Searle Against Property Dualism

Ladies and Gentleman, John Searle arguing against property dualism, an excerpt from ‘Why I am not a property dualist’

I put the text here in order to start a discussion about who is right and who is wrong, on the consciousness game.

Because neither consciousness nor matter are reducible to the other, they are distinct and different phenomena in the world.. Those who believe that consciousness is reducible to matter are called materialists; those who believe that matter is reducible to consciousness are called idealists. Both are mistaken for the same reason. Both try to eliminate something that really exists in its own right and cannot be reduced to something else. Now, because both materialism and idealism are false, the only reasonable alternative is dualism. But substance dualism seems out of the question for a number of reasons. For example it cannot explain how these spiritual substances came into existence in the first place and it cannot explain how they relate to the physical world. So property dualism seems the only reasonable view of the mind-body problem. Consciousness really exists, but it is not a separate substance on its own, rather it is a property of the brain.

We can summarize property dualism in the following four propositions. The first three are statements endorsed by the property dualist, the fourth is an apparent consequence or difficulty implied by the first three:

(1) There are two mutually exclusive metaphysical categories that constitute all of empirical reality: they are physical phenomena and mental phenomena. Physical phenomena are essentially objective in the sense that they exist apart from any subjective experiences of humans or animals. Mental phenomena are subjective, in the sense that they exist only as experienced by human or animal agents.

(2) Because mental states are not reducible to neurobiological states, they are something distinct from and over and above neurobiological states. The irreducibility of the mental to the physical, of consciousness to neurobiology, is by itself sufficient proof of the distinctness of the mental, and proof that the mental is something over and above the neurobiological.

(3) Mental phenomena do not constitute separate objects or substances, but rather are features or properties of the composite entity, which is a human being or an animal. So any conscious animal, such as a human being, will have two sorts of properties, mental

properties and physical properties.

(4) The chief problem for the property dualists, given these assumptions, is how can consciousness ever function causally? There are two possibilities, neither of which seems attractive. First, let us assume, as seems reasonable, that the physical universe is causally closed. It is closed in the sense that nothing outside it, nothing non-physical, could ever have causal effects inside the physical universe. If that is so, and consciousness is not a part of the physical universe, then it seems that it must be epiphenomenal. All of our conscious life plays no role whatever in any of our behavior.

On the other hand, let us assume that the physical universe is not causally closed, that consciousness can function causally in the production of physical behavior. But this seems to lead us out of the frying pan and into the fire, because we know, for example, that when I raise my arm, there is a story to be told at the level of neuron firings, neurotransmitters and muscle contractions that is entirely sufficient to account for the movement of my arm. So if we are to suppose that consciousness also functions in the movement of my arm, then it looks like we have two distinct causal stories, neither reducible to the other; and to put the matter very briefly, my bodily movements have too many causes. We have causal overdetermination.

The property dualist has a conception of consciousness and its relation to the rest of reality that I believe is profoundly mistaken. I can best make my differences with property dualism explicit by stating how I would deal with these same issues.

(1) There are not two (or five or seven) fundamental ontological categories, rather the act of categorization itself is always interest relative. For that reason the attempt to answer such questions as, “How many fundamental metaphysical categories are there?”, as it stands, is meaningless. We live in exactly one world and there are as many different ways of dividing it as you like. In addition to electromagnetism, consciousness, and gravitational attraction, there are declines in interest rates, points scored in football games, reasons for being suspicious of quantified modal logic, and election results in Florida. Now, quick, were the election results mental or physical? And how about the points scored in a football game? Do they exist only in the mind of the scorekeeper or are they rather ultimately electronic phenomena on the scoreboard? I think these are not interesting, or even meaningful, questions. We live in one world, and it has many different types of features. My view is not “pluralism,” if that term suggests that there is a nonarbitrary, noninterest-relative principle of distinguishing the elements of the plurality. A useful distinction, for certain purposes, is to be made between the biological and the non-biological. At the most fundamental level, consciousness is a biological phenomenon in the sense that it is caused by biological processes, is itself a biological process, and interacts with other biological processes. Consciousness is a biological process like digestion, photosynthesis, or the secretion of bile. Of course, our conscious lives are shaped by our culture, but culture is itself an expression of our underlying biological capacities.

