Notes on “Game B: A Dark Renaissance Response w/ Alexander Bard, Cadell Last, Owen Cox, and Raven Connolly”
Points, thoughts, and the like on a response to Game B.
An Initiation to Game B premiered at The Stoa on Jan 17, 2022, and since then has inspired widespread discussion and debate. For those who have not seen it yet, the original video can be found here:
Davood Gozli recorded a great reflection on it, and I’ve enjoyed reviewing the threads which have popped up across the internet.
“A Journey to GameB” by Jim Rutt is a great read, and I would also suggest reviewing a number of Mr. Rutt’s videos on the subject. I would also applaud giving the follow-up discussion at the The Stoa a listen between Mr. Rutt, Jordan Hall, Tyson Yunkaporta, and Daniel Schmachtenberger, which can be found here:
Here, I would like to share some notes I jotted down while watching a response to Game B by Alexander Bard, Cadell Last, Owen Cox, and Raven Connolly. You can find that discussion here:
Michelle and I recently enjoyed a “family symposium” with Raven and Cadell, and this discussion on Game B felt very appropriate, given what we discussed (of note is the idea that a philosophy which cannot be storied well is one we should be suspicious of, for this suggests its inability to undergo “concretion,” as Hegel discussed). Also, Dr. Last published today a magnificent Substack article on the discussion, which can be found here:
Yesterday, Alexander Bard, Owen Cox, Raven Connolly and I entered The Stoa to respond to the video/ dialogos around…
I really liked how Dr. Last framed the discussion around Game A and Game B, where he opened with the following:
First, to set the scene, I want to offer two quotes. The first is a definition of Game B from Peter Limberg, and the other a definition of the Dark Renaissance from myself. According to Limberg, Game B (inclusive of its relation to Game A) is:
“Game A is the collective game that the world is playing, that will come to an end, if we continue to play it, we will self-terminate as a species, Game B is a new game, that we don’t know what it looks like, but their is a glimpse or a sense of what it could be.”
In contrast, the Dark Renaissance is:
“The Dark Renaissance is a broader potential artistic, philosophical and religious movement which seeks to reveal, affirm, confront, transform the more disturbing aspects of the human condition as the only way to organize society truthfully.”
These two definitions are not necessarily in a zero-sum competition. However, there are some dimensions of the narrative structure of Game B, which from my point of view, need serious philosophical reflection and reorientation, in light of the ideas of the Dark Renaissance.
The first is that — and as I would like to make clear is my main point — that the very logical structure of “Game A versus Game B” is itself problematic as a starting point. This sets up thinking for an ideological trap. We often set up simplistic narratives and oppositions, whether consciously or unconsciously, to bring thinking to an end in an impossibly clear and certain identity.
That last paragraph is one I couldn’t agree with more, and I’m highly tempted to quote Dr. Last’s entire article, because it is just so magnificent. However, I’ll do my best to limit myself:
The A versus B structure is simply too simple:
Game A = bad, i.e. you are parasitized, competitive, far-from-equilibrium, separated, exclusive, rivalrous, dominating, lead to certain death
Game B = good, i.e. you are non-parasitized (wise/wisdom centers open?), cooperative, thriving, whole, no longer excluding or dominating or rivalrous
What if we are all parasitized from within? What if we cannot get rid of competition? What if our society is inherently far-from-equilibrium? What if separation, exclusion, rivalry, domination and death are features of our existence, and not bugs-in-the-Game-A-machine?
