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On The Natural Illigitimacy of Modernity

 
 
Reply Thu 22 Mar, 2007 11:27 pm
I would like to post here a brief comment on my interpretation of the illigitimacy of modern society:

I think that mass-society is illigitimate because mass-man does not posess the capacity to orient himself to the objective case of mankind. There exists in modernity no orderly conception of humanity itself. There is no distinct standard of what man's nature is really like. So the things that point away from virtue and natural limits - things like over-eating, extreme pornography, meaningless violence, money-grubbing - these things are seen by modern mass-society as good in themselves and are even widely promoted as "the good life" in the mass media.

So modern mass-society is naturally illigitimate not merely because it actually does things which are soley directed at feeding the appetites, but rather because it collectively believes that doing these low-life things are actually good.

The emphasis in our mass-society is placed on constant change and limitless consumption at the expense of philosophical reflection on the nature of things. Postmodernity essentially means that man has completely 'broken' free from what was traditionally considered his natural roots; -- postmodern man is a completely artificial fellow and he views his own artificiality as something that is good.

In fact there is today a political and cultural revolt against the traditional concepts of the nature of man as capable of being intellectually comprehendible, a revolt against the traditionalist idea that man is organically related to the cosmological order of things (such as normative spiritual ideals). This revolt is driving modern consumerism (and modern consumers) towards more exteme and exotic forms. I would say that there is a common conception among the masses to believe that it is a moral imperative to be extreme in behaviour and consumption; there is the progressive, secular ideology which prides itself upon the deepening of perverse forms of entertainments and political commitments.

But a nation can't justify its existence on consumption alone, democracy is as much a matter of spirit as of institutional arrangements. A nation requires doctors of philosophy or doctors of religion or doctors of psychology or sociology in order to support its existence. But if these doctors are only enabling the society in its lowest appetites then a price will be paid. There will be a natural "correction", and a cloud of uncertainty surely hangs over the unrestrained euphoria and the "irrational exuberance" of our mass-society today.

--Pythagorean

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"it is no longer possible to speak except . . . in a way which will involve conflict with rival ideologies." --Alasdair MacIntyre
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boagie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Mar, 2007 06:13 am
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean.

Would you not say at least a first,the cause of this chaos is in the ever changeing technologies of the time,along with the fact that the individual as no living mythology which would normally inform him as to his journey through this life.Certainly I see the thinking,as in post modernism,as growing out of the conditions already being experienced,in other words, the theory arises out of the practice[experience] of the day,if this is the case,post modern theory is effect not cause.
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Mar, 2007 07:19 am
@boagie,
Boagie,

It's true that rapidly evolving tech-knowledge and tech applications have an enormous impact on all of society. But, I would ask what good is technology if people are becoming so ignorant to life, and ignorant even as to the underlying "good" of their own societies? Here arises the need for schools to re-state and re-examine how to educate such a fast-paced technological society as to the natural meanings of things and the investigation of human nature apart from material desire. But the schools refuse to teach the necessary lessons.

For example, we all know there's too many unhealthy fat people in America, so can't somebody try to explain, try to teach the difficult lesson of self-restraint and moderation to the people for their own good? Nobody does it though. I mean, they are planning on building more casinos and more Wal-Marts encouraging more and more wreckless habits. Where will this all end? You say there is no guiding mythology. But there is a replacement: and that is the progressive nihilistic ideology.

We did inherit this social and cultural nihilism as a modern type of faith. And so any attempt now to say that unrestrained capitalism, for example, is evil well, that is futile because no one believes in good vs. evil due to the inherited faith in the nihilistic ideology. You can't tell people that widespread societal acceptance of pornography is bad for children because it's politically incorrect, etc.,etc.,etc. Postmodernism is the result of faith in nihilism against any of the traditional Greek or Hebrew or other value systems that are getting dusty on the book-shelves.

As someone who talks about Nihilism maybe you can answer me a question Boagie: Is it possible for a Nihilist to tell people that certain things are evil? And which are the wisest choices for them? Can a Nihilist affirm traditional values? Are there any values that Nihilism can affirm that might save society?

