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musings to pass the time

March 20, 2009

Today I was reading a blog that was written by a friend of mine (?), and it has me thinking about some pretty abstract things. I will not pretend that I understand everything he is saying, which is centered on, among other things, the ideological foundation of all of laws and economy, but it has me thinking about what else Nietzsche might have meant when he said:

“Let’s position ourselves, by contrast, at the end of this immense process, in the place where the tree at last yields its fruit, where society and the morality of custom finally bring to light the end for which they were simply the means: then we find, as the ripest fruit on that tree, the sovereign individual, something which resembles only itself, which has broken loose again from the morality of custom, the autonomous individual beyond morality (for ‘autonomous’ and ‘moral’ are mutually exclusive terms), in short, the human being who possesses his own independent and enduring will, who is entitled to make promises—and in him a consciousness quivering in every muscle, proud of what has finally been achieved and has become a living embodiment in him, a real consciousness of power and freedom, a feeling of completion for human beings generally.”

What does the word “will” really mean? Is it independent of external factors? Is it influenced by them? Both? Neither? Is it possible that the human will is not immutable, but frequently prone to change? If so, what are the causes and conditions that facilitate such changes? And what does this mean in regard to the individual?

To be fair to the truth, I do not know anything with absolute certainty. That is the one thing I am certain of. I change my mind about these things all the time. Why? I have no idea, but sometimes I think that I am little more than the product of my environment and the culmination of ideas and experiences that my senses have taken in during my lifetime. That is part of the reason I sometimes think that the “individual” is nothing more than a useful fiction we utilize in order to communicate and make sense of the world in a relative sense, but one that ultimately falls apart on further analysis.

It may all just be a matter of perspective, but having been influenced by social, cultural, and other omnipresent conditionings, can the “individual” really be said to be individual in the first place? Or put another way: Does a closed-system, biological entity truly exist?

In a certain sense, we have what appears to be a certain amount of autonomy. Will, volition or the creative spark in humankind expresses itself in a myriad of ways, and it is difficult to deny the products of that expression. Nevertheless, can an individual ever be considered a closed-system when they continually interact with their surroundings and vice versa? I fail to see how. And what of will? Can we, with any degree of certainty, say that it is truly independent? Again, I fail to see how.

If, on the other hand, we are open-systems with, arguably, a number of biological and psychological filters, is there any way to truly pull out the “individual” as being something separate? I tend to think not. Why? Because trying to do so neglects much of what makes the “individual” an individual by rejecting the inherent interdependence of their existence. The same applies to the will of said individual.

And then again, perhaps not. As I said, I do not know anything with absolute certainty, and these are just musings that are helping to pass the time. But they have proved useful to me in the past. It is this line of reasoning, for example, that has helped me to see that what happens in the world around me does matter to me as an individual, that trying to be active and change things is useful, even important. I quite like how Dr. Anil Rajvanshi puts it, albeit in a different context, when he says that “… each one of us lead our own separate lives which “dart” randomly depending on the forces acting upon us yet collectively we go forward in a band which is called human evolution” (Free Will, Evolution and Chaos Theory).

What does this all mean? I am not sure if it means anything; but when I try to piece it all together, here is what I get:

Metaphysics aside, my philosophy has always been that it is up to each individual, as far as they are able, to live their own lives and make their own choices. Nevertheless, as a good friend of mine once said to me, it is not the gods who make the world the way it is; we make the world this way. And we can make it into whatever we desire.

Perhaps Nietzsche was right about the human being who “possesses his own independent and enduring will.” Perhaps that is the metaphorical godhead of human evolution, to perfect the skill of consciously creating our reality to the point that we eventually transcend our limitations and experience the world in an entirely new way.

Perhaps, then, the problem lies not in the world, but within us, with our desires, our will; self-mastery being the key as well as the goal.

The only question is whether we can master chaos itself.

Only time will tell.


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