2015/12/22

From Modernity to After Modernity. (06)

Part 2. Theoretical considerations
Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge 



1.6. Conclusions (1)

Let me start by sketching the most salient traits of the history of knowledge formation as I reported on it in my last 4 posts.



1.6.1. lessons  of  the history of knowledge formation

During roughly 100,000 years or more animism ensured the equality of all citizens within the tribe. The ego was inexistent and individualism was something totally unknown of. The group took precedence over the individual and this ensured very high levels of societal cohesion that successfully reproduced this societal model over such an extremely long span of time. This success was rendered possible by a very pragmatic worldview that ensured not only the well-being of the individuals and their societies but also limited their footprints and thus ensured their sustainability by simultaneously protecting the other species-categories within their earthly environment. Tribal men of knowledge were in charge of devising the worldview and sharing it with their fellow tribesmen. Such a worldview was founded on knowledge resulting from an approximation of reality based on the long haul observation of the rhythms of nature and the  pouring, by the universal spirit, of knowledge into the mind of the shaman (also interpreted by some, in Modernity, as the pouring of the unconscious into the domain of the conscious).

The transition from tribes to empires and civilization spread over thousands of years. The ego of the men of power initiated individualism but it remained limited to themselves and their close circles. Power also initiated the emergence of inequality but animism and its pragmatic knowledge continued to be shared by the populations and was implemented in the production of their daily life. Early-kingdoms were the institutions of power during the transition. Their most important characteristic is that they acted in the name of ephemeral groupings that collapsed soon after having been assembled to be replaced by multiple new ones at a lower citizen count. So in summary the transition period between tribes and empires was thus very dynamic with cycle after cycle of short bursts of societal aggregation followed by fragmentation.

In that high velocity cyclical environment the traditional men of knowledge had lost their economic privilege and a competition between shaman had set in for the ears of the men of power which initiated the appearance of divergences in the narrative of animism. Those divergences that succeeded to catch the ears of large followings paved the way for the religions that would compete for the title of worldview of the empire. In other words religions emerged as the result of a differentiation in the animistic narrative during the era of Early-Kingdoms.

An empire is an institution of power, regrouping all early-kingdoms within a given geographic territory, that succeeds to reproduce from generation to generation. Institutional reproduction over the generations is the defining characteristic of an empire. This was finally ensured after Milena of trials and errors through the collaboration between men of power and men of knowledge. It is indeed the gluing of the minds of the citizens of the empire that allows it to reproduce over time. This suggests that the competition between shaman for the ears of the men of power, and the necessity to differentiate their narratives to gain a competitive advantage, concluded with the selection by the men of power of some of these narratives as the societal worldview. In some contexts that selection concluded with a significant shift from traditional animism and, in other contexts, that selection concluded with a continuation of animism. Herein lay the roots of the stark differentiation between East and West among other.

In the Middle-East and the West animism was violently eradicated and replaced by a new narrative that, supplied no directly applicable knowledge in the production of peoples' daily life but, acted to justify the existence of power and its personification. In other words religions quelled diversions from their imposed perspectives by the individuals and doing so they solidified the cohesion of societies which helped them reproduce over time.

China took a radically different path than the Middle-East. Animism continued to thrive under empire while getting enriched with incremental add-ons. Such an animism+ was formalized in books that addressed pragmatic knowledge directly applicable by the people in the production of their daily life. The pragmatism shared in such books sheds a stark contrast with the narratives of religions that impose belief and obedience in a story that is detached from the realities of daily life. Such a profound divergence in views about the working of reality explains the differentiation at work, till this very day, in the behaviors of Chinese and Westerners: pragmatism versus ideology or personal initiative versus blind following.

