our own longstanding issues that we’ve worked on, more or less. So the models that we’ve created are: number one, the existential model; that’s the existential phenomenological model; the second one is the empirical psychoanalytic model; and the third one is the structural-linguistic model. You have to understand that, and this is really a good place to start, to launch in this direction, is that right now we’re largely using needs-based or interest-based mediation. So the idea is that if you can figure out what the person needs and what they want, and you can do that for both people, then you might be able to create some combination of the distribution of goods involved to satisfy both people. And that if you employ this competently, you don’t ever have to talk about the law or their rights or anything like that. So the law or their rights might be somewhere you might turn if the parties are in an intractable position.

If we take needs-based mediation though, then we’re into this problem of what is the self, what is the human anthropology, and that’s when we come face to face with this new conclusion that we’re not fully aware of anything. We’re working on it. So we’ve seen in these processes that people change their mind about what they need. Sometimes they don’t know what they need and sometimes they never know in a conflict resolution process. That’s a very, very difficult problem to face as a professional, if somebody doesn’t really know what they want or they need. The other issue is that people change what they want and what they need, even in the course of the dispute resolution process. So you always have to be aware of a moving target, a moving mind, as it were. So what you think is a need or an interest or a preference might not be, and you have to be sensitive enough and savvy enough to get that because people often speak in code. And then [there is] also the problem of change: changing needs, changing interests. And in fact, often when people start exploring their larger conflicts, they actually start thinking about having a different life with a different self, frankly. So your job as a professional is to help them gain that awareness through dialogue, through challenging questions, through a heck of a lot of empathy, being highly empathic to the whole struggle.

One model is this existential phenomenological model. We’re going to talk about it a little bit. We’re going to delve into these issues more in the future. The idea is that we can actually transform the individuals in the conflict. You know, people often, at some level of development, they will make the argument that they want to be respected for who they are. “I want to be me,” people will say. “I want people to respect me for who I am.” And in transformative mediation, as we see it, the self structure is a fluid, changeable structure that should change through time, that is supposed to change through time. We want to get rid of unwanted baggage, unwanted dysfunctionality, revisit our values, our objectives, our intentionalities, that that’s really healthy, to keep kind of a fluid self system going, between ego and unconscious subterranean waters. So keep that in mind, that there’s transformative mediation and transformative self processes that actually occur in dispute resolution, and you can see how that can soften up two opposing sides, if that makes sense.

So the first view is what we call the existential approach and this is the idea that ideally, and in principle, the mind or consciousness is theoretically capable of being translucent. But that’s too much of an ontological burden on the self, for anybody. I mean literally, anybody. So we create these pockets or regions of black holes. We engage in strategies of self deception about who we think we are and, in fact, clinging to a certain kind of self structure just is one definition of self deception. And you’d be amazed at how people will defend a certain identity or what they think they want, and they’ll fight tooth and nail for it, and they’ll realize at some point in the future – they always do – that they never really wanted that. And it’s really deflating, right? Here you are, you fight like heck, you fight like heck for something, for some kind of a good, and then you realize that it was just an illusion.

And what this existential approach uses is the phenomenological method, and ideally, and subject to budget and context-appropriate processes, you not only as a mediator would engage in the phenomenological method, but you would get clients to do this as well. And that means to bracket assumptions – and we’re talking about clients now – bracketing assumptions, biases, prejudices, expectations, going into a beginner’s mind, letting go of the big conflict and the constellation of conflicts, and setting aside what people are most attached to, just setting it aside, and moving themselves into a position in consciousness where they can be more what we call “experience near.” And they can re-ground themselves foundationally in their own relationship to their body, to the material world, to their sociality, like who they really want to be. Do they want to be remarried again, do they want to be single, do they want something else? Sometimes this means new jobs, new careers, shifting in a number of ways, socially and materially, and then also dealing in new ways with the unanswerable questions, the questions of uncertainty in life. There are questions of uncertainty. And some people try to answer them through spiritual practices, religious practices. Some people try to answer them through philosophical or scientific practices, but the point is that it’s another dimension that we can take on. We can also, as I’ve said, look at a new way of relating to our self.

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New EPIS Seminar: A Trans-Humanist Phenomenology of the Radical Other


One of the existential domains in Dasein analysis, existential analysis, and humanistic psychologies is the (living) physical world. This is the furniture, processes, and complex life domains in which we live. However, because of various ideologies that distort ontological valuation, we end up pushing much of this world to the periphery. This includes the non-human Other. This is the radical Other.

In conjunction with the Non-Violent (Life) Design Institute, the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute will be offering a seminar in a trans-humanist approach to the radical Other. This is a seminar in critical theory, psychoanalysis, and existential phenomenology, focusing on the structures of the world in which humans live, including those of non-human Others – – from both subjective and objective phenomenological orientations.

Amongst other meanings, we fail to understand why we have so subjugated this domain of our existential lebenswelt, and all its inhabitants, to our own peril and to the moral catastrophe that we wage on the Earth, and Them, every day.


