The End of the Common World


The end of the common world has already begun.

Prophetic projections or disenchanted salvos, the blows come from all sides. « Decadence » (Nietzsche). « Malaise in civilization » (Freud). « Decline of the West » (Spengler). « Mechanical petrifaction » (Max Weber). « Crisis of the mind » (Paul Valéry). « Spiritual sickness of humanity » (C.-G. Jung). « Absence of meaning » (Hannah Arendt). « Crisis of meaning » (John Paul II).

These judgments, recent on the scale of history, testify to the acceleration of a massive phenomenon, but we must go back further to understand its deepest sources.

One of the first signs of decomposition appeared more than a thousand years ago. The via moderna (the « modern way ») inaugurated the deconstruction of metaphysics in the Middle Ages. A few monks, tired of the scholastics, began to scatter to the wind the « chimeras » and « empty abstractions » of classical philosophies. « Truth » or the « universal » were now just empty words, fallacies. Only in facts was truth to be found. The only universals were now the singularities.

With nominalism was thus founded the first basis for modern ideas. It took several centuries to broaden and deepen it. Empiricism, relativism and positivism subsequently accompanied the progress of science and technology. At the same time, the nominalist lesson, coming out of philosophical circles, was adapted to politics, for the benefit of the Prince and the advantage of Leviathan.

We had finished with metaphysics, and with the classical age, but certainly not with religion. Shortly after the fall of Constantinople, the invention of printing, the discovery of America and the Copernican revolution, markers of the entry into « modern » times, a part of the West became religiously and lastingly infatuated with a core of ruthless and pessimistic ideas: universal reign of sin, absolute decay of man, assured perdition of the whole of humanity, – with the inexplicable exception of a few « saints ».

These singular, self-proclaimed « saints », imbued with an exceptional ethos, did not remain inert. Assuming their « manifest destiny, » they began to preach relentlessly, century after century, a corrosive despair, contempt for the weak, abandonment of the poor, while the « war of each against each » raged.

Nominalism and the Reformation had attacked, from two different angles, the old « Good News » that had once been offered to all. The Enlightenment came, also dominated by nominalism, in a resolutely more materialistic version. It was then possible to assert without detours that humanity is in reality only an « abstraction », and that there are only « concrete men » (Goethe). The idea made its mark, and just before the First World War it was declared that « natural law » and the idea of « humanity » had become « almost incomprehensible in Germany » (E. Troeltsch). The death of the word heralded the death of the thing. This misunderstood « abstraction » was soon to be given an appallingly concrete meaning.

After two world wars and several genocides, nominalism still occupies the top of the pavement. The philosophers who claim to be its advocates still seem incapable of defining the essence of « good, » « true » and « just ».

And now the end of the « great narratives » (les « grands récits »), announced by Foucault and Lyotard, adds a final touch to this millennial deconstruction.

From now on, the Dasein, alone and naked, without Idea and without Narrative, can be delivered to the games, without why and without hindrance, of the political and social forces, in the economic and technological immanence, and in the continuous confrontation with the resurgence, providential and reactionary, of tribalisms and identities.

Special groups, special interests, selfishness are exalted. The idea of a common world is moving further and further away.

The cleavages are getting worse and settling over time. Globalized capitalism produces an oligarchy of super-dominants and an infinite number of proletarians, enslaved in circles concentric to the Empire. On one side, a few masters of the world, on the other, all the « rest ». The future promises to be sectarian, oligarchic and mafia-like.

Clear, irrevocable signs of decay, poverty, weakness, servitude are, generation after generation, devolved to the immense mass of losers, condemned on earth and « reproved » in heaven.

In this planetary division of destinies, the faith of the « saints » of the day guides and energizes them beyond measure. Their religion is not opium for them, it is their cocaine.

They went to school. Metaphysical egoism and hatred of the common have been transposed far beyond the religious sphere, into a world that is already no longer common, but divided. Inclusion is reserved there to the few, general exclusion is for all the rest, and dissociation is universal.

The ancient battle of the Calvinist « saints » during the Wars of Religion and the Hobbesian War of All Against All in 17th century England has spread and extended beyond all expectations.

The Christian fundamentalists and the born again who today wage war on the « axis of evil » are the heirs of the Puritans who approached the shores of New England, to appropriate in blood a land that was « manifestly » intended for them.

Untouchable ideas (Manichaeism of good and evil, of the chosen and the fallen, of friend and foe) adapt to all times, all religions, all latitudes. Formerly Gnostic, yesterday Calvinistic, they can be summarized as follows: « After me, the Flood ».

In more formal style: God’s grace is reserved for the chosen few and nothingness is promised to the rest of the world.

These ideas have provoked countless wars over the centuries. Today, they serve as mantras in the worldwide « war of civilizations ». They are translated into all languages: « In God we trust », « Gott mit uns », « Dieu avec nous », « Allahu-akbar ».

It’s not that there is no alternative.

Famous thinkers have long been engaged in other or contrary utopias.

Leibniz proposed to build the « republic of the minds ». Rousseau believed in the expression of the « general will ». Kant philosophized about the « general interest of humanity ».

But have the peoples, crammed into the world’s jungle, heard them? The law of the powerful is always stronger than the law of the weak. What can « paper and words » do before « the sword and the hand of men »? i

The religion of global dissociation and disenchantment continues to grow. The once religious and moral schism has become secularized and trivialized. A ferocious schizophrenia gnaws at the global unconscious, psychically cracked, torn, mutilated.

It is necessary to analyze and anamnesis it, to understand the decomposition of the modern mind and the programmed end of the common. It is necessary to delve into the early days of the era, to find its Manichean and Gnostic preliminaries, to reveal its initial wounds, and their innumerable after-effects.

The ancient past also tells of a possible future. The « knowledge societies » take up the ancient Gnostic utopia in another way.

The new believers believe in other immanent gods: knowledge, technique, science, indefinite progress.

They love a new law, « convergence ».

They compose a neo-Genesis, where there is no longer evening or morning, no abyss or firmament, no divine wind, but the demiurgic fusion of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, neurosciences and artificial intelligence. Immanence emerges at the nanoscale, and universally spreads its Gospel, through the globalization of materials, materials and capital. Bits, atoms, neurons, and genes will be the unsuspecting heroes of the new Global Narrative.

A new Promised Land can be hoped for. Immense « free lands », with indefinite, putative borders, have already been appropriated by the pioneers of invention, the pilgrim fathers of appropriation.

A trans-humanity with « augmented » genes ii will tomorrow take exclusive possession of it. Homo Sapiens 2.0 will leave behind them an obsolete « remnant », humanity 1.0.

The disruption of the common world will continue.

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iHobbes, Leviathan, ch. 46

iiA report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed alarm about this in the following terms: « In the long term, nanomedicine could lead to a radical transformation of the human species. Humanity’s efforts to change itself as and when it wants to could lead to a situation where it would no longer be possible to speak of a « human being » at all « . Cf. Bert Gordjin, « Les questions éthiques en nanomédecine« , in Nanotechnologies, éthique et politique, UNESCO Editions, Paris, 2008.