Thursday 28 August 2014

How to live in Mouse Utopia: Terminal Phase - Hope-full-ness and Pessimism

How to live in a society already stagnant, nihilistic, purposively-dysfunctional, demotivated; and apparently doomed to mega-collapse?

This is a burning question!


Some advocate that modern life should be a case of "Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light" - in other words, we are obliged to expound (presumably in the mass media - so that as many people as possible should get to hear about it) loud defiance of inexorable material, social and psychological collapse.

Despite that this activity is believed to be futile - but which we supposedly ought to do anyway, just in case our best calculations are off and our warnings may be heeded?

Or should it be a case of being as unworldly as possible - while yet doing one's loving duty to some others, whom life has put in our orbit (in full awareness that this strategy almost certainly cannot succeed in its own objectives except on a small scale and temporarily, in the face of inexorable overall societal material collapse)?

Should Life be a case of living for the here-and-now, doing whatever duty is placed in front of us (and damn the probabilistic consequences) - of short-termism. Or should it be the opposite: always do the right thing as if we had forever to do it? Absolute and uncompromising long-termism?

(Something could be said for each.)

Should we focus on the past (as a time when people were certainly smarter, more creative and also more virtuous). Or should we focus on recognizing and encouraging the best on offer around us? (Something could be said for each.)

Or maybe made-do-and-mend and simply hope for the best? But no: Man absolutely needs purpose or else he will despair.


The 'trick' is to be realistically pessimistic about what will happen; and hopeful at the same time: to be pessimistic about the probabilities, yet never to despair (because there is much we do not know or wrongly assume we know, and new things may come from unexpected places)?


That is the way we would like to become. But what do we actually do?

The answer is not easy - is not meant to be easy - and there is no one answer. So there is not much scope for criticizing the specific strategies of other people - so long as they are both realistically pessimistic about probabilities and at the same time hope-full.

From this large strategic field Our Lives must be sub-created - each life by each person using his own actual abilities and from the materials actually available; and in light of what each person discerns is the best course.

Also, we must - we simply must - have faith that the materials for this decision, and the wherewithal to judge our environment and discern our path - are indeed at-hand, available, find-able. That there is a path, the path is for us, and we can get onto that path.


A Christian knows that Our Loving Father and Creator would not leave us without sufficient guidance and sufficient strength to find a good-enough path - our path: if only we choose to turn and walk with hope in the right general direction.

This has always been the case; and the impending collapse of Mouse Utopia does not fundamentally affect it; any more than living-through the utter catastrophe of the Black Death - when half the population of England was killed by Plague over a few decades in the late 1300s - affected the fundamental paths and performances of those great, humane Christian poets Chaucer, Langland, and the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 


Data on the Black Death:

Mouse Utopia is following on from:



Bruce Charlton said...

@chris - Seems a bit off topic? But I posted it anyway, because the work comes from my colleagues and collaborators!

chris said...

I know it's a bit off topic, but when there is something that might relate or be of interest to blogs and blog authors that I read in the manosphere (I don't know if you consider yourself a part of the manosphere), I like to post it to their comments so they can have a read of it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris - I regard the manosphere as a net evil - ie. evil in its overall tendency - so, no I don't consider myself a part of it!

Anonymous said...

Christians seem to regard Paul as mostly, if not exclusively, a theologian. To the extent he isn't he is regarded as a moralist. But I think the letters of Paul are largely practical advice about how to live in such a society.

Unknown said...

"How to live in a society already stagnant, nihilistic, purposively-dysfunctional, demotivated; and apparently doomed to mega-collapse?"

I do think this is a question that is at least subconsciously on the minds of many. In the very long run, human collapse is almost inevitable so modern times may just be a more persistent reminder of the fact.
I am not religious and the question of purpose, or how should one live his life [given that a) it ends and b) is almost insignificant when subsumed by the larger culture of the population] is often on my mind. Nihilism is very tempting indeed.
I sometimes envy the "vigor" of other cultures - their high, if often misguided or unwarranted morale. The Chinese seem to have it now for example, as did Americans and, before them, the Europeans ...They pursued their purpose (be it materialism, defeat of Communism, salvation of souls, Holy Wars, etc.) with reckless abandon and seem to have found peace with themselves and the universe within the dynamism of their pursuit.
So what is a pessimistic, skeptical, nostalgic (as in pining for more evolutionary traditional environment) atheist living in a mismatched modern world to do? I wish I knew .....Maybe we should treat life as a sport - get lost in it and do not think of the absurdity of the purpose (like getting an inflated leather object past opposing defenders into a goal). Maybe the lack of agreed-upon purpose should be liberating - there is no wasted time or wrong choices. Now that's possible but somewhat disorienting.
Bruce, what is your answer?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ET - I'm afraid there is NO answer for a psn atheist - you first need to stop being that. That must be your number one priority in life.