The emergence of empires was a radical turning point in history:
  1. it marked a turning from tribal life and animism that ushered in power, individualism, and replaced  non power tribal matriarchy by an authoritarian patriarchy that used force and fear to impose its power.
  2. it witnessed the concoction of two vastly different formulas for knowledge formation and acquisition. The resulting differences in worldviews are the root of the incomprehension that persists till this day between East and West. This is also thee period when written languages emerged.
  3. it witnessed the concentration of populations in cities and an increased specialization of tasks. This is when visual representations of the worldviews devised by the men of knowledge were outsourced to very low social esteem professional craftsmen.
Knowledge formation under purely religious worldviews addressed the beginning and the end of the foundational narrative. Since they were founded on dualism there had to be a beginning to the narrative that would also justify the need for obedience by all to power. In the religions of the word the beginning is better understood as an ending of the chain of causality. Ending causality allowed indeed to institute a beginning as being the “ultimate cause” that is god. God is presented as the creator of the whole in which we are such tiny particles and it thus, kind of naturally, follows that we should obey him. As a side-note observe how, under Early-Kingdoms imposed patriarchy, god had necessarily to be a he/him and not a she/her! Obedience to the creed was all that was left to the individual living under a religious worldview and the slightest deviance from the canon was punished in the most barbarian way so as to dissuade all further encroachment of the rule. History testifies that the principle of obedience and fear were quite successful at keeping power in place and reproducing empires and kingdoms. Chinese animistic pragmatism had no need for a beginning and an end. Reality being seen as perpetual transformation a special attention to the unfolding of change was expected to ensure the reproduction of the worldview.

The principle of obedience and fear has been in application in all empires. But China and the West differentiated in their handling of the limits to the principle and this also explains why China is the only surviving early empire-civilization-nation. This is a story about the merits of pragmatism and the limits of ideology.

As I have shown in "Part 1, The axioms of civilizations", China handled the limits of the principle of obedience and fear by adopting a pragmatic system of knowledge formation and transmission that went unscathed through the ups and down of power. Surviving the fall of dynasties the scholar bureaucrats, the mandarins, were naturally co-opted by any new overlords who submitted to their pragmatism based knowledge and this, incidentally, also explains how the empire grew while preserving its civilization-worldview-culture… In the meantime in the Middle-East and Europe the overthrow of dynasties by men of power were most often accompanied by a wobbling of the societal worldview due to:
  • leadership issues in the control of the institutions of knowledge with eventual overhaul of the creed (for example religious struggles within Christianity)
  • the existing worldview was eventually overthrown by that of the new overlords (from Christianity to Islam when in 1453 the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople )

The differentiation in handling the limits to the principle of obedience and fear is a natural extension of the differentiation that originally took place at the formation of civilization: continuity in China versus rupture in the Middle-East / Europe.

Later Modernity emerged accidentally in a very backward Western Europe while far more advanced nations could not comprehend the blows they were suffering at the violence inflicted by European primitive capital accumulation. Modernity is fundamentally about the rise of individualism that was sustained by the reason at work within capital. In the earlier stage Christianity was already peppered with individualism so the ground was ready for the absorption of capital and its reason. The decision by Rome to unleash the crusades was the accident that eventually imposed the reason of capital to the long haul merchants trading Middle-Eastern luxury goods at the attention of Western Europe's aristocracy. This, in turn, freed the genie of individualism from its bottle.

The emergence of empires in the Middle-East and Europe resulted in an ideological mode of knowledge formation that without any possible doubt was no match against pragmatism. But it proved nevertheless to be an extremely fertile ground for the sprouting of the seeds of Modernity. For sure the spreading of the roots of Modernity took place as an 'unknown unknown' as well in Europe as anywhere else around the world.

The essential difference between Europe and the rest of the world resided in their context and what was determinant in the European context was its ideological worldview. During the centuries Christianity had largely spread the seeds of individualism and the decision to launch the crusades accidentally imposed capital and its mechanical reason as methods to satisfy the newly discovered demands for luxuries of the European aristocracy. In the meantime the far more sophisticated Chinese worldview, apparently, ended up causing a few centuries of humiliation to its nationals.

