7. Conclusion

Free Will, Moral Action, And Self-consciousness


Section 7.2.2

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





7. Conclusion  
     7.1 History and Evolution: A Paradox Resolved 
        7.1.1 Transition and Divide: A New Perspective on Modernity 
    7.2 The Eonic Effect As a Resolution of Kant's Challenge      
      7.2.1 Freedom’s Causality, Teleology and Politics  
        7.2.2 Free Will, Moral Action, and Self-consciousness       
     7.3 Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism    
      7.3.1 Modernism, Eurocentrism, Imperialism, and 'Western' Civilization
        7.3.2 Ecological Endgames: A Tyranny Of Markets
     7.4 Ends and Beginnings       
     7.5 Critique of Historical Reason  
        7.5.1 Spengler, Toynbee, and Cyclical Theories 
        7.5.2 Is There a Postmodern Age?  
        7.5.3 Evolution and The Idea of Progress
        7.5.4 The Case of the Missing Centuries 
     7.6  Beyond Darwinism: A Theoretical Self-Defense
         7.6.1 The Meaning Of Evolution
         7.6.2 The Great Transition



    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     7.2.2 Free Will, Moral Action, and Self-consciousness


Our exploration has been of history. Our ‘Kantian’ perspective here was actually sui generis, the resemblance to Kant noticed after the fact. We never even derived the basics of representation that are the mainstay of Kant’s system. The simplification of Schopenhauer could even be taken in its place. But the relation of representation and ‘thing in itself’ arises automatically in our model, and we should reluctantly admit as good materialists that this puts a big plus next to so-called transcendental idealism, wretchedly named. We merely noticed the arising aspects of historical appearance and the way this didn’t quite add up, generating the characteristic turn toward transcendental idealism via the discovery of the uncaused historical intervals, ‘freedom’s causality’. Very crudely Kantian indeed, displaced into history. On the way we noticed also the cogency of Kant’s ethical theory, but nothing in our model has derived its basics. However, it is a natural companion study to the model of eonic history, keeping the two distinct in our minds, individuals and their representations, and macrohistory (and our representations of that).

Machiavellian degenerates, politicians, et al Modern political/social thought has suffered a calamity of Machiavellian and/or Nietzschean disillusion with morality that threatens to undo the entire sense of historical action. Religions taken over by esoteric gangsters and politics by intelligence agencies are evidence of historical chaotification. We can recommend careful study of the ethics pioneered by Kant as a reminder that our understanding here is a work in progress, and that the great advances of civilization are the creations of idealists, too often undone by the cynicism of realists. Kant’s work points to a level of intelligence not yet stable in human evolution. Kant’s ethical thinking doesn’t enter our use of his thought (history is not a moral agent, and yet we must sometimes wonder!), and has a number of difficulties as a research project, but is an important extension or further exploration, uniquely insightful and useful as a generalized framework of the psychology of the will.

We need something to tone up our discovery of ‘freedom raw’ in the enigma of what is clearly reflected in Kant’s Third Antinomy. Like off the shelf software Kant’s ethical thought, despite its immense complexity, foots the bill. The beautiful and elegant one-glimpse simplicity of our data/model of the eonic effect needs to raise its own complexity level beyond the fuzzy terrain survey of world history. Although our rubric of self-consciousness is open to many perspectives the formulation of Kant is the most classic and the clearest X-ray of the complications in the discourse of freedom. We can strongly recommend this approach. It is possible to do this without even considering the secondary phase of Kant’s thought, his ethical continuation of his first critique. But Kant’s ethical system is one of the greatest advances of modernity, yet suffers a faultline down its core, leading to a sort of gleeful Nietzschean reaction or spree pitting itself against morality, how could have Kant been so stupid. As the saying goes with all finger-waggers, ‘you’ll be sorry’. This reaction has played itself out, perhaps, and we can ask again for a reckoning of ethics, this time considering that what Kant calls ‘common ordinary morality’ is an evolutionary mystery, and a challenge to our own self-descriptions of who we are as evolving organisms. Kant’s system is an intelligent ‘toy’ for the childhood of our evolution. We should be wary of the false glamour of Nietzschean confusions, so suspected of Darwinian oversimplification.

