The Cave of False Consciousness II

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 9:01 AM

. . . We are necessarily strangers to ourselves, we do not comprehend ourselves, we have to misunderstand ourselves, for us the law “Each is furthest from himself” applies to all eternity.

—Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Preface

Self-knowing is a task for which humans are rankly unfit precisely because of their witlessly lying transfiguration of how-things-actually-are (duplicitous and perfidious transformations already effected by means of “interpretation,” “evaluation,” “characterization,” i.e. generally “strategic misrepresentations”).  A systemic, primordial or “instinctive” self-deception is effected by this ambient climate of mendacity (aptly called the prevailing but rarely comprehended climate of “subjectivism”) from infancy to the grave:  the issue is not merely that humans are so thoroughly cultureless, unscrupulous or uncritical, but rather that what passes for “culture” among them is a river of permutative, roiling delusions, an attitudinal and prejudicial epidemic.  Just as true believers who are in truth neither virtuous nor even spiritual love to imbibe a sort of vicarious, osmotic virtue and self-delusive spirituality from saviors and saints who are virtuous and spiritual “for” or “in lieu of” those believers, so the human species at large, in every society, imbues itself with facile, unearned and obligation-free intellectual and subjective virtues, activities and potentialities that are in actuality only to be found in the rarest and most utterly atypical individuals:  not even most scientists are “scientific” in their experimental design or explanatory rigor or modus intelligendi; not even most logicians are “logical” down to their own core-premises; certainly not even most intellectuals are stringently “intellective,” not to mention “intelligent.”  So it goes when one’s “culture” is little more than an arsenal of aspectivally useful tools.

Most humans, as Wilde had the indelicacy to make explicit, shine by reflected light.  As the Greeks perceived, humans are overwhelmingly mimetic creatures and “learn” by obedience and conformism, gaining virtually all their aretai or masteries via uncomprehending or extrinsic mechanical “modeling.”    Of all the forms of political and cultural regime, “democracies” most fervently illustrate this point and also most ardently resent and evade its significance, namely that humans are by this very trait preordained to lives and “cultures” of profoundly engrained, entropic slavishness.  The distinctively systematic modern “massification” of societies into vast galaxies of routinized or ordinarized behavior, belief and preferences has been merely the crystallization or perfection of possibilities already inscribed in the “molecules” of individual and tribal psyches.  The human species has few “principals” or originaries indeed, and many mimetic, ancillary or auxiliary “executives” and “employees”; and modernly mechanized forms of order are significantly engineered to be impervious to naively moral or spiritual (“charismatic,” “visionary”) authority.  But that means, modernity has even fewer autonomous and actual minds, and innumerably many, many more derivative and dependent mentalities.  Just in the past few generations modern forms of education have been repeatedly and ineffectively criticized for “failing” more and more systematically at instilling critical and creative intelligence—as if they were even architected or populated with a culture actually aiming at such sublimation and intensification.  So we know that a “dysfunctional” culture with “maldesigned” institutions—according to criteria and perspectives other than its own, institutionally implemented criteria and perspectives—can effectively worsen a natural blight in profundity, acuity and panchromatic intelligence.  The Greeks knew “vices” and “dysvalues” in the form of personal or individual dysdaimoniai, but not as whole-systemic and universalized dyslogics, not as ideologizing, techno-idolatrous and humanly counterproductive worldviews.

Prejudice, and most of all massified prejudices, declares that the purported consciousness of the public is mortgaged to the hilt, bound over from owner to owner like a chattel-slave.  Not even their so-called consciousness do the multitudes “own,” control or understand; indeed it is only by an ideological or falsifying impulse that they endowed with the need to imagine themselves to be “emperors” of their “proprietary” private or inner world.  They “know” how things are supposed to be, they know how things are called, they know what they are obligated or expected to see or to think of all around them; but about intrinsically rational principles and relations, about any sort of truth transcending their own sewer of subjectivisms, virtually all humans are more than ever before ignorant, impoverished and unconcerned, as politics, economics, and the blitherings of the Internet daily evince.

We should not be misled by the prodigious advances in image-mongering and electronic virtuality:  visual archetypes or iconic presentations are indeed very powerful but the strategy for how they are to be taken is set by a left-brained “logic,” a rhetorical framework of torqued connotations.  To professionals and scientists no less than to consumers of verbiage in general, the “world” no less than their own “minds” is merely a complex “language-game,” giving them each day their recommended daily dosage of fideistic reassurances.  “What is it that the common people take for knowledge?  What do they want when they want ‘knowledge’?  Nothing more than this:  Something strange is to be reduced to something familiar” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, V, 355).  The epoch of “analogical” or “qualitative”thinking is for the vast majority of humans far from over, but moderns are too profoundly afflicted with another saturating modality—abstractivism, normalized or routinized clinical detachment, the decay of the once-organismic noocosm into selected grains or molecules or particles (effects of and appeals to a knee-jerk noetic analyticalism)—moderns are too afflicted to recognize that modernity’s grand leap out of traditional or primitive naivete (natural intuitivism or graphicism) has been promised but never actually fulfilled for most of them.  Through abstractivism moderns are dysrelated to or alienated from all the elements and gestalten of their entire existence as a whole, as if disinfected of its concreteness by some all-penetrating macrocosmic astringent.  The only “evidence” that moderns can see or care about is artificial or virtual evidence, formatted by the media etc. for their convenience to serve as contrived and pandering neon-lights that blind them to the very existence of the sun.  Neither evidency nor immediacy truly counts for the most modernized moderns, but rather media, concoctions, fictions, games, rules that precipitate out of a grand machine-order or game-playing Noocosm.

“The market” is today the concept of a world-order bent on “giving people what they want”; but what does this world-logic truly and ultimately mean if it itself has decultured humans out of all residual competence to understand and evaluate for themselves their own “due diligence,” their utmost and most sober and autonomous assessment of what is good, right, necessary, healthy, sane, just, and natural for them?  —Demonstrably, inevitably and reiteratively, most humans cannot conceptualize or articulate what they most profoundly want and need and respect in life; they cannot give an account, in terms other than crude and generally indefensible, of what makes them unique as an individual; and they cannot explain in any way other than idiomatic—infantile or rationally crippled—the structure of ultimate reasons justifying their conscience and value-concerns.  Moderns show themselves to be most explicitly “massified personalities” when one raises philosophical challenges to their generic or platitudinous norms and mass-propagated rationales.  But they nonetheless have, of course, in every instance the nebulous imperative to think of themselves as “unique” and “self-determining” individuals, all the moreso as they approach perfect vacuity of criteriological understanding of what this presupposes or demands of them.  What our abstractivizing culture abstractly or delusively/rhetorically demands of them, they can relate to only in a posture of sheer pathos or blind faith.

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