Friday 8 December 2017

What would convince modern people? (What could give us the courage we so badly need?)

What convinces people, in the modern world?

The modern world is full of contradictory and confusing communications; on the other hand there is a denial of the reality and relevance of metaphysical assumptions concerning the nature of reality - so this confusion (being based on conflicting assumptions) is intractable.

Lacking clarity, modern people are - in practice - convinced by propaganda and power; that is by emotional manipulation and by fear.

This makes cowards of us all - because we lack confidence in anything; lacking confidence we lack courage.

To be courageous we need to be convinced - and if we lack courage we will lack all virtue, because we will be slaves of expediency...

What, then, would or could convince modern people they are wrong - in a world where propaganda and power are controlled by an evil Establishment?

Explanation does not work; because explanation depends on the already-existing framework of assumptions, which are incoherent.

Evidence does not work; for the same reason - what counts as 'evidence' is dependent on the incoherent explanatory framework...

The only answer I can think of is that people can only be convinced when they discover reality for themselves; in such a way that this discovery is personally compelling.

To do this, people will need to do what it takes. Each individual must discover reality for himself; in whatever way he personally find so convincing as to serve as the basis for courage.

Otherwise he will remain what he is: a coward, a dupe of propaganda, a slave of fear.


Michael Dyer said...

Which is exactly how those who accept the gospel experience Christ.

I became a Christian when I heard the gospel and I knew it and put my faith in Christ.

We've gotten "too clever". You can't "convince" the postmodern because he doesn't believe in truth and reason to begin with. And do we really think the adversary is inactive in blinding people to right reason?

This is why, I believe, CS Lewis said the best appeal can be the simple "come to Jesus" pronounced by preachers modern man is "too smart" for. The best read Christian apologist of our time seems to be saying that reason helps, but you have to meet God directly when He is drawing you to Him.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Michael - Indeed, whatever works. The church I most associated with does this effectively, for some - although it is notable than a disporportionate number of new converts are Chinese and African, suggesting it is getting less effective with native British people. The Enemy has neutralised many of the old methods...

The big question is what Jesus does for us: what simple idea can the preacher express? The old idea was to save us from sin - but that does not work for modern people until they have been brought low, and often not even then.

My feeling is that what Jesus does for modern people is to save us from what we most need saving from - alienation, meaninglessness, purposelessness and despair - and moral cowardice.

But how to express this simply and directly - to give a story of 'how it works' is something I don't yet know how to do.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that, if you have confidence of nothing else, you can have the courage to acknowledge that you lack confidence. Socrates turned his lack of confidence about what was true into a powerful method of examination of other people's assumptions, and showed great courage in his life and eventual death.

It was out of Socrates lack of confidence in other sources of knowledge that he developed his awareness and reliance on what he called his daimonion, the inner supernatural voice which he credits with leading him, eventually, to the trial at which he was condemned to death, in the firm confidence that it was no bad thing to die for his philosophy.

So I say that is it not lack of confidence that makes courage impossible, but lack of courage which makes confidence impossible. If we have the courage to admit our lack of confidence and search for truth anyway, we will find something in which we can be confident. The witness of a preponderance of those who have led heroic lives is that this is generally some kind of divine spirit of revelation of truth, though it should not be denied that there are darker sources of confidence.

It may be said that I do not know if Socrates' daimon and the Christian idea of the Holy Spririt (tellingly called the "comforter", with the original implication of "strength-giver", indicative of strengthening belief, i.e. confidence) are the same thing, let alone related to the many apparently similar inner voices that were acknowledge as the guides of others in the long history (and presumably some prehistory) of humanity. But I feel some such comforter myself, assuring me that it is so. Interestingly, the darker sources agree (not with what the divine spirit of truth says, so much as that all instances of it are one spirit, whether found with Socrates or Paul, existing in opposition to other voices).

There are, of course, other 'sources' which I do not heed, since they say nothing of value or even reliable non-contradiction to me (or anyone else so far as I know). One may call these dark, though I gather they often pretend to be light. And plenty of 'sources' that are nothing more than my bodily appetites and sensations (or so I so deem them), having little counsel to offer about spiritual things. There is a type of courage in accepting any of these sources, and those who are confident indeed in any of them.

But the physical body can be broken, and must be killed. The characteristic spirits of both pride and fear are incompatible with reason. The cold darkness of loveless logic is anathema to the human heart. I think it is only the spirit of divine truth which can offer a confidence that endures, because confidence in the other sources inevitably leads to death or madness.

Then again, a poetic madman wrote, "That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die." There is a peculiarly insane truth in the idea that, for death itself to achieve death would be an ultimate apotheosis. No, it will not bring Lovecraftian horrors to life. But it might bring death to death. I rather suspect that doesn't actually mean anything, though.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - My understanding is that Socrates was essentially a religious man - of a monotheistic (or rather, henotheistic) type:

Chiu ChunLing said...

That is a good overview, and it includes something I neglected, Socrates search for truth (or wisdom) begins with piety towards the official gods of his community, rather than reliance on his personal spirit of revelation. I focused on that personal revelation because it seemed most relevant to the Holy Ghost of Christianity.

It seems clear to me that Socrates also had some acquaintance with the darker sources, but was too wise to accord them much worship or trust.