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Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization


Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization
Unthought thought
Indications of a cognitive void of higher dimensionality
Systemic negligence in engaging with complexity
Unexamined derivation and provenance of strategic preoccupations
Constrained uptake/absorption capacity
Existential implications -- of a "hole" in conventional reality?
Possible characteristics of the unthought
Clues to strategic engagement with the unthought
Metaphor, metaphysics and astrophysics

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Produced in remembrance of the Chthonic deities (including Gaia)
in anticipation of the forthcoming worldwide celebration of their Olympian counterparts


This is an exploration of the possible nature of an immense cognitive "hole" -- far "beneath" the conventional thought processes characterizing society, relationships and communication. The approach is partly inspired by the work of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization,1995), partly that of  Maurice Merleau-Ponty (The Phenomenology of Perception, 1945), and partly that of Carl Jung on the collective unconscious. As argued by Saul, the paradox of our situation is that knowledge has not made us conscious. Instead, we have sought refuge in a world of illusion where language is cut off from reality.

The concern is to what extent this can be recognized, to some degree and indirectly, through various preoccupations or their avoidance. These can then be usefully considered as cognitive "facets" implying the existence of some such "hole". The variety of such facets is of interest in its own right. It indicates the difficulty within conventional thinking of making unambiguous statements about the "hole".

The possible "facets" are necessarily quite disparate in nature. They constitute a variety of efforts to "get a handle on it" -- in the absence of any clear sense of what that "void" might be. The "facets" may be considered as quite unrelated to one another by those with a particular interest in any one of them. The others may then appear meaningless or irrelevant. The "facet" metaphor has a potentially illusory advantage of suggesting -- as with the cut facets of a precious stone -- that they imply a mutually reinforcing coherence through which glimpses as to the nature of that underlying cognitive void are comprehensible to a degree.

Such facets could point to an underlying and unexamined cognitive foundation. It is therefore curious that the process of globalization has been explicitly framed as a process of effectively "flattening" the Earth. The insight has been articulated -- to widespread acclaim -- in several books by Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat: a brief history of the Twenty-first Century, 2005; Hot, Flat, and Crowded, 2008), as discussed separately (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008).

It is curious that life on the surface of the Earth, seemingly flat for most, should avoid the sense in which the Earth is spheroid. Not only that, but also the fact that the Earth has a deep interior of astounding composition according to science -- magma, etc. This must necessarily be treated as irrelevant to daily life -- it is an unthought thought of a particular kind, as for those who choose to live in earthquake zones.

Such avoidance might be said to accord strangely with the much deprecated Hollow Earth Hypothesis. Cognitively it might indeed be affirmed that the surface of the globe is centred on a form of emptiness -- whose problematic nature is manifest through the destructive potential of "volcanoes" and "earthquakes" demeaned as "social unrest". Recognition is already given, metaphorically, to the shifting tectonic plates of global society (cf. Robert Davies, The Shifting Tectonic Plates: facing new community challenges to business in a fragile world of risk and opportunity, The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, 2002).

The sense explored here is that the nature of the "hole" is cognitive rather than physical, and all the more elusive for that reason. The play on words also suggests that the integrative "whole" so desperately sought for global civilization may itself be of different nature to that variously assumed.

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