Thursday, 28 July 2011

Animism, power and modernity

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Secular modernity justifies itself in terms of power.

Secular materialism is proved by power.

(Modernity considered as a cause was validated by the effect of power.)

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Animism - the universe alive, purposive, relevant and in-relation - was never refuted, merely discarded because we don't 'need' it - materially we were better without it (for a while).

In sum, discarding animism yielded power. Discarding animism means that the universe is defined by human use, human gratification.

Modernity gave us what we wanted; nobody and nothing could stop us (for a while).

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Yet, power - which seems to justify modernity - now refutes modernity: modernity is dwindling in size, in power.

Look at the world: what is growing in power? Not modernity.

Who is growing in power? Not materialists.

Therefore by its own criteria of validity secular modernity is false: if modernity was proved by expanding power (for a while) then modernity is now refuted by the collapse of this power.

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The decline of modernity, the rise of supernaturalism; these do not validate animism of course; but they prove that if the reasons for discarding animism were indeed related to enhancement of human power, then these reasons were mistaken.

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Western man created a dead, meaningless universe - a void, to dwell in. He dissolved all into nihilism.

It seemed necessary, in order to gain the power to get the comfort and distractions he craved above all.

But...

It turns out we do not value comfort and distraction enough to raise a finger to keep them.

It turns out we do not want power - but want to give it away to almost anybody.

It turns out Western man took the living universe and drained it of all significance for nothing.

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So - Why does Western man cling to nothing with such tenacity?

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12 comments:

The Crow said...

"So - Why does Western man cling to 'nothing' with such tenacity?"
Sheer force of habit.
Easier to keep doing what you know, than leap into something new that you don't know.
Even when you know it doesn't work.

bgc said...

Or fear of other people _sniggering_ at you, perhaps (a very powerful deterrant among the elites) - other people regarding you as sad, lame, a loser?

Kristor said...

"So - Why does Western man cling to 'nothing' with such tenacity?"

If he should admit that there is something after all, and that morality is real, and that the supernatural is real, then he stands utterly condemned, unless he turns his back on all his immoral pleasures. Neither condemnation nor asceticism are particularly appetizing.


Nihilism is empty, but its fun.

bgc said...

Did you ever fly a kite in bed?
Did you ever walk with ten cats on your head?
Did you ever milk this kind of cow?
Well, we can do it. We know how.

If you never did, you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.


From One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish - by Dr Seuss.

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For us moderns 'fun is good', indeed it is The Good.

In some kids movies I have seen (and not necessarily the worst of them) the baddies are simply and explicitly those who are opposed to 'fun'.

Alex said...

Animism - the universe alive, purposive, relevant and in-relation - was never refuted, merely discarded because we don't 'need' it - materially we were better without it (for a while).

Animism -

1). The belief that inanimate objects and natural phenomena have spirits abiding within.

2). The belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.

The first idea has been discarded because educated people no longer believe that it's true - if any ever did.

The second idea has been discarded by people who believe, in principle, that scientific enquiry can discover the entire truth about the material universe.

I cannot suppose that you are trying to restore credibility to the first proposition. But the second proposition is rationally defensible, and I believe it.

bgc said...

@Alex - for definitions of animism you may be interested in an earlier essay from my New Age neo-pagan era:

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.html.

"1). The belief that inanimate objects and natural phenomena have spirits abiding within.(...) The first idea has been discarded because educated people no longer believe that it's true - if any ever did.(...)"

Yes - that is what I am saying; but why? (And of course everybody did believe it, educated or not).

"I cannot suppose that you are trying to restore credibility to the first proposition."

Please do believe it - although not in a straw man 'obviously ridiculous' formulation; but in some kind of formulation such that everybody in the world believed up to about 1500 and many beyond that and many still do. As Lewis, Kreeft and Kristor make clear this was often explained or symbolized using a vast multiplicity of angels or (more abstractly) 'intelligences'.

Of course you need to know what was meant by angels (not what you might be thinking):

http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/10_aquinas-angels.htm

Believe it because it was never refuted; and because it is essential to a being a part of the world (rather than the neutral observer of a dead world) and for the fine texture of life to be meaningful, purposive and engaging (not happy, nor Good - but for life to be *alive*).

And believe it because it is rational.

Of course you are incredulous, as I am by deep socialization - probably deeper than yours, but really - if Aquinas believed it then why should our puny half-baked, ill-informed opinions based on decades of indoctrination in nonsense and superficiality carry any weight?

(I don't mean that Aquinas was infallible - in fact from the Eastern Orthodox perspective he inadvertently led to conisderable harm - but that he was perhaps the most intelligent person who lived - at any rate he generated the most coherent and generally explanatory philosophy we know of - never superceded nor refuted as a whole.)

Kidist said...

I don't think Western man (liberal man) necessarily plans for nihilism, but that is the direction his management of the world leads to.

Since he destroys everything, society, art, beauty, culture, knowledge, even thought, with a mind to replace it with his utopia, he is ultimately left with nothing. His process leads to nihilism, but it is not his primary objective.

A horrifying lack of justice"

The Crow said...

It always is good to have fun,
when nothing else needs to be done.
At the end of the day, there is time left for play,
When you've finished the things you've begun.

The serious things should come first,
You should always start out with the worst.
With that out of the way, that is when you can play,
Put your feet up, take care of your thirst.

GFC said...

I think it is above all pride that drives Western man into nihilism, and pride that prevents him from letting it go, from repentance and salvation.

Kristor said...

Alex writes, “The [belief that inanimate objects and natural phenomena have spirits abiding within] has been discarded because educated people no longer believe that it's true.” But this is just to say that, “The [belief that inanimate objects and natural phenomena have spirits abiding within] has been discarded because educated people have discarded it.” No reason for the change in intellectual fashion is thereby adduced. The change in fashion just sits there, sui generis, and wholly unsupported. It is apparently just as whimsical and adventitious as the abandonment of top hats for fedoras.

Perhaps the change might be justified by invocation of Ockham’s Razor: inhabiting spirits are unnecessary to an adequate explanation of the behavior of natural phenomena. But are they, really? Is their mere material facticity sufficient to explain the form and characteristic motions of things? Surely that is precisely the question before us, no? We may not validly argue from *an* answer to *the* answer.

Notice furthermore that the proposition “inanimate objects … have spirits” proposes a contradiction. An animate object *just is* an object that has a spirit. To say, then, that inanimate objects have no spirits is just to say that … they are inanimate objects. To begin the inquiry by presupposing that natural phenomena are inanimate begs the question.

Alex says further, “[The belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe] has been discarded by people who believe, in principle, that scientific enquiry can discover the entire truth about the material universe.” But Gödel has demonstrated that the entire truth about *any x* cannot possibly be formally stated in a complete and consistent way. The project of science – a grand unified theory of everything – is therefore incompletable, in this or any possible world. It is logically impossible for “scientific enquiry [to] discover the entire truth about the material universe.”

bgc said...

From nihilism, it is very difficult to build anything - even anything better.

The nihilist is perhaps the weakest of people - at the mercy of social circumstances; and when these social circumstances are the problem - causing the nihilism...

Then the nihilist can get no traction on anything - all footholds crumble.

This is compounded by a low boredom threshold and short attention span: therefore once a world view has been assimilated, it cannot be challenged and changed - only suppressed, avoided, distracted-from...

Christianity has been - so far - unable to convert nihilists in the way it converted pagans.

Brett Stevens said...

Western man does not universally cling to nothing.

Nothing is a weapon of the many against the few; it's a resentment. "You think you're special? Well, nothing matters."

My answer is that this disease like all others came out of 1789 in France.