--Pythagorean
Dexter78
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Mar, 2007 09:22 am
@Pythagorean,
I would agree that there is a problem with people attempting to create a superficial code of morality that is only based on the current environment, and with the environment changing very quickly, the code shifts. Without trying to establish guiding principles which are, as much as possible, independent of trends and technology, then moral looseness is inevitable. I think the problem is that morality is often simply dispensed as "x" is right, "y" is wrong, instead of attempting to understand what is it about "x" that makes is predominately beneficial and "y" predominately harmful.

That being said, I would say the many current problems are a combination of how morality was previously dispensed and the complacency that mass society allows. Personally, I think the previous method of understanding morality, namely religion, was flawed. Since moral law was often given as list after list of what one should do with no other reason than "because God says so" there was often no underlying though process as to what makes certain behavior good or bad. As mass societies grew along with an understanding of the natural world, and the fear of "angry God" reprisals lessoned, the teaching of the moral lists lessened, and there wasn't anything to replace it. Also, unfortunately it seems that if people do not have to do something, then they won't, and current society makes it possible to get by without having to think much. For anything to change, what needs to be taught is the value of critical thinking.

I think a lot of this goes back to the previous thread on loniliness. People are striving for a unique identity among millions, and this likely serves as the driving force for extreme behavior. I don't think most would agree that many of these forms are acceptable, but since they are not affected, they are ambivalent, having adopted the individual as separate from society perspective. As an aside, scientists are discovering a gene in humans related to social networking which apparently evolved to interact with 20-40 or so, about the size of the first human colonies. They are also discovering a new form in people who have been in cities for generations that apparently can address far more people. This may partially explain why many are inclined to simply dismiss behavior that is outside their sociall network, and why others have a more expansive interalted view of society and the behavior of it's citizens.
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 09:18 pm
@Dexter78,
Dexter78,

Thank you for reminding me of our prior discussion in the lonleyness thread. It was very helpful to go back and see some of the connections.

Quote:
Dexter78 wrote,

...it seems that if people do not have to do something, then they won't, and current society makes it possible to get by without having to think much. For anything to change, what needs to be taught is the value of critical thinking.



I would like to ask you if you could tell me of what you mean by the value of critical thinking.

--Pythagorean
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 10:07 pm
@Pythagorean,
I have written out a few thoughts regarding the original historical connections between rapid technological expansion, radical consumption and capitalism, and the freedom of the individual to assert his own values no matter how extreme those values may seem.
[CENTER]***[/CENTER]

Modernity begins with new political ideas and programs based upon revolutionary progressive notions of social and cultural emancipation. Emancipation that is, of the masses, of "the people".

The purpose of these new political programs was to fulfill basic human needs by granting every single person automatic equal rights as opposed to the older demands of higher duties and obligations. The new programs were progressive because they recognized that every single individual should be free. But this freedom was not based upon a hierarchical, moral view of humanity. The equality of all men meant the abolition of such externally imposed moral hierarchies.

The individual was no longer commanded according to the older and difficult task of a higher spiritual standard. The individual was free just because he was an individual who could utilize his common sense in the new practical and empirical (scientifically progressive) political state.

And so the masses broke free of the Christian mold. Modernity is the emancipation of the masses from morality by their participation in the industrial and technologically progressive political state. Men are no longer moral agents in the old sense, but self-interpreting social atoms who are no longer obliged to follow the dictates of authority regarding notions of virtue, ethics or morality.

Man is interpreted pragmatically according to utility and agency without the external elaboration of virtue, this is 'enlightened self-interest' which can only exist in the absence of external moral imposition. And as external moral rules become less and less visible, the pressure on extreme subjective positions will necessarily grow.

The modern scientifically progressive states are not arranged according to a mythological or Christian moral scheme; they are not founded in the name of Gods. The practical ideal that frees the individual from any external moral law also says that man should be allowed to progress in his material well-being via his participation in the continuing expansion of industry and technology.

Individual rights in the modern state are not morally purposive but positively effective, the revolutionary purpose of individual rights are the material satisfaction of the masses (and the right to self-government and independent self-determination).

Extreme forms of capitalism and consumption and endless technological innovation therefore go hand in hand with the individual's subjective interpretation of the self.

