Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed. But what can attribution achieve in this instance? The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism. The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice. When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic. Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: theirvision.
It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard. But what do we find now that the curtain has…
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Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed. But what can attribution achieve in this instance? The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism. The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice. When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic. Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: their vision.
It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard. But what do we find now that the curtain has not just been pulled back, but entirely torn from the frame? A cacophony of bewilderment and confusion. Given the ability to connect, we find the opposite: rival factions forming even within so-called liberal and humanitarian endeavours. True, beneath the media hype circus and informing every echo-chamber is a series of seemingly incomprehensible yet profound events. To make sense of these events we cling to the narrative structures that reinforce our own belief systems (even those who claim to be free of them entirely). But what we see is that these narratives, constructed in a context of individualism, serve to divide us further.
As well as the political and global turmoil, twenty-sixteen has, for various reasons, been a trying year for me personally and those around me with whom I am lucky enough to share a more intimate relationship. It is not my intention to emphasise either a positive or negative interpretation of trying. About midway through the year I discovered the writings of Charles Eisenstein whose philosophy has subsequently resonated with me profoundly: pulling together various paths of thought that I had been unable to do so alone. All ideology is narrative. Humanity has been driven by a story of separation, the self as a discrete entity. Science, politics, art, education, religion, economics &c. are all ideologies constructed to make sense of the world. All of these ideologies have failed because they are predicated on a falsehood (the story of separation).
What follows is my review of the past twelve months. It is necessarily my own perspective. A chronologically driven (linear and cyclical) second-person narrative, this story is one-part diary (personal and political), one-part consumption (books and music) and one-part philosophical exegesis (bildungsroman). Depending on your proximity: in jokes, pop-philosophy, bad puns, scholarly intent, juvenilia, paradox, pretension and/or pith. Anything underlined is hyperlinked to the source of the reference (music, words, obituaries &c.). Direct quotes are underlined and the reference is hyperlinked from the (Author, Date) notation to where the quote exists in its full context elsewhere on my blog. Before writing I set myself the following rules: Each entry must a) refer to the events of that month, both internal and external b) include a quote from every book I read that month that can be as seamlessly as possible woven into the overarching narrative c) contain a reference to some music I had on repeat that month, and d) reflect the nature and personal development of my philosophical enquiry. There follows a full bibliography and an appendix. Ma gavte la nata.
Adam John Miller
20th December, 2016
…my research work, and much of my teaching, during the past 45 years or so, have been concerned, in one way or another, with two fundamental, inter-related problems:
Problem I: How can our human world exist, imbued with sensory qualities, meaning, value, consciousness and freedom, if the universe really is more or less as modern physics tells us it is?
Problem II: What ought to be the overall aims and methods of science, and of academic inquiry more generally, granted that the basic task is to help humanity achieve what is of value – a more civilized world – by cooperatively rational means (it being assumed that knowledge and understanding are of value in themselves and form a part of civilized
The first problem includes the mind/body problem, the problem of free will and determinism, and the problem of the relationship between facts and values; it includes problems concerning the relationship between perceptual and physical properties, and problems concerning the relationship between different branches of the sciences, from physics via biology to psychology. It involves problems concerning the interpretation of the neurosciences, Darwinian theory, and modern physical theory, especially quantum theory; and it involves questions concerning scientific realism, scientific essentialism and instrumentalism.
Natural science is, I argued, deeply flawed because scientists misrepresent the real, problematic aims of science. The official aim is truth, but the actual aim is explanatory truth or, more generally, valuable truth. Highly problematic assumptions concerning metaphysics, values and politics are inherent in the real, unacknowledged intellectual aims of science, and these aims (and associated methods) need to be improved as science proceeds. I then realized that the argument has implications, not just for science, but for academic inquiry as a whole. Officially, academia first seeks knowledge, and then seeks to apply it to help solve social problems. But if the fundamental aim is to help promote human welfare, the basic problems that need to be solved are problems of living rather than just problems of knowledge. Giving intellectual priority to the pursuit of knowledge is damagingly irrational from the standpoint of helping to promote human welfare. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in the aims and methods, the whole character and structure, of academia so that the basic aim becomes to seek and promote wisdom – wisdom being conceived to be the capacity to realize what is of value for oneself and others, thus including knowledge, technological know-how and understanding, but much else besides.
Nicholas Maxwell, Friends of Wisdom