Dr. Boileau, Dean of Faculty

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Dean of Faculty, Kevin Boileau, announces the 2018-19 curriculum for our quarterly seminars.

Kevin Boileau

Nazarita Goldhammer

Existential Psychoanalytic Institute

& Society







1ST DRAFT 2.9.18

*There may be small modifications in the reading depending upon

 the needs of the EPIS community.

*Default is Mountain Time. Please adjust your

calendar depending upon your time zone.

Session 1:

August 31 & September 1 (2018)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 1 (“Phenomenology as a Philosophy and Its Relation to Traditional Metaphysical Approaches”) and 2 (“The Philosophy of Arithmetic”)

Recommended (Primary)

Body, Community, Language, World. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999.

Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohák. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996.

The Natural World as a Philosophical Problem. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erika Abrams. Edited by Ivan Chvatik, Edited by Lubica Ucnik.

Recommended (Secondary)

Edward F. Findlay, Caring for the soul in a postmodern age: politics and phenomenology in the thought of Jan Patočka

 Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death

 Erazim Kohak, Jan Patocka: Philosophy and Selected Writings


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m., MT)

Ecrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Lacan, Article 23 (“Remarks of Daniel Lagache’s Presentation: ‘Psychoanalysis and Personality Structure’”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Technologies of the Self, Michel Foucault, 1988, Articles 1 (“Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” Rex Martin) and 2 (“Technologies of the Self,” Michel Foucault)


Session 2:

November 30 & December 1 (2018)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year);Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year);Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

 Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 3 (“Pure Logic: The Logical Investigations”) and 4 (“The Concept of Phenomenon”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)

Ecrits, Lacan, Article 24 (“The Signification of the Phallus”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Technologies of the Self, Foucault, Articles 7 (“Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self,” Patrick H. Hutton) and 8 (“The Political Technology of Individuals,” Foucault)

Session 3:

March 1 & 2 (2019)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

 Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 5 (“Pure Logic and the Problem of the Grounding of Experience”) & 6 (“The First Explanation of the Phenomenological Reduction”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)

Ecrits, Article 25 (“In Memory of Ernest Jones: On His Theory of Symbolism”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Foucault, The following articles:

“The Will to Knowledge,” “Penal Theories and Institutions,” “The Punitive Society,”

and “Psychiatric Power.”

Session 4:

May 31 and June 1 (2019)

Applied and Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

 (Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).


Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 7 (“Analysis of Internal Time Consciousness”) and 8 (“Incarnate Being”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m.)

Ecrits, Lacan Articles 26 (“On An Ex Post Facto Syllabary”) and 27 (“Guiding Remarkes for a Convention on Female Sexuality”)


 Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Foucault, The following articles: (“The Abnormals” “Society Must Be Defended,” “Security, Territory, and Population,” and “The Birth of Biopolitics”).


March 1, 2018 version

EPIS curriculum, copyright, 2018-19

Official Version, Draft 1

EPIS Education






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Nazarita Goldhammer and Kevin Boileau announce the 2018 EPIS conference.



Indigenous Roots and Encounters with Nature:

Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, Critical Theory


Online Conference: 27-28 July

Selected proceedings to be published in EPIS journal


Submissions Deadline: 1 June 2018.

Conference fee: $100


Accepting papers for July 27/28 conference on the natural & indigenous roots of a progressive psychoanalysis, applied phenomenology, and anthropologically transformative critical theory.

While looking to past theories in psychoanalysis and phenomenology is important, this conference will focus on new, creative ideas, concepts, and theories. The goal is to produce presentations and papers that explore innovative work in psychoanalysis and phenomenology that refer to natural and indigenous roots of our civilization and cultures within it.

Our hope is to produce papers that explore alienated relationships between the living world, life, and the given, and our contemporary understanding of psychoanalysis and phenomenology.  This involves, necessarily, critical theory, applied phenomenology, praxis, and potentials for transformative change, individually and collectively.  Please refer to episjournal.com for policies.

Traditionally, however, psychologists and psychoanalysts will use APA-Style guide and philosophers will use the Chicago Manual of Style.  Please also submit a paper for the 2018 journal issue even if you cannot attend the conference.  Please submit these papers to Kevin Boileau, PhD, at kbradref@gmail.com.

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I offer this short excerpt from the book Vivantonomy, and hope that our readers will enjoy it.  It is part of our contribution to a new human anthropology.

Kevin Boileau

  1. Introduction

I am writing this book in Missoula, Montana, USA, in fall of 2014 and the early part of 2015.  It comes from several years of thought, teaching, research, work with Professor David A. Boileau, work at the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute, work with the Global Center for Advanced Studies, work at the BCS Dispute Resolution Research Institute, and valuable dialogue with Professor Burggraeve himself.  While it is true that I practice, teach, and write in the areas of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology, it is also true that I have spent decades of my life studying moral theory.  My work here comes from all that I mention, but I must state that the content of this book is perhaps important to me primarily because of the gravity of moral issues currently facing human beings.  I take full responsibility for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies.  However, much of my thinking comes from several earlier volumes of mine and I feel confident that I have been true and fair both past and present.

