Durandus von Meissen

The Science of Cultural Criticism

Category: Cultural Criticism

Humane vs Inhumane


Henry A. Giroux and the Institutional Values of America (ii)


Henry A. Giroux and the Institutional Values of America


Interlude II: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel: Let down your hair!”

Curious readers may wonder why we don’t come out and define Value here or offer a catalog of Values at the outset, which would seemingly be useful if the object of Cultural Criticism (CC) is indeed the very same. Such an approach would really be to place the Cart before the Horse in our view, however; so, with our Interlude here we will strive to review somewhat the terrain gone before and reflect for a few moments upon why treating Value as such would be potentially self-defeating for CC as a presumptive science.

One can imagine what dead-ends other applications of science in other fields would have, and actually have, floundered into from too confident and over-zealous forays into Definition of the very objects of their study before proving the many applications that the objects of their study may actually, as distinct from theoretically, possess; not the least misstep would be for Cultural Criticism to mistake Value as related to objects to be obtained from the Existential Field (EF), as something exterior to Agency itself. We could easily get ahead of ourselves here and lend a false impression of what Value principally involves and thereby confuse common knowledge with our analysis of the grounds upon which Agency rests and the modes through which Agency is expressed, still skirting their disparate causality as Instinctual and Rational (not necessarily contradictory, but seen or taken to be so in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic purpose and the effects these have upon Perception and the EF; vitality, abundance and flourishing vs scarcity and deprivation, for instance, lending consequence to humane and inhumane instantiations of Value for CC).

As the EF includes both an internal and external state, an affective and effective dynamic, and an intensive as well as extensive purposes of Agency, such an approach would likely only lead to a confusing jumble of ill-distinct definitions of particular Values, rather at odds with our aims at first to distinguish the modes through which Agency is perceived and actualized, quite apart from the terms of Value that often possess a two directional momentum in the EF: a condition of Agency in themselves with instinctual grounds, but also functioning as means to other Values in the EF rationally determined, being both Personally and Institutionally value-able; Intelligence being one such Value.

We take up the Value of Intelligence here and evaluate somewhat the distinction between the categories of Personal and Institutional Agency as it relates to Intelligence as a Value that actually constitutes the EF (among others), looking also for a way in which this Value can be said to possess a two directional momentum with intensive and extensive qualities that come to define Agency in certain contexts. Our attempt here is to begin a clarification process for the analysis of Value going forward in certain particulars, and to ponder whether and to what degree we may be looking at a distinction among Values that are at once Ontological for Agency (how it comes to be what it variously is), equating to the Personal category of the EF on the one hand, and Epistemological for Agency on the other (how Agency can be reasonably construed for our two categories (in practice)) in the sense that certain Values act to orient Agency within the EF and are afforded or otherwise assume existential validity (integrity) depending upon the context of the EF in which they are realized. This is a terrain not very well tamped down by those who have come before, so we acknowledge the fluid boundaries of our reflections here while being confident that much of this same terrain will be revisited, the discursive paths amended and some of what we may tentatively assert as decisive to be later discarded as mistaken identifications of our quandary, if not clarified.

The science of Physics first emerged from Academy joined hip to leg with its speculative counterpart: meta-physics, to proceed merrily on its way, more or less confidently aware of the parameters of its ‘science’ to develop enormously influential explanatory models that went on to shape the consciousness, perspectives and historical narrative of Progress for modern civilization and extent institutions across the whole gamut of Society. Further questions emerged from the content of these models, more data discovered and implications that indicated the incomplete or insufficiency of the given explanatory models, in some respect, to account for certain properties of or related to Matter as the object of this science. Voila, though not “all of a sudden” but more like a form of awareness that grows brighter with the realization of once unforeseen developments in the course of discovery, Physics had begun to reintroduce what once would have been recognized as metaphysical properties of Matter that, at the outset of the science would have been cruelly ridiculed as wholly outside the proper scope of the empirical discipline and methods first introduced. The science of Physics may well take a quantum leap forward in understanding its objects, their genesis and properties, all the while Society at large remaining fairly ignorant in what way certain tenants, upon which popular assumptions of the Real rests (what ‘matters’), are misapplied as a result of conceptions in Physics over 200 yrs antiquated; albeit the unqualified veracity of such assumptions in the popular imagination being more at fault than the explanatory models of the science itself, though neither exempt. So tricky, and potentially damaging for the Value of Intelligence, is the integration and translation of, really any, science (or candle-wick theology) to the status of public, and presumably common, knowledge. We will, however, not be playing the New Age quantum mechanics guru here.

