Friday, 14 July 2017

The Incoherence of Modernity

Today's world does not believe in any underlying structure to reality and thinks it can make what it calls reality according to how it (currently and for the time being) thinks it ought to be. But in that case if you believe in what is acceptable according to modern lights and I am a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobe, how can you say that I am wrong? How can one set of morals be any better than the other? Why should one have morals at all other than for purely utilitarian reasons? According to what yardstick are you saying you are right and I am wrong?  Any yardstick by which sets of morals are judged must be something that stands above and beyond them. Otherwise everything is equally valid or equally invalid, and even if you say that that is good which offers the greatest happiness and the least suffering to society as a whole I could say, why?  Why should that even matter? It might be good in a purely functional sense but that doesn't make it objectively better and, even if it did, by whose criteria, yours or mine?

If there is no underlying structure to reality then there is no truth. Nothing is better or worse. Nothing is right or wrong. Everything is what you want it to be. Life is basically a horror film in which we cover up the yawning abyss of nothingness by self-deception and self-distraction. The most reasonable attitude is that of the criminal who just seeks to exploit as many people as possible for his own benefit, up to and including murder, rape and anything else he feels like doing. This is the only logical conclusion, not that logic means anything either. The world is a nightmare from which we can never wake up. The blackness of unconsciousness is the only release. This is the absurdity of the modern world.

Luckily it is a completely false view of the world. There is an underlying truth, there is a reality to reality. But then that means we have to conform ourselves to it. We cannot just behave in a way that might seem to benefit us or be pleasing to us or even be regarded as fair according to the standards of the world. There is right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and bad and we must seek the one and avoid the other. Of course, we always know this on some level and even in our deluded state we try to fabricate something along those lines even though, if we really examined our thoughts about this, we would find they just didn't add up and were completely contradictory.  We don't believe in an absolute but try to 'absolutise' the relative. 

Life only makes sense if there is a spiritual reality behind it. Without that it is completely meaningless. Once you see this things start falling into place but it also puts you in a difficult position with regard to the world for you now judge by a different set of rules and right and wrong are not what they were, indeed are sometimes almost the opposite of what they were for they are based on something beyond the outward appearance of things. They are based on an unchanging spiritual reality not fashionable ideology and that puts everything in an entirely different perspective. It is only spirituality that can give coherence to the world. It is the only foundation on which any moral system can stand.


David Balfour said...

I have thought through similar though processes many times and find them sound (according to the magical self-supporting thing we intuit but rarely acknowledge, the 'just-so' story of human reasoning and assigning moral value to life; a hard if not impossible thing to go without) but then I can very easily apply the same type of reasoning to undermine things further...I can, so to speak, play 'Devil's advocate' and ask 'does assigning these otherwise apparently arbitrary reasonings to the manifestations of a supreme creator of the universe or deity solve these deep questions of ultimate meaning and moral imperative?' I personally find honesty compels me to admit that I am still not much further forward in terms of penetrating these ultimate mysteries except in so far as I have ring-fenced the mysteries and created another 'just-so' story! Only an act of faith or abandonment of human reasoning as a bad job alone (a dog chasing its own tail) would seem to suffice, because of course toy might rightly point out, and I agree with you, that the lunacy of the modern condition is to deny the necessity of a foundation to moral reasoning or an originator for reason itself! But, supposing a deity still begs the question of where his/her/its morality is derived from? One might reasonably ask, did the creator have a choice when eatablishing what is right or wrong or what is moral or else is deity bound by the constraints of a more fundamental condition itself? And if so, why? The question 'why?' must inevitably reach a point of redundancy, but of course the relativism of modernity can eviscerate any potential meaningful overarching explanatory framework for reality in such ways. And so ultimately the bottom line, it seems to me at least, must lie beyond the dog chasing its own tail and in a deeper act of intuition and perceiving with the heart and not just the head. A risky business, and modernity will never have a jot of it, as dogs tail chasing is all that it can really understand. The heart is at once incomprehensible and the only thing we can as individuals with free will can truely ever 'know'! I might add that this free will seems to me to imply that God respects the autonomy of the individual above the conformity of a legalistic mimicry of a moral code. I find myself concluding that if God exists there is not just one uniform morality that ultimately all humans must map themselves onto but a tapestry of dearly held desires and ideals but we are *free* to find that which accords most deeply and perfectly with our inner gifted free will. The gift is a unique expression, developed and lived individually. It is not intended to be a totalitarian facsimilie as historical instituional/religious distortions have often imposed on the world. Otherwise, why would a creator allow the horrific consequences of human choices we see all around us today and thoughout all of history? We are learning, or at least potentially and there seems to be multiple possible respectable or acceptable conclusions about theae deeper questions or else there is a rigged game: "My way is right alone! I have created you to discover this through error, pain and great suffering, but when you aee things and evaluate things exactly as I do then you will please me!" I can't it somehow and so I assume that there is indeed a kind of reverance for self-determination on behalf of the creator that has often been denied or glossed over by historic forms of organised religion and in this respect wonder if modernitys emphasis on individuality is not as far from the mark after all.

