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In order to explore the meaning and value of authentic human being-ness—who we are and what we are seeking ontologically and existentially—we must address questions relating to an interpretation of being that prioritizes having and its relationship to the dialectic between being alone and being with Others. This starting point would be useful in helping us approach transcendental liberations within a master semiology of capitalism, the arch-meaning of our current historical period. This is its value.

Having is a primordial way that we exist in the world and a way that we interpret temporality. It is a mode of being that can be a futile attempt in the ontic realm to overcome ontological anxiety. In contrast, being itself, focusing on the ontological, projects directly into deeper levels of meaning that are mysterious and unknown. It is apparent that contemporary Western culture is preoccupied with having, creating greater distance from the awareness of what and who we are. Having is characterized by acquisitiveness, dominated by the worldview that the aim of life is fulfilled in proportion to what we possess. This tendency has evolved into a western civilization that is structurally regulated by acquisition, possession, and capitalistic structures.

We can attempt to possess many different sorts of things, such as material objects, people, and even ideas. We accumulate material objects for security, protection, and social status. We attach ourselves to people, especially romantic partners. We attach ourselves to our ideas, arranged in various domains such as the social, scientific, political, religious, and so forth. Learning has become systemized accumulation of facts, and intellectual value comes from the sheer amount of information or knowledge one can access and utilize. We consume the evening television news, buy newspapers, and seek information about the stock market. Formal education is this way too. These individual-social formations support, therefore, instrumental reasoning, which in turn, supports an interpretation of being that focuses on having.

In this mode of having, meaning comes primarily from the subject side of intentionality. Humans then utiize this existential mode to imbue everything in the world with our cultural and and personal, subjective values. This leads to a social and political system that encourages individual, idiosyncratic valuation and a subjectivism that become valorized in the bourgeois marketplace. This is a danger for phenomenology because it overshadows and hides the objective source of meaning. However, this goes even further; this desire to have goes all the way down into the foundation of our very consciousness, an inversion of an authentic access to and participation in being.

At this fundamental level, we regard our minds, our bodies, and our lives as things to be possessed. They are viewed as objects that we can keep or lose. Yet, there is a gap between the subject-possessor and the object-possessed because the subject alienates and isolates himself from those material objects he possesses. If I am what I possess, I will always be at a distance from those things. In this case, my possession is illusory because I will always fear the loss of anything I can have. This alienation results in ontological insecurity, which includes anxiety, meaningless, and emptiness, as I live in an isolated way among lifeless objects that are always at a distance from me. As I continue to chase those objects that I can “possess,” my being remains empty and superficial. What’s more, this anxiety drives us toward compulsive and violent forms of acquisitiveness – including selfishness, greed, and harm to others. Then we cannot stop ourselves and become ensconced in the purely subjective, losing connection to objective sources of meaning, living in a distorted and false anthropological conception. This is how we lose empathy.

I am interested in the motivation that underlies the urge to accumulate; about what is lacking that creates this motivation. Something seems missing but it is nothing in particular. It is just a state of nothing-ness. This is to say that there is a void—and emptiness—and we attempt to fill it by acquiring external objects. But this void is epi-phenomenal with consciousness, and impossible to fill by accumulating from the outside. Thus, as we experience with different degrees of awareness, this lack of being that we experience cannot be affected by having. This is so whether the having is emotional, perceptual, imaginative, cognitive, spiritual, or material. It is the seat of transcendence, which is the locus of freedom – and its opposites.

What I have described is a loss of the presencing of deeper levels of meaning. It is a loss of sensitivity to and awareness of the transcendental function in consciousness. Thus, we seek having and preclude ourselves from experiencing being except in an alienated way. Derivatively, we lose awareness of the consequences of this alienation by being ensconced in having. The depth of this mode extends further, for even our spiritual and epistemological quests may occur in the mode of having, as we purchase and read one (self-help) book after the other and try several religions. Then, we confuse ourselves even more, as what we believe ought to fulfill us is only more of the same distorted orientation in being. This effect multiplies as we use the Internet as our library of satisfaction.

For example, many belief systems give us the possibility of having a meaningful life and a kind of immortality that comes from identifying a positive, teleological end of some sort. If there are sought-after, “Good” places we can go to, then enlightenment and eternal life are things that we can obtain; they become things that we can have. We are taught to believe that we can gain happiness by a class, a book, or a consultation. Thus, we purchase these teleological goods as merchandise. These commodification process makes us feel good, as a kind of narcotic. It is satisfying because it fills up that nothingness even though its cost is an infinite destruction of life – an eradication of our presencing to life.

In contrast, authentic consciousness awakens to the mysterious dimension of our being, a participation and dialogue with meaning. We gain this by leaning in to it, pursing it, and remaining open and available to it. Instead of being something that we acquire, authentic consciousness is something that we allow to permeate our whole life. Within this orientation, philosophical foundations cannot be reduced to a system of dogmas or belief systems, for here we risk the danger that we would adopt the belief system instead of allowing authentic awareness into our being. This is the problem with accumulations of “knowledge” that we can have, with instrumental reasoning that is merely operational, which is unaccompanied by understanding, and access to critical availability to objective sources of meaning.

Once we can see our way through the problems created by the mode of having—an over-reliance on the subjective source of meaning—we can begin to re-approach the objective as source of meaning. It is then incumbent upon us to try to understand this dimension of our existence that leads us into mystery and transcendent freedom. For it lacks ontic, positivist forms of description and evaluation that enslave us through well-defined laws, values, and institutions.

When we focus ourselves on the objective source of meaning—on being—we are presented with the existential questions some people pursue and most people avoid, concerning the meaning of life, human potential, purpose, responsibility, virtue, value, and other challenging matters. These questions all are iterations of the Socratic question about what I ought to do with my life. These questions have no straight or easy answer, and they always focus on being and mystery. We are often tempted to answer these questions from the orientation of the mode of having (naturalism, intellectualism, positivism) because our cultures and societies are structuralized within this mode.

In addition, we are tempted to answer them in terms of our own cultural frames, knowing fully well the argument that we cannot transcend them. However, if we move from a having orientation to a transcendental orientation in being – a bracketing of having – focusing on the deeper existential questions, we can understand a) that these questions are always asked by particular people living in a particular time and place with a particular history and b) that we can always see the universal existentials within specific cultural enframings. We can see that our ways of articulating these questions and issues are at best provisional enunciations and we can, therefore, avoid existential sedimentations and dogma.

In order to avoid falling into these sedimentations, we must not only look to the structural forms of our answers. Otherwise, we risk losing the inner meaning of what they say. For example, we can see large differences between institutionalized forms of belief and the individuals who exist within these institutional forms. Contemporary protagonists sometimes become more concerned with justifying dogmas and creeds than with understanding the existential significance of these guides to life. These are animated by self-help books and Western happiness experts. Instead, we should be aware that the value of any belief lies in its ability to point us toward deeper truth. When we take the symbolic value of the belief to be final truth, that symbol precludes self-transcendence, and obscures that which it was formerly trying to disclose. Psychoanalytically, it is regressive. Phenomenologically, it creates closure and lacks availability.

There is always a transcendent element or quality to language because meanings cannot precisely and totally be fixed through that language although our bureaucracies, organizations, and corporations try very hard to do so. Through the transcendent function, meaning always escapes into a future horizon of possibilities unless we slip into the mode of having, as beliefs in their institutionalized form become a receptacle of facts and information, traded for future expected gain, in service of instrumentalized rationality. This implies cultural and individual relativism, which always results in subjectivism, which becomes a danger to phenomenology as corrective to positivisms. Furthermore, epistemological and theological answers to existential questions can rise to an idealized level, becoming experience-distant rather than experience near, but not approaching the amelioration of our emptiness, alienation, anxiety, and loneliness.

Addressing our basic situation in life from an existential phenomenological point of view will allow us to see the consequences of living in the mode of having and acquisition, focusing on the subjective. By looking at our initial state, we can see how we end up in the mode of having and how we suspend our use of theoretically-based judgments and confront the phenomena of life exactly as it presents itself. Let us consider the essential structures of our own existence, which I call “existentials.” Let me also suggest that it is very difficult to suspend our judgments that are based on culture, society, family, worldview, and so forth. Thus, whatever understanding we arrive at must only be tentative and preliminary, susceptible to revision and re-evaluation.

My goal here is to render a preliminary and simple account of the basic structures of human existence, which is our ontological framework for all the derivative beliefs, emotions, and behaviors we create and commit to in our specific cultural and social worlds. Phenomenology is the method that alerts us to various experiences in a pure, descriptive way. We can then catalogue them as a way of identifying the more basic ontological presuppositions of those experiences.

By addressing the basic structures of human existence, we can unsettle our received views and understandings about the nature of our humanity in our present condition, which is governed by capitalism, a form of the existential mode of having. This allows us to explore the allocation of meaning within the dialectic between the subjective and the objective. Our goal is to clarify these actual structures of human existence. This will lead to an understanding of all possibilities for being given that they are rooted in the actual structures of our existence.

We can identify four main ontological dimensions, including the spiritual, the natural-physical, the social, and the intra-personal (i.e. the self) as they are approached by the tension between aloneness and being with others. We always find ourselves alone in a world that includes others and we have choices about how we participate in it. The fact that we are always alone but always in the midst of others is a paradox, for these two poles of our existence are interdependent. They are separate but are also bound up with each other. We understand our individuality relative to our sociality; and we understand our participation with others in terms of our individuality. We live in tension between these two elements and are constantly subjected to the existential disruption that occurs when there is imbalance between them. This tension becomes an interpretive filter in our experience of these ontological dimensions.

The integration of this dialectical tension within and throughout these dimensions conditions the possibilities that are actualized in our thoughts, words, and actions. Most of this process, we shall see, is inauthentic, which means that the actualization of one’s range of possibility within one’s aloneness and one’s participation is avoided and thereby becomes limited. There is a closure to the presencing of our faculty of transcendence, which governs our range of possibilities, and therefore, our pursuit of deeper meaning.

In the case of being-alone, actualization is limited by ignorance and selfishness; in the case of being-with, by self-concern and disregard for others. These are our existential distortions. These inauthentic states result from too much emphasis on subjectivist modes of being and little regard for the natural, i.e., that which is Other, and that which moves us away from inflexible ego states, Thus, we can create inauthentic aloneness and inauthentic being with others that is contaminated with the subjective.

Foundationally, we are always alone, with a history that is our own, and with a solitude that reveals this aloneness. We see that we entered a world that we did not choose, and that we have features and attributes that are uniquely ours. This thrownness is our facticity, which is an unalterable state of affairs that operates as a set of conditions or boundaries from which we make free choices. Further, we alone know our aloneness and although we can use words to share it with others, there is always a gap between the words and the actual experience that is uniquely ours. Thus, there is both a discursive level and an existential level to our aloneness. It is a fundamental mode of being in the world. We are ontologically alone even though we can create practical-moral relations with Others.

There are a number of parallel modes of being that emerge from this aloneness as fundamental, including the distinction between actuality and possibility, our own death, responsibility for choice, the movement between anxiety and fear, and the moment of trust and hope. We cannot help but be future directed because of the very structure of our consciousness. As we interpret our facticity, we realize that we have a range of choices within which we constitute the meaning of our lives. These possibilities are limited by our facticity and the choices we make are radically free within our unique situations. Our lives, therefore, are always conditioned by the dialectic between actuality and possibility, as both obligation and privilege.

Although it is difficult if not impossible to predict the future trajectories of our lives, we do know that death is certain for every one of us. Moreover, it is not just an event that will happen in the future; instead, we live with that possibility in consciousness everyday of our lives. We recognize this as a limit to the regulatory function of transcendence. Further, the way we interpret that possibility conditions the way we operate in space and time, and in all other existential dimensions. It constitutes the very foundation of all our thinking, feeling, and behavior. As we reflect on this possibility, we also realize that we face death alone—in solitude, but in the midst of Others, and without the power to change this destiny.

We are also responsible for the choices that we make and are responsible therefore for our very existence. However, there is an ontological terror that comes with this responsibility and an equal terror in the consideration of our own deaths. We flee in a number of ways, into the particular entities of the world that capture our subjective interest. All too often, these are entities that humans have created, enclosing in cultural value and our subjective judgments about these values. Yet, our essential being resides in our ontological possibility in the face of death, not in the external world. If we pursue the external world, we focus on particular entities, manipulating and organizing them in a way that we hope assuages our anxiety. Our justification comes from doing what is normal or expected by others, being pulled away from our solitude through the ideologies that construct value. The cost is that we lose ourselves. We lose the presencing to our being as we acquire the world of others through having.