And yet, the largely silent revolutions within the science holds vastly more profound implications for the going ontological and epistemological assumptions still informing the extent institutions of Society, of Education, of other sciences and what passes for heightened Intelligence in those societies where the narrative of the former Progress still holds primacy. What a cutting-edge, modern physicist understands of their science may then become largely divorced from the popular imagination about what Matter and its associated, materialistic theories means to their status of now atomized organisms; ie, individuals in a social context. Oops.

Problem being, given the current state of civilization built upon the scientific models of the last 200 yrs, inculcated in the popular imagination through Education and the materialistic ideals of Society we now live under, the cutting-edge Intelligence of the modern physicist might just as well be as incomprehensible to the average members of Society at large as any extra terrestrial Intelligence would be to the physicist of 200 yrs ago. They have so little in common, except those things which everyone takes for granted in the EF, to draw upon from their respective disciplines (metaphysics vs common knowledge), as to make their degrees of Intelligence utterly incommunicable. Of course, we’re describing a very rarefied field of Physics today; nonetheless, as an extension directly arising from the foregoing parameters of physics 200 yrs realized, modern developments can be said to squarely rest in direct line of all the previous without too unreasonable of leaps forward. Theoretical physicists, after all, are still physicists; and physics is still a rigorously defined branch of science; and the scientific mind goes largely to define the conceits of modern civilization and its Institutions. Enough said.

Probably the only sector of Society capable of grasping the implications of modern physics is the very sector most interested in utilizing the insight to its own advantage over all other competing interests; namely, Corporatism in league with the branches of National Governments of any importance the world over, and being the primary stakeholders in the scientific methods evolving today, will so soon have a grasp on the utility of the new discoveries as to make all bystanders virtually enthralled, and not in a positive way, before they know what hit them. At that point, there will be two operational modes of Intelligence on the planet; and one of them will be truly alien to the other for all intents and purposes.

Given the Institutional Values prevailing in the West today, it would be no mere guess as to who will be, or even now are, the Masters of the globe and whom the Serfs, once this transition makes its way into the light of day and is outed by the exigencies of emergency survival preparation looming on the horizon. So long as the status quo is arguably sustainable, one can expect more of the same socio-economic trajectory for civilization of at least the last few decades; while, more than likely it will not be until such time as the revolutionary implications for the going ontological and epistemological assumptions of the last 200 yrs actually gives way to the new science and its technological applications that Society is actually allowed to collapse (by the Masters), barring earlier environmental catastrophe (natural or man made) that simply makes life on earth untenable.

For our second diagnosis of Intelligence in the modern era and under the aegis of science, we turn to the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) about which more and more is being openly discussed in public; just about as weird as the quantum field and multiple dimensions to the common knowledge and experience of mankind. It’s a good example in modern times of the exclusionary dangers of too hastily arriving at Definition for our objects of study, as equally in physics as in psychiatry (ODD equals Psychological, Emotional, Political or Religious Dissent to authoritarian powers and the imposition of their Institutional Values) or the presumptive science of Cultural Criticism.

