Values or Virtues?
Aristotle talked about Virtues, it is Nietzsche who culminates the long decent into value by asking about the Value of Values.
The value of values Nietzsche decided is whatever promotes life, and lots of bizarre things promote life, lots of life denying things promote life on a local and practical level. So for instance even crazy things like celibacy of monks, if it can someone else to feed you while you sit around and pray, can be seen as a twisted but authentic way to promote life, and it is good for the improvement of the species because those people who do this automatically select their death promoting ways to not be passed down in their genes. So what seems a bizarre anti-life move really supports life because beings that make this mistake will not reproduce and thus there are less likely to be as many people like that around. In fact, we might see the rise of secularism as the inevitable result self-selection to not reproduce, in other words globally life wins even though locally people who fall into this mistake thrive getting a free ride for a while, but ultimately, those who make this life denying mistake eliminate themselves.
But I would go further than Nietzsche and question the decent into value itself from virtue.
Values are amazingly like beliefs. In other words we feel we can have what any beliefs or values we like, that we as autonomous and free individuals decide our own values and our own beliefs. And Nietzsche as a free spirit only makes it explicit that we can make our own meaning in our lives by deciding what we believe and what we value. But of course, this is not true, it merely leads directly to nihilism because the values that we just make up to believe in have no grounds at all but our own autonomy and freedom. Kant at least believed that a certain responsibility came with this freedom and autonomy. But that was left behind long ago, as Protestantism split off Belief from Action, and decided that Fatalism was the key to success as colonials. Do as much damage as you like, and then claim to be reborn.
Virtue is something different. It is something that comes from the outside. It is something that gives you character and is something you must earn by your actions. It is something that comes out of you as you are seen responding to situations by your fellow citizens.
The key virtues are courage (what it takes to defend a city in a hostile world), temperance (balance in yourself), justice (balance in society), and wisdom (knowing yourself) not directly but as you come to be known though your actions in response to situations faced by the city who share the same fate.
Balance inwardly and outwardly is rta, arte, right. This is the deeper nondual beyond order. Order is seen in the laws that a city state imposes on itself via its democracy at least in the Athenian version of things we have adopted due to the success of Alexander against the Persians. Keeping oneself orderly in the face of strife requires courage, the courage of ones convictions, the courage to stand ones ground, the courage to protect the commons of one’s city, and one’s family, and ones neighbors, and ones friends, i.e. acting like Hector. That is the courage to take on the unbeatable, inhuman, berserker Achilles to protect ones family and city. Rta on the other hand means cosmic harmony, inward and outward harmony that gives rise to justice outwardly and temperance inwardly. Rta is the spirit of the law, as opposed to the letter of the law. Jesus supported Rta over the Law. It is the support of the Dharma that we see as the ideal in the Mahabharata. Krisna systematically gets each of the Pandavas to violate Dharma. In a cosmic war one will violate the Dharma, you have to win. When Paris stole Helen he violated Dharma, and that is why his city was laid siege to by the Achaeans, i.e. Kauravas. i.e. those that were born of earth, just as the Kauravas were born from an iron ball.
Amongst the primary antagonists was Duryodhan(Sanskrit: दुर्योधन) named Suyodhan (Sanskrit: सुयोधन) at birth, but took the name Duryodhana (roughly meaning ‘unconquerable’) of his own free will. He was the eldest of the 100 brothers known as the Kauravas, who were born to the blind king of Hastinapura Dhritarashtra and his queen Gandhari (princess of Gandhara).
The Acheeans/Kauravas are the men of earth talked about by Plato who only believe in what they can hold in their hands. They are what Nietzsche calls the Last Men who merely blink and blink. They are us. Helen was a fertility goddess, like Brinhilda, and Paris took that fertility goddess from the Achaeans, since that was life itself in the form of reproductive resources, she had to be recovered at all costs. Helen had five lovers as Draupadi had five husbands. Ultimately as in the dice game in the Mahabharata, everything turns on who owns Draupadi, and she remains autonomous because her husband who loses her, loses himself first. The dice game in the Mahabharata is equivalent to the ruse of the Trojan horse in the epic when Troy was taken. The Trojan Horse embodies all the kinds of Being, all the meta-levels of Being and thus is a face of the Indo-European worldview. It is the emergent event for the Trojans, what is truly alien, the trick that they fell for that lost their city. Similarly in the dice game the Pandavas lose everything, including their brothers, including the player of the game who loses, and including Draupadi, but because he loses himself first, Draupadi claims that she cannot be lost, and a miracle saves her from being disrobed, her wrappings of her clothes become endless when they try to disrobe her, and this leads to the exile of the Pandavas, just as the trick of Odysseus leads to his exile.