When we are inauthentically alone, we have chosen to allow ourselves to be absorbed into the particular entities of the world in some way – through the mode of having. In this mode we are blind to beings and Being. Here, we believe that these particular entities are self-sufficient, foundational to our existence, and the primary if not sole source of meaning in our lives. However, when we exist in this mode, choosing predictability and security by concentrating on particular entities, we lose connection to the whole of our being. Unfortunately, this focus does not dispel our anxiety and usually increases it in my experience. This brings us to a consideration of the distinction between anxiety and fear.

In existentialisms, it is commonly accepted that fear always has as its object a particular entity within the world and can be dispelled by avoiding that object. For example, I might be afraid of bears, so I avoid them when I can. In contrast, anxiety is not focused on any particular object but on our existence itself; further, we are always embedded in anxiety, faced with our thrownness, that we were born alone and will die alone, and that we have a range of potentials for being. In fact, we experience anxiety even more when we recognize the illusory security brought by attachment to particular entities. This anxiety comes when we realize that our whole life’s focus on the false security of particular entities has been an entire project of ignoring our being and ignoring the fact that we will die in the future.

Anxiety is comprised originally of the potential ontological insecurity that we all have by virtue of being alive. This is the existential terror that causes us to limit our radical freedom by strategies of absorption into a world of entities and through a kind of self-deception that facilitates this absorption. It is also true that humans realize that these absorptions and deceptions are futile and, as a result, become depressed, alienated, hopeless, and even desperate. This is the plight of those who are compulsively addicted to pursuing drugs, alcohol, things, ideas, people, and anything else that they think they can possess.

Unfortunately, there is always a letdown that occurs after every attempt to fill emptiness by absorption in these things. This letdown quickly moves into a deeper anxiety that can become chronic, along with a giving up and a belief that the world is dark and meaningless. On the other hand, we can use the anxiety as fuel to continue searching for meaning, purpose, and greater potential in ourselves. In short, we can welcome our anxiety as a signpost for discovery, creativity, and new awareness of our potentials for being.

In this new existential attitude, we fully accept our ontological condition in its entirety and thereby accept our radical aloneness and finitude. When we accept this, we accept the fact that we have both being and non-being. We are, materially, and we are conscious ideally, in an interplay of being and non-being that provides us possibility of transformation and change toward the future. In simple terms, we are, and we are not.

When we fully appreciate our beingness and our consciousness of this beingness—our existence—we can begin to ask the questions about the purpose and meaning of our lives. But this state of being is pre-conceptual, at the ontological level. This is the level in which we apprehend our existence as a whole—fully aware of an open phenomenological field that underlies and animates our facticity. We must realize that the conceptually reflected-upon question, even though it refers back to the ontological level, is not the same level of experience as the ontological level.

The articulation of the existential question is a conceptual reflection of a deeper concern. Yet, we must then realize that we cannot simply provide a conceptual answer to these existential questions, for they never satisfy us. There is a certain degree of hollowness to the conceptual articulation unless it is tied and connected to the existential-ontological. It is something of a paradox that we can never fully apprehend the existential through the conceptual-intellectual level though we cannot dispense with the existential.

This originary level is prior to the level of concepts and belief, and it involves the creation and development of an ontological bond between our facticity and our possibilities, reaching toward hope and fulfillment, and responsibility. This is the genesis of our worlding and our freedom. It is when this deeper level of existential concern is forgotten, and conceptual belief systems assume primary importance that we fall prey to the loss of real ontological security. Thus, we can see that it is the bond between the existential and the conceptual, the ego and the deeper self, that is most important and that we must discover and create new ways of
apprehending and presencing ourselves within it. Both inform and enrich each other.

In short, by re-invigorating this connection between the ontological and the conceptual – between our deeper self and our ego – we reinvest in our whole being and sometimes can re-structure it. This allows the totality of our undiscovered and non-created potentials to unfold. This is a process of moving toward authentic being, reintegrating our fragmented existential continuity. Let’s now address being with others.

It is easy to see that though we are sometimes alone – and always ontologically separate – we are always in a world with others. This is a basic existential because it is an ontological relation that is constitutive of the way we are in the world; it is a fundamental part of our anthropology. It is difficult to conceive of being without others. Thus, even though we have solitude and experience loneliness, and understand ourselves as individuals, we are never without the Other. We are always bound to each other in some way, through practical relations and also by our very existence. Our very existence implies the Other. We are, therefore, inter-relational in our very nature.

We can see evidence of our inter-relational being in our use of language, for example. While it is true that we formulate language and speech by ourselves as individuals, it is also true that those thoughts always exist within the context of a shared language, belief, and value system. Our speech is meaningful only because it occurs within this social context. It is not just the individual words or their utterance that gives them their ontological quality. Rather, it is the sharing of inner experience through language that creates a connection with (human) others.

This sharing is constitutive of the ontological properties of language. This ontological constitution of being with others is dialectical in a couple of ways. One way it is dialectical is that our being with others comes fully to life in speech acts with others; thus, these acts we share. A second way it is dialectical is that there is an intimate connection between the intellectual and the existential. Thus, developing the sophistication with which we articulate our ontological structures actually helps us deepen our connection to our existential dimension, helping us to bring reality to light. Developing our intellectual and language tools will aid us in maturing our being with human others. Further, developing our inter-species communication tools will lead to the evolution of our authentic and moral relations with members of other species.

It is easy to see how others are unavoidable in everything we think, feel, and do because we are relational beings. Furthermore, we can open to this fundamental constituent of our being or we can close ourselves off from it. We can have a greater or lesser concern for the plight of others. We have a choice about it. It is my belief that living in the mode of having causes humans to ignore this unity of being with others, and therefore moves us away from more authentic being.

This is the phenomenon of self-concern, which includes the derivatives such as selfishness, egotism, and narcissism, and its more extreme forms, greed, reckless disregard, and sadism toward the welfare of Others. By being overly concerned with the self, even in our sociality, we distort the possibility of being with the other in the fullest way. This is a type of alienation that limits more developed possibilities for each one of us and for our communities.

This involves the problem of presencing, i.e., how we show up in the lives of others and how we show up for ourselves. It is truly a magnificent phenomenon as well as a difficult task for all humans. When we de-presence ourselves to this existential dimension of being with others, we treat others not as whole persons—as subjects—but as objects – as “its” or things. When we treat others as objects, we create a different constellation of thoughts, feelings, and actions toward them than when we treat them as subjects.

When we do this, we do not see the Other in his or her reality; instead we see the other in terms of what I call the “possessive self.” This is the self that posits itself as the center of all reality, thereby losing all other perspective about the other. We simply do not see the other from his perspective, nor do we see the Other from a non-narcissistic viewpoint that is generated from our own interests and desires. In this mode of de-presencing, we only see the Other in terms of our own categories, formulating attributes and characteristics about him that come from our own anxiety and our own distorted resentments and not from their reality.

When we exist in this mode of having—in which we “have” our categories to experience the world—we lose connection to our deeper ontological roots, seeing only the exterior of the other (which is by definition, distorted), and not anything of their interior reality. There is, therefore, a completely different constellation of phenomena in an alienated dynamic than there is in a fully developed and presenced being-with-others. To the extent that one creates this alienated, possessory dynamic, he or she cripples chances for authentic being and relation, removed from intimacy, and fragmented in existential continuities, closed off and isolated. Some of these ontological attitudes include fear, seductiveness, avarice, jealousy, dishonesty, aversion, indifference, inconsideration, cruelty, and sadism.

There are more derivations from this ontological orientation to consider, but the basic ontological structure is alienation and a choice not to be with others – to reject the Other. Any dynamic that disparages the other, or that avoids concern for the other is a variation of this ontological distortion. This is far from realistic possibilities for a larger, broader, and deeper anthropology of the human, all of which require an ontological shift in ourselves. Moreover, these inauthentic attitudes always disrupt the continuity and flow of a fuller being in the world, creating fragmentations that always lead to disease and unhappiness.

When we overcome our inauthentic modes, we can actually approach and develop our authentic being with others. This always goes beyond self-concern to an ontological region in which we apprehend possibilities for ourselves and the Other simultaneously within that foundational space. That is, we discern the ground from which those possibilities emerge. This requires us to regard each other, including oneself, as significant; that we not allow repugnance just like we not allow attachment that comes from desire. I have written on this topic before, in my analysis of sado-masochistic psychological dynamics, which always involves dominating/dominated attachments to the Other (and derivatively to things, ideas, places, and the like), but it always involves the seeking of [false] ontological wholeness through these attachments.

Indifference, repugnance, and the use of another for ontological wholeness are all distortions of authentic being with others. These attitudes all result from the mode of having, and therefore, from viewing others as things. Of course, there are variations of these attitudes, yet they are all ontological projections of our need for wholeness: eventually we learn that wholeness cannot be experienced this way. One way to test this is after these projections have gained some level of satiety. For example, desire always runs its course, and often our aversion to others is balanced by later wistfulness at lost opportunities. Indifference demonstrates an absolute disregard for and lack of seeing the Other. It is such a powerful disregard that it is a phenomenology that can easily be understood by the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

This kind of destabilization in our inauthentic relationships is based on our subjective projections about what we imagine them to be instead of who they are. In fact, our inauthentic attitudes say much about ourselves and nothing about the person we falsely imagine. In short, they become placeholders in our imaginary theatre. However, we can let go of this theatre with all its distortions, and therefore detach from these subjectivist, ego-driven ways of treating others.

In this new ontological experience, we view each other as the same—equal in value—and everyone has significance. The dialectic between repulsion and seduction is replaced with a calm, even equanimity that does not engage in projection. This involves compassion and empathy. As I have written about extensively in previous works, we can engage in rigorous examination of our values and of our social relations, one by one, to assess whether they are inauthentic or authentic.

By comparing our tendency toward inauthentic modes with this achievable reflective equanimity/compassion, we can begin to see a clear distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic. This is the method that brings us to reflective clarity, seeing each and all of us as equals. Once we do this, we can live through a practice of building authentic relationships. The important element here is that we must unbind ourselves from being overly attached to the subjective component of meaning. Instead of focusing solely on the subjective source of meaning, we can look beyond ourselves to an objective source of meaning. This is the meaning that resides in the ontological-existential structures that exist in all cases. This is the objective source of meaning that I believe must inform a new anthropology of what we consider to be the human.

By learning this practice—which is more than seeking insight and which requires regular action—we develop a much greater capacity for empathy. This is not only empathy for the other; it is empathy for our-selves. This presencing of empathy allows us a greater discernment of all those things that make us human and, in fact, allows us to open to a much greater perspective and vision of what we mean by the human. However, this empathy is grounded by the ontological insight that an essential part of our humanity is being-with others. This means all Others, both human and non-human.

Further, as I presence myself in my empathy, I come to realize that everything that is basically important to me—the avoidance of pain and fear, and the seeking of happiness and safety—is concomitantly true of all others universally. By opening ourselves to this truth we also open to our natural equality with others. At the same time that we lessen our self-importance, we start to see others as subjects and not as objects.

We recognize their participation in being just like our own, and this encourages us to deepen our awareness of the ontological presuppositions and dimensions for all humans, as I have outlined. This provides a motivation to practice this awareness and even more so, to actively avoid alienating and harming others and, instead, engaging in behavior that promotes their wellbeing and happiness. More radically, we may come to see that self-concern is not actually part of our essential ontology; that it is illusory.

It is crucial to my thesis that we understand the truth of our ontological foundation; similarly, it is important that we understand the connection of our ontological foundation to our lives as we lead them—with historical, social, familial structures in which our individual narratives proceed. To focus solely on conceptual thought without becoming aware of its roots in ontology inevitably focuses us toward subjective sources of meaning in our human experience. In contrast, when we see and acknowledge our true ontological roots, we become open to objective sources of meaning, which reside universally, outside of self-concern.

By incorporating this ontological awareness into our lives, we open up a set of possibilities in our experience that goes far beyond the constellation of possibilities we discover in inauthentic social relations that are based on self-concern. Moreover, our fulfillment can only come from actualizing a life that emerges from an awareness of our ontological essential ontological structures. Self-concern closes our authentic possibilities; regard for each, all, and ourselves opens them. What is more, we move from passivity to proactivity that deepens and enlarges our concern for all of us equally. This concern enlarges and deepens because we are able to apprehend greater sources of objective meaning, understanding how we form subjective sources of meaning and how they can become distortive if they are not well grounded in the knowledge of our ontological structures.