  1. Then what about irreducibility? This is the crucial distinction between my view and property dualism. Consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes, because all the features of consciousness are accounted for causally by neurobiological processes going on in the brain, and consciousness has no causal powers of its own in addition to the causal powers of the underlying neurobiology. But in the case of consciousness, causal reducibility does not lead to ontological reducibility. From the fact that consciousness is entirely accounted for causally by neuron firings, for example, it does not follow that consciousness is nothing but neuron firings. Why not? What is the difference between consciousness and other phenomena that undergo an ontological reduction on the basis of a causal reduction, phenomena such as color and solidity? The difference is that consciousness has a first person ontology; that is, it only exists as experienced by some human or animal, and therefore, it cannot be reduced to something that has a third person ontology, something that exists independently of experiences. It is as simple as that.


But if consciousness has no causal powers in addition to its neurobiological base, then does that not imply epiphenomenalism ? No. Compare: the solidity of the piston has no causal powers in addition to its molecular base, but this does not show that solidity is epiphenomenal (Try making a piston out of butter or water).


Both materialism and dualism are trying to say something true, but they both wind up saying something false. The materialist is trying to say, truly, that the universe consists entirely of material phenomena such as physical particles in fields of force. But he ends up saying, falsely, that irreducible states of consciousness do not exist. The dualist is trying to say, truly, that ontologically irreducible states of consciousness do exist, but he ends up saying, falsely, that these are not ordinary parts of the physical world. The trick is to state the truth in each view without saying the falsehood. To do that we have to challenge the assumptions behind the traditional vocabulary. The traditional vocabulary is based on the assumption that if something is a state of consciousness in the strict sense – it is inner, qualitative, subjective, etc. – then it cannot in those very respects be physical or material. And conversely if something is physical or material then it cannot in its physical or material respects be a state of consciousness. Once you abandon the assumptions behind the traditional vocabulary it is not hard to state the truth.”


Quickly Characterizing the Problem of Consciousness

Consciousness can be used in many senses, “The” problem of consciousness involves uniquely the sense of sentience, that is, being aware of things, experiencing reds, blues, greens, pains, pleasures and so on. The problem of consciousness refers to there being something it is like to be you. The problem can be stated in some ways “Why does it feel like something to be me?” “How come in a physical world that is structuraly describable just in terms of shape and motion, I have this different thing I call ‘experience’?” “How come in addition to my body, and the cognitions (computations) being performed in my brain, there is also me?”

Most people find it intuitively simple to grasp what I mean by experience, or awareness, but just to make sure we are on the same ground, think of that thing that christians think that will remain alive after your body dies. Forget now about the seemingly ghosty shape of that spirit, forget everything that in the movies made it look like a gas, a vapour etc… Think about the important thing, the one that you would like that remained preserved. If you value what I do, you have just singled out the concept of experience, or what we philosophers call phenomenal-consciousness. Just to make sure you got it right, is the thing you are thinking something that is there when you are sleeping (and not dreaming)? If it is, then go back to the beggining of the text and think of something else, if it is not, then get along for the ride.

So, the world around us is a physical world. Everything (Flowers, books, radiowaves, dromedaries, black wholes, planets, uncles, toothpaste etc…) is physical, composed of matter, rearranged in a particular fashion, but nevertheless, physical. Abstract concepts, like “future”, “nothing”, “whole” and “spiritual” are concepts that are represented in our heads. This means specifically that our brains are shaped in a fashion such that if someone says “Tell me about the future” that information is going to pass through our nervous system, and then arrive back as “The future is a concept about what is going to happen and …. “. So these concepts need not be ungrounded on physics, their existence as concepts is explained.

I’ll introduce some Fellows now who will talk to you (and I’ll call them something you will remember them for)

Type A Materialist (The Evil Scientist): Look, forget about your intuitions, there is nothing that it is like to be you, you are just confused man, once we explain all the functional properties of your brain, its over, the job is done, we can change profession!

