A Nonfiction Book by O.G. Rose

The Introduction of Belonging Again II.1

O.G. Rose
20 min readMay 8, 2024

Addressing the Explanation

Photo by Sora Sagano

If we’re not going to seclude ourselves or engage in some exodus, we must find a way to achieve “rest” and “belonging” around others who are very different from us, and this is not “natural,” suggesting we will have to become “super-natural” or something — somehow. Belonging Again (Part I) explored possibilities like science, psychoanalysis, college, activism, religion, etc., and though I by no means want to claim that I exhausted all possibilities and angles, I hope to have at least shown that there are no easy roads left. Without a Transcendent, “God,” or X, it would seem our best hope for “belonging again” is isolationist, hence why we cannot readily claim some nations are “irrational” to have atomized so much. Furthermore, there is wisdom in a Buddhist meditation and practice through which we transcend the question of “belonging” entirely, as there is wisdom in a “benedict option” that seeks limited interaction with society (though what constitutes “too limited” or “overly-limited” might be difficult to determine). However, Part I suggested this could be to give up on Pluralistic, Modern Society, which ultimately might be what we must do, though this book explores ways we might maintain society today and forgo atomization. Basically, the question is if it might be possible for the majority to become “Nietzschean Children” and/or “Absolute Knowers” through the creation of a socioeconomic system or “field” that increases the probability Children emerge. If Part II fails, we might concede to something more isolationist.

As we’ve learned from Rieff, Hunter, and Berger, society needs both (therapeutic) “releases” and “restraints” (“yes” and “no”), and generally speaking, Conservatives have defended “restraints” more than “releases” while Liberals have defended “releases” more than “restraints.” Since both are needed, society emerges in a dialectic between the two, which if we’re “intellectually consistent” and “epistemologically responsible,” we easily won’t like or want. For society to exist in the space between “yes” and “no” is for society to be paradoxical, contradictory, and/or unstable, and this indeed is where society must exist. Naturally, we will want to stabilize society and so will probably and rationally conclude if we’re Conservative that there needs to be more “restraint,” while if we’re Liberal we’ll conclude there needs to be more “release.” Driven by rationality and a desire for existential stability (A/A), those on the Right and the Left will exist in a tension, out of which society will form. This has always been the case, long before our Secular Age, but thanks to Pluralism, tension has grown. Society has always been unstable, but the instability and Gödel-esq “incompleteness” was more “hidden” by (X-backed) community, character, ethics, and “givens,” keeping that instability from overwhelming us. But times have changed.

Cadell Last has reflected with Phenomenology of Spirit on how, in Hegel, there is a growing feeling of “increasing contingency,” of a need to accept “otherness” (A/B-ness over A/A-ness, to use language from The True Isn’t the Rational), which is to say that increasingly more people need to make an “Absolute Choice.” The role of “otherness” is most clear and profound in the layer of Religion in Hegel, and though there is little debate on the necessary role of all the stages before Religion, today people may feel that the Religious level can be replaced with something new, whether Communism, “Making America Great,” Transhumanism, etc., and furthermore they can feel like it must be replaced, suffering the anxiety and tension of encountering “others” (who believe they need to save the world from them). Where “givens” fail, hard choices must be made.

Cadell notes the concerns of Dr. Thomas Hamelryck, a scholar and expert on René Girard, who suggests, given what we learn from Girard, that we should be very careful to replace Religion, considering the power of Religion to make social orders possible, and also because it tends to be the case that people who seek to replace Religion may also seek something that builds and empowers the ego in problematic ways. If we cannot handle this challenge, it would perhaps be better not to replace Religion at all — but then as Belonging Again has argued, Religion has already been deconstructed and a choice already made. We cannot go back: the question is only if we can “negate/sublate Religion” or generate “a new Religion” which meets us in our current state, world, and predicament.

