Wednesday 30 March 2011

Angels and demons - and the good society


I have been reading Peter Kreeft's excellent book Angels and demons which is a philosophical window onto the traditional (and common sense) perspective that prevailed everywhere until recently, and among most people still.

Particularly enlightening was the idea that angels and demons can influence the emotions, create mental images and implant ideas...

But motivation and choice were not directly accessible to them.


In other words, the Catholic understanding of the influence of the supernatural is that external powers can (and do) put ideas and images into the mind, and influence the emotions and feelings; but that free will is immune.


In terms of the human condition, this corresponds with the fact that socio-political influences (whether angelic, demonic or indeed humanly motivated) can fill our minds with stuff, can pour images and ideas into our conscious and unconscious thinking; and can also manipulate our emotions.

But our free will (our motivations and choices) stands apart from this, and choices can be influenced only indirectly.


It is always possible to reject images, ideas and emotions. This fact is non-negotiable.

For angels or demons to influence humans, there must always be an act of free will that opens the mind to the influence.

And that is the only way that angels or demons can have influence.

So it follows that a person can potentially always be good under any circumstance: can always make good choices.


Yet, albeit indirectly, choices are influenced, shaped, pushed and pulled.


So, it follows that a good society is one in which minds are filled with good images and ideas, and these good ideas are associated with positive emotions; and where bad ideas are associated with negative emotions.

A bad society is one in which minds are filled with bad (evil, false, ugly) ideas, and these bad ideas are associated with positive emotions; and good ideas are associated with negative emotions.


Question: what kind of society do you think we live in - good or bad?



The Crow said...

Bad, badder and baddest.
As you say, anyone can resist, but few do. Society is the people it consists of, so the delusion is self-replicating.
The church was sadly lacking, but it did give some degree of moral direction to its adherents. Still does, to a lesser degree.
Advertising serves to seriously undermine the outlook and morale of people, for example.
We joked that I was raised by wolves, and so I was, in that for most of my life I have lived on the far outer fringes: in deserts, forests, and on oceans, away from the relentless conditioning of urban life.
I am immune: a time capsule of life forty years ago. I feel alone, sometimes, although my once brainwashed wife has made a remarkable recovery.
Social conditioning need not be a permanent disability.

Bruce Charlton said...

@The Crow -

"As you say, anyone can resist, but few do."

Yes, understandably; because making the right choices now involves outcomes that are likely to bring social isolation consequent on detachment from the prevalent images and ideas, and (for social creatures such as humans) also negative emotions; and a high degree of isolation seems inevitable - whether physical, as in your case, and/ or mental (like Tolkien in his later life, after the Inklings had dissolved).

Bruce Charlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.