8. A philosophical view of climate change (2)

This article (already on our website) was written by Hlatky on the occasion of the very significant first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which took place in his home town, Stockholm, in 1972. Associated with the Conference was a People’s Forum, where any member of the public could make their views known. Hlatky’s own title for the article was: ‘The demands of common sense[1]on the eve of the forthcoming conference on the protection of the environment’.

Nature is absolute, technology is relative

The generally accepted idea that we can ‘improve’ Nature through technology is the basic cause of all destruction of the environment.

Nature sustains our needs. Technology comes into the picture through the fact that the needs that exist because of Nature require of us some action – a technological procedure – if we are to satisfy them.

The needs remain fundamentally unchanged (i.e. they are absolute), while the satisfaction of them is ongoing in a constant renewal, for better or worse (i.e. it is relative), in that we constantly, time and again, succeed or fail in the process.

When the technological process is faulty, the satisfaction diminishes or fails to be forthcoming; we become unsatisfied. We experience the lack of satisfaction as a fault, because it is a fault; it is not any fault in Nature, however, but in the process, thus in the technological. This means that all faults are technological; no biological faults can ever arise.

It might be thought that this is hair-splitting. So be it. But bear in mind that, even if it is, it is crucial to the whole development of our judgement[2]. For by attributing the fault to Nature, we automatically glorify technology; we give it an absolute value in its relationship to Nature. We then start looking for faults in Nature; we become dissatisfied with Nature instead of looking for the fault in our own action, in the technological. To value technology above Nature and then to look for and ‘establish’ the fault in Nature is the primary cause of all pollution of the environment.

Our[3] demands are therefore the following:

  1. To stop presenting technology as a doctrine of salvation 

This implies in practice:

(a)  To stop all the nonsensical talk about unintelligent Nature as against the intelligence of human beings who are supposed to rescue Nature with technological solutions. The absolute purpose of Nature is to endure, to go on. It does not destroy itself; nor can it be destroyed or rescued by humans. The idea of self-destruction is the speciality of human beings (war, suicide, substance abuse, environmental pollution, driving madly along the roads, and thousands of other perverse ways of risking one’s life) – all this because of the fact that, as the highest species on the Earth’s surface, humans can either choose to be more intelligent than animals, by using their ability to understand themselves as a part in the whole reality; or they can choose to misuse their intelligence by using it in the same limited way that animals use theirs: with regard only to themselves.

(b)  To stop all the nonsensical talk about nature-reserves[4]. For natural reasons every human being knows that Nature is one and indivisible, because all our experience supports this view. The research results of ecology have only lent a differentiated scientific corroboration to what common sense tells us.

By the encirclement and preservation here and there of Nature, we only create a misleading conception of it and a narrow, and therefore distorted, love of it, together with the deceptive belief that we have thereby done all that we can do. In practice these boundaries bring no protection for Nature, but only preserve the technological lunacy outside the nature-reserve.

  1. Never haggle at Nature’s cost

A doctor is not allowed to intervene and operate without a diagnosis, without there existing nature-determined causes for a technological intervention. To encourage and make propaganda for technological toys for children and grown-ups without a carefully thought-through and factually stated biological motivation is just as harmful as encouraging doctors to perform operations as ends in themselves, without regard for the patient’s health.

Technology has a decisive significance in our lives, and must under all circumstances be at the service of Nature. There is no such thing as an innocent or neutral technology, that is, a technology without any consequences. Any technology that is not biologically motivated is inevitably anti-biological. Technology as an end in itself is, firstly, the undoing of psychological (mental) health – through our identification with the technological, which automatically blinds people to the biological (the natural). And, secondly, it is the undoing of physical health and the environment. If we want to avoid the dangers of technology, we must create an insight for children into this question of principle while they are still young.

  1. An insight must be created into the paradox of discussing economics vs Nature.

Everyone knows that no one can express biological values in money or in any other unit of measurement. The practical consequence of this fact is that Nature cannot possibly come into our economic reckonings. Unconscious of this, we have fallen into the habit of immediately thinking about economics as soon as the subject of Nature comes up – as if we are convinced that we live from money and not from Nature. To place economics in relation to Nature is the gravest imaginable offence to human intelligence – to our own (when it amounts to self-deception), as much as to the intelligence of defenceless children, who thereby acquire from the very start a basic view of their situation in life that is inconsistent with reality. Economics can only go with economics, never with Nature!

A technology that cannot be pure is not worth having 

If we simply weigh up the economic pros and cons, then it is obvious that a rushed or botched job is cheaper than an intelligent construction. To use economics on the basis of faulty indoctrination and the prevailing disorientation about the basic questions of life as a way of getting people to accept botched jobs, while invoking the holy economy, requires an unnatural piece of intellectual acrobatics; it is therefore without basis and thus unintelligent, an unconscious self-destruction as we allow ourselves to be hypnotized by short-sighted gains.

