Note: When I talk about “thinking”, I am also including “feeling”: I am saying something like “intellectual and emotional thought” — they flow together.
[Yes, it’s true that I also suppose the Light flows into intellectual and emotional thought to the degree we let It. (A person = ideas, feelings, and the Light all together working together imperfectly but not meaninglessly; and working together more meaningfully to the degree the Light rules the conscious space.) But, nonetheless, when I say “thinking” in this essay, I’m shorthanding “emotional and intellectual thought”.]
Plato Spinoza Kant Something Deeperism
How do you mean?
I mean how does Something Deeperism relate to Plato Spinoza and Kant?
In “The Republic”, Plato said that the appetites mindlessly sought physical satisfaction and the honor-loving aspect mindlessly sought honor; but reason can choose wisely, so reason should rule one’s thought, guiding and coordinating the appetites, the honor-loving aspect, and itself. But then he wondered how reason could choose most wisely, and decided that it must needs study the essence of Goodness, so it can pick between different possible paths based on how much Goodness each path would partake of. The philosopher king, a warrior and a scholar, would study: first gymnastics and music, then math (where one discovers the joy of grasping the essences of things), then at age 35 (when old enough to be serious about discovering what is best for all, rather than showing off by making the weaker argument the stronger) dialectical argumentation, and finally the Forms (abstract essences of things) and finally finally at age 50 the Form of the Good itself. Then they’d spend 20 years alternating between studying the Form of the Good and using their knowledge of the essence of Goodness to make good choices for the entire community. Then they’d be allowed to retire into contemplative bliss.
With Something Deeperism, we continually seek a more adequate whole-being insight into what is “truly worthwhile” with our intellect, emotions, and pre-idea/-feeling contemplation, and in what we say and do. And we figure that, given our intellectual and emotional makeups, our only hope for progress on the question of what’s “truly worthwhile” is the following: there’s a Light shining within and through our consciousnesses that actually Knows what is going on and what should be done, and our inner drive towards aware, clear, accurate, competent, compassionate, joyful shared Love can help us relate meaningfully enough to that Light to translate It into words and deeds, not perfectly — since that’s even less possible than perfectly translating feelings into ideas and words — , but well enough that we as whole-beings (ideas, feelings, Light, and words and deeds — all relating meaningfully with each other) grow more and more like the Light. This is pretty much the gist of Plato’s ideas in “The Republic”.
– – – – –
In The Ethics, Spinoza says a lot of things. But I only know about the beginning. Here I want to focus on his ideas about epistemology and on not his proof of God but a proof of God along his lines.
Spinoza thought that clear and distinct ideas had the stamp of Truth in them and could not be reasonably doubted.
Now here is a clear and distinct ideas:
I define a triangle as a planar object consisting of three straight lines joined together at vertexes whose interior angles total 180 degrees. From this definition, much follows of necessity; for example: dropping a straight line from any vertex down to any point on the straight line opposite that vertex will result in the creation of two triangles drawn inside of the original triangle.
Here is another:
By God I mean a being that exists infinitely in an infinite number of fundamental ways (examples of some fundamental ways that God exists: in/as matter/motion/time-space; in/as conscious thought), all of which follow of necessity from God’s one infinite and infinitely perfect essence (ie: intrinsic, fundamental nature).
One important difference between the definition of God and the definition of triangle is this:
From the definition of triangle, it does not necessarily follow that any particular triangle actually exists. However from the definition of God, it does follow that exactly one particular God actually does exist.
Suppose God doesn’t exist. By the definition of God, God’s existence follows of necessity from God’s perfect essence. So if God doesn’t exist, it must be the case that God’s perfect essence doesn’t include existence. But it would be an imperfection for a perfect essence to fail to exist. Therefore, God must exist.
Now suppose there is more than one God. Then there’d be more than one perfect essence. But the perfect essence of something infinite in infinite ways should be complete, leaving no “space” (material, mental, or etc) of any kind within which something else might exist. Therefore God is one and one alone.
