Friday, September 6, 2019

Comte's Three Stages vs. My Three Peoples

August Comte was the inventor of what he called Positivism, which called attention to the last of his three stages of history. The notion of three stages is one that is very comfortable for humans. Even though it is obviously a gross simplification, nevertheless it has an enormous attraction for humans who must identify the important signals coming in throuh their five senses from all the noise of the world out there. Think of the Garden of Eden, the Fall, and the hope for Eternal Life in Paradise: there's a three stage theory for you.

My reductive Three Peoples theory is one such three-stages theory. It's a gross simplification of the irreducible complexity of human life, but it is trying to filter some really important notions from the flux of events.

So what about Comte's three stages theory? La Wik:
The Theological stage refers to explanation by personified deities. During the earlier stages, people believe that all the phenomena of nature are the creation of the divine or supernatural. Adults and children failed to discover the natural causes of various phenomena and hence attributed them to a supernatural or divine power.
My People of the Subordinate Self are people that believe themselves subordinate to another's power. It may be a god or it may be a warrior lord. The point is that Subordinates experience humans as not capable of agency, of changing things in this world; they must submit to the will of the gods and the will of their earthly lord. I think I am talking about the same thing as Comte, but with different emphasis.
The Metaphysical stage is the extension of the theological stage. Metaphysical stage refers to explanation by impersonal abstract concepts. People often tried to believe that God is an abstract being. They believe that an abstract power or force guides and determines events in the world. Metaphysical thinking discards belief in a concrete God.
I suppose this is supposed to refer to things like Greek philosophy that attempt to explain the world by reason and logic alone, rather than the combination of reason and experiment in Comte's final stage.
The Positivity stage, also known as the scientific stage, refers to scientific explanation based on observation, experiment, and comparison. Positive explanations rely upon a distinct method, the scientific method, for their justification.
Now, I would say that my People of the Responsible Self straddle the Metaphysical and Positivity stages. My responsibles regard the world as set up by God and regulated by His Law, for people to live and wive and thrive using their knowledge of God's creation and God's law. But in fact they combine the metaphysics of rational speculation with the experimental ethos of the mechanic, and create wonders. But here is the thing: they do not think of themselves as creative; they just think of themselves as responsible beings living according to the law.

Whatabout my People of the Creative Self? I think that our modern creatives have gone beyond the Metaphysical and Positivity stages to become self-conscious of the notion of creativity, that humans can create the world anew. In short, our modern creatives experience themselves as gods.

The interesting point, I think, is that humans all along have been creative. That is the whole point of a conscious mind; you do not just do things according to instinct. You consciously attempt to understand the world, and do something about it. My Subordinates consciously imagine themselves as helpless victims before the power and the will of the gods of heaven and earth. In fact, they have a lot more agency than they think.

My Responsibles are notably creative, but they do not think of themselves as creative. They think of themselves merely as responsible agents of God's law. My reference point for People of the Responsible Self are the two heroes of Adam Bede: Adam Bede himself and his remarkable love interest, the lay Methodist preacher Dinah Morris. These two think of themselves as just working out their lives according to God's Will. But in fact their responsibility and their earnest analysis is in fact remarkably creative and projects them out of their subordinate roles in the old agricultural world into purposive and creative lives as moral and economic actors in the modern world.

The difference between the People of the Responsible Self and the People of the Creative Self is that the creatives are self-consciously creative. They see themselves ordained by history to make the world anew, according to their own Law, or notion of justice and peace.

This is where we come to the point of what I consider my important insight. If you are a creative God it does not mean that you sit on high and direct the affairs of the world. That was, after all, one of the great Temptations of Jesus Christ, where Satan took him up unto a high mountain and offered him all the nations of the world to rule. In fact, as we know from the Passion of Christ and from the Jungian notion of the Sacrifical Hero, the act of creation is also an apotheosis of self-destruction, just as economic growth emerges phoenix-like from the ashes of the destruction of the old order. This is the lesson that our educated ruling class has yet to understand. The creative does not get to rule the rubes from a glorious educated throne supported by glorious titles and sinecures. That is not how the world works. To imagine yourself as the Director of mankind is, as we say, the dreadful conceit of a Stalin or a Mao.

It is interesting that the world of Positivity and the mechanical certainties of the Newtonian age gave way almost immediately to the scientific revolution of relativity and quantum mechanics, in which the fundaments of the universe are relative and hidden in an uncertainty principle and the probabilities of the wave function. This means to me that the self-conscious belief of the Creatives of themselves as gods is in fact not an apotheosis of the modern but a regression to the ethos of the Olympian gods that ruled the world by jealousy and power, as the mood took them.

Thus, I call our lefty friends as the authors of a Great Reaction, back to the primitive. They think of themselves as noble creatives, but in the event they aspire to be the cruel and vindictive lords of Olympus, directing the affairs of mankind as the mood takes them and as their petty Olympian squabbles direct them. Hello Stalin; hello Mao.

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