Footnotes to Plato, Knowledge & Ecology

“The distinction between men and animals is in one sense only a difference in degree. But the extent of the degree makes all of the difference. The Rubicon has been crossed” (p. 27).

via Philosophy of the Human in Whitehead and Schelling (response to Knowledge-Ecology).

via The Rubicon Has Been Crossed.


I am really grateful for these two thinkers, colleagues, friends. I am consistently learning from their scholarship and leadership in the course of my blogging development. Blogging has become a landscape of furious production. Overwhelming really. Hyper-involvement, everything possible through script is here or will be.

Still, some worlds seem better than others, and I find my ally-ship sailing after the inspiration – the scholarship – flowing from Matthew Segall and Adam Robert.

There is little risk of ‘missing the mark’ when beginning with a quote from A.N. Whitehead. His contribution to Western thought cannot be underestimated. Perhaps his most significant philosophical contribution is contained in our quote above. In Whitehead’s quote from Modes of Thought, he is emphasizing the notion of degree, more specifically the difference of degree, the matter of change, the formulation of process. Found within the nature of things is process. Process actually becomes the difference of degree that makes Whitehead’s thought a philosophical lubricant for subsequent thinkers.

I am inclined to use the word ‘revelation’ when talking about the importance of Whitehead’s contributions to human thought. There is definitely a place for the mysterious in process, but least we not forget the central point – even Whitehead had his linage, his philosophical ancestry. His contribution was only a difference of degree… but oh… in that degree of difference a threshold was crossed.

This Threshold – Whitehead’s ‘Rubicon’ – is the central concern of Adam Robert’s post. What is this Rubicon? What worlds constituted a “difference of degree” so irrevocable there would be no permit of return. The Rubicon that humanity crossed is at once the difference that reason, imagination, and creativity make in the human AND the difference the Cosmos became when these differences in evolutionary potential emerged into actual occasions, into being human. Fundamentally, the difference becomes a world of objects always, already oriented toward their own ontologies – like us. That the Rubicon has been crossed means that amidst all the worlds of emergence – contested, shifting, interpenetrating, hijacking – we must think ecological. Our ethics is our ontology. The cultivation of our sensitivity to the constant process of change will be a great companion as we feel our way toward cosmopolitical harbors.

The human IS different and this is where Matthew Segall’s insight is crucial. Drawing from both Whitehead and Schelling he speaks to the difference. “Other occasions are “free” to the extent that they are distinct realizations of the creative advance into novelty; but only the human knows that it is free, only the human can withdraw from time and glimpse into the eternal mind of God to envisage as yet unrealized values.” Segall follows Whitehead suggesting that the difference for humanity lies in our religious or moral dimension. With the addition of Schelling’s commentary the human now stands on the other side of the Rubicon with the undeniable perception of Good and Evil.

We are the first over the horizon; we see…

The emergence of humanity is also a concrescence of the internal actualities until now latent within organic evolution. The power of human emergence and our common bond of natural degree seals the point of no return. The human does not get to leave self-awareness. The Cosmos has already looked upon itself through human eyes. Good and Evil mark human history. Time is now a category of human perception. The Rubicon is here to stay.