If any technological solution proves to be anti-biological, that is because it has not been thought through and it must be developed further. The fact that a suicide weapon is cheap is no reason for destroying the whole of humanity.

Common sense tells us that there can never be an intelligent motive for setting anti-biological botched jobs in motion. Unfortunately we have so perfected intellectual acrobatics (unintelligence) that we are unable to come up with a natural thought, unless we happen to be sitting in front of our leisure cabin in the nature-reserve to which we have banished Nature. Nothing should be allowed other than an absolutely pure technology that Nature can absorb without being disturbed. To haggle over this demand is to chose the dirty over the pure, the unclear over the clear, the unintelligent over the intelligent, the unreasonable over the reasonable, and destruction over development.

That the demands put forward here cannot be carried out in the blink of an eye is self-evident, but if we do not define the principles unequivocally as they are in reality, then all our actions will remain confused.

Footnotes:

1. Note that the subtitle of Hlatky’s and Booth’s book, Understanding Reality, is ‘A commonsense theory of the original cause’.
2. This is a generic term for the conclusion or set of conclusions that each person comes to in their efforts to understand reality, and what they come to value, the judgements they make, as a result of these conclusions.
3. This piece was written under the auspices of Action to Broaden the Dialogue.
4. The idea at the time was to contribute to the protection of Nature by establishing national parks.

7. A philosophical view of climate change (1)

This is the first of three Posts on climate change.[1] The other two will be published over the next few weeks.

The problem

  1. We assume, in line with the view of the overwhelming majority, that the current serious changes in climate are threatening to the human species and are created by it.
  2. Philosophically, we tie the problem to the question of identity. Crucial to this is the modern identity based on the search for freedom and wealth. Hlatky describes the historical roots of this in Post 5, God or Mammon?
  3. Essentially, the fixed identities of the medieval period, based on a hierarchical society predominated over by the Church and other authorities, were replaced by an emphasis on human freedom. While the freedom of the individual from oppression by other individuals is self-evidently unobjectionable and unproblematic, this went hand in hand with the gradual rejection of any belief in a conscious original cause. Humans thus came to regard themselves as free to organise themselves solely as they saw fit and to pursue freely chosen ends, without regard for any divine order or divinely ordained leader. This extended to the use they made of Nature – no longer seen as God’s creation.
  4. Crucial to the practical furtherance of these goals has been the development of modern science (at first not atheistic, but later generally so), from the beginning of the 1600s. This has paved the way through technological advance to the possibility of greater and greater exploitation of Nature.
  5. Along with this, the digital age has served to promote the disconnect of humans from Nature.
  6. Unfettered human activity has culminated in the climate problems we see today.
  7. Because Nature is not seen as given by a God for an understandable purpose (see Post 2), the question as to whether it might be perfect for its purpose (see Post 2; also UR, p.129ff) cannot even arise. Rather, the now generally held view is that Nature is not perfect. That is, Nature is not all good, but both good and bad. It ‘blindly’ offers us, for example, only a one-off life that has no inherent meaning and in which there can be suffering.[2] Our major goal, therefore – the argument runs – must be to explore Nature with a view to gaining control over it; humans can then improve it[3], get rid of the bad, and create a better life for themselves. So Nature is no longer seen as absolute ­– at least, not in any positive sense; and human creativity has come to be seen as primary, and not as relative to Nature’s creativity.[4]
  8. The extent of this human creativity is nowadays regarded as boundless: the human species can be improved, death can be overcome; whatever problems there are will all be solved by technology, its development exponentially speeded up by artificial intelligence.[5]
  9. So the crucial step historically, in our view, has been this switch to an out-and-out identification with human creativity. And this in its turn has been facilitated by the failure of the world monotheisms to come up with a reasonable – that is, Nature-based [UR p.137], reality-based – hypothesis of the original cause. Therefore, equally importantly, they have not come up with a reasonable hypothesis of the original meaning – of our place in creation and our relation to it.
  10. This blog’s major contention is that unless this identification with human creativity is challenged and agreement reached as to our real – in our view, common – identity (see Post 3), based on a Nature-based view of the original cause and meaning, no technical solution to the problems of climate change will ever work in the long run.
  11. We may one day – even one day soon – be forced by catastrophic surface changes in Nature[6] to impose considerable lifestyle changes on ourselves and to draw back from our unfettered creative activity. This will be particularly the case where these surface changes in Nature have a negative impact on our ability to satisfy our existential needs. But the necessary changes in lifestyle will not be welcomed and fully embraced. On the contrary, a struggle for the diminishing resources will ensue, in which those who are able to afford access to them and/or can have control over them – as individuals or countries – will seek to hang on to as much of their current lifestyle as possible, challenged by those less well positioned doing the same.
  12. And, even assuming for a moment that Nature is given enough breathing space to recover itself,[7] we will be back at the business of ‘improving’ Nature in the blink of an eye unless we can agree upon a philosophy that can underpin the required lifestyle change.[8]