This changes our motivations and action potentials, readying us for new concrete life practice – a praxis. This new practice involves, therefore, an awareness of our ontological structures; a constant practice of renewing this awareness; and putting this awareness into practice as we modify our behavior. This requires that we constantly engage in a dialectical process between an orientation based on self-concern and an orientation based on a new ontological awareness. By engaging in this dialectic within ourselves, we come to realize that our interests are equal, and not only equal, but the same.

This gives us new perspective to challenge the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that come from self-concern and a distorted understanding of the sources of meaning for humanity. Most importantly, this new attitude comes about not only from analysis and/or apprehension of cultural values; it also comes from a presencing to our essential ontological structures.

Thus, meaning comes from our being and how we live our lives. It does not come from acquisitions within a mode of having. As I have shown earlier, when we allow ourselves to be absorbed into a world of things, ideas, places, and people that we can possess, we live in illusory meanings. What is worse is that when we live in a possessory, having mode, we assume that others do as well. This creates assumptions about relationships that interpret the “Good” instrumentally, in which we see others in practical ways that are based on their use to us. In this paradigm there is no intrinsic value to human beings. In this lifeworld, moral structures emerge from the mode of having and not the mode of being.

My motivations toward others are thus based on facilitating the acquisitions of others, thereby promoting their absorption into a world of things, ideas, people, places, and the like. This creates a world that primarily values experience in terms of possession and acquisition, and the exchanges thereof. However, as I have shown, a society that operates primarily in the mode of having loses connection with the deep ontological roots that provide us with the sources of meaning, and thereby create a broader and deeper set of possibilities.

Further, these possibilities that are based on our human ontological roots contain more of what is truly human than do relational dynamics that focus on accumulation, acquisition, and having. Without actualizing our social and individual possibilities that are based on the truth of our being, we diminish our chances for our wellbeing. Instead, we must realize that our welfare and the welfare of others is interdependent, and that it is solely based on being and not having. This is our authentic nature.

There is much more to develop than this preliminary sketch. There is the spiritual dimension, the natural-physical, along with the self in its apprehension of being alone, and the social in the mode of being with others. There is temporality and death, uncertainty, and structures that we did not create. There is the dialectic between the emotional and the intellectual, the mystical and the discursive. I will leave the development of these dimensions and ideas for a later work. Nevertheless, the dialectic between being alone and being with others is obviously a deep ontological truth about our humanity. Our struggle is to figure out how to be alone with others in ways that are authentic and to avoid the ways that are inauthentic. That which is inauthentic lives in the mode of having, thereby drawing the sources of meaning almost solely from the subjective.

Finally, the inauthentic mode limits our possibilities for growth and development and also restricts our responsibility and closes the range of our experience. This usually results in a nearly exclusive life that resides in being alone, absorbed in entities, but not in the relations with others. Self-concern is paramount. In contrast, we can turn away from acquisitiveness, understand that we begin and end alone, but that through the life journey we are fundamentally related to others at an ontological level. This is the beginning of an understanding of solidarity, where we acknowledge that we participate as individuals, but that our aggregations are more than practical; they are ontological. Furthermore, solidarity can be interpreted in a number of ways and thereby lead to a number of groups of like-minded individuals who recognize that all groups are common ontologically.

Opening to this new existential orientation allows us to focus individually on our development in being without compromising our solidarity and our responsibilities. This self-development, if it focuses on a greater awareness and responsivity to the Other, leads to a greater participation in our ontological connection, both individually and socially. We can thus deepen our ontological awareness through community with others.

By participating with others, we are awakened in our aloneness to reflect on a more authentic orientation toward ourselves and all others. This motivates a greater care and concern for others, to facilitate their participation in being. Both modes of being inform and interpenetrate each other thereby developing an integrated life that is more consonant with our ontological foundation.

We restrict our possibilities if we denigrate or ignore either side. Likewise, we disable our fullest anthropology to the extent we ignore Being—to the extent that we ignore objective sources of meaning that reside in being and not in our subjectivity. This requires us to detach from our self-concern and to actively promote the interest of others, which is always located in the ontological foundations of the being of our humanity. This operates as a new Archimedean point, allows us to think against ourselves, and to create ontological distance from the master signifier – a semiology of capitalism that is a variation of the mode of having. This is a question of responsibility.

Kevin Boileau, 2019

Writing in Montana & California

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Trans-Humanist Anthropology
There are many species of beings that we humans will never see, and many that are in our daily ecosystems that we choose not to see. Yet, they are there—here—rather, constantly watching, looking, appealing—usually to we humans. We don’t see them because of our own systems of value that are informed by our narcissism: our egocentrism. This type of consciousness therefore closes itself in on itself, not seeing other life, other humans, and our very selves. This is the possessory, dominating subjectivity that instrumentalizes all others, and even in a system indoctrinated by rights and duties, fails to see the Other’s world on its own terms, as its unique manifestation. Both Levinas and Burggraeve see this, understanding all too well that the anthropology based on autonomy constantly struggles within the consciousness of a desiring, egocentric self. This is what leads to their formulations and developments of heteronomy (not a Kantian heteronomy but an existential, trans-human type that I describe earlier). I take this further, but I don’t think I see that far and I don’t know where this will lead. Perhaps it is in part a regulatory principle and, in part, a specifiable grounding. I am not sure. Let us proceed.

First, we must dismiss the notion that humans are better, of more worth, or higher on a value scale. We must substitute it with a new axiom of ontological parity. This is for the reasons I mention earlier.

Second, we must agree that in principle that most of us have little knowledge about the whole: about how all beings, processes, and structures work together in an ecosystem. We substitute it with a new axiom of rigorous inquiry.

Third, we must accept a new Archimedean point. We cannot pretend to be at the center of the universe or the planet earth. This means that we must render an accounting of all life forms, including ours, holding that all living beings have equal interests and rights. We must, therefore, have an axiom that recognizes we play a part in the whole but are not the whole, and that we must mediate and weigh our interests relative to those of other life forms.

Fourth, we must recognize that all life forms come from the same source. This leads us to the reconstituted notion of solidarity. This is a trans-human notion that includes the human equally with all other life forms.

Fifth, we must acknowledge and accept a new depth and breadth of our responsibility to others, including humans, other sentient life forms, additional life forms, and the environment in general.

Sixth, we must work diligently to formulate and articulate a new philosophical anthropology for human beings. This means we must strive for new meaning and understanding of the world and our place within it. This is neither the autonomous subject nor the heteronomous subject but it is a new human. This re-formulates the reality principle.

Let us discuss these axioms together. Presently, our collective view focuses on human desire in which there is an implied and sometimes stated thesis that the world revolves around the interest of humans. In this view, other life forms have lesser value; we wouldn’t want to argue that they have no value but to say “lesser” still gives us the same power to torture and destroy them, these other life forms. It actually goes even further than this: humans are so caught up in their desires, which creates a certain form of the way we see and perceive, that they most often just ignore the interests of other life forms. Because they ignore other life they don’t even come to the table enough to reflect on their interests. This is an unreflective life project with unreflective opinions. By definition an unreflective opinion is uncritical: it lacks thought. My intent is to interrogate this uncritical state in such a way that we deepen our understanding of it.

If the reader looks at these six axioms as a whole she can see that there is an isomorphism between individual narcissism (disregarding the Other human) and cultural/species narcissism (disregarding other life forms). Both include the same preoccupation with self or culture, and both ignore or actively trounce on the interests of Others. Moreover, we can see that there is an over-reliance on the law, which I explained earlier in this book. An over-reliance on the law is a retreat to the familiarity of the superego position, i.e., the dominant proscriptions of one’s society and culture. This is a denial of the transcendent in both the individual and in the social elements of a culture. There is also a compulsion to rely on the words used to taxonomically differentiate one type of being from another, which includes different levels of ontological value, rights, and protections. For example, in many jurisdictions wild animals are considered property, and become personal property once they are taken from the forest. This allows the human taker to do anything he wants to the “property.” Analogously [and curiously], there are historical examples amongst humans, in cases of race and gender, in which different categories of humans were assigned different value. It is the same kind of thinking. Although this is a change in name, it is not necessarily a change in action although this might be the first step in a long-term, developmental process of change.

It may be the case that we are limited in new thought because the very language we use to think about and talk about these issues is already value-laden and therefore pre-figures the range of thinking we can engage in about it. For example, if we say that a breeding dog is a cash crop—a piece of property—and property cannot have rights, then a breeding dog does not have rights. In contrast, if we say that a breeding dog is a sentient being and that all sentient beings have rights, we must conclude that breeding dogs have rights. In these two cases, it is the language that foreshadows and determines the moral conclusions. Perhaps this is what explains why animals have not been included in various bills of rights. I venture the thought that if we reconsider the taxonomy and more so the language itself, we might come to new conclusions. This is not to say that behavior change would be easily forthcoming. We have many years of structural habits now embedded in the law, our minds, our moral thinking, and values. Making this radical shift will not be easy but changing language and therefore meaning, could have a profound effect on the way humans construct meaning and on the way they are predisposed to behave.

Another common theme at the foundation of these axioms is, either explicitly or implicitly, the requirement that we a) put huge demands on our quest for scientific knowledge so to understand the way ecosystems flourish and b) to engage in more rigorous hermeneutic inquiry of the meaning of these axioms and their competitors. In short, I propose a strong sense of the meaning of responsibility as I outlined earlier in this work. This implies a derivative duty to gain more accurate, deeper, broader, and truer perspective about the meaning of the human anthropology, and the way we fit in ecosystems in good ways. It might be argued that we already do that, but I am suggesting even greater critical awareness. I suggest this explicitly with those words, and I suggest it implicitly by arguing that through a phenomenological inquiry we can discover what is most human in humans [which implies an account of trans-humanist understanding of the whole]. I don’t think we are there yet.

I want to take up a different line of thought that may help us understand and reconsider why we assign humans a higher ontological value than other life forms. It is a phenomenological thought. In the contemporary world we have become aware that our sense of sight dominates other senses. This means that the sort of beliefs and values about the world come from this domination and subjugation. I hypothesize that there is correlation between this domination and the co-phenomena of individual and cultural narcissism, i.e., a debased Archimedean point. The things we desire we see, and we see the things we desire. That is, we reinforce a connection between what we learn to desire and how we see the world. Unfortunately, this prioritization of the ocular/specular de-prioritizes our other senses such as hearing. We become so sense dominated by vision that we do not notice our other senses as much. This hides and subjugates value.

In order to consider this idea we might engage in a reflective, phenomenological analysis of our everyday sensory experience. Of course, we bring with us proprioception. We also smell, touch, and taste, and these pathways are powerful guides in our hodological choices. Hearing seems a bit different intuitively, for we rely on it for our very survival, I think, more often that these other senses. Yet, our sensory experience of seeing is altogether in a different category. Although we would have a diluted existence without the first three senses, without hearing we compromise our safety (and this is not to say that we don’t use the three senses for our safety and survival). Without our vision, more so: our lives are in danger constantly. However, there is something more going on with sight—remember the adage seeing is believing—because we often connect our sense of truth and knowledge with our ability to see and what we see. One can easily understand how this is also connected with our very survival; however, it is also connected with our sense of value. What I mean is that our vision lies at the bottom of those things we value. Because we desire those things we value, one can make a rudimentary argument that what we see controls our desire, supplemented by parallel processes with other senses.

It is my belief, and I know this needs to be worked out further, that there is a close connection between our dominant human anthropology—the humanism of autonomy—and the priority of vision, i.e. the ocular. We might even call it the “specular,” because of our lack of engaged participation that arises from becoming spectators. Of course, there is the distinction between need and want, and we all desire the things we need. However, it is my belief that the motivational process is different from those things we are taught to desire through culture, media, society, and other people. In short, there is a different motivational network, which is largely reinforced by sight. These constructed “needs” carry with them a distortion of value and a distortion of sensation. The conclusion I am driving at here is that we overly rely on our vision to lead us to goods and experiences of value. Let’s tie these ideas in with the equalization rule in phenomenology itself, as follows.

The equalization rule (or rule of horizontalization) requires us to catalog the contents of our consciousness while giving the same value to each element of our experience, in all dimensions. At the same time we bracket our regular, everyday experience, which includes our valuations. This allows us to compare the neutral view with our normal and regular view, which leads to more reflective inquiry and understanding. If we apply this type of thinking to sensory experience we can immediately see three things: One, how we so clearly allow vision to outrank other senses; two, how this distortion leads to further distortions on valuation; and three how we are inexorably led to construct the autonomous, egocentric, narcissistic self I have outlined. In short, this over-reliance on our vision has far-reaching effects in our ability to critically reflect on our attitudes, choices, and behaviors. In our current schema, this leads to our tendency to construct a certain kind of self; this is the kind of self that does not see the whole; this is the kind of self that overlooks the obvious facts and values that present. By considering the axiom of ontological parity and the descriptive phenomenological rule of equalization we can re-align the way we utilize our sense experience. This can help us not be so tied to the ocular and therefore not so tied to autonomy as our foundational interpretation of humanity. There is much more thinking that must be done on this issue, but I leave it for now and take up the topic of anxiety, relative to the main interpretations of what it means to be human.

