Kenneth Smith

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, hegel, spirit, ego, immediacy, and culture

One of the most remarkable fruits of Hegel's work is his insight into the primal types of powers definitive of the different strata and modes of human subjectivity:  (1) the self-cohesion of immediacy in its basal and passive ineptitude to objectify, define, conceptualize, or criticize anything (Ansichsein or being-in-itself); (2) the objectifying and alienative powers of conscious ego (Fursichsein or being-for-itself); and (3) the extraordinary powers of spirit to reconcile or synthesize modes (1) and (2) into a higher-order union (An-und-Fursichsein).  You can readily see that this is a schema I make repeated use of, for its illuminating division of powers; but it implies of course also that, in circumstances where spirit is not feasible or active to mediate the lower-order modes, then immediacy and alienative consciousness are going to be repeatedly cycling through forms of warfare with one another.  Personalities and cultures in the absence of mediational spirit are wracked by the abysmal and nearly ineffable violent intolerance that immediacy (naivete, faith, the differenceless resolution of all things into a lukewarm bath of unthinking subjective plasm) has for conscious ego (articulation, logic, formulated theories/concepts/ideologies), and vice versa:  this Kulturkampf makes the whole society like a patient suffering from autoimmune conditions, one system in him having reacted biochemically with another (antigens generating antibodies). But all immediacy or soulish psyche is laced with the predisposition to develop into conscious ego regardless of also being liable to react against its fully formed character.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, love, emotions, stability, and self-mastery

Love is not a mystical or idealized relation, it is an utterly "natural" expression of self-harmonic and self-mastering individuals, but for just that reason it is something tragically, utterly, beyond being "naturally possible" for the vast majority of humans whose characters are bereft of such values and imperatives and self-subtilizing culture.  In most cases, as Nietzsche observed, all that happens between humans is that two animals find one another, and that can never be a stabilizable relation because feelings and desires (appetites) are of all experiences the most mercurial and fluctuating.  Nothing like a human life can be erected on such a foundation of constantly eroding sand; emotions, needs, feelings, will be there in every kind or form of life, but they will not have at all the same kinds of authority, power, significance, or structured role to play.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, spirit, and ego

Spirit's fundamental "activity" or "masculinity" is profoundly different from the activity or masculinity of merely finite individuals, because this activity must be infinite, overreaching and incorporating what is other than it:  spirit from its side is not an "other" to ego, regardless of how ego may see or react to it.  Spirit's activity has to be understood as always-absorptive, always-open to what is less active (unlike the masculinity and activity of mere conscious ego, which is finite or finitizing and thus bound to repel what is other than itself).  Self-enclosing or self-hardening spirit is finitizing "spirit," i.e. ego somehow masked or mistaken for spirit.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, love, yin yang, interdependence, and spirit

The Feminine element achieves "domination" dialectically by means of submission (the very opposite of domination i.e.), thus becoming the vital factor by permitting the union or yoking of the two to take place, and the Masculine element likewise achieves its self-assertion only by grace of submitting to what the Feminine alone can do:  they ascend to a new kind of life or activity "as a whole" through their passivization or subordination as subcomponents.  They are "members one of another," wholes through their interactive (con-crete or grown-together) differences.  Two forms of self-supersession take place, two dialectical ways of qualifying the one-sidedness of each principle:  for each strives to be or become "the whole" and can only do so under the terms of the other's specific identity.  Any relation in which one finite personality is merely subdued or absorbed by or reduced to another finite personality is not spiritual and is not love:  it may be infatuation, it may be cult of personality or charisma, it may be domination (for the sake of or not for the sake of exploitation), but it lacks the full dialectical dynamics of spirit.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, soul, faith, consciousness, and spirit

Most world-religions are far more soulish than spiritual; all that are spiritual (devoted to self-transcendence, to extraordinary insight and self-transfiguring forms of self-understanding and self-responsibility) are so to the extent they strive to raise worldly and "objective" consciousness up into the realm of spiritual significance and activity, not just repel or dissolve it as soul generally does.  But what can spirit do for soul itself, in its myopia and pathos and subhistorical sloth?  Buddhism is to some a questionable "religion," lacking any cult of divinity, but it is unquestionably a spiritual "faith" (in terms of all that ego or soul can comprehend about faith, Zen is really a faithless or contentless faith):  Zen is entirely about trying to cure consciousness of its attitudinal and presuppositional entanglements with the thingly and habituated world, and to elevate consciousness into a more infinitized spirituality that is conscious of its own self-activity from a more comprehensive and less self-prepossessed point of view.  Soul one might say is more imperfectly infinite than spirit, because soul tends to abolish the ego-consciousness that it absorbs or overwhelms, reducing its particularizing structure to pure sublime feeling (immediacy); but spirit is more successfully infinite than soul, even though also more difficult and abstruse, because it digests the functions of consciousness into itself and thus preserves and deploys the senses and intelligence of conscious ego to higher ends.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, values, principles, individualism, self-development, modernity, and culture

