Elucidating choice

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’.

This sub-section picks up from where I left off in sub-section I pointed out there that in this study a philosophical activity has occurred simply in the highlighting of incompatible characteristics of the Promethean and the Orphic respectively. But Badiou also said that “a philosophical situation consists in the moment when a choice is elucidated”. The issue here therefore is the extent to which consideration of the broad categories of the Orphic and the Promethean presents one with a choice.

At a very basic level, the incommensurability of the Orphic and the Promethean paradigms obviously does present one with a choice whereby one can align herself with the Orphic agenda, or alternatively with the Promethean agenda. Stereotypical symbols of these two extreme choices come to mind: the ecological activist who rejects ACID as far as it is within his power to do so and actively works to pursue sustainable means by which to live, versus the profit-crazed industrialist who dismisses any criticism of her Promethean endeavours as ‘conspiracy theories’ inhibiting humankind’s climbing of ‘the ladder of progress’. Less extremely, one may recognise the issues arising from the dominance of the Promethean, and instead align himself as much as possible with Orphic endeavours. The act of ‘elucidating’ such a choice is an aspect of the role of philosophy, as stated by Badiou.

I think it is safe to say that these two extreme stereotypes I just described are not often encountered in everyday life. The average citizen of ACID might feel that they have little choice when it comes to acquiring food, water, and building materials, or when it comes to transportation, fiat currency, and electricity (etc.). They might feel as if they are born into a world in which they have few real choices, and that they must live according to the established model of humanity. This phrase – the established model of humanity – is one I will explore in sub-section, where I will reiterate that the established model of humanity is Promethean; suffice it for now to confine my comments to what has already been said about the average person’s belief that they do not really have real choices regarding food, water, buildings, transport, money, electricity, etc. It is in the dominant Promethean context (the established model of humanity) where a person tends to believe that they do not have the kinds of choices to which I have alluded. It is in this context that the following assertion is made: the Promethean paradigm does not ‘offer’ choice in the philosophical sense of the word. I make this remark in the light of what has already been explored about the role of philosophy partly arising when the mutual exclusivity of ‘positions’ arise. The Promethean agenda, as extensively established in this study, is notoriously rigid in its modus operandi (see Chapters 3 and 4), and ‘choices’ are confined to that which is commensurable within the framework of the Promethean and its contemporary manifestation as ACID. Further to this, it was seen in Chapter 4 that ‘mechanisms’ exist that have prevented alternatives to ACID from arising. Here is the crux: if part of the role of philosophy is to elucidate choice in the philosophical sense of the word (i.e. choices between mutually exclusive positions, choices between incommensurable stances, choices arising out of changing the terms of the debate, etc.), then the realm of the Promethean negates the possibility of philosophy as argued for by Badiou and Žižek because the Promethean perpetuates only its own dominance; accordingly superficial choices arise (for example, the choices available in a consumerist society), while real choices (for example, a non-consumerist lifestyle altogether) are marginalised or negated.

On the other hand, the arena of the Orphic, wherein respect for the diversity and mystery of nature is prioritised, does cater for choice. I have argued (based on Hadot’s work in The Veil of Isis – see Chapter 3) that the Promethean is defined partly by its characteristic tendency to dominate. As I have said, domination comes at the expense of ‘alternatives’ to that which dominates. The Orphic is opposite in the sense of being an arena in which cooperation is paramount – this implies the impossibility of excluding a plethora of real choices, choices that would result in radically different ways of being, different physical systems, different ‘experiments of living’, etc. Permaculture is an excellent example of such a system (as seen in Chapter 6), where the first ‘action’ recommended in the design-approach is a kind of non-action – specifically, this first ‘action’ is the process of observation, which requires a halting of ‘business-as-usual’ (a halting of ‘the established model of humanity’ – see A human being engaging in such a process will eventually have to make a decision, but it is one ‘dictated to’ by the details of the environment observed by the human being. The ideal permaculturalist would make choices impacting on the well-being of the area’s ecology in a manner beneficial for the ecology and the person. The observation process reveals to the human being that whatever she does is indeed a choice, and that some choices are radically different to others.