Are those ideas clear and distinct? Is the mere understanding of them enough for you to Know they are Correct? Most people would say NO. But what if take a slightly different tack: what if we seek a clear and distinct idea of an Absolutely Infinite Substance (an infinitely infinite self-contained Reality) within ourselves? If our idea of God is to be clear and distinct, it cannot be a purely intellectual and/or purely emotional. We never fully comprehend our intellectual and/or emotional thinking. What kind of an idea would be both 100% clear and marked with an indelible stamp of Truth so that one would Know it was correct? Not a normal human idea, composed as they are of some degree concepts and some degree feelings. Perhaps a whole-being insight centered around the Light of pure awareness, off of which flow adequate actionable intellectual and emotional insights into that and in what way an aware, honest, compassionate whole-being organization around the Light within is the way forward for human thought? If one could manage such an insight, one would have a clear and distinct view of the essence of God (another poetic term for “the Light within and shining through all things”, and see that God’s essence had !Truth! stamped within It, and thus could not be doubted. Naturally, such an insight could not be perfectly translated into ideas and actions, but if the original logical poetry whose contemplation brought us the whole-being insight was pointing towards the gist of Reality adequately well, then the insight could flow back out into that logical poetry and show us that and in what sense the logical poetry is an adequate albeit of course limited representation of Reality. And here we’ve drawn a not implausible version of Something Deeperism.
I know the least about him. Take this as a person dealing with the general impact of Kant’s thought on Western thought three hundred years on. Or at least as a person thinking that’s what he’s dealing with.
He said we had to stop thinking that just because we can logically demonstrate a metaphysical notion to our own satisfaction, we should believe that that notion is True. Because: we have inborn ways for gathering and organizing information that we’re stuck inside of, and we can’t stand outside them and say whether or not they relate accurately to Reality, or even if there is a Reality for them to relate meaningfully to. Here everyone nodded.
Then he went on to say that we have reason in order to have good will and so must act morally — that is to say, not subjectively (in accordance to desires about what “I want”, which any animal can do), but objectively (in accordance to general principles that apply to all). And we must have free will in order to have a chance at acting morally (and thereby preserve the raison d’etre of our reason). And we have to add God into the mix because otherwise it would be possible to act morally correctly but still end up being on the whole miserable (you’re supposed to be acting in a way that is good for everyone, and that includes you, and if win-win isn’t always possible, you can’t always be both moral and ultimately happy). And so, though we cannot prove the existence of free will and God, as we must assume both morality and that virtue and happiness are concomitant with one another, we must assume free will and God.
Something like that. Some attempt at starting from us being locked in phenomena (perceived reality) that cannot say anything definitive about the noumena (Reality in Itself) to assumptions and positions we have to take about the noumena. Here people didn’t nod so much, since, afterall, where does something trapped in perspectives get off saying how we should do things? What’s a “should” based on phenomena really worth?
How does Something Deeperism relate to Kantianism?
Something Deeperism accepts the concern that insofar as we are trapped in ideas and feelings, we cannot be sure about what is really going, what really matters, or how we should really move. However, Something Deeperism then points out that we don’t need literal/scientific insight into the True Good to have adequate insight into the True Good.
A slightly modified Kantianism can blend into Something Deeperism:
We have inborn ways of gathering and organizing information; when we follow those inborn rules, our thoughts make sense to us, and when we don’t, they don’t.
Following our inborn rules of physical and logical thought we call “being reasonable and logical”.
Following our inborn rules for morality (ie: “what should I do?” – a question that could be answered with “whatever pleases me” and still be a moral question with a moral answer in this wide, philosophical sense of the study of morality) we call different things depending on our different notions. But underneath our many various notions about morality, a sense of “should” abides. A sense of needing to choose what is actually preferable abides. Without that sense-of-things, we’d have no reason to bother with anything one way or another, and we’d just end up mindlessly reacting to stimuli. We’d be like fruit flies.