    The necessary philosophical re-evaluation

  13. We invite the reader to reflect on the possible contribution of Hlatky’s self-evidenced-based hypothesis of the original cause and meaning – developed in this blog and on the associated website – to the solution of the problem of climate change.
  14. To summarise Hlatky’s hypothesis: God is behind Nature in an ongoing way. Nature is God’s purposeful activity. It serves God’s – the original non-created whole’s – need to be understood by his original non-created parts. If the parts extrapolate from the experience they are able to have as human beings in creation, they can then understand that God must exist and is basically like them: he has the same need – to be understood as like and thereby loved – that they have. At the same time, the need of the parts is also satisfied, in their relationship with one another and with the whole, whom they experience indirectly through the whole’s activity, that is, Nature, creation.
  15. But to have the necessary experience in creation, the parts must have a body to connect to. This body is part of Nature and completely bound to Nature. This bondage to Nature is experienced by us via needs, which act like forces from inside us. These encourage us to do our part in sustaining the body, which otherwise Nature sustains within an overall ecology. We can ignore our needs – by refusing to eat, for example – but not the consequences of doing that, consequences which again Nature will provide.
  16. This situation does not have to be seen by us as problematic, however, since God has provided everything within Nature that is required to satisfy our existential needs. In addition, we are encouraged to play our part by the pleasure we experience in satisfying them.
  17. It is in satisfying such natural needs that we cannot avoid using Nature [UR pp.51-2]; they are the principal reason for our interaction with it. And ‘interact’ is what we should do, rather than interfere [UR p.68]. This means relating to Nature – which requires us to understand its purpose as a whole.[9]

    The solution cannot be solely technological

  18. Without Hlatky’s view (or some other equally Nature-based, reasoned view), the debate about climate change will be conducted solely in technical terms. This is the case now.
  19. Firstly, the single overriding technical question is posed: ‘Is Nature actually being adversely affected by the uses humans are making of it?’ If we assume that answer to be ‘yes’, the next technical question becomes: ‘Which of the uses we are making of Nature are particularly harmful and should be modified, curtailed or halted?
  20. Appended to this is a debate about what technology might be applied or developed in an attempt to produce a technical solution to the problem.
  21. It will be conceded within such a view that every detail in Nature seems to have a function in a system, established solely by evolution, and that, technically speaking, we run risks when we cut across this. But that is not the same as allowing that Nature as a whole has a purpose [UR p.135]: God’s purpose (so that fundamentally it is not mechanics, but God’s need, that drives the whole activity of Nature).
  22. We leave Hlatky to summarise (UR p.42):

    Stefan Hlatky: Science can never answer the philosophical question ‘why?’, and is therefore bound to the idea of time, and to continually examining the past in order to try to foresee the future. I say that I can in principle foresee the future the moment that I understand creation as a purposeful order, an order that is changeable on the surface but not fundamentally.

    Philip Booth: You mean that, because the purpose of creation never changes, the basic order never changes?

    SH: Yes …no matter how much we interfere with creation on the surface, by polluting it, destroying forests and so on. We can confuse the order on the surface, but the order will always eventually reassert itself, from the very moment that we stop confusing it with our own creativity that is blind to Nature’s creativity.

    PB: But if we don’t think creation has an unchanging purpose…?

    SH: Then two different sets of principles rule the future. The first set of principles is that which actually rules the order of Nature. This set is determined by God’s need to be understood and therefore by his purpose in creation. The second set of principles derives from the meanings created by human beings, who have to organise themselves in some way – since life is always interaction, which includes interaction with other human beings.

    PB: And as people nowadays are generally educated by modern science without any agreement about the order of Nature, they can’t see the virtue of being ruled by the order of Nature?

    SH: That’s right. And in that case they can’t avoid having to agree about and be ruled by the different meanings or purposes human beings create, even though that process invariably brings endless conflict – which is why it was always said that wars are inevitable. And nowadays such competition about meanings – which is inevitable when there is no agreement about Nature’s meaning – has even been made into a virtue by the ideology of the market economy (see Post 5).

