Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Specialism of thinking, bureaucracy and alienation

If primary thinking is our unbounded scope, the opposite applies to the thought-world we inhabit in modern society.

It began with Law - which sampled from infinite reality just a few aspects for attention, and dealt with them according to standard procedures. When one is operating within Law, within the legal 'system' - and if one is competent - one is alienated from reality and from the processes of Life.

Law deals with a biased and ultra-simplified model of life - thinking as a lawyer is to think within this simple model and using only this simple model.

The same applies to all other professional discourses - medicine, the military, science (and all the sub-sciences); but the major alienating system nowadays is bureaucracy.

All bureaucracies - by their operational definitions and standard procedures - are and impose simplified and biased models of reality.  And bureaucracies have extended into ever-more of life - and the different bureaucracies have linked-up via a huge increase in laws, regulations, subsidies, taxes, grants, monitoring, auditing etc. etc.

So the modern condition is to inhabit, and to think within and by the rules of, an almost-total bureaucracy - which has specialised sub-branches (such as law, medicine, science, the police, the branches of government, the mass media) - but which is incrementally converging into a single system, with a single set of master-priorities.

In a formal sense this convergence on master-priorities is not a bad thing - indeed it is a good thing: after all, the ideal is that all social systems be permeated and controlled by the master priority of Christianity (leaving-aside what specifically that would entail).

What is bad is that is two-fold:

Firstly and most obviously, the master priorities are evil. they are negative, destructive and ultimately inverting of Good.

But secondly they are simplified models of reality - and thus necessarily false and inadequate.

My focus on Primary Thinking is to emphasise that with primary thinking is a way of knowing the world that is unbounded and works by spontaneous, satisfying and intrinsically-valid processes.

Primary thinking ought to be the master priority - an un-alienated, participating way of thinking; not limited by professional or expedient boundaries - but inclusive of everything that is relevant and true; and - although limited in scope and precision - and in expression; intrinsically-valid within those bounds.

In sum: Bureaucracy is alienation; increase in bureaucracy is increase in alienation - consequently modernity is (from this reason alone - although there are others) already highly-alienated and becoming ever-more-so.

Was is more, the alienation is inescapable. The linked-unified bureaucracy is becoming ever harder to escape, as it absorbs ever-more of life - but even when it is escaped, the alternative thought worlds are almost-always narrow, partial, tightly defined, standardised in procedure and process...

Thus social media is not an escape from alienation, it is merely a different species of alienation. And that is the best we can manage - in modernity we take a break from one type of alienation by engaging in a different type of alienation - but the fact of alienation is constant. 

Only if we practise an unalienated way of being - that is participation - can we escape alienation even for a moment. The first escape is into unconsciousness (sleep, trance, intoxication...) - but that is to cease to be fully-human (and anyway when we are truly unconscious, we do not know we have escaped alienation).

The importance of primary thinking is that in-it we escape alienation, and we enter and participate-in a world of unbounded scope and reality; we do not think within definitions nor according to procedures, but whatever is thought is spontaneous and true.

(Expressing the insights of primary thinking is, however, neither spontaneous nor true! On the contrary, it must be another model.)

Primary thinking is therefore intrinsically-gratifying, and self-reinforcing. It is also intrinsically self-validating - if we allow it to be.

The question each of us ought to examine is whether (and, related, why) such thinking is indeed to be considered as real.


William Wildblood said...

I think the problem with all these modern specialisms you talk of here, Bruce, from law to science and including all the rest, but especially the media, is that none of them is concerned with truth or reality but only with appearance of truth and reality. So they are all dishonest.

Bruce Charlton said...

Yes William - They superficially-pretend to high (albeit restricted) ideals, but this is false (often explicitly so, in internal communications).

Honesty can be like a negative-feedback on error - the pendulum tends to swing-back; but habitual, systematic dishonesty allows for endless wrongness; and the pendulum swings in one direction until eventually it flies off the hook...

Nonetheless, even the most honest and well motivated specialist system is incomplete and will sometimes be dangerous - if uncorrected by a total, unsystematic world-view; which can only come from individual persons.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The fundamental problem isn't that they are pervasively dishonest, but why.

Basically, the substitution of procedure for human judgment is designed to make it possible for people to hold and exercise power despite a lack of any particular genius for independent thought. This is analogous to why rap and other forms of non-music have become standard throughout the music industry, while the infliction of dysthetic (with its destructive effect on the sense of beauty that is a great aid and motive for seeking inspiration) is an evil in itself, it is not the motive for most of those going along with it. For most of them, the elimination of the most technically difficult aspect of being celebrated in a field is for the purpose of elevating to popularity based on connections and allegiances rather than ability.

This is also the point of a bureaucracy, to make it possible for the people with the right friends and loyalties to be installed in positions of power, despite a lack of problem-solving intelligence.