Primary written sources for my work include my prior books entitled Genuine Reciprocity, Essays on Phenomenology, Manifesto on Solidarity, and Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis (and all notations and references); Professor Burggraeve’s book From Self-Development to Solidarity (along with all his references to original work by Emmanuel Levinas), and in general, all the work he has done on Levinas, including his new unpublished essay “Bound to the Other Before Any Contract,” which focuses on the triplicate of the French Revolution, which he wants to re-order to fraternity, equality, freedom.”; private notes and correspondence between David A. Boileau and me; and finally, all the work that I have published in other formats in psychoanalysis, cooperative conflict resolution, and phenomenology.  My endnotes reference my original ideas, contributions of ideas from others, or the source books I list above.  The main purpose of my contribution is not to demonstrate broad knowledge about who is writing in this area.  In contrast, it is to present some focused ideas that I have been working on for over two decades, and about which some clarity is starting to emerge in my own consciousness.

I have organized this text as an introduction in a general way to my perspective on the thought of Levinas, some of my interpretations of Burggraeve’s work I mention above, my thoughts about what I call a “trans-human” approach to solidarity, and a rapprochement of my work with Burggraeve’s, especially focusing on the notion of responsibility and human fraternity. Let us now turn to some general thoughts about Levinas, which will bring my work alongside Burggraeve’s.  Then, I shall follow a simple progression of thought in the main body of my essay.  This will show how our modern anthropology of the human has progressed from the autonomy of Kant to the heteronomy of Levinas, and to the trans-human approach that I outline.  Thus, we move from what I call the “possessive self” of the Enlightenment to the other-directed self we see with Levinas, Burggraeve, Marcel (carefully reviewed in my Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis) and others, which increases the demand for responsibility and which re-configures our anthropology.  I then propose a new type of humanism that is other-directed, to be sure, but which moves beyond a humanism that focuses solely or primarily on humans and human benefit.  In this humanism, which constructs a ”trans-human” anthropology, the focus goes beyond humans in order to take into account on an equal basis with a principle of ontological parity, the environment, and perhaps more import, all sentient life.

I will thereby argue that this trans-humanist move is necessary in order to complete the historical-theoretical line of thinking that Levinas starts and which Burggraeve develops and refines.  I propose that this trans-human approach is consonant with the thinking of both Levinas and Burggraeve, and that it allows us a deeper sense of the heteronomous approach, surpassing it through a radicalization of its theoretical core.  Further, it develops our notion of fraternity, refines our sense of solidarity, enriches our beliefs about mutuality and reciprocity, and finally, broadens and extends the requirements of responsibility for each of us, and all of us.  In the end, I believe that this is the most important consequence of this progression.  I also might add that my work is exploratory in the sense that a trans-humanism purports to “cross” or go beyond both humanisms of autonomy and heteronomy but then proceeds to return to both.  I hope that the reader can generously interpret my intent, which is solely to enrich Professor Burggraeve’s refined notions of fraternity and responsibility, and to continue to develop our understanding of what is truly an ethic that relies on a radicalized heteronomous anthropology.  I must confess that as we make our commitments to greater levels of responsibility and to an anthropology that deepens its commitment to all others, and to the Other, we necessarily find ourselves at sea—with loss of autonomy, ego, and personal identity as we have known it.  I am grateful to both Professor David A. Boileau and to Professor Roger Burggraeve for helping me develop this work.  Because of the nature of these ideas, much of what I write here is in part motivated by faith in the not-yet-known.  Let us turn to some general thoughts about Levinas as we proceed to the problem at hand.

Kevin Boileau

Nazarita Goldhammer

EPIS Education

EPIS Press

The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society


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Nazarita Goldhammer, Director of the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute, and Dr. Kevin Boileau, Dean of Faculty, offer the following exegesis concerning responsibility.  We hope it will be thought-provoking and valuable to you.

As foundation for a character-driven approach to the moral life, it is important not only to do the right thing but also to have good dispositions, motivations, attitudes, character, and moral habit. It goes beyond the duties of the law and motivates people toward excellence. The overall goal is for humans to go beyond mere survival and to flourish together in communities. This sought-after state of eudaimonia requires social institutions that work for justice and fairness. This infrastructure creates the environmental conditions that allow for the individuals within it to excel.

Once we figure out which character traits we ought to cultivate then we must consistently incorporate them into our occupational and personal lives. When we acquire these dispositions, we must then learn how to apply them to the right degree. That is, in our experience of such states as fear, anxiety, anger, and so forth, we must learn to experience them at the right time, toward the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason and in the right manner, applying a standard of balance. What is very important is that we emulate those of us who have developed virtuous behavior. Correspondingly, when we act virtuously we must serve as exemplars for others in our communities.

To figure out which of the virtues we ought to focus on and develop, we must first understand our values as an organization or as a community, for it is these values that virtuous behavior must serve. Let us understand that a value is an ideal or something that we aspire toward as a state of being or a condition. In contrast, a virtue is a behavior that supports the value. A partial list of possible virtues could include unity, identity, democracy, integrity, family, community, hard work, and strength. Let’s briefly define them.

