"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Modern Evolutionary Tale - Darwin And The Success Of The Best And The Brightest

Eliza Newton had always been a precocious girl.  She was smart and savvy beyond her years, sexually mature at an unusually early age, and with an uncommonly perceptive and empathetic.  Even as a young child she seemed to understand others’ behavior better than even their parents or teachers.  She understood bullies, born cowards, weaklings, and social misfits before they were in third grade; and in each successive year, added to her lore of human behavior.

She could not articulate her conclusions – not because of any limitations of intelligence or fluency but only inexperience - and she could deconstruct the behavior of a bully into its component parts – anger, resentment, weakness, moral immaturity, and self-doubt – without naming them.  She instinctively understood coquettes for their emotional dependence, early sexual precocity, vanity, and limited social range.  She could sense self-confidence, leadership, and social grace and ability in boys. She saw talent before it fully was expressed; and felt the timidity and fear of the those who saw and interpreted what few others did.

Eliza’s perceptual maturity always preceded her own physical and emotional growth.  She was able to understand others better than herself, and until she was much older could never square her own feelings and impressions with those of others.  She was never really aware of her own precociousness, but then again, how could she? Without more years she could only assume that there were many like her who were merely stumbling, getting used to their sharp emotional vision like a pair of new glasses, but still unable to take the stairs two at a time.

It was not until she was a young pre-teenager, fully sexually mature at twelve, intellectually quick and able, and able to paint a complete, detailed emotional panorama of her classmates, parents, and adults that she began to realize that she could do something with this innate, inborn talent; and before long she was the center of her social circle, arbiter of fashion, taste, and boys, the favorite of teachers and sports instructors, and the pet of the principal.

In other words she had seduced her peers, her guardians, and her teachers.  At first she never looked at this growing coterie of admirers as a result of seduction – she had never done anything deliberate to gain friends, attract notice, or to stand out in any way – but she soon realized, because of the effortless way in which she was able to attract others, that she had a natural talent.  With more direction, ambition, and desire, she could have whatever she wanted.

This natural instinct, insight, and social talent plus a growing resolve and personal ambition was a unique and potent combination.   Because of her lack of vanity or selfishness – itself surprising in one of so many talents – she had no enemies and few competitors.  She did nothing to encourage jealousy or sexual envy.  The girls in her class assumed – naively as it would turn out – that she was a confidant and close friend who would never betray them.

By the time she had reached eighteen and was about to enter college, everything seemed to come together – her insight and vision; her ambition and sense of innate authority; and most importantly her ability to manipulate, manage, and organize people exactly to her measure.

Looked at more dispassionately, Eliza Newton was an evolutionary success; perfectly adapted to her environment and dominant within it.  She was a perfect example of Darwin’s principles, representing that randomly occurring evolutionary advantage which, if and when passed on to her offspring would result in an even more successful generation.

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Darwin never postulated the link between human evolutionary success and amorality, but the implication was always clear.  Nietzsche was his philosophical offspring, understanding that in a purposeless existence, survival counts for everything and morality for nothing.  The evolutionary victors are those who, like Eliza, have natural talent and ability; who act beyond the confines of morality to fully realize this ability; and have no compunctions whatever about so doing.

In today’s modern era, there are few people who fully accept their human nature as an innate force unchanged over millennia – aggressive, self-interested, protective, and ambitious.  Most believe that such nature is malleable, subject to progressive influences; and that positive change is a function of human investment, good will, and aspiration.

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History, of course, has shown just the opposite.  We differ very little from animals and have the same appetites, territorial ambitions, procreative behavior, and need for dominance.  Darwin closed the book on progressivism 160 years ago, yet enthusiasm for social reform and eventual utopia has not dimmed in all that time.

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All of which is to explain why Eliza Newton was an evolutionary advance.  Because of a random configuration of her genes, she was born with a positive mutation.  Her ability to see, understand, figure out, and manipulate others to her advantage was exactly as Darwin had predicted; and her Nietzschean amorality made her unstoppable.

Of course engaging in social Darwinism is sketchy at best.  One individual case does not enable a generalized social evolution.  However, as Darwin himself explained, all it takes is one small mutation to confer evolutionary advantage.  Eliza seemed to have benefited from many simultaneous mutations.  Brains, talent, insight, savvy, ambition, and strength all came together in one unique procreative event.

