Philosophy and the creation of new problems

Note: the content below is all in first draft format. It will change considerably during the time it takes for the study to be completed. I post now ‘for interest’s sake’.

I have shown in sub-section 2.1.1 that Badiou sees the role of philosophy to be partly constituted by the creation of new problems. This point makes complete sense only in the broad context established throughout sub-sections 2.2.1 to 2.2.4, but in this sub-section I would like to ‘isolate’ the point somewhat and draw attention to one problem – an example of a problem really – that can be focused upon in light of the incommensurability of the concept of sustainability, something I have already introduced on in the previous sub-section (2.2.1). There I repeated information from Chapter 3: Capitalism is propelled by an inherent ‘grow-or-die’ drive, a drive that occupies the ranks of other Promethean drives such as dominion, dominance, competition, etc. A drive such as this renders null and void the possibility of a common measure (in various arenas, one being the arena of sustainability, as already discussed) between the Promethean and the Orphic. In other words, Capitalism (or, more colloquially, ‘big-business’) cannot adequately address issues of sustainability, because Capitalism is premised on the notion of endless growth (again, see Chapter 3), and endless growth is by definition anathema to ecological sustainability. A real philosophical problem here is that government, supposedly something to have emerged out of democratic processes and which is widely expected to represent the best interests of the general public is the sector generally charged with the task of ensuring ecological sustainability, yet government is indistinguishable from big business in advanced competitive consumer capitalist industrial democratic dominion (ACID) – see Chapter 3 for my examination of this theme. When one says ‘democracy’, one necessarily implies the entire dispensation out of which the contemporary form of democracy developed – which is to say the dispensation of ACID – especially insofar as ACID so clearly contemporaneously exhibits the historical Promethean qualities I have traced in Chapter 3. This is not a newly articulated problem by any means, but it certainly is one of the real philosophical problems to be raised in response to the focal areas of Chapters 1 to 6 of this study. So instead of asking how ACID can transition towards sustainability, which is an on-going discussion between the different groups and organisations constituting ACID, the focus becomes the inherent impossibility of ACID becoming sustainable in any real ecological sense.[1]

Before moving on, I must make the following comment in light of the assertion that ACID is inherently incapable of ecological sustainability in any real ecological sense of the word ‘sustainability’: I have encountered people who believe that from within the arenas of Capitalism, Science and Technology (i.e. ACID as the manifestation of the Promethean as it has historically unfolded) there will emerge the components for a sustainable human civilisation; yet, to say again at risk of being overly repetitive, ACID is inherently unsustainable, and the evidence (see Chapters 1, 2 and 3) is overwhelmingly in support of this position – there should therefore be no surprised responses that a sustainable human civilisation has not emerged from the reign of Christianity, Science, Technology, and Capitalism, and that in reality levels of ecological degeneration continue to accelerate. This line of argument, which is based on consideration of objective facts related to the ecological crisis (see Chapters 1, 2 and 3), renders naïve the belief that from ACID there will emerge the ingredients for a sustainable human civilisation. In other words, technology will not ‘save us’ – so long as technology continues to be manifest in its Promethean format.

I have shone light on the philosophical problem of the inherent impossibility of ACID becoming sustainable in any real ecological sense, which I mentioned after pointing out that ecological sustainability is generally expected to emerge from ACID. I think there is another philosophical step that needs to be taken here. Unfortunately the step amounts to a prediction, and personally I am sceptical of predictions. Nevertheless, the problem I have just mentioned quickly leads to another philosophical problem: the inevitable collapse of the ecosystems that support a myriad of life-forms, human beings included (this collapse is already occurring – see Chapters 1 and 2). This problem can be arrived at from a different approach, specifically via a recap of the progression of focal areas in this study: 1) there is an ‘eco-crisis’; 2) it has direct physical causes; 3) specific Promethean attitudes underlie the physical causes; 4) there are ‘mechanisms’ that prevent social change ; 5) alternative, ecologically-friendly ideas exist that have positive practical consequences for ecology; and 6) permaculture offers a complete set of principles to go about achieving a cooperative ecology in which humans beings act as designers but not as dominators. The problem can be seen in consideration of ‘aspect’ number four: mechanisms exist to prevent social change of the ecologically problematic attitudes. During my research, I found numerous hypothetical scenarios about how to transition away from the Promethean dispensation at large towards an Orphic one, but I found nothing to suggest that such a transition would actually occur, something which makes sense in light of ‘aspect four’ I just mentioned, i.e. Chapter 4. Again, the evidence (see Chapters 1 and 2) points to increasing scales of ecological destruction alongside the increasing spread of the industries causing vast ecological destruction under the ideological impetus of ACID (See Chapter 3). The problem, therefore, is the near-certain demise of not only contemporary human ‘civilisation’ under ‘the established model of humanity’ (a phrase I will later scrutinise more closely in 2.2.10): the human population will continue to grow and its rate of consumption will increase as it must in ACID in order to keep ‘growing the economy’ (see Chapters 3 and 4); natural spaces will continue to be cleared for farming, agriculture and ‘development’; resources will continue to be extracted, processed at immense energy expenditures, increasingly transported around the globe via transport systems that continue to grow – see Chapters 1 and 2 for the gist of the crisis. Despite the promises by technocrats for Technology to save us, Technology has almost exclusively been used to facilitate much of the crisis – see Chapter 3 in this regard. And ‘mechanisms’ are in place to prevent this process from reversing (see Chapter 4). What has just appeared is a list of ingredients of the philosophical problem that is the end, at least, of contemporary civilisation, which is to say the end of ACID.

Further to the above focus of this sub-section, if one takes Žižek’s example of a real philosophical question about biogenetics – “is there something in the results of biogenetics that would force us to redefine what we understand by human nature, by the human way of being?” – and applies it to the ‘end of contemporary civilisation’ scenario, the question becomes this: is there something in the results of the ecological crises, and in the inherent inability of large-scale human-made systems to mitigate the crisis, that would force us to redefine what we understand by human nature, by the human way of being? This is an issue to which I will return in sub-section 2.2.9.

Finally in this sub-section it should be noted that some of the focal points of Chapter 5 stand out in the construction of new problems – at least in the sense that the ideas were new when they were first introduced by the relevant people. Sheldrake’s morphic resonance hypotheses appeared against problems and limitations with hard reductionist science, while Hancock’s work problematises the orthodox story of human development since the Earth’s previous glacial maximum. Sacred economics, the Occupy Movement, and The Zeitgeist Movement problematise ACID’s (anti-)economic system.

[1] This is only one aspect of the role of philosophy, namely, raising ‘new’ problems; it should be considered alongside other aspects of the role of philosophy, for example ‘elucidating choice’ (as will be discussed in 2.2.5) in order to appreciate the productive potential of the role of philosophy. For example, in raising ‘new’ problems (2.2.2), the philosopher may partly set the scene for the choice between two incommensurable (2.2.1) paradigms, where the choice (2.2.5) to align more with one paradigm might force one to ‘think the transformation of life (2.2.11). These are all aspects of the role of philosophy according to Badiou and Zizek, and my view is that together these aspects form a dynamic relationship that is much greater than consideration of isolated aspects of the role of philosophy. Nevertheless, I will continue to isolate the said aspects in order to provide a systematic exploration of each.