Few phrases conjure up the specter of Anthropocentric conceits better than this one alone, the model for which is, of course, human intelligence with very little awareness of the prejudices and bias involved in such a project; a concept of Intelligence summarily and best analogized in the operations of empiricism with all the mechanical rules of formal, mathematical logic esteemed under the guise of modern scientific methods. Well and good, if that’s all we intend to mean by AI, which would make Intelligence under such a model truly and literally quite ‘artificial’, having absolutely no correlate in the Real, let alone Natural, world, except the computer, for which there seems to be an inordinate zeal for comparison to the human brain among some neurologists and cognitive scientists of a materialistic and positivist bent.

Such a model must prove to be a pretty shoddy and poor attempt at organic intelligence observed across the whole spectrum of the EF and light years apart from the actual dynamic of Intelligence to be found across species even of very heterogeneous types, among which mankind is but one relatively (not at all absolutely) differentiated part from the whole constituting organic intelligence. This is true in no small part due to the very subtly nuanced material and energetic influences that go to Perception, at least half of which are not rational or rise to the level of cognition for the orienting Agency of any individual of any species; but also because some of the influences as experienced by other species are not material at all, as understood within the traditional framework of empirical studies, while such influences must be assumed to be relevant to humans in their capacities for Intelligence as extensions of the organic, evolutionary history of life on our planet. Just because one branch of human science does not allow for the influences coming from or even constituting the effective spacio-temporal milieu in which humanity moves about and has its being, in no way actually dissembles what occurs with Perception at the nexus of the human instrument with the total environment (EF). Why someone clever hasn’t cataloged the extensive history of erstwhile inexplicable but meaningfully punctuated coincidences between the inner and outer realms that the experience of generations of mankind can relate, remains a baffling question (one which the Jungian should be zealous to explore); but that’s understandable, given the empirical demands of the official iconography of science to date. The prospect of such lies outside the province of materialism, obviously; and anecdotal evidence is not an admissible standard of proof for any such nexus. It would, however, make excellent speculative fodder for ontology and emergent epistemology.

As for AI: if mankind is on the verge of duplicating some aspect of its own intelligence, it can only be in respect of a model of its practical rationality, which we have surely only begun to comprehend under guidance of empirical methods, certain determinative influences from, or of, the environment (EF) and organic heredity being mostly excluded from such a model (doubtless because of limited purposes designed for AI), resulting in a mere simulacrum of man’s logical functions derived from this same rational model, having next to nothing to do with organic intelligence realized across a broad spectrum of life on our planet.

The cognitive functions and dynamics of learning across species may well help to elaborate a rational model for such AI (cognitive functions are not purely rational functions, and cognition does not equate to methodical reflection understood as Reason for the human species); which would only be to admit that mankind participates in a learning dynamic that has an organic heredity, the rationalized process of which offers a human example of organic intelligence while merely verbalized by humanity’s idiosyncratic language. Other animals are evidently endued with a very similar learning process instinctively (non rationally), which mankind takes as its own specialized providence. It’s an anthropocentric conceit unworthy of a species that dubs itself Homo Sapiens, claiming for itself what is actually quite common for life on this planet, without all the verbal claptrap.

Such a rationalized model of learning is perhaps best exemplified by human intelligence, principally because we’re too narcissistic to condescend to how other species perform as effectively but lack the appendages requisite for fullest exploitation, (meanwhile, a popular conceit holds currency in the imagination of mankind that we don’t possess instincts (which is utterly preposterous)); but cannot be taken to be definitive for Intelligence as there are most certainly other aspects to organic intelligence that are not subject to empirical scrutiny: the sub-rational dynamics of Instinct that go to orient Perception for any animal in the EF and concomitant intuitions inexplicable to Reason but perfectly natural to Instinct among animals (which much of humanity has squelched in favor of a presumably objective Perception of a limited and limiting scope in the EF); the role of bio-electromagnetism and the interface of these with terrestrial electromagnetic influences (migratory behavior; social constructions among insects; herding behavior among fish and mammals; sheltering and flight responses in the face of pending weather and dangerous terrestrial events); photon and pheromonal affects that convect internal vitality, homeostasis and the sense of well being and expression of alert awareness, curiosity, tranquility (and others), beside the whole relatively unexplained role of aesthetic sensibility in the development (learning) and expression of Intelligence including creative and ritualized behavior in the courting process and other forms of spontaneous play that directly flow from and into the evolutionary imperative of adaptation and species survival.