We’ve an inborn sense of “actually preferable” comprised of both our instinct towards “preferable” and our ability to feel and reason; and obeying it keeps us from being fruit flies and is part of how we must think/act in order to understand, believe-in and care-about our own thoughts and actions. We cannot make sense of our thoughts and actions to the degree they are fruit-flyish (ie: if they are just stimuli-response; or – because I don’t think we should assume fruit flies have 0 space for aware, engaged, deliberated and deliberate thought – 99.99% stimuli-response); because to the degree our thoughts/feelings do not engage with a sense of “actually preferable”, we can’t really care about them.
The hedonist counters: But why couldn’t “preferable” be “pleasurable” and reason be put in service of pleasure?
We reply: Because then we’d still be mosquitoes/fruitflies, just ones who use long causal chains to put their stimuli-response-based decision-making in touch with various hypothetical outcomes. And we can’t believe in, care about, or follow our own thought if that’s all there is to it: for our own thought to be meaningful to us, it needs to be engaged in “actually preferable”, not just “feels preferable”.
But what is “actually preferable”? And what kind of reasoning and what kind of actions can get us there?
Kant argued that objective principles were required to keep us from basing our decisions on mindless animal drives. Here Something Deeperism disagrees because Something Deeperism thinks principles can and must be illuminated by at least some spiritual wisdom for them to be of any use to us. Human principles can only ever point imperfectly towards Reality; and only Reality is meaningful, wise and important enough for us to understand, believe in, care about, and follow. So we should come up with principles that work adequately well with where we find ourselves, but for them to become actually useful to an individual, that individual needs to gain whole-being insight into them.
Something Deeperism reasons that our path towards “actually preferable” can only make sense to us if we think aware, clear, accurate, competent, compassionate, win-win — centering our thoughts around an inner wisdom that’s able to guide us towards an “actually preferable” that is True, and which ratifies what we must believe in order to believe in our own thoughts: namely that aware … win-win thinking and acting is the Way forward, that we’re all in this together, and that we should FOR REAL NO JOKE NOT JUST AN OPINION! treat ourselves and others with kindness and respect, seeking always to experience and share joyful creative wholesome fun centered around the Light within that Knows and Is Love. But, of course, our ideas and feelings about our inner wisdom will never be literal/definitive/1:1; growing in wisdom is getting better and better at relating the Light within to our ideas and feelings — it is a largely poetic process. But poetic does not mean inaccurate: think how a good poem well-read can awaken some essential aspect of an author’s life in the reader’s conscious space.
Those are the basic principles of Something Deeperism. Included within the principles is the notion that we need whole-being insight into the principles to use them well; but that that type of adequate insight is a thing of degrees, and so we all have to keep working to get better and better at coordinating our ideas and feelings around the Light within that alone Knows that and in what way it is True to say “we are all in this together!!!”.
No other approach to “actually preferable” really makes sense to any of us; we may pretend we believe in, care about, and/or understand xyz other worldviews, but we are lying to ourselves and have disengaged ourselves from the only meaningful-to-us system for choosing one thought/action path over another. In this way we render ourselves rudderless, and are thus inevitably pushed about by whims arising inside and outside our conscious space. This is all, of course, a thing of degrees: to the degree we don’t follow our inborn rules for thinking, we have no meaningful-to-us way to choose one thought over the other and are pushed about by intellectual and/or emotional whims; to that degree we are essentially mosquitoes.
Something Deeperism appeals to one’s own internal awareness of what sort of a Reality and relationship to that Reality one could stand, understand, believe in, or care about; and says: “Find a way to show your thought-as-a-whole that and in what way that Reality is True.” Our daydreamed Kant is after the same goal (reason, morality, shared-joy) but makes a more circuitous route (which we didn’t bother to outline here, or even learn at all), which then causes other philosophers to debate the details and everyone to suppose he didn’t quite demonstrate that reason, morality, or shared joy actually matter. Similarly, the general public supposes Plato’s and Spinoza’s projects were pretty thoughts but not adequate, livable philosophies. That’s why, in an attempt to get us all to admit we’re already basically on the same page and must choose the same basic path, Something Deeperism shifts the argument from the appearance of straight-reasoning to explicitly mixing reasoning with a discussion of where we humans find ourselves experientially within our own conscious moments.
