Argument Sketches for Being a Stoic During the Meta-Crisis
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May 19th, 2021
I am loving this song called ‘I, Nietzsche’ by Fenne Lily right now. I am a sucker for these sensitive sounding folk singer-songwriters.
I invited her on to The Stoa, with the following idea: we all listen to the song together, or perhaps she does a live performance, and then we engage in a philosophical conversation, in the style of dialogos, on how the song landed for us. We can add some cool elements from Collective Presencing or Glass Bead Game, and make it a really beautiful experience.
I see this becoming a ‘thing,’ where all of the cool indie artists want to visit The Stoa to get The Stoa’s dialogos treatment. This is a part of the ‘Seduce the Artists’ chapter in The Stoa game plan.
The series needs a cool name, so let me flex some coinage game right now and give it one:
Song Philosophy … dat lame.
Listening Together ... this is not a children’s book, brah.
Philosophical Song Party ... no, just no.
Man, my coinage game sucks right now. Okay, take a sip of espresso, then consult the daemon…
Daemon Listening … give it a tweak.
Listening to the Daemon ... closer.
Songs for Communitas … hmmm. Let me stay with this one for a moment.
Yeah. I sense that could be the one. I am vibing with it. I am also vibing with the 10 people I am journaling with in silence right now. I am really liking this ‘Live Journaling’ experiment. We all did check-ins, to share what we will be journaling about today. It was so good to see all the things people wanted to process, ranging from unpacking personal issues to fleshing out certain concepts. This is what doing philosophy together is about.
I have not written yet about the thing I checked in with, and I am already 300 words in. Getting distracted by delicious songs is good, but what I wanted to write about was also good. I am presenting at Anna Gat’s Interintellect later today, and I will be making the case that Stoicism is a good philosophy to have during the meta-crisis. This will include three arguments that I have not seen in other places.
I start the presentation with an introduction on Stoicism. I sense it is good to put forth my ‘Weird Stoic’ take on Stoicism, then explain what the meta-crisis is. I have a new definition of it now: A catchall term for the ecology of all the bad shit that is collectively happening to us or collectively can/will happen to us.
The three arguments that I will present as to why Stoicism is a good philosophy to have during the meta-crisis are: embodied glocalism, doomer optimism, and a collective opportunity.
I might not have the time to do due diligence to mapping these three arguments now, but I’ll engage in a quick and dirty argumentative mapping though, to see where I need to strengthen the arguments, and spot where the ‘suppressed premises’ are. These are premises that implicitly exist within an argumentative structure but are not explicitly stated.
I would say that a lot of elites at the helm of ‘Empire’ are ‘disembodied globalists.’ I probably should map out what I mean by Empire though, because my take is slightly different than how Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri use the term. Michael Hardt expressed interest in coming to The Stoa, so perhaps I’ll flesh this out in another entry closer to when he visits.
I define disembodied globalists as people who are disembodied and are focusing on global concerns without care for their local significance. I contrast this to embodied glocalists: people who are embodied and are focused on local concerns while caring about their global significance.
Glocal is that cute portmanteau that describes the ‘think globally, act locally’ saying. The Stoics are well-suited for this because following the Stoic algo, such as their ‘dichotomy of control’ heuristic, encourages a localism in the deepest sense of the word.
You end up focusing on what is in your control, your mental thoughts and bodily actions, and the right relationship between the two. Following this algo correctly brings one to what is immediately around them, their body and their environment, and encourages them to stay within their paygrade, so they do not overreach.
Stoics also have a cosmopolitan disposition, and view themselves as citizens of the world. Combine the deep localism, along with that cosmopolitanism, and you get that glocal sweet spot. This is related to a term that Greg Thomas plugged me into: rooted cosmopolitanism.
I need to flesh out more premises here, to explain why disembodied globalism is reactive to the meta-crisis, and why embodied glocalism is responsive to it.
This is the term Jason Snyder and Ashley Colby are running with, which is preparing for societal collapse, and it is associated with the homesteading scene. The tweet that influenced the doomer optimism scene was this one from Jason:
I'm not a doomer. I'm a pragmatic optimist. Part of being a pragmatic optimist is recognizing and emotionally processing the incredible challenges we face, and then moving forward as if there is still hope.
I would say this ‘doomer optimism’ stance can expand beyond the collapse and homesteading intersection, towards all facets of the meta-crisis. It is the correct disposition to have, because it does not make one naive to the challenges we are faced with, nor does it capitulate to despair, or what Mark Fisher calls ‘reflective impotence’. You know that shit can get really bad, and this potentially becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a world-fulfilling one.
Doomer optimism is of course related to the ‘Stockdale Paradox.' James Stockdale, one of my heroes, was a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. His Stoicism allowed him to maintain his existential hope without taking his eyes off the ‘brute facts’ of his situation. In his own words:
You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end —which you can never afford to lose —with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
Heaven yeah. I sense two movements are needed here: gaining more ‘meta-crisis awareness’ while instilling the existential hope that Stoicism affords. The premises I need to add to this argument should address this question: why does Stoicism as a philosophy imbue existential hope?
I sense the next argument contains the answer.
A Collective Opportunity
This is my favorite one.
I always make this Stoic dad joke when something goes ‘wrong’ at The Stoa: this is an opportunity to practice our Stoicism. I do say this jokingly, but me saying this is really me practicing my Stoicism by reminding myself that everything is an opportunity for practice.
This is about ‘amor fati’ of course, which contains the following disposition: view any serenity-disturbing event that is out of your control as if it were an event that you would have made happen if you were the author of all of your life's events.
It is a simple cognitive move, but it does wonders. The meta-crisis is not only a Stoic opportunity, but it may also be the ultimate Stoic opportunity, because it can be the ‘forcing function’ for all of us to start becoming more virtuous. This is related to my previous foreshadowing that the meta-crisis can serve as a collective rite of passage for “humanity” to become self-aware.
Also delicious: the meta-crisis may serve as a superordinate goal to at least temporarily appease memetic tribes lusting for outrage, as with deeper meta-crisis awareness, something becomes more important than one’s addiction to outrage porn or replicating one’s memes in an unexamined way.
There is probably a shitload of suppressed premises going on in this entry, and I do not have time to tease them all out. This is fine. I’ll just present all of these arguments as ‘argument sketches’ rather than conclusive “you are stupid if you do not agree with me” arguments.
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