From an evolutionary perspective (and what could be more evolutionary than organic intelligence?), all of these behaviors constitute Intelligence, which are manifestations of an internal dynamic having instinctual cause and the purpose of survival, beside cognitive determinations; and not just for survival but thriving life that includes pleasure as both means and ends (immediate reward, rest and rejuvenation), which human reason is ill equipped to fully comprehend or exploit.

Empirical methods of investigation of these matters will probably never be sophisticated enough to disclose the breadth and depth, or either the internal or external dynamics, of relationships existing for the subject with its environment that these manifest examples of Intelligence demonstrate. Consequently, AI must strictly be ‘artificial’, a fabrication, an imposture and pipe dream to date, unless what mankind is after is the automated reproduction of its own monstrous and inhumane values. Good luck with that!


Prolegomena to the Models of Agency

If there is any model by which Agency can be substantially and exhaustively understood, one would have to consider the whole field of action available to and requisite of Agency. We are compelled to acknowledge that such field of action must be all-encompassing and all-inclusive of every aspect of experience native to Agency (what may be humorously termed: the etiology of praxis); and accordingly identify this field as the Existential Field (EF).

It is within this field that Perception takes shape and is fashioned according to the models of Agency that experience gives rise to. These models would be virtually and actually constitutive of Perception in the whole of the EF as, without these models, no means would be available to the exercise of Agency properly understood, being replaced by a strictly determinative automation. People become clock works, as it were (not altogether improbable).

Agency then becomes the synthetic composite of those models working collectively and taking up residency as the very Perception making available for action the whole of the EF. Plainly stated, the models of Agency are Values.

The first order of business to establish Cultural Criticism as a science will be to consider the EF constitutive of Agency. The models of Agency must therefore be categorized and the conditions of the EF identified for the elaboration of these models; thus erecting what can be understood as the superstructure of Agency itself in context of the EF. It should come as no surprise that this superstructure of Agency will be identified as a Culture of Values which Perception takes as the orientation of Agency within the EF.

This orientation is not the kind of immediate and sensible perception (intuition) of Kant’s Pure Reason, which is said to be the necessitating and a priori grounds making possible all representation of empirical data whatsoever, without which experience for any Rational Agent conceivable to man is impossible. However, we shall have occasion to erect parallel constructions of the models of Agency that we directly correlate with Instinct or Reason and thus find Kant’s ideational architecture amenable to the purposes of Cultural Criticism here, perhaps most notably in answering “How” the conditions of Agency are established, or made constitutive for Perception. Those familiar with Kant’s work will understand how we here attempt, at first, to deploy our terms so as to justify our science with presumptive certainty; though, while familiarity being helpful, shall prove to be in no way requisite.

In the following we shall first exemplify the whole of the EF as being a conditioned duality for all of the models of Agency (none of which we’ll even so much as refer to just yet), divided as, say, a coin into an Obverse and Reverse relation of categories. Both the obverse and reverse relation that exists for Value is constitutive for Perception, and consequently of Agency. Without this complementarity, the EF would be as incomplete for Perception as Time would be without Space in Kant’s system; they are necessary correlates, for which reason we say that they are “constitutive,” as distinct from “attributive,” for the models of Agency termed: Value, or being differentiated: Values. We do not, for instance, attribute to a newly minted and well-struck coin the quality of Luster; but we perceive that the Luster of the coin is constitutive of its newly minted and pristine “status,” for such a coin, “in itself” as it were. However oddly enough, though, we may ‘attribute’ a quantifiable ‘value’ to this same coin as ‘money’ upon some scale of exchange rates which other covetous men may contest in some particular but not deny in general as the “stuff their dreams are made of.” There’s so much more to this seeming conundrum than greets the eye at first, second, third, up to the ninth glance that we shall not bother to linger here. This Argus Panoptes (Perception) of the EF may well be too monstrous to grasp for any single mind, so we shall do more obviously better to stick closer to our kind, for now.