For me, this point Dr. Last is making recalls the difference between Keynes, Marx, and Alfred Marshall (Classic School of Economics). Keynes considered Marx “a Game B,” per se, but Marshall represented a Game A which viewed Game A as “self-correcting” and in need of no aid or intervention. Keynes represented a “middle way,” and though he cherished the moral impulses of Socialism (which he treated as distinct from Marxism), he ultimately felt both were problematic. To quote Robert Skidelsky’s biography:
‘Keynes emphatically rejected socialism as an economic remedy for the ills of laissez-faire. Its doctrines were ideological, obsolete, irrelevant, inimical to wealth-creation, and likely to involve gross interferences with individual liberty.’¹
‘[…] his conviction, rooted in analysis, [was] that capitalism was not sick but unstable.’²
I am not saying that I myself am a Keynesian (I try to explain myself in “On Demand”), but I find a needed element of the discussion the possibility of thinking that “Game A is unstable and requires dialectical thinking,” versus “the failures of Game A prove the need for Game B.” For me, Keynes suggests something A/B, and he was profoundly aware of the difficulty of replacing “the pricing mechanism” without causing widespread devastation (hence his skepticism of Marxism and Socialism, even though both he and Hayek saw possible virtue in something like universal healthcare — neither were simple thinkers).
Anyway, I appreciated how Raven opened The Stoa discussion noting how difficult it is to produce work like the Game B video, and how she expressed gratitude for its role in stimulating discussion. I can certainly confirm from experience that writing short stories, producing videos, etc. is very difficult, and it’s hard to work say five years on something only to have people talk about everything wrong with it. Hence a reason why I appreciated the following section in Dr. Last’s essay:
‘We are not here saying that the basic motive or desire of Game B is inherently wrong. Not at all. We as a species really are approaching global problems that may involve self-terminating dimensions. However, we are saying that there needs to be deeper self-reflection, deeper recognition of paradox, to raise the possibilities that we cultivate the form of knowing to enter a new world.’
I think that is perfectly put, and I’m of the impression that intellectual moves like this is what Derrida hoped to accomplish with his work (though I fear he failed to adopt Hegel’s epistemology). As Dr. Last teaches on so brilliantly at his YouTube page, I think the real problems highlighted by Game B can indeed only be addressed through Hegelian and dialectical thinking. This means that Dr. Last is correct that ‘the very logical structure of Game A vs Game B is problematic,’ and everything he wrote on the ideological and temporal structure of Game B was awesome. Again, please do see his Substack.
Anyway, I jotted down some notes, fragments, and points that I thought I would share, though they will only make sense in the context of “The Dark Renaissance” discussion (which, again, I highly suggest):
1. Raven brilliantly notes that Game B is missing conflict in either the form of violence or sex, which means it is missing plot. When plot and conflict are missing, there is reason to assume that ideology is ubiquitous.
2. If humans are indeed inherently hierarchical (Louis Dumont), sexual (psychoanalysis, biology, etc.), lacking (Hegel, Gödel), etc., then any system which cannot “channel” these realities into a constructive manner will be a system that has to fight them, and human realities always win.
3. To emphasize: a system which can only work by telling humans to change their drives and nature will fail. The trick is to figure out how to channel those drives and nature into a constructive direction which takes seriously mythos, logos, and pathos (to use Bard’s excellent language). So far, if we accept the thinking of people like Hayek and Keynes, “the price mechanism” seems to be our best system for doing this (it is important, I think, to discuss “price mechanisms” versus Capitalism: the word “Capitalism” to too loaded now). Unfortunately, in line with Leopold Kohr’s Breakdown of Nations, the price mechanism might be broken…
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4. Art is a unique glimmer into the horizon of the human (as argued by Gadamer), so the fact the art of Game B is “x way” suggests the ideology is also “x way.” This suggests the wisdom of Raven and Owen to critique “the art” of Game B, and I couldn’t help but think of Story by Robert McKee. In that masterful text, McKee discusses Archplots, Miniplots, and Antiplots. Archplots are more traditional and can generally be associated with “The Hero’s Journey,” and it is Archplots which tend to be most successful at the box office. The following graphic can be useful:
McKee contrasts Archplots with Miniplots and Antiplots, and notes that the more a story moves from the top of the triangle to a lower corner, the smaller the audience will become. That doesn’t Miniplots or Antiplots are bad — not at all — it simply means less people will “get them.” Considering this, if Game B is more Miniplot, for example, this might suggest a limited number of people will “get it” or be “helped by it.” This alone doesn’t prove Game B is bad or something, but if Game B is supposed to scale, it will likely have to take into account a more “traditional plot,” per se, which means it will have to take into account pathos (because the majority will likely not deal with pathos through Hegel’s “Phenomenological Journey,” as Dr. Last discusses and as will be expanded on). Archplots focus profoundly on “the problem of pathos,” while films toward the bottom of the triangle generally focus on plots without it. Again, that doesn’t mean the films are bad, but they might struggle to scale. “Scaling” is the tough problem, I think.