It is possible that most people cannot handle “Absolute Knowing,” which is to say they cannot integrate with “otherness” (A/B), and yet that would seem to be necessary now that Religion has been deconstructed. Following Girard, this means we are at risk of falling back into cycles of “mimetic desire” and “scapegoating,” for Religion helped stop those cycles of violence. No, Religion didn’t always prove so useful and even contributed to violence, but the point is that the removal of Religion is not something to be undergone lightly, and yet we seem to have “stumbled into” the act with little thought. Now, the cracks and breaks in Religion are so visible and undeniable that it is questionable if it can still function (and if it ever did function to help people gain “Absolute Knowing”), at which point a “New Philosophy” and “New Metaphysics” seem necessary, either to replace Religion or to mend Religion where it has proved cracking and breaking. Regardless though, I see no way to heal or replace Religion without “Absolute Knowing” and Childhood, which is to say there must be a growth of “Absolute Knowers,” “Deleuzian Dividuals,” and/or the like. This can open up discussions on “The Hegelianization of Nietzsche,” the role of “intrinsic motivation,” the need for “a return to common life” (Hume), and so on.

Pluralism and our Secular Age cause existential instability in numerous ways which cannot be reversed, and “restless,” we must live in a world where authoritarianism will have appeal. Importantly, the more Pluralistic and Secular the world becomes, so too the more appealing will be authoritarianism, and seeing as the trends of Pluralism and Secularism cannot be reversed, so neither can we reverse the growing appeal of totalitarianism. Can we make it unappealing for the majority, thus keeping the beast at bay? Perhaps, but that will require us to reverse a lot of bad habits: for too long we have viewed the tensions and instabilities of the world as a problem that could be solved versus an inherent condition of society which Pluralism and Secularism haven’t so much created as they have intensified (we have ignored Hegel’s Science of Logic…).

Viewing the tensions of Pluralism as accidental versus essential, we have often blamed the tensions on those who don’t think like us and concluded that removing those “others” was the key to “saving the/our world.” This has only worsened the tensions, which has ironically made us surer that “the other” must be removed. Our brains certainly don’t help: the brain hates instability, and arguably we think to give ourselves existential and psychological stability more so than to know truth, as evident by studies on Confirmation Bias, the Backfire Effect, and the like. To accept (inherent and essential) instability would be to accept what we seem biologically dispositioned not to accept but which Pluralism and Secularism have made increasingly undeniable; if this is the case, it is unlikely the majority will accept it without remarkable effort — effort that might be doomed.

To be human is to be organic and unpredictable, and in the Secular Age, there is a real sense in which we are less human: where there is a lack of “rest,” there is a lack of humanity, and so why there is legitimacy to the concerns of Aleksandr Dugin. We have lost community and the conditions in which a Bonhoeffer would be possible, and though this may mean we have also lost the possibility for a Hitler, I’m not so sure now that this is the case. This “tragic tradeoff” does not seem sufficient, simply because it doesn’t seem (as I’ve spoken to “Owen in the Agon” about, despite the claims of Francis Fukuyama) as if the Bourgeois Virtues can replace our need for Thymos. This will be explained later, but ultimately this “tradeoff” still might be what we must settle on if we cannot figure out how to “spread Childhood.” The other option is that we somehow take up Detachment and transcend the question of “belonging” altogether, but this I think would come at the cost of the socioeconomic order, technology, and Rhetoric. It might save us from Affliction, but we will not necessarily generate Attention.

A manifestation of the continuous legacy of toleration described by A.J. Conyers, Cosmopolitanism today lessens the authority and meaning of local communities (primarily through “inflation”) and moves identity and communal identification up “a larger scale,” from the local to the national and even the global (potentially making these identities increasingly abstract and alienating). In this environment, it would seem that “the banality of evil” is “too bad to happen,” for the State is “too big to fail,” but with this perhaps positive development, the likelihood for character to manifest is lessened if not gone. Is this the best we can hope for? That was suggested in Part I, but then it was also suggested that this option will not ultimately hold — our need for Thymos is too great and cannot be removed. Furthermore, no matter the successes of Eros, wealth, the Bourgeois Virtues, etc. (to allude to “A is A” by O.G. Rose), the brain always tries to make everything an “A = A” in a world where everything we are “toward” is an “ ‘(A isn’t A) is (A isn’t A)’ (without B)” (A/B). We naturally attempt what we cannot accomplish, eventually destabilizing us, which we can only address through numbness, totalitarianism, or Thymos. It is this last option we will consider, for Thymos and “spreading Childhood” are connected.

