FRIDAY, DEC 16, 2016

Sustainably Postmodern

The whys of leftist discourse



TUCSON (A-P) — I have considered species threatening issues, as we of the Anthropocene are presiding over the ninth mass extinction event on the planet and human extinction is not unthinkable. Next down the list of issues, from our human point of view, would be civilizational threatening issues. This begs the question of which civilizations, if any, merit persisting. For about a billion humans, civilization could be envisioned as a Global Caliphate (1.6 billion 'Muslims', or 23 percent of the global population, but many aren't old enough to have an opinion and others will opt for a different vision). All those in the global industrial society are temporarily standing in the way of realizing Allah's will which shall be done with a little help from his helpers whose rewards, in the next life if not this, are unimaginably sublime. Become an Islamist (or ilk) if you want to believe. No talent, understanding, or other ability required.

Islamism is at the top of the 21st century list of threats to Western civilization as they alone have the industrial hegemon squarely in their crosshairs and offer a credible threat (Kaszynski, serving six life terms, is not a credible threat). As one who favors the destruction of the industrial society, the Islamists could be viewed as an ally. The Growth Empire is not a civilization such as I would support or wish to live in, but it contains the elements of such civilization as I would preserve and ISIS does not.

The Christian hegemon of the Byzantine Empire is analogous to the Growther hegemon of the Fossil-fueled Growth Empire whose passing is a matter of time. Much as the Byzantine Empire contained the remnant of Greco scholarship (books and scholars) that yet persists within the Growther Empire, the techno-scholar element is needed to serve as foundation for any civilization I would wish upon my progeny (envisioned as the Federation of Watersheds). If a Holy ISIS Empire supplants the current empire, it will just be a different hegemon that scholars (as the free, curious, and critical) will endeavor to survive within and pay "it" forward as they do now. The "it" may end up being based in Mecca, but I beg to consider the possibility that we may yet prove to be "a most promising species" capable of becoming (a little more?) enlightened.

So moving on, what force of true belief merits being second on the list? The list is limited to ideologues, ideology, and ideologery as to threaten the life worth living (as I evaluate it) it takes ideology (short for "it takes religion" and "it takes politics"). Christianity, at 2.2 billion and counting, used to be at the top of the list, but the Holy Roman Empire finally dissolved in 1806, subsumed by the Euro-Sino. Given that religio-politico-based ideological power shifted to politico-econo-based [nation-state] power and then to econo-politico-based [corporate] power, no surprise if the second on the list is politically based rather than religio-politically based like ISIS.

The political ideologues serving the Growth Empire, with the possible exception of the laughably impotent (like the anarcho-primitivists and Greens), come in Right and Left flavors (the political spectrum), as in dogmatic Right and regressive/self-righteous Left. The "two" are actually just two sides of the same bell curve with extremists on either end. Both sides, however, are not equal threats (presently) as one is far more ideological than the other and academically influential in that they infest academic institutions endeavoring to "educate" the young. The Right is merely focused on promoting and preserving (conservitively conserving) self-interests which may or may not be appropriate. They do not seek to do others good. As Thoreau noted, "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." Not all may share this concern, but I do. The Self-righteous Left is only just a bit lower on my list than the jihadists of ISIS. Their rhetorical flourishes and skirmishes that impress only themselves make them natural allies and bedfellows.

The intellectual foundations of the Rhetorical Left, or their more inane ideas, passed through the sieve of postmodernism, a movement that swept through the halls of academia in the mid to late 20th century as a precursor to the now global era of post-truth discourse. In the late 1970's I attended, several times, a rather impressive gathering of academic types in Santa Barbara who were taking it all in via lectures and by talking the talk among themselves. I never became fluent and was distracted by all the red flags. The issue of postmodernism and its ilk on campus was raised in an interview with academic Peter Boghossian (philosopher) who, unlike myself, is aware of current issues on campus. He doesn't pull his punches, "There are communities of ersatz intellectuals in the humanities in general and gender studies in particular which have been impacted by the legacy of postmodernism. These people are pumping out complete bullshit and indoctrinating a generation of students to believe total nonsense." Students have to first know "sense" to tell it from "nonsense," so Boghossian is no threat. Postmodernism and all other -isms of rhetoric are safe, it's all good, dialectic ignorance is bliss—an easy sell.

"The far Left have successfully managed to infiltrate our universities. A consequence: radical incivility and students who hold preposterous views of reality and think they’re better people as a result. One reason is because people go into ideological bunkers where they protect themselves from ideas. And this is a type of ideological convergence which strengthens and exemplifies their convictions. They’ve created 'safe spaces' for themselves and anyone who persistently questions those becomes the target of a smear campaign." All of which references the "self-righteousness" I find so facepalming. To claim nonsense is one thing, to feel superior to all who beg to differ suggests I should just stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.

