Wednesday, February 22, 2006

VB 3 - Central Ideologies

Voltaire's Bastards
Central Ideologies

As one looks closer at society, extreme positions tend towards functional similarity. According to Terror & Liberalism, the extreme left is increasingly finding itself supporting regimes, or at least states, that are every bit as genocidal as their professed epitome of evil - nazism. While few countries are able to match German efficiency, I wonder if we aren't some times overly confident and adept in the creation of self justifying systems. Complexity can be a wonderful tool for creating the types of insulation necessary to make anything else seem foolish.

The Right and the Left, like Fascism and Communism, have never been anything more than marginal dialects on the extremes of reason. They are the naive answers that one would expect from a central ideology which, in its very heart, believes in absolute solutions. And so, despite this confusion of false ideologies, the ethic of reason has continued to spread within our societies. Certain characteristics of that ethic, less apparent in the beginning, have seeped through into dominating positions. It has produced a system determined to apply a kind of clean, unemotional logic to every decision, and this to the point where the dictatorship of the absolute monarchs has been replaced by that of absolute reason. The development and control of intricate systems, for example, has become the key to power

VB page 20

I have mentioned before that rationalism is very successful. I certainly can't imagine the world without it. However that does not mean that we aren't susceptible to over extending it in much the same way that people over extend religion. I think my posts ON IDEALISM have gotten at this idea. Often what matters isn't how things could work in an ideal world, it is how they function in practice. Pragmatism wins because it deals with the context that idealism forgets. However, just as extreme liberalism may find itself justifying Iraqi beheadings and condemning Californian executions, context can become an all encompassing shroud.

We see signs of failure, but the system provides no vocabulary for describing this breakdown, unless we become irrational; and the vocabulary of unreason is that of darkness, so we quite properly avoid it.

This absence of intellectual mechanisms for questioning our own actions becomes clear when the expression of any unstructured doubt - for example, over the export of arms to potential enemies or the loss of shareholder power to managers or the loss of parliamentary power to the executive - is automatically categorized as naive or idealistic... Our society contains no method of serious self-criticism for the simple reason that it is now a self-justifying system which generates its own logic.

VB page 21

Many people ask whether or not religion can stand up to scientific scrutiny. Does it have to throw up a wall of sacredness to avoid being shaken to myth? This seems to presuppose the existence of absolute solutions. While John Saul's comments certainly can be questioned, I wonder if some of the baggage brought to the debate doesn't illuminate some interesting duplicities concerning self justification.

Certainly science tends towards context independence. But in the debate, are we mistaking rationality for science and justifying it through self determining logic? When the solutions one is looking for are context dependent, a wrench certainly seems to get thrown into the mix. After all context independence seems a basic assumption upon which things naturally get framed. I wonder if, in some instances, we are mistaking rationality for science and religion for irrationality.

Rational complexity seems to have defined religion as its opposite. As they apply to moral fields, they may actually be sides of the same coin. The only difference could be the extent to which they have embraced scientific methodology When applied to moral fields, is rationality the scientology of religion? Does it hide behind the protective cloak of science in the same way religion hides behind its sacred walls?

To me the question seems to center around the extent to which science can stick to each.


chris g said...

I personally feel religion can be quite adept at integrating scientific methodology. Of course so is rationality. The limiting factor seems to be more one's skills and preferences, not the venue chosen. Of course many practitioners of religion seem content to choose conviction as justification in lieu of scientific methodology. Rationalism seems to eschew conviction as a measuring tool and use superficial conformity to scientific appearance. One certainly looks a lot more helpful, but again the question comes down to the degree to which science can stick to each, not the extent to which either is integrated into the current central ideology.

chris g said...

I should add, Jeffrey's excellent series on Dennet's"Breaking the spell of religion" is a great parallel to what I have been trying to say.

In particular his post "questions about science seems particularly relevant. If only I had enough time to get involved in discussions instead of one sided posts. Oh well, having to pay long distance for internet at home certainly gives me a break from the day's work.