While the weakness in Europe's knowledge formation resulted eventually in the brush-fire spread of its newly formed worldview of Modernity the ultimate validity of that worldview remains nevertheless an open question:
  • faced with a few centuries of adversity not only have the Chinese held their heads up. They now are beating the West at the game it launched so one-sidedly and brutally.
  • in the meantime images of the side-effects of Modernity and their devastating consequences are suddenly assailing our perception and questioning the wisdom of the whole enterprise. A question is popping up in the minds of more and more people: “Could Modernity possibly be unleashing the collapse of societies and even as much as the demise of humanity?”
The main conclusion of this presentation of history is that knowledge, and the worldview that is being built on top of it, is not a creation on itself or by itself. Knowledge has to be understood as the elaboration of an approximation of reality that seeps out of a specific context.

The consciousness of the individuals is being shaped in a given societal and geographical context. This is what forms the specific environment that gives form to knowledge. From this I induce that a specific context over time generates its corresponding knowledge. This implies that knowledge is not an absolute quantity. Knowledge is indeed no more than a crude approximation of reality that a thinking agent derives from the particular conditions within the given context of the society he lives in.

Whatever we may be thinking about our present form of mechanical rationalism and its scientific derivation the fact remains that circumstances change and when reaching a critical threshold of changed circumstances a whole new context eventually unfolds that imposes itself on those living in it. By necessity individual perceptions adjust to the new context and this is shaping a new mold for knowledge formation. 

As an observer of the unfolding of Late-Modernity I'm always amazed seeing how easily peoples' minds end up being entangled in ideological certainties. How can otherwise smart scientists, for example, be so enthralled by the certainty that science will solve any problem confronting humanity? To me this sounds more like religiosity than scientific curiosity. They should indeed know better and inform themselves about the lessons of systemic complexity that point to the convergence, during Late-Modernity, of a number of crises that each individually has the potential to collapse societies on a worldwide scale.

The convergence of those crises informs us about the exceptional nature of the present moment in history. Nobody knows with certainty what that outcome will be like but what is known is that the probability is extremely high that one among a few scenarios will materialize going from societal collapses on a worldwide scale to a possible human extinction.

What is already a certainty is that over the coming decades the world population will fall drastically with all the miseries that this entails. Such a drastic change will spread over decades, hopefully over centuries, and will impose a whole new set of characteristics in the human perception of what reality is all about. Out of such a new context will unmistakably emerge a new form of knowledge and in “what comes after Modernity” the probability is extremely high indeed that the devastation experienced along Late-Modernity will be remembered as having been caused, among other, by science and technology. We already see the first signs of what such a backslash might imply with the growing anti-science and anti-elite sentiment that is gaining ground among the populations of the West.

It seems to me that in this moment of spreading Late-Modern chaos a radicalization of opinions is forming that takes utterly extreme and dangerous ideation paths. I'm not even speaking here about the political totalitarian trends that we observe emerging all around the Western world. What I have in mind here is the appearance of intellectual currents that reason a discourse justifying the elimination of 90% or more of the world population on the grounds of scientific, economic, and philosophical logic. I give the following citation as an example of what I have in mind here. Read it carefully and see if you share my dismay: “This much is clear: If you’re a transhumanist, ordinary people are zombies.
Zombies are normally seen as either externally revived corpses or bodies in a state between life and death – what Catholics call ‘purgatory’. In both cases, they remain on Earth beyond their will. So how does one deal with zombies, especially when they are the majority of the population? There are three general options:
  1. You kill them, once and for all.                                                 
  2. You avoid them.                                       
  3. You enable them to be fully alive.
The decision here is not as straightforward as it might seem because the prima-facie easiest option 2 requires that there are no resource implications. But of course, zombies require living humans (i.e. potential transhumans) in order to exist in the manner they do, which in turn makes the zombies dangerous; hence 1 has always proved such an attractive option for dealing with zombies.” (1)

It so happens that I have been following some discussions between trans and post-humanists lately. They are at the forefront of the 'techno-optimist' movance that, with the 'collapse-nicks', represent the 2 opposites sides of the present day avant-garde intellectual landscape. This is the reason why I use this particular citation. I could not have found a citation of the same nature from a collapse-nick for the good reason that the future for them is a kind of Christian end of time.

