Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Personality and Systematic Reality - which is primary, which is the illusion?


The great division in the world's religions (although there are intermediate positions) is between those who regard Personality as primary, and those who regard (what I am terming) Systematic Reality as primary.

Christians in general and Mormons in particular regard Personality as primary: God is person-like at least and probably better considered an actual person.

Reality is significant because God is a person - it is His individual concern for Men in general and us in particular which means that reality really does, objectively, have meaning and purpose and that we are in a relationship with reality.

Because reality is ultimately about relationship - then reality is moral.


By contrast, other (including some 'Eastern') religions regard Systematic Reality as primary - that reality actually is a set of structures and processes that goes-on whether we know about it or not, indifferent-to and unaffected-by what anybody knows about it or not.

Therefore, Personality (the self, consciousness and the rest) is an illusion, some kind of localized mistake, or illusion.  Because the universe does not really mean anything by us.

In other words, the order of Systematic Reality is utterly independent from Personality and Relationship - and there is therefore no objectively-real morality.

It is an a-moral world (morality is just another of the errors and illusions).


What is not a logical conclusion, is to assert that, because Personality is an illusion (and although it makes no difference at all to the universe what we think about ourselves or it) therefore the wise man 'ought to' acknowledge that his personality is an illusion, and should seek to correct this illusion.

This is nonsense because when life is Systematic Reality, then it makes no ultimate difference whether we live or die or what we do while we suppose we are alive.

There can be no 'ought' and there can be no 'wisdom' except if the universe is primarily Personal.


And if the universe is primarily Personal - and if the implications are assimilated; then on the one hand life is meaningful and purposeful (whether we know and acknowledge this, or whether miss and we deny it) - also many of the traditional abstract, metaphysical, philosophical and theological concerns, questions, frames and explanations relating to Systematic Reality are dissolved into secondary and subordinate status.



Thursday said...

“We’ve started at the wrong end. We’ve started with what we think of as objectively existing tiny particles and thought out of that we can derive something as rich as mind and meaning. We might have been better to start with the prime experience of mind and meaning and then figure out where the little bits come in.”

From Malcolm Guite's lecture on Owen Barfield here.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Th - I have watched some of the others in this MG lecture series but not this one. I do find MG somewhat maddening as a personality - but he does know his stuff.

I have read a lot of Barfield, and about him, over the years - but he doesn't resonate with me. We are on another wavelength. However I did enjoy his Platonic Dialogue Different Worlds - although I don't think it influenced me.

Wm Jas said...

Surely things can still matter to us even if they don't matter to the universe. Maybe the universe doesn't care if I'm ignorant, but I care. Isn't that enough to create a sense of "ought"?

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - IF something *only* matters to us, then that is a delusion - or, rather, there is no difference between psychotic delusion and true belief.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - When I used to be a psychiatrist I was disturbed that some of the psychotic patients believed in their delusions with more conviction than I believed in reality. Hence, delusions were seemingly more real than reality (if belief is the measure). If subjectivity is the test - then consequences like this seem to follow inevitably. I would diagnose this as a an major malaise of modernity - although not usually articulated. It is a species of nihilism to believe that belief is 'enough'.