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telic cohering of a life through purposiveness in project-ivity
april 17, 2010

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Much of what I’ve written online implicitly proffers a notion of telic cohering, including my dearly trOpical notions of a pointillism that gains gestalt, vining into a tree, and centripetal gravity in appeals.

Once upon a time, a sense of Telos was thought to be given to nature—as it was Nature that was given by gods—but the notion of telos remains compelling after all the folklore has gone to the museum because the idea mirrored our humanity in the first place. Now, emergent senses of teleology, born of chaos theory and biosemiosis, have returned to naturalized thinking. Even a “teleosemantics” in linguistic theory has recently held attention for naturalized philosophy of mind (which I plan to focus on later). There is no emergent Telos to history, but the desire to do historiography may be often a response to such an appeal, to find vectors as confidently as possible—to give to “evolution” some intelligent design we find. (After all, natural selection is not evolutionary! Evolution is a theory of progress we map into natural orders.)

Any grandparents’ deathbed may be haunted by the question of the life nearly done, what the life was for, and usually there’s good and comforting answers. Yet, it’s what life asks of itself, and eyes of elders are that question for the young: What will you have been?

I feel I have nothing new to say that’s not urging myself on, beyond this project, to the specifics of other projects that have been shifted up the road for the sake of this (and all manner of tangential posting, which I really enjoy). The “conceptuality...” project backgrounds and anticipates writing I want to do irt positive psychology, theory of art, ethics, humanistic philosophy, and other topic areas. Yet all that backgrounds a Project to be enacted relative to a group of others’ work, an appropriative netweave, in terms of specific topics. The best way I can proffer the values of purposiveness, planfulness, and project-ivity is to just get on with what I want to do, not more abstract thematization merely about the doing.

But one good reason for all this runaround is that notions of “higher-order desire” and “planning theory” have become important for philosophical theory of action, which I’ll focus on later (another of those projects shifted up the road). Intentionality has been integral to philosophical work for decades, because it’s so integral to what we are, as minds and as actors.

Intentionality was given to gods by us in the first place, now taken back into fears that we seem to play God with our own evolution. We are the intelligent designers, firstly striving to design our ways of living fruitfully and appropriately, but ultimately, I think, designing purposes, at all conceivable levels of life, organizations, systems, and netweaves, that express an intrinsic human interest in designing our futures at the level of our evolution. This is scary, but it’s also happening because humanity implicitly (emergently) wants this for itself—because it’s in our nature to design at the largest scale feasible—or, at least, that’s the aspiration that leads a few to become leading minds, harbingers of Great Ideas, grand ventures, etc.


Again, purposiveness is the play of purposes and values in the developing life, a life with Purpose. All lives which are well growing typify, variably, the human interest in prevailing purposiveness which draws component purposes through their various projects to make a life productive.

Lives have projects, maybe a leading Project: the children as central importance; and all else is relative to that—the homemaking (e.g., social status in leisure culture); the career, the marriage. Usually, though, The Project is a diffuse sense of the living mix: “the life” that is all of that: marriage, career, home, children, altogether as The Project.

I’m fascinated by notions of emergent order, which also appeals to me in a notion of discrete purposes interplaying into emergent purposiveness in an era of a life, a purposiveness which gains prevailing appeal relative to component purposes, yet further develops through the effects on component purposes which prevailing purposiveness has; and is furthered in light of new component purposes—altogether, an interplay of emergence and gravity.

This can feel like a nebulous but secure sense of “having direction” in one’s life, at various scales of this tacit confidence, like tacit horizons within horizons—layers of horizonal appeal mirroring implicit scales of purposivity, each relative to the time span and scale of the life implied, partly horizonal teen still drawing the adult into the distance, partly one’s still-adventuring desire, maybe largely subconscious but shown in curiosity and novel appeals.

Is a good life one that orients itself through a prevailing project—the at-least-implicit Project of one’s life, that one’s life is About? My sense of high value idealizes embodying high fidelity to the orienting appeal of a life’s “Project” or prevailing purposiveness, which is aspirational—“what” my life is about, finding selfidentity in the Project of one’s life.

Durably living fruitfully stays oriented to its long-term scale of horizon, ever changing (like any horizon in traveling), but ever efficacious in appeal and gravity. It seems to me that selfidentical fidelity to purposiveness grounds planfulness by granting and securing its telic efficacy—yet, openly, ever developing. As a selfidentity is transformed along the way by happenstance, changing desire, imagination, and idealization, so, too, is transformed the purposiveness, and thus planfulness, as telic efficacy of the open-ended life.

In the durably fruitful life, there is a living interplay through the years of purposes in/as “Purpose” with selfidentity, flexibly developing (including constructive management of competing purposes, incongruities, etc.). I welcome a generatively nebulous (Open) complex of interplaying purposiveness, “Project,” planfulness, and selfidentity.

Prevailing purposes reflect high valuation within a selfidentical holism of valuing. Yet, fruitfulness is always specific; generativity fulfills project-ivities. For a life, the sense of the whole, the life, parses itself (futurally; and is parsed, in light of a past) into actionable value spheres, each divisible in terms of project-ivities, probably expressing some principled sense of lifeworldliness.

For example, design values may actualize idealizations, entailing managerial values, the distinction itself (design values irt managerial values) having pragmatic value (but not to become a procrustean bed of hard fast sorting).

Perhaps differentiating a sphere of design values into subspheres of environmental, life-centered, conceptual, and programmatic values can be usefully comprehensive.

We see environmental value in architectural and natural design; or perceptual design in non-performing arts.

Life-centered or living value is expressed in being alive well or the value of living, in terms of experiential/somatic, perceptual/mental—altogether: active—meanings of “things” (in the broadest sense of living others and inanimates); and pertains to “existential”or selfidentical meaning.

Conceptual value pertains to taxonomical, thematic, and abstracted meaning. I’m drawn into a scale of conceptuality that is variously ethical, cultural, epistemic, purely philosophical, artful, politically progressive, and evolutionarily speculative.

Programmatic value pertains to what’s specifically project-ive, performed, organizational, curricular, and narrative.

Can all other kinds of design value be understood as instrumental to the above kinds of value for a very good life? What are material values for? What is career, family, and community for?

There are countless ways to understand a topography of value, but a notion of topography—midlanding highland and lowland values (i.e., appropriating high value relative to our common ground)—can be immensely pragmatic, and a differentiation of topography and topology is also appropriate, and maybe also my notion of trOpology, e.g., notions of conceptual design and gardening; or marrying literary and philosophical sensibilities.

I’m not especially attracted to what’s recently been called “experimental philosophy,” but I’m very attracted to conceptual experimentation or prospecting; and prospects of conceptual design as what philosophy remains best able to address.


Next: working brightly for living fruitfully.

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