Neither of her parents had any of her abilities, ambition, or native philosophical determinism.  They were ordinary, upper middle class, happy, proud parents of a beautiful special daughter, and thought no more of it.  The genetic accident was just that - a recombination of long-lost and -forgotten family genes to produce a very successful mutation.

All the boys in every class were drawn to her.  Her pheromones were irresistible.  Unlike the coquettes of her age, she had sexual allure without any need for Can-Can.   There was no burlesque about her, no come-hithers, and no obvious seduction.  She was the sexual prize of the class but did nothing to win it. 

She, however, was far from diffident and neutral in choosing from among her suitors. She correctly and accurately sussed out insufficiency, inadequacy, and weakness and always ended up with the most potentially successful, ideal mate. 

If she found none acceptable, she did without.  There was no urgency at her age to mate with anyone. The goal she inherently understood was evolutionary success. 

She never gave feminism’s insistence on the power of the independent woman any space.  There was no point in acquiring, consolidating, and marshaling power without using it to evolutionary advantage.  Women throughout history, recorded in plays, novels, and poetry; and studied by sociologists, anthropologists, and biologists have always sought the best mate possible.  The best father for their children.  The best provider and protector; and their use of feminine power both innate and acquired was instrumental in this search.

Times have changed, and women are no longer under men’s economic and social dominion.  In the developed countries women have reached the highest offices in government and private enterprise.  Yet the evolutionary urge, regardless of the vehemence with which it is dismissed by feminists, is still as strong as ever.  Finding the right mate, and using every bit of unique feminine power to do so is no less relevant now than it ever was.

There may come a time when sexual equality is complete, and there is a perfect complementarity between masculinity and femininity.  No war between the sexes, no sexual competition, jealousy, or envy; but until that time, women – whose liberation from patriarchy and male thrall is only a few decades old – will still need to act like Shakespeare’s Rosalind, Beatrice, Kate, and Viola who used every canny, manipulative, and self-serving means to get their man.

So, until the coming of the new sexual millennium where evolutionary advantage will be mediated differently (genetic engineering, virtuality, and the reconfiguration of society), the Eliza Newtons will get the prize, pass on their genetic advantage to offspring procreated with equally successful males, and continue to be among the real One Percent of society.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Essence Not Identity–The Forgotten Nature Of Character And Personality

Human beings have always grouped together since the first hominids.  Association has been important for survival, for no individual can satisfactorily protect himself from human and animal predators; hunt, crop, or forage alone.

Social grouping – at first extended families, then clans and tribes – had no intrinsic value but was only a means to an end.  Individual survival and the survival and prosperity of society was contingent on cooperation.  Identification with a specific group was important both for reasons of solidarity and internal recognition and to distinguish friend from foe.  Feathers, headdresses, amulets, hand signs, hair styles, face paint, and war cries were all emblems of belonging and solidarity.

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As human society grew and the number of distinct social groupings increased, their signifiers became more sophisticated and complex.  Wealth, ownership, territory, and power became the macro-markers of status and authority.

Socio-political status and stability were not the only reasons for belonging to groups. The more complex societies and civilizations became, the more the individual was subsumed or lost within them.  The need for associative identity – i.e. that beyond personality and character – became increasingly important.  Membership to primary societies – family, clan, and tribe – was complemented by association with secondary ones. A person’s recognition, status, and authority could be enhanced through membership in those political, social, and other groups which conferred a different type of legitimacy.  A man was decreasingly identified by who he was than to which groups he belonged.  Identity became collective.

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The need to associate for personal recognition increased the more society became more complex.  A man would be completely anonymous and lost in an urban industrial society without his church, chapter, and club. Personality, character, verve, talent, and unique expression would never be enough in an increasingly large, collective environment.  The assembly line has always been a good metaphor for the de-individualization of modern society.

American society at the beginning of the 21st century is so complex it often seems chaotic.  ‘Divisive’ is a generous adjective to describe a social environment which in many ways mirrors the early 20th century where laissez-faire capitalism left every man for himself.  While today’s America is a far cry from the vision of Upton Sinclair, Dos Passos, and Dreiser; and while new mediated networks have replaced older, more traditional ones and given the individual more breadth and choice of association, the conflict between the individual and his society is no less problematic.

Given the highly competitive, highly populated, international society of today, it is no surprise that belonging to smaller and smaller niche organizations has increased.  It is not enough to be liberal or conservative, but to find a specific, particular place on the spectrum.  For every such point there are thousands of real or virtual groups to which one can belong.

