We play, not IN, but AT society

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by coberst, Feb 6, 2007.

  1. coberst Registered Senior Member

    We play, not IN, but AT society

    Sapiens are a species that has lost many of their animal instincts and our “soul” replaces these instincts. I use the word ‘soul’ to signify what many might call consciousness, spirit, conscience, mind, reason, etc. We are thus thrust out of the arms of Mother Nature and onto our own ability to adapt and survive. We are forced into replacing the natural selection process, which has led to our evolution, and we are thrown upon our own abilities to adapt or to be extinguished. It is our ‘soul’ that creates the games we play. These games replace natural selection; and determine our survival as a species.

    Socrates was an intuitive genius, who may have been the first to understand that man needs to function in a shared social fiction before he can earn his own social honor, and social approval. But even Socrates could not intuit the degree to which this need was rooted. He could not see how deep ‘social performance’ goes and the degree that it is rooted in the anxiety of all sapiens. Humans cannot recognize their own self-worth without the word from their own social group.

    We have successfully struggled against Mother Nature to gain great material wealth only to discover that, as Pogo might say, ‘we have met the enemy and it is us’. The enemy is our great material play-form itself; it is our own profit-and-loss economy, our money-over-the-counter game that is defeating us. We have lost all relationship with our nature. Our created fiction has crippled our ability to rationally adapt to our world we have created. We run as fast as we can from school to shopping center to the bank and back home in our new SUV only to discover that the gods have already made us mad. Our own fictions are killing us.

    War itself is a fiction, it is a game, and it is a play-form. Roman civilization itself was a great “potlatch spirit” (a ceremonial feast of the American Indian of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation). What begins as simple contests, develop into complex play-forms. “Poetry, art, law, philosophy, war—all are contests or play-forms.”

    To call them play-forms is not say that they are not serious. In our great game of society we create meaning; fictional meaning but nevertheless these fictions are life-meaning fictions. Me and Earnest agree, our problem is that we must create better fictions to live by, because our present fictions are killing us.

    What is the difference between playing a fictional role in life versus a non-fictional role?

    Ideas and quotes from “Beyond Alienation” by Ernest Becker
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  3. seekeroftheway Let go your conscious self... Registered Senior Member

    At least partly agreed, I suppose. We have indeed totally alienated ourselves from nature, but it shouldn't be as such. Human though we are, and "superior" though we may think ourselves to be, we have our place in nature along side all other living things. It is the actions we commit, the alienation from said place that we ellicit, that will eventually destroy us, as it has for the past several millennia since we began down that path.

    Also agreed, the material-bound concept of money, wealth, and power amounting to happiness is nothing more than a game, a poor game at that, more like a joke in my eyes. Happiness is not a place, it's not a goal, it's not a thing, it's YOU. It's HERE. It's NOW. The more possessions you assume ownership over in a vain attempt to become closer to something external to yourself, the more you will succeed in your objective: You well become external to yourself, and therefore rob yourself of the happiness you think you're looking for. This is the hypocritical doom that our society has placed upon it's own shoulders.

    Still, some games aren't so bad. We are proponents of the game called philosophy, or we would not be here, yes? After all, we have to do SOMETHING, even if that something is nothing at all.
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  5. coberst Registered Senior Member

    Wo/man is an animal distinguished from other animals by having a ‘soul’. I do not wish to give a religious connotation to this word but it is one I have settled on because we have so many different words used to exemplify this distinction. I wish to say that men and women are part body and part soul, part material and part ‘other’. Soul means spirit, consciousness, etc; all the words that are used to distinguish humans from all other animal species.

    How does the ‘self’ develop after birth? We are born within a social world and the self is developed within this milieu. At birth we enter into a specific culture and in response to that culture we develop a self that becomes an accepted actor within this society.

    We know why we allow social fiction to dictate our lives. We recognize that some cultures will starve before eating certain foods. We would rather tighten our belts than eat the forbidden fruits. The heart of the matter is that to change our social fictions is to change all that we are accustomed to. To change our habits and customs means to arouse the “anxiety of the unfamiliar”. It seems that the higher primates will sacrifice their very lives rather than change the habits of a life time inherited from our birth. “The terrible truth is that the coin of the fiction is flesh-and-blood; and this is the way it must be for a symbolic animal.”

    Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for “The Denial of Death”. A distinguished social theorist and a popular teacher of anthropology, sociology, and social psychology.

    Fiction is something invented by the imagination. Is capitalism invented by the imagination? Is religion? Is marriage? Is Nation and state? Is the flag? Is patriotism? Is love?

    Humans live by symbol. Symbols are creations of imagination. Symbols are works of imagination i.e. works of fiction. Our problem is to create good fictions, i.e. good meaning good values that are in tune with our nature.
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  7. Search & Destroy Take one bite at a time Moderator

    our roles are dictated by a perpetually rolling ball called society

    If the ball changes, so do our roles. If a role changes, so does the ball.

    It's all one big act, and us actors either follow our scripts or like Socrates we do a little improv.

    You seem to want to quit the theater all together. But the problem is you can't quit. You might start up a new one that puts on a play about nature. But you're still acting.
  8. Search & Destroy Take one bite at a time Moderator

    If everyone breaks a certain rule, than the rule will no longer work.

    The problem that arises in modern society is the size. Humans cant work together on such a large scale. I remember in k-12 when we were not allowed to talk sometimes we would just all talk and the teachers couldn’t contain us.

    That is because the resulting punishment wasn’t designed for everyone to misbehave.

    The same goes for jail. If the prison guard yells “NO talking!” and everyone talks, will everyone get solitary confinement? Will they go through this process every single time someone talks? Then the state of the jail system would only be solitary confinement. That wouldn’t happen – that’s cruel and unusual punishment.

    Society has been strongly influenced by its size. As the size grows it seems more and more unlikely that enough people can unite to get a rule changed. A rebellion like that would be successfully only if many individuals had the same feelings, so the more individuals the less likely a uniting and less influence the person has.

    Our parents tell us to do this and that. Our teachers tell us what is right. Our leaders tell us how to act. Is there just as much chance for individuality when there are 200 or 1million persons acting?
  9. coberst Registered Senior Member

    search & destroy

    Self-reliance can begin after formal education is over. Self-reliance depends upon self-actualization by means of self-learning. We can be pro-active or we can be re-active and follow those who lead us.
  10. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

    If you can get every single human being to agree with this philosophy, then we wouldn't have any of the problem's that the author laments.

    Until this happens, any attempt to force this philosophy on others creates a fascist system which will not be unique in its methods.

    So, have fun trying to convince everyone to live by these mores. And until you do, please understand that it is better for the masses to fuck up their lives in freedom than it is to yoke them in slavery to a superior philosophy that they resent. What point is there in making the philosopher happy, when he/she is in the minority? I say to the enlightened, "Withdraw. Remove yourself from our inferior society and create your perfect one as an example to us all. Show us with action, and not empty words. And grant us the rights of children to make our immature mistakes in freedom".
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    With emphasis on learning and reasoning. We have not lost our instincts, we have overridden them with learned and reasoned behavior. Because of our uniquely large forebrains that have enough synapses to hold their own in a dialog with the synapses in our primitive animal brains, we are arguably the only animal that can decide not to obey an instinct and be pleased with the results. Each time this happens it feeds back into the learning and reasoning process, making it easier to do the next time.