Unity means a kind of solidarity in which we come together to advance the dignity of each of us, and all of us together.  This does not seem to be the type of system that has emerged from the Enlightenment and its valorization of autonomy.  As a part of this solidarity we must acknowledge the identities of individuals and group of individuals. To further the value of identity, we must also value democracy, for in this kind of system we respect diversity, our responsibility to it as well as to the democratic process. Integrity implies unwavering commitment. Hard work and strength imply assiduousness, focus, and perseverance.  Further, there are many ways to talk about this list of values and their corresponding virtues. We must focus here, though, on how this cluster of values comes together to form what we are as moral selves. While keeping the preceding list in mind, let’s focus on three major values as well as related values that support the major ones. The major values that we want to address are solidarity, justice, and responsibility. The supporting values include integrity, respect for others, beneficence, and compassion.

The primordial condition of solidarity is that the other is entrusted to me in an unconditional manner. We are similarly situated, with similar pain, and similar challenges. It is a belonging together that emerges from the realization that the community one belongs to constitutes a single whole. It is a state of interdependence, an ethical feeling of compassion, and a deep spiritual connection. On the sociological level, for example in any community, group, or organization, we are dependent upon each other, not only for our survival but for our flourishing as well. On the personal level this requires us to be empathic or compassionate with each other, to stand in each other’s shoes. This requires us to commit ourselves to the common good and to the good of each human because each of us is responsible for all. Even more, it requires radical selflessness and forgiveness of each other. It presupposes a symmetrical relation of respect for each other’s rights, as well as an asymmetrical relation that goes beyond rights. This asymmetry requires self-sacrifice. Thus, the needs of the other take priority over one’s own interests.

Solidarity requires us to go beyond the contractual model to a social model that is based on covenant. In this model, every relationship that is mediated by objects, including capital and property, must be subordinated to the more fundamental relationship between people as communal beings–that is, we need each other. The quality of the relationship of solidarity is an end-in-itself, a state in which we overcome the valuation of others for extrinsic, instrumental reasons. This is linked to the axiom that there is a universal right to use the resources of the earth. Thus, based on the assumption of the individual dignity of each person, each of us must be seen in a way such that individual interests must never run counter to the general welfare. That is, the universal goods of the union are to be shared universally. This requires those of us with more shared goods to share them with the less fortunate. This process should humanize our contractual relations.

The process of contributing to this state of solidarity triggers the value of justice. Justice is fairness. It is the principle of moral rightness. It is the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward. In valuing justice, then, we are committed to the fair and equitable treatment of persons. Justice entails rewarding persons in accordance with their deserts, or withholding the reward when appropriate. It also entails punishment for those who deserve it. This system of rewarding and punishing ought to be carried out by those in power in accord with substantive and procedural rules. This raises the issue of whether those in power were elected to positions of power through fair processes and whether the system of reward and punishment is itself fair. Further, justice is not so much about equality as it is about equity. Thus, sometimes people should be treated equally and sometimes not. The three main types are retributive, compensatory, and distributive. Justice as retribution concerns fair punishment practices. Typically, in the discourse of ethics we refer to retribution in terms of accountability and the need to punish those who violate professional standards. Part of this involves exposing those who violate our common standards and agreements. Compensatory justice concerns fair reward practices. It is what we do when we settle on an equitable way of rewarding individuals for their achievements or benefiting others because of their disadvantages or for harms done to them. Finally, distributive justice concerns fair allocation practices. It concerns how the benefits and burdens of our community are passed out. In our community, it concerns the allocation of protections, rights, goods, and services.

When we translate the value of justice into action we usually must make a comparison. We compare the actions, needs, or merits of one person to those of others. To assess what is fair we must assess what a person deserves by comparison him with others. We can only determine what is fair by determining what is fair to others. Thus, justice is always relative to the situation, persons, and resources at hand. Justice also requires equal treatment of those who are similarly situated and unequal treatment of those who are not similarly situated. In the attempt to be just, we must presume that persons are equals unless reflective differences show that they are not. To demonstrate that persons ought to be treated differently, for example, regarding job skills, we need to look at the job and determine which skills are necessary for that job.  This process takes proving that a skill is necessary, or is a crucial part of the task to be done and not just an accidental or irrelevant fact.

To pursue justice, we must overcome a concept of self that limits responsibility, which is the third value that we want to adopt. Responsibility is first that quality that makes us committed to anything. It requires that we follow through on the values that we have recognized as a basic part of what it means to be human and more specifically what it means to be a part of any specific group. When we are connected to other people we have responsibility to them. It is what makes us care about being ethical and perhaps can be spoken about as moral motivation. Responsibility is perhaps the most important value underpinning any moral transformation. Let’s therefore develop an extended and sustained discussion about it.  To prepare yourself for this discussion, imagine a social ontology—a set of expectations—that is not merely based on contract.  Let’s consider instead that it is based on an axiom of ontological parity.