Type D Dualist (Descartes): Come on! I am not just a bunch of particles you fool! I am clearly distinct from the particules that compose my brain, I am something else, I am another substance. OF course, neurology can explain a lot, but besides the physical causality going on my brain there is something else. Actually, some brain physical states cause some phenomenal-states, and those in turn cause back some phyisical states. The complete physical description of the world would not just be incomplete, it would also not be causally closed, there would be causes without consequences, and consequences without causes.

Type B Materialist ( The Cool Scientist): Look, cool down fellows. Of course that it looks as if there is a gap, something we don’t understand, that divides the phenomenal and the physical, but in fact, they are identical, we are just looking from different sides, so we are failing to see that it is just our current knowledge that makes it look like if they are different. One day, we will find out why they are indentical.

Type D Dualist (Descartes): You can’t be serious, how can I be the same as that (pointing to his body)? You have no grounds to assert that, you only want it to be that way….

Type B Materialist (The Cool Scientist): No, it is the same as heat and molecular motion. We knew both heat and molecular motion a long time ago, and now we know they are the same thing, we found out that heat actually is the shock of microscopic particles with one another. So the same will go for consciousness. We just have to identify the right aspects of it to find out.

Type A Materialist (The Evil Scientist): Fellas, we all know you are talking past each other. Okay, you guys do say that you are “Feeling something, and seeing blue” but all that needs explaining is your saying it. After all, there are people who talk about faeries, and no one wants to study faeriology. All that needs explaining is why you say this things. There is no further thing that requires study. You all feel like a bit religious to me…. (smiles sarcastically)

Type E Dualist (The Uncareful Young Boy): Look, here is the thing, there are all the physical stuff, etc… and the physical world is causally closed. But it causes thing outside of it, things which never cause anything back. One way causation. So the physical causes the phenomenal, but the phenomenal does not cause anything back, the physical universe has nothing coming from the phenomenal world.

Both Materialists togheter in choir: Ahá, now you made the stupid mistake. If you think the physical world is closed, how can you explain your saying that there is something blue in your experience? Didn’t you just say that the blue doesn’t cause anything, so it doesn’t cause your brain to move in such a way that you end up saying “I see trees are green, red roses too”? Touché

Type E Dualist (The Uncareful Young Boy): You think you are smart cause you are scientists, watch this! Think of Mary, who lived in a black and white room all her life, and she knows all the physical truths, she is a neuroscience expert. One day, she leaves the room and sees the blue sky. She learned something new didn’t she? So there are facts of the world that are not physical. Touchdown!

Type D Dualist (Descartes): Well, yeah, sort of. I think something similar, but you see, you have described something important, the new fact, but you still have not answered why Mary can tell me about it. So, if you accept that her seeing the blue causes her to say she did, you should join me, and we will be super! Perhaps we may even go to heaven, not sure though.

So far, I hope you changed your mind at least twice about who is wrong here. If you didn’t make up your mind, try now to think who you agree with more, or if you think they are all wrong, and there is some other position forgotten. We proceed to the dialogue in a second.


Now, done? Sure? ok. Lets proceed then:

Type B Materialist (The Cool Scientist): Look, she learned an old fact, in a new way, but that does not make it a new fact, it is just another way of representing it.

Type D Dualist (Descartes): You are not serious are you?

Type A Materialist (The Evil Scientist): Of course he is not, what he means, what he should mean is that there is nothing new, which is obvious for anyone who is not as spiritual and ridiculous as you are.

Type F Monist (The Wise Old Man): After carefull meditation, I have come up with a solution. What if the intrinsic properties of physical events are exactly the phenomenal properties? What if besides the structural, formal, dynamic nature that we have so far aprehended with our knowledge of physics, the intrinsic character of physical things is their phenomenal content?

Type D Dualist (Descartes): You are not accounting for something, I am more than the collection of all the intrinsic properties of the physical phenomena that compose me!

Type A Materialist (The Evil Scientist) for the good scientist: Are you sure that Descartes went to the logic classes? He has said nothing, he just claimed to be more than that, no argument!

Type D Dualist (Descartes): You have not let me speak. What I mean is that the set of phenomenal things that I feel are connected, they seem to have some homogeneities of their own, also, they seem to be structured in such and such way, with similar and dissimilar shapes, colors, sounds etc, they seem, in a word, to be structured, so it seems like you cannot say they are intrinsic, for they themselves have some relational properties.