Modern Philosophy determined an objective and nonconditional “ground” for thought was impossible, and it is not by chance that Pluralism arose alongside Modern Philosophy. Does this mean we were in the wrong to ever have “givens” at all? History is not so simple, as we learn from Hegel, for we had to have “givens” to get started: if we were never “thrown” into anything, history would have never started, and there are certain beliefs that we must follow to arrive at a place where we can advance, even though from that new place we might look back and realize our steps were “errors” (which Hegel teaches us not to fear). For most of history we have lived where making explicit “the implicit background of a society” destroyed it; now, we must be the kind of people who can make “the implicit explicit” and not ruin it (like handling a spiderweb with our bare hands). There’s a sense in which “givens” were training-wheels in the process of becoming human, and now we must “belong” in what actually constitutes the human becoming. That is ultimately a paradox and “lack” as either an effect of “apophatic excess” or an “ultimate nothingness,” either of which bring negativity (for we can feel judged and inadequate in the presence of greatness), which means we must find “belonging in lacking,” which is for us “to be at home in a home that (be)comes” (we must find our fit in “(non)fitting,” “(non)being”). All of this requires “conceptual meditation.”

As an aside, and this point must be elaborated on later, especially when we focus on “lack” with the Lithuanian Free Market Institute and as I discussed with Guy Sengstock (perhaps in II.2), please note that to speak of a(n) “(essential) lack” is not necessarily to speak of “an essential nothingness,” for “lack is not nothing” (as stressed throughout O.G. Rose, notably A Philosophy of Glimpses). To channel Alex Ebert’s work, this is for the “lack” could be a product of us confronting a finitude (of ourselves) that is limited and so incapable of containing everything which is in excess of it (and hence it “lacks”) — all of this is what I have in mind when I speak of “the apophatic” or “a river-hole” (which will come up when we discuss Systems & Subjects by Cadell Last). This is a point of clarification I will not always make, so please keep it in mind as we move forward.

There is a debate being had between “Dialectical Materialism” and “New Materialism,” which we might frame as a debate between Žižek, Hegel, Lacan and Deleuze, and the precise way that “lack is part of reality,” as either “an apophatic excess” or “an ultimate nothingness,” is under consideration. I myself believe there are ways to think Deleuze and Hegel together (which will be a main concern of The Absolute Choice), but I also acknowledge that a danger of Deleuze and emphasizing “creative positivity” is that we do not do the work of facing “negativity” and “The Real,” as stressed by Lacan. This strikes me as a grave mistake, and yet at the same time I think we can associate Children with Deleuzian Dividuals. There seems to be a “Cheap Deleuzianism” and a “Costly Deleuzianism” (to allude to Bonhoeffer), and without Lacan the good of Deleuze seems to become pathological and problematic. At the same time, there also seems to be trouble if we take the “negativity” of Lacan and suggest it is part of the core of reality itself in an un-apophatic fashion (not that Lacan himself ever did this) — how do we avoid either of these mistakes? Indeed, that question will be a great concern of us throughout O.G. Rose, a problem which I think Alex Ebert can help us with later on…

Anyway, Bruce Alderman of The Integral Stage discusses how a key challenge today is creating a socioeconomic foundation for interdisciplinary and “shadow” work (as discussed by Ivan Illich), and he stresses that true diversity requires us to “accommodate differences without destruction.” Cadell similarly notes that an “Absolute Knower” and Child cannot “fit” into any “integrated whole” but instead learns to “integrate with (the) lack (of that whole)” and form networks with others who do the same (as Cadell puts it: ‘non-fitting elements can form networks that overlap in synergistic temporalities that are too complex for any integrated model but are nevertheless a type of conceptual integration that is impossible to represent,’ which is more like a “milieu” in the sense discussed by David McKerracher of Theory Underground) (we might also consider Deleuze and “the essential difference which belongs together” as another form of “belonging in not-belonging”). In one way, this is a tough development, but in another way it means we have approached truth, for a main hope of Part I was to show (with “The Conflict of Society”) that societies are “fundamentally incomplete,” in line with Kurt Gödel’s thinking (a move we will in this book extend to other fields, like economics). “Givens” hid this reality and were never actually substantive, only seemed such: their deconstruction is more like the vanishing of a mirage (“vanishing meditators”). We were always in need of “Absolute Milieus,” but “givens” helped us avoid that truth. No longer.