While the markers of identity have changed over time from dress, comportment, and style to electronic imaging, they are as important.  The Internet is filled with petitions which act less as political instruments than personal identifiers.  The more petitions one signs to save endangered species, to protect local waters and forests, to demand recycling and bicycle lanes, or to renew faith in Christ, the more acquired identity one has.  Now more than ever we are defined less by who we are than how we belong.

Such niche identification is logical in a highly complex and competitive environment such as ours.  It is not enough to be Methodist, Democrat, father, and professional; but each grouping must be disaggregated and enhanced.  Catholic and Protestant churches have  become increasingly political and the separation of the two is indistinct.  Congregants choose those issues which most conform to their own particular concerns – abortion, the death penalty, homosexuality, social and income inequality, racial injustice, etc. – and associate with those groups which reflect and act on them.

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Each of these sub-groupings can be further divided.  The issue of homosexuality, for example, becomes more complex every month. The rights of transgender individuals, although they represent approximately 0.3 percent of the population, has become a particularly rallying point for socially liberal activists; and these rights themselves have been disaggregated.  Access to civil ceremonies, the military, retail, private and public institutions must be differentiated in order to formulate a strategy for change.

The major religions themselves have been repeatedly subdivided.  No longer do the mainstream Protestant churches attract the most faithful.  Mega-churches, store-front churches, and vague community congregations have outpaced them by far; and a new brand of religious particularism is common.  It is no longer enough be believe in God, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther but in the very particular vision of individual charismatic pastors.

Environmentalism has never had the impact activists have hoped because of its many sub-divisions.  While saving the spotted owl and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay may be related in an overall ecological scheme, these and other issues demand specific, earmarked donations and contributor support.

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The neo-civil rights movement is also splintered.  Whereas in the days of Martin Luther King black people marched in unison behind him, today’s black community is politically and socially riven.  While most blacks lament what they see as persistent residual racism, they react differently to it.  Some go to the streets with Black Lives Matter, others work government programs for affirmative advantage and upward mobility, others – like their majority white counterparts – hold down middle class jobs and live comfortably in middle class neighborhoods; while still others look to gangs and street clans for identification, expression, and association. The days of unity, unison, and general collective demands are over.

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What then of the individual? Have we as a society lost all consideration of and respect for soul, spiritual value, character, and personality? It is hard to conclude otherwise.

Our politicians are elected on the basis of image, platforms, and promises rather than rectitude, courage, or principle.  Our pastors may preach a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but are interested more in the growth and prosperity of their congregations.  A thousand church worshipers and five million more televiewers is as collective as one can get.  The individual is not valued for his or her own natural, innate, and God-given uniqueness, but for participation in a collective charismatic epiphany.

Political activists have no interest in individuals but in their numbers.  The more advocates for clean water there are, and the more members PIRG can secure, the more successful lobbying the organization can carry out in Washington.

Individualism itself has been co-opted by secular political interests.  Conservatives beat the drums of Reaganomics and the championing of the rugged individualist and private entrepreneur, but want to create an ever large cadre of such enthusiasts.  Numbers, size, and importance count more than the individual himself.

It is hard then for anyone to take time or even have the interest in unique spiritual or personal evolution.  The Hindu worldview, on the other hand, is one of pure individualism where enlightenment is solely a personal matter.  The accumulation of karma is purely an individual responsibility, and only through attentive passage through the four stages of worldly life can one pass on to the spiritual.

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The very idea of monastic seclusion seems an almost psychotic anachronism.  How can anyone devote his life to such a vain pursuit? The purpose of prayer, well explicated in the New Testament, is to make one mindful of God – not to supplicate him nor to gain favor, but simply to adore and revere.  The Carthusian monks, isolated high in the Alps in a community of silence and prayer are irrelevant.

Yet these monks are perhaps the last remaining examples of pure Western spirituality.  Prayer for its own sake.  Spiritual evolution for no other reason than closeness to the Divine.

Help groups to assist in adjusting to and dealing with grief, substance abuse, personal dysfunction, male ‘toxicity’, female dependency, and a thousand other issues are common.  While alcoholics are encouraged to speak in AA of their own personal travails, it is group affiliation and loyalty which is first and foremost and the way to recovery.  The very first principle of the twelve cited by AA is this one:
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. Protecting the group is more important than individual interests. If AA were to fail as an organization it would be harmful to all the members who depend on it. This means that personal squabbles and opinions need to put to one side in order to ensure the survival of the group (AlcoholRehab.com)

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It has become far easier and thus more common for individual responsibility to be distributed within a larger group.  Individual responsibility for dysfunctional, failing neighborhoods; poor academic performance, or lack of personal ambition is attributed to social factors – racism, social inequality, the concentration of wealth; bias, prejudice, and indifference.