What amazes and frightens me at the same time in this kind of discourse is how reasonable violence and murder seems to appear to some science and rationality driven 'techno-optimists'. They seem to have fallen in the same trap than 'born again Christians' or Al-Queda type Muslims who in the purity of their thoughts denigrate science and the elites as being responsible for all the ills of the world. Both societal currents are signs of a Western societal pathologic condition that I see as the manifestation of a brutal resurgence of dualism that threatens to overwhelm the sanity of all and risks to plunge our societies in a new cycle of barbarity. But from the standpoint of the long history it might well be that such a barbarity is the normalcy of the transition from Modernity to After-Modernity. Whatever the case the rationalism derived from the reason of capital and its tool, science, seem to have put themselves on a path from where it will be well-nigh impossible for them to escape the wrath of the unpolished peasants which augurs the possibility of a future cleaned up level playing-field in which new seeds of knowledge will sprout...



1.6.2.  Context and knowledge

In China animism was never seriously disrupted simply because it was rooted in the geography of a huge expense of tillable land protected by mountains on the South, the West and the North and the ocean on the East . The resulting absent or meager external cultural interferences never questioned the continuity of the past. So China witnessed a path towards animism+ that was like a continual process of incremental add-ons to animism. The philosophic positioning behind the idea of continuity was thus as natural as water flowing downwards. No long and boring academic thesis seriously question the fact that water flows downwards and not upwards. Pragmatism recognizes that evidence without any need to argue. For the Chinese the same kind of non-questioning was at the root of their understanding of continuity.

In the Middle-East a narrow strip of tillable land, at the intersection of the 3 immense landmasses constituted by Africa - Europe - Asia, acted like an incitement to invade or pass through to go to the other side. The Middle-Eastern context was thus largely shaped by a permanent exchange of ideas, products, ways of doing and conflict which excludes the possibility of continuity. Change and rupture were programmed in the societies nurtured by such a specific geographic context. As I have illustrated in “part 1: history” (2) such vastly different contexts engendered two vastly different civilizations.

The outcomes of such different contexts were exposed and codified in abstract principles that acted like explanations or better like justifications for these outcomes. In “Part 1: history” (2) I call such abstract principles the axioms of civilizations. 'Dualism' in the Middle-East and the West versus 'Polarities' in China. The principle of dualism was exposed by Aristotle and it is his take on the question that was integrated in Christianity at the time of the unification of its code following its adoption as state religion by the Roman empire(3).

Dualism implies two non reconcilable opposites that will duel till one of them is eliminated. Chinese Polarities is all about the poles or the extremities on the line representing a given entity and their interactions that power change. On the line of black (no colors) and white (all colors) there are an infinity of shades of gray. White and black are then each conceived of as no more than one among the infinity of points on the line representing color. In that sense white and black are not seen as dueling but more as if they were engaged in a dance representing the continuity of life, or the transformations, of that particular entity called colors. That dance is the life story of that entity, the entity of colors in our present example, that traverses the wide range of all shades of gray while exceptionally landing for a very short time on white or black. The ultimate reality of this entity represented by colors is thus logically conceived of as being change toward the next following moment or, in all probability, to the next shade of grey. This is how change, or transformation, is being understood by the Chinese as being what reality is all about.

Dualism represents a fight till the death which leads to a rupture with the past and the beginning of a new story. In terms of colors white (the good) has to destroy black (the bad). So when humans take sides they always position themselves on the side of white or the good or god which gives them a pass to act violently and even to kill those that they perceive are not on their side. It is the George W Bush crude principle that states that “you are with us or you are against us”. It was the same principle that motivated the missionaries to categorize the local inhabitants of the conquered territories as non-human animals. And their perceived non-humanity conferred to the European conquerers the right, or the obligation, to kill those animals who happened also to resist the stealing of their lands and the butchery of their people.