Responsibility can be thought of in two senses. First, it is the precondition for being moral, that is, thinking that ethics is important in the first place. Second, it is the list of those specific actions required of us when we are responsible to or for someone or something. It is that which binds us to the world and to others, requiring a response when appropriate. When we are infants we do not understand responsibility; our only task it seems is to immediately satisfy our desires. As we grow older we recognize that our needs must be rank ordered and mediated by the needs of others. Responsibility manifests itself by reflecting on and acting upon the constellation of our whole value system. It is the very way that we can explain our connection to others. Further, it is the way that we connect to the world and to others–in terms of our value systems–that gives meaning to the lives of each of us.

Our specific responsibilities come in two ways. We are responsible to some others, for example our co-workers and supervisors, and we are responsible for some others, again including our co-workers or perhaps those who are on our work team. When we are responsible to someone we must render an accounting to that person, and we have duties to do so. These duties, in fact, come from the very nature of the relationship into which we have entered freely. For example, a mailman has the duty to deliver the mail even though he may be tired or not feel well. A mother may have the duty to care for her children even though she may have other interests and desires. These responsibilities are accepted as a part of agreeing to do a specific job, whether we like or enjoy each of them. In addition, those things that we are responsible for are those actions and events that we cause or have some causal relationship to because we are the moral agent who brings them about.

The word “responsibility” operates in at least two dimensions.  It contains a moral notion of personal culpability and a legal notion concerned with collective organization and the indemnification of victims. Individual moral responsibility is first concerned with imputation of blame because of an act that violates an obligation. To identify one as a perpetrator means to make him responsible for the consequences of an act. He answers for it because the action is attributed to him. Although sometimes responsibility is attributed to those who take initiative, thereby assigning them adulation, we usually speak of it in the negative sense, when someone wrongs another.

The negative usage comes from the criminal law, in which we assign a penalty to someone who is guilty of an offense. We show that a person has committed an act while in control of his faculties and assign him punishment in accordance with various factors, the most important of which is the attribution of responsibility for the act and its consequences. Responsibility establishes a three-part relationship between the responsible person, the domain of his responsibility, and the authority before which that person is answerable.

Legal responsibility implies an obligation to restore damage caused to others through one’s own fault and in criminal law to suffer the established penalty. In morality, as well as in law, the paradigm case involves an informed intentionality, or lack of regard for the interests of others. In the professional or occupational domain, the moral reference of responsibility for one’s actions is founded on the obligation not to harm others and to restore the injuries one has caused. It is an individualistic responsibility born out of the obligation to answer for one’s acts and to act in a way that any other person could act in a similar manner. Each professional role one plays comes with a certain set of duties, and a person thereby assumes responsibility for faithfully discharging the duties that come with the role. This notion also includes the ideal not to charge others for one’s own responsibility. It is very important to note that even if our behavior is highly constricted within the organization in which we work, we still cannot legitimately renounce our capacity for autonomous behavior. We always have choice.

What is very interesting is how modern technology and the rise of super-corporations has put into question the traditional notion of responsibility. In this new notion, the fault of the origin of an accident is not emphasized. Instead, the focus is on restoring to the victim was taken from him. The increasing complexity of human action in modern industry, where there are often several structural, organizational, and individual contributing factors, makes it very difficult to assign blame to one specific person. The sheer complexity of our technology has, in some cases, made the identification of direct causal linkage a nearly impossible task. We see, then, in the post-modern era, a real solidarity—of a sort—in human action.   I question that this appearance of solidarity is real solidarity. In this new paradigm, employers pay heavily into insurance funds that pay damages to the wounded. We replace individual fault by social risk management at the managerial level, but this doesn’t alleviate the notion of responsibility at the individual level.

Solidarity creates a system in which one can be responsible without necessarily being guilty before the law. That is, individual responsibility persists, even though because of the complexity of the modern corporation in may be difficult if not impossible to assign legal blame for an accident or other malfeasance. Civil law, which insists on restoration, develops much quicker than criminal law, which is founded on penalty and on the pursuit of the perpetrator. Whereas criminal law and morality may often converge when determining the illicit act, civil law reinforces a disconnection from morality.

The notion of responsibility for risks develops a natural solidarity among the members of a community, in which the risk is shared collectively. This can create a tendency toward irresponsibility of workers, if companies are financially responsible through insurance, and this can create an economic counter-force against those workers. This necessitates a revival and a re-instantiation of individual worker responsibility through natural and matured solidarity. Because it is so difficult in some cases to assign individual culpability, we must at least consider the benefits of struggling together to deal with and overcome these complicated misfortunes, for they impact all of us and we suffer together.