Type E Dualist (The Uncareful Young Boy): Wow, that is smart man, I could never come up with that on my own! But it makes a lot of sense. If the phenomenal properties are caused by physics but are not themselves physical, as I say, this is still possible. So I remain with my idea of no causation from the phenomenal to the physical, and I incorporate your argument against The Wise Old Man.

This is more or less the actual state of the philosophical discussion on the topic of consciousness, it is a vexing intresting question, and pretty much the last one, of our time. We have solved the misteries of alchemy, which became chemestry, the misteries of life, which became biology and evolution, we have solved the mistery of computation and representation, which became computation (the science of how to build representation in a physical system) and psychology (the science of how to find out the process of representation in a given physical system, our brain). To some other vexing questions, like the origin of the universe, we have found a dead end. We know about the big bang, and its definition rules out knowledge about anything prior (for there was no time).

Which kind of thing is going to happen to the problem of consciousness? Are we going to find out? Has it a dead end, and we will know one that that we will never know? Is the problem simply wrongly put, and actually does not exist?

The problem of consciousness gets more and more importance with the discussion of animal rights and more importantly, about when, and if, computers will ever be conscious. I have addressed this discussion in the text “Is there anything special about conciousness? Concerns about our posthuman future”

Jared Diamond once said that he asks three questions for all thinkers he meets:

1 What is the most important problem in your area of expertise?

2 Are you working on it?


3 Why not?

It baffles the heck out of me to think about how can people ignore those issues which are the most important. As a philosopher, I think the problem of consciousness is the most important area of study there is, and it strikes me as absolutely amazing that not everyone is working on it or on related problems (Intelligence, to get us to grasp it, and defeat of ageing and disease, so we live long enough to see the answer)… For me, not working in one of these problems would be like playing soccer without taking the ball in consideration, and Diamond seems to be concerned in the same spirit.

This is a brief overview of the problem of consciousness, I hope you liked it, I hope someone solves it, and any other particular doubt on the topic can be thrown into my mailbox until 2009: diegocaleiro ~~^at {{gmail :]dot`{{com where I will try to make sure I do my best to indicate where to find the answer.

Just as a last thought. Think about zombies, people exactly like us, but that lack conscious experience, people who are “all black” on the inside, but outside, perfectly like us. Do you think that they are possible?

Who is who (Yes! There really are philosophers who defend the above exposed views):

Dennett, Wittgenstein, Quine, Francis Crick, Damasio, Dawkins and the Churchlands are Evil Scientists.

Ned Block, Stalnacker, Kripke, Robert Wright and Pinker are Good Scientists

Karl Popper, John Eccles, Descartes and most people who think about it for only 30 minutes are Descartes

Frank Jackson and people who think about it for between 30 minutes and 6 hours are The Young Uncareful Boy

Bertrand Russell in “The analysis of Matter” was The Wise Old Man

I must add after thinking about it for more than 6 hours, position changes unpredictably, so I am not accusing any position of being worst.

Further notes for philosophers so that philosophers don’t call me stupid:

1 Concepts are not in the head actually, see “The meaning of Meaning” by Putnam and “Beyond Belief” by Dennett. Their issues are way, way, WAAY too complicated for an introductoty text.

2 There are a lot of problems that arise since the dawn of Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, which concern the a priori and a posteriori necessity. As far as my literary talents allow me, I have introduced them here, but I cannot put the issue at stake without assuming knowledge which I am not interested in assuming the reader has here.

3 Issues concerning reference and content of phenomenal belief I have taken as far as 1991. The problems discussed by Chalmers, Ned Block, Stalnaker etc… require conceptual sophistication unattainable by almost anyone, and are as far from the scope of this text as can be.

4 The question raised on the last paragraph can be divided into two questions. Are zombies metaphysically possible (can zombies happen in our world)? Are zombies conceptually possible (can we think of zombies in a counterfactual world, that do not contradict the laws of logic)?

5 Forget the Who is who section, it is more an indication of readings than anything serious (but try yourself to cluster philosophers before crucifying me!). For somethig serious, read Chalmers “Consciousness and its place in nature” easy to find in google.