And so, combining reasoning and psychological realism, Something Deeperism says:
“OK, OK, OK! Let’s everyone take a survey of our own conscious moment and then go from there: I think we are all basically in the same spot and that spot compels us all to agree that though on much we disagree, we all do agree that the only way forward is aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, we’re-all-in-this-together thought and action based upon a whole-being search for an inner Light wise enough to guide us towards ‘actually preferable’. We’re not going for a universal religion, but for a general agreement that we all yearn not for ‘seems actually preferable’ but for ‘actually preferable’, and that though no literal/1:1/definitive insight into a mighty metaphysical good like ‘actually preferable’ is going to fit into ideas and feelings, it is still conceivable that we can organize our thoughts and actions adequately well around such an insight. We can all agree that when we say the way forward is loving kindness, we mean FOR REAL, and so we mean: ‘we must seek true wisdom’; and so we mean: ‘we must keep pushing out from within, centered on the Light within, working always to better and better center our thoughts and actions around loving kind compassionate wise joy shining within and through all things.’ We can stay on the same page with the help of principles like the just-mentioned shared values and guardrails like ‘we should be compassionate and joyfully active, avoiding meanness, greed, and the like’. But ultimately those principles are only useful to the degree we have whole-being insight into them.”
[I liked this guy’s http://www.philosopher.eu/texts/kants-moral-argument-for-god/ site and will review it more closely as leisure and inclination permit.]
Something Deeperism: not a religion, nor even all that much of a philosophy; mostly just a shared corrective: let’s keep first things first: doubting only makes sense if accuracy matters; faith in Absolute Goodness only makes sense if Absolute Goodness — by definition beyond mere human notions of “Goodness” — is real and we can relate meaningfully to It, though of course (due to our being merely human) this relation of our thinking and acting to the Light within will never be perfect, literal,definitive, or hah-hah-I-get-it-n-you-dont. Let’s keep first things first: let’s not let our doubts and beliefs undermine their meaningfulness-to-us: let’s keep our primary focus on the Light within that alone Knows Absolute Goodness: let’s agree to agree where we agree: aware, clear, honest, accurate, reasonable, competent, kind, compassionate, selfless, joyfully sharing wholesome fun — with space for each person to find and follow the Light in a way that is meaningful to them and that allows them to share their Light with the rest of us.
Hey! What about Kant’s idea that God was a necessary assumption? How does that square with Something Deeperism?
But Something Deeperism doesn’t say “God” so much as “that Light within that alone knows what is really going on, what is truly worthy, and how we can best fit ourselves into what is really going on in such a way as to bring us as close to thinking, acting and experiencing true worthiness as possible — which Light we’re of course deceiving ourselves about to the degree we think we our ideas/feelings about It are literally true”. I mean, of course, you can also use the word “God” to point in the same general direction as “Light”, but Something Deeperism is both more and less ready to discuss the noumenal realm. Kant said our thinking/acting was stuck forever in phenomena, but reasoning solely within the phenomenal can motivate specific attitudes to the noumenal; Something Deeperism says we need to find a way to connect the two realms and understand that and in what sense they are related to each other, although of course that connection will never be literal, but only ever poetic (meaningful, and perhaps with a True object, but not scientifically precise, clear, and demonstrable).
The primary difference between Kant and Something Deeperism is the directional emphasis. Kant, staying in the realm of the phenomenal, goes piece by piece up from logic all the way and then (I believe) stops at our need to assume God and the gist of Christianity. Something Deeperism starts in a phenomenal it assumes is always bleeding into a seedling-more-or-less-sprouting-and-growing relationship with the noumena; and uses reason and a call for self-examination to motivate a Love-centered spiritual journey, arguing that we each need to discover for ourselves a whole-being insight into what is actually going on and what actually matters. So Something Deeperism does agree that some sense of things along the lines of a “True Good” is needed for our thought to make sense to itself, but it’s arguments are less complicated and it also requires one to do more than assume the noumenal in one’s phenomenal thinking: the Something Deeperist must also find a meaningful relationship between the phenomenal and the noumenal.