    Conclusion

  23. There is widespread agreement nowadays about the science of climate change – despite dissent in some important quarters. There is also widespread agreement about the technical steps that would be needed to counteract the problem – despite disagreement about the prioritising of these. The real problem is a lack of motivation, both individually and collectively, to carry out those steps. This is because we are not willing to change the lifestyle based on this identification with human creativity and based on the consequent meanings created by human beings (including, obviously, the pursuit of wealth). Or – and this has the same root – we are passive, because, in a blind faith in future human technology, we believe that human creativity will solve the problem in time.
  24. Greta Thunberg[10] and the children who have started protesting recently around the world are right to chide the adults and to seek to goad them into some action. But this action will be ultimately fruitless while it is based on this identification with human creativity. And the danger is that the children themselves will become adults who are equally wedded to it.[11]
  25. Although it would be a strange stance to expect children to take, they also need, therefore, to goad the adults into reaching some philosophical clarity and agreement (such as, for example, the possibility Hlatky offers) – without which action will be ineffective other than temporarily.
  26. None of this means that we should sit idly by until such philosophical agreement is forthcoming. But it does require the insight, which is nowadays suppressed, that such a discussion and agreement are ultimately going to be necessary – and that philosophical agreement is possible, as long as we are determined to remain reality-based in our thinking.[12]

Footnotes:
1. Reminder: this Post assumes familiarity with our About page, our Summary of Hlatky’s View page and the first four Posts
2. For the question of suffering, see UR, pp.108-9.
3. See Post 8, which starts its argument from this point.
4. For more on the historical development of this idea, see UR pp.121-3.
5. For a typical example of the faith in technology and AI, consider the views of Stephen Hawking. He can imagine, for example, that AI could develop a will of its own that might be in conflict with the will of humans; or, he writes: ‘It might be possible to use genetic engineering to make DNA-based life survive for at least 100,000 years’ (extracted from his last book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions).
Or take what Yuval Harari says in his bestseller Sapiens: A brief history of humankind: ‘The project of the Scientific Revolution is to give humankind eternal life.’ (p.298)

6. … only ‘surface’, because Nature does not change fundamentally. [UR p.100]
7. This leaves aside the question of whether it is too late for humans to save their species – see e.g. The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. But note that it will never be ‘too late’ for Nature, since, as Hlatky points out, we can never harm Nature. Nor can we rescue it.
8. …much as the pursuit of wealth has been largely unaffected by the financial collapse of 2008.
9. For the contrast between ‘relating to’ and ‘controlling’, see UR pp.52-3  or UR p.159.
10. Or see her speech at the United Nations.
11. For the centrality of the contrast between human creativity and God’s creativity, see the conclusion of the dialogues between the two authors of Understanding Reality [UR pp.164-5].
12. For further reading, see UR pp.57-8 and UR p.70. For more on the subject of freedom, view this excerpt from Hlatky’s videoed talk, God and Science.

1. Do we really need, logically, to believe in a God?

This is the first of six posts published on the opening of this blog. The first four are essentially theoretical in nature and set the ground for all our future posts. They are intended to be read sequentially. Familiarity with them and the page ‘Summary of Hlatky’s view’ will be assumed in posts thereafter.

The fifth post is a short unpublished article by Hlatky. The sixth, which relates to politics, is essentially a footnote to the fifth. Though written two years ago, it has particular relevance to Britain at the moment, and is an example of the practical kinds of issues, situations and events that we intend to cover in the future. Our next post – on climate change – will appear shortly, followed by a post on how one might answer children’s ‘why?’ questions about the big questions of life. We are planning posts approximately every three months.

But now to Post 1:

  1. Hlatky contends that we need, logically, the idea of God to solve the question that has preoccupied humanity over the centuries, namely, the question of the original cause: who or what has brought the universe about (and why, see Post 2). The concept of God combines two ideas: that there is indeed an original – that is, a non-created – cause, and that it is a conscious being.
  2. What are the alternatives?
  3. One alternative is that there is no original cause. This is the stance of pantheism. It maintains that all that exists is the ongoing activity represented by the universe. The problem with this view is that it requires us to accept that activity can exist without a cause – and this is never our experience.
  4. Another alternative is that the original cause is something like the super-dense atom of the Big Bang. The problem with this view is that it requires us to accept that something non-conscious can be an original cause of activity – and, again, this is never our experience.
  5. Finally, it could be maintained that the whole question is an unanswerable mystery and that we should not bother our heads with it. It is possible to take this stance, but it is a difficult stance to take. Firstly, it requires us to resign ourselves to living our life with a mystery, and with the anxiety attendant on mystery. More crucially, however, it requires us to ignore the fact that our experience of life seems constantly to raise the question of where everything comes from [UR p.84] – as human beings’ interest in the question over the centuries suggests and, indeed, as each new generation of children also demonstrates through its questions to adults on the subject. So it appears that the language-equipped human species has a need to understand the whole reality[UR Chapter 1]
  6. What follows here is based on the assumption that the question is answerable.
  7. The difficulty many people nowadays have with the idea of a conscious original cause – that is, God – as the answer to the question has to do, in Hlatky’s view, with the fact that historically only illogical notions of God and of his purpose have ever been proposed. And because they were illogical, they could only be asserted in an authoritarian manner. They were also, therefore, only capable of being believed blindly.
  8. Our introduction to the blog outlines how Hlatky’s view of God differs from these other views of God. Most crucially, his view is capable of reasoned belief.
  9. Specifically, he argues on the basis of the self-evident truth or axiom [UR p.6] that only a conscious being can be an original cause of activity. Since the universe itself is only activity – there is nothing permanent in it – it follows that its original cause must be a conscious being. As argued (see para. 4), to suggest that something non-conscious is at the origin of the universe contradicts this self-evidence. (A stone, for example, can’t move of its own accord.)
  10. A word of explanation: A self-evidence is a truth that cannot be, and doesn’t need to be, objectively proven or argued for [1]. We all use self-evidences extensively in our everyday lives. Hlatky’s approach is to include self-evidences in our efforts to understand the philosophical question of the original cause.
  11. What it means in practice is that Hlatky assumes that the original cause (and meaning, see Post 2) must be understandable on the basis of our total everyday experience. By ‘total’, he means both our (subjective) experience of ourselves and our (objective) experience of the world around us. In including subjective experience – such as the experience of being conscious, the experience of love, as well as the experience of needs as a whole – he differs from modern science. On the other hand, Hlatky’s view mirrors science in being reality-based because it is based on our total everyday experience. (Science, ancient or modern, is based on reality – but in the restricted way suggested).
  12. The fact that Hlatky’s view is reality-based means that it can be checked by anyone against their own total experience. No one has to rely on the authority of another human being.
  13. Hlatky argues that God is inevitably still something we can only believe in, for the reason that we can’t experience God directly. (Remember, in Hlatky’s view of God, God is the whole and we are parts of that whole. Because we are inside the whole that is God, we self-evidently cannot experience the whole itself. [UR p.17])
  14. But although God remains a matter of belief, there are reasons – based on the self-evident – that can be given for that belief. So belief in God is no longer a matter of blind belief. (Unfortunately, blind belief has come to be seen as the major alternative to the empirical knowledge of science. As such, belief itself has come to be seen as inferior and to be avoided.)
  15. A final point. The question is often asked: ‘Yes, but who created God?’ This is a challenge to the idea that there could be any such thing as an original cause. By ‘original’ here is meant, of course, ‘non-created’. But God represents the idea of something non-created, even in the minds of atheists. This is because nothing can be understood if we don’t have a concrete starting-point for our thinking [2]. So, with regard to reality as a whole, either we assume that a concrete starting-point exists, or we assume that reality is a mystery (then we are back to paragraphs 5 and 6 above).

The question of the meaning of the activity that we all experience as the universe will be addressed in the next Post.

Footnotes:
1. For a full discussion of the self-evident, see Dialogue 4
2. For a lengthy discussion of the term ‘concrete’ and the point being made here, see Dialogue 1; or see UR pp.126-7.