Going deeper wisdom has to do with knowing oneself, and that means knowing what is good for oneself, and what is bad for oneself, and knowing about the evil in oneself. And so knowledge of the hidden sun of the Good (Amun) is wisdom. That can only be known by knowledge of what is right tempered by experience. It is the same as when Solomon discerns who is the mother by threatening to cut to child claimed by two women into two parts. The true mother gives up the child. Knowing this goes beyond the spirit of the law to a deeper level of the nondual core of the Western worldview where one knows what is good and how to differentiate that from what is bad and evil. That is knowledge of the intrinsic variety of things that exists beyond the dharma of caste. Within each caste that has its own RTA, Arte, there is still variety of people which differ as to what is good for them, and when they know what is good for them, and for others this is wisdom. It is an understanding that can only be known by experiencing the variety. You only really know someone by traveling with them, living with them, or doing business with them.
But the virtues go deeper than this because beyond the Good there is the deeper nondual of Fate, in which one drees ones wyrd. We might call this insight that is deeper than wisdom. Insight is a virtue that sees the end in the beginning. Everything is present in the beginnings of things if we were just insightful enough to comprehend it.
Beyond this virtue based on insight there is also the realization of the sources. The sources are what Jung calls the archetypes, i.e. the inverse of the ideal forms of Plato. But while source forms of Plato are inward, the archetypes are outward. Shaykh al-Akbar names the true sources that are beyond inward and outward the ayn al-Thabita. Archetypes are objective, i.e. there have always been fathers and mothers. So all versions of Fathers are a field, and all versions of mothers are a field, and everyone who is born has a father and a mother, somehow, even if they are missing in action, and in life. Plato’s sources become the Categories in Aristotle and in Kant, they are what define the limits of who we are and what we can find intelligible. The sources and the root are beyond the limit of intelligibility, because they define that limit.
Beyond the virtue based on realization is the root. It has no corresponding basis for comprehension, because it is incomprehensible, like the understanding of the “Absolute” Absolute. This is sometimes called the Godhead by Meister Eckhart, Nirguna Brahman, Dhat, or whatever God is in the self of God to the self of God that is unfathomable. But being oriented to it is still a virtue, the ultimate virtue, and what we today call spirituality, what is left when we give up on all the trappings of Religion.
Bernstein in his lectures discussing Kant’s Third Critique says that Philosophy starts with Plato by attacking Art, and Life. Philosophy prides itself on being anti-art and anti-life. Art is the representation of the sensual. Philosophy wants only the representations that are dealt with by reason. And as Hegel recognized pure reason is anti-life, leading to the Terror of the French revolution. Reason leads to genocide. Plato must get rid of all the adults and start with just the children for his education program to work so he can have his perfect city. Virtue is rooted in Life. But it is mostly rooted in the responses we have to things in our life, the adversity we face and overcome. Values like Beliefs are just representations. Beliefs are representations of Doxa which if grounded are related to behavior and Values are representations of Ratio with respect to moral attitudes related to behavior. If we are lucky our values are the basis of our beliefs. And if Nietzsche is right and we are all existential freespirits then we can make up any values we want, just like we can make up beliefs. Whether those beliefs and values are life affirming in the long run is their measure according to Nietzsche. Nietzsche says about Values that we should act in such a way that we can bear to repeat the same act eternally, as it returns to us over and over again in the wheel of Samsara. Nietzsche says about Belief that we should act such that we affirm our own will to power, i.e. the power of setting our own values, and thus we should believe in ourselves as the source of our own values. We eschew the Heideggarian interpretation of Will To Power as meta-will, i.e. the Will to Will. Rather, Nietzsche is saying we should exercise our Will to take Power, and define our own Being, rather than being slaves. He wants to define a morality of the Conquerors, the slave owners, of the Nobel. Those that have the Will to take Power, define what it means to remain viable and Live because they continued to live and be dominant, until they themselves were overtaken in the game of survival of the fittest. Will to power is merely the force in culture of Evolution. To read it as Meta-will as Heidegger does betrays Nietzsche’s attempt to reverse Hegel who says only the slaves can be self-conscious, and thus develop reason, and develop spirit. Nietzsche reverses Schopenhauer and says we should be joyous in our affirmation of life. The value of values themselves come from the affirmation by them of life.
