Saturday 3 December 2011

Paradigm shifts


A paradigm is a metaphysical system - it is what frames experience and observation, makes sense of experience and observation.

Therefore, experiences and observations have no effect (no necessary effect) on paradigms.


Therefore, there is no point in using experiences or observations (data, reasoning) to attempt to change a paradigm, and two people arguing from different paradigms are either engaging in a game  - a pastime; or else in a kind of warfare on behalf of 'higher values' - typically intended to evangelize any onlookers, to convert the audience to one's own view by discrediting the enemy (which is why arguments across paradigms rapidly become ad hominem attacks on the morality and truthfulness of the opposition - whether directly attacking the person and their motivations, or indirectly attacking them by inference) .


Higher values are those goods which determine the choice of paradigm.

Arguing from shared higher values can change a paradigm, regardless of the experiences and observations - since experiences and observations are simply re-interpreted in the light of a new paradigm.


The most typical higher value is moral - Leftism has suceeded in shifting many paradigms by appealing to the Leftist morality of kindness (reduction of worldly suffering).

Another higher value is truth - although this was never very popular it did once rule philosophy, then later science; however, it now seems to have become all-but extinct.

Another higher value is beauty - although this was never very popular it did once rule the High Arts (painting, music, poetry), however, it now seems to have become all-but extinct.


A false paradigm is a free-spinning cog in the universe: detached from articulation with reality.

When a paradigm is wrong this is not revealed by anything so distal and exact as 'evidence' but by a very proximate and basic lack of coherence; a lack of coherence which cannot be linked directly to its metaphysical cause.

What happens is disorientation, an accumulation of incomprehensible and inexplicable fundamental phenomena, then collapse of the whole thing.

Followed, one hopes, by a new and better paradigm. 


Paradigms don't reform, they are destroyed - either by self-destruction and/ or by replacement (aided, or not, by self-destruction).

A better new paradigm will greatly reduce incoherence; yet - one can only arrive at a new paradigm via a path which traverses utter chaos; the new and better country can only be reached via a path which leads through the land of no paradigm.


Or, to change the metaphor, the old paradigm must be destroyed before the new can be built on the same ground.



Anonymous said...


What do you think of the Christian paradigm? Was it destroyed or replaced with a more lenient (and I use that term loosely) paradigm?


Bruce Charlton said...

Christianity can be thought of as a Platonic form - eternal - and cannot be destroyed. However it can be damaged, distorted, or partially instantiated - and that is what we have seen.

However, this process of destruction must be continuous or else the true form will reassert itself (like a 'strange attractor') - therefore this must be done by purposive evil and its servants.

The decline of Christianity in numbers, power, devoutness is a consequence of the highly successful recruitment campaign on behalf of purposive evil.

In particular, the mass media has provided the most perfect and potent propaganda weapon for evil - not so much in its content, although this is bad, but in terms of its capacity to induce a pervasive condition of distraction and indifference.

Anonymous said...

Whenever anyone mentions anything that hints at philosophical relativism, I am obligated to mention Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism."

Quine was far from perfect, but he was a famous philosopher because he was very, very good at logic.

It's an important text, and I don't know how willing everyone is to read it. For the moment I will say it's worth reading.

Bruce Charlton said...

@pg - Recommendation noted, but I have wasted, nay *damaged*, too much of my life already reading supposedly-original philosophers post-Aquinas and I don't intend to waste/ damage any more!