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Philosophy Cafe - Cafe Philosophique Message Board › Afterword: Nature

Afterword: Nature

Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 220
This is a place to put your (relatively) organized thoughts from the meeting. Usually I post questions derived from my meeting notes, but I haven't been able to keep up with that, lately. Someone mentioned writing down their impressions, and it will be no surprise to members that I strongly endorse that practice! I'll limit myself to one piece of advice: write out a question that interests you, put it at the top of your post, and see where it leads you.

Looking forward to reading new and evolving views of Nature!
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 224
#TopTen Things That Just Aren't Natural
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Artificial Intelligence
Intelligence (Scarcity Theory)
Resurrection of Extinct Life Forms (Jurassic Park)
Philosophers Playing Soccer (Monty Python)
Can we group these into categories? What might they tell about The Natural?
If these are opposites of Nature, then might the opposites of these opposites BE natural?
Why is it difficult, as children, to accept the idea that #cats naturally kill birds? Strive for specifics.
#Grasshoppers, under famine conditions, exhibit the phenotype of #locusts. Same DNA, different insect.
One #definition of Nature is "the basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it."
Seems weird that being hungry can change something's nature!
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 228
Despite comments having been made about the Garden of Eden prior to the meeting, we didn't address the Christian angle. Whatever one's personal religious beliefs, a strong case can be made that Western secular culture is shaped in large part by Christian metaphysics. That is, just because believers and nonbelievers disagree on the authorship of Nature doesn't mean they don't share one concept of Nature. And while we might agree that humans are part of nature, that leads to the weightier question: what is #HUMAN_nature?

As it happens, I've just read a chapter, "Whatever Happened to Ethics: The Augustinian Legacy of Free Will," in Heidi Ravven's The Self Beyond Itself, that lends itself to the topic of the origin of the concept of Nature. Augustine, as Christianity suddenly became the official religion of the Roman Empire, made crucial departures from the "Greek classical conception of the mind (and hence human nature) as characterized by its cognitive capacities of critical thinking and insight, theoretical contemplation, natural discovery, and logical deduction and argument." Platonic intellectualism could not provide the moral conception of the person that Augustine wanted, because "moral ignorance--not active sin but the Greek hamartia, 'missing the mark'--was the result of the problems inherent in embodiment." Aristotle made moral character dependent on early socialization. Augustine explicitly rejects this pagan view: "Those who suppose the ills of the soul derive from the body are in error." To underscore the body's blamelessness, he placed even desires in the soul. "The hardly controllable and disease-prone body, common to all humanity after Adam's fall, is the divine punishment for sin, not the origin of sin, he insists."

Augustine accomplished this reduction of all mental operations to acts of will in two parts. First he lets "divine will" (God's fiat) overtake "divine wisdom" (the knowledge that God puts into the world for us to discover): his miracles are more important than the regularity with which he has endowed nature. Second, Augustine makes the human mind share in that divine will by being fundamentally voluntary rather than cognitive. One obvious utility of this is disciplinary, as it makes individuals culpable; the other (not stressed by Ravven), is that it makes men to some degree godlike, able to truly create. I think both aspects contribute to the enduring popularity of free will today.

Just as Nature has mathematical regularity by God's decree, the human body is directed by the (incorporeal) human soul. Although the human will is weak in comparison to God's, it is ontologically the same, and the ultimate source of all we do, good or bad (human wisdom is subordinate to human will). The natural is in opposition to the moral. Augustine: "Because we have no doubt that the soul's motion is culpable we must absolutely deny that it is natural." This expulsion of nature's necessity from the person in order to make room for volition heralds "the birth of the modern moral subject--and for that matter, of the modern conception of the natural arena as confined to material and material processes, which are deemed the only ones amenable to scientific causal inquiry....The modern Western person is a theological invention and has a miraculous character that is based on Augustine's deliberate yanking of mind out of nature."