Before we move on this text, I’d like to consider another piece of the humanist puzzle, which turns on the issue of anxiety. Humans do many things with their anxiety, both on an individual level and on a cultural level. We understand both of these dimensions through complex discourses like psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and critical theory, which can give us valuable clues to the meaning possibilities of our humanity. I like to think of anxiety as the human experience that emerges from our (future-oriented) ontological field. It is the apprehension of our possibilities in conditions of uncertainty, which emanates in our mind and ripples through our embodiment. Because of the ontological unsettledness and sometimes terror that comes to awareness from these fields of possibility, we are driven to reduce and ameliorate it. These attempts always originate in the mind and involve distortions in thinking, that is, false beliefs that reduce anxiety. At least this is the goal, even though it is not always successful. Nevertheless, I think there is something going on at a deeper level. This is the level of the construction of the self, which I have been exploring and discussing throughout this book. It is my contention that there are cultural and social factors, along with intra-psychic, indigenous personal factors that structuralize our anxiety. In short, we think, feel, and do things with our anxiety, both as individuals and as societies. It is how we structure our being.

If what I am suggesting has merit, then we can think of philosophical anthropology—the constitution and structuralizing of our humanity—as phenomenal forms of our anxiety. In this view, therefore, the humanisms of autonomy, heteronomy, and vivantonomy are different archetypal structures of anxiety, formed by many complex, intricately related factors. I think it is safe to say that we can analyze the structures of anxiety, both individually and culturally in a number of ways. For example, we can look at health, functionality, consequences, existential expression, and many more aspects. In terms of the three main structures I have been examining, we can make value judgments about their effects, as I have been outlining. Levinas himself argues that Eros is as strong as death. It is not fusion, struggle, or knowledge but is an insurmountable duality. It is a relationship with what always slips away as a mystery. It never becomes us or ours but its alterity is preserved in the relation. For Levinas, sociality is thus founded on a dyadic relationship, transformed from a theological to a secular ethics. This relational alterity, which is dyadic in character, became the bedrock of Levinas’s later, more mature ethical thought. What is more, it is phenomenological in method, as we will continue to see, as we explore his developed account of ethics.

I think this notion of Levinas’s is most important—his calling attention to the idea of Eros. It is my belief that Eros is the antidote to anxiety and to resentment, the kinds that come from anxiety. More strongly, as I have argued in the past, most humans have a false relationship with their consciousness. They reject transcendence and the possibility of change, not because it is to difficult [that is the red herring], but because it opens an ontological field that creates terror. Thus, instead of choosing an orientation in being that is trans-humanist we opt for the kind of alienating and possessive structures of autonomy that lead to either sado-masochistic human dynamics, or annihilating behaviors toward Others (humans, animals, self). Thus, how we transform our anxiety into courageous acts of self-development becomes paramount. This exploration is worthy of a whole book, which I will leave for another time. However, I’d like to make a few additional comments, in terms of various discourses that attempt to understand conflict, which I find quite helpful. People often think about conflict and difference as a dilemma. In this either-or fantasy, people believe that either they gain the object of their desire or they don’t, which puts us into direct competition with others.

Now that I have laid out some preliminary axioms, though I do not think my list is exhaustive, being more of a starting point, I would like to continue to explore some ideas about what this trans-humanist perspective is. Formerly, I used the term pantheonomy with great hesitation. I temporarily replace it with the term vivantonomy, which suggests a foundation that is concerned with life, not myself (as autonomy) and not myself only in relation to other human beings (as heteronomy). This would require that we overcome the desirous, narcissistic, egocentric consciousness that primarily valorizes autonomy. This would require us to shift the source of meaning from the subject to the object but not in the scientized way of the Enlightenment. The clues to engage this are already extant in Levinas and Burggraeve. It requires us, as I have stated here in this text and in my Essays on Phenomenology and the Self to shift the source of meaning away from our current forms of subjectivity to a) a new construction and interpretation of objectivity and then to b) a dimension beyond objectivity (as the polarized opposite of subjectivity. This is so because I take it that humans are primarily meaning-seeking agents. We have consciousness so we are self-aware. We have moral consciousness in that we evaluate our behavior. We are driven to understand the world and who we are. This is all meaning-seeking behavior. Unfortunately, the primary ways that we have sought meaning in the modern world result in two cultural modes, as I shall explain.

One of the ways we seek meaning is through our own subjectivity: we look at our own experience, albeit narcissistic and ego-centered, and construct a sense of meaning. As we have shown, this type of meaning supports power relations, desire, possession, and violence, requiring that we enter into cooperative pacts and alliances to stave off these drives—usually toward ownership and accumulation. Even in those more benign forms of subjectivity, the ones that are not abusive, we end up neglecting others simply because we don’t regard them. We don’t regard them because don’t see or hear them. In this state we become so embedded inside ourselves that we lose attention on others and don’t even see the rest. This source of meaning is wanting, therefore, because it doesn’t found a social or political community based in solidarity, rights, and responsibility. In contrast, seeking meaning through scientific naturalism and universal claims to truth, i.e., that which comprises much of modern science, errs in the opposite direction but in a way that is tied to an over-reliance on the subject. In this mode, we find meaning in a type of objectivism that also comes from the same narcissistic, egocentric type of self that lands in subjectivism. This is the kind of thinking that takes a teleological and instrumental view of other people, all sentient beings, other things, and the environment in general. To be sure, modern science is useful and powerful, and great things have come from it. However, we are subtly and not so subtly paying a price for it that comes from its destructive effects. This type of objectivism does not discover things as they are in themselves. Instead, it discovers things-as-they-can-be-useful. These are two different things, the latter based on a lack of ontological parity.

Nevertheless, we are not merely meaning-seeking beings. Our will moves us in a number of ways, for example, toward power, the construction of a self, the need to be recognized, and more. Thus, we can say that humans have a will toward a number of dimensions. I believe that these alternative articulations can also be used to develop an account parallel to that of meaning, in which we understand that their goal and their method constitutes a distorted subjectivity or in the reverse is constituted by a distorted subjectivity. This is a joint problem of the wrong noematic focus and the wrong noesis.

If we use Professor Brentano’s important axiom that human consciousness always has intentional structures toward the world, along with the joint concepts of noesis and noema, we gain some clarity about what I am proposing. (See his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint or his Descriptive Psychology.) The basic idea is that we always have intentionality in consciousness, even in the sorts of mediation practices that try to empty the mind of its contents. In those cases, we intend to empty the mind. In all other cases, too, we apprehend the world in terms of a subject-object polarity. Noema is the object toward which we are directed, which could be an external physical object like a tree or a dog. Noesis is the way we direct ourselves toward objects. For example, we can see an object as something to use instrumentally for our own purposes; in the alternative, we can see an object as something of beauty and value, as something to respect and protect. Of course, there are more ways of seeing, but these two demonstrate the tension that happens often between a purely humanist conception and a trans-humanist conception. In humanism, there is usually a lack of regard for animals and the environment except by accident. This is intrinsic to this type of noesis. In contrast, in a trans-humanist orientation in being, intentionality regards animals and the environment with the same value as humans. You can see two different types of noesis here, and this where we must focus. Professor Burggraeve shows us the difference between the egocentric, desirous type of intentionality and the non-egocentric, responsible sort of intentionality. These are two different noetic structures with highly different ways of approaching the world, and with different ways of seeing the same objects. We could go even further and propose that these different types of noetic structures actually see two different types of object.

We need a different type of basic noetic in the constitution of our human beingness. In this different noetic structure in consciousness, I propose that a couple of changes occur. For all these changes, we must turn away from focusing on our own desirous subjectivity, and refocus on the Other, Others, the objective world, but in a new way—with a different noetic. The first change in this refocus is to reflectively outline this different noetic in a way that proposes new values for animals and the environment. As I have been saying this is the axiom of ontological parity. This process would be a hermeneutic exercise in which we substitute in the new value, see the object in a new way, reinterpret our sense of the value, then refine our noetic clarity. This is a back and forth process that qualitatively shifts our noetic structure and method. When we compare this type of “objectivity” with the type we are criticizing, we notice profound differences. No longer are we searching for universal structures that we attempt to control and manipulate. Instead, we are searching for the object world as it is in itself free from our egocentric need for control. This requires the shift in value I mentioned, a shift in intentionality, and ultimately a shift in our human anthropology: we actually become different human beings. Our orientation in being transmutes; our behavioral choices vary. Our very consciousness becomes different.

The second change in this refocus is much more radical but inclusive of the first change. While it requires a different noetic structure, as I state, this radical change also requires us to reconsider the very way we construct the subject-object polarity. Imagine that it was not always the case that we saw the world in terms of such a rigid subject-object polarity, and moreover, that we didn’t see the world in such a radically instrumental sort of a way. We can imagine all sorts of different variations of this. This is a part of the reconstruction of how we see the object world, as I state, but it is more. It requires us to unsettle the way we pare out the dichotomy between the subject and the object, and perhaps re-envision what we think of as subject and what we think of as object. It is clear to me that they—the subject and the object—co-constitute each other. They are constructions that come from culture, society, and from our own personal history. Thus, we can reflect on this ontological space which gives rise to the very subject-object distinction in the first instant. This is the space of life itself that acts as new, more original, more accurate foundation for rights, solidarity, responsibility, and the constitution of the self: one that takes into account the whole and not just the [human] dimension.

Thus, we transform human-centered anthropologies into trans-human ontologies that move us from egocentric, desirous, possessive, unmindful beings into a complex constellation of elements that constitute a new kind of humanity based on a new sort of autonomy that is grounded in vivantonomy. These new self-constitutions include the self-as-responsible, the self-that-lives-in-solidarity, the self-who-promotes-rights-of-all-that-lives, and the self-who-lives-in-underlying-ontological-space. We could formulate these elements with more finesse, I am sure, but leaving them in their rough state articulates them with crispness and accuracy. The second moment of this transformation comes from the replacements of egocentric values and action potentials with a whole new set of values and action potentials that are virtuous within this new worldview. The values and virtues come from a new anthropology that we become more identified with through the practices that constitute them. This trans-humanist foundation re-constitutes, therefore, what we mean by autonomy and heteronomy. In the last short sections in this book, I will make some additional comments about the relation of virtue to both freedom and responsibility. I will also consider some preliminary questions and inquiry into the contrast between a phenomenology of reverence and a phenomenology of violence and murder. The reason I include these last sections is to provide some additional ideas about the development of this new anthropology. They are also an early inquiry into a book I shall write about reverence and violence from a phenomenological point of view.

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Existential Psychoanalytic
Institute & Society
2019-2020
Seminar
Curriculum

1ST DRAFT 1.1.19
*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:
September 6 & September 7 (2019)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Psychoanalytic-Existential Analysis:
(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Bion
The Clinical Thinking of Wilfried Bion, Symington, Routledge, 1996.

1 – The theoretical disjunction between Bion and Freud/Klein p. 1
2 – Bion: His character p. 14
3 – The Emotional Catalyst p. 27
4 – The Grid p. 31

Note: We will engage in a reading of the text from a theoretical and clinical perspective, but also consider phenomenology and critical theory as part of
methodology.
Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:
(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

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

Part One – Body and the Personal Structure of Experience p. 1
First Lecture – Subject Body and Ancient Philosophy p. 3
Second Lecture – Body and Person – Descartes p. 9
Third Lecture – Body and Person – Modern Philosophy p. 19
Fourth Lecture – Personal Space: Reflection, Horizon p. 29
Fifth Lecture – Life’s Dynamics: Intentionality p. 39

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

Lacan
Ecrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Lacan, Article 24 (“The Signification of the Phallus”) Note: This is a review from last year, but because it is such an important concept, we are looking at it again.

I may have a good summary article on this.
Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:
(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Malabou
Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, Johnston, Malabou Columbia, 2013

Part I. Go Wonder: Subjectivity and Affects in Neurobiological Times p. 1

Introduction: From the Passionate Soul to The Emotional Brain p. 3

What Does “Of” Mean in Descartes’s Expression, “The Passions of The Soul?” p. 12
Session 2:
December 6 & December 7 (2019)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Psychoanalytic-Existential Analysis:
(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)
Bion
The Clinical Thinking of Wilfried Bion, Symington, Routledge, 1996.

