From the Proceedings of the Fruitionist Society

Proceedings of the Fruitionist Society
Sunday, October 17, 2021.

Commenting on Francis Fukuyama quipping “liberalism can’t get you out of bed in the morning”:

I think liberal apologists are wrong that “liberalism can’t get you out of bed in the morning”

I’m frustrated that liberals are still reaching for the boring old practical arguments — more peace, more prosperity. These are all good things we value more when we stop having them. But what matters most is more personality. Liberalism protects personal uniqueness in the private realm. That is something that does get me out of bed every day. You can encounter a person’s unique strange center if you try to draw it out and you are willing to meet it with your own. Liberal conditions protect and affirm both the uniqueness of souls and their social emergence.

Part of the reason I respect conservatism is that these pro-soul conditions require social formalities — laws, etiquette, tradition. Anarchic chaos of complete unfettered freedom does not enable uniqueness of souls.

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Fruitionism — the commitment to radically new conceptions that generate and open us to many otherwise inconceivable possibilities — is crucial, because without this production of new conceptions and possibilities, politics devolves into zero sum squabbling over existing actualities. For one group to gain freedom, another group has to lose freedom. Fruitionism expands the possibility pie, and reveals new resources that can balance imbalances.

I believe the next phase of liberalism ought to be fruitionist liberalism.

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Growing up, my daughters were told by their mother “There is always a solution to the problem.” But that solution often cannot be found if the opposing parties in a conflict remain entrenched in their current conceptions.

There is an “opening of the hand” of comprehension — an ungrasping of what the conflict is, what you want, what the other wants, who the other even is — that must precede progress.

This opening of the hand, this preconciliation, can be felt directly, almost physically. You must want it, let the other know you want it, and invite this spirit into your midst.

I try to invite it by saying things like, “I care more about you, more than I care about what I think.” And “I won’t be satisfied with any solution, until you are also satisfied with it.” And “This is a painful process, but it is always like this if you are conceiving something genuinely new. These are the birth pangs of a breakthrough.”

This reconciliation requires mutuality. If one side cannot imagine they don’t already know, if they really only want to debate you into submission, if they delegitimize your understanding (by suspecting you of secret evil motives, as the right tends to do, or diagnosing your false consciousness, as the left habitually does), if they don’t know the difference between you and what they make of you (reducing you to a category, stereotype or identity) this cannot happen — at least not immediately.

It is far more fruitful to find people who disagree with you but who care about resolving it, or at least understanding the essence of the disagreement, and to than debating the pre-persuaded. It is all about producing living solidarity in the liberal middle, and enlarging that solidarity to the greatest possible extent, so that the extremes can do their extremism on the margins, mostly in private, harmlessly. They are not life-threatening to a healthy body politic.

1 thought on “From the Proceedings of the Fruitionist Society

  1. Thanks for triggering an epiphany: growing the pie is a defining aspect of fruitionism. It is this notion of increasing returns, of enworlding a bigger world that will get people out of bed in the morning.

    So I don’t think this gets (enough) people out of bed: “But what matters most is more personality. Liberalism protects personal uniqueness in the private realm.” Most conservatives are fed up with the proliferation of diversity, of personal uniqueness, that liberalism enables.

    It’s the same reason many “conservative” businesses don’t like more innovation–because it causes more competition. Thus many pay lip service to the freedom of liberalism the same way they pay lip service to free competition.

    What we have to do with fruitionism is connect the dots: more personality, more diversity, more uniqueness is not an end in itself; it is also a means to growing the pie for all of us. Using the analogy of technology standardization helps connect the dots. Technological experimentation and invention is not an end in itself. What if everyone wanted their technology to be as personal and unique as their selves. We’d live in a world of paralyzing technological diversity. Every technology would be customized to a single user, unable to interoperate with any other fragmented technology. This was largely the world before the industrial revolution when everything was hand made; before the emergence of standardization.

    What is key to fruitionism is understanding the yin and yang of diversifying innovation, which fragments and disrupts, and converging standardization, which brings economies of scale. Growing the pie requires both!

    The same is true in the realm of personal identity and social norms. Fruitionism will go beyond liberalism by emphasizing that personal projects of uniqueness are not ends in themselves–some personal projects will spontaneously spread and thus converge into new social norms. One recent example is how the personal project of Joseph Smith spread and converged into the Church of LDS. Whether or not one approves of LDS, it is an example of how liberalism/fruitionism not only “protects” existing groups, it is the engine of the emergence of new groups. One could apply it to all sorts of liberalism driven social transformations: racial equality, gender equality, etc. This is an incredibly important message that I’ve never seen articulated in discussions of liberalism.

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