In general, the directional-emphasis is different between Something Deeperism and Plato, Spinoza, Kant. With Something Deeperism the emphasis is more on motivating an inner search for wisdom, which will then flow out into a coherent philosophy that should be in keeping with, and thus ratify and explicate the bare bones philosophy we sketched in order to motivate the search for meaning. The emphasis with Plato, Spinoza, Kant is building up to clear literal-minded conclusions from clear literal building block ideas. Their philosophies tend to downplay the experiential aspect of how their philosophy can work within a human conscious space.
But the difference is far from absolute. The Socrates of Plato’s “Republic” said he was just sketching out a general plan for wisdom and could not himself really guess what the Form of the Good would be like, or what it would be like to relate It to mundane ideas (really, the more I think about it, the more I think “The Republic” is a very Something Deeperist text; it is perhaps the blueprint for Something Deeperism). And I read somewhere that someone thought Spinoza kind of suggested that if you could get his whole system inside it will come alive within you. And Kant believe the noumenal was there and meaningful and its existence needed to be factored into one’s philosophy; although he thought the phenomenal couldn’t relate to the noumenal at all, whereas Something Deeperism thinks the two can relate, just not in the clear, concise, perfectly scientific literal sense Kant loved so much. It’s not as if these old systemitizers were not doing any Something Deeperism; just that their emphasis was more on literal argument building, and the way they’ve been generally studied was much much more focused on literal argument building (and refuting) than on the Something Deeperism to some degree latent in their philosophizing.
So is Something Deeperism just a wide-angle Pascal’s Wager? Kind of. Although Something Deeperism does not typically focus on eternal salvation or damnation. Instead, Something Deeperism claims that you can’t really make any sense to yourself to the degree you do not attain whole-being insight (ideas, feelings, and the Light within all working imperfectly but not inadequately together) into why and in what way things like awareness and kindness are the Way. Something Deeperism frames itself as a choice between a chance at coherency and the certainty of remaining internally incoherent; rather than as a wager between heaven and hell, or even between coherency and pleasant incoherency (Something Deeperism does not think incoherency allows for much real pleasantness).
Here is the choice Something Deeperism sees:
You can keep bumbling along letting yourself never quite understand or stand your own thinking and acting, and thus losing engagement within your own thought and action, and thus losing conscious agency in your own thinking and acting, and thus letting whims push your thinking and acting around, and thus watching in confusion while your thinking and acting grows worse and worse. Or you can admit that we are all Something Deeperists and only make sense to ourselves to the degree we embrace and evolve our inner sense that it matters for REAL that we interface with ourselves and others in compassion and loving kindness and keep working to grow in whole-being insight into the Light, remembering always that our ideas and feelings are not the Light, though they love to pretend they are and in this way contort and pervert our quest for more wisdom.
Although maybe many Something Deeperists do give a little extra punch to their push for internal coherency with the happy thought that an eternal Light is a friend really worth having/following/becoming.
And how does Something Deeperism compare to Kierkegaard’s leap of faith from or Camus’s embrace of the Absurd situation (humans long for a meaning to life that they can intellectually understand, but they cannot get it)? Something Deeperism is at pains to point out that we should not leap beyond our intellectual and/or emotional thought. To the degree we do so we lose our starting point in our own thinking and acting. Here we agree with Camus’s sense that leaping out of an existential crisis is the opposite of solving it or adequately addressing it. And we agree also with the Camus’s claim that there’s no progress possible without being honest about where within your own thought you find yourself. [Note that we’re discussing only the young Camus who wrote “The Myth of Sisyphus”, and there standard, common-knowledge account of Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. We’re not at all delving into the nuances of these two full people.]
But do we find ourselves in the Absurd? I mean, we certainly would like a meaning to life that we can understand intellectually; but we humans don’t really understand anything intellectually. Intellectual ideas are like bricks we can see and move about in accordance with our inner sense towards clarity and logical completeness. Do we truly understand a well-built bridge? Or do we just look at it admiringly, noticing how all the pieces fit together, admiring it without fathoming its essence? And we’re wishing we could intellectually understand the nature of Reality???