In the new society, with its complicated industrial-technological complex, many sorts of human relations are no longer face-to-face. We affect others in the workplace, therefore, even though we do not see them. This could potentially lead to–and perhaps already has–a decreased sense of responsibility amongst individuals. This leads to the danger that the community itself will suffer the burden of taking care of the risks. In addition, we must also be on guard against the transfer of responsibility to those who are perceived as being responsible, for example, senior management, supervisors, and team leaders. This tendency here can lead to witch hunting of “those responsible,” who ultimately perhaps may answer for the negligence of others. In this regard, Taine himself claimed that: “The popular imagination needs living persons to whom it can impute its wrongs and on whom it can unload its emotions.” Here, restoration is viewed as insufficient, and punishment itself becomes the goal, in the attempt to purify society of the evil that threatens it. In this paradigm leaders are at risk as the body politic, including workers, members of professional organizations, business partners, students, family members, and more, each give up their own accountability.  As we use the Internet and other advanced communication technologies, we face the risk that this phenomenon may become more serious and more dangerous.

Nevertheless, behind the veil of anonymity there are real and actual persons who assume various responsibilities and who act them out in situation. The ones with more power and information have responsibility for the execution of tasks that have been entrusted to them and for the wellbeing of the persons for whom they care. While denying a direct causal relation, which is one of the characteristics of moral imputability, this responsibility dissociates itself from civil responsibility, which we have already viewed as a collective insurance. In this way, responsibility is understood as an emergent quality of playing a certain role.

In professional or occupational ethics, the level of responsibility of a specific person is correlative with the degree of power, knowledge, and liberty that are tied up with the part he or she plays within a certain organization and with the type of services they render. This often corresponds with a certain level of income and social power, as well. For persons who practice a profession–a doctor or a lawyer–moral obligations are strictly and clearly framed in terms of individual responsibility. Thus, their acts are more easily understood than those of workers, whose power and behavior is always contextualized within a long chain of interaction and whose productive work cannot always be seen directly.

In addition, there are ways of administering human resources that reduce the responsibility of the agents involved, insistent as they are on obedience to instructions and subordination. This does not mean that the public or that the company itself does not look for a scapegoat in its workers, even though the actual tasks that they were responsible for were not substantial enough to have caused the malfeasance. We must always look at the organizational character, too, for some have rigid pyramidal structures and others have more cooperative and participatory, which allow for more expression of individual autonomy and responsibility.  This inquiry, therefore, triggers the question about “noetics,” which can apply to individuals, to companies, to societies, and to whole cultures.  Because of these new complexities, our responsibility forces us to consider our underlying philosophical anthropology, which affects individuals as it does the whole.

In a complex system in which everything is more entangled and more uncertain, it is important to acknowledge and promote the autonomy of those involved. This makes apparent the need for clarification of the role, power, and autonomy of each position in the web of relationships, which in turn creates a real ability to assign responsibility. Concomitant with this structural organization in which autonomies are created, we need a clear statement of standards of conduct, for each role to be discharged in the system. This set of ethical imperatives becomes a promise that each of us makes to each other, by playing the role that we agree to and to which we are assigned. Clearly, these promises need to be re-evaluated periodically, and we also must provide the sort of training and education that will enhance one’s ability to carry out his or her duties. In short, responsibilities must be clarified and the network of all interrelated responsibilities communicated in such a way that we all understand how our duties fit in with the whole.

Moreover, we must always be aware of changes in global conditions in all domains, including the economic, the governmental, the social, the legal, and so forth, which may transform relations of relative power in such a way as to create new zones of responsibility. These new zones of responsibility alter current moral relations as well as create new ones, thus we must be vigilant. Furthermore, we cannot ignore those who are distant from us either in space or in time. Just because we do not ever see someone, we may have moral responsibility to them because of the complex interrelationship of all things. That is, we may not be able to see all the consequences of our behavior even though we know that they exist. We must also be careful about the future, for each action we engage in now has important effects for future generations. Hans Jonas expresses these concepts in this way: “Act so that the effects of your action are compatible with the permanence of genuine human life,” or “Act so that the effects of your action are not destructive of the future possibility of such life.”  This implies that we must act on right principle because we cannot see or understand the wide-ranging consequences of our behavior.

This new notion of responsibility orients itself toward the trajectory of our behavior and comports with the forgotten etymology of the word “responsible,” which is called sponsor in Latin. A sponsor vouches for someone else. To be responsible means to stand as a surety for another. For Nietzsche himself, being responsible means that one is “capable of making promises,” giving one’s word, and making a decision in which one commits oneself to the future. From this promise emerges behavior and one’s contribution toward the situation of others. Seen in this light, responsibility means that one can keep one’s promise. Concomitantly, it means to inspire confidence in others. Perhaps most importantly, it is about a lifetime exercise in virtue, in which we do work on ourselves, in relation to the others in our lives. At its very roots, then, freedom is mediated by responsibility to others because we are always in relation to them.

Let’s take stock of our account of responsibility. We must, first, always carefully consider the effects of our behavior on others, present and future. We must also take steps to prevent any foreseeable harm, before we act. Not to be aware of danger is irresponsible and thus we must live a life of preventative prudence. This obligation extends to all the domains of social life even where the causal links are harder to see. Second, we are witnessing an explosion of knowledge about our world, and this also mandates that we engage in reasonable research to discover potential harms. We must derivatively pay attention to the obligation to communicate both our knowledge and our lack of knowledge about any factors that may affect a risk of harm. The third obligation consists in restoring to victims what they lose, through the system of suretyship. Presumably this transfer of resources back to victims comes through channels of compensatory and even retributory justice to which we adhere and about which we dialogue, keeping firmly in mind that education and moral growth is the main objective.