"In his interpretation of Adam's Fall, Augustine brings home with extraordinary force the implications of writing the will (both human and divine) into the very structure of the universe as a cosmic voluntary principle, rather than confining the voluntary to an intrapsychic human capacity." Adam's disobedience resulted in a punishment in the form of a degradation of human nature--mortality, but also illness (a death within life), and a "law of sin in the members" (a body harder to control by will). Because nature is the creation of will, it can change--that might be an interesting precedent for our times.

Greek naturalism (radicalized by the Arabs) was reintroduced into European theology by the capture of Moorish libraries, resulting in a banning of 13 Aristotelian claims in 1270, particularly "(1) the eternity of the world, (2) the unicity of all intellects, and (3) the necessity of all events...(4) that 'the will of man chooses and wills by necessity' and (5) that 'free choice is a passive power, and not an active one and it is moved with necessity by the object of desire.'" which threatened divine creation, the individual afterlife, divine power, free will and free choice, respectively. Latin Christendom strenuously guarded against the social determinism implicit in a radical Aristotelianism that didn't allow for acting "out of character" or even willfully changing our character. Aristotle polarized Christian thinkers into camps horrified by paganism and those drawn into his cult enough to offer compromise positions (like Aquinas)--offering us an important example of how #politics shapes the concepts with which we think. Certainly that is underway today with respect to Nature: is perhaps political correctness as effective as the Inquisition, even if more humane?

"Standard modern philosophy begins with Descartes." Yet to the Catholic establishment, he was their champion to break the compromises with covert Aristotelians. His extreme mind-body #dualism assigned separate natures to each. The only indubitable knowledge is the subjective, which is the foundation of all other knowledge (do we still rely on "God is not a deceiver" to justify our inductions?) Not only did he distance the person from the material world, but natural explanations were precluded from relying on the mind. "Cartesianism today is likely to bring to mind the view that the mind, unlike the body, is what is really 'one's own,' that the body in a sort of alien carrying case for the mind, and that the mind would have the same thoughts and contents no matter what kind of material it was housed in." Far from being another clever compromise (as I've alleged from time to time, on the basis of the victory of scientific naturalism in the non-moral sphere), Descartes allied himself with Augustinian revivalists to aid the Counter Reformation. (Stephen Menn has exhaustively documented this.)
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 229
Descartes outdoes Augustine by making understanding God prior to understanding sensible things (maybe I will read the Meditations after all). Movement is always instigated by volition, wheter God's or man's. Even beliefs are under the mind's control: "Error for Descartes is not the result of simple ignorance but a matter of moral obstinacy; it is an intellectual sin....thoroughly Christianizing even thinking itself." All-powerful belief could be used to doubt the existence of our own bodies (transhumanism, anyone?), even the world's existence as more than mere invention (solipsism?). (It seems that the escalation between the powers assigned to the mind and nature continues today.) "It is from the (free) will alone that our control over the often unsettling waves of emotion can arise. The will is the movement that the mind's judgment inititates. It reverses the direction of passivity from the mind's pervasion by painful passions to its self-mastery of them." (The Secret!) Descartes' secularization has reduced the role of God's will, leaving human will free reign without original sin or divine limits. Ironically, humanism prepares us to be enthused by this new, miraculous power.

So, in order to defend the will, we might say Augustine and Descartes transformed human nature into that of gods! If Nature is entirely a project(ion) of will, we should see ourselves when we look at nature, just as the early moderns looked to find God in nature. If Nature is essentially law-abiding and regular, "human nature" could mean "the human-given laws that govern nature" as much as it could "the natural laws that govern humans."

