Abraham Rotstein, Weekend Notes IX

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Weekend Notes (Overview)

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The Great Transformation and America (2)

Freedom and Technology

[7] Everything leads back to the shape of inner life. This is axiomatic and is really linked to the question of what is inner life in the complex society.

What is the complexe society? It is technology and that is where the idea of progress comes from. Also science comes from there. Science is an extension of this and the mind penetrates the physical environment.

If we assume that technology is crucial and that inner life is the decisive factor we have to understand the position of an inner life in a technologically complex society. Our conviction is that inner life is essential and there is also our adherence to science.

Whitehead talked about the irrationality of facts. The strength of the epistemological position is examining these.

The idea of progress is that of accretional knowledge and looking to the future (the Jewish-Christian position). Salvation and security lie in the future. P. thinks that eternity is the characteristic of compelling truth and wouldn't become more or less true in time.

The complex society is not only complex because of the many firms in the telephone book (this is Arensberg's thought). What makes it so complex is the enormous degree of interdependence; we can't contract out and have where to go, and we remain dependent on these people for the next day.

[8] When we try to transform society we discover the limits of this transformation. The transformation … […]

A complex society is exteriorized. […]

Thus we overcompensate in idealism and demand what we lost in reality.

Power and compulsion are necessary for the survival of a complex society and have taken away from us guardianship of our soul. We are not in a position to take care of salvation in the inner life. (Jesus negated his mother and family in the name of his mission).

The basic thought is the way out: that is maturity which would lead to a permissible acceptance of the reality of society. It is a clear proposition and would rid us of the terror of suicide through abstractions. Through the reform of our consciousness we can regain the reality of inner life which was endangered.

[9] We don't know if the forms of life will not collapse. We can't know the outcome because if we knew we probably wouldn't exist at all. Nothing else should come in.

With the economistic fallacy there is a clear, strong and powerful problem. We must drop the 19th century position. We are faced with clear problems - alienation and frustration.

If the book starts with the economistic fallacy we then go on briefly to say that in the world in which peace and freedom will be problems, the present life conditions centered o frustration and alienation reveal their deeper content as a loss of freedom. We can have a brief philosophical introduction and then come back in a positive way answering the problem.

Whether society is totalitarian or conformist makes no difference. It is not true that it is governmental power. That covers up the unity of opinion behind it.

What about exteriorizing? Ultimately the technologically complex society becomes humanly complex. You can't contract out and whatever you decide you are affecting it.

On a psychological level, alienation and frustration creates the societal situation where freedom has gone. This frustration etc. P. calls forms of life. We don't for one moment ignore these. But we might, up to a point, adjust to this. […]

[10] We can use tehcnology to solve the problems that technology raises.

But we don't resign ourselves and rebel in an empty direction. […]

The 18th century said we are rotters going after our own interest but the other man is even worse e.g., the dynastic wars of the 17th and 18th century, such as the Spanish War of Succession etc.

Freedom, in the most important sense of the word as the guardian of our soul is not a nice position to be in.

It is not the paradoxes of technology but of the complex society. The production and consumption of TV affects freedom. We don't influence directly the way it is produced. The way it's produced and consumed affect freedom. The Roman empire and the Roman church were also very complex but that complexity did not attack our individual freedom. It's the hydre that enforces compliance. It it stops you can't heat.

Society didn't start to be complex yesterday. But the complexity of such things as producing TV works in a definite way and affects freedom.

It is the concrete analysis of the phenomenon we are after. We have to avoid the common widespread concepts of why technology endangers inner life. We want to make the point of freedom in the [11] sense in which we speak of freedom e.g., that we can contract out and not take a part. If we give that up we give up Christian freedom.

The Anglican church etc. will say that this is nonsense and has nothing to do with the question.

Our society is in some ways less complex than e.g., primitive money. […]

There is a meaning of freedom which is forgotten and which you get only if you link Christianity with freedom. This is the revelation that man may loose his salvation and eternal life i.e., the meaningfulness of his life.

My question: What is complex about a complex society?

I must be startlingly radical … […]

We don't know what makes a complex society, whether it is the machines for daily necessities, or the centralization of utilities for all the requirements of daily life, or communications media, or the atom bomb danger.

Historically, a hundred and fifty years is a moment and the industrialisation of the planet was not completed in this time. This is all the answer there is. There was no socialism in the middle ages.