The contrast between dualism and polarities is stark indeed. Polarities posits a simple abstract principle as illustration of what reality is all about. This principle was abstracted from the long haul observation of the rhythms of nature and this abstract principle was seen to work. I mean to say that it succeeds to enter the domain of individual perception and consciousness for the good reason that it offers an explanation for the unfolding of time; an explanation that everybody observes to be valid. There has never been any need to ask for the obedience of the individuals to that principle and there was thus never any fear instilled in them to acquiesce to the principle of polarities animating change. The yin and yang principle works on its own. It explains the unfolding of events and change is thus perceived as spontaneous emergence which thus establishes that the unfolding of events is what reality is all about. So for the Chinese reality is simply what is there and they don't experience the need to write lengthy and unreadable philosophic thesis to explain reality. They never have experienced a need to zoom in the microcosm nor the macrocosm to explain what reality is all about as we Westerners constantly have felt the need to do. But they have observed the trends and regularities appearing over the long haul in the rhythms of nature and have linked such trends to human-societal behavior, agriculture and so on. So the principle of polarities was fundamentally a pragmatic principle that was established as the core axiom of the Chinese civilization and this irrevocably placed China in a mental state favoring continuum along the span of time while abhorring the idea of rupture.

Things turned out quite differently for dualism. From the start Aristotle had to invent impossible tricks to make believe that the principle worked. The question the Greek Men of Knowledge were facing was to answer how change occurs. Aristotle observed change occurring and he also posited that it somehow occurred through the actions of the opposites. But having posited that opposites have as function to destroy each other he failed to appreciate that change occurred as a result of their interactions and so he had to establish that change was impulsed from the outside. To put change into motion and reach the state of 'metabole' Aristotle invented the notion of an external acting motor and energy that he called 'kinoun'. But this idea of an outside cause putting change into motion led automatically to question what was the cause of that causality. In other words to set minds to rest, an absolute final cause needed to be found to stop the inescapable intellectual quest for always further causes (4). This explains how Western thought cornered itself into following a narrative that is unworkable in helping understand the vagaries of daily life. Being unable to decipher the vagaries of daily life the narrative had to be imposed and thus the notion of obedience and fear as a tool to instill obedience.

The axioms of civilization crystallized after their civilizations were carried forward by the reproduction of the institutions of their respective empires and over time those axioms largely dissolved in the unconscious of each of their individual citizens. These axioms of civilizations are still there today, mostly undetected by the conscious mind, but nevertheless firmly driving the thoughts of the citizens in the societies participating in those civilizations. The best caricature I could ever dream of giving about dualism was George W Bush, the then president of the USA, castigating the world to follow US aggression with those unforgettable words “you are with us or you are against us”. Compare that to the subtlety of Chinese diplomatic thought expressed in the words “acting to ensure a win win”. The difference seen at work here in the attitudes and behaviors is given, or better is imposed, to the subconscious by the differences between pragmatism and ideology that act as the cement that is gluing the foundations of Chinese and Western civilizations.

Our context endows us with what we can only call automatisms of the mind. But this does not absolve us from responsibility for our actions. It simply informs us of the need to understand our individual and societal behaviors.



1.6.3. pragmatism versus ideology

The most important distinction, between different forms of knowledge acquisition, resides in how they handle the production of daily life by the citizens of their societies. It is my contention that those systems of knowledge formation, whose application offer the best outcome in term of generating the most pleasant life for their individual citizens while simultaneously ensuring the highest probability of reproducing their societies over the long haul, are the most pragmatic among any systems of knowledge formation. In that sense pragmatism appears as the optimum form of knowledge. There is indeed no possible equivalence between pragmatism and ideology.

I have repeatedly brushed the idea  that Polarities put the Chinese on a path of continuity while inducing pragmatism in knowledge formation. There is another aspect at work here that ingrains these principles in the minds of all Chinese which contrasts starkly with Western societal practices. While their society has assuredly always been managed in an elitist fashion knowledge acquisition has always been available to anyone and this, at least in part, explains why the knowledge contained in their traditional culture is so widespread.