This universal socialization of America is troubling.  While it is impossible to recreate the culture of Jefferson and the Founding Fathers who appreciated the spiritual and entrepreneurial nature of the individual and the secondary, supporting, complementary role of society; it is never to late to challenge received wisdom.

Progressives particularly, whose socio-political advocacy is a legacy of the political philosophy of Marx and Hegel who believed even more deeply than any populist democrat in the power of the people, are committed so collective social action.  Only through concerted and unified popular effort – said Marx and Hegel and say today’s progressives can social progress be achieved.

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Tides always turn, history runs in cycles, and this current era of identity politics and the neutering of the spiritual and personal character of the individual will eventually end.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Idealism–Idle Dreaming Or A Necessary Feature Of Morality?

Idealism has gotten a bad name since Plato whose carefully-constructed model of goodness has been the basis for Western moral thought for millennia.
Plato believed that the Forms were interrelated, and arranged in a hierarchy. The highest Form is the Form of the Good, which is the ultimate principle.Like the Sun in the Allegory of the Cave, the Good illuminates the other Forms. We can see that Justice, for example, is an aspect of Goodness. And again, we know that we have never seen, with our senses, any examples of perfect goodness, but we have seen plenty of particular examples which approximate goodness, and we recognize them as ‘good’ when we see them because of the way in which they correspond to our innate notion of the Form of the Good (Scandalon, Philosophy of Religion)
Classical idealism, a philosophical idea first conceived by Anaxagoras, refined by Plato, and reprised by Kant, Berkeley, Schopenhauer, Leibniz, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard was concerned with the nature of reality, the role of the observer, and the existence of higher planes of existence and morality.  The discussion was metaphysical as well as ethical.

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Idealism became more practical and immediate thanks to Hegel who postulated that ethical reason can and does go beyond ‘finite inclination’.  His philosophical idealism formed the basis for socialism and the idea of progress according to higher collective ideals.

Kierkegaard violently disagreed. "What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational", he said.  Hegel's absolute idealism blurs the distinction between existence and thought. Our mortal nature places limits on our understanding of reality.
So-called systems have often been characterized and challenged in the assertion that they abrogate the distinction between good and evil, and destroy freedom. Perhaps one would express oneself quite as definitely, if one said that every such system fantastically dissipates the concept existence. ... Being an individual man is a thing that has been abolished, and every speculative philosopher confuses himself with humanity at large; whereby he becomes something infinitely great, and at the same time nothing at all.
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Robert Tucker, critic of Marx and Hegel, put it more succinctly:
"Hegelianism . . . is a religion of self-worship whose fundamental theme is given in Hegel's image of the man who aspires to be God himself, who demands 'something more, namely infinity.'" The picture Hegel presents is "a picture of a self-glorifying humanity striving compulsively, and at the end successfully, to rise to divinity." (Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx)
Today idealism has little to do with either the academic disciplines of Plato and Kant and more characterized by a deliberate disassociation with reality, history, and discipline.  Idealism has come to mean belief before reason, and hope above all.  The world can be a better place, idealists say, with purpose, commitment, and zeal.  This conclusion is a radical departure from logically-arrived, rational induction; and can only be characterized as idle dreaming.

History has shown the folly of these ideas.  The world has had few periods of Pax Romana – itself not a product of noble ideals but temporary geopolitical hegemony – and every century has had its bloody wars, civil unrest, coups, insurrections, and violent revolutions.  One has only to look at the Twentieth Century to realize that if anything the world is staying the course of bloodshed, aggression, and territorialism.

The best example of Hegelian social idealism – Soviet Communism – despite 70 years of trying – failed completely, its noble ideals all but lost entirely in Stalinist autocracy, bureaucratic corruption, and violent intimidation.

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Nevertheless, American progressives continue to glean some seeds of renewal from the experience.  The ideas of Marx and Hegel, they say, are still valid, appropriate, and relevant; and the fall of the USSR came about not because of them but despite them.  Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot were common historical figures – innately powerful, canny, amoral, and intelligent and unconcerned with political philosophy and only interested in absolute power.  In other words, communism per se was not the culprit in the Soviet Union’s demise.

So what, then, can latter day idealists find in the rubble of the noble Soviet experiment? Communalism, social cooperation, government paternalism, equal distribution of wealth?