To highlight two points from McKee that I think every system must take into account (seeing as story reflects our minds):
‘Most human beings believe that life brings closed experiences of absolute, irreversible change; that their greatest sources of conflict are external to themselves; that they are the single and active protagonists of their own existence’³
‘Classical design is a mirror of the human mind.’⁴
I personally see McKee’s work as critical for philosophers to take seriously, but that is another topic for another time…
5. What Cadell said on temporal structure, ideology, and falling into history was critical, as also was magnificent the point that most philosophical ideas are manifestations of “intimacy” and efforts to avoid it.
6. If conflict is creative, can Game B create?
7. Following Hayek, the price mechanism can channel pathos into bringing about a non-zero-sum outcome (though not necessarily). Conflict and drives (“pathos”) cannot be changed or erased, and thus must be “directed.” If a new “game” is to be serious and adult, it must explain how pathos can be directed toward making a world where toilets work and houses are heated (for example). To put this another way, the work must be a place where pathos helps us overcome the reality that “nobody knows how to make a pencil” (to allude to Leonard Read).
8. The point Cadell made that civilization arose in response to nature for a reason cannot be overstressed. Personally, I can’t help but think that if hunting and gathering was so great, people would have kept hunting and gathering…
9. Vegetarianism is a sign that totalitarianism is nigh because there is a refusal to face pathos — A nice and ironic point from Alexander Bard.
10. I agree that generationalism is a major problem, yet all people today seem to discuss is sexism, racism, nationalism…
11. “Where is human sacrifice in Game B?” — Great question from Owen.
12. “Pathos signaling” — An interesting phrase from the audience.
13. On the idea the masculine holds the feminine so she can look into the void — Excellent point from Raven that makes me think of Freud’s association of “hysteria” with “truth” (which suggest any association of “masculinity” and “rationality” is an association of masculinity with self-deception, do note).
14. Will Game B corroborate with Game A or compete? If corroborate, how will Game B not “enable” Game A? If Game B must compete, how will Game B not be Game A? (How will Game B overcome Game A if it doesn’t ultimately beat it?)
15. In his work, I appreciate the emphasis Mr. Jim Rutt places on forming society around children, but another noteworthy dimension of “the market” is that it figured out how to imperfectly but often effectively “channel” pathos in the direction of helping create stable environments for children. If childcare is provided, but pathos not addressed, whichever benefits childcare provides will likely be effaced by the unchanneled pathos. Again, pathos cannot be erased, only channeled, and a system that doesn’t direct it toward productive ends will thus leave pathos to channel itself. The chances of this being destructive are high.
16. The idea of the price mechanism is not to fight or resist human nature, hoping it will change, but to “go with the flow” and use its force and energy “in and for it” (perhaps like some forms of martial arts). More incredibly, the energy of pathos is used to provide people with bottled water and basic necessities, all while making pathos feel address and honored. For Game B to work, it will have to do something similar: if I cannot feel like my pathos, logos, and mythos are addressed while I work at a conveyor belt company, then the system will likely fail.
17. Please do not think I am a strong supporter of Capitalism: my concern is that I am not convinced we need Game B versus just fix Game A (a view which could be seen as more Keynesian). For example, whether than try to create a Game B (which could “unbound pathos” in horrible ways), we might first try to…
B. Reform intellectual property rights to keep the artifex from being captured by corporations.
D. End Federal Reserve policies like “the Greenspan Put” which enable business entities to scale to a state where they become “too big to fail,” as is rational and self-destructive. This also leads to “MAD Capitalism” and mixed market rationality.