So what if this reversal is taking a couple millenia? It's a big one! (Next chapter is Spinoza.)
Gary J.
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 2
Despite comments having been made about the Garden of Eden prior to the meeting, we didn't address the Christian angle. Whatever one's personal religious beliefs, a strong case can be made that Western secular culture is shaped in large part by Christian metaphysics. That is, just because believers and nonbelievers disagree on the authorship of Nature doesn't mean they don't share one concept of Nature. And while we might agree that humans are part of nature, that leads to the weightier question: what is #HUMAN_nature?
I believe you are correct, that Christian myth of the Fall has shaped Western Civilization's idea and response to Nature, the natural world, and our own bodies.
I, being raised as a Jew, never grew up with that myth and so was not enculturated into that concept.

Judaism has a much different myth of the Garden and thus to Nature and the body.

There is no 'Fall', no 'Original Sin' and thus no need for redemption and Divine intervention. Judaism teaches that we are partners with the Divine in co-creating the world. The Divine began and we are caretakers of that gift. The body and Nature is not foreign or alien. At least that is the lessons I learned from my upbringing.
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 230
Heidi Ravven's chapter on the Neoplatonists, Maimonides, and Spinoza ("Another Modernity") follows the intellectual history of man's relationship to Nature along a path that circumvents the Catholic Church entirely. The story also sheds light on an alternate conception of the philosopher's role in society (which our own philosophers may find even more interesting). The Garden of Eden myth--commented on by everybody who's anybody, I imagine--provides a point of comparison.

The Near-East philosophers held onto the Greek, eudaimonistic tradition: virtue was identified with happiness, and fulfillment in acting according to nature--which meant being rational. Knowledge acquired in ecstatically contemplating the divine transforms desire toward the good. The Neoplatonists downplayed Aristotle's emphasis on training the intellect, yet communion with God (or the mystical "One") was reserved for philosophers only! Moral agency was to be co-constructed from reason and desire, with action its necessary outcome (interpretation was just a stopgap measure). It seems to me then that this notion of rationality was different from today's, in that it wasn't carefully "taught" but rather intimately experienced--it was "rational" because it happened within the individual man, who was in same act yielding to nature. Here, "#human_nature" is just the (happy) experience of "Nature."

Most of the Greek texts were lost when Alexandria's library burned, and Arabic scholars took their own, more radical path. It was Maimonides who put the True and the Good in #opposition, separating the theoretical study of nature for its own sake from the mere human utility of morality. God was not to be anthropomorphized, could not be obeyed, only lovingly embraced. Commandments were a crutch for the uneducated, the Bible a pop/mythic version of scientific naturalism, Judaism the religion of science. The new Moses (Maimonides) fashions a conventional, coercive, suasive ("imaginative") political program for mass consumption, featuring a psychology that entwined emotion and intellect. [It occurs to me that it may appear to some that this is, or should be, the program of Philosophy Cafe! It is not, is all I have to say about that here.] Now there is some distance between humans and Nature: the latter's Truth is indifferent to the former's Good. Yet we are still part of Nature, so we should still feel good when contacting the True--it's just that most people need an interpreter. Nature has acquired a spokesperson, a mediator.

Ravven interpolates a non-technical piece that Kant wrote about Adam's Fall, in order to compare it with Maimonides' interpretation. Kant makes The Fall into a coming-of-age story (which goes with his definition of Enlightenment as "man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage"): Reason experiments, plays with Nature, which is not tasked with cultivating our goodness. The taste of freedom is unforgettable, propelling us through stages of initiation, self-regulation, prediction (e.g., of death), and finally, mastery over nature. "Release[d] from the womb of nature," man becomes his own man, an end in himself. Reason is not a search for knowledge, but the exercise of free will--and "freedom begins with wickedness" (but doesn't it always!) Man's destiny is to rule the Earth. (Cue Oedipus, Kronos.) Forget Crusoe, how about Golding instead: war develops culture. Nature, as a father figure, is to be surpassed, overcome; the spell of #naturalization is broken by refocusing on child development: we all once were children, but of course we don't remain that way. We cannot and should not.

