Miscellany: On V for Vendetta, vaccination, moral phylogeny and other topics


A personal vignette that I hope is not representative of any wider trend:

I was obliged to obtain a PCR test. I noted that in the results, there was no indication of the cycle threshold (CT) count so I contacted the agency to inquire after the value: “We do not report CT values on our reports; our reporting is determined by our FDA Emergency Use Authorization for this test.” What in the world is one to make of this? 

On the Wachowskis’ V for Vendetta (2006): 

V is not really a hero. Of course, he is not purely a villain either. It is almost as though he emerges, fatalistically, as a counter-reaction equal and opposite to the Leviathan of the oppressive state. The problem, of course, is that the revolution that V successfully fomented will not really solve anything because the people were only united, to begin with, because they shared a common oppressor. Once they vanquish this oppressor, they are liable to descend into the very chaos and conflict that rendered them susceptible to tyranny to begin with. Obviously, we see something similar afoot in contemporary culture almost down to the card in respect to V for Vendetta plot-points. Any solution to such a state must also include a positive connection amongst citizens through orientation to something higher; a transcendent ideal that is beyond merely sharing a common enemy. I hope I can flesh this out, or at least gesture to what this could mean.

In a certain way, Evy is the hero of the film because she is the one who is able to realize her spiritual freedom—which is the only kind there is, since freedom is not a physical phenomenon—through achieving liberation from her fear of death: “I think I’d rather die behind the chemical sheds.” Such fear is like the handle or crank whereby the enemy takes hold of us and Evy showed the way to thwart the enemy in this. I’m still pondering on the relation of “Evy” to “Eve” but she obviously embodies the archetype of Mary, who is called “the new Eve,” in that she gives birth to Christ in her soul

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This “virgin birth” of the so-called “higher I” or “higher self” is the only true meaning of freedom because until we are free to seek the truth and do the good for its own sake, we are bound to utilitarian calculations of payoff, which is to say, we are indentured into to slavery through our attachment to specific external outcomes. Freedom means to be able to do something irrespective of the outcome or personal benefit and only because it is right and because the truth of its rightness has been perceived through intuitive thinking (i.e. when the mind is functioning as an organ of perception and not mere ratiocination). In this way, the only freedom is to submit to God, who is the principle of truth and of goodness. Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom (also translated as Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path) addresses itself to this internal transformation from an epistemological perspective. His later Christological work addresses itself to the same transformation from a mythological or archetypal perspective. Many people have found it exceedingly difficult to perceive the shared essence between these two forms of expression. 

On the asymmetry in arguments surrounding forced vaccination:

Many of the arguments in favor of compulsory vaccination seem to be established on an imaginary dichotomy between (a) everyone getting COVID and (b) everyone being compelled to submit to a mandate. This is misleading because it belies the fundamental asymmetry between the actual positions on the matter. It seems more truthful to juxtapose (a) a mandate, in which everyone is forced to receive two or perhaps three doses of the vaccine and to submit proof of vaccination to (b) a situation in which everyone is free to receive the vaccine or refrain from receiving it according to his own judgment and no one is compelled either way. Again, this is fundamentally asymmetrical since nobody is arguing that everyone universally should be forced not to receive the vaccine. Ostensibly, the reason to mandate the vaccine in the first place is that the vaccine works. If it doesn’t work, why mandate it? If it does work, then anyone who wishes to get it is free to do so and hence, why force this upon anyone, not to say everyone? 

On the phylogeny of morals from mineral to plant to animal to man:

I think the case of animals is very illustrative precisely because it is clearly a borderline case. But I don’t think it is a problem for the graduated schema in which morality only comes to full flower in the human being. “God sleeps in the stone, dreams in the flower, stirs in the beast, and awakens in man,” as it has been said. Hence, the fact that many animals display moral characteristics corroborates the graduated schema according to the maxim that “the exception proves the rule.” If a stone were to display such characteristics, by contrast, we would be compelled to adjust our model in the face of counterevidence. We recognize something distinctly human in the behavior of elephants and perhaps in octopi. Conversely, on many occasions, we can also recognize something distinctly animal in some of the behaviour of human beings.

Again, this reciprocal lending is no problem for the idea that only a human being can be truly moral. We can observe that even within human life, there may coëxist amoral elements together with the most firmly held moral convictions. Take, for example, the fact that all of us were once infants and young children, and in that sense, amoral because we are “pre-moral.” Or consider the fact that each of us spends a certain proportion of his day sound asleep, during which time we can’t possibly be held morally accountable for situations that may eventually arise in our surroundings but for which we had no knowledge. I presume, moreover, that everyone has, at one point, observed himself perpetrating deeds of questionable moral character, to say the least, while he was dreaming and despite that he is liable to repent for his actions upon waking, it is evident by the character of the dream that the moral stakes in that world are not the same as those in this one. Hence, again, it can be seen how waves of amorality are continually lapping on the shore of conscious moral life, as it were, and this shows that the spectrum between man and animal is not discrete but continuous. 

On authenticity:

Authentic according to what? The notion of authenticity implies a standard against which any word or action is judged. Similarly, the word “good” makes little sense unless the context and standard to which it refers is grasped together with its expression. Evidently, it is not adequate to say that merely acting out one’s initial impulse is the same as authenticity, pace some of the contemporary psychological and psychoanalytic theories of the human person that exalt “the unconscious” to the status of immanent divinity. “True” or “genuine” are much closer cousins to our subject than “spontaneous.” If people just blindly followed their instincts, we would hardly think of those people as “virtuous.” Infants and young children do this to a large degree and thereby endear themselves to us in this. At the same time, their behavior becomes less dear with more age. This suggests that the natural spontaneity or ingenuity that we are born with is expected to be transformed into virtue, or reasonable conduct, at the very least. To be childlike has often been counted as a virtue, but to be childish rarely has. Hence, authenticity must relate, in some way, to an ideal that is beyond us but towards which we strive rather than to a condition we are expected to leave behind as we mature.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Charles says:

    Your thoughts on On authenticity, you wrote “The notion of authenticity implies a standard against which any word or action is judged” That is the challenge for many values. For example, when I suggest that a human being is alienated, what is the standard that a person is alienated from. According to what, as you write. A transcendental value or principle such as truth, virtue, goodness.

    Very challenging today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hellomcgrory says:

    Great post Max. — the unity in what we are against is not as sustainable as the unity in what we are for.

    “some of the contemporary psychological and psychoanalytic theories of the human person that exalt “the unconscious” to the status of immanent divinity” – yes!

    I recall Nietszche/Freud etc being called the ‘masters of suspicion’ and I think this applies to what you wrote here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. the unity in what we are against is not as sustainable as the unity in what we are for

      There is a great deal of crossover among the public when it comes to what we’re up against and what we’re up against has been depicted more often in recent years in the form of ‘The Matrix’ than ‘V for Vendetta’. Is it a coincidence that more people are listening to Russell Brand and Joe Rogan, et al., than investigative journalists or even family and friends?

      The one thing the public seems to agree upon is that there is reason to be angry right now.

      Any solution to such a state must also include a positive connection amongst citizens through orientation to something higher; a transcendent ideal that is beyond merely sharing a common enemy.

      So, is Brand right that “what we want is to form a consensus that goes beyond the bounds and limitations of the former model”? Do we know what “the former model” actually is?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Max Leyf says:

        Have you read it?


      2. Yes. Challenging material, but insightful. It’s been quite a while since I read it (twice), but the talk of unity compels me to read it again (with a highlighter in hand).

        Liked by 1 person

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