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E. Bind “the tradeoff of wages for hours” which causes an increase in the value of assets at the expense of income, which contributes to wealth inequality (as discussed in Piketty, though McCloskey’s critiques of him are powerful).
Trading Wages for Hours
(Essay) Beneficial and Detrimental Inflation and the Risk of an Indeterminable Point
F. Breakdown the “healthcare networks” so that healthcare providers don’t have practical monopolies.
And so on. All of these are examples of “repairing Game A” to make it more “non-zero sum,” versus replacing Game A with Game B. Perhaps “reform” is ultimately all Game B wants to do (bringing to mind how Luther didn’t originally seek “a hard break” from Catholicism), which would entail keeping “the infrastructure” of Game A with some systemic fixes and adjustments of human values. In other words, perhaps we need Game B to be more Keynesian than Marxist? Hard to say…
Modern Capitalism is indeed worthy of critique, for it does indeed prove ineffective where there are monopolies. Considering this, the effort of Game B is justified, and I think it is problematic that Modern Capitalism (Corporatism, Banktocracy — we can call it many things) seemingly tries to contain pathos with deterrence, “too big to fail”-logic, and other methods which, if they fail, the consequences will prove dire.
18. To take pathos seriously is to take human ontology and epistemology seriously, which indeed seems A/B versus A/A. Again, any system which ignores, tries to change, etc. our A/B-ontology is doomed (as Dr. Last and Hegel have warned).
On “A is A”
(Essay) The Logic and Ontology of “ ‘A/(A-isn’t-A)’ is ‘A/(A-isn’t-A)’ (without B)”
19. It’s another topic, but I fear that the disconnect of literature and economics from philosophy is a reason why philosophy lost psychoanalysis (and in fact I think there is “proof” in literature and economics that philosophy today must indeed be psychoanalytical). As Bard noted, futurology must be philosophical, but philosophy cannot even be itself without taking seriously pathos, mythos, and logos. Without these three, philosophy is “non-dialectical thinking,” which means thinking becomes non-thinking — an effacement which might take the world with it, precisely at the moment when we think the world is saved.
20. I liked the movement Bard described from naïve nihilism to cynical nihilism, and finally affirmative nihilism. That was excellent.
21. The question on if marriage arises primarily from a desire to “sexually own” someone, or if it arises in response to the reality of childrearing, the biological fact that “your sperm and my egg” gave rise to this child (and thus we are responsible for the child and by extension have responsibilities to one another), is utterly critical.
22. From Cadell’s article:
This form of knowing is a form of knowing that cannot “jump to the end” with the vision of a “utopian wholeness”, but rather must “tarry with the thing”, which is the same thing as saying it must “work contradiction of its present moment”. What is essential here is that this tarrying with and working contradiction involves the irreducibility of intimate social reality. The typical intellect, the type of intellect that sets up Game A vs. Game B dynamics, does this precisely to avoid the irreducibility of intimate social reality, where we find the irreducibility of A=B.
It should be noted that this is very similar to the thinking of Hayek, who basically argues that top-down social planning is impossible and dangerous (because we cannot know the most optimal and rational outcome ahead of time): rather, Hayek would have us create the conditions in which the societies which people want can “emerge.” He argues:
‘[Humanity] will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.’
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1974
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1974 was awarded jointly to Gunnar Myrdal…
This seems to be a critical point of Hayek’s “The Pretence of Knowledge” Noble Prize speech, where he suggests society is a garden, and the best we can do is provide and maintain the conditions for the seeds to grow on their own. This is perhaps exactly what Game B hopes to do, and if so, that’s divine.
For more on Hayek, please see “The Knowledge Problem” by O.G. Rose.
23. The problem of society is the question of how to manage people with different ideologies so that they don’t kill one another. Considering this, will Game B only work if everyone believes in Game B?
24. Javier Rivera reflected on the role of nature, as depicted in the original Game B video, and he made points with which I myself resonate. In his reflection, Rivera’s highlights Zizek’s point that nature isn’t nice (to put it nicely).