4 – The Grid – Review
5 – Myth and the Grid
6 – Container-Contained
7 – Alpha Function

Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:
(Friday, 6-8 MT)

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

Part One – Body and the Personal Structure of Experience p. 1
Sixth Lecture – Recapitulation. Personal Situational Structures p. 47
Seventh Lecture – Recapitulation. Personal Situational Structures p. 55
Eighth Lecture – I and the Other: Appresentation and Being-With p. 83
Ninth Lecture – Being-in-The-Body and Phenomenology p. 69
Tenth Lecture – Three Types of Phenomenology p. 77

Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:
(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)
Lacan
Ecrits, Lacan, Article 25 (“In Memory of Earnest Jones: On His Theory of Symbolism”); Article 26 (“On an Ex Post Facto Syllabary”)
Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:
(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Malabou
Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, Johnston, Malabou Columbia, 2013

A “Self-Touching You”: Derrida and Descartes p. 19

The Neural Self” Damasio Meets Descartes p. 26
Session 3:
March 6 & 7 (2020)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Psychoanalytic-Existential Analysis:
(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)
Bion
The Clinical Thinking of Wilfried Bion, Symington, Routledge, 1996.

8 – A Diagnosis of Thought
9 – Psychic Reality
10 – The Growth of Thought
11 – Transformations
Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:
(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)
Patocka
Body, Community, Language, World. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999.

Part Two – Being in the World: Two Phenomenologies
Eleventh Lecture – Husserl’s and Heidegger’s Phenomenology p. 89
Twelfth Lecture – Existence, Phenomenon p. 99
Thirteenth Lecture – Reflections as the Practice of Self-Discovery p. 109
Fourteenth Lecture – Phenomenology Within the Limits of Experience p. 119
Fifteenth Lecture – World of Objects and Pragmata
Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:
(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)

Lacan
Ecrits, Article 27 (“Guiding Remarks for a Convention on Female Sexuality”)

Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:
(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)
Malabou
Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, Johnston, Malabou Columbia, 2013

Affects Are Always Affects Of Essence: Book 3 of Spinoza’s Ethics p. 35

The Face And The Close-up: Deleuze’s Spinozist Approach to Descartes p. 43

Session 4:
June 5 and June 6 (2020)

Applied and Clinical Phenomenology/Psychoanalytic-Existential Analysis:
(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)
Bion
The Clinical Thinking of Wilfried Bion, Symington, Routledge, 1996.

12 – The Study of Groups
13 – The Phenomenology of Psychosis
14 – Without Memory or Desire
15 – Ultimate Reality, Mystic and the Establishment
Epilogue
Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:
(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)
Patocka
Body, Community, Language, World. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999.

Part Two – Being in the World: Two Phenomenologies
Sixteenth Lecture – Affection and Sensibility
Seventeenth Lecture – Care and the Three Movements of Human Life
Eighteenth Lecture –Care and the Three Movements of Human Life
Nineteenth Lecture –Phenomenality, Being, and the Reduction
Twentieth Lecture – Personal Spatiality, Heidegger
Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:
(Saturday, 10-noon p.m.)
Lacan
Ecrits, Lacan Article 28 (“The Youth of Gide, or the Letter and Desire”)
Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:
(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Malabou
Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, Johnston, Malabou, Columbia, 2013

Damasio As A Reader Of Spinoza p. 50

On Neural Plasticity, Trauma, And The Loss of Affects p. 56

Conclusion p. 63
January 1, 2019 version
EPIS curriculum, copyright, 2019-20
Official Version, Draft 1
EPIS Education
Copyright EPIS Education 2019-20

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I am concerned here with subjectivization – the topological cultural space within which we become selves. This requires that we entertain the dialectic between voluntarism and structuralism; our possibility for self-constitution; and the power that exogenous forces have on this dynamic interplay. In our current historical period, we are structuralized by semio-capitalism, which is the overarching semiology that prioritizes capitalism, accumulation, and commodification as the main hermeneutic allocation of value in our politics and culture. Within this hermeneutic, some examples of subjectivity include the faithful, the obscure, the reactive, the anxious, the violent, the complacent, the courageous, the responsible, the just, and those who seek solidarity. These terms, wrestling with the old and the new, transverse taxonomies such as the DSM, and therefore have the meaningful resources of several discourses and domains. Yet, they all tangle with truth and goodness and are, therefore, subject to a psycho-analysis.

We see in this semio-space the potential further erosion of the fictions of autonomy and individualism given that choices and perceived freedom are already pre-structured. Thus, what appears as a set of free choices by unique individuals is already constrained by a homogenous-homologous structure that exists both unconsciously and consciously within the situation and cultural-historical context of these choices. Therefore, we must consider that the brain and the mind are plastic and can, therefore, be affected and shaped by the mental environment. This is the cultural, political, and social situation along with its capitalist domains such as the neuro-electric, the neuro-physical, and the neuro-cultural. These exogenous forces create neurological limits to the brain and, derivatively, limits to the existential imagination and freedom.

In contemporary culture, we see the profound structural and self-constituting effects of the violent penetration of capitalist exploitation into Internet technology, government, bureaucracy, corporations, multiple social and cultural domains, and individual bodies. It also affects the topology and matrices of self-structure that presence themselves in human communities. Currently, this onslaught of capitalist violence causes noospheric chaos, de-mentalizations, fragmentations, and splitting between emotion and cognition. In order to help us adjust to these conditions, psychiatry and psychopharmacology re-program and mollify the effects of this capitalist violence. This re-programming minimizes singularity, which is the uniqueness of each person, transforming it into the homogenous structure that prefigures what we perceive as individual and free. This, in turn, supports our neurotic subjectivizations and obsessions to capital and the ensuing neural exploitation. This is the submission of our minds to a semiology of capitalism.

Unfortunately, these capitalist formations disengage our existential experience from deeper cultural and social meaning, by separating the humanities from science, the technical from the social, and the cultural from the natural. At an individual, personal level, this results in existential fragmentation. It distorts and narrows our noetic – our source of meaning – to one that that is circumscribed and mediated by accumulation and growth, possession and control. The acquisition of knowledge thus becomes a teleological enterprise of assimilating and learning capitalist ideologies and dogmas. In principle, if we do not understand these foundations, then what we perceive as critical thinking and reflection is instead a mass manipulation through power and the way it utilizes language.

Because capitalism becomes the chief semiological fulcrum, we lose an authentic relation to the environment and all the life and being in it. This creates fragmentation and alienation most deeply experienced as a temporal dystonia because the way capital forces us into an experience of time distorts an originary, natural relation to it. This raises the issue of our human anthropology and our relation to the cosmos. Currently, we operate primarily from a foundation of humanism, in which humans believe that they are more ontologically valuable than other life forms and compete with each other for important goods and, in so doing, elevate capitalism and competition above all other values. This creates a valorization of autonomy, individualism, competition, evolution, acquisition, narcissism, and egocentrism, which becomes an unbridled violence contextualized in automation. We have become automatons. This leads to an evental interrogation of the human anthropology and our most basic interpretational structures – our noetic – how we see the world. This opens transcendent space in which we can choose to re-define ourselves and shift the source of meaning away from semio-capitalism and all that I have been discussing.

Let us now consider some other dimensions of this problem and what we see happening. As we recall, it was not so long ago that the Western culture viewed humans as mechanisms. In this schema, we are products of nature, live in space-time interpreted as calculable motion, are embodied, and are controlled by the laws of nature-space. This involves, the borrowing of principles of physics and applying them to human beings. This tends to squeeze out the historical, and the self-constituting aspect in our humanity. What is left is a different sort of temporality that is based less on cultural/social meaning, free from technology, and more based on a de-humanized evolutionary approach that prioritizes power, competition, and other values that emanate from a mechanistic type of humanism.

Thus, the perception of time also shifts in semio-capitalism. Consider that humans have a deep existential capacity for temporality with past, present, and future ekstases. We then layer our historical, cultural, social, and personal interpretations of time on this deep existential structure and ontological faculty. This involves the relation between the ontological and the ontic, but it is important to note that these interpretations structure our thinking and our lives from a deep place. However, if we de-prioritize life, then the historical, cultural, social, and personal are thereby distorted. Instead of temporality being governed by important cultural factors, it is now largely governed by time interpreted as efficiency, productivity, and capitalism. It shifts from the lifeworld to automation; or another way of articulating this is to say that the lifeworld is now completely dominated by semio-capitalism.

Because of our assumptions of neuro-plasticity and neuro-totalitarianism, we can safely become concerned that our structure of temporality has its foundation in a semiology of capitalism. This can conflict with natural life rhythms, historical processes, and human integration with the rest of the Earth. Because these structures are both unconscious and conscious, they affect our very perceptions of them. One concern I have is whether we have any transcendental space left within which to imagine other time-worlds, i.e., other interpretations of temporality. Without this critical space, we lack an important thinking dimension of our relationship with the rest of existence, including other life forms and the resources of the Earth. Another concern is that with an interpretation of time based on mechanism and automation, we lose the idea of duration. We lose the richness of a life that understands the difference between past, present, and future, and the temporal ekstases of retention, intention, and protention, which allow us a deeper level of introspection and moral consciousness. This renders the depth of our quest for meaning.

Furthermore, in a mechanistic interpretation of temporality, in which time is viewed as motion and space, we prioritize operational thinking which also suppresses deeper thinking about the construction of meaning. In addition, with time being compressed by the need for productivity and efficiency, there is less time to consider transcendence and change. Thus, there is less capacity for deeper thinking and the consideration of meaning formation.

Let’s pause. We are facing the issues of time, the nature of our human anthropology or authenticity, thinking, meaning, and a topology of the self, separable concepts, to be sure, but all highly inter-related in existential psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and critical theory. Now that we have mentioned both temporality and the nature of the human anthropology, let’s focus on authenticity, self-structure, and the origin of meaning. Currently, our anthropology is centered on an egology, narcissism, and the possessory self of the Western Enlightenment, which I have written about extensively. In this introduction, however, I want to tie it to an apprehension and experience of the Other and of the given – the given Other – in our current circumstance.

In a civilization that is governed by a semiology of capitalism, consumption, and desire – historically contextualized with a valorization of the fictions of individualism and autonomy – the self is an alienated, isolated structure. To be sure, it is inter-relationally constituted, but in its hubris, it forgets how essential the Other is to its very self-constitution. In this way of being, it sees the world only in terms of its own mental categories; thus, everything is a projection. What it perceives comes from its own mind and therefore not from the world as it is given. Unfortunately, we lose apprehension, experience, and understanding of the Other – who is a radical Other.

We can see that semio-capitalism is a derivative of a metaphysics that attempts to quantify nature then hypostatize it into what we consider to be original reality. In this worldview, even the subject of the subject-object split is reified into a thing, which then becomes subject to an anthropology of mechanism, as I have explained. Modern science fails to inquire into the mode of being of its objects. Here, their meaning is constricted to a picture of the facts – a minimalism – to no effective meaning at all. Further, there is no meaning in general; it is always meaning for someone. Thus, the question of meaning is a study in reflection, which leads us to an examination of reflection itself.

If a semiology of capitalism is based on a subjectivity of desire, it follows that the kind of reflection this sort of subject is capable of would be conditioned by that very desire, or self-interest. Thus, the very topology or structure of the self operates as a set of world parameters within which reflection occurs. More strongly, reflection tends toward self-interest at this level. I argue that self-interest often brings closure to availability and closure to deeper and broader reflection. Thus, when personal interest conflicts with reflection in some way, reflection is at risk for being suppressed or distorted. This is true, of course, unless there is a different kind of reflection, one that is more radical in that it interrogates the attachment we have to our self-interest. Therefore, is it not the case that the reflective self takes its own interest to task? That it thinks against itself? Doesn’t the virtue of responsibility require us to place full attention on the task of reflection itself? Doesn’t this full attention require us to bracket our very own interests and desires as we probe into the transcendent field from which they arise? Without this deeper level of reflection, we cannot be sure that any sort of reflection outstrips self- interest.

This countermove of reflection exposes our capacity for freedom and derivatively for moral autonomy and choice. Being able to step back from a purely egologically-formed self-structure exposes our capacity for transcendence, transformation, and change. Sartre spoke of this as “pure reflection” – pure because it exposes the self-deception involved in usual ego structure. More clearly, we often close ourselves to things and others by not engaging in this purifying thought process and by staying within our “desirous reflections.” Unfortunately, this means that we create an opaque relationship to reality and do not see or experience things as they really are. One can easily see the moral, epistemological, and other ramifications of this distortive process. The countermove trends toward a different kind of reflection – and truth. This countermove tends toward truth because it opens to the world of others and to things, instead of closing itself to them.