Seijio Arakawa said...

Since we've jumped topics....

What's a masculinized woman, or a feminized man, to do in life, in any case? You have to admit such people can fit themselves into the complementarian view of things, but they can't define themselves by it, since if they did, there would effectively be other people who were better than they are, at being themselves (or what they consider themselves to be). i.e. they could still be good at being a human being, but they could not be good at being a man or a woman.

So, that is the kind of person who ends up wanting/needing a definition of humanity to aspire to, from which gender has been abstracted (or relegated to a secondary/contingent rather than an essential trait).

Lacking that definition, rebellion against reality starts to seem dangerously logical.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - I'm not really sure about your point, here.

It is simply a fact that mortal life does not always, often or even usually allow people to fulfill the best possible outcome. Some even die in the womb.

This is a very important question - but I don't think it has anything fundamental to do with metaphysical complementary - except if the situation was used to deny it or as if it refuted it (e.g. by being used as a 'reason' for denying or inverting metaphysical reality).

Seijio Arakawa said...

@Bruce Charlton

Well, if circumstances do not allow a person to fulfil the best possible outcome, then that's not the best possible outcome for that person, is it? Since, for that, it would have to be possible, and it isn't.

To refine my earlier comment to a narrower and more specific point:

- You point out that the highest ideal of spiritual attainment is found in a dyad of one man and one woman. (The doctrine of eternal marriage.)

- Assuming that premise, there exist people for whom this ideal is intrinsically unattainable, for one reason or another.

- Beyond the question of "what is the highest ideal of spiritual attainment" (absolutely), there is the question of "what is the highest ideal of spiritual attainment (for a particular given person)" -- i.e. "what am I meant to be"?

- People for whom it is impossible to attain the complementary ideal of eternal marriage, require an ideal of spiritual development which does not depend on gender (because, as you point out, the reality of gender must be resolved through complementarity; a person existing individually as male or as female remains eternally incomplete).

This does not overturn the validity of the ideal of complementary genders coming together in marriage in general, but does it with respect to specific people for whom it may in fact be impossible.

- If there is no alternate ideal of this kind, then the question "what am I meant to be?" is answered by "you can never become what you were meant to be", which is a non-answer in terms of figuring out what one is to do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - What is at issue is the highest acknowledged ideal.

For many religions, including Catholic Christianity, the highest ideal is celibate ascetic striving for Sainthood. This has never been possible for many people- indeed only those with a specific vocation were encouraged into this path. Nonetheless it was (and is) seen as the highest path.

Many people are born handicapped and disabled in various ways, or become so - their capacity for action may be extremely restricted. They may be unable to pursue the highest path - for example they may never have a job, may never have sex, may never travel or be creative.

"what is the highest ideal of spiritual attainment (for a particular given person)" - there will be many answers to this question in practice and in context. But the answers must not contradict the highest ideal.

For example, for a specific person in context of a mortal life, celibacy may be the highest ideal. But that does not challenge the dyadic ideal.

How would we know? By personal revelation (plus whatever sources of wise advice and guidance may be found). Personal revelation would be given - nobody would be left without sufficient guidance.

But this is not the end of the matter - because we have considered only mortal life. Writing, as I am, from a Mormon perspective, this mortal life is in the middle of two unbounded eternities - pre-mortal life, and life beyond death; and all are arenas of spiritual progression.

Over the post-mortal eternity our Loving Father will, because of his love, ensure that chances and choices continue to be available.

The essence of mortal life is incarnation and death - these experiences and capacities are what enable a qualitative step in spiritual progression.

Beyond that minimal essence of body and death; each Man's mortal life has some different and unique destiny - an unique combination of things like being born in a particular time and place (which is not chance, but has some significance), our unique individuality, heredity from our mortal parents, and the chances and experiences of mortal life.

This is why many/ most people need to know themselves, in the sense of knowing God-within ourselves. In a sense, personal revelations, communicated from the living God, are met by God-within us - the two link-up and harmonize.

We navigate our unique path by several or many principles - and knowing the ultimate ideal of human life (in celestial marriage) is only one of the necessary principles.

I would say that celestial marriage seems a remote prospect for the vast majority of people - because it is contingent upon so many factors.

And no matter how remote it may be for us (how many millions of years of post-mortal eternal life it may be distant) it is yet still a choice of free agency. It is not forced upon anybody (cannot be forced upon anybody). And therefore it is very likely that some, perhaps many, will choose otherwise - will choose a lower path or place.

Because always spiritual progression carries responsibilities; and some individuals will not be able or willing at any particular time to take-on these sorrows and duties; so would prefer and choose a lower but perhaps more care-free life.