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Life Itself Our Philosophy

Life Itself: the Reason for our Existence – a Preliminary SCQH

Slides presented at the Art / Earth / Tech (Life Itself) sprint on 12 April 2017. This reflects early thinking on a more detailed explanation of purpose of Life Itself and the logic for its existence. Note these are my personal views and may not reflect those of everyone else!

Sketches of a Future Society – 12 April 2017 @ La Cheraille


Why? Why What?

Why Art / Earth / Tech?

This will take us on a much deeper journey


Asking Good Questions

SCQA = Situation, Complication, Question, Answer


Situation

We’ve never had it so good!

Things have got a lot better materially and science and technology mean we know a lot more about the material world

  • A good portion of humanity no longer want for food or shelter.
  • Consequence of dramatic material and technological growth of the last few centuries

Complication

But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is very unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards (global warming, inequality etc)


  • Many remain poor and without basic security of sustenance or thought
  • Benefits of material abundance for the well-off seem relatively meagre — the Buddhist monk is happier than the billionaire
  • Greater wealth and power has not come with greater wisdom. Our errors now play out on a larger scale — from aggression exaggerated by biological and nuclear weapons to the tragedy of commons threatening the entire biosphere.
  • Things may even be going backwards: ecological damage, inequality, decline of community etc
    • though one must always be sceptical — "everything has been going to the dogs" is an old complaint

Complication II

Additionally: "end of vision / end of hope / end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress seem to have faded whether in religion and politics:


  • Decline of hopeful religion ~150y – death of god
  • Decline of hopeful politics ~30-40y – death of socialism
    • Politics reduced to managerialism for growth (but growth of what)
    • Postmodern disdain for vision and values (just leave me alone to choose, triumph of the "dispassionate" market)
    • Resurgence of a "selfish", resentful rightwing

Question

  • Why is this? Specifically:
    • If you’re so rich, why aren’t you so happy …?
    • Why can’t we cooperate better
  • And: What is to be done?
    • Is there a powerful, unifying vision for humanity — both personally "the good life", and societally "the good society"?
    • How would we achieve that?
      • What is our theory of change?
      • How do we get started?

Summary

  • Situation: You’ve never had it so good!
  • Complication: But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards
  • Complication II: death of god, death of socialism aka "end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress have faded whether in religion or politics
  • Question: Why is this? What and How: What is to be done?

Why?

Spiritual version: We are all Buddha, but our minds are encrusted with delusion, hatred and anger.

Scientific version: evolution did not select for wellness or wisdom, but for survival fitness. Extraordinarily, and accidentally, we ended up with consciousness, self-reflection and enough cognitive capacity to develop language, culture and complex abstract thought — and meditation.


Why II

  • lot of stuff encrusts our mind that is tough to remove
    • impulsivity (thinking fast), heuristics, envy etc
    • illusion of self distinct from others, that "I" am my thoughts etc => attachment to views (I’m right, you’re wrong e.g. I’m a man, you’re a woman so I’m better than you; I’m white, you’re black etc)

Why IIB

  • Plus: all the errors of language and culture (erroneous but self-reinforcing (bad equilibrium)
    • e.g. institutionalized patriarchy
    • ritualized warfare
    • guilds
    • wearing suits

Why III

4 kinds of problems

  • Problems of science
  • Problems of self knowledge
  • Problems of self control
  • Problems of the collective

All our techno-scientific advance in recent centuries has only helped with first one.


What

Transformation of being

  • Wellness ourselves
  • Solve: collective action problems etc

But society/culture helps create being. + Material sustenance matters.

So transformation of being requires transformation of society.


What II – The Good Life

Yes, I believe there is a powerful unifying vision for humanity.

A. High level ends: Joy, freedom, love, wisdom, creativity, balance, peace, contribution … B. Conditions for that — as well!

Buddhism — 4NT. Basically correct.

However, for reasons just discussed this is hard individually.


What IIB

Second, hard culturally since a variety of successful, maladaptive cultures e.g. competitive, individualistic, capitalism.


How


Two Arms of Transformation


Culture and Ecosystem

A sustainable cultural ecosystem depends on a well-functioning (and interdependent) material and spiritual economies (spiritual = being, emotion, consciousness — nothing specifically religious)


Culture

To realise a wiser, weller world requires:

A Culture

  • Personally: a self-sustaining community that support self-development and material sustenance => a culture
  • Societally: a self-sustaining group dedicated to bringing about change on a long-term basis with a clear vision and strong values (resistance to corruption) => a culture

Culture

  • Values (and Vision)
  • Norms
  • Behaviours

Sketches of a Future Society => detailed picture of what this looks like.


Life Itself (Art / Earth / Tech)

We are such a community.

  • Being: living well and wise lives ourselves, developing our being
  • Research: work out where we need to go (in detail) and how to get there
  • Business: making a living, generating resources for investment
  • Politics: (not necessarily electoral) structured effort to effect change in the collective

Part of wisdom is to avoid sacrificing means to ends. Thus all activities are themselves part of the practice.


Conclusion


Summary

  • Need for change
  • Deep transformation needed
  • Opportunity
  • Culture
  • Art Earth Tech

Opportunity / Context

Metaphor of scientific revolution

… and possibility of psychic revolution


FAQ

  • What’s new about us? (aka hasn’t this been done before?)