Let us go further in asking about the purpose of reflection. Is it not to correct the distortions and falsities of what appears? For example, I might consider that the way I see things is, in principle, distorted because of my self-interest. Conversely, isn’t it true that reflection gives us an opportunity to see past the distortions to reach what is given? This is not being as such; rather, it is what is given in a way that transcends our personal desires. Doesn’t this possibility require a responsibility to transcend our personal interests, as I suggest? Doesn’t this also require us to live in and entertain the realm of the possible, which involve the future ekstases of a conscious, aware human being? Doesn’t this therefore require us to consider all temporal ekstases and how they relate to one another as source of meaning and context for future choice?

Let’s take stock. We have on one hand a self that splits its own being into subject and object, mediated by its own interests and desires; on the other, we have a self that opens itself to the world in an originary way, separate and apart from its own desire. These are two self- structures that have radically different topological-metaphysical structures. One is authentic and consonant with the reality of givenness; the other is self-deceptive and guided by self-interest.

The kind of radical reflection we seek involves this radical opening of ourselves in the first instance. Perhaps this is through Socratic ignorance; perhaps it is through a choice of availability in experience that includes the epistemological. This is a kind of self-choice that is interested in the given. This is the givenness of beings present in situation. Morally and psychologically, this is experience without fear and anxiety; existentially, it is experience without temporality, which includes an understanding of the multiple-worlds thesis, and a presence at the seat of the formation of worlds and time. It simply means to be fully present in the lifeworld – to the given – and most importantly, to be without self-interest.

What this means is that we can methodically attain an experience in consciousness that overcomes an alienation between the human and the world. We do this by correcting the subject-object dichotomy, and by purifying ourselves of the distortions and self-deceptions of our ego. This requires us to distance ourselves from our ego, while simultaneously creating proximity with the given. This offers us a new Archimedean point, which I will address shortly, which discloses our inter-relationship with all things; and which opens a greater disclosure of the phenomenological field. This is phenomenology.

A problem emerges, however. In completely-purified reflection, we may lose the self as center and locus of moral autonomy and responsibility. In its strongest dynamic, reflection is dialectical, which attempts to mediate between two extremes until it reaches equilibrium. On the one hand, if we are totally alienated from nature because of a possessory, dominating self, then we surely miss the given. On the other, if we are totally merged with nature then we lose the integrity of the self, and therefore our ability to engage in critical thought. This is the critical thought about nature and our place within it; about the transcendental regime that determines how nature is given to us; about other worlds from which the given presences; about the way we allow such presencing in a way that transcends our personal desire and interest. This involves the relation between how we understand the given and how we understand our very self. In this understanding – which is subjective reflection – we attempt to understand ourselves, which is our search for authentic self. At the same time, we attempt to understand the Other in his being. This means we acknowledge the difference. Thus, to the extent we do not understand our essential nature, our human anthropology, we do not understand the Other except in distorted ways, which are often a product of anxiety, fear, and violence.

This means that we must seek a form of resoluteness and responsibility to our own self-understanding and moral development, coincidental with our inter-relationship to all Others. The search for an authentic self lies in that dialectical process of inter-relationship but not just with other humans. It must be with all Others, human and non-human, in order to move beyond our egocentrism and our anthro-centrism. Further, this means that the quest must not just be an outward study of the objective. Instead, it must focus inward, on our very noetic structure and our own consciousness of how and to what extent we are presencing in this world, in this situation. It is this author’s view that the primary semiological signifier is capitalism, along with its self-topological structure.

It is this primary signifier that must be overcome and transcended and replaced by a signifier of life and its presencing. Methodologies toward this goal include phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory purified from a semiology of capitalism and a noetic architecture of the possessory, acquisitive self. This is the self that pursues a fiction of autonomy and individualism at the ontic level, while not understanding that her choices have been pre-determined by that very noetic and semiological structure. Thus, it is an opportunity for radical reflection, free from both personal desire and interest, and from a semiology that pre-structures what counts as valuable and good.

This brings us to an important intersection in this thinking as it addresses that most important distinction between description and understanding. Is it possible to arrive at an un-interpreted apprehension or experience of the common world of things and Others? If not originary, is it possible to make approximations of this region of awareness through dialectical bracketing procedures? Keep in mind this would require an imaginary process of moving between a scientific view and a purified, translucent consciousness in which this very view is held in suspension, so it can be examined. Let’s now take a case in which we can employ this thinking.

Years ago, I wrote a book entitled Vivantonomy: A Trans-Humanist Phenomenology of the Self, which is a good example of this bracketing process, in which we set aside a particular worldview – in this case a deep worldview – in order to examine it and consider other options. In this case, I bracket and challenge western humanism, with its unique anthropology that is structure by capitalism and competition, which serves and supports a self-structure that is possessory and acquisitive, dominating, and egocentric. This can be articulated in the languages of critical theory, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology each with its own lexicon. For our immediate quest, we want to know what lies at the bottom of the worldviews of autonomy, heteronomy, and vivantonomy, each an inter-relational position with respect to the Other. Both heteronomy and vivantonomy (which is the prioritization of life over purely humanist, self-centered approaches we see in individualism) challenge competition, individualism, capitalism as primary values, and substitute in others that support the Other. In the case of heteronomy, this is the other human. In the case of vivantonomy, this is all sentient Others, both human and non-human. The idea of trans-humanism means to transcend only the interests of humans, and instead, treat equally with ontological equity, all living sentient beings, and all life in general. This is a task for psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology – a critical existentialism.

We can see that this new view – with the individual and collective foci of vivantonomy and trans-humanism – challenges a semiology of capitalism and its correlates like autonomy, individualism, competition, power over others, possessory and acquisitive programs – all indicia of Western individualism and humanism. By its very nature, this view challenges a primary semiology of capitalism. By framing an exploration into an articulation of authentic dimensions of the human anthropology, a progressive psychoanalysis, and a transformative critical theory, we can create a dialectical space that challenges the current mainstream framework of these disciplines, especially but not only in a clinical sense.

My hope is to generate ideas that explore those relationships between the living world, life, and the given that are attributable to a semiology of capitalism, through our contemporary understanding of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology. This is not naturalism per se, but it does involve the question of how we frame an understanding of our authentic nature in terms of these discourses and substantive orientations. This mandates the development of a praxis that can lead us to potentials for transformative change, individually and collectively.

Ultimately, we are in pursuit of the relationship between the self and its projection of the objective – as subject. This is the phenomenon of subjectivization, which can be known psychoanalytically and phenomenologically, even with an over-arching semio-capitalism. Let’s now pursue this at a deeper level.

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by Dr. Kevin Boileau, PhD, JD & Nazarita Goldhammer, scientists and psychoanalysts
Dedication

We dedicate this prolegomenon to all the primates that human beings have savagely harmed, abused, neglected, and forced into servitude or imprisonment, both past and present. We hope that wiser humans will follow and support this prolegomenon with an actual primate rights bill that would become federal law in the United States, and that would influence similar laws around the planet Earth.
Introduction

It is recognized that all primates, including human beings, have a common
evolutionary origin even though each primate group has differentiated itself from the others, and even though the human group has differentiated to the greatest extent.

It is recognized that all primates have similar nervous systems and capacities for autonomy and suffering.

It is recognized that all primates have complex sets of interests, needs, and preferences, and that the recognition of natural rights protects these. Therefore, all primates and all primate groups have natural rights.

It is recognized that the very existence of a primate group implies that it has the natural right to continue to live free from interference from this living by human primate groups.

It is recognized that the ignorance of disrespect for these natural rights causes serious harm to primate individuals and groups; to nature as a whole; and to human beings.

It is recognized that the respect for the natural rights of all primate groups is inextricably tied to the respect for the natural rights of all human primates.

Preamble
Part 1

This prolegomenon applies to all beings who are in the class of primates.

We recognize that there has been a historical evolution in the conceptual and legal distinction between personhood and property. For example, we recognize people of certain race, color, age, who have long suffered invidious discrimination, including African Americans, women, children, the disabled, laboratory fetuses, and we recognize that non-human sentient animals such as primates have also been affected and harmed by this distinction.

For example, in some states, dogs are viewed as cash crops, treated no differently from oranges. We also recognize there is an analysis on the moral plane, in which non-human sentient animals have the same relevant, moral characteristics as human beings, but who have also been treated dissimilarly. For example, the class of beings called primates, which includes but which is not limited to orangutans, bonobos, monkeys, chimpanzees, who are individually autonomous, who are capable of suffering and who are aware of their suffering, are treated differently from human primates. There is a historical and analytic component to this understanding of a system of morality, which includes dimensions of the social, political and scientific that treats similar cases dissimilarly. This is the very definition of injustice.

This prolegomenon focuses on this injustice and this analytically illogical treatment and historically illogical treatment of non-human, sentient primates. Its various provisions both separate and collective, intends to correct this injustice by promulgating proto-federal law that protects the rights and the interests of all primates to be free from physical and psychological harm and, moreover, mandates an actual responsibility and requirement that human beings acknowledge, promote, and serve the best interest of all primates in the world today whether they are living in the wild, in a research facility, in any other government organization, in a private home, or in any other place.

It is important to point out that these natural and legal rights of primates do not depend on whether they are considered to be persons or not. The status of persons is based on a Kantian moral system in which rights and duties are considered to exist together, correlatively. This means that for a person to have rights he must also have duties. Given that primates do not have duties it is supposed that they cannot have rights. Therefore, they cannot be persons. However, in the bill that we promulgate here, the natural and legal rights of primates do not depend upon this system of correlative rights and duties. Instead, the foundation is that natural rights come from the faculty of autonomy, sentience, and the potential to suffer. This does not depend upon the assignment of the status of personhood.

It should be absolutely clear that we recognize both natural and legal rights of all primates, including but not limited to human beings because there are no morally relevant differences between one type of primate and any other type of primate given that they all are capable of autonomy, sentience and suffering.

Human rights declarations focus only on the natural rights of human beings, but they ignore the natural rights of other primates to be free from harm and to pursue a natural life pattern as part of a vital role in all eco-systems; to enjoy the common faculty of autonomy, choose life plans, and seek shelter, comfort, and adequate food; and to live amongst their own species in nature family groups. From these natural rights, which are no different from the natural rights of human beings—save the desire to form nation states and human laws—we hereby promulgate the following legal precepts that will protect, serve and foster the natural rights we hereby acknowledge. It is our goal to produce several successive iterations of this proto-law, with the intent that its principles eventually be promulgated as United States federal law.
Preamble
Part 2

If we compare the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights we can see that they make assumptions that the beings to be protected have natural rights. According to the documents, these rights come from having certain characteristics and then are promulgated by fiat. The methods are exactly the same: certain characteristics lead to natural rights. In the case of human rights, non-human animals are ignored. In the case of animal rights, humans are ignored.

We can see, however, that there is no relevant difference between human primates and other sentient beings who are classified as primates. Logically, this requires us, therefore, to include all sentient beings within an account of rights even though we have not yet done so historically. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the “UDHR,” calls attention to certain features of human beings, such as “inherent dignity,” “equal and inalienable rights,” a “right to life, liberty, and security,” a right not to be “subjected to torture or to cruel or degrading treatment or punishment,” and a “right to freedom of movement.” These speak of a high valuation of human beings that comes just from their identity as humans. It comes from our natural conceptions about human life and our recognition that we must protect important values and goods. In the case of humans, we simply agree that human life is valuable, attaching various positive terms to this valuation. It is a pronouncement by fiat.

In this process we ignore other sentient life, tacitly agreeing that other life is not important enough to include in various statements about natural rights. Historically, animals have not been thought to deserve inherent rights, only gaining value in terms of their instrumental value to humans (which, by the way, Immanuel Kant acknowledges). Yet this does not mean that animals do not have inherent dignity just like humans, or any of the other protections that are listed above. Let’s consider what could account for this.

Historically, we understand that the kind of self that we have created valorizes the development of the autonomous self in which each of us lives in the world in terms of his own mental categories. In this tradition we approach Others in terms of our own subjective interpretation of meaning and analyze Others relative to what we already know. It is an appetitive approach in which we consume Others by reducing them to the same cognitive categories of our own minds and experience.