[12] In America if you are for socialism you are for pick-pockets. Socialism in Asia and Africa brings industrialism and in America and Europe it stops it. It is the motive of the community. The purposefulness of life brings this about. The essential thing about socialism is the meaningful directing of the community's existence (this would cover Fascism too). That is where the reality of society links all modern consciousness.

Owen said that as long as Christianity prevails nothing can be done.

P.'s point is that something happens at the same time as machine production develops. Token currencies […]

Where the machine is mentioned science must be mentioned as well. […]

Frustrations and alienation in a technological civilization and adjustment of life it requires may eventually lead to a recognition of a dwindling or loss of inner freedom which transcends the institutional sphere.

[13] There is thus the technological civilization, the adjustment of life and thirdly, the loss of freedom which may destroy those forms of adjustment but we are uncertain whether we can survive it. […]

We are loosing the freedom beyond the civic liberties. The reality of society is on the same level as the death of freedom because the reality of society makes the the freedom we thought we had a delusion. The condition of the Christian freedom is the freedom which is the burden - the guardianship of our inner life. It has long ceased to exist only we don't take note of it. This is the freedom which is gone.

Our resistance leads to a reform of our consciousness. The crisis which is up now expressed in … […]

The same problem existed as in the 1820's and is doubtful whether society permits the utopian character of the absolutes. There is no sociologist to tell us the limits. The market utopia, fascism and communism have taught us something.

Myself: The self-assertion of society need not be the end of freedom, but the scene of the struggle to establish the ultimate boundaries of freedom.

Why do we call this freedom[.] It is because it has something to do with freedoms, or independence from society or that all good things are called freedom?

[14] Adjustment may have to go, if truth cannot be adjusted to adjustment. The personality cutting loose from society is illusionary.

The individual is free … […]

In the Great Transformation P. gave the reality of society as the third revelation and all he said was that we should have to resign ourselves and create a new life. Instead of a delusionary freedom … […]

We can have all of the freedoms we insist … […]

We don't exclude the machine solving … […]

For 200 years political theory had been moving along the same lines, Rousseau said: “man is born free and everywhere is in chains”. “Free man” is a Christian freedom and “chains” is society. This puts in a very few words the dilemma of the whole matter and the question arises which we don't answer. This is P.'s most important contribution to social philosophy.

The reality of society is a reform of consciousness and is not a psychological phenomenon but of a mind character.

The center of maturity is a new kind of tolerance.

[15] Life is turned inside out - externalization. The atom and TV are the end of freedom in a exoteric sense.

The reason for the peril we are in is that the foundation of what we mean by the meaning of life has been shaken.

What do we mean by the reality of society beyond power, economic value and externalization?

It culminates in Rousseau - the antinomy on where do natural rights and law come from. From the Christian position.

But man is born dangling from his mothers belly and not free. Rousseau meant delusionary freedom. And what kind of chains? He meant there was a society around him.

Owen said that we would have to do a very great deal to make life human and hearable. How did it occur to him that we would reach the limits of society and resign ourselves? He transcends centuries and illuminates mountains of darkness before him.

Comte discovered the same as Robert Owen but argued in the opposite direction. Comte discovered that there were laws in society which were unalterable. He founded a sect and he was the Pope. The Scientificos in Mexico are Comtists. Comte was greater than Spencer and antedates him by 20 years.

Adam Smith thought that the worker was just an animal and in London these animals are amused and entertained. Wells had the idea of the Time Machine and Huxley wrote the book about the Brave New World.

[16] P. hasn't changed his mind since the end of the Great Transformation.

We can't say “what a queer creature man is”. The interest has moved to the complex society and the above expression closes the door, and you can't reopen it on the entirely different landscape. The question arises whether we should write the book brief book. Everybody prefers a brief book to a long one.

No one has written the history of the machine this way. How did it effect the character of the reality of society? It brought society to the brink of not being able to go under its delusion. It affects innermost life.

Kant said that so long as you act under your own law, you are free. Kant regarded that as the answer to the autonomy of the personality.

The terror of the French Revolution was Rousseauian, Saint)Just and Robespierre - the dictatorship of virtue.

Human Society

[17] Adam Smith gave body to a vision of society consisting of individual atoms.

But there is an idea here which has never been developed (except for a faculty seminar). Why does the economist think that his concepts are generally valid even though it doesn't work for primitive or ancient societies? […]

We are looking for an alternative and the reality of society is an alternative. We haven't got it and if we had it P.'s position wouldn't have importance. (No man knows what we leaves - Hamlet). The limits to which human society can be transformed are not known and the only way is to try to transform it. This is Owen's idea and that is the moral idea. It is live by Christianity or Buddhism and to find out the limits which the reality of society sets, and there no other way.