For "fair and balanced" consider a Criticism of Postmodernism, and don't overlook the Sokal affair. Or both: Postmodernism Disrobed. For students and others concerned about the academy, consider making the academy safe, not for ideologuery, but for those who would rather know than believe. As E.O. Wilson has pointed out, all subjects of interest are 'concilient' if those who would study them share a common ground of doxactic humility, which is unknown to those who would rather believe than know. In the Medieval universities dominated by the Schoolmen, those who would rather know were marginalized as they are now though there are more now than then. Fewer may be burned on rhetorical stakes, but those 'who would rather know' are yet a minority. Postmodernism and Leftism are, within academia, the current GROWTH'S MANDATE SYSTEM serving Wordsmiths/Priesthood analogous to the Schoolmen of the prior GOD'S MANDATE SYSTEM of humanocentric interests. Alternative would be a shift favoring those who would rather know such that academies of 'higher learning' eschew the believing mind. In practice this means the postmodern Left (and such Right as may exist) share facilities on campus with theologians if there are still students who wish to sit at their feet. Economists can be replaced by eco-nomists.

That the academic Left is a new priesthood is perhaps non-obvious. The fideist Unamuno may be of service. As a theist he came to realize that his theism was secondary to his need to believe in an afterlife, and that his need to posit an afterlife was secondary to his need to live in a world where social justice prevailed, where all injustices, such as a beloved child's horrific death, would be redressed. This necessitated a belief that his child (and others) would live on in a better world, of necessity 'another world' beyond this one. The need to posit 'another world' required a ruler of it who could hear the prayers of grieving parents (and others). To a non-fideist evolutionary biologist, this all makes splendid sense and some brains may be 'hardwired' to believe. It's a social (if not eusocial) primate thing.

As William James (another fideist) noted, some (actually most) people have a need to believe. Only fidests, however, embrace the doxatic humility of the scientists and other scholars that allows believers to coexist with evidentualists. Ideologues do not know humility and need to be marginalized as otherwise they dominate, and those who would rather know (scholars, scientists, artists...all who embrace inquiry/doubt/humility rather than words, words, words) must raise up to iterate towards 'truth' as best guess which may allow us to move towards real solutions such that we come to live long as a species and prosper as responsible members of Earth's community of organisms.

The ideologues (political and religious) prey upon the human need for justice, fairness, equity, and feel-goodery that is the sigh-qua-non of the believing mind. Religious ideology does not dominate the academies of today (political ideology does), but the vacuum did not go unfilled. Ideologue wordsmiths reinforce humanocentric self-interests, the conceit of human exceptionalism that may well be the death of us now that the genie of technology has been let out of its bottle. Those who can take their reality straight up can do science or be scholars who prefer the free, curious, and critical life of the mind. Those having a need to believe can be fideists like Occam, Pascal, Kant, James, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Peirce, Unamuno, and Martin Gardner such that Snow's Two Cultures can coexist within the academic community without contending irreconcilably as true believers vs. true unbelievers. The academic community needs to find and build upon a common ground of consilience, marginalize those who cannot adapt, and guide humanity through the coming existential bottleneck (endgame) foreseeable to those who can think more than a decade or millennia ahead.

Most hu-mans would rather feel good than know. Thoughts that don't feel good are ignored, rejected, mystified or marginalized. Hu-mans who both need to believe and to know are fideists. The fideist/believer intellect may be crystal clear (e.g. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Gardner, William James, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Pascal, Kant, Descartes...) with the additional need to feel good in terms of well definable faith-based needs (e.g. higher power, eternal life, free will, the transcendent) which is also compatible with not thinking well (e.g. Ken Ham, William Lane Craig, John Searle...). Normal hu-mans, the 99+%, have a need to believe. Some high-functioning intellects do not (e.g. Bertrand Russel, Carl Sagan, W.K. Clifford, Nietzsche, Voltaire, Hobbes, Hume, Spinoza...) which is compatible only with the endeavor to think well (e.g. Bill Nye, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett...).

Non-believers lack something, i.e. the need to believe, which makes thinking well easier, but since hu-mans overwhelmingly need to feel good, to placate their amygdala, only social primate fideists can listen to both reason and the heart which has its own reasons, and thereby communicate with the 99+%, perhaps to find common ground. If the masses cannot do other than vote their deeply held feelings, which excludes voting for non-believers (in God, democracy, in making America great again...), the middle ground between wish and wisdom would be an apparent leadership of fideists as both figureheads and communicators of what works, as sellers of real solutions. Those few who don't have the amygdala thing going for them are best able to determine the real solutions that might actually work to enable humanity to pass through the coming bottleneck.

Only high-functioning fideists types can both live in the magisterium of science/reason/evidence and connect with the 99+% who need the magisterium of faith-based, heart-based, amygdala-based certitudes. It may not be possible, in a foreseeable near future, to reconcile heart and mind though doing so is thinkable. The believing mind may not be hardwired, but it will take generations (at least more than one) to transition to a society of inquiry, where inquiring minds are the norm because children are not told what to believe. Until then, we need to treasure the fideists of heart among us like Paul Chefurka who can have one foot on terra firma and one on feel-good Facebook where the 99+% of true believers find confirmation (in present society which does not preclude the possibility of other norms).

But we're not quite to the better view yet. Those endeavoring to think well and develop a new OS for humanity to install, need to think fast as well as well. Ecolacy (systems literacy) now, or ASAP. When the teachable moment arises, believers who also endeavor to think well will be needed to install the needed inquiry-based OS for the survival (and prosperity) of hu-mans in Nature or otherwise help hu-mans transition away from certitudes to get good with biophysical reality.

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