What I Learned to Appreciate

In his What I Have Lived For, Bertrand Russell writes: “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. “

In a similar spirit, though without his brilliance, I write this text in order to unfold what I myself have become. The blowing winds of time seem to me to have taken me to routes I would not have predicted, and since my experience of appreciating some melodies of the outside world has mainly been an experience of addition, not of substitution, I sense it would be more elegantly unfolded in the sequence it has befallen upon me:

Playing. I can remember few days in my life in which I didn’t want to play. Whenever there was a game, a set of standardized instructions with which one could be challenged, there I was. It is doubly natural for children to play, playing is common among most of the young members of social species, and humans are the species whose brainwiring has led to the delightful nickname The Eternal Child.

I hold an extra passion for playing, it provides me, all at once, the three different senses of happiness that positive psychology seems to be canonizing, the good life, the meaningfull life, and the sense of flow.

Next comes thrill. It started as the pleasure of sliding on my own knees, then along came water slides, roller coasters, and some years later, drama movies, whereas in playing I find active fulfillment of deep emotions, thrill takes me away from the world in a passive fashion, and it destroys all sense of self, for there is no time for self to constitute, experience takes over you to a point where there is no longer you to be taken over. Though thrill’s control over me has started when I was about six, this later realizing of self-deconstruction is a twenty two year old’s comprehension, and the time-gap between happening and understanding proves the point to a fair extend.

Curiosity, when still not analysed, only experienced, is a kind of questioning game, so I would say it only became a different appreciation when I felt Desire for Knowledge. Subtly, but strongly, this passion has been gaining control over me this last year, the inexhaustibility of knowledge is likely to blame. I remember that in the beggining, I wanted to be quicker and smarter than everyone else. Only in college I have abandoned the effort of speeding up, and only from reading Russell have I abandoned the idea of being smarter than everyone, shifting it completely to having a magnificent comprehension of the world and its extension, and, if possible, being a great counselor for the joy and glory of people, near or far from me, both in space and time. That has become the main purpose of my life, and I see nowhere among the future quantum mechanical possibilities that some physicists say our universe can unfold into a single spot where I could change it for something stronger.

Social Interaction has driven me to strange places (underground macedonian caves in sweden with a czech girl, soccer stadiums and punting boats in Cambridge, to name a few). My hard-developed extrovertion made me into a strange social character, who regulates his actions by strange guiding principles such as:

  • To be cozy and have intense physical contact with friends is a higher goal than to do so in romantic relashionships

  • If your emotions and your verbal contracts conflict, stick to what you said (or thought!) you would do to the last breath

  • To keep one’s friends is the greatest thing one can do. Partly from my inability to do so, and partly from being driven away by the desire of knowledge, I have been refraining from this principle, not withouth an enormous amount of suffering.

  • To make happier those who are neutral is a better thing to do than tho relieve the misery of those in illness (that comes uniquely from my incompetence towards most illnesses)

  • Acceptance of incompetence. For years I struggled to avoid hatred towards me from my best friends, it has not been completely in vain, but I understood that not being empathic, strongly emotionally-driven, or corageously self-risking will have unfortunate consequences, and that my personality will not change regarding those issues in a near future.

  • Being exotic is good. Perhaps because of my lack of surrounding social perception, which is the chief cause of my lack of empathy, I have realized that adopting a point of view which differs from the people around you is not bad at all, in fact, the more neutral an analysis one makes about the tacit norms implied in a groups behavior, the more they look pointless, and being an outsider feels better (If, and only if, your outsidity is appreciated, or at least tolerated with a suspicious but curious glance, by those that surround you).

Sensuality. As most geeks, intellectuals, gamers and social-outsiders can report, it takes a long while for a mind that likes control (what is knowledge if not unspecified, potentially infinitely reaching control?) endeavour itself in the amazingly intrincate and illogical world of sensuality. I admit to have used, and be still firmly using, all the technique and expertise that knowledge on psychology provides one for the benefit of my sensuous life. I have met strange people who match all my other particularities and strangenesses, but so far I have met none who consciously uses gathered geeky knowledge of science as an approach to the sensuous, sex, and love. As far as I’m concerned, that is my most uncommon characteristic.