--Pythagorean
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boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Mar, 2007 11:05 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean, Dexter78,


"It's true that rapidly evolving tech-knowledge and tech applications have an enormous impact on all of society. But, I would ask what good is technology if people are becoming so ignorant to life,and ignorant even as to the underlying "good" of their own societies? Here arises the need for schools to re-state and re-examine how to educate such a fast-paced technological society as to the natural meanings of things and the investigation of human nature apart from material desire. But the schools refuse to teach the necessary lessons."

The above is a great concern,but I think it is only part of a greater complex.Truth the way I see it is,humanity is just along for the ride,there is no real control.Someone famous once said,"he who has no self-control, has no control whatsoever."Is this the negativity of a nihilist,I don't think so,I may feel powerless,but I am not blind.What is authority to do without the old landmarks of standards and values these have been destroyed,its a post modern education in a post modern culture.They are as confused as the rest of us.


"You say there is no guiding mythology. But there is a replacement: and that is the progressive nihilistic ideology."

Pythagorean,could you expand upon this progressive nihilistic ideology,I take it,it is not a vehicle to overcome nihilism,what then is it?

Perhaps it will be said at some future time,that this era was just stressed out from change.Things are moving to fast, but sooner or later they will slow down,and like a people founding a new land, people will again make sacred what is most familar to them,their own environment.

"As someone who talks about Nihilism maybe you can answer me a question Boagie: Is it possible for a Nihilist to tell people that certain things are evil? And which are the wisest choices for them? Can a Nihilist affirm traditional values? Are there any values that Nihilism can affirm that might save society?"


This is a leading question,I hope I can rise to the occasion.I can only speak for myself from the prospective of nihilism.Can a nihilist tell people that certain things are evil-----no,not if by evil the Christian connotations of evil go with it.Even if one cannot claim objective truth,the subjective truth is,I like this,I do not like this.To do this would be wise,or to do this would be unwise.

Everyday wise choices are decerned by the body,if the body and mind are healthy,the individual, particularly if given choices will chose wisely.Nihilism is not something one lives with 24/7 and can easily support most traditional values.It is a bit like the knowledge of your own mortality,sometimes we might dwell upon it,it may even modivate,but most of the time we are just to busy living the life to ponder upon it to long.

Does nihilism have a saving grace,well it might.You have to admit this old world is in trouble,I mean over population,degradation of the environment ect..,I have read that much of this trouble could have been avoided by simply changeing our prospective.We do not think wholelistically,we do not think respectfully,the science we were brought up with talks about disected parts,and understanding comes from reductionism.

There is a new displine on the scene,general systems theory,which among other things,it is unifying the sciences.This is a marvelous journey if you decide to take it,it will show you systems within systems within systems,to infinity or as far as we can presently reach.It is understanding wholeness,one can never fully understand the possiablities of wholeness useing the old method of the science of parts.At anyrate when studying systems it is apparent everything is process,everything arises from relational process.I believe nihilism underscores this simply because it leaves nothing else standing---personally I do not think it a small gift,but I must admit,it is only a feeling that it is profound.

Think for just a moment,every aspect of your life,every deed and/or misadventure,indeed all reality is founded on one thing,relational process.Maybe this will stir a change in the male population,the ladies have been clued into this for sometime,it is all about relationship guys.This relationalism is systems theory,it can be applied to every science,to all things in this life,and it is offered to you in the cupped hands of nihilism-----drink!




When unexpected things arise from the interrelations of holons the emergent wonder is life and the future---general systems theory.
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 01:39 pm
@boagie,
Boagie, you ask what I think is an important question:

Quote:
Pythagorean,could you expand upon this progressive nihilistic ideology,I take it,it is not a vehicle to overcome nihilism,what then is it?


Nihilism in its most restrictive definition is the belief that all values, morals and ethics are baseless.

The progress of nihilism in our time involves the continuous shrinking of external moral authority or externally imposed moral rules and regulations. The progress in nihilism is that, as the external authority gets smaller and smaller, then the absolute necessity for the lone individual to create his own personal value system grows larger and larger.

