Don Cupitt -

'Energetic Spinozism' - The Fountain

What is there?

1. (to be read aloud) There is at least language. Here we are in it; and in any case, the existence of language cannot be coherently be denied, denial being itself a linguistic act. For there to be a language, moving as these sentences now are in being produced and received, there must also be temporality and a discharge and scattering of energies.

2. There must be temporality, in the sense of unidirectional succession in the production, presentation and scanning of a chain of signs. (There need not necessarily be 'linear time' in any stronger sense, for cyclical time may be unidirectional.)

3. There must be scattering energies, because uttered language needs a material 'body' to ride upon or to modulate. Language is broadcast, or published.

4. There is at least, then, an outpouring and scattering stream of language-formed events. And we do best to picture the world at large as a beginningless, endless and outsideless stream of language-formed events that continually pours forth and passes away. The stream of events becomes real and determinate, or 'formed', in being read as language by us.

5. By being read, in one language or another (natural, mathematical etc.), the elements of the world become experience, and by being described they become public, or 'real'. Thus the real world is the public world, which is the world-in-language, our world.

6. Our worst mistake is that of supposing the world of conciousness to be a private subworld within each person. No: the world of consciousness is simply the public world, the world that our language has fixed, objectified, illuminated and made public. Our consciousness is simply our participation in this common world.

7. A chain of signs like this one can claim to be an epitome of everything insofar as (a), it states that the world itself consists of lots and lots more stuff like this; and (b), the signs it contains resonate with and evoke many, many other strands in the flux of world-events.

8. Thus philosophy must (a), represent the world as a many-stranded stream of events-read-as-signs; and (b), must work somewhat as poetry does, by employing highly-condensed and evocative metaphors.

9. Human life is radically linguistic, because it is language that gives to the stream of events, not only the flowing continuity, but also the identifiable aims, that our life requires. (To live a human life, I must not only have desires, but know what they are. Or at least what some of them are. I must have goals, and I need to be able to make up narrative accounts of how I may achieve my goals.)

10. In practical philosophy the world is seen under totalizing metaphors that enable us to view it as a fit arena for the successful pursuit of a certain way of life.

11. All readings of the stream of events are highly selective-and-constructive.

12. When the stream of events is read from a first-person-singular standpoint, and in a vocabulary that gives priority to one's own interests and desires, then it is seen as the world of experience or subjectivity. (But still, my world is simply my angle upon the common world.)

13. When the stream of events is read from a third-person standpoint, then it is seen as the objective world - as, for example, the world of our physical-object language, or the world of some form of scientific theory.

14. In the objective world we recognise other persons, with angles upon the world other than our own. Thus the second-person standpoint, and with it the possibility of ethical and political thought and action, arises as a synthesis of the first-person and the third-person readings of the world.

15. This synthesis is love.

16. Everything is made of only one sort of stuff, namely the stream of language-formed events, and the very same bits of world-stuff may be taken up into various constructions - for example, into both your subjectivity and mine. Selfhoods overlap, it may be very considerably.

17. The happiness that comes when one realises that one is completely immersed in and interwoven with the whole endless flux of things is ecstatic immanence.

18. As a living being, one is an organism composed of various organs or subsystems which have slightly different aims. (There is, for example, a potential discordance between the need to preserve one's own life and the need, at whatever cost, to pass on one's genes.) Thus there is - it seems, irremediably - some conflict of forces within the self, which shows up in every first-person account of things as the distinction between text and subtext, concious and subconcious etc. This conflict is ambivalence. 'Mixed feelings.'

19. Ambivalence within the self is at least partly resolved and relieved by talking, by artistic expression and by theorizing the world.

20. The sign as such is a compromise-formation, and all our symbolic expressions are more unified and beautiful than we who have originated them.

21. As our productive and expressive life-activity is a continual creation of the world of experience, so too the happiness that comes when we see our conflicting aims and feelings resolved in the beauty of the world is our objective redemption, that is, our redemption achieved in and through our expression. Hence 'expressionism'. The call of spirituality is not a call to retreat within oneself, but a call to go out into expression in order to "get oneself together".

22. When we see in the public world our own objective redemption, we see the world as being ours in the strongest sense; that is, we see in it the concrete universal human, reconciled and perfected. (This 'cosmic humanism' is possible because (a), we make the world look the way it does to us; and (b), the world is made of just the same stuff as the self is made of.)

23. Because there is no subjective immortality, we can be happy in recognizing in the continuance of the world our own objective immortality; and because there is no subjective redemption, we can be happy in recognising in the beauty of the world our own objective redemption.

24. The way to this eternal happiness is by the love (12 -15) which enables us to escape from a purely first-personal or subjective view of our condition.

[ text from Appendix of The Last Philosophy (1995) ]