We would like a meaning to life that we can understand intellectually, but what do we really need to understand, care about, and believe in our lives? Not an intellectual understanding of Reality, but a whole-being insight into Reality off of which our thinking and acting can flow meaningfully, though of course not perfectly/literally/1:1. That’s what we need, and many examples within one’s own conscious space and from mystical practitioners points to the possibility that we can organize our thinking and acting around a True Good shining within and through all things, and in this way grow in ever more whole-being coherency. We’re not leaping past the intellect or the emotions; they agree with our thought as a whole about their own limitations: our ideas and feelings know that they cannot fully grasp the most important thing: that and in what sense we are called to live in and through and for Love. However, they also know that that limitation does not bar them from adequate insight: the certainty of imperfection in their insight into what is really going on and really matters does not mean they’ve no hope at flowing with adequate meaning off a whole-being inner insight.
Kierkegaard’s leap is a little much for Something Deeperism, since he leaped into a lot of details about Reality that the intellect/emotions cannot hope to adequately understand, and which therefore misdirect one’s focus when held in a rigid, literal sense. Something Deeperism does not leap out of the Absurd; there is a sense in which it — like the Camus of the MoS — stays forever within the Absurd; but not in an absolute sense. We are cut off forever from the details of Reality and must therefore live forever in uncomprehending awe of the wonder of it all, but there’s no need to assume that this type of uncomprehending awe is incompatible with adequate insight into the Divine. We most fundamentally desire a whole-being insight into the True Good that our ideas and feelings can flow off of coherently; we’re aware that such an insight cannot possibly be literal since the True Good would have to be infinitely perfect and our faculties aren’t built to literally fathom anything, especially not something infinitely perfect; HOWEVER, we also know that’s not such a huge deal since what we desire isn’t perfect literal insight into the True Good so much as a coherent whole-being organization around It off of which our ideas and feelings can flow with adequate coherency, meaning, and true goodness. Still, the awe and wonder, the uncatchableness, the mystery: these elements of the Absurd must remain; because to deny them is to pretend we can have literal/definitive/1:1 insight into God, or that we can be fully confident of our thinking/acting without such insight (remember that we cannot help but rely on intellectual reasoning in our daily lives).
And what about everything that’s happened in philosophy for the last 100 plus years, not including the “Myth of Sisyphus”, which you’ve clearly read at some point in the last 20ish years?
Oh, I dunno. I haven’t really been paying attention. I imagine there’s been lots of talk about Something Deeperism. This is just my own personal take on it, after years of driving myself crazy flip-flopping between skeptical nihilisms and forced-faith romanticisms. At some point I just had to say: “but me bothering with skepticism’s need for accuracy and faith’s need for True Goodness only make sense if I’m already assuming that True Goodness is my goal! And no matter the pose, I keep using a mixture of ideas and feelings to make myself for a moment feel like I’m working meaningfully towards True Goodness! Even my nihilistic fits use emotion-twisting and awareness-averting to give myself the sense that I’m working meaningfully towards True Goodness! Really just another excuse to sit around smoking, drenched in bar music and alcohol, gazing heroically ahead, blurring out into and through the barkeep who I not-so-secretly covet!!! This has got to stop.”
Has it stopped? I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m making progress. Sometimes I’m not so sure. But at least I admit I want progress and what progress would have to look like. So that’s something. I guess that’s something. Sure it’s something. Ah something! But is it Something Deeperism?
Copyright Andrew Mackenzie Watson – 9/20/2019 – probably needs a revision
Was partially revised 9/21/2019 and more revised 9/22/2019 and more 10/19/2019
A final note:
Kierkegaard’s leap of faith is not antithetical to Something Deeperism unless the leap is done with a rigidly literal mindset, not allowing for Godlight to bend the dogmas towards loving kindness. Christianity can be a path to wisdom, but not even a literalist embrace of Something Deeperism will lead to much wisdom. What we’re trying to get people on board with here is not so much a dogma as an angle of approach.