When God told man to have “dominion over the earth” in Genesis, it was at a time when nature had dominion over humanity, which is to say that nature was in control (and by a wide margin). God commanded humans to do something that seemed impossible, but somehow humanity survived the task. When we read Genesis now though, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight, because it feels like we could dominate nature with ease. This isn’t exactly true, but, all the same, it’s important to remember the context in which Genesis was originally read. Humanity was David, and Nature was Goliath, and, for thousands of years, we ran.⁵
There are depictions of Nature as kind and harmless, and it is often argued that we find happiness when we learn to live in harmony with Nature. I myself live in a rural setting, and I personally can attest to the reality that living around Nature has incredible benefits. At the same time, Nature can be rough. Animals eat animals. Storms destroy forests. Winter freezes the elderly. It can sometimes seem like our relationship to nature is a Stockholm Syndrome, for we cannot live without it, so why not love her? What happens to Nature happens to us, but if tomorrow humanity was to vanish off the earth, Nature would yawn. Indeed, destroying the ozone layer would damage Nature immensely, but a billion years from now, it might be like nothing happened at all. For now, it seems like we have the upper hand, but from a different framing, Nature has dominion over us. She has far more time, and she is far more resilient.
We aren’t going to destroy Nature. She will win. Even if we nuke the earth (perhaps as Nature watches from Mars), the planet is billons of years old, and a billion years from now, it will likely be like nothing happened at all. This is important to realize, because I think our thinking can be hurt and hindered when we seriously worry about “destroying Nature” as a valid possibility. It is not: the problem is that we could destroy Nature in a way that also destroys us. That might seem like a technical detail of no value, but I would submit that it changes the focus from trying to “save Nature” to “trying to live with Nature.” Yes, many people in Game B mean this, but I think the point is worth drawing attention to in order to clarify it. Our mission is not one of salvation and heroism but tradeoffs and tragedy.
Yes, it’s terrible to fill the atmosphere with pollution, but without pollution, we might not have heating in the winter, and nature will freeze us to death. Notice this point: we do something that hurts nature (pollution) in order to survive nature (winter). This is the strange situation we must live with: if we don’t eat food, our bodies will kill us; if we don’t use the forests to build houses, the wolves of the forest will eat us at night. We didn’t ask to be “thrown” into a world where we must eat and where we cannot survive the winter outdoors, but here we are, doing our best. And faced with this “thrownness,” society has developed accordingly, trying to find a delicate balance between surviving nature and not damaging nature so much that we end up killing ourselves. Out of this paradox and tension, Game A emerged, and efforts we now call “destroying nature” without much thought are often more so efforts to “hold her back.” She’s after us, after all.
The discussion on building the future needs to be tragic. Nature is not our friend or our enemy; she lives. If to save nature and ourselves we all stop using fossil fuels, in the winter, nature will repay us by freezing us to death. This is “the nature” we have to learn to live with and that Game B is correct that ignoring could prove Apocalyptic. Nature is our mother, and our mother will eat us. It is tragic for parents to outlive their parents, but only we weep.
Javier followed up his first reflection on Game B with another on “scapegoating humanity,” which I also enjoyed:
Sometimes, it can be suggested that if humanity didn’t exist, all would be right with the world, that humanity is the reason the world is falling apart. For me, this is “scapegoating humanity,” and after we take into account Javier’s “Hegelian move” on how humanity is part of Nature, this means Nature is scapegoating part of itself. This is always the case though: scapegoating in society is always society scapegoating “the other” part of society, as scapegoating Nature is scapegoating “the other” part of her. Scapegoating is an act of fragmentism (“sacrifice”), isolationism, and “othering” to paradoxically maintain wholeness. Considering this, the moment we start talking about humanity as “not part of Nature,” creating a dichotomy of “man vs nature,” we’re already one big step toward making the mistake about which Girard admonished us. For humanity has been “othered” from Nature, and that means a scapegoat dynamic is possible.
Now, it should be noted that we can scapegoat Nature just as much as Nature can scapegoat us, blaming all our problems “on the world” versus taking responsibility for them. This is why I think Javier is correct that we need to focus on “learning to live with ourselves.” That seems to be a very big part of this conversation, for as discussed in “The Four Arrows,” the more a system “scales,” the more “learning to live with A/B versus A/A” will prove absolutely necessary.
