Friday 29 October 2010

Modern reality - a product of thought fragmentation


Coherence requires hierarchy. A single sytem in terms of which all other systems can (at some level of approximation) be harmonized. 

Modernity is - according to Niklas Luhmann - progressively increasing functional differentiation.

In modernity, there is no heirarchy, instead there is segmentation. Society is a mosaic of discontinuous pieces placed side by side.

And the segments get ever smaller.


So that (say) society starts out with a hierarchy - religion at the top, everything else subordinated. Law, education, health, entertainment - all are subordinated to religion, and ideally all will promote the religion (or will be suppressed if they conflict with the religion).  And there are not many specializations.

But in modernity, first philosophy became independent of religion - from about 1200 religion and philosophy must be compatible - from Descartes (or so) philosophy had its own system of evaluations - from then on it began to fragment into science, then ever more sciences. Each with its own system of evaluation.

Now science (even science!) is utterly fragmented, different sciences have utterly different systems of experiment, proof, evaluation etc. Even in biology, even in neuroscience there are thousands of people pursuing utterly independent programs - nobody tries to put these programs together and if they do try, nobody takes any notice. And if a program is criticized by another program (using different evaluations) this is ignored, and indeed specialization continues and each becomes ever more irrefutable.


We are used to this in science, we are used to it in life.

Life is a succession of micro-specialized evaluations. Nobody tries to add them up, but if they did nobody would take any notice (it would be missing the point, it would merely display ignorance, incompetence).

Life is broken up into ever smaller chunks, each of which is 'explained' (or conceptualized) by ever smaller specialized disciplines. A piece of prose will go through these sequentially - it doesn't need lots of specialists to do this, many people can mimic the process; and anyone can assemble the quotes.

But it can be done with quotes. An old days documentary  was one man expoundung an idea, a thesis - a modern documentary is a series of talking heads and disembodied voices, and diagrams and pictures - each looking at a little bit of - what? Well there is no thesis exactly, maybe there is a take home message, but no thesis - the various parts are not subordinated to an overarching thesis.


But why not? Because there is no hierarchy.

Modernity is a mosaic not a hierarchy, so there can be no integration. Integration involves subordination.

Subordination involves suppression of some field, selection from other fields - it involves orientation, teleology - pointing many fields in a single direction, evaluating them in terms of their contribution to this goal.

Without conceptual hierarchy, life is just one dammned thing after another. There is no sense to be made of it - neither in principle nor in practice. 


The sound bite, the short attention span, the rapid cut, the restless appetite for the new, for a change.

The tolerance of unrelated segments (the modern news program, the modern magazine of newspaper, web browsing).

The blend of sheer distraction with emotional self-manipulation.

These phenomena are intrinsic to modernity, and necessary to such incoherent, vapid trash as political correctness.