Maimonides couches his interpretation as a response to the idea that Adam was given knowledge as punishment for his sin. He says, originally Adam was perfectly rational, but bodily pleasures turned him away from intellect, though they did serve to prepare him for social living. So we have again a reference to adolescence. Imagination (perhaps we might read "fantasy" here) focuses attention on the body, and helps to regulate it. This "practical intellect" is an inferior form of bodily cognition that absorbs us in the good/bad distinction not the true/false. "With regard to what is of necessity, there is no good or evil at all." So The Fall becomes an "allegory for the human need to take care of business, so to speak, rather than spend all one's time on intellectual pursuits." Of course, the philosopher-king in each of us would like to blame the pressures of body and society for our turn toward the Good and away from the True! At least Adam's nature has been enhanced to cope with these new demands, but (contrary to Kant's version) it was circumstances that necessitated the transformation. So Nature stays in the driver's seat (as it does in Jared Diamond's narratives, for example).

Note that, in Maimonides, the True partially yields to the Good, whereas by Christian lights, it is the Good which is corrupted by the True (the apple). In both cases, the preferred mode is thought to have been the only mode in the distant past. Conservative narratives tend to be #Fall myths: the good old days were better. Since, by convention, "nature" is that which precedes anything else (man), Nature is Good. (And because nature cannot lie, it is also True--but that seems to be another story.)

Having held Truth as the highest good, Maimonides gives more definition to the role of the philosopher in society. The prophet is committed to society--he must go back to Plato's Cave to share what he has learned. His ivory tower was paradise, but now he has to carry his weight and more (in both versions, after the Fall, there is #work.) Intellectual virtue was about the spiritual life of one individual, but morals involves him in messy politics. The practical is motivated by fear, awe--not understanding, love, and empathy. Society needs obedience, but one cannot "obey" "laws of motion" so we anthropomorphize. The prophet, when out of his natural element, has to train the masses to imitate virtue without true understanding. This gives me a sense of tension arising from multiple natures, but here the natures belong to different people (whereas in Christianity, each individual has a dual nature).

Maimonides "out-Aristotles Aristotle on the transformative power of intellectual life": ethics and justice become matters of imagination. It is interesting to me that the strangeness of this seems wholly a function of whether it was the True or the Good which was naturalized. (Why not both? Well, then Nature wouldn't be "harmonious"!) On the Christian line, it is Kant who outdoes Descartes, by eliminating direct divine intervention (confining God to the Noumena), promoting Man to be his own legislator. If naturalization is the purification of the good by removal of the unnatural or artificial, we might expect it might be continued indefinitely, considering that they can never be completely separated.
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 231
Ravven is a Spinoza scholar, and her book's aim is to show how Spinozan ethics inform a world in which free will has been debunked by cognitive psychologists. As we try to do in Philosophy Cafe, he takes pains not to ridicule or bewail human actions or passions--to see them as properties like heat or light--and tries to gain rational knowledge of his own individual, complex, emotional self. Honored by Deleuze and Hegel, his intellectual heritage was Greek by way of his Sephardic Jewish ancestry, and Maimonides was his strongest influence.

Spinozan extensions to Maimonides were the application of Reason to individuals as well as classes of phenomena, and the identity of mind and body. "Tracing the broadest possible grasp of oneself as the particular and unique product" of causes, rather than appealing to universal ideals, results in psychology, a science of individual embodied minds as products of nature. Identification with the natural, social universe results in morality. The phrase "God or Nature" is how Spinoza circumvents language's naturalization of their opposition. Is it that easy to undo duality? Perhaps--if we have the discipline to substitute the more difficult choice each time we use the disjunction!

