Saturday, 27 January 2018

The opposite of abstract is personal

This is the essence of what I am currently trying to get across - a break point with the usual way of considering things.

Abstraction (pretty much) IS Positivism... and Positivism is what we are trying to escape. This, at least, is the case when Positivism is reconsidered as meaning Abstraction.

We start out as Personal - when we are children. As human culture (so far as we know) started out as personal - animistic, anthropomorphic, everything alive, conscious, personal.

Abstraction was introduced by (?) the Ancient Greek philosophers, and it grew initially in and from a situation of unconscious and spontaneous personalism. Thus the AG's advocated abstraction, but they were (by our modern Western standards) very animistic in their thought, behaviour and language (this last being well attested by Owen Barfield in his 1928 book Poetic Diction and elsewhere).

Since then Western Culture has become more abstract and less personal until now public life is wholly abstract - to the point that even in the Mass Media the personal is wholly abstract... that is my interpretation of the identity politics which has taken-over in the past 50 years: even people are now wholly (abstractly) representative of the class/ sex/ non-sex, race, religion of whatever. (As in the foundational feminist phrase The Personal Is Political.)

OK, it may be agreed that modernity is too abstract - a matter of models and symbols... but most people would regard The Concrete as the Opposite of The Abstract; I'm here pointing out that it is the Personal which is opposite.

So we must apparently become Personal instead of Abstract - but, I would emphasise, Not by trying to go back to being unconsciously and spontaneously and passively Personal, like a child or a putative simple hunter gatherer...

This times and in the future it much be a choice, a choice or decision that must be consciously and freely made. We need to decide that Personal is how things Really are: that deep-down and objectively things are ultimately Not abstract, but that they Are instead personal.

So we live in a reality, a universe, a world, where things are persons, things are beings - beings are persons... at bottom and root we have living and conscious beings.

This entails that mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are not really real; these are (more or less use-full) simplified (= ultimately and always false) models.

(Same applies to the abstractions of managerialism - all those processes, measures, stats and targets - they aren't The Bottom Line they are plain wrong.)

It's a big change I am asking and advocating; but I think this is exactly what is demanded, what we need to do - by divine destiny. It's where we are all going, sooner (this mortal life) or later (after mortal life)... although we can, of course, always deny it; because we can (we are free to) deny anything...


2 comments:

  1. Brilliant. I feel exactly the same way about psychology too. I see psychology as a wedge of abstraction that we, as modern, secular people, drive between ourselves and others, dehumanising the other and in the process, dehumanising ourselves. Of course, psychology is useful for bringing about a desired effect, giving the user control, just like physics and bureaucracy are used to bring about effects - to control. But if our starting point is to always interpret what another person does or says through a lens of psychological formulae, how on earth could that relationship ever be personal?

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  2. @Ama - I'm sure that Steiner saw this clearly, and said it in places; it was (I think) what he was doing when he spoke very personally - about Michael (epecially) or Ahriman.

    In the final book (Anthroposophical Guidelines) I feel he is struggling to write in this personal way - but he lapses back into abstraction recurrently. This oscillation I found confusing, until I interpreted it thus.

    Steiner made it harder for us because he seldom or never admitted that he had made a mistake or changed hism mind. So we have to discover this for ourselves, and in the face of his denials.)

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