The principle of polarities, and how it impacts all aspects of daily life, is shared by all Chinese, consciously or unconsciously, and ensures a strong level of cohesion to their society that is observable in how the individuals similarly treat all aspects of daily life. What I'm speaking about here is not a form of knowledge shared by a minority of academicians nor by a cohort of clergymen. Polarities are indeed integrated, as first principle, in Chinese cuisine and the same goes for how they approach health, social relations, or whatever concern they have in the present. In other words Polarities is what explains the working of people's daily reality. All other remaining questions are then addressed to animistic spirits and this is why the Chinese feel no urge to believe in a god nor other stories. And when they do exceptionally follow a religion, as during the present extremely fast transition to Modernity, their attitude remains one of pragmatism. They search indeed to bond with others in order to assuage their thirst for mental quietness and certainty while belief in the religious creed remains a marginal quantity.

The divergence between polarities and dualism is best observed in how people care for their health. In the next paragraphs I'll try to sketch both the Chinese and Western approaches in the hope to illustrate their otherworldliness.

The Chinese understand health as a state of balance between the different elements composing the body. As in animism the microcosm inside the individual is viewed as an integral part of the macrocosm and the interactions between components inside the microcosm or between micro and macrocosm is regulated by the flow of the universal and vital energy Qi.  The intake of an imbalanced diet (food or ideas) is seen as putting the body or the mind out of its state of balance which corresponds to an overdose of Yin or Yang energy that affects a given part of the body by an overdose of hot or cold. Such an imbalance corresponds to what we habitually call a state of illness. Food for the stomach and food for the mind are thus constantly active questions in Chinese peoples' minds. An imbalance in the body or the mind occurs as the result of a prolonged imbalanced input which takes the form of a blockage of the circulation of the vital energy Qi at some junction (acupuncture points) between the channels distributing Qi throughout the body. They see Qi as being vital in the sense that it is what powers the interactions between the elements forming the body. Treating illness is thus seen as restoring the proper circulation of Qi. The strategies to restore the circulation of Qi are multiple and Chinese doctors will adapt a mix of remedies to the particular case of each patient. Those strategies include:
  • modulating the inputs to the body: diet, the intake of supplements or medications prepared from minerals, plant extracts, or animal parts
  • directly manipulating the Qi: the best known treatment in this category is acupuncture. The other is Qigong which is more along the lines of traditional Taoist exercises with the master exercising his energetic powers to cleanse the body and mind in order to open the channels distributing Qi. Qigong may also involve self treatment to smooth the distribution of Qi through breathing exercises and the control of mind and body through meditation.
  • acting on the surface of the body to free the circulation of Qi: traditional massage comes first to mind, other techniques include moxibustion (the burning of moxi on the skin at acupuncture points or meridian points), cupping (the application of suction cups to remove excess concentrations of yin or yang elements).
I hope that this sketch sufficiently conveys the pragmatism at work in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Whatever one might think about that Medical approach the fact is that its understanding and its application are widely shared among all Chinese and the fact of the matter is  that the state of their health does not pale at all in comparison with the health of the citizens of Western advanced countries. It is quite the contrary. When correlated with their level of economic development the average life expectancy at birth of the Chinese is quite high indeed at 75,5 (even with the levels of pollution that we know) while being at 66 in India and 79 in the US (2015).

Western medicine does not address the root causes of illness as the Chinese try to do in their holistic approach. In the West illness is perceived through the lens of dualism and the application to the body of the idea of good and bad. As a result bad has to be eliminated and so we immediately attain the conclusion arrived at in the Western medical practice which is the elimination of the bad:
  • eliminate by poisoning through ingestion of medicine
  • eliminate through radiation
  • eliminate by cutting out with a knife or laser
This is a fast sketch for sure. But observe for yourself and you'll soon discover that this sketch is a quite thorough representation of what is going on.

The differentiation between China and the West in handling health issues could not be starker.  But the same is being observed in all other fields of life and this is what makes me say that their worldview is pragmatic.


1.6.4. Knowledge and free will

As we will see in chapter 2, where I'll address more thoroughly the notion of mind and consciousness, the emergence of the mind relates to the discovery of the self and a deepening understanding by the self paves the way towards higher levels of consciousness.