But in all this we have lost track of virtue, because virtue does not come from within ourselves, but in what is drawn out of us, as we respond to strife and difficulties in the world and thus reveal our character, not as Kantian clinging to duty, but as who we are when we come to know ourselves based on our own actions that arise in response to external situations. In All Things Shining Kelly and Dreyfus say that there are three types of these orientations to what is beyond us that call forth from us a response, which they call phusis, poiesis, and technology. They note that phusis and technology are similar and both have dangers, while poiesis requires skills, and they recommend that we develop meta-poesis in order to understand what part of phusis and technology that we should embrace as it calls behaviors from us when we eschew our autonomy and freedom for greater responsiveness to the situation which can reveal our virtue and our character.
But it is interesting that they did not notice what I discovered recently that Aristotle’s kinds of knowledge correspond to the positions on Plato’s divided line, that I have mentioned in other collapsed posts. Basically if you want to find my most interesting posts look for them amongst the collapsed posts. They are hidden by the anonymous masses by themselves to themselves for a reason.
Anyway, be that as it may, the kinds of knowledge are as follows:
Root and Sources beyond the Supra-rational limit
Nous – Suprarational LImit
Sophia – Ratio – Unrepresentable Intelligibles = Wisdom = Good and Fate
Episteme – Ratio – Representable Intelligibles = Science = Order and Right
Techne – Doxa – Grounded Beliefs/Appearances = Poesis = True and Real
Phonesis – Doxa – Ungrounded Beliefs/Appearances = Praxis = Identity Presence
Metis — Paradox Limit
Now Kelly and Dreyfus call our Phusis and say that it needs no skill to be caught up in and likens it to sporting events in our culture. It is the way the preSocratics saw Being. We can relate that to Ungrounded Appearances and Beliefs.
Poseis and Techne are on the same level. Techne is the skill (Craft) that is the kind of knowledge to know how to deal with Poesis.
When Kelly and Dreyfus talk about Technology, they are really talking about something that is based on Science, on Epistemic knowledge, it is technology based on science that has the power. And this falls into the realm of Reason applied to everything as in Kant that leads to the Terror as recognized by Hegel. It is Blake’s Urizen (God as Reason).
So I guess that what Kelly and Dreyfus are talking about is really the various levels of knowledge already identified by Aristotle that map to the Divided LIne of Plato, which is the core of our worldview, and that they are just rediscovering it in the history of Being as seen in the great works literature in our tradition.
In other words, Phusis is the core kind of Being as seen by the presocratics as flux, so called things wooshing up, lingering and fading away as Kelly puts it. The divided between Phusis and Logos is the fundamental one in our tradition, and that is what gets us defined as rational animals, animals with language who can use logic and give reasons for our actions. This is what we see brought together in the Divided Line as ratio and doxa. What wooshes up, lingers and fades, in a showing and hiding display, is appearances, and Kant says we can never get away from those appearances, and thus all philosophy must be some form of Husserlian Phenomenology in the end because there are limits to experience, and it is the necessary possibilities of experience that give us knowledge of our own limits. Reason without experience of appearances based in Phusis is empty according to Kant because it only leads to the nihilism of the antimonies. So according to Aristotle what you do when confronted by ungrounded appearances from Phusis is use judgment. And of course Kant says that all knowledge is Judgment, i.e. a synthesis of some kind. We use Judgment to guide our Praxis in the face of ungrounded opinions and appearances that come from the phusis. But because we are part of nature, we respond to the phusis with wonder and are drawn into it and are called to action by it and get meaning from that, but we must be careful because of what Canetti calls the phenomena of Crowds and Power, i.e. we can get caught up in the wrong persons charisma and that ultimately leads to nihilism, or death camps or other bad outcomes sometimes. But other times it is harmless and good to just live in the moment and derive meaning from being immersed in the mitsein.