Conatus is his word for the desire to live, but this impetus toward self-preservation may be shared by inorganic objects too. All mental processes express conatus: minds protect their beliefs, we feel attacks on our beliefs like those on our persons [ahem]. Reason and epistemology are subordinated to psychology, as desire interferes with objectivity. Our study of nature is identical with the study of our selves, for the mind is not a container but identical with its processes, thus having no boundaries with the world. The mind is the experience of the body (reminds me of Wm. James, father of cognitive psychology). Spinoza seems to share Nietzsche's preference for an active conatus that becomes free and a true moral agent, yet this agency consists in integration, homeostasis, coherence with its surroundings. Hope and fear are identified as passive; obedience is devalued; love is the goal. I think he doesn't see these preferences as bewailing human actions because what he has naturalized is mathematics (not stressed by Ravven): the incremental expansion of conatus beyond its immediate environs replaces the appeal to the Universal. What we might call the universe of a conatus is enlarged and secured by conatus' desire to preserve its own causes, which is precisely conservative. The self is enlarged, retaining its "niche" perspective while eschewing opposition to forces or interpretation that would bound it. (While that passage was quite difficult to word, I anticipate it to be the focus of the cognitive science part of the book. It also fits what I've called the "the creative prospect."). So conatus naturalizes a will to love the world as oneself, combining evolutionary drive with submergence of self in the greater assembly: it's okay to be selfish, as long as we allow the self to expand.

Spinozism has been accused of using the "naturalistic fallacy," explaining the good in terms of the desirable (or the natural); certainly by refusing to clearly separate the Good and the True, it sidesteps Hume's is-ought distinction. Ravven mentions Freud's pleasure principle as making conatus something of a double-edge sword, but she omits that Freud later introduced the death drive. Picturing a world of conatus, I am reminded of neural net architectures that easily learn but cannot forget and thus stagnate. #Opposition must be naturalized as well as harmonization. Progressive identification by embracing intersecting worlds can transform only if it lets go. Ravven seems concerned to compensate for Spinoza's dismissal of free will (an artifact of ignorance) with an emphasis on freedom-from rather than freedom-to: "To feel in and as oneself the desire of a self embedded within and constituted by the infinite universe was to be free, without any external limit." But what if it's the blue pill? (Since only the blue pill obliterates the red/blue distinction, it probably is.) Is pharmacology just the latest, greatest implementation of the logic of naturalization?

This little (compared to Ravven's 130+ pages) excursion has helped clarify something for me. As so often happens, we find that oppositions (man-nature, mind-body, society-individual) yield anti-symmetric worlds (Good-as-Ideal, True-as-Ideal). And it can seem that one would be as nice as the other. But the asymmetry in how these world arrangements allocate the humans that make up the world is crucial. Maimonides and Spinoza allot the apparent privacy of the mind to the intellectually-privileged few, imploring them to come out of their caves and lead the others. Augustine and Descartes and Kant saddle everybody with a "free will" that requires us to act out our imaginations. If humans have a nature, it arises from the natural world that we hold in common--whether ours is its copy or its opposite. When our imagination is directed outward into that shared space, it collides with others, which can be painful--which discomfort is exacerbated if we have the expectation that "Nature" is essentially tranquil. The notion that we can contemplate our way to nirvana might pan out, but it won't be contagious. Nature is much more than our common denominator--it is also how we enumerate, where we assign weights to possibilities and tally our votes on what nature will become.
Jeff G
Oakland, CA
Post #: 286
I've read most of Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future (2002) now. I'm posting thoughts here (rather than at Afterword: Future LINK) because his stance on how to deal with (prevent) bad consequences of the biotechnology revolution rests on his conviction that there IS such a thing as #humannature. So again, Nature is the signpost of a conservative argument: we ought to reject technology that threatens to change the essence of the human species.