Our chronicle has temporarily skirted the issue of free will as a practical question by adopting a generalized framework of self-consciousness, in the constrast of system action and free action. All our account required was a ‘self-conscious’ agent with relative degrees of freedom or ‘free action’ in an evolving system action. His self-consciousness is the field of the manifestation of will. This ‘free action’ was not necessarily free will. This allowed us to construct a model that was deliberately fuzzy, and here neutral, as ersatz compatibilism (not the philosophic kind, but a simple fuzziness that is compatible with a deterministic or freedom interpretation). We see that we can provide no proof of the existence of free will. Hence our retreat to the ambiguous idea of relative free action in a larger system. One complication of our eonic sequence is that it is ‘forcing freedom’, a slight constraint on the way to jumpstarting freedom. It can only nudge, and then stop. However, we are unconsciously adopting a variant of Kant’s strategy (or strategies, he changes his mind on this!) of deriving freedom from the fact of moral consciousness, and historical ‘moral action’, and/or the other way around, deriving moral considerations from the assumption of freedom.  

Evolution and Ethics Kant speaks of the presence of ‘common ordinary morality’ as a human characteristic. His purpose is to try and clarify that moral consciousness. We can’t produce a theory of the evolution of ethics if we can’t resolve the question of what man’s ethical behavior really is.

Thus, we have ingeniously allowed ourselves a means to go both ways in our distinction of theories and action scripts, in the ambiguity of the will’s surrogate, self-consciousness. And this resembles Kant’s distinction of theoretical and practical reason. We can see that while our statements of theory were restricted to ‘self-consciousness’, we have a further option of taking this fluid consciousness as the basis for the evolution of higher degrees of freedom. In this context we see, remarkably, that Kant’s injunctions on free will represent an eonic emergent, an action script, output of our system. Its theme, perhaps almost stitled, sets the autonomy of the rational agent to the fore as central. That’s a job well-done by Kant, like a monument in the public square of the Enlightenment. Perfect. As we examine the eonic sequence, this sudden appearance near the Great Divide, of a fully formed ethical discourse in the context of Newton seems almost like predestigation, stunning, a version upgrade appearing miraculously, as much Sinai as modern man gets. Kant proposes that we make postulates based on practical reason with respect to divinity, soul, and free will. As to divinity that will be problematical. We have already transposed ‘divinity’ into a broader understanding, stripped of degenerated ‘god talk’. But the point is clear.

In our approach we can simply adopt an operational dialectic on these questions, mindful, however, that it is appropriate to posit free will for our own action scripts, even though we have made no assumptions on this question in constructing our model. There is nothing simple in this. Schopenhauer, for example, takes a slightly different approach to this question (and resembles the Buddhist in his negation of the will). And the issue remains, in the context of an immense obstacle course of religious, political, occult, Hegelian, Madison Avenue, and ideological entrapments of the ‘will’, as to the true nature and significance of this so-called ‘will’. Occult hucksterism can be dangerous here, and Kant’s humble Pietist background is both the best and the least of ways to enter a field infested with dragons. There is a famous story of a Zen teacher, asked the before and after of the great teachings, who responds, ‘Attention, attention’. Our ‘eonic sutra’ can suffice with that, as to will, and attention. The intellectual presumption of will is not always the same as the ‘deep emergence’ of will which often manifests beyond awareness from the unconscious. Kant struggles mightily with this ambiguity of ‘will’ as phenomenon/noumenon. His discourse on practical reason is itself a bit theoretical. Translating that into action is not so simple. The truth of the matter, understanding, remains for the individual to discover from his own experience.

One aspect of the debates over free will lies in its timeless character. But we can see that our system might be evolving to the point where homo sapiens can begin to realize free will in action via his developing self-consciousness. In another sense, that potential was always latent in the potential of his evolved organism. In fact, we suspect, man always was, and is, ‘ready’ for this self-declaration. In any case, our model can easily do two things at once, and this corresponds to the distinction Kant makes between practical and theoretical reason. It is useful to stress this point since theories are not directly the basis for action. We should adopt the strategy that Kant urges on us, of making an operational assumption or postulate of the reality of free will, ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.



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Last modified: 10/04/2010