Looking at it in a historical way there was the market utopia, fascism, bolshevism, and now we are mature by so much.

[19] The dialectic is a concrete one and is the common experience of mankind and what man has developed into. His common experience is what he has matured into.

The limits can be found only in practice and not unless we try. This is the operational and pragmatic element. (Empiry is the testing of knowledge. Pirus is the Greek word for limit and Empiry is to put to the test).

(The temptations in the New Testament is Satan who tested and tempted Jesus).

The Mind (2)

[20] Reciprocity is a basic characteristic of the human mind. We cannot conceive of there not being an adequate response. It is a compelling feature of the mind function whether good is rewarded or evil punished. If something happens in one way then something else happens in another.

The reciprocity in the mutuality of gift-giving is the same as the compulsion of retaliation ('Talic' is the "eye for an eye"). It comes from the human mind demanding as a logical necessity that some change one way must be accompanied by something complementary. In this way we see in retaliation the same thing as reciprocity.

Unless there were symmetrically organized groups there would be no reciprocity. The Great Transformation is based on Thurnwald's thought which Malinowski took over.

We know nothing about the mind, e. g. why a syllogism is compelling. We call the mind, the sum-total of compelling elements. Thus, to call the mind phenomenon subjective is absurd. This would make mathematics logic and geometry subjective.

"Compelling" is a function of an argument and it means that you don't find yourself in a position to contradict it. You accept it is as true and valid and you are unable to think otherwise.

My question: Is there element of overcompensation in idealism?

[21] Saints show their inhuman character all the way.

Overcompensation is Alderian and assumes inferiority complexes. This is the way the surfaces of consciousness works.

We are looking at forces which are not psychological but mind phenomena. The problem of how to distinguish what we say – he laws of inner life – and the psychological, doesn't mean that those phenomena don't exist. But it's a semantic question. We must try and find metaphors and a formula to distinguish between psychology and the mind.

One gets into difficulty on the term "consciousness". it seems to be psychological, but mathematics is not a psychological phenomenon. Political phenomena, the mind, and moral phenomena should be contrasted (distinguished) from psychological phenomena. The contents of the human soul are the same as the content of mind. We mean the compelling elements.

One metaphor that can be used is that the mind is like the ice which flows in the river. Although it is of the same substance as the river the aggregate is different. There is nothing in the mind which is of a different sort of content. It has a different function and this would have to be related to the reform of consciousness. The form is changing.

The mass of the people can't resist. All of them together will not resist the pressure indefinitely.

P. assumes free will. Man's self-description of having [22] free will is correct, but this seems to be to deny the economic forces will compel people to do something. It is not the individual but the mass which is compelled. The individual knows that he is an individual, but the town or population can't resist famine.

Other factors are also involved. All religious assume free will. Science says it can prove that there isn't such a thing. But it proves something different − how the mass will behave in the long run. With a mass there are no loyalties and mind forces enter.

P.'s conclusion is that the individual is under compulsion only from the mind forces but not from psychological forces. All assume a free adherence to it. Even mathematics is that way.

P. uses the mind as synonymous with power in politics, and in psychology with compelling element.

P. wants to stress that knowledge which is revealed and fundamental and which we can't doubt. The source of the compulsion is to accept it as valid knowledge. One can't say that there is compulsion to be compelled by them. 2 plus 2 = 4 and that is so because you call it four. There is a meaning here that you can show. You can transfer this as an operationally verifiable fact. As a fact there is nothing to compel you to submit to this or to consistent thinking in that sphere.

There is no mind phenomenon which has not not something which logic call premises.

In aesthetics, law, ethics, mathematics, and in a number of other disciplines they register these arguments.


Trade and Market (2)

The Great Transformation


Interdisciplinary Project

Pearl Harbour




Jews and Christianity

[28+57] The reason for anti-semitism is that Jews are rightly charged with having brought Christianity into the world and then evading the consequence. (P. thinks it is true). The Jew thinks that the Gentil is pretty silly to be saddled with the religion. It is an unbearable burden.

[29+58] P. always thought so. The Nazis said that Bolshevism was Christianity all over again and the Jews ought to be destroyed because they are responsible for Christianity.

Editors Notes

Text Informations

Date: April 6, 1957 (Interview)
KPA: 45/06