Form, Drugs, and Experience. The last thing I learned to appreciate so far is form. The differentiation between form and content made me into a content-addict back in school. It was so easy to be better than everyone in content, that there was no way my thalamus would let me value form. After all, come on, it is only form! Can form do anything for you? Can you win something with form? No! Or at least I couldn’t… Since my school overvalued form, I have hated form with blithe for my first twenty years. It was not until I read about geniuses of content that dedicated great part of their lifes to form that I have learned to appreciate it. I have once called the people who not only were geniuses, but could very well transmit emotions to public Master Minds. These new people who are into form I shall call Swiss-Knife Geniuses. They include Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel Escher Bach, Per Aage Brandt, danish semio-linguist expert in hard sciences, philosophy, both analytical and continental, and writer of twenty eight books of poetry, Smullyan, Logician and Magician, and perhaps, Richard Feynman. The categories of Swiss-Knife Geniuses and Master Minds, being about different but related characteristics of course overlap, and so far I have found (in my thoughts) only two men who achieved the level of Swiss-Knife Master Minds, Bertrand Russell, and Roger Waters.

Within form, there are many valuable issues, approachs, things and so forth, but two of them have become stronger for me than the other ones, the first one is Experience, with a capital “E”. Experience as I use the term here is about exploration of all the possible realms of conscious interesting states one can possibly pass around, during the trip called life. Say you are in a bar, and for some reason, a strong urge of inviting a stranger to dance befalls upon you. In this moment you are given a choice between experience, and Experience. Or you are in a church, and you can either let yourself go into the classic thoughts of “How ridiculous is all that, how come people are so unbelievably stupid?” or try something new like “ How far can I go into the religious experience, even though I lack the necessary stupidity to go all the way?”. Once you have already made the first choice a few times, it is only a lack of appreciation of Experience that will prevent you from trying the second one. To Experience something is to avoid conscious pre-clustering of the concepts of something you will experience in such a fashion that prevents you from “being there”. I understand this is also a way into always keeping one’s mind active, and the only way to learn something new from a somewhat known experience, or, as they say, teach an old dog new tricks, but that is not the aspect I am interested at at this point. The value of Experience is not a derived value, Experience is valued in itself, not as a part of something, or means for something else, and it is in this sense that I invite one to think about the examples I gave above. To experience is to be, and that is pretty much what we can do in this life, as opposed to, for example, that death.

Among the very well known forms of Experience increase, like above cited religious experience, and other well known forms like meditation, massage, dance, non competitive sport and singing, there is an undergrounded (as in unreasonably placed under the ground, like the gold in fort knox) form that is hardly if ever appreciated as it could be, drugs. By drugs I mean any kind of chemical that can change the character of experience, for good or worse, from omega 3, a comproved very slight mood enhancer, to cocaine or morphine, whose use can result in tragic experiences, both during or years after consumption. But by what I appreciate about drugs, I mean only those few drugs that can actually be a trigger, catapult or enzyme for turning experience into Experience. That of course differs from person to person, and it is no better idea to go out in the streets trying each one of them to see the one that fits you than it is a good idea to go into all the different religious cerimonies (including those that include rules like genital mutilation, delirious thirsting, scalping or “eat non-locals”) looking for the religion that just fits you. My approach has been the same for religion, thrill, and drugs, I take a look at statistics, and see what seems fulfilling, great tranformers of experience into Experience, and cross this information with the level of risk involved in the activity. So although I virtually (in the sense of virtual reality) would like to know what is it like to bungee jump, run without seatbelt in my car across my city, and inject speedball (a powerfull combination of cocaine and heroin) I do not take seriously the possibility of actually doing so. The reasoning for me is the same that would prevent me from accepting if a magic fairy asked me “Do you want to really become an Italian plumber and fight against hundreds of fire spitin turtles and castles of lava to kill an evil drake-turtle and save a princess?”. It simply goes without saying when you look at it this way, doesn’t it? On the other hand, there are great things like roller coasters, theme park elevators, LSD, Mescalin, Salvia, Meditation, carefully controlled Buddhism, carefully controled ecstasy and indian religious cerimonies that can actually take you from experience to Experience, and do not offer enough risks so that your best shot is to computer simulate them. You can actually experience it all the way through, and be sure that you will be there to tell the story. Than why drugs in particular have captured my interest? Because they are the closest thing that we have of experiencing something that is different from being human (life-long meditation as well, though I am too young to tell from my experience), from being a 5 fingered bypedal walking primate that hangs about in search for food, shelter and sex. That time on the bar, when you choosed to actually ask the stranger to dance, you already did something great for Experience, but if you put that in the Vast space of possibilities of what it can be like to be something (animal or vegetable, computational or quatum-mechanical, random or collectively controled) , the distance between the two choices is negligible, in fact, if we seriously think about it, even the distance between living as a priest in the himalaias and being Bill Gates is negligible, in this overwhelmingly Vast space. The world of drugs (and meditation) gives us a glance, a tiny timid look, into this vast space of possible Experiences, it enlarges, even though by a tiny radius, our scope of knowledge, and it reminds me and brings me closer to the last thing I learned to appreciate from the combination of all the previous one, To look with glaring eyes into the future, to expect from the development of technology the long foresought destruction of all evils, and the possibility of playing, forever, in the Vast world of possible existences that extends indefinately beyond my imagination.

