• Agustino
    11.3k
    Then the reasons we ground an ethical system eventually become subversive. So order becomes a form of power, a way of producing a demand on others to obey some x. But we already know historically this hasn't worked well. We get technocracies, bureaucracies, capitalism, technological enframing, educational systems that begin to take a monopoly of what's right for our children.Marty
    It's interesting you say this. This view of history is characteristic of modern consciousness - up until the 1800s, the concern over power structures was almost non-existent. Notice that the elements you describe - technocracies, bureaucracies, capitalism, technological enframing, and fixed educational systems - these are elements to be found only in modern societies. Interestingly also, it is only in modern societies that we have seen a gradual and continual breakdown of order towards either of two extremes: totalitarianism or progressivism.

    So I'm not sure about ethical systems becoming subversive - before 1800s, you would have had very few people agreeing with such sentiments. It seems to me that the replacement of ethical systems - based on the abstractions of Kantianism and utlilitarianism are precisely what gave rise to the modern age, and with it the collapse of order. Kant's obsession with autonomy, and the utilitarian obsession with pain and pleasure for the majority - these are the