“The problem is that people cannot love themselves (as A/B versus A/A)” (to paraphrase) — I think Javier put that very well. In my view, this is an emphasis of the Dark Renaissance, whereas some Game B thinkers might say that “we cannot love ourselves because we don’t have the right environment” (I’m not sure). There might be truth to this, and so perhaps we are dealing with a “nature/nurture debate?” Perhaps, and I think there is something to be said about “nurturing nature” so that we have better natures, as Game B notes. But how we do this radically shifts relative to if we think Nature is kind, indifferent, or “tragic.” Regardless, “dealing with ourselves” is part of the equation, a challenge which any and all “othering” will only inhibit our capacity to overcome.
24. I was very glad to see Parallax hosting a discussion with Mr. Jim Rutt on Game B, where Mr. Tom Amarque asked some of the questions I wanted to ask Mr. Rutt myself:
I appreciated the distinction between “complicated and complex,” as well as the clarification that Game B is a response to the reality that a single solar flare could bring our entire world crashing down. If the power grid went out, if a worse pandemic hit — would we be ready for it? Probably not, and to think of Game B as working to prepare for this reality is a framing I much prefer to other framings, such as the ones which stress avoiding competition, harmony with Nature, and the like, not because these are bad things, but because (in my view, right or wrong) they can fail to be tragic enough.
Could we associate Game B with an effort to create an “Antifragile Society,” alluding to Nassim Taleb? I’m not sure if Game B is striving to be “robust” or “antifragile,” but either way is valid. Where there is increasing complexity, there is increasing fragility and higher likelihood of “black swan events” which cause incredible suffering and trouble, all of which suggests the need to make “complexity antifragile.” But by definition, complexity increases fragility and risk — is “Antifragile Complexity” even possible? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If Game B is in the business of trying to find out, I think that is a respectable effort, for we are indeed at great risk.
Jim Rutt’s acknowledgment that Game A helped end poverty for millions of people was great to hear (again, Deirdre McCloskey does good work on this). I was also very glad to hear that Jim Rutt is approaching Game B with a mindset of social experimentation that is more Federalist versus top-down, with many small experiments on different ways of running communities, businesses, and the like. It was also nice to hear him say that if they fail, they fail. If Game B is indeed in the business of seeking Antifragility, that is an experimentational effort I can support, given the radical fragility of our complex society, as Mr. Rutt suggests is a main motivation for the project.
At the same time, I sympathize strongly with the question Mr. Amarque asked on if it might be better to just leave everything alone. This point brings to mind Fredrich Hayek again and his Noble Prize Speech on “The Pretence of Knowledge,” which questions the very possibility of “social planning” at all. As Dr. Sowell explains Hayek’s thought:
‘…if no one has even one percent of all the knowledge in a society — in the larger sense in which many different kinds of knowledge are consequential — then it is crucial that the other 99 percent of knowledge, scattered in small and individually unimpressive amounts among the population at large, be allow the freedom to be used in working out mutual accommodations among the people themselves.’⁶
No one can possibly know everything that needs to be known to make a society work, and therefore it’s best just to leave it alone and let people decide for themselves what is best (a point expanded on in “The Knowledge Problem” by O.G. Rose). This is Hayek’s argument, which I find very powerful, though a process of gradual experimentation like Mr. Rutt mentioned would help mitigate this problem. Also, I think trying to solve “the knowledge problem” is justified given how fragile Game A is because of its complexity.
