What the hell must be done, for heaven’s sake?
An algonomist mind must deal healthily with the panic-inducing thought that zillions of beings are caught in extreme suffering throughout space-time. That thought is made even worse by the possibility of superhell branches in an infinitely suffering multiverse, as described by David Pearce.
An algonomist mind must retain a modicum of self-confidence in the face of abysmal perplexity. I can assume being a relatively mediocre and too pretentious autodidact, but a more problematic realization is seeing how much complex essential questions are beyond my capabilities or those of anybody. Contemporary limits to our intellectual power are described with genius in Anthony Judge’s writings, for instance in Emergent characteristics of knowledge-based society, or in Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society. Besides, promises from technological progress are mixed: the next revolution in information processing might turn our brains into slaves as well as into gods, and while ad hoc solutions to our predicaments are necessary (like industrial production of meat in vitro that would free billions of abused animals), we know from the past that problems of suffering recreate themselves in new ways as technological progress pushes back moral frontiers. That is why an algonomy is and will remain indispensable.
An algonomist mind must keep focused in spite of ‘distraction’. Blaise Pascal used that term for referring to our perverse diversion from God, but I like to use it instead with reference to our ease at drifting away from any sustained concern with the unpleasant and bewildering topic of suffering. It is easy to get distracted by television, radio, books, music, friends, or the internet (or even one's own talkative mind!). I noticed that almost any few meaningful bits of sentences are enough to attract my attention, and once my interest is caught, the show of almost any construction of meanings may keep me busy for hours. I noticed also that movies on television are the most attractive programs because they provide usually more well constructed, carefully crafted meanings than other programs. But the greatest peril with regard to distraction, for me, is the world of ideas, knowledge, theories, intellect. That is where the meanings become more complex than I am able to fathom, and I am tempted to become involved in several fascinating endless pursuits, such as understanding world problems, neuroscientific research on consciousness, organization of encyclopedic knowledge, philosophy of thought, multiverse quantic cosmology, technological singularity, etc.
Resolving complex essential questions is beyond our capabilities, but those questions arise nevertheless, and whether they become a pernicious distraction or not, we must decide how to deal with them. Here is what I propose to do, from an algonomic perspective.
Three kinds of constructed meanings are used, apparently, for dealing with intractable questions: hollow constructions (agnosticism), solid constructions (commitment to one cultural belief), and ad hoc constructions (valid for one fleeting moment only). Thus, in the field of the complex and essential question of suffering, there are countless ad hoc constructions which are not ‘systematic’ but just momentarily pragmatic; there are a few solid constructions, like the Four Noble Truth of Buddhism, or the redemptive mystery of Christianity; and there are various hollow constructions, for which suffering is something unknowable at this time. Hollow constructions come in two forms. The first one is high and narrow: suffering, although not necessarily mentioned as such, is a top emergency, that is a medical, social, political, or humanitarian priority, that requires socially organized, very specific help. The second one is low and broad: suffering, although not necessarily mentioned as such, is an everyday widespread phenomenon that must be used in various ways [in daily life] as a subordinate means for ensuring success, discipline, well-being, profits, or other achievements.
In the light of what precedes, it is worth noting that algonomy has been until now a self-defeating idea. In the perspective of any ad hoc approach, suffering is too horrifying for being contemplated more than one moment. In the perspective of any solid approach, there is no need for another systematic construction because the solution to the problem of suffering is already known. In the perspective of any hollow approach, the problem is not so much suffering (what is suffering actually?) but rather illness, trauma, hunger, poverty, war, earthquake, success, discipline, well-being, etc. And on top of that, distraction has prevented since antiquity the development of any persistent systematic work which would address suffering, the whole of suffering, and nothing but suffering. Indeed, although countless people have been strongly motivated to spend their lives working on pain in the world, everyone of them until now, rather than becoming a specialist in algonomy, has been diverted into becoming a specialist in religion, philosophy, medicine, scientific research, revolution, social work, etc.
However... Now, in our postmodern world, a new kind of systematically constructed meanings appears to take shape. Briefly, it is a high, broad, solid construction with hollow fringes... Thus, algonomy can be seen as a construct with a cultural commitment in its center, accompanied with a transcultural (non-, or alter-, or omni-) dimensionality at its periphery. One of the basic accompanying works which can express that transcultural dimensionality is the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. But notwithstanding its value, the algonomy idea alone will remain unconvincing because the world of ideas, knowledge, theories, intellect is just too perplexing: everything, and its contrary, is possible! Then, the decisive argument will come from the world of concrete things, empiricism, practice, action. All is possible but only the actual is real! Under these circumstances, all things being considered, here is perhaps the most important question of all time: is it feasible, as a matter of fact, to act for an algonomic management of suffering? The answer, be it yes or no, can be proven experimentally, I claim. Providing the details is the next step for those interested in algonomy.
[A few minor modifications have been brought to the text above on 2010-01-31 and 2010-08-30]