Thursday 14 November 2019

What we are supposed to learn from modernity, is that all systems are untrue - and that there is an alternative

If we are honest, and if we regard reality as having the coherence of being the creation of a loving God; we can learn from this modern condition, something that no previous generations have known.

All systems, all models (including those of science, philosophy and theology) - ALL systems and models - are false because finite simplifications of open-endedly ('infinitely') complex and interconnected realities.

In 'traditional times' (let's use the Old Testament times, or the Middle Ages as an example) there was a belief that The Law was primary - morality was governed by the system of law, science was governed by laws etc. The problems and simplifications were covered over by the large amount of unconscious 'common sense', based on instinct and habit.

When modernity arose the instincts weakened, and the habits too - and the limitations of all kinds of systems - especially of moral 'laws', but later of scientific laws - became evident. The unacceptable consequences of rigorous application that used to be covered by unconscious methods (eg. a king's or judge's 'discretion', the 'intuition' of a scientist) came to seem merely prejudice and dishonesty: merely a mask for selfishness.

All systems, and all institutions based upon systems, began inexorably to collapse - and this continues.

But system was not replaced - instead it was made more and more complex and abstract.

Systems were introduced to cover that which the old systems had left out - but the new systems were equally limited by their finite simplifications  faced with an 'infinitely' complex reality. A complex model is just as wrong as a simple model (indeed, it generates more wrongness, quantitatively) - but that wrongness is less obvious...

So modernity tried to elude the known wrongness of systems by psychological manipulations. For example, all committees and voting - all methods of creating 'consensus' are dishonest psychological manipulations that disguise the arbitrary nature of their decisions under a sufficient degree of abstractness and complexity that most people are too daunted (or too lazy, or too dishonest) to perceive the situation.

When confronted with the fact that modern complex and abstract systems are every bit as arbitrary and wrong as the older traditions of simpler and personally-administered systems; modernity retreated into an asserted nihilism of 'relativism'.

Hence, traditional morality (e.g. the ten commandments, the catechisms) had an overall intuitive plausibility, but were gross simplifications that led to conclusions which felt wrong and left out many things that seemed important.

Each was discredited, subverted, destroyed; rejected and replaced with an inverted modern morality which avoids some of the irksome aspects of tradition by means of inversion of values.

The modern morality is worse 'overall' (also less efficient; less and often utterly ineffective) - if such a perspective were allowed, which it is not.  System is only judged by system; individual persons have no permitted role other than to submit to system...

Modern morality has no foundation in overall intuition of Life - indeed is designed to overthrow the natural, traditional, spontaneous (because the limitations of such have been exhaustively documented), and modern morality changes all the time.

But it is abstractly and complexly formulated, and created and implemented by committees and teams of bureaucrats; all of whom claim to be value-neutrally implementing something which if Good because it is inhumanly abstract and was created by process not people.

(People being necessarily bad because prejudiced and corrupt - process being necessarily good because pure and abstract.)

At bottom, when confronted with all this - the Modern System will acknowledge its own arbitrariness and meaningless simplification - but assert its own power and physical/ psychological domination - and will bribe and threaten any dissent into compliance.

Thus our totalitarian world - a world based on self-consciously arbitrary systems, which claims moral authority simply on the basis of its power - including, especially, its psychological power to manipulate minds.

The weakness of modern system is its claim that Everything Is System - that when everything is just-another-system, then one or another system must (for reasons of expedience, such as stability, peace, growth) - and as The System is 'in possession' of the world (being vastly larger and more powerful than any other - having linked all the nations under global institutions, and all the major institutions within these nations) that its authority is simply a matter of pragmatic reality.

Others may try to displace The System - but, it is claimed, any possible system will have exactly the same basis flaws as The System - and the revolutionary process will cause so much suffering and death, that it is not worthwhile even to try. We should, instead, learn to love The System - to love Big Brother.

If it were true that everything were system, they would be right. All possible systems will indeed converge on The System - so it is not worth the trauma of overthrowing The System just to replace it with another version of the same.

And they are correct that all institutions are indeed systems.

Indeed, all theories, religions and ideologies are systems.

And, as such, all are fundamentally wrong, all are infinite over-simplifications that are justified only expediently, hence temporarily.

But not everything is system: is abstract and law-governed. There is, always has been, another reality - which could be termed Marriage and Family.

Although Marriage and Family have been (many, many times) redescribed as Systems, treated as Systems and hence subordinated to The System... But this is a dishonest trick.

Marriage and Family fundamentally are not systems - they precede all systems. Their basis is outwith all systems - because they are based on Love.

Love is not abstract, nor is it the product of a model. Love is something real only between Beings; and Beings are not abstract, nor are they systems.

(Indeed, any System could be described as an abstract model of a Being...)

Marriage and family involve Beings (in reality, not in the system-induced subversions and distortions that we see in politics and law and the mass media - where they are reduced to abstract definitions). beings (such as you and me) are eternal entities; and Love - which is the primal relation, the primal cohesion, before system.

When God created, it was Love that made possible creation - it is Love that distinguished creation from chaos. 

So there is an alternative to The System - and it is based on Beings in Loving relationships.

In a sense, modernity can be seen as a vast apparatus of experience that is intended to lead us towards this insight.

Modernity is a vast exercise in lies and over-reach; which gets more and more extreme until (it is hoped) anybody can see the falsity and arbitrariness of its claims. having seen the falsity of all possible abstraction and system - we may be more likely to return to the truth of Love.

The hope of modernity is that we will thus become free from the millennial delusion that reality is systematic. Only then, will we be able to know that reality is relational.

Christianity may then be seen as based on our relationships with God, with Jesus, with each other - and Not based on abstract sets of necessarily wrong statements and laws.

Only then will we have the religion, the belief, that Jesus himself had - and wanted for us.


William Wildblood said...

The test of the modern world is to discover individually what was known through authority in the past. This is why authority and tradition had to be overthrown so we could build ourselves from within what previously we had been told to build from without. At the moment, unfortunately, we have rejected traditional authority but failed in the next crucial step of aligning ourselves with the wisdom of which that authority was the embodiment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - That's it. Well said.

The problem is that the next step is one into the unknown, beyond 'systems', and it is hard to understand how things would or could work-out.

(By 'work-out I mean spiritually, primarily -- goodness only knows how things will work out materially; but much worse now than if we had done the right thing 100 years ago, or indeed 200 years ago, as we ought...)

It is, I suppose, just something we have to do, then wait and see. But the longer we delay taking this step, the less and less vaible anything else seems. So maybe that is part of the plan too.

We never can or would be compelled to make the right decision, but we must do it consciously and voluntarily - but as alternatives collapse, maybe the right decision will seem more and more necessary?...

Faculty X said...

I would describe the other reality as Intuition, Rightness (righteousness in the Olde days), and relationship to - in Anglicized Biblical terms - Jehovah.

I have to disagree that in Old Testament times the Law was primary.

What the Old Testament shows is the entity of Jehovah was primary and the relationship to Him was primary.

The Old Testament is a relentless teaching of how the Jews had to suffer again and again for their constant transgressions and constant wavering away from focus on Jehovah. For them to succeed and even survive they had to learn to listen exactly to what Jehovah said.

Fundamentally there is the contrast between modern systems which impose abstract rules on other humans versus the Old Testament which is about following the Almighty and being in right relation to His Will as revealed through Him or His prophets.

David said...

That's exactly right! Well said