Personally, I find the arguments of Hayek the most difficult to account for, arguments which become more difficult to address the greater “the scale” and size of the new social order. However, I think efforts to try to design new social systems despite Hayek are understandable given “the radical fragility of complexity found in Game A,” even if ultimately the effort fails (as Mr. Rutt noted could occur). This argument is expanded on in “The Four Arrows,” and I want to stress that I think the likelihood Game B could succeed is relative to how seriously Game B takes the concerns of The Dark Renaissance, which for me means that Game B must start with the realities of sex, birth, and death (as the DR has stressed). It is from this “trinitarian foundation” that religions and societies have been formed since the dawn of time, and arguably they are the most difficult and complex realities of all. So far, only Game A has given us a means by which to “live with” them, and even if it is true Game A is failing us regarding resources, equality, and the environment, it does not follow from this that therefore some other Game must work. For me, this is why the question on if we should reform Game B or replace it is so critical.
25. As the portfolio of a photographer is only as good as its worst image, the quality of a system is only as good as its worst failure.
Collaboration is something everyone talks about (perhaps because they know they should), only for collaboration to turn out to be a source of pain and hardship once the idea becomes “concrete” (to allude to Hegel). What happens in collaboration is a version of what happens in marriage: people who are excited about something find out that it is purgatory, which is to say it is a space of great training and difficulty for the sake of “elevating us” to a higher state. To be vague, I would argue that this “elevated state” can be associated with Hegel’s “Absolute Knowing” (or A/B), which Dr. Last explores well in his work.
A “dream community” combines work, love, family, and the like, and arguably we all perhaps subconsciously want something like “a dream community” (hence perhaps why “Heaven” and “Platonic” realms are often sought), but the catch is that assuring a community becomes “Heavenly” versus “Hellish” requires all members to be in touch with Absolute Knowing (A/B), and that requires for each member to have gone through “the Purgatory” of what Dr. Last describes in Hegel as “The Phenomenological Journey.” If it is the case that not everyone can handle this, that the possibility of “a community of Absolute Knowing” (or what I’ll call “Absolute Community”) is inherently for a minority, then that means “at scale” we will require systems which can manage and direct pathos toward constructive ends. This is no easy accomplishment, and I believe is a significant concern of economists like Marx, Hayek, Keynes, Marshall, and so on.
Though some descriptions of Christian theology describe heaven and hell as separate (as “A vs B”), there are other understandings of both Heaven and Hell being located “in God” (after all, if “God is everything,” there must be something about Hell which is God). If I understand Dante correctly, God is Heaven to “those who love God” and Hell “to those who hate God”: it is our relationship to God which determines if God is Heaven or Hell. Likewise, if it our relationship with ourselves and others which determines if community and collaboration are hellish or heavenly. Considering this and how God is “the Supreme Good,” we could have the best socioeconomic system imaginable, but if we “in” the system are not people of Absolute Knowing, the system could be hell precisely because of its potential for good. In Christian theology, because of a “disordered relationship” (versus being “in the wrong system”), it is the highest angel in “the best of all possible places” (heaven) who become Satan.
We often discuss “the problem of systems,” but not “the problem of people,” because we seem to think that “the right system” will fix people. This is a significant assumption, and I fear that there is very good reason not to believe it is so (we can see many economists as being in the business of “managing” this unsolvable problem). If A/B or Absolute Knowing was scalable, then the system which made that possible would indeed (“practically”) “solve the problem of people,” per se, by creating a scalable and widespread incubator of AK. But we have very good reason to think this is not possible (based on the raw and necessary difficulty of “The Phenomenological Journey”), and thus though small “Absolute Communities” are possible, beyond them, something else will be needed to deal with pathos. This is where “the pricing mechanism” comes in, a tragic system which accepts the unavoidability of the majority being controlled by pathos versus AK. Unfortunately, if indeed “the pricing mechanism” is broken or doesn’t apply to digital assets, we have a big problem…
Though it is another subject, Absolute Knowing is “the nonrational solution” needed to avoid Nash Equilibriums, “conflicts of mind,” “internally consistent systems,” etc., which emerge in individual lives when following “autonomous rationality.” What I mean by this is discussed extensively with Dr. Lorenzo Barberis Canonico, who basically works on how neurodiversity and collective intelligence can be used in service of incubating Absolute Knowing.
Neurodiversity Overcomes Rational Impasses and Stops Eugenics
Is neurodiversity the best way to escape Nash Equilibriums?