2. Does life have an inherent meaning?

  1. …or does it only have the meaning or meanings that we ascribe to it?
  2. If life in general and our life in particular do have an inherent meaning, we would have to assume that that meaning was created or made possible by a conscious being. Put another way: the universe, and the Earth within it, and our life on the Earth can only have an inherent meaning if there is a conscious being who is its original cause and is responsible for bringing it all about for a particular purpose, thereby imbuing it with a particular meaning.
  3. That is because of the self-evidence that only something conscious can have a meaning to its activity. Something non-conscious – a stone, for example – cannot have its own meaning or purpose: it cannot act by itself. We can say of a man-made object such as a table that it has a purpose – to be sat at, eaten on etc. – but then we are referring to the purpose ascribed to it by the conscious being who made it. But a table doesn’t itself have its own meaning or purpose; it is not conscious and so can’t act of its own accord.
  4. So the question of why the universe and our life have come about has to be put aside by those who do not believe in a conscious creator of the universe, a conscious original cause. For them there can be no given reason why the universe, including their own life, exists. For them, neither can have inherent meaning. The question can only be reasonably contemplated by those who believe in a conscious original cause. (We follow tradition and give it the name ‘God’.)
  5. The problem then is that historically no logical purpose has been proposed by any of the traditions that believe in a conscious original cause. This is because no tradition puts forward the idea that God has a need, a need that could give rise to a logical purpose [UR p.23]. (See also UR p.133). On the basis of the self-evidence that every conscious being has the need for love – relationship, company, the experience of mutuality – Hlatky suggests that God must have this same need. In God’s case, it is a need that, self-evidently, can only be satisfied in relation to his parts.
  6. Further, the universe – which, if we agree that the original cause must be a conscious being, can be called ‘creation’ – has to be perfect for God’s purpose of making himself known, albeit indirectly, to the parts [UR p.26]. And since he is bound by his need – as the natural need of every conscious being is binding – God is compelled to give out creation if he is to meet his need [UR p.24] (See also UR pp.53-4, or UR p.31). At the same time, God’s creation allows us – the parts – to meet the same need for love that we share with God.
  7. So in Hlatky’s view there is a given meaning to the activity that the universe or creation represents. It is a meaning to which we should relate – in the same way as we need to relate to the meaning of any other conscious being. With regard to other conscious beings, their meanings are obvious to us through their behaviour (since we have, in principle, the same needs that they have) and, in the case of humans, also through their words. In the case of God, that ‘behaviour’, that ‘language’, is the universe as we experience it, the meaning of which we have to decipher.
  8. At this point the question might be asked: Why doesn’t God make his existence clearer, even incontrovertibly so? The reply is a question: How could God do this? The obvious ploy of incarnating as a part would not achieve it. History has shown this, most importantly in relation to Jesus: the Christian claim to Jesus’s divinity is not universally accepted. Hlatky argues that creation is perfect for God’s purpose, however, since our experience of reality can lead us logically to a recognition of God’s existence if we base our thinking solely on that experience. (Basing their thinking solely on their experience is what children do as they build up their understanding of themselves and the world around them – until, that is, they may become confused by non-reality-based ideas offered to them by grown-ups.) (See UR pp.137-8; also UR pp.135-6.)
  9. An important aside: If we understand God’s meaning, then we understand why God creates. But we can never understand how God creates, because of our position inside God  [UR p.65]. But to understand why God creates is to understand God. We don’t need to know the how. Note that young children always ask ‘Why?’, not ‘How?’ (until the grown-ups, unclear about the ‘Why?’, push them towards the ‘How?’), and are always satisfied by a logical answer to the question ‘Why?’ [UR pp.112-3].
  10. That life might be about the need for love – the experience of mutuality – is not a new idea; it is alluded to in many worldviews. What seems to us to be lacking is a philosophy that gives this central importance while underpinning it in a reality-based way, that is, in a way that can be equally convincing to all.
  11. Without a given, reality-based meaning that we need to relate to, we will seek to create our own meanings. Indeed, we must, since we cannot live without meaning. This gives rise to the problem of how to coordinate all the disparate, frequently competing, individual meanings that humans come up with – a thankless task that generally falls to politicians. Imagine how different it would be if everyone took the view that the meaning of their own life is given, and is the same as the meaning of everyone else’s life, and if this informed the way we went about the business of meeting our reality-based needs. (For expansion of this point, see UR p.42 ; or UR p.70; or UR p.103).

Postscripts:
1. For the importance of the use of language in this question, see UR p.110.
2. For the clear contrast between Hlatky’s view and that of modern (atheistic) science on this theme, see UR p.37; and as this theme relates to differing concepts of consciousness, see UR pp.96-8.

3. ‘Who am I?’