    All warm-blooded animals have consciousness, because their brain waves show that they all dream, which means they all have an unconscious. They all also have greater or lesser powers of learning and reasoning. The difference between us and them in that regard is merely quantitative, but it manifests as a qualitative difference in our ability to seize control over our environment and our own development.
    This is not uniquely human. All pack-social species live this way. (As opposed to herd-social animals, who are more anonymous to each other.) Just watch your dogs.
    That is a politically correct view of 12,000 years of civilization and it's crap. We struggled against Mother Nature because Mother Nature was a cruel mother. We invented the technology of stone tools so we could collect slightly more meat than we needed for immediate subsistence, because Mother Nature kept throwing bad hunting seasons at us and a bunch of us always died of starvation. We invented the technologies of agriculture and animal husbandry so we could accumulate an even larger surplus of food, but also so we could settle in one place and build permanent houses, because Mother Nature kept throwing predators and unpleasant weather at us. In addition to the "material wealth" that your generation so fashionably denigrates while you sit there typing on a computer, sitting on a chair and enjoying an artificial indoor climate, the surplus generated by the division of labor and economy of scale of, first, villages and, later, cities, also gave us the arts, written language, medical care, education and a civil infrastructure.
    Speak for yourself. I'm a musician. Although I also have a day job helping to keep the nuts and bolts of civilization tight, my artistic avocation is something I could not have pursued professionally more than a couple of centuries ago. I am liberated from a life of drudgery, not defeated.
    My life is nothing like that. I'm so sorry about yours. My job is rewarding, as is my music, and I have divided my leisure time between other rewarding activities and passive entertainment in a balance that makes me happy and comfortable. Perhaps you need to get some counseling from one of the elders of the tribe and figure out what you've been doing wrong. Not Becker, we need to call a meeting of the Elders' Council and have a little chat with him about what he's been spewing to our youth.
    You have veered off in a direction that is practically metaphysical. Becker has created a model of civilization that supports his insufferably dreary point. I suspect that like all curmudgeons he reached his conclusion first and then looked for a model consistent with it. His criticisms are apt but his model is as oversimplified as the model offered by the monotheistic religions. It has the same risk: If you forget to look outside this sterile little model, your entire community will erupt into spasms of insanity at regular intervals.

    I suggest you stop fixating on this depressing view of the wonderful creation of civilization. Either find some other authors or step out of the library and spend more time the sunlight. You have all the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency.

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  12. coberst Registered Senior Member


    Only a small percentage of the population has the capacity to self-actualize through the autodidact process, but we do not need more than a small percentage to lead the rest. How many leaders turned the world around in the Age of Enlightenment?
  13. coberst Registered Senior Member


    More is learned inerror than in apathy.

    We start out as an infant who has learned to seek approval. Self-esteem comes from approval by society. Therefore as we grow older we become more determined by society.

    I think that we can become disenchanted with society when that society does not give us the support for self-esteem to the extent that we think we deserve. Another way we can become disenchanted with society is when we discover the failure to meet our nature and thus seek to change society because we have learned more about what reality is all about and recognize that our society needs restructuring.

    What Becker thinks, and which I agree, is that society must be prepared to constantly adjust in light of what we learn. Suppose we now had a sufficient number of individuals who recognized that society needed restructuring. Then suppose that that restructuring took place, and then we must recognize that we will constantly make mistakes and thus we must be prepared to have a means to change to fit our comprehension of our failure to reach an ideal. Just as democracy may be a great ideal but we must not remain static but must adjust based upon new understanding of what fails and what succeeds.

    We would constantly hypothesize a solution; when we discover some aspects of that hypothesis is erroneous we must be prepared to make adjustments, always seeking to reach a defined ideal.
  14. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

    They didn't turn the world around by getting the people to agree with them. Or even by getting the people to understand them. Most people were unaware that the enlightenment was taking place, they were just working their jobs as illiterate as ever. The only reason we had progress was because of the scientific and cultural advances of a few, which is exactly the same process we have going on right now. Someone invents a new piece of technology which gets integrated into society, to the benefit of all. But we don't all need to be inventors for this to improve our collective lot. Just mostly sheep.

    The freedom to safely abort a pregnancy, and the freedom to use birth control in the first place, are major advancements for our societies. They don't need to be agreed on, they don't need to be understood by all, it was an issue sorted out by the highest legal minds in our country. There is reason to suspect that the major fall-off in crime during the past 10 years is directly due to this cultural advancement. And kudos to the smart few that led to this change.

    I prefer slow progress of this sort. My idea of the best world is the world in which most people have the freedom to suffer and be happy according to their merit and desires. I don't think utopias exist, people are too different for mass agreement. If you want to make the world a better place, go pick up the trash along the roads around your house, give some money to a charity that uses it wisely and doesn't profit a penny, take in a foreign-exchange student, mentor some children, volunteer at local schools. The people making a difference are the millions of people doing small things like this, and not the people that rage about revolutions and making huge changes. They usually bring misery, war, and hate.

    Edit: And I wouldn't say that the "world turned around" in the enlightenment. The Middle Ages were more culturally advanced than most historians give credit for. It was a slow change. The reason we think of the Middle Ages as the "Dark" Ages has to do with the snobbery of the people of the enlightenment, who saw all previous eras as inferior to their own. Not very enlightened of them, if you ask me.

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