Narratives of Building Alliance

This is the type of work that was a center piece of my education at CIIS. It brings up many, many feelings I would love to share. I have practiced both as student and teaching assistent many of the building alliance activities demonstrated in this video with my former professors in the Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) program. I have pride about my experiences and training in this work. I have wonderful tools that flow from courageous conversations about race, class, gender, sex, history, oppression and privilege. It is beautiful to see this work in the world.
It is interesting how powerful my experience was watching this video. I have deep feelings of mourning connected to this work. I believe the power of this work is very dangerous; it is combustable if handled improperly. Paradoxically, that same fire is the power needed to enact justice, forge radial intimacy, heal multigenerational pain, and ultimately our Earth.
My experience of “Building Alliances Across Difference” created a powerful, intimate, engaged connection within my program. It built a community for the students in my program. Our commitment to one another, our agreement to change the world around us, and practice radical justice flowed out of the classroom into the larger institute of CIIS. Our work supported and built our student government. We led groups advocating for queer rights, connecting people of color, white people working against racism, and our year long administrative push expanded the multi-gendered restrooms on campus. As our institutional power grew so did our mistrust of administrative authority. Suspicion clouded institutional processes; accusations of “unsafety” flew and the administration eventually fired our professors effectively ending the educational progress of thirty plus students.
This was an intensely personal matter for me. I still have trouble teasing out my painful emotions. ‘Unskillfulness’ was the word that continually made sense to me. It seemed clear that our institutional leaders simply lacked the tools to navigate the difficult waters of conflict resolution. And in the end… many peoples lives were deeply disrupted, injured.
The work of restorative justice, of understanding difference, of building alliance, the work of mourning and healing is not only a practice of communication, compassion, hospitality… it is a cultivation of skillfulness and celebration – unification. Watching this video reminded me how important it is balance the seriousness of history and pain with attentiveness to the future and playfulness.
The work of mourning and healing is always, already precarious. It is the real threat of danger and uncertainty that is at the same time the heart and power of building alliance work; it is the reason why we experience radical empowerment.
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Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s Eulogy

Senator Edward M. Kennedy
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
New York City
June 8, 1968

He said of what his father meant to him: “What it really all adds up to is love – not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order, encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.

“Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and who needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.”

This is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves us is what he said, what he did and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best, and I would read it now:




The Consciousness of Poverty

The consciousness of poverty is growing. The dynamics of media, communications, and mobility have an effect of conscious compression upon

World map showing percent of population living...

World map showing percent of population living on less than $1.25 (ppp) per day using the latest data from 2000-2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

our culture. By all accounts poverty has existed in the hearts of sensitive people since the first city-states some 2,500 years ago. The difference in our contemporary order is how the dynamics of world compression have concentrated human consciousness upon the issue, as it is shared across our Earth and juxtaposed the existence of exorbitant wealth. The reality of ending poverty across the Earth becomes an increasingly possible goal as more and more focus is brought toward the issue.

One of the effects that the concentration of consciousness is having upon our culture is a widening interpretation of poverty. Poverty is more than economic scarcity; it is multi-dimensional; it is psychic in the form of mental disorder, delusion, depression, and dementia; it is communal in the form of hyper-isolation, race, gender, and class oppression, and multi-form alienation; it is technological in the form of obsession, fetish, dependency, and distraction; it is embodied in the form of mal-nutrition, disease, obesity, and cancer; it is environmental in the form of species extinction, erosion, desertification, industrial pollution, and climate change; it is ethical and civic in the form of greed, falsity, fear, resentment, apathy, and sin. Poverty is overwhelming and it is shared with our companion species; it lives in the mind, body, and spirit of animals as well as humans; it is a shared phenomenon within ecosystems; it is a fundamental attribute of the anthropocene era.

It will take a movement of consciousness to truly end poverty. A shift in perception away from fundamental scarcity and competition towards companionship, cooperation, and abundance. We live in a culture of materialism where the power of physical guides decisions and the spirit of connection and wisdom is forgotten for the sake of gross action obsessive with “progress.” The possibility of emancipation narrows as our arrogance grows. Paradoxically, in a culture of consumer freedom, our future offers us little choice. We must become conscious, the voice of our hearts must be raised to be heard by the mind addicted to furious thinking, always calculating, figuring… lost mist the endless chatter.

I pray that our hearts lead us away from poverty and toward collective liberation…one step at a time. I pray that the achievements of our individuals powers be brought into the service of unified perfection, Earthly conscious elevation, embodied ecological healing. I pray for heaven on Earth as my ancestors prayed. I stand with them in memory of our future-to-come.


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