Traditionally, ethical responsibility focused on antecedent causes and was mostly concerned with individual duties that emerged out of present and past relationships. This paradigm is giving way to a new focus toward the future and long-term relationships, especially pinpointing those individuals who are especially susceptible to the effects of collective action. We are moving from a mere system that prohibits us from actively harming other to a system in which we are responsible for proactively changing structures that harm and responsible for actively helping others. We are, then, not just responsible for keeping our house in order. The watermark is higher, and now we are more and more responsible for others—those we supervise, the innocent, the weak, those in the future, and so forth. My responsibility no longer emanates from inside of me. Instead, it comes from each other person who calls to me, who appeals to me. I, in turn, must listen attentively so that I may hear their calls. I must look beyond my own immediate circle of relations and adopt a broader view, becoming responsible for a much wider range of individuals. It is not that we become responsible for everyone and everything. Yet, it means that we transform a duty-based ethics where we pursue the right action into the pursuit of virtue in which we pursue the good and are always vigilant for the needs and interests of others.  This includes all Others.

Let us now talk about becoming mature. Let us talk about the developmental process of assuming broader and deeper levels of responsibility. Before we are conscious we are beings with urges and wants. This is the state of a child whose original urge is for self-directed happiness. We can characterize this wanting as selfish, narcissistic, with the logic of pursuing as much pleasure as possible and as avoiding as much pain as is possible. Here, the conscious subject thinks that he is the center of the world and the measure of all things. He is the center of all meaning and all claims to truth. This, we hold, is the unconscious narcissism that has determined the entire western vision of who we are. It is the basis for our anthropology of the subject, of the self.

In this state, we are so involved with ourselves that we view all other things in the light of ourselves. We are shackled to our own self-image and find our wellbeing in the pleasure we have in our own image. At bottom our desires are directed right back toward ourselves as we each try to wrap our heads around the rest of the world, including other people. In this state, then, we totalize a world in terms of our own small frame of mind. Here there is a complete convergence between oneself and objective reality.  This lack of a gap or discrepancy is our propensity toward self-deception.  It is a denial of the transcendent, which is the world of possibility, of overcoming, and of change.  This foundation creates complacency, depression, and misplaced aggression.

This state prohibits us from directing ourselves toward another person in terms of his own difference. Rather, in this state we utilize the other’s image for our own project of becoming. In this kind of way of life, which is mostly unconscious, I want others to want me in various ways. This helps me develop my self-identity as well as my self-esteem. Yet if I approach others in this narcissistic way, only in terms of my own need for wholeness, I preclude myself from listening to their need. This way in the world creates a kind of tit-for-tat, competitive [and adversarial] social dynamic in which we do things for others in the hope and with the expectation that we will receive something in return. It creates a world that is a war of all against all, overtly or covertly.

Unfortunately, when we see others in this way, we often unconsciously attribute to them the qualities of ourselves. This externalizing of our own self creates a project of mastering the other when we are just trying to master the wounds of the past that we have internalized into ourselves. This kind of need can also show up in the belief in a god that is narcissistic. In this state, we pursue a unity with god to obtain an overwhelming assurance and protected-ness. Again, though, in our narcissism we are only chasing ourselves.

Yet we realize that we can never reduce the other as a function of our own happiness. He is always different, and always escapes what we want from him. However, in this egocentric involvement with the world, we create relations of power with other people. Because of the fear of losing our own identity in the face of the other, we try harder to ignore our difference, but in this way, we don’t see what he may need from us. This creates a social world that is very much based on an economy of usefulness–we each see the other in terms of his or her use value. I use you to affirm and develop myself. You do the same. Thus, we all do.

All of us, led by our egocentrism, are motivated by our need for autonomy, wanting to expand the reach of our influence as much as possible, and thus we collide with each other in our everyday push for power. From this conflict, the numerous people who inhabit the same ecosphere cannot each be at the center of things. This causes us–in our egocentricity–to position ourselves against each other. But hardly anyone wants to live in this kind of system, in which no one can be trusted and where we constantly must watch our backs. The better things in life–peace, music, relaxation, pleasure, and the like–don’t come when we are always on the verge of violence. Consequently, we enter into compacts with others, giving up only so much of our autonomy as is necessary to avoid the other’s violence. This leads to the formulation of laws and clear statements of rights.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it treats weaker groups and individuals unfairly. This is so because the system itself is born of egocentrism and relations of power. Within the logic of this system, attention is given to the powerless only to the extent that they pose a threat to the powerful. Our history, then, is a history of conquests; it is a humanism of those that are proud of being conquerors. Within a history of this kind of competitive dynamic–of all against all–we have become desensitized to the other, and the cycle intensifies. Most of us suffer a constantly nagging that something is wrong, but we hide from it; we run from it. We use food, drugs, sex, shopping, and the like to distract ourselves from the truth of our lack of attention to the other.  We thus retreat from our responsibility to others, each other, and all Others.