The freedom and the nothingness of Nihilism is overcome whenever the individual commits himself to a subjectively determined value. In a sense, the commitments to extreme and irrational values such as sexual extremism, hyper-consumption, new-age mysticism, tatoos, gangs, drugs, etc., these value commitements constitute a temporary overcoming of nihilism for the lone individual.

However, as the larger society continues to shrink from asserting any external moral values upon the people, then the people as a whole will progress as far as the extremism in their commitments toward overcoming the larger societal value-gap or value-deficit.

As the old value-laws from the larger society get smaller the individual distortions will begin to become external laws and we are beginning to institute nihilism in the law. The external law is becoming more and more radical to support the loneliness and the extreme needs of the individual. The external law is beginning to provide and assure the people that they may create any values that they feel like, because there is no longer an objective standard.

( For example, if a political or business leader is corrupt, then how are we supposed to judge him without external or objective standards? Since all moral values are now subjectively determined then the corrupt leader is really not corrupt, he could be seen as merely asserting his own value system. So that the expansion of individual freedom now depends upon the expansion of the corruption of business and politics and other institutions.)

The progressive ideology sits with those who promote the radical freedoms from external moral standards. This ideology implicitly supports irrational political commitments and euphoric commercial consumption because the ideology demands complete freedom and individual choice. This is standard "left-wing" progressive secularism.
---------------------------------------

Here is a link for further study on Nihilism and its history regarding the classical Greek (tragic), and traditional Christian perspective. Highly recommended:

Christ and Nothing by David B. Hart.

--Pythagorean
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Mar, 2007 04:47 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean,Dexter78,


If I am understanding you properly with the intervention of nihilism this negates the larger context of our social reality,and the amibiton of the individual is then to create his own context in which to dwell,still very much alone.This is just nonesense,nothing personal,as I know it is not your philosophy.It is a formula for chaos,with itself having no bases in reality.

It is agreed,nothing in and of itself has meaning with perhaps one exception reality itself.Relationalism is the bases of reality,there is subject and there is object,at this point deviod of name or meaning,without relationalism between subject and object there is indeed nothing,and so,nothing to further consider.Should we ask if reality itself has meaning,to what end,it simply is,and as such is rich with possiablities,perhaps biocentric subjectivism is the key after all, for in the absence of this subjectivism there is no reality,not even for the supera individual.Perhaps these people fail to realize in contemplating the human island onto himself that they must be standing upon a greater context while their imaginations take flight.One cannot avoid reality as object,it is the fuel of the subjective mind,it is the material out of which ones identity is formed,it is object,without which, you are not.


All things arise from relationalism, is it surprizing that,that which brings the world into being should also provide meaning--subject+relationalism+object= reality.You might say that even subjectivism and objectivism do not provide reality individually,it is what happens as their relationship,the relationship of subject and object.Poor me there is no meaning in my absence,how would being a supera individual or ceaseing to be a social animal change this.A society made of totally autonomous individuals,the absurdity insults ones common sense.

Perhaps,even faced with the obvious ailenation of the individual, instead of going for the supera individual, we should be concentrating on the individual as myth.I suspect a very good argument can be made in this direction,and even if not entirely sucessful,it might temper this absurd philosophy.

Perhaps too what people are talking about is not really a supera individual but like Joseph Campbell stated,nolonger having a living mythology to be guided by,one must find their own mythology.I would think the one thing basic to humanity,perhaps its defineing term, is that of compassion,the one common element throughout the worlds religions.This obviously does not itself provide the structure of a formal religion nor posit out of this world rewards.It is a reasonable common perception that the individual is at odds, and that this perplexity is being mirrored through human behaviour.What is the answer,finding ones personal mythology does not seem all that promiseing,particulary for a whole society.This is a question perhaps with no solution.When things slow down, perhaps people will embrace a new common mythology.The interesting thing about mythologies is that fact that they do not work, unless they are believed.
Dexter78
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Mar, 2007 02:24 pm
@boagie,
Quote:
I would like to ask you if you could tell me of what you mean by the value of critical thinking.


I mean the ability to come up with theories and explanations and validate them against what is known instead of regurgitating a programmed response. Or put another way, the ability to question supposed absolutes, and question themselves. Otherwise nothing can ever advance, because nothing would ever change.
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