Philosophy is what follows from “true pluralism” — or so is the argument of O.G. Rose. In light of Hume and Hegel, philosophy leads to “Absolute Skepticism” and “Absolute Knowing,” which is the realization of “ultimate groundlessness,” which we then have to learn to live with and experience positively. For sociologists like Hunter and Rieff, the thinking of Hume and Hegel was becoming more of a sociological reality, and yet there is a lack of the skills needed to handle that reality, mainly philosophy itself. Where we fail to learn to live with “groundlessness,” this might be when we are most tempted to love Artificial Intelligence as like humans versus love AI as AI (to make one example of something which might transpire if we don’t “think groundlessness” well and master its artform). If we actually loved AI, that would be one thing, but it is very hard for us to love and not in the act of loving make the other “like us.” Love is possible because of difference, but love also works to erase that difference. This is a paradoxical tension we have to live with, and if we lose this tension with AI because we deny we love it, pathologies will easily develop — “True History” will cease.

If there is no possibility of “an ultimate ground” as traditionally understood, then this would also mean there is no possibility of “belonging” as traditionally understood, which is to say there is a real sense where being a Child is to learn to “find belonging in not belonging” (to instead “find belonging in a negation/sublation of belonging”). Cadell Last wrote a tremendous review of Belonging Again (Part I), and in it he asked if we might ‘see the dizzying complexity of our moment as something inherently masterful and beautiful [versus try] to become all-knowing masters as an unconscious response?’ We are to know our limits while also being open to the indeterminable (Absolute Knowers and Children), which means we must find belonging in the place ‘where we risk heart break.’ Cadell worded the central concern of Part I when he wrote:

‘What Belonging Again invites us to think, is what it would take to re-establish givens without recoiling back to traditional fundamentalisms. This is an important task and thinking path for young people today. That is precisely what we should be trying to think, if we want to consider ourselves worthy of the title ‘intellectual.’ ’

I agree, and what this suggests is what Cadell wrote, that we must never use philosophy ‘to avoid the burden and pain of thought. Indeed, without the burden and pain of thought, which brings one to the contradiction of one’s identity, is one even thinking at all?’ No, and failure to think this way (as we will explore) is for us to fall into Weil’s “Affliction,” A/A, and prove “neurotypical,” unable to move beyond “Rational Impasses”; as such, we will not be able ‘to think through belonging in a world of artificial intelligence, unregulated global capital, bioengineering, and cultural pluralism’ (to borrow again from Cadell). ‘Moreover, how are we to think through these dimensions when the large majority of individuals are not formally trained in the foundational philosophical thinkers, that may help us raise our minds to the intensities and complexities of the present moment?’ — indeed, Cadell has put his finger on the problem, which also suggests “the problem of scale.”

Despite the impossibility of “an ultimate ground,” adding to our problem, politicians constantly discuss the need for “a common ground.” This doesn’t exist (especially not without “givens”), and if it doesn’t that means power is involved, because it necessitates “common assumptions” about the nature of reality which someone must have posited, suggesting an imbalance of power. Where there is a “ground,” there must be a Big Other, and that means “the common ground” can serve to protect and empower those already in power. Well, where does that leave us? Conflict? No, it means we must seek “a common paradox.”

“Paradox” is often conflated with “logical contradiction,” but these are not the same: paradox is the strange reality that we understand cats with ideas that cats aren’t — how does that work? We are surrounded by paradoxes which are phenomenologically there: far from abstractions that have nothing to do with reality, we encounter paradoxes all the time. And paradoxes, being so common, can function as a universal experience (like death, sex, and birth have in religious identities and communities), but only if we can handle new, mentidivergent epistemologies in which paradoxes are provided space (A/B). This will not come naturally, and it will require us to respect and accept “nonrationality” — a new challenge.

