Friday 28 April 2023

Incoherent thinking can now be permanent because of Modern Man's rejection of animistic thinking (also incapacity and disinclination for rigorous abstraction)

It is striking that Modern Man is now in a situation where he is incapable of detecting and reacting-against even gross incoherence among his beliefs and actions. 

Mainstream narratives might reverse over the space of days; and continue to fluctuate - yet Modern Man carries on respecting and obeying institutions that, one would have though obviously, are indifferent to truth and addicted to dishonesty. 

(The capacity for people to believe and act-upon arbitrary assertions, contradictions to common-sense and direct personal experience, and massive lies; are among the more remarkable aspects of this pervasive disorganization of thought.)

This seems to be something recent, and related to Modernity - since there are no historical examples of such gross incoherence. 

I think the reason is that historical Man was, substantially, an animistic thinker - who regarded the important entities of this world as living Beings with consciousness and purpose. He would allocate these beings according to their inferred motivations (eg. benign or hostile) and evaluate the world in accordance with these assumptions. 

Ancient Man might turn out to be mistaken about imputed character of beings, might 'blame' entities for doing things which Modern Man regards as otherwise-explicable (as when a tree falling might be blamed for murdering a child). But it was easy to keep track of the 'logic' of things; and to see whether they made overall sense - easy; because this style of thinking is spontaneous and natural to human beings. 

Such 'anthropomorphic' thinking is altogether absent from official, media and public discourse. Modern Man has been entrained to reject personified ('anthropomorphic') thinking as childlike and primitive. 

We have been taught that that instead Men ought to think in terms of abstractions - such as those derived from science, mathematics, economics, sociology, management etc...

The always-implied and sometimes explicit use of abstractions occurs primarily when the leadership class desire to make their choices seem entailed, objectively-necessary; as when The Science is claimed to dictate a course of action. Or when it is convenient to portray some decision or event as impersonally caused; or some unpredictably 'random' event.

Such abstractions are also readily introduced whenever required to displace blame away from the leadership class or their favoured individuals or groups. 

Yet there may be a switch back to animistic/ blame thinking - i.e. to imputing character and intent to persons or groups - whenever convenient for the purposes of scapegoating dis-favoured individuals or groups. or simply for firing-up public discourse - e.g. inducing fear, anger, hatred, resentment, despair...

In other words; one major source of endemic and persistent incoherence in the thinking of Modern Men, is switching back and forth between animistic and abstract modes of reasoning

The usual 'answer' proposed is that animistic thinking needs to be more-completely excluded; with the idea that abstraction is more rigorous and objective, and ought to be sufficient. So if The Law becomes incoherent and unpredictable because of imputed motivations and natures (i.e. anthropomorphism rooted in different attitudes to different individuals or groups); the call is typically for greater coherence between laws and objectivity in implementation of laws.  

Yet, somehow, this never happens, but instead the opposite; and the situation gets ever-worse. 

This is because a minority of people are capable of abstract thinking, and therefore cannot be convinced by it. Furthermore, of those capable of abstraction, extremely few will deploy it by aiming at absolute truth all of the time and in all things; and instead nearly-all abstractors will use their ability for reasons of personal expediency - to promote their own short- or long-term interests. 

And the reason that so few people will use abstraction truthfully is that - in our Godless, unspiritual, hedonic society - there is no ultimate or personally-compelling reason to be truthful.

To live by truth entails someone valuing truth 'transcendentally' - that is; above, beyond, and more-than the he values the risks and benefits of this worldly gratification. Such an attitude to truth is rare historically, and largely confined to a minority of people in some Christian societies - or those who have been raised with such Christian values. 

Such a minority included scientists from the 1700s to the middle 20th century in Britain; and indeed many academics and scholars in this same period. But there are (so far as I'm aware) no such groups of significant size or influence nowadays.   

Furthermore;  even in these most-selective of truth-driven groups, the strict truthfulness only applied to specific sub-areas of human existence not to life as-a-whole. So - even when scientists were completely honest in relation to their scientific work; they were not so honest, and might indeed be dishonest, in other areas of human life: religion, interpersonal relations including sexuality, money dealings... 

My conclusion is that in a world where abstraction is impossible and unwanted; if we are to attain coherence of thinking that is also sufficiently strong and motivating to dominate our lives - there needs to be a conscious and deliberately-chosen restoration of animistic thinking.

We need - as our bottom line understanding of reality - to regard this actual world as consisting of many living Beings with consciousness and distinctive motivations; engaged in purposive relationships

The above argument is based upon pragmatic considerations; but (of course - as I have often said), I believe that ultimate 'metaphysical' reality indeed primarily consists of Beings in relationships; and that abstractions are At Best only secondary, selective and summarized Models of animistic reality.

This is a living universe, created by a personal God; and we would do well to remember and affirm the fact. 



William Wright (WW) said...

I think the fact that we know next to nothing about Creation itself - events leading up to it, its purpose, the players involved, etc. - is a major, if not the major, cause of our incoherent thinking. We can try to remember and keep in mind that this is a universe created by God (which obviously helps), but what that actually means remains far too abstract and thus not really an empowering thing, or at least insufficient to provide the clarity that is required. It is the central building block or cornerstone that must be understood properly for our thinking and metaphysics to come together coherently.

It seems Man at some various points in that past, at least among some groups, had much greater knowledge of Creation (through prophets/ messengers that put things into records that people could read), and that among those people one would find much more coherent thinking, beliefs, and power... including things that we would call miracles and magic.

Our dire situation may be that we cannot think our way out of the current mess. The knowledge we need is lost, and it will be all guesswork (some guesses better than others, but still guesses). So it will require some form of outside assistance and help from Heaven, I think, to put us back on the right path.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WW - That we do indeed need to know something of the motivation of God in creation - is probably the foundation of William Arkle's writings.

And he believed that we *could* know this, each for himself, by directing our minds towards discovering it intuitively (as well as by thinking-through God's probable reasoning; given an assumption of familial related ness between men and God).

I believe he was correct. If we can know God's nature and main motivations, and identify with these; many apparent problems of understanding the world's purpose and happening may become clarified.