Playing, thrill, desire for knowledge, social interation, sensuality, form, drugs and Experience have shaped me into who I am, and if this were to be my last text, I would all-heartedly remark, with Russell:

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Hard cash

Hobbes, no Leviatã, cria uma teoria politica de um Estado que para se manter saudável mantém um poder quase absoluto, inclusive sobre a propriedade. Já Locke, que escrevia enquanto envolvido no coup que tirou James II (um católico absolutista) do poder, afirmou a inviolabilidade da propriedade. Ele traça uma causa histórica para fundamentar essa inviolabilidade:

No começo todos tinham seu pedaço de terra, tanto quanto pudessem cuidar. Em um certo momento a moeda é inventada e a acumulação começa. O processo é inteiramente justo dada sua origem fundamentalmente justa.

Locke foi um dos autores mais lidos durante a revolução americana, e os documentos dessa era revelam essa influência. A partir dele surgiram as varias tradições politicas anglófonas e um certo liberalismo que perdurou nesses países. Também pela forma “natural” que se deu a industrialização dos dois países, houve menos contestação e pode perdurar essa linha de pensamento liberal, elitista e essesncialmente amoral, já que os países reformados continham uma miríade de tradições e vertentes religiosas e essa esfera, ao contrário do mundo católico, foi introjetada no mundo privado. Essa relação amigável de ideologias também as sustentou e moldou mutuamente.

Pois bem, dois outros fatos são importantes na nossa trilha. O primeiro são os bancos. O banco é uma invenção antiga, mas que gerava uma profunda desconfiança: foi banido na França após alguns golpes oportunistas, e alguns founding fathers o chamavam de imoral. Na Europa eles custeavam as carissimas guerras do séc. XVIII, e eram de certa forma vitais. Nos EUA o desenvolvimento foi mais tortuoso. Um saudável fluxo de exportações, minas gigantescas de ouro encontradas e outros elementos fizeram do banco uma necessidade. Mas aquela ideologia da inviolabilidade da propriedade ainda pairava, mas surpresa e chocada, com o desafio que agora lhe era proposto.

Afinal, um banco é, uma instituição que intermedia empréstimos de dinheiro. Mas ele faz isso guardando uma soma de dinheiro, e emprestando outra. Elas não precisam coincidir, então efetivamente o que se está fazendo é na verdade criar dinheiro. É claro que existe um grande problema possivel: se todos forem recolher seu dinheiro ao mesmo tempo, o banco quebra, ou seja, não consegue pagar todos os seus devedores.

Esse é o problema. Todos são adultos e dispõem da sua propriedade livremente, mas de certa forma a estabilidade e permanência que tinha a propriedade antes desaparece. E há todo um debate sobre se se está roubando ou desinformando os clientes. Até o fim do séc. XIX nos EUA ainda há um debate forte contra bancos e principalmente contra a reserva federal, a instituição que leva o sistema bancário a um novo nivel ao estabelecer um emprestador de última instância. Se o Itaú quebrasse hoje o Meireles ia estar amanhã no enterro do Setúbal pondo um grande cheque gordo de alguns bilhões. A reserva é um banco central, e no começo essa atribuição era a única de um banco central.