This is an anthropological mistake that operates both between humans and also between humans and other sentient beings. More specifically, it operates between humans and other primates. We have seen how this anthropological mistake operates in an intra-human context. Now, let’s explain how it works when we consider other sentient beings. First, in a humanism of the “I,” this masterful, egocentric self tries to dominate everything in its path, which closes the natural capaciousness of consciousness into a direction that ends in destruction and horror. This is the consciousness that callously disregards the interests of all animals, most humans, and many primates. You see, just because we come to idolize the ideals of humanism we fall into a self-deception about the praxis. Upon inspection, we see that humans don’t actually do very well in meeting the demands set forth in a universal declaration of human rights because we don’t often protect the inherent and natural dignity of other humans. This is the state of consciousness that is selfish, egocentric, violent, and narcissistic. Yet, unfortunately, the discussion stops at the borders of the human and all consideration for other sentient beings is lost. It appears very clear that the structure of consciousness in egocentric narcissism by humans toward other humans, is exactly the same structure in behavior by humans toward animals. It is the very same egocentrism that causes a human to act violently toward another human that also causes him to preclude animals from a statement of natural rights and therefore, to give implied permission for their instrumental use and violent death. This is the psychological structure that we overcome in an interpretation of our human anthropology.

A secondary argument that accomplishes the same goal involves rationality. The argument has often been made that because animals cannot reason they are of lesser ontological worth than humans. However, this very type of consciousness bleeds back into intra-human affairs in which we subtly come to believe that the more “rational” one is the more he or she is worth. Thus, humans with severe birth defects in which their cognitive abilities are seriously impaired are implicitly viewed as having less value than those with normal or superior abilities (especially in a utilitarian moral system). The defective human (and this extends to those in prison, those who have menial jobs and the like) and the animal rate lower in value than those humans who have better rational capacities. It is a specious argument, and its consequences only serve to fuel the perennial “war of all against all” in our civilization. This is Thrasymachus’s position in the Republic, which Plato shows all too easily cannot serve as a foundation for justice. Moreover, in a derivative way, we can also see how this very same structure of consciousness is foundation to the neglect, abuse, and destruction of the environment. A trans-humanist foundation that treats like cases in like manner amongst the full spectrum of primates challenges this way of thinking.

For purposes of this bill, we will focus on humans and other sentient beings, and leave the environment in general to another day. We shall also leave to another day the definitions of sentient being, animal, and those creatures who/that do not achieve such a denomination. As far as the natural rights of humans go, we engage in a great deal of deception. It seems clear that the notion of [equal] human rights becomes more of something to say—to use in a manipulative way—than to actually practice. Perhaps this stems from a true lack of the ontological parity thesis, the result of which leads to violence toward any Other. In short, there is no basic ontological difference between humans and any other feeling animal that would lead to different moral treatment. We also believe that the exclusion of animals from a bill of natural rights comes from the same thinking that creates a bill of rights for humans but that does not actually respect it. There is also a third argument that does not have any convincing effect whatsoever. This is the argument that in order to have rights one must have duties, for this is what creates a reciprocal system. It is, instead, the case that there are many people who have rights but who are not capable of exercising duties. These people are the elderly and the mentally or physically infirm. Thus, it makes no sense to distinguish rights on this basis, and to conclude that because non-human animals cannot enter into the rights-duties system they don’t have rights. In effect, this continues the “might makes right” mentality and does not get us to a better position than the very narcissistic, egocentric state of mental development. Let us, therefore, leave this dimension and move to the phenomenological aspect that we can articulate through a discourse about solidarity. As a bridge to this discussion, however, we offer an idea about a new foundation for rights for both humans and animals that emerge from a common root. This is the root of life. This is vivantonomy, a new concept that expresses a new human anthropology and a new understanding of the place of humans on the planet Earth. This is a reconstituted humanism.

In the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights it is stated “that Life is one, all living beings having a common origin and having diversified in the course of the evolution of the species”; “that all living beings possess natural rights”; [and further in the Preamble] “that the respect of humans for animals is inseparable from the respect of man for another man.” The declaration goes on to specifically delineate 14 articles that address the notion that animal rights and human rights come from the more primordial dimension of life itself. We have seen how humans have developed a declaration of human rights from the notion of natural rights, although animals and the environment are excluded. In this declaration for animal rights, we recognize a great diversity in living creatures, and specifically acknowledge that each of one has natural rights. These rights come from the sole fact of being alive, and participating in a wondrous, complex eco-system if you will, but more than that, representing a different facet of the interrelatedness of all living beings. We can see that a declaration of human rights that bases its strictures on notions of natural rights cannot escape the fact that natural rights also belong to other sentient beings. Our problem is that we have either neatly ignored or forgotten this fact. or we have callously disregarded it (both a product of the ego-centric mind). We have prepared the reader to overcome these limitations through the provisions of the bill.

Preamble
Part 3

There are many species of beings that we humans will never see, and many that are in our daily ecosystems that we choose not to see. Yet, they are there—here—rather, constantly watching, looking, appealing—usually to us humans. We don’t see them because our own systems of value are informed by our narcissism: our egocentrism. This type of consciousness therefore closes itself in on itself, not seeing other life, other humans, and our very selves. This is the possessory, dominating subjectivity that instrumentalizes all others, and even in a system indoctrinated by rights and duties, fails to see the Other’s world on its own terms, as its unique manifestation. Here are the 6 axioms that underwrite an understanding of the principles of the natural and legal rights of primates:

First, we must dismiss the notion that humans are better, of more worth, or higher on a value scale. We must substitute it with a new axiom of ontological parity.

Second, we must agree that in principle that most of us have little knowledge about the whole: about how all beings, processes, and structures work together in an ecosystem. We substitute it with a new axiom of rigorous inquiry.

Third, we must accept a new Archimedean point. We cannot pretend to be at the center of the universe or the planet earth. This means that we must render an accounting of all life forms, including ours, holding that all living beings have equal interests and rights. We must, therefore, have an axiom that recognizes we play a part in the whole but are not the whole, and that we must mediate and weigh our interests relative to those of other life forms. If we do conclude that we are the center of the planet then we must reject our species narcissism and our hubris, and replace it with a strong sense of responsibility to all other life forms and to all other primates and primate groups.

Fourth, we must recognize that all life forms come from the same source. This leads us to the reconstituted notion of solidarity. This is a trans-human notion that includes all other life forms equally with the human.

Fifth, we must acknowledge and accept a new depth and breadth of our responsibility to others, including humans, other sentient life forms, additional life forms, and the environment in general.

Sixth, we must work diligently to formulate and articulate a new philosophical anthropology for human beings. This means we must strive for new meaning and understanding of the world and our place within it. This is neither the autonomous subject nor the heteronomous subject but it is a new human. This re-formulates the reality principle. Here are the 31 articles of this Prolegomenon, followed by a philosophical exegesis of their foundation.

 

Dr. Kevin Boileau & Nazarita Goldhammer

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Introduction to EPIS 2018 Conference:

“A Semiology of Capitalism &
the Pursuit of Reflection for a Future Psychoanalysis: Remarks

Kevin Boileau
June 2018
The theme of the EPIS conference this year involves the natural & indigenous roots of a progressive psychoanalysis, applied phenomenology, and anthropologically transformative critical theory. Some of our papers this summer address this directly; others indirectly, but all contribute to the whole.

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.

In short, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory are useful discourses that can tell us who we are, who others are, and how we see self, other, and world. However, much of psychoanalysis has not fairly treated these larger structural factors, like capitalism, like the semiology of capitalism (and production). I am suggesting that this conference theme is to encourage good thinking and good papers on how we can DO phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory within a dominant metaphor or discourse – which is a semiology of capitalism. I think there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates we prioritize this metaphor over ALL others, including the value of life, culture, etc. I am suggesting that we need to pay close attention to how these STRUCTURAL factors, including dominant metaphors and dominant discourses, affect our very ability to DO psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and critical theory. That brings me to my questions concerning reflection in the introduction. I think the questions are important. By postulating a hermeneutics of suspicion in which we cannot fully trust what our mind thinks or how we reflect, we might be able to navigate to a truer level of reflection, a reflection that provides more truth or insight about the nature of humans beings. Humanism is in a mal-mentalized, chaotic tension right now. As such, humanism as we know it – in my view – must be transformed radically into something very different. This means we must transform our anthropology. I believe that we cannot do this and continue to be inebriated with what we think of as individualism or autonomy…for God’s sake, deep discourses provide the matrix of all practical thinking positions…our choices just a semblance of freedom…Thus, we must interrogate reflection. We must bracket what we think of as reflection — both you and I – and others – and re-think reflection in a way that sidesteps desire, which is at the very heart of classical and contemporary psychoanalysis….

We are concerned here with subjectivization – the topological cultural space within which we become selves. This necessarily triggers a dialectic between voluntarism and structuralism; our possibility for self-constitution; and the power exogenous forces have on this dynamic interplay. It seems clear that we are structuralized by semio-capitalism – that the overarching semiology concerns capitalism, accumulation, and commodification as the main hermeneutic allocation of value in our politics and culture. Within this hermeneutic, some examples of subjectivity include the faithful, the obscure, the reactive, the anxious, the violent, the complacent, the courageous, the responsible, the just, and those who seek solidarity. These terms, of course, transverse taxonomies such as the DSM, and therefore have the meaningful resources of several discourses and domains. But they all tangle with truth and goodness and are, therefore, subject to a psycho-analysis.

We see in this semio-space the potential further erosion of the fictions of autonomy and individualism given that choices and perceived freedom are already pre-structured. Thus, what appears as a set of free choices by a unique individual is already constrained by a homogenous-homologous structure that exists both unconsciously and consciously within the situation and context of these choices. Therefore, we must consider that the brain and the mind are plastic and can, therefore, be affected and shaped by the mental environment. This is the cultural, political, and social situation along with its domains such as the neuro-electric and the neuro-physical. These exogenous forces create neurological limits to the brain and derivatively, limits to the imagination.

In contemporary culture, we are seeing the profound structural and self-constituting effects of the violent penetration of capitalist exploitation into Internet technology, government, bureaucracy, corporations, multiple social and cultural domains, and individual bodies. It also affects the topology and matrices of self-structure that presence themselves in human communities. Currently, this onslaught of capitalist violence causes noospheric chaos, de-mentalizations, fragmentations, and splitting between emotion and cognition. In order to help us adjust to these conditions, psychiatry and psychopharmacology re-program and mollify the effects of this capitalist violence. This re-programming minimizes singularity, which is the uniqueness of each person, transforming it into the homogenous structure that prefigures what we perceive as individual and free. This, in turn, supports our neurotic subjectivizations and obsessions to capital and the ensuing neural exploitation. This is the submission of our minds to a semiology of capitalism.

Unfortunately, these capitalist formations disengage our existential experience from deeper cultural and social meaning, for example, by separating the humanities from science, the technical from the social, or the cultural from the natural. This distorts and narrows our noetic – our source of meaning – to one that that is circumscribed and mediated by accumulation and growth, possession and control. The acquisition of knowledge thus becomes a teleological enterprise of assimilating and learning capitalist ideologies and dogmas. In principle, if we do not understand these foundations then what we perceive as critical thinking and reflection is instead a mass manipulation through power and the way it utilizes language.

Because capitalism becomes the chief semiological fulcrum, we lose the authentic relation to the environment and all the life and being in it. This creates fragmentation and alienation most deeply experienced as a temporal dystonia because the way capital forces us into an experience of time distorts an originary, natural relation to it. This raises the issue of our human anthropology and our relation to the cosmos. Currently, we operate primarily from humanism, in which a) humans believe that they are more ontologically valuable than other life forms and b) humans compete with each other for important goods, and in so doing elevate capitalism and competition above all other values. This creates a valorization of autonomy, individualism, competition, evolution, acquisition, narcissism, and egocentrism, which becomes an unbridled violence contextualized in automation – – we have become automatons. This leads to an evental interrogation of the human anthropology and our most basic interpretational structures – our noetic – how we see the world. This opens transcendent space in which can choose to re-define ourselves and shift the source of meaning away from semio-capitalism and all that I have been discussing.

Let us now consider some other dimensions of this problem – what we see that is happening. As we recall, it was not so long ago that the western culture viewed humans as mechanisms. In this schema, we are products of nature, live in space-time interpreted as calculable motion, are embodied, and are controlled by the laws of nature. This is, as I have discussed elsewhere, the borrowing of principles of physics and applying them to human beings. This tends to squeeze out the historical, and the self-constituting aspect in our humanity. What is left is a different sort of temporality that is less based on cultural and social meaning that is free from technology, and that is more based on a de-humanized evolutionary approach that prioritizes power, competition, and other values that emanate from a mechanistic type of humanism.

Thus, the perception of time also shifts in semio-capitalism. Consider that humans have a deep existential capacity for temporality with past, present, and future ekstases. We then layer our historical, cultural, social, and personal interpretations of time on this deep existential structure and ontological faculty. This involves the relation between the ontological and the ontic, but it is important to note that these interpretations structure our thinking and our lives from a deep place. However, if we de-prioritize life, then the historical, cultural, social, and personal are thereby distorted. Instead of temporality being governed by important cultural factors, it is now largely governed by time interpreted as efficiency, productivity, and capitalism. It shifts from the lifeworld to automation; or another way of articulating this is to say that the lifeworld is now completely dominated by semio-capitalism.

