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Silent Running

Mar 19, 2010

While the essential purpose of literature is the artful expression of universal themes, the post-modern student of comparative literature quickly discovers in the history of literary works the recurring developmental pattern of proposition-opposition. By this pattern the fundamental social and cultural propositions of an era inevitably find themselves overwhelmed and overturned by the opposing reactions and counterpoise of the following era. Challenged by contrary propositions, popular perspectives bend from certainty towards uncertainty, and synthesis arises from the conflict of thesis and antithesis. Thus we observe the transition from renaissance to mannerism; mannerism to baroque; baroque to rococo; rococo to neoclassicism; neoclassicism to romanticism; romanticism to realism; realism to modernism; modernism to post-modernism; and beyond.

Regardless of contextual modalities, the pattern of proposition-opposition must adapt to the circumstantial progression of human civilization and the extant level of human technology. Hence while human physiology remains (relatively) static and drives a cyclical anxiety of influence machine, human nature finds itself dynamically opposed against and revealed by the ceaseless interplay of primitive structures with novel constructions.

Our constructions actualize themselves by language, and the subtle danger of language, be it conversational or written, is the fact that we don't preface every statement with the phrase "in my opinion." Where interpersonal communication often exemplifies personal experiential bias, expository and logical speech inescapably embodies conceptual and perceptual bias. Proportionately, where nature inheres phenomena, humans adhere prejudices. Certainly existence exists, but by its rules language and ideas obtain only with ignorance. Thereby syllogisms obtain only with sciolisms, and science obtains only with inscience.

For these reasons we must be careful not to mistake the advancement or establishment of technically innovative systems for the advancement or dominion of physiological ability. This is no dismissal of scholarship or civilization, but an assertion of the primacy of etiology; morality continues to rest in the long term on primitive structures. Enter modernity by way of technical fortifications to low self-esteem -- fortifications that we must humbly examine in order to appreciate the developmental progression of cultural illusions, the manifold illusions of ethical and intellectual progress, and the enduring necessity for William James' moral equivalent of war and E.O. Wilson's confusion of loyalties.

Most importantly then: reality decrees that responsible people act upon the recognition of universal themes. Accepting this, if we truly hope to make our lives and those of our children better we must teach them the human historical developmental pattern of opposition, and hope they help us to doubt rather than aggrandize our absolutely uncertain relative certainties. All else is biological ochlocracy.