In similar fashion, Value is to Agency what Luster is to a newly minted coin as described above. Hold such a coin in hand and wobble it in circular motion to ‘see’ the Luster’s perceptive brilliance wheel as the hands of a clock about the circumference of the dial. It is the coin’s “Field” that affects this perception, and is observable both obversely and reversely. We shall see in the following how this dichotomous aspect of Value, as for a Coin, plays-out across the whole of the EF and is constitutive of the essential Field Categories. These categories are Personal and Institutional; also to be characterized as Humane and Inhumane by justifications to become clear as we proceed.

For both of these categories there are three modes through which is instantiated the Perception of Agency and by which is realized the whole of the EF:

1). Identity, as to Status
2). Actuality, as to Dynamic
3). Entelechy, as to Purpose

To these three modes, the Perception of Agency equates an “inherent” and an “adherent” causality to the EF, which we locate by Instinct on the one hand (obverse) and by Reason on the other (reverse). We can thus say that Personal Value “inheres” as Identity having the innate “status” of Agency; that Personal Value is inherent as Actuality having the innate “dynamic” of Agency; and that Personal Value is inherently Telic having the innate “purpose” of Agency.

Reversely, we can say that Institutional (impersonal, i.e. in-humane) Value “adheres” as Identity having the assumed “status” of Agency; that Institutional Value is adherent as Actuality having the assumed “dynamic” of Agency; and that Institutional Value is adherently Telic having the assumed “purpose” of Agency. Perhaps the Supreme Court of the United States should have thought just a bit more carefully before elevating the Institutional Value of an assumptive Person-hood to the status of real Identity and realize that it would exalt thereby an inhumanity over man in the process, inviting evils that Americans have only begun to guess at for their national polity. We’ll hope to address such tragedy in an Interlude to come as we descend this rabbit hole.

When we say that certain values, which we are terming Models of Agency, have an instinctual causality while other values have a reasoned causality, we are asserting that the first of these arise as necessary constructs of Agency, in the absence of which Agency itself is dissolved, and with it Institutional Value and the whole house of cards upon which Society is raised. It should be noted here that Personal Value, having an instinctual causality, affects Agency as an end in itself, which is “intrinsic” to every known ‘value’ worthy of the epithet: humane. Conversely, Institutional Value, having a reasoned causality, effects Agency as a means to every object which is “extrinsic” to these same, humane ‘values’, and which distinguishes the two principal paradigms of the EF: Subjectivity/Objectivity. To the degree that we have Value that bridges the chasm apparently separating these paradigms we have Synthetic Agency, upon which rests the viability of Civilization itself. To the degree that we have one or the other paradigm jostling for supremacy we have ignorance, barbarity and the teetering of Civilization upon the abyss of insanity and destruction.

It’s not simply some guesswork of Cultural Criticism to elaborate these conditions, as some would have us believe; while all the world is full of disciplines that have effectively (as often, unwittingly) thrown in the towel on this contest for the meaningful reassessment of our condition, resolved to spin-away their straws of insight into proverbial fool’s gold of specialized jargon, secluded in conclave of their respective ivory towers. Anyone with a shred of common sense can pick-up the latest Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual for a humorous musing on that score, as an example. More to the perennial Doctor’s prescription, what may well be required is the overturning of the established order of science itself, up till modern times at least, before old One-eyed is quite capable of describing accurately the ruin of the outworn by the apparently jumbled bones of that new Summer to come. Alas, hope springs eternal….