I also spoke recently with John David and Davood Gozli on Benjamin Fondane, who can also be associated with “nonrationality.”
But to be very general: without Hegel’s “dialectical thinking,” we end up stuck between “rationality and irrationality,” which means we cannot avoid Nash Equilibria. We need “nonrationality, rationality, and irrationality” — all three — to avoid ending up in “suboptimal results.” Unfortunately, if only a minority of people will incorporate “nonrationality” into their thinking, then only a minority can participate in Absolute Communities; for the rest, a system like the price mechanism will be needed to manage “pathos” (which requires “nonrationality” to be directed into AK). But what if Corporatism and/or the Banktocracy has ruined “the pricing mechanism?” Then we are in trouble, which suggests why I am very open to the question on if we need to “replace Game A” or “reform Game A.” The debate is critical.
If Absolute Communities cannot scale, then a system which “channels” pathos in productive and constructive manners is necessary, and this is the role of “the pricing mechanism.” No, Modern Capitalism doesn’t do this well, hence the need for “reform” as mentioned above, but my point is that the very fact Absolute Communities “practically” cannot scale is reason to think we should reform Game A versus create Game B. If it is indeed true that every system eventually becomes hellish without AK, then “the best possible system” will be one which makes room for Absolute Communities, while at the same time managing pathos on a larger scale “toward” productive and constructive ends (a model which sounds Federalist, though unfortunately Hegel came after Madison).
It’s another topic, elaborated on in Book Three of The True Isn’t the Rational, but all systems must ultimately prove incomplete. This alludes to the work of Kurt Gödel, but basically it means that “no map can be its territory,” and it is precisely at the point where “the map” is unveiled not to be “the territory” that we find the human standing with all his/her pathos, logos, and mythos. The human subject is why all systems are ultimately incomplete, which means what happens to the system is ultimately up to the human (“a flip moment”). So, if the human chooses to seek A/B and Absolute Knowing, the “essentially incomplete system” can practically (“as long as the human so practices it”) be “(in)complete,” which means the system or community “finds completeness in incompleteness,” a Hegelian state.
“The Gödel Point” (as I’ll call it) in which the human subject stands is precisely where we decide if the system or community is “hellish” or “heavenly.” Same system, as God can be Heaven/Hell based on the relation, but based on what we do and become in this Purgatory (this place/point of Hegel’s “Phenomenological Journey”), everything is defined and changed accordingly (and will seem as if it “always already” such, which is the strangeness of “flip moments”). This hints at the wisdom of Alex Ebert’s thinking on death and relations, because if in “The Gödel Point” we fail to accept death and prioritize the individual over relations, both “the map” and “the territory” will become cancerous and exclusive, which is to say we will die alone. The only way to make death good is to accept it.
Another way to put this is that “The Gödel Point” is where we decide if we will undergo “negation/sublation” or “effacement” (as described in “Negation Versus Effacement” ). “The Gödel Point” can be our “entrance way” into Absolute Communities or the beginning of our effacement if we do not design mechanisms for dealing with pathos at scale. If mechanisms today which deal with pathos are now failing, I am of the opinion that we should look to fix them unless Game B can replace these mechanisms with something better. That certainly might be possible, and my work with Anthony at Intrinsic Research Co. explores this possibility, but a possibility that never undergoes negation and concretion (following Hegel) is hardly even a possibility.
No system is “the right system” which lacks Absolute Knowing: all systems in which people are not A/B will eventually fail. Thus, in the end, we might ask: Are Absolute Communities scalable? Well, perhaps to the degree each individual engages in “The Phenomenological Journey.”
Will that be most of us?
¹Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2003: 371.
²Skidelsky, Robert. John Maynard Keynes. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2003: 437.
³McKee, Robert. Story. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1997: 62.
⁴McKee, Robert. Story. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1997: 62.
⁵Please note that I am aware of different interpretations of the word “dominion,” notably by Dr. Vigen Guroian, but I thought directly addressing the possibly erroneous interpretation of “dominion” was important in this context.
⁶Sowell, Thomas. Intellectuals and Society. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2009: 16.