Essa transformação se dá na própria natureza do dinheiro. Ele deixa de ser uma riqueza física portável, como ouro ou prata; ou mesmo um símbolo que representa uma riqueza física determinada, para um acordo instável entre toda sociedade de um agente intermediador por um lado, mas de uma commodity do outro: O dinheiro tem um custo afinal, o juro.

A riqueza, a ajuda na industrialização e na guerra convencem o mundo inteiro da importancia dos bancos. Isso apesar da grande controvérsia que era gerada quando um banco quebrava, ou toda uma série deles, e uma grande massa furiosa descobria que não reaveria suas posses. Há até quem leia o mágico de Oz como uma alegoria política, onde a pequena Dorothy, o simbolo da inocência, sai do mundo da hard currency para uma terra de feitiço e encanto, e precisa seguir pela yellow brick road (lingotes de ouro) até a liberdade.

Para se ter uma idéia da extensão do debate, ainda existe um representante no congresso americano que quer abolir o FED e o dinheiro virtual.

Após os anos 20-30 o governo começou a intervir mais e mais na economia dos países industrializados. A primeira crise de tempos industriais avançados foi forte e novos atores no cenário, como sindicatos e partidos populares forçaram um tipo de atuação diferente, afinal agora haviam novos problemas, como desemprego (algo verdadeiramente inédito de certa maneira). Uma certa justificação moral a ser tentada pode ser a seguinte: A economia depende do setor financeiro, que por sua vez depende de governos. As vezes esse tem de intervir e pagar para que um banco não quebre. Essa autoridade última força o governo a ter nas mãos as rédeas finais da economia, quer queira quer não. Mas a verdade é que a intervenção passa por outros motivos como justiça social em geral, subsídios e outras formas de competição, etc.

O problema é que as opiniões temperadas e razoáveis do séc. XVIII, embora não tenham resistido na Inglaterra ou lugar algum da Europa, persistiram nos EUA. Claro que esses eram muito complexos e variados, mas idéias como “o direito de portar armas”, e cuidar de seu território ainda ressoavam com grandes faixas da população. Toda uma ideologia tornada obsoleta pela civilização industrial. Como se administra o espaço aéreo acima de uma propriedade? Como se administram as ondas de rádio que por ali passam? Todas questões que em si mostram como o modo antigo de se pensar a propriedade estava caduco.

Inviável retroceder. Qualquer um que advogue que o desemprego pode flutuar livremente está tão ideologicamente contaminado que deve achar que Pinochet seria um convidado agradável pro jantar. Não funcionaria. E a verdade é que a ideologia liberal inglesa tem mais a agradecer a seus marinheiros que seus literatos. List desbanca toda escola do laissez-faire com os exemplos contundentes dos países que se industrializaram e progrediram na marra. Essa lista se prolonga mesmo após sua morte incessantemente com um exemplo gritante na Coréia e o principal na China.

Digressões a parte, aquela ideologia do cada Bob em seu rancho e sua carabina estava fadada a ruína. Nixon declarou que eram todos keynesianos àquela altura e a questão parecia simplesmente encerrada. Alguns anos após emergiu Reagan, discurso liberal mas o maior défcit da história dos USA.

Esse paradoxo está longe de ser um mistério. Reagan seduziu justamente esse Bob. Lembrou o modo “como seus pais e avós e bisavós tinham vivido”, criou uma nostalgia impossível de ser resolvida, pois passava pela ilusão de um governo que não taxasse, que não “interferisse” na questão racial, na social, etc.

O gênio foi perceber um grande fantasma ideológico que ainda pairava,e se aproveitar dele. Claro que isso passou por uma dose incrivel de hipocrisia pura. Afinal qualquer promessa dessas é impossível de se realizar e a própria tentativa pode conseguir algumas vitórias mas nunca se chegará, como querem alguns que lutam por princípio, a um governo minimamente mínimo.

Vou tentar fazer um outro post sobre a questão do List mais tarde