Fukuyama sees utilitarian calculation of preferences or interests as the enemy of ethics (James Watson is drafted as utilitarianism's spokesperson). "Rights trump interests because they are endowed with greater moral significance."(110) Interests are tradable in the market; rights are rooted in human sanctity and dignity, and are thus inalienable. He argues rights CAN be based on human nature: "Since the philosophical school dominant in contemporary academia believes that any attempt to base rights on nature has long since been debunked, it is understandable that natural scientists are quick to invoke the naturalistic fallacy as a shield to protect their work from unpalatable political implications." He believes it is necessary "to return to the pre-Kantian tradition that grounds rights and morality in nature," because the "positivistic approach" of grounding them in Man himself fails to produce universality due to cultural relativism and political differences. It's interesting to be reminded that the #naturalisticfallacy was an invention of the Enlightenment, apparently to elevate Reason above Nature. I wonder if the insistence on universality as a requirement for a compelling morality is misplaced, but instead of veering into questions of metaethics, I'll just note that the concept of Reason seems intended to be "even more universal" than Nature, in that its abstraction should prevent us from experiencing any variation; of course, the tricky part is that abstraction makes it difficult to get back to concrete recommendations! If "Nature" already abstracts the essence of what surrounds us, then to "out-abstract" Nature should leave us with very little to stand on.

Contra the #naturalisticfallacy: "The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out that Hume himself neither believed in nor abided by the rule commonly attributed to him that one could not derive and 'ought' from an 'is.' At most, what the famous passage from the Treatise [of Human Nature] said was that one could not deduce moral rules from empirical fact in a logically a priori way." (115) Fukuyama looks for the source of rights in emotions--different from preferences, I presume, because they are biologically universal--relying on philosophical theories of human nature to convert them into objective rights. But such theories are out of style in the Age of Reason. Kant expanded Rousseau's idea of a perfectible human nature into the deontological assertion that only the will can be definitely good, man being the only end that could not be a means--yet he claimed to know mankind's "aim and purpose": "to develop as rational individuals, free of obscurantist prejudice." Neo-Kantian Rawls places us in an original position (that is, #stateofnature) behind a veil of ignorance, and assumes we would be risk-averse. The promised deontological vacuum is always filled with the philosopher's "covert or backdoor" theory of human nature--human potential, procreative liberty, individual moral autonomy--that is ultimately traced to human genetics or sociability. A lack of substance does provide the comfort of not having one's values criticized! But "for Kant, moral autonomy didn't mean following your personal inclination wherever it led, but rather obedience to the a priori rules of practical reason, which forced us often to do things at cross-purposes with our natural individual desires and inclinations." (124) And what support can there be for those life plans that rely on communitarian restrictions?

Fukuyama addresses the objection that nature is cruel, violent, and indifferent, and so not a good guide, by saying the transformation of IS to OUGHT is complex enough to need to be mediated by philosophy. Even though murder is universal, so are laws against it, and they work well enough. Despite Hobbes' war of all against all, society has evolved ever-larger groups to overcome the zero-sum dead end. Broadly, Fukuyama points to progress in the human condition as refutation of pessimistic theories of human nature (though the particular science in which it is expressed can make his reasoning seem outdated).
A former member
Post #: 7
Christian Metaphysics

The problem with the Garden of Eden myth is that we never fell. Believing we fell is just a self-fulfilling prophecy: thinking something brings it into existence.

Sin doesn't really exist; it only exists insofar as you believe in it. A belief in virtue necessitates a belief in vice, and so long as we believe in vice we are propagating the very division that made us fall.

If there's no sin, there's also no salvation. It is necessary to practice virtue to attain self-knowledge, but after you achieve this, you realize that virtue is just an illusion. Only so long as God is external is it possible to sin against him.

If we rebel against something, then we see it as separate from ourselves. Yet it's necessary to "rebel" against lies in order to reach the Truth. Plato did the same, more prosaically, through his philosophical dialectic - he knew that some sort of fundamental ground existed, but he also knew that he had to draw many lines in order to reach that point.

From Madame Blavatsky: “So little have the first Christians (who despoiled the Jews of their Bible) understood the first four chapters of Genesis in their esoteric meaning, that they never perceived that not only was no sin intended in this disobedience, but that actually the "Serpent" was "the Lord God" himself, who, as the Ophis, the Logos, or the bearer of divine creative wisdom, taught mankind to become creators in their turn. They never realized that the Cross was an evolution from the "tree and the serpent," and thus became the salvation of mankind.”