    1. This is the question that in Western psychologically-orientated societies we often ask ourselves. What is not generally appreciated, however, is that the question usually presupposes a view that every human being is basically different from every other human being. Who I am, on this view, is unique [1].
    2. By contrast, in Hlatky’s hypothesis we are all basically alike. His answer to the question is: ‘I am a conscious original part of the conscious original whole with the need for relationship (love, the experience of mutuality), who has connected to a body in creation in order to meet that need’. From this perspective, my own identity is the same as everyone else’s. The question ‘Who am I?’ thus becomes ‘What is a human being?’ In other words, the issue is no longer a particular, psychological one, but a general, philosophical one.
    3. How Hlatky arrives at his view is laid out in Understanding Reality. The main aspect – if one agrees that the original cause must be a conscious being (see Post 1) – is what the relation of human beings to God is.
    4. The monotheisms hold that God creates human beings in their entirety, that is, both their consciousness (the ability to experience) and their body.
    5. The pantheist view is different. One (Hindu) version of it is that the original Being or Brahman splits himself into separate beings [UR p.202]. So that view might hold, for example, that there is a ‘divine spark’ in every human being.
    6. Hlatky’s hypothesis is that God creates only the human bodies. The conscious parts can then make a connection to these human bodies. Before they make that connection, the parts exist in the same way God exists in the original reality (the original reality being what is constituted by the whole (God) and the parts). Of course, in that original situation, before a connection has been made to a human body in creation, one can’t refer to the parts as ‘human beings’ – hence the rather neutral-sounding term ‘part’.
    7. So in Hlatky’s hypothesis, the parts are as ‘eternal’, as original, as God. The parts retain their position in the original reality even while they connect to a human body in creation.
    8. Once the particular body ‘wears out’, the part can disconnect from it and subsequently connect to a new body.
    9. But since in Haltky’s view the part is original, it cannot develop. It is unchangeable. So there is no development of any basic kind (eg of some hypothesised ‘soul’, or towards enlightenment), either within a single life or from life to life.
    10. Since Hlatky hypothesises that God has a need for relationship, love, company, Hlatky’s main argument for his view of the parts – that they are original, non-created – is that it is not possible to see how God’s need could be met in relation to beings he himself creates in their entirety. This would be the equivalent of having a relationship with an animated toy [UR p.32. But see also The ABC of philosophy (UR p.173ff.) for other arguments]
    11. Nor is it possible to see how a creator’s need could be met in relation to parts it has split itself into. This would be tantamount to having a relationship with itself. Self-evidently, it is not possible to have a relationship with oneself: a relationship requires two conscious beings.
    12. If we can agree with the self-evidence-based logic of Hlatky’s hypothesis, then it is interesting to consider the huge difference that such a view of who we are entails.
    13. ‘Identity’ comes from the Latin idem, meaning ‘the same’ and has to do with what remains the same about something. In the case of human beings, Hlatky is suggesting that what remains essentially the same is our ability to experience (our consciousness). This never changes throughout our life [UR pp.50-1], in spite of all the changes that occur in our physical body. This accounts for the feeling nearly everyone reports at some point in their life of not really feeling older (perhaps brought home by suddenly catching themselves in a mirror or seeing an old photo and being surprised by how much their body has aged).
    14. And what also remains the same is our need for the experience of mutuality (love), which is associated with our ability to experience (our consciousness). The need for love is unlike our bodily needs. The latter are periodic: we may not need to eat or drink for a time. But we never ‘have enough’ of love: we never want not to be loved.
    15. If such is our identity, then we are all basically alike – 100%. At the same time, it is obvious that we are 100% unlike on the surface.
    16. If we don’t recognize our basic likeness, then we regard ourselves as basically unlike. Then we will identify ourselves with one element or several elements of our surface unlikenesses.
    17. Obvious choices for surface-‘identities’ include our gender, our thinking and beliefs, our nationality, our race, our sexual orientation, our skills, our social role, our past, and so on. But from Hlatky’s standpoint these surface characteristics of human beings would dissolve as points of tension between groups if it could be generally agreed that none of them represents our real identity. Against the background of the real identity that he argues we all share, these other ‘identities’ are no longer experienced as divisive or alienating, and so not as disturbing.
    18. Thus philosophical clarity about our real identity is, it is argued, the prerequisite for a conflict-free mental life not bedevilled by anguished searching about ‘Who am I?’, or by unending efforts to create, refine and maintain who I am, with the subsequent need to present that ‘I’ [UR pp.43-4] to others and have it be accepted by them [Hear Hlatky talking about this].
    19. This idea of a basic likeness is, as we have already suggested, an idea that we have in early childhood. The problem is that it is not then represented in language sufficiently in any culture. It is referred to often, but not with philosophical clarity [2].
    20. Unless the idea is spelt out with philosophical clarity, it will not be possible to reach a genuine and convincing agreement about it. It will then be swamped by the modern emphasis on basic difference, uniqueness and specialness – which opens the door to development, hierarchy and alienation between humans. Furthermore, this latter idea fails to solve the ethical problem between human beings. By contrast, if we agree that we are all basically alike in the way Hlatky is proposing, then we understand one another and so know how to behave towards one another [3].

Footnotes:
1. For a discussion about how this view is passed on to children and for a discussion of the whole theme of this Post, see UR Dialogue 2.
2. The Bible, for example, talks of us as being made after God’s likeness: Genesis 1, v.26 ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ But there are no specifics.
In the secular sphere there is, for example, the poem Human Family by Maya Angelou, containing the refrain ‘We are more alike, my friend, than unalike’ – but again without specifics about the ways we are alike.
Equally suggestive – but not spelt out – is what Kwame Anthony Appiah says in his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures (‘Mistaken Identities’). Having cast doubt on the solidity of common identities such as creed, country, colour and culture, Appiah quotes at the end of his final talk the Roman playwright Terence: ‘Homo sum. Humani nihil a me alienum puto.’ Appiah translates this as: ‘I am human. I think nothing human alien to me’, and concludes with the comment: ‘Now there is an identity worth holding onto’.
3. For elaboration of this last point and the connection of the question of identity with the question of meaning (Post 2), see UR pp.48-50.

