Co-creating Values

“Companions, the creator seeks, not corpses — and not herds or believers either. Fellow creators the creator seeks — those who write new values on new tablets.”

– Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologue

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”[1]

– Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

@Kant.  First critique:  What are you smoking, Kant?  Too big, too fast.  In startups as in morality, inflated abstraction kills.  Get off your megalomaniacal dopamine.  Too many entrepreneurs and dreamers fail, thinking “Everyone will love it.  It’s gonna be huge.”  To some extent, Hegel reminds you that your philosophy is only good at blowing morality bubbles.   Despite your best intentions, truth (or knowledge) in morality isn’t like math or physics.  Your magnum opus dreamed of updating certainty in metaphysics to match Newtonian physics.  Granted, Kant:  Newton’s work titillates.  Enter Einstein.  Morality is contextual.  Still, your insight remains:  morality must always be shared.

@Kant.  Second critique:  your model of the self is isolated.  Perhaps it was politically necessary–in order to revolt from monarchy and aristocracy–to posit a robust notion of the individual, endowed by Reason with freedom, autonomy, individuality, and rights.  But highlighting individuality hides solidarity.  Highlighting the fact that we each have a unique genome hides the fact that we all share over 99% of it.  How much more do we share memes?  What first appeared as maxims now manifest as social memes,[2] metaphors capable of cementing solidarity among those who share and live by them.  Maxims (like fetishes) are private and unique.  Memes (like totems) are shared while remaining personal and lived.  Memes are values.  Go masturbate to your maxims, Kant.  I’ll take my meme-experiment to the pub.

@Nietzsche.  Nice Bible reference.[3]  How does one write on these “new tablets” of the heart?  We’re always the page, but we’re also the pen.  We author and coauthor each other every day.  I hear so many read you, Nietzsche, as an intensification of Kant & Descartes:  your command “Become hard!” can have a very individual ring in some ears.  Today’s egoists and identity-addicts listen thus.  But here, you seek companions.

@Nietzsche.  In logic, the moral premise (often hidden) is the premise that contains the should.  The should is impotent without the willAction alone matters, and action requires only will, not should.   In a world where the standard template for should has been hijacked, what new moralities are possible?  What does it mean for will to free itself from alien law, to roar to death its 1,000 golden “shoulds?”  At least that desire and impetus-to-act feel authentic.  Becoming a hero of the will, a liberator of choice, does not always require isolation as a prerequisite.  It often requires companions.

What does it mean to be a creator of values?  Values aren’t maxims.  Maxims can be scribbled in the dark.  Values need at least one like, one share.  Values are memes.  They live somewhere between maxims and Laws of Reason:  never private, never universal, rarely widespread, always shared.  This is the New Enlightenment–don’t strive for Universality (like Kant), or even virality (like today’s fame-frenzied startup marketeers).  Though spread is an objective metric of any value, from the inside, creating values always feels like sharing.

The first step toward creating values is to have values.  Transvaluate your maxims into memes.  Live in public.  Let your memes compete with other memes for survival.  If the lion’s share of this self-overcoming feels “hard” at first, it is.  And it only gets harder.


[1] For Kant, a “maxim” is a private principle for guiding personal behavior.

[2] In Dawkins’ original sense: a “meme” is a “unit of mimesis.”

[3] 2 Corinthians 3:3.


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