So my agenda is two fold.
First, there is an intellectual enquiry into the nature of indvidual and collective being. How do we come to be the way we are as conscious and collective beings and how can we shape that? (see below)
Second, grounded in that first enquiry, there is the creation of a positive agenda setting out what is the good (wise) life(s) and what are the good (wise) society(ies) – and the steps to achieve these.
This agenda exists in a particular context: a (western) world in which traditional certainty and hope both spiritually and politically have been lost.
We are engaged then in a righting of the ship capsized by the storms that sank god and socialism. This though may to make it too reactive and restorative. For it is a positive and progressive program. Perhaps a better metaphor would be to say that it is the rebuilding of a city destroyed by an earthquake, where the structures lost were those built on unsound and insubstantial foundations and the rebuild is both on a grander scale and on more solid footings.
It is, in short, a project to renovate our hope and ideals for transcendence, both individually and collectively (utopia).
Furthermore, I believe those (individual + society) are deeply linked. Without a shared ideal of our “bigness” (Ungerian) / our possibility (Landmark) / our transcendent buddha nature (buddhism / wisdom traditions) there is a lack of context and foundation for any great social project – the essence of that social project is to fulfil on those ideals, or at least to provide the space in which we can realise them.
Furthermore, we are non-dualists when it comes to the individual and society. Our being does not develop in a vacuum. Robinson Crusoe alone on his island can not be truly human, and, more importantly, born as a Robinson Crusoe we could never become human at all. Conversely, society de facto is made up of individuals and their interactions (whilst also perhaps transcending that – an emergent whole bigger than any sum of its parts).
So in one sense, this agenda is a response to modernity and Nietszche. It is also a response to post-modernity, to relativism and nihilism. It is a response to fundamentalism and reaction. It is a new kind of spirituality, a new kind of vision of what it is to be a human being, what it is to be the next Buddha. It is also real and pragmatic: grounded in concrete political engagement and practical change.
Its aim then is to provide a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning: a concrete vision of the good life. And simultaneously to provide a vision of the good society in which that life (or lives) may be realised.
The intellectual enquiry
The intellectual enquiry is into the two intertwined aspects of individual and collective being (and becoming – how do we get to be the way we are, and how can we shape that).
On the one side, the individual side this is grounded in ontology / wisdom traditions / neuroscience, and on other side of society this is grounded in culturology/anthropology/economics/history… 1
Questions are things like:
- How do we think / experience the world
- What shapes this
- What can we consciously do about this
- How can we organize society (and how does it both depend on and create the previous points i.e. at the individual level)
- How can we achieve that – what are the practical politics to realising it
There is probably a greater emphasis on the shaping part of this – that is the harder question.
Ontology and Morality are Intertwined
Ontology and morality are necessarily intertwined. Morality meaning the enquiry into what is the purpose of our life, what are the ends, what are the goods to which we should tend?2 Ontology is our conception of being, of consciousness, of human nature.
Determing ends for life must necessarily live in the context of an ontology: a medieval christian’s view of the ends of their life derived directly and necessarily from their ontological conception of living in a universe created and governed over by a christian god and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. A calvinist lived inside of depravity, covenant, election, grace and love. A buddhist’s ethics exist framed by the assumption of inherent buddha nature and the possibility of nibbana.