Ever since the Enlightenment, we have genuinely sought epistemologies which center on Aristotle’s formulation of identity and logic as “A = A.” This is a very useful model, but it comes up short for helping us navigate difference, especially if things are “other,” as argued in Hegel’s Science of Logic. Things are “becoming-other,” and this being the case we must think more along “A = B” (or “A/B” to suggest a dialectic more than sameness). This is paradoxical, and around it an entirely different epistemology must be developed. What is this epistemology? Hopefully it is in the work of O.G. Rose, but a big thrust of it is tearing down dichotomies between “certainty and uncertainty,” conflations like of “the true and rational,” and so on. Lots of matters must be addressed, but the point is that a “common paradox” will require a new epistemology to think and handle. For indeed, thinking A/B (Attention, Rhetoric…) is existentially destabilizing, while A/A (Affliction, Discourse…) stabilizes.

Paradox is a reason why we need philosophy; if paradoxes didn’t exist, science would be enough. But the world is not something that can be understood simply with “A = A,” because the world is indeed more “A/B,” and that means paradox (or what in Hegel is called “contradiction,” sometimes confusingly) is part of being. And the experience of paradox can actually be a source of wonder. We learn from classic philosophers that philosophy starts in wonder, and in that way we can say that “a common paradox” can be “a common source of wonder.” This could unify difference without secretly hiding a Big Other, but gaining this will require us “dying to our A/A” and “conditioning” ourselves to handle anxiety. Can we? If not, then we might continue to assert the need for a “common ground” and continue to make little progress. We will not become Children. We will not “leave Plato’s Cave on our own,” for that allegory is fundamentally the description of a paradox. How do we leave on our own from somewhere in which the idea of there “being an elsewhere” seems impossible? This is a hard question, but we cannot even begin to approach it as a society until we all share the same “meta-terrain of lack.” This requires much — the deconstruction of Bestow Centrism; the “Absolute Choice” which identifies with “otherness”; the “return to common life” of Hume; a new “milieu” like the Cypher — and this is required at scale. Is this a historic period in which a “Global Milieu” is needed? Is such a thing possible? Is it a logical contradiction or only a paradox? We must try to find out.

Belonging Again (Part I) made the point that “meaning” and “belonging” are not necessarily identical, and that today it requires notable effort to assure they overlap. Again, we must be Children, and if we don’t realize that gaining “meaning” will not necessarily be the same as gaining “belonging” (in fact, it could make our situation worse), then we will perhaps not address our situation all while we think we address it “for good.” More than just a metaphysical meaning, we must develop skills, discernment, and commit to something. On the topic of skill, much today depends on our capacity to learn to live with and maintain “an unstable situation” which Pluralism and Secularism have made all the more unstable. It is very possible that our hunger to “belong again” may contribute to our failure to accept this instability, and rather than try to learn how to maintain it, we may focus our energies elsewhere, contributing to the breakdown of society and/or rise of authoritarianism. We may even deny a need for “belonging” as outdated, and in a way this is valid, for traditional sources of belonging were arguably not even really “belonging,” for they functioned through “givens” which ignored “the fundamental incompleteness” of society. However, if we feel off, uncertain, like we don’t know where we should be or where we should go…all of these suggest “a lack of belonging,” which is a lack of a sense of to what we should commit and arrange “the work and blood of our lives” (as “Part I” ended discussing). But what does it mean to commit to something in a world where everything is in flux? What does it mean to commit to something unstable? It means we are doing the Real work of “belonging,” available to us today in a deep and actual sense that before was not readily possible.

To ask about “belonging” is also to ask about “economic sustainability” and “social recognition” (as McKerracher often discusses), not for the sake of the ego but for the sake of not feeling like we’re doing something foolish or “deviant” (Ivan Illich). Many Liminal Web groups often discuss the difficulty of economic sustainably, and basically the point is that to talk about “belonging” is also to discuss how such enterprises might prove not only viable but appreciated as value-creating and socially important (in generating Rhetoric, “freeing speech,” drive, mentidivergence, and other topics we’ll explore). So it goes with Children in general: how might they “belong” in our world today, versus live on the outskirts? Now, in some respects, it can be good to “live on the outskirts,” for that can help Children avoid Deleuzian “capture” (by say “the logic of Capital”), but this can only prove “good’ to the degree it is sustainable and enabled to flourish. How might “incubators of Childhood’ come to have a recognized place in our world, which is to ask how those who engage in the work of Childhood might feel like they “belong (again)” (to regain what they might feel they lost as they’ve aged and worked, but not in a naïve or regressive manner)? In this way, we are asking a profoundly paradoxical question: “How can ‘aliens’ belong?” (to allude to Cadell Last). How can “the outside” be considered part of “the inside” without compromising it (to suggest Alex Ebert’s “Fre(Q) Theory”)? Is it impossible? In totality, hopefully, but that “(in)completeness” might be the gift and grace.