4. On what basis should the life of human beings together be organised?

  1. The ‘social’ life of animals is determined by Nature. Consider ants, bees, birds etc. Animals themselves merely follow the programmes for living together that Nature prescribes for their particular species.
  2. Humans by contrast are free to devise their own forms of organisation. At the same time, it shouldn’t be forgotten that humans are forced – again by Nature – to do this devising. This is because they cannot not live together. A child has a long dependency on its parents, for a start. And then any task that two humans undertake together requires them to adopt roles in relation to one another and to agree on how those roles are allotted.
  3. Every social group aims to devise a way of living together that is peaceful and, more than that, loving. This is the emphasis, at least in principle, of all religions and every atheistic view. It is inconceivable to us that any group should aim for the opposite. Even those who contemplate or actually seek to carry out revolution – perhaps even going so far as to pursue violent world domination – seek the establishment of a ‘good’ society of this kind as their ultimate goal.
  4. There is no universal agreement, however, about the basis on which such a society could be established. It is Hlatky’s contention that for there to be such a universal agreement, what is required is a logical, reality-based hypothesis about the original cause and meaning. In other words, we require a logical, reality-based understanding of the whole reality (which includes ourselves and the world around us), an understanding that is convincing to every single person so that it need not be imposed in an authoritarian way.
  5. The problem is that none of the world religions and no atheistic view (Post 2) have presented such a logical, reality-based hypothesis. (This is argued throughout Understanding Reality.)
  6. There are many historical as well as current examples of societies where religious worldviews influence or dominate. More recent historically are societies where atheistic science plays the same role. Of these, the social form considered the best in western societies is democracy, which is a genuine attempt to avoid authoritarianism of any kind.
  7. Democracy, besides seeking to restrict the power of individuals, attempts positively to take account of the views of individuals. The problem is that this latter can only occur in a limited way, given the infrequency of local and general elections and also referenda. More importantly, in the absence of an underlying agreed worldview informing the participants in the various levels of social organisation, democracy in practice cannot be more than a matter of compromise and tolerance between the various conflicting views held by individuals or groups. Although compromise and tolerance are enormously preferable to rigidity and intolerance, they still leave the society open to constant tensions and clashes – witness the problems that occur in all democratic societies, not to mention between democratic nations internationally. The focus in such societies remains on competition and/or the acquisition and exercise of power of one kind or another – which is the opposite of the loving society that everyone seeks. (See also UR, p.13)
  8. As argued earlier, for a worldview to be agreed upon by all, it must be logical and reality-based, and thus not authoritarian. Hlatky’s hypothesis of the original cause is an attempt to offer such a worldview – however preposterous and utopian such an attempt is regarded as nowadays. And, of course, this blog has the aim of engaging a wide audience in a debate of that hypothesis. [1]
  9. Politicians and political commentators often refer to a need to belong [2]and sometimes use the mantra ‘We are all in it together’. But they don’t specify what the ‘it’ is that we are all in, nor on what basis we are in it. They seek to take advantage of the definite emotional appeal that the statement has. Its appeal harks back to the sense that every child has, in its very early days, of having been born into a world where its need for relationship can be satisfied in relation to the other human beings that it finds itself in immediate contact with – human beings whom it regards, in a spontaneous, preverbal way, as basically like itself. This is what the infant’s first smile is about.
  10. The appeal also draws on the feeling that arises spontaneously among us all – in a more or less distant echo of that childhood feeling – at times of natural disaster: suddenly we see everyone else as human beings basically like us. Such situations demonstrate that the feeling of ‘being in it together’ lies dormant in us all.
  11. So it is right to say that ‘we are all in it together’. But this is a trivial statement, unless specified. Hlatky specifies the ‘it’ as firstly the original reality, in which we are parts of the whole (God); and then creation, where we each connect to a body. This is in order to meet God’s need to be understood and thereby loved, as well as to meet our own identical need – through our recognition that all of us, God included, are basically alike in having this need. So we are bound by a common meaning (Post 2) which should guide us in our behaviour towards one another, as well as towards the physical world around us. (For elaboration of the philosophical background, see UR, pp.55-6.)
  12. A note of caution: Hlatky is not saying that his view is the definitive uniting view that society requires. In other words, he is not saying that he has ‘the truth’ (see UR p.72). Rather it is a hypothesis that is in need of constant scrutiny as to its basis, and at the same time constant testing against reality [3]. His aim was simply that his view should be discussed, compared and tested alongside the other worldviews – of religion and of atheistic science. (This, again, is what has been done throughout Understanding Reality.)
  13. Politics places a huge emphasis on power: the power to push through or defend a point of view and a course of action – on the part of an individual, a group or a whole society. This over-concern and over-involvement with power is unavoidable where there is no fundamental reality-based agreement philosophically – no matter how committed people are to discussion or ‘creating a consensus’. But, as argued, a society based on power is the opposite of a loving society. A loving society can only be achieved, in Hlatky’s view, by philosophical agreement – and, again, by this he means specifically a reality-based agreement about the original cause and meaning[4]

Footnotes:
1. For an analysis of the difficulty of this endeavour in the current philosophical context, see Post 5.
2. A current example is the writing of George Monbiot who talks of the need for a ‘politics of belonging’ (see, for example, his latest book: Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis).
3. For consideration of this complex but crucial question, see section ‘Checking Hlatky’s hypothesis’ (UR pp.128ff).
4. For an application of some of the general ideas contained in this Post, see Post 6.