In what follows we begin to define each of these modes, adding meaningful nuances to traditional terms where necessary in order to accommodate a new set of applications for Cultural Criticism, the likes of which are merely hinted at throughout. These many terms are not exhaustive but exemplary and allow for elaboration in each instance as the synonyms of these definitions may indicate. We will be keeping as near as possible to the complimentary distinctions already drawn, which logic dictates, with the clear expectation that some of what follows will require clarification, expansion or perhaps redaction, as required in the procession of our science. For ease of comparison, we place side-by-side the Personal and Institutional categories of Value while delivering their primary Existential Qualities (EQ). Webster lends a hand withal.


1). Identity (tacit): “the condition of being the same with something described.” e.g:

Subjective: “arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs not directly caused by external stimuli; arising out of or identified by means of apperception, conscious status or internal affect; the status of being “person-al” as that having qualities of a person rather than that of a thing or external object.”

Immanent: “being near at hand and immediate; standing in a direct causal relation as to affect and comprising both instinctual and intuitive perception; interior to the observer.”

Fundamental: “the basis supporting or determining essential structure and functions; serving as an original or generating force; innate or ingrained characteristics of an organism.”


1). Identity (explicit): “the condition of being the same with something described.” e.g:

Objective: “of, relating to or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of tangible experience independent of thought and perceptible by all observers.”

Eminent: “being outside the observer so as to be readily perceived or noted; standing in a direct causal relation as to effect and comprising material and empirical perception; exterior to the observer.”

Optional: “not necessary or essential; one among viable or sufficient alternatives.”


2). Actuality (intensive): “the nature of a thing as realized in existence; something that embodies.” e.g:

Reflective: “capable of throwing back illumination, as from a common source; resemblance of qualities and reproduction in another without diminishing; the engendering of such qualities essential likeness and resultant enrichment of either source or recipient.”

Reciprocal: “to give and take mutually as of action or influence denoting equivalency of exchange; of an alternating or complimentary quality, being beneficial, inclusive and enduring.”

Cooperative: “action marked by working together or of joint effort toward shared goals that are mutually sustaining or supplemental.”


2). Actuality (extensive): “the nature of a thing as realized in existence; something that embodies.” e.g:

Absorbent: “having power or capacity of a kind to take in, connoting substantial loss of or by what is taken in by that which takes in, resulting in the enrichment of what takes in.”

Terminal: “having a fixed duration; of limited, exclusive and conclusive utility.”

Competitive: “action marked by rivalry among organized forces of interests with divergent goals that are mutually exclusive of and detrimental to opposing forces of interests.”


3). Entelechy (instinctual): “the regulating force of any body or organism that directs its essential functions and development.” e.g:

Nutritive: “promoting exuberant growth and vitality of all essential functions.”

Social: “of or relating to the collective welfare of society and tending toward interdependence and alliance of interests, efforts and outcomes relevant to such welfare.”

Defensive: “a state of heightened alert for the preservation of life and survival of the species, characterized by protective strategies in absence of the preemptive infliction of loss or harm upon other groups of the same species or heterogeneous species.”


3). Entelechy (rational): “the regulating force of any body or organism that directs its essential function and development.” e.g:

Acquisitive: “behavior directed to the grasping, control, possession and use of resources, or strategic behaviors in support of control, possession or use of resource that includes limiting any opposing interests to control, possess or use of the same, often directly resulting in the diminution of resources to scarcity and the promotion of a frenzied intensification of such behavior characteristic of competition on the micro level and of war on the macro level of the EF.”

Divisive: “action, process or instance of creating discontinuity in the EF identifying or creating disparate or discrete objects for the purpose of grasping, controlling, possessing or use of those objects to some rationalized end.”

Offensive: “the state of heightened alert for the aggressive exploitation of vulnerabilities in the defensive strategies of any species in the EF, aiming for the capture, control or manipulation of the Agency proper and necessary to their kind in order to augment the domination of one set of specialized interests over that of differentiated others.”