If we don’t on average feel like we should be where we are in life, like we shouldn’t have been born, like we took a wrong turn…then we don’t feel like we belong. “Belonging” is profoundly tied to motivation and desire (it is not primarily a geographic term), for if we wake up in the morning and want the day ahead, then we can feel like we are exactly where we are supposed to be, that we belong here. But there is a difference between a motivation imposed upon us externally and a motivation cultivated within ourselves and by ourselves, and a major reason why many of us end up feeling like “we don’t belong here” is because we are trained all our lives to be “stimulated” and “externally motivated,” only to one day find that we aren’t satisfied with our external motivation or that our external motivations are gone, leaving us helpless and unable to motivate ourselves. To avoid or escape this fate, we must cultivate our own drive, which is to say we prove to be our own source of motivation. Determined, yet free. We need to not just “long for” but “be-long(ing),” which is to say we are a desire and drive, and we are such for a long time, say all our lives. Without “intrinsic motivation,” it might be impossible to belong today, but again if traditional “belonging” was in a sense artificial, then perhaps “intrinsic motivation” is the only actual belonging. Furthermore, this book will argue that what makes possible “actual belonging” is also what might help us avoid “The Great Crisis,” “The Meta-Crisis,” and the like secondarily (“First Things First”) — but it starts with us.

Now, today, however unlikely or difficult, the world might have “belonging again” (which is to say finally, “be-long(ing) again”) in the sense that it gains and spreads “the conditions of Childhood” and “incubators of intrinsic motivation” at scale. For most of history, we found “roots in soil,” and this was an important “historic episode” (alluding to Hegel), but now we must find “roots in drive,” which might entail a commitment to a particular soil, but not necessarily: what is primary is that we find roots in an “orbit,” “lack,” “form(ulation),” and way of life. The path must be a place, a place of surprise but not chaos — dance. Our challenge now is learning how to be comfortable with tension and existential anxiety; our challenge now is becoming Children. Our challenge now is realizing an opportunity for “belonging” that is arguably the first time in history during which “belonging” is available to us, at “The End of (True) History,” where “Absolute History is possible — as we will discuss and explore. To “belong (again)” could be the first time, Absolute, we “belong.”

In Abyssal Arrows, the Philosophy Portal anthology on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Cadell Last wrote:

‘Zarathustra already knew or at least anticipated that this was the situation before he started his speeches at ‘The Last Supper’ on the Overman, but in confronting the reality of it, there is a brief sense of disappointment or defeat. In other words, we get the sense that, while he is now capable of leading, the actual task of founding a community that leads to a world of Overmen, is something which must still wait.’

Part I made the case that we are still waiting but the stakes are rising, that we need to address the task with which Nietzsche left us. As encouraged by Philip Rieff, we underwent an explanation of “the psychohistorical process” in Part I to be positioned for an address of “a psycho-political-economy” in Part II, and here we will argue that there is always a human and contingent element, meaning the development of the subject is central. Part I left us with considerations of Absolute Knowers, Children, and Deleuzian Dividuals, and the book also suggested that (if we mean something traditional by the phrase) “belonging again” is not possible or desirable without risking grave regression or consequence. In Part II, we seek to “address” this loss of possibility, and by “belonging again,” we might consider something more like “belonging (again),” which is a Hegelian negation/sublationm suggesting that ours is an age in which we might “belong” for the first time finally (to channel Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot). Nietzsche never wanted followers, Cadell stresses, but rather Children. Might that be us? Must it be? If so, we must learn to “leave Plato’s Cave on our own” — a founding story must be reconsidered, a genesis of a genesis.




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O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart. https://linktr.ee/ogrose