And from Camus:"Moral conduct, as explained by Socrates, or as recommended by Christianity, is in itself a sign of decadence. It wants to substitute the mere shadow of a man for a man of flesh and blood."

Natural vs Moral

Modern culture has broken us off from the depths of human nature. Culture echoes and cements the allegorical and unreal but all-permeating Fall of Man.

Language reflects fragmentation; we would not be trying to convince ourselves and others of things we knew existed. We are skeptical, so we inquire; but without any intervention by an outside system, the Platonic dialectic travels further and further from the truth. Godel told us that it's impossible to find truth within a system – that some axiom must always be posited – but we try, regardless.

Briefly, nature is a creation of will and will is a creation of nature.
It is necessary to escape from imperatives of nature in order to will, but at the same time, will does not exist apart from nature.

In a world of duality, the natural and moral are distinct. Acting with a moral code opposed to nature is necessary to return to nature.
Once you've returned to the world of nature/unity, the natural and moral are one. In this state, it's impossible to do anything immortal or unnatural.
But if the world of unity is real and the world of duality is an illusion, it's impossible to do anything immortal or unnatural. But it's necessary to believe you're acting morally in order to return to a state of unity, though once you reach the state of unity you'll realize you always existed there.

The Other

Suppose that everything is one, however you wish to interpret that. Then the Other is also a fiction.

For Kierkegaard, the ethical stage must be cultivated before the religious can be attained. Since we have been broken off from the Other, we must first acknowledge and respect the Other's existence to eradicate dualism. The religious stage brings the knowledge that the Other is a part of the self.

In the somewhat garbled and overly ornate language of early postmodernism, Lacan explains a similar phenomenon. He divides perception into three stages:

The Imaginary – the unconscious unity of a young, undifferentiated psyche. The Other doesn't yet exist; everything external is just a projection of the imagination.

The Symbolic – the realm of ego, a system of social exchanges. The Other exists, but is seen through the eyes of the world – in terms of job, class, utility. Most adults are at this stage.

The Real – what precedes everything but what supposedly is impossible to grasp. Like Kant's noumenon. In this stage, the Other is seen truly.

Human Nature

For as long as we talk about human nature in a secular sense, I think it will remain relative. If there are no supreme forces to unite reality, we can create our reality at will. Postmodernism makes the attempt to say that any narrative we write is true; thus, we can say human nature is whatever we please.

From Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: "If memory moves into the center of psychoanalysis as a decisive mode of cognition, this is far more than a therapeutic device; the therapeutic role of memory derives from the truth value of memory. Its truth value lies in the specific function of memory to preserve promises and potentialities which are betrayed and even outlawed by the mature, civilized individual, but which had once been fulfilled in his dim past and which are never entirely forgotten. The reality principle restrains the cognitive function of memory – its commitment to the past experience of happiness which spurns the desire for its conscious re-creation. The psychoanalytic liberation of memory explodes the rationality of the repressed individual. As cognition gives way to re-cognition, the forbidden images and impulses of childhood begin to tell the truth that reason denies. Regression assumes a progressive function. The rediscovered past yields critical standards which are tabooed by the present.

[…] The vicissitudes of the instincts are the vicissitudes of the mental apparatus in civilization. The animal drives become human instincts under the influence of the external reality. Their original “location” in the organism and their basic direction remain the same, but their objectives and their manifestations are subject to change. All psychoanalytic concepts (sublimation, identification, projection, repression, introjection) connote the mutability of the instincts. But the reality which shapes the instincts as well as their needs and satisfaction is a socio-historical world. The animal man becomes a human being only through a fundamental transformation of his nature, affecting not only the instinctual aims but also the instinctual “values” – that is, the principles that govern the attainment of the aims."
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