Again, one need only go back further in history to see how all of these ideas are examples of neo-idealism.  Individualism, individual enterprise, competition, and evolutionary territorialism have been the rule since the Paleolithic. Civil and public societies emerged out of family, clan, and tribal associations when and only when the served individual interests.

Once the authoritarian regimes of Eastern and Central Europe collapsed after the Berlin Wall, entrepreneurial activity which had been stifled for decades re-emerged with a dynamism seen only in the days of early 20th century America.  India and China, their economies long repressed by socialism, quickly became capitalist powerhouses once socialist policies and programs were dismantled.

Economics are not the be-all and end-all say progressives; and valid socialist assumptions about collective action for the collective good still apply in other spheres.  The fight against global warming, for example, can only be won if citizens give up their parochial interests and join a national movement to effect positive change.  The movements to reduce crime, equalize incomes, eradicate racism are equally socialistic in conception – only through collective action and the voluntary banking of individual enterprise for the good of the society at large can progress be made.

Yet these ambitions are similarly flawed in concept.  Once again history has shown that evolution (‘progress’) occurs through individual, social, and national competition.  Empires may come and go, but with them are always brought innovation, new ideas, and new social and institutional structures.  Weak regimes are compromised, beaten, or annihilated by the strong – a Darwinian culling – and evolutionary advantage is gained.

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Finally progressives rely on the concept of goodness.  Didn’t Jesus, his disciples, Paul, and the early Christian apologists place an a priori value on mercy, forgiveness, charity, and society?

Yes, in part; but the focus of all of the Gospels is on the application of such virtues within the newly-emerging Christian community.  Brotherhood, fraternity, charity, and goodwill were all deemed important to strengthen the solidarity of the new church which during the first centuries of its existence was put upon by all sides.  The  New Testament, for all its homilies and moral lessons, is still very much a book about political cohesion and expansion.

In other words, the Biblical nostrums often cited by religious progressives to validate their secular ambitions, are little more than that – idealistic prescriptions designed first to help expand the Church, and second to maintain civil order. 

Dostoevsky was exactly right when he wrote (through the words of Ivan Karamazov) that the best way to maintain civil order was through the establishment of the Church as supreme authority and the state subsumed within it – not the other way around.

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Political conservatives have spared themselves this intellectual angst for they have concluded that human nature – essentially self-serving, aggressive, territorial, and fierce – has not changed since the Stone Age; and the same ambitions, desires, and fears that have motivated human beings throughout human history drive current events.   Such history has been defined by the clash of competing interests, and the world has evolved because of them.  If there is to be any change – positive, negative, or neutral – in the world, it will come in similar fashion.

Idealism is a hearty flower and will not die easily.  Every generation seems to grow a pretty patch, nurture them but watch them die, and plant more in their place, only to repeat the discouraging cycle.
Perhaps idealism, despite the distortion of its original ideas, serves a useful purpose.  Although ideals may never be achieved, without them we would always have our noses to the grindstone without ever looking up.  Perhaps.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Uncertainty Principle - Why We Need Identity And Fixed Positions To Feel Complete

In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, also known as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously.
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In other words you can’t know where a particle is and how fast it’s going at the same time.  As importantly you can never predict with any accuracy where that particle will be at any given time, but only suggest the probability of its being there.

Quantum mechanics was not only a revolutionary mathematical theorem but a philosophical one.  For centuries scientists and mathematicians assumed certainty. Things were or they weren’t, nothing in between, vague, imprecise, and uncertain.  Mathematical and physical problems might be difficult to solve, but once they were, they would remain fixed and explicit until they were successfully challenged.

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Even philosophers questioned the nature of things – Bishop Berkeley wondered whether a falling tree would make a noise if there was no one in the woods to hear it.   Einstein postulated that an astronaut travelling at near the speed of sound would age less than those he left behind.  There was something peculiar about time, he said, that did not follow human perceptions and laws.

If Einstein was right, might there be a way to slow time so that we might have more of it? Or as Berkeley suggested, might there be more than one perceptual worlds?

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In both cases, no matter how intriguing the theory or the subsequent questions, the ideas were solid.  One may never know or experience the slowing of time, but one day it would be proven.  Similarly, there may be such a thing as concomitant reality – two worlds, one unpopulated and the other populated but both available to one observer simultaneously.