Nevertheless, at some point in our development, in our maturation process, we understand that we are not at the center of the social world and that we never were really. This presents us with the conceptual and experiential problem of finding a way out of our narcissism and our egocentrism. We cannot do it in terms of our own internalized, pleasure-seeking enterprise. It therefore must come from outside each one of us. It must come from the other himself. As such, we must transcend viewing the other as a force that must be overcome. Furthermore, we must see the other—not in terms of our own categories of understanding and not in terms of our own agenda—but in terms of his or her radical difference.

It is the look.  The solution involves the look of the other. It is the other’s glance that breaks through my egocentric construction of him. When I look in the other’s face, directly in the eyes, I see how different he is. I can flee from this fact. I can hide it. But I know it. This is the fundamental fact in my interaction with the other. I know at some level that he always escapes me, always escapes my ideas about him. It is an uncanny feeling that we experience, as we realize that the other really is different. Just the look of the other resists my attempt to wrap my head around him. It is his plea for me not to annihilate him—not to kill him. That he is unfamiliar.

The face of the other becomes my judge. He raises the issue of my power. He raises the issue of his own difference. In the other’s face, we recognize that what we take to be our right and our freedom is just an imperialism that conquers, that takes, and that murders. I realize that my spontaneous impulse toward self- affirmation and self-development is not so innocent, that I affect others from the ground up, even in my so-called reality as a free being. My conscience tells me from the bottom up that I am necessarily interdependent with others.  This includes all sentient life, including humans and other beings both known and unknown.

This responsibility that causes me shame precedes my ideas about freedom. It precedes any agreements I make. It has little to do with feelings of altruism or sympathy for others, feelings that come from conscious awareness. I learn that my responsibility comes as a very part of who I am. I learn that I am not independent from others and that I live for the other—one way or the other. I learn that I am not only responsible for my own “free” decisions but that I am also responsible for the other, and for his responsibility as well. Dostoevsky himself agrees with this extreme view of responsibility by saying in The Brothers Karamazov that “each of us is guilty before all, for all, and I more than all others.” I am thereby responsible for my neighbor. When the other looks at me, calls to me, I cannot avoid him. I cannot pretend that responsibility for him is not my concern for my pretending belies my acknowledgment, that I have heard his appeal. In the other’s face, I realize that I do have a choice. I can either use him economically or answer to his appeal. If I answer his appeal, I act without regard for my desire. This goodness demands no repayment or satisfaction. Here, the concern for myself disappears from the center of attention. I become preoccupied with the other’s situation and the other’s need. I surpass my concern for my own life as I concentrate on what the other needs from me.  This responsibility extends to all humans, including the elderly, the weak, the infirm, and the disabled.  They each have a Look, and they each appeal no matter what their level of functioning.  They each play a part in the whole of humanity.  Moreover, there is no good reason to preclude other sentient beings from this responsibility.

Let us be clear that this a struggle: the choice between egocentrism and responsibility. Goodness comes every time I successfully free myself from my selfishness. I must constantly be vigilant to my natural tendency to put myself first. The other must always count for more. Perhaps goodness just is this struggle between narcissism and responsibility. This is not to say that I negate myself as a person or that I negate my own identity. Instead, it is a matter of putting the other first as a matter of course and as a reversal of spontaneous, selfish inclination. Giving to the other goes hand in hand with emptying myself of myself. Giving truly means giving something up. Giving means giving a gift of myself. When I am responsible, I am for the other always, in spite of myself.

In this new paradigm, or way of being, I do not primarily seek out the protection of my own rights. Instead I seek out and advance the rights of others. I protect the other first. I serve the other first. I look out for the other first. I answer to the other first. I give to the other first. I give to the other without regard for my feeling. I give to the other without expectation of repayment. I give to the other without considering the potential advantages. In my giving, which is without regard for any instrumental good that I could achieve through my giving, I give universally and without discrimination. I give because it is my responsibility to do so. Thus, my relationship with the person to whom I give is not a relation to a specific other; instead it is a relation to all, distant and near. It is a universal stance.

When I am responsible to the other I am led by the truth that the other has a right over me. All others occupy this place in me, thus I must act in ways that protect even the absent others. It may that the only responsibility I have for the other is economic, for it is only through the economic relation that I can protect him. This requires careful mediation between all my responsibilities to others, as well as to my responsibilities for my own self-development.  I must develop my abilities to serve others. Each of us, to whatever degree we are capable of must also, and especially if this is the role we are playing, make sure that the institutional structures that carry out justice are based on the kind of responsibility about which we have been talking. One can argue that this kind of a society is a utopian ideal but this is not a good reason for not trying to attain it. We must constantly charge ourselves to higher standards because they keep us from drifting back into the kind of egocentrism that leads to the sort of violence and war that we see today.

Nazarita Goldhammer, Director

Dr. Kevin Boileau, PhD, JD, Dean

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