Kelly and Dreyfus talk about Poesis as being based on skill, and when you are skilled you can have certain things called out of you in practicing your craft, or techne. The craft is a kind of stewardship that cultivates what is possible and brings into existence the adjacent possible as S. Kauffman calls it, realizing potentials out of possibilities and actualizing them, getting around seemingly impossible barriers. I would say that techne here as a kind of knowledge that deals with poesis is what they mean by craft, which is the original meaning of techne and not what they call technology. They see this as the best way to be called to act from outside of oneself, because it is based on skills, i.e. something developed inside oneself. Just as temperance is the basis for justice there must be some balance between inside and outside to have genuine balance.
Kelly and Dreyfus talk about Technology and Heidegger equates that with Nihilism, but this is just the same as we see in Kant’s antimonies of reason. Reason by itself leads to Nihilism, and Technology that is developed based on science, i.e. epistemic knowledge, is merely an extension into the practical realm of the progress made by science in understanding the universe in terms of Physics. The physis is reified by epsitemic knowledge into the physical universe that has particles that follow laws of nature dictated by forces which we can make use of to create technological infrastructures that in turn transform our lives from subsistence to some type of control over nature, and of course that leads to all the problems of the disconnection between ourselves and nature, i.e. us as the Other of Nature, i.e. the true “Alien” because of our Alienation from Nature. And this alienation in relation to others leads to the terror and genocide, and basically the history of the twentieth century.
So the ways that Kelly and Dreyfus say that the Western Culture has developed through the changes in the stages in Being as seen in Western Literature, from Polythesitic, to MonoTheistic, back to Polytheism perhaps, at least a postmodernism that tries to go beyond the divided between romanticism and enlightenment. They see Melville as the precursor of Nietzsche in this regard. But that in a way means that we are returning to Virtue from the nihilism of our meta-belief that we can make up our own beliefs and values. They want us to engage in a meta-poesis in which we try to figure out what we should get caught up in from the outside, as they overemphasize the call of the external authority over self-autonomy and freedom of reason alone as the arbiter of morality as we see in Kant’s categorical imperative.
But we might be tempted to say that the next stage is to push beyond the epistemic knowledge into sophia, since it does seem as if Western Culture is climbing this ladder of the divided line in the account of Kelly and Dreyfus. And so perhaps we will graduate to a calling by wisdom which goes beyond epsitemic knowledge to be rooted in the non-representable intelligibles. We can only hope. But that means approaching Good and Fate as nonduals from the kernel of our tradition and allowing them to guide our actions giving us virtue as we respond to the invisibles and cease to be men of earth, we will have to stop being the last men blinking and start to try to become stewards of the earth like Nietzsche’s Uber-Mench, rather than George Bernard Shaw’s “Supermen” who ultimately become the Blond Beast that Nietzsche talks about in the Nazi rise to power.
Being drawn by the non-representable intelligibles is what Jung talks about in his Archetypal Psychology. It has always been there as a possibility, and always been actualized. But now in the age where we enter the nihilistic marketplace for enlightenment that spirituality holds open to us, where all spiritual paths are seen to go to ultimately the same place, rather than different places, where spiritual paths cannot be discriminated. This is a new level of nihilism that Zizek rightfully criticizes as just the latest source of ideological support. As Adorno says, it is “minduflness”, i.e. mindlessness, i.e. not thinking, that the powers that be want you to attempt to attain because it dis-empowers you and makes it so you are no longer a political threat.
I think that All Things Shining makes a really valuable contribution by highlighting the necessity of virtue over values as what is needed to escape from nihilism. Nietzsche asks about the value of values. But we should ask about the Virtue of virtues, and that must be something like what Kelly and Dreyfus is talking about as meta-poesis. It is looking at the things that draw us externally to act and be part of life, and trying to distinguish what is good to be caught up in and drawn by over what is not good to be caught up in and drawn by. But not just good, but all the nonduals: Order, Right, Good, Fate, Source, Root. We must apply all these criteria in our meta-poiesis by which we decide that the virtue of virtues are. Thus when you ask me what I value.
I value Virtue over Value. Virtue itself is virtuous when we look at it through the eyes of Meta-poiesis of All Things Shining or though the nonduals that determine the Virtue of all virtues. What we learn of ourselves from being drawn out by the world and the ways in which it reveals itself to us and through us concerns our ultimate character, and others learn who we are also. And we are known by the principles we uphold in our practices and how we use our knowledge, and by our wisdom.