Max Planck, Heisenberg and others when devising the discipline of quantum mechanics dealt with a very different and perplexing reality – a probable, uncertain one.  Until or unless an new, revolutionary theory is discovered, we will have to assume that our logical, rational, practical laws of assumed existence do not apply in the particle world.  And if they do not exist there, in what other spheres of existence might they be displaced by uncertainty?

Probability of course is nothing new.  We never know for sure whether it is going to rain or not in ten days; or whether the stock market will go up or down; but we can assess risk and probability and make an educated guess.  In fact most decisions are based on uncertainty; and other than the most obvious fixed, absolute things – sinks, dogs, or water – we live in a probabilistic world.

Yet this is still nothing like the uncertainty of quantum physics where it is impossible to determine exactly where a particle will be.  Eventually weather forecasting will be so accurate that we will know far in advance about every climatic event; but we will never be able to pinpoint the location of a particle travelling at a given speed.

Since quantum physics is a mathematical fact; and since its application to other physical events is not beyond the realm of possibility; and since normal, everyday life is necessarily one of probability and uncertainty; then why should anyone care about pinpointing anything? Why does the question ‘Who am I’ persist even though we are composed of billions of bits of DNA material acquired over millennia from unknown ancestors which has been twisted, configured, and formulated again and again each time one’s genome gets mixed up with someone else’s?

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Men and women of questionable or indeterminate sex are not left alone with their uncertainty, but either asked to choose one binary option or the other; or most recently to subscribe to a new category – transgender.  Sexual uncertainty is not an option, despite the fact that given the fundamentally uncertain nature of human existence, it might well be.

It is quite human and natural to want to fix things in place, to configure them according to familiar, prescribed categories, and to present a cogent, coherent unity.  Things are much easier that way. 

Everything we do is contingent upon something else.  Napoleon, suggested Tolstoy, lost the crucial Battle of Borodino not because of failing mettle but because of a cold which had been brought on by wet feet in turn caused by the failure of his valet to bring his gumboots to the battlefield.

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We are not only simply a collection of randomly configured DNA but of random events which occurred in the recent and distant past.  There is the possibility that enough of Great-great grandfather Hiram’s genetic bits showed up in one of his descendants and they turned out to be the same profligate wastrel that he was.  Who would know? And who could predict?

To be sure image and identity serve a useful purpose.  If there were no titles, genealogical history, performance markers, behavioral traits that told our story to others, everyone would be confused.   It is not that identity is not important; it is that it is not existentially important.

By focusing to such an exaggerated degree on personal identity, we lose the most essential human characteristic – dynamism.  While we are most certainly programmed by nature and nurture, there is nothing that enslaves us to either one.  In fact, a life of deliberate uncertainty – about God and the nature of religion, metaphysics, epistemology, sexuality, social exchange and structure – may be the most fulfilled.

For Nietzsche and Schopenhauer the individual and the expression of his pure will was the ideal form of existential reality in a meaningless world; and in some way their theories touched on the principles of uncertainty.  Yet they called for a very certain, distinct, and unmistakably unique, determined, willful individual.

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Personal uncertainty goes beyond nihilism and determinism, for the ‘uncertain’ individual never searches for identity, individuality, or personhood. He is quite happy with the cards he has been dealt, the vagaries of the probabilistic environment in which he lives, and sees no need to waste time, energy, or emotion on figuring out what’s what.

Today’s society is obsessed with identity – sexual, philosophical, social, and personal.  It is unconscionable for anyone to demur or even refuse the categorization, the first step to mobilization, civic action, and change.  In fact, in order for things to change, they have to be themselves identified, categorized, and marked for intervention.  There can be no uncertainty in the revolution.

Markers are everywhere – LGBT, conservative, liberal, environmentalist, fundamentalist, traditional, entrepreneurial, exploitative.

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More conservative Americans who have never had any belief in either progress, idealism, or a better world and who have relied on history for guidance, are indifferent about these charges against Trump.  They see no problem with his eccentricity, vagaries, or inconsistencies.  They – and life – are like that. 

Most of us desperately want something to hang on to and are uncomfortable with anything shaky, precarious, or uncertain.  We want things in their place day after day, absolutely fixed and as unchangeable as possible.  We are afraid of both the dark and what’s around the corner. 

 A few of us are unconcerned about ‘fixation’ and are happy to give in to our jumbled, garbled, and often incoherent ways.  We don’t care who we are, what we represent, or how we fit in.  We are neither Nietzschean supermen nor Napoleonic geniuses; but are quite content with our uncertainty and that of everything else.