William Wildblood said...

I'm sorry, David, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. As far as I do understand you seem to be saying that we still do need faith in God, it's not just a matter of applying reason, and that is of course true because the approach to the higher world is not through the head but through the heart so it's not through thinking but seeing.

And then are you asking why is the good, the good and could it have been something else? If you are saying that then you are judging the spiritual by the standards of the material and that doesn't work. The spiritual is what it is, one. The material is many, perhaps infinite in expression but rooted in the one. So essentially the good, and hence morality, is as it is because of the relationship between the One and the Many in which both are valued but there is a hierarchy too.

And then you ask why do we suffer, I think? That's because of wrong choices based on ego and ignorance. It's because we follow our superficial separate self rather than the deeper truths (or laws, it's the same thing) of our real being. Individuality is part of God's reason for creation and is a good. But the individual should still be conformed to the truth of God who is not a tyrant but the pattern of truth, and then express that in its own unique way. It should not be conformed to its own desires, prejudices, fears, ideas and attachments or resentments as is now the case.

David Balfour said...

My comment was written off-the-cuff late last night with little thought about editing. I suppose something must have been lost in translation. My points were essentially that 1) I acknowledge the points made by your post but I was just highlighting that one could equally undermine the arguements about the necessity for God to provide a basis for morality by noting that to a materialist this kind of arguement is just a form of kicking the can along the road or 'ring-fencing' the deep mystery of the moral law and then saying it exists because God made it that way, end of. I was attempting to provide what would be a common atheist response to your arguement for the purposes of exploring your ideas further. 2) my second point was that reasoned arguement alone can never get at the heart of the matter wrt to why there is a moral reality to which we are all subject (atheists included generally acknowledge this but may frame it differently) and that is why faith, intuition and direct subjective experience are essential to get past the endless intellectual arguements that always fall short of understanding morality without these ingredients.

William Wildblood said...

1) I would say it's not so much that God must exist as that there has to be something real behind the material world otherwise no form of morality has any substance to it except what we give it, and that's just custom and could change at any time. The post was not about the impossibility of a materialistic morality, it's clearly possible since we have it (even if it is largely an inheritance from Christianity) but the essential arbitrary nature it must inevitably have. And also how you cannot say my morality is right and yours is wrong unless there is something that transcends them both which there is not in a materialistic world.

2) Certainly reason alone cannot get to truth but it can point out the flaws and contradictions in, as I called it, absolutising the relative which is what we do now. You can still do that but you can't say it makes sense and condemn others who take a different approach. But although reason can point to truth, truth is beyond reason though it is perfectly reasonable.

Bruce Charlton said...

William - What I found puzzling about the incoherence of Modernity is that it is combined with intolerance and an aggressive and coercive implementation of the current/ labile orthodoxy.

But then the same was seen in the Soviet Union and described in Orwell's 1984 - it is a very naked (and purposively evil) deployment of power - to impose fanatical belief which can be reversed at a moments notice (as happened with the communists became overnight pro-Nazi when Stalin made a pact with Hitler).

My main worry is that the British people (and other Western populations) *seem* to be almost unaware of the incoherence and wickedness of what is being imposed on-and-by them; by the way they are manipulated etc...

There seems to be an appalling gullibility - which I think stems from lack of religiousness, lack of any core beliefs, lack of deep roots, lack of an anchor outside of everyday expediency.

William Wildblood said...

Yes I agree Bruce. The intolerance and aggression that always seems to lurk beneath the surface of the left implied to me that there is a lot of hatred there.

But then I think the real power behind the left is not motivated by love of humanity but by hatred of God.