The fallacy of modern atomistic individualism is of course not just our "tabula rasa" self-deception but also our ego-mythical "social contract":  if every member of modern society is supposed autonomously and privately to think through for himself the most vital and fundamental (normative, evaluative, principled) issues of his life -- i.e. to undertake primal self-formation utterly on his own and outside the purview of parents/peers/education/media etc. -- then of course the vast majority will never advance past point A or B, whatever is most obvious, blatant, and simplistic.  Expecting moderns to be radically "self-creative" when their culture systematically strips them of all concrete cultural content that might act as soulish or spiritual alphabets, is expecting fleas to jump when their legs have been cut off.  Ex nihilo nihil fit, out of nothing nothing is going to get produced:  humans require raw materials, they require means and tools and techniques and instructions as well as a repertory of ends, principles, values, teleological orientations, hierarchies of perspectives, etc..  If anyone wants to know where such an unholy and vast mass of aborted personalities came from in modern society (the modern Many), one virtually has to look no further than the vacuous or abstractivist code that deprives all of them of cultural traction and grit, and encourages their doulic lethargy and their banausic materialism.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, modernity, alienation, and ego

In matters of soul as also of spirit, we lapse into a domain where the mathematical and proprietary laws of non-contradiction and exact arithmetic units do not apply so simply:  friends or families or lovers may undergo a pathos of mutual alienation (a pathos that is most often a direct function of ego's unknowing or witless conscious self-assertions) that results in them becoming "isolated atoms" or "monads" once again, but that is not an argument that this reductivist state is somehow "more real" or "more ultimate" than their union was.  Disjunction is not "reality" and union mere "illusion."  The state of mutual repellency is just as much a product of subjective forces (modulations in soul and spirit that throw ego into a position of prominence or authority) as was the state of mutual tangency, diffusion or interpenetration.  Atomism or isolationism or alienation is an effect of the projective modalities of conscious ego, the way it "objectifies" something or someone to become "other" over against it (compare Hegel, the "awesome/awful power of the Negative" in ego).  Modern order, with its epidemic alienation, does not rest on a "real" or "natural" foundation of factual and objective concepts of human personality and acts of will; rather it enforces an obligatory normative regime of generalized and ambient negativity, like unleashed "electric" energy all having the negative charge intrinsic to the electron.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, soul, ego, and reality

Kafka's writings often display an insidious power to describe a wholly secular and "factical" world in which the eerie or "unheimlich" elements gang up behind or beneath the ego's awareness and immerse it in a waking dream of something Other, an alien world-order similar to ancient irrationalist cultures (in transition from primitivism to civilized mythos-culture).  This plays out as a viscous pitched battle of forms within oneself, a struggle of soul (as one's sense of a more encompassing order, an Infinite within which finite divisions are liquified and dissolved) wrestling with ego (self-defined as having its rights, identity, purposes, etc. entirely within the domain of the finitized and "rationalized" world-order), thus for one of them to become the overarching power within the psyche.  In modernity the language and culture and worldview of ego (abysmally banausified and "secularized" as bourgeois ordinariness) are coterminous with "reality" itself, and reality cannot be understood or experienced any way other than egologically (so soulishness has to be gratified or nourished by horror films, mass-rock concerts, mega-churches, if not by alcoholic or narcotic stupors).

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, self-interest, psychoanalysis, and motives

When we analyze or diagnose or psychoanalyze people's motives (e.g. in politics or in reading a mystery novel or decoding some everyday remark), we are trying to puzzle out not just the tangle of emotions or interests that lie all on the same plane, but also the priority or hierarchy of different species of motive and interest:  cui bono? i.e. what element or organismic subsystem in his psyche ultimately benefited from his behavior or his ploy?  Differently put, the contents of experience and self-expression "differ" from one another not just qualitatively but also ordinally, in terms of their ranking or determinative power over one another.  

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, science, essence, mediocrity, and modernity

Modern science, e.g. Darwinism etc., has a profound and nearly (to itself) unutterable metaphysical fallacy in terms of which it tries to think:  all law is to it inherently extrinsic, there is no kind of intrinsic or essential or "internal" lawfulness as such (and therefore there is no demand, no place and no tolerance for attempts to think essentially, intrinsically, in a cultured and self-reflective or profoundly critical/a-priori way).  Extrinsicalism has made both "science" and "capitalism" into exoteric and pedestrian pursuits in which one not only does not have to be any kind of extraordinary genius, but it may well be a preeminent advantage to be a mediocrity, to have as little culture and depth and critical strategy as possible.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

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