With power societies and the emergence of social inequality the self transforms and gives way to the ego as in egoism. As we have seen since early on Christianity expanded the perception of the self as ego to all its followers and Modernity finally completely freed the ego from its bottle while making it the foundation of its future worldwide expansion.

The developmental process of consciousness relies on selflessness in order to discover ever more hidden truths about oneself and about how the reality of the world unfolds. The appearance of the ego on the scene of the mind crushed selflessness and by the same token blocked any possible deepening of the individual's consciousness which means that his knowledge about the working of reality has been irremediably handicapped. The result of this handicap has been an unmistakable knowledge impoverishment of the individuals and, what is more, the further strengthening of the ego along the deepening of Modernity corresponded to a real dumbing down that reaches its peak in Late-Modernity with the commoditification of everything resulting in physical and mental fattening leading to an obesity that immobilizes the individuals in an illusionary 'selfie' like world that dissolves any remaining concern for societal affairs and the interconnectedness of all particles in our earthly environment.

The emergence of the ego is what gave rise to the idea that the individual has complete free will. Not only did individuals under Western Late-Modernity come to believe that they know it all about everything. Following the example of their religions' proselytism they also believe that they absolutely should share their knowledge with others which results in a complete cacophony and a perpetual overdose of visuals that anesthetizes the mind against wisdom. 

But free will is merely an illusion that accompanied the ideology of individualism. We are indeed primarily biological machines that are constrained by the physical realities of the world we live in. Furthermore as biological machines we take our orders from our biology and more particularly from our brain that acts as a data processor. Neurologists and psychologists still debate over the extend of this control but they have come to realize that our notion of free will is perhaps no more than an illusion of our individual perception that is being acting slower than our brains (5). What happens is more like if our minds were convincing themselves to believe that our decisions are being taken by the 'self' arising in the mind while in reality most of our decisions appear to have been taken already a fraction of a second before by our brain or data processor.

The acceptance of the fact that we are having no real free will in the traditional sense of the perception imposed on us by individualism and Modernity is radically changing how we view ourselves and how we view reality. Sure enough such a changing understanding is still limited to a narrow segment of the scientific community and the understanding itself is still very fuzzy. But I have to add here that this is also the view shared by traditional wisemen and sages who concluded that our perception of reality is an illusion. If our perception of reality is an illusion than willful actions undertaken under the illusion of free will necessarily end by hurting us and life around us. This is why the sage follows “the way ” and lives by non action. Non action means surfing on the waves of the universal reality which, lets always remember this, is not equivalent to doing nothing in our individual or societal life. Non action within the realm of the universal reality is a general principle that teaches us the necessity to limit our interventions, as individuals and societies, to what philosophically is considered to be “the way ”. Acting according to the way is sustainable for our earthly environment and leaves a livable world to our descendants. Unfortunately Modernity forgot about this first principle of life that, oh irony, primitive tribal man held in such a high esteem. As a consequence a re-balancing has set in that is starting to clean up the excesses committed by humanity along the last few hundred years.
_____________





Notes

Steve Fuller is Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, Fuller is best known for his foundational work in the field of ‘social epistemology’, which is concerned with the normative grounds of organized inquiry. He has most recently authored (with Veronika Lipinska) The Proactionary Imperative: A Foundation for Transhumanism (2013).
Those of you who might be interested in this question should also check “Politics a zombie warfare: against Steve Fuller's transhumanism” 2015/09/14 by enemyin1in “enemyindustry”. I also recommend the comments


2. From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 1. The axioms of civilizations 1, 2, 3.


3. See:
- From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 1. The religious worldview.
- From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 2.   2.1.2. power societies.

4. From Modernity to After-Modernity. Part 1. The axioms of civilization. 3.3. Differentiation in the axioms of East and West


5. about free will:
- in Free Will Sam Harris tells us that free will is an illusion
- “Scientific evidence that you probably don’t have free will” January 14th 2013 by George Dvorky in io9
- Searching for the “Free Will” Neuron by David Talbot June 17th 2014 in MIT Technology Review


No comments:

Post a Comment