Because of our assumptions of neuro-plasticity and neuro-totalitarianism, we can safely become concerned that our structure of temporality has its foundation in a semiology of capitalism. This can conflict with natural life rhythms, historical processes, and human integration with the rest of the Earth. Because these structures are both unconscious and conscious, they affect our very perceptions of them. One concern I have is whether we have any transcendental space left within which to imagine other time-worlds – other interpretations of temporality. Without this critical space, we lack an important thinking dimension of our relationship with the rest of existence – other life forms and the resources of the Earth. Another concern is that with an interpretation of time based on mechanism and automation, we lose the idea of duration. We lose the richness of a life that understands the difference between past, present, and future, and the temporal ekstases of retention, intention, and protention, which allow us a deeper level of introspection and moral consciousness.

Furthermore, in a mechanistic interpretation of temporality, in which time is viewed as motion and space, we prioritize operational thinking which also suppresses deeper thinking about the construction of meaning. In addition, with time being compressed by the need for productivity and efficiency, there is less time to consider transcendence and change. Thus, there is less capacity for deeper thinking and the consideration of meaning formation.

Let’s take stock. We are facing the issues of time, the nature of our human anthropology or authenticity, thinking, meaning, and a topology of the self, separable concepts, to be sure, but all highly inter-related in psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and critical theory. Now that we have mentioned both temporality and the nature of the human anthropology, let’s focus on authenticity, self-structure, and the origin of meaning. Currently, our anthropology is centered on an egology, narcissism, and the possessory self of the Western Enlightenment, which I have written about extensively. In this introduction, however, I want to tie it to an apprehension and experience of the Other and of the given – the given Other. Let’s discuss that self because it is present at these three disciplines that we study and utilize at the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society.

In a civilization that is governed by a semiology of capitalism, consumption, and desire – historically contextualized with a valorization of the fictions of individualism and autonomy – the self is an alienated, isolated structure. To be sure, it is inter-relationally constituted, but in its hubris, it forgets how essential the Other is to its very self-constitution. In this way of being, it sees the world only in terms of its own mental categories; thus, everything is a projection. What it perceives comes from its own mind and therefore not from the world as it is given. Unfortunately, we lose apprehension, experience, and understanding of the Other – who is a radical Other.

We can see that semio-capitalism is a derivative of a metaphysics that attempts to quantify nature then hypostatize it into what we consider to be original reality. In this worldview, even the subject of the subject-object split is reified into a thing – which then becomes subject to an anthropology of mechanism, as I have explained. Modern science fails to inquire into the mode of being of its objects. Here, their meaning is constricted to a picture of the facts, i.e, to no effective meaning at all. Further, there is no meaning in general; it is always meaning for [someone]. Thus, the question of meaning is a study in reflection, which leads us to an examination of reflection itself.

If a semiology of capitalism is based on a subjectivity of desire, it follows that the kind of reflection this sort of subject is capable of would be conditioned by that very desire, or self-interest. Thus, the very topology or structure of the self operates as a set of world parameters within which reflection occurs. More strongly, reflection tends toward self-interest at this level. I argue that self-interest often brings closure to availability and closure to deeper and broader reflection. Thus, when personal interest conflicts with reflection in some way, reflection is at risk for being suppressed or distorted. This is true, of course, unless there is a different kind of reflection, one that is more radical in that it interrogates the attachment we have to our self-interest. Therefore, is it not the case that the reflective self takes its own interest to task? That it thinks against itself? Doesn’t the virtue of responsibility require us to place full attention on the task of reflection itself? Doesn’t this full attention require us to bracket our very own interests and desires as we probe into the transcendent field from which they arise? Without this deeper level of reflection, we cannot be sure that any sort of reflection outstrips self- interest.

This countermove of reflection exposes our capacity for freedom and derivatively for moral autonomy and choice. Being able to step back from a purely egologically-formed self-structure exposes our capacity for transcendence, transformation, and change. Sartre spoke of this as “pure reflection” – pure because it exposes the self-deception involved in usual ego structure. More clearly, we often close ourselves to things and others by not engaging in this purifying thought process and by staying within our “desirous reflections.” Unfortunately, this means that we create an opaque relationship to reality and do not see or experience things as they really are. One can easily see the moral, epistemological, and other ramifications of this distortive process. The countermove trends toward a different kind of reflection – and truth. This countermove tends toward truth because it opens to the world of others and to things, instead of closing itself to them.

Let us go further in asking about the purpose of reflection. Is it not to correct the distortions and falsities of what appears? For example, I might consider that the way I see things is, in principle, distorted because of my self-interest. Conversely, isn’t it true that reflection gives us an opportunity to see past the distortions to reach what is given? This is not being as such; rather, it is what is given in a way that transcends our personal desires. Doesn’t this possibility require a responsibility to transcend our personal interests, as Patocka suggests? Doesn’t this also require is to live in and entertain the realm of the possible, such realm the future ekstases of a conscious, aware human being? Doesn’t this therefore require us to consider all temporal ekstases and how they relate to one another as source of meaning and context for future choice? Let’s take stock. We have on one hand a self that splits its own being into subject and object, mediated by its own interests and desires; on the other, we have a self that opens itself to the world in an originary way, separate and apart from its own desire. These are two self- structures that have radically different topological-metaphysical structures. One is authentic and consonant with the reality of givenness; the other is self-deceptive and guided by self-interest.

The kind of radical reflection we seek involves this radical opening of ourselves in the first instance. Perhaps this is through Socratic ignorance; perhaps it is through a choice of availability in experience that includes the epistemological. This is a kind of self-choice that is interested in the given. This is the givenness of beings present in situation. Morally and psychologically, this is experience without fear and anxiety; existentially, it is experience without temporality, which includes an understanding of the multiple-worlds thesis, and a presence at the seat of the formation of worlds and time. It simply means to be fully present in the lifeworld – to the given – and most importantly, to be without self-interest. Let’s clarify. What this means is that we can methodically attain an experience in consciousness that overcomes an alienation between the human and the world. We do this by correcting the subject-object dichotomy, and by purifying ourselves of the distortions and self-deceptions of our ego. This requires us to distance ourselves from our ego, while simultaneously creating proximity with the given. This offers us a new Archimedean point, which I will address shortly,
which discloses our inter-relationship with all things; and which opens a greater disclosure of the phenomenological field. This is phenomenology.

A problem emerges, however. In completely-purified reflection, we may lose the self as center and locus of moral autonomy and responsibility. As Patocka argues, reflection is dialectical, which attempts to mediate between two extremes. On the one hand, if we are totally alienated from nature because of a possessory, dominating self, then we surely miss the given. On the other, if we are totally merged with nature then we lose the integrity of the self, and therefore our ability to engage in critical thought. This is the critical thought about nature and our place within it; about the transcendental regime that determines how nature is given to us; about other worlds from which the given presences; about the way we allow such presencing in a way that transcends our personal desire and interest. This involves the relation between how we understand the given and how we understand our very self. In this understanding – which is subjective reflection – we attempt to understand ourselves, which is our search for authentic self. At the same time, we attempt to understand the Other in his being. This means we acknowledge the difference. Thus, to the extent we do not understand our essential nature, our human anthropology, we do not understand the Other except in distorted ways, which are often a product of anxiety, fear, and violence.

This means that we must seek a form of resoluteness and responsibility to our own self-understanding and moral development, coincidental with our inter-relationship to all Others. The search of an authentic self lies in that dialectical process of inter-relationship but not just with other humans. It must be with all Others, human and non-human, in order to move beyond our egocentrism and our anthro-centrism. Further, this means that the quest must not just be an outward study of the objective; instead, it must focus inward, on our very noetic structure and our own consciousness of how and to what extent we are presencing in this world, in this situation. It this author’s view that the primary semiological signifier is capitalism, along with its self-topological structure. It is this primary signifier that must be overcome and transcended and replaced by a signifier of life and its presencing. Methodologies toward this goal include phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory – purified from a semiology of capitalism and a noetic architecture of the possessory, acquisitive self. This is the self that pursues a fiction of autonomy and individualism at the ontic level, while not understanding that her choices have been pre-determined by that very noetic and semiological structure. Thus, it is an opportunity for radical reflection, free form both personal desire and interest, and from a semiology that pre-structures what counts as valuable and good.

This brings us to an important intersection in this thinking as it addresses that most important distinction between description and understanding. Is it possible to arrive at an un-interpreted apprehension or experience of the common world of things and Others? If not originary, is it possible to make approximations of this region of awareness through dialectical bracketing procedures? Keep in mind this would require an imaginary process of moving between a scientific view and a purified, translucent consciousness in which this very view is held in suspension, so it can be examined. Let’s now take a case in which we can employ this thinking.

Years ago, I wrote a book entitled VIvantonomy: A Trans-Humanist Phenomenology of the Self which is a good example of this bracketing process, in which we set aside a particular worldview – in this case a deep worldview – in order to examine it and consider other options. In this case, I bracket and challenge western humanism, with its unique anthropology that is structure by capitalism and competition, which serves and supports a self-structure that is possessory and acquisitive, dominating, and egocentric. This can be articulated in the languages of critical theory, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology each with its own lexicon. For our immediate quest, we want to know what lies at the bottom of the worldviews of autonomy, heteronomy, and vivantonomy, each an inter-relational position with respect to the Other. Both heteronomy and vivantonomy (which is the prioritization of life over purely humanist, self-centered approaches we see in individualism) challenge competition, individualism, capitalism as primary values, and substitute in others that support the Other. In the case of heteronomy, this is the other human. In the case of vivantonomy, this is all sentient Others, both human and non-human. The idea of trans-humanism means to transcend only the interests of humans, and instead, treat equally with ontological equity, all living sentient beings, and all life in general.

The general principles in Vivantonomy that challenge humanism are: 1) that we must not perceive the ontological worth of non-humans to be lower than that of the worth of humans; 2) that we must take responsibility for much deeper an integrated knowledge about the whole of all ecosystems; 3) that we choose a new Archimedean point in which we do not believe that we are at the center of the earth or any universe and that all beings have equal interests and rights that must always be considered; 4) that we recognize all life comes from the same source and that we must commit to solidarity with all life; 5) that we deepen our responsibility and commitment to all Others both human and non-human, and the life environment; and 6) that we work diligently to develop a new human anthropology, source of meaning and noetic, and reality principle. This is the work of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology.

We can see that this new view – with the individual and collective foci of vivantonomy and trans-humanism – challenges a semiology of capitalism and its correlates like autonomy, individualism, competition, power over others, possessory and acquisitive programs – all these indicia of western individualism and humanism. By its very nature this view challenges a primary semiology of capitalism. By framing an exploration into the natural & indigenous roots of a progressive psychoanalysis, applied phenomenology, and anthropologically transformative critical theory we thereby create that dialectical space that challenges the current mainstream framework of these disciplines, especially but not only in a clinical sense.

Our hope is to generate ideas that explore those relationships between the living world, life, and the given that are attributable to a semiology of capitalism, through our contemporary understanding of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology, as mediated by their indigenous and natural roots. This is not naturalism per se, but involves the question of how we frame an understanding of nature and the natural in terms of these discourses and substantive orientations. This involves, necessarily, praxis, and potentials for transformative change, individually and collectively.

Ultimately, we are in pursuit of the relationship between the self and its projection of the objective – as subject. This is the phenomenon of subjectivization, which can be known psychoanalytically and phenomenologically,
even with an over-arching semio-capitalism.

Kevin Boileau
Writing in Missoula, Montana
June 2018

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The EPIS Institute announces a new seminar and companion one-year program in the Phenomenology & Psychoanalysis of Animal Freedom & Human Responsibility.

It has never been more important to understand that human freedom MUST include the responsibility to protect non-humans.  Currently, we trap, torture, rape, harm, destroy, and kill animals for our pleasure and perceived needs.  But this is simply not true. It is a false belief.

This seminar will delve deeply into the phenomenology and psychoanalysis of human treatment of humans, which is often violent.  We usually regard them as having less ontological value than the value of humans – which is built into the law – and which gives us warrant to destroy them in many different ways.

Let’s approach this seminar and program philosophically – psychologically – phenomenologically – and psychoanalytically. Let us use the most rigorous thinking possible and discuss these matters between ourselves.  Then let’s share our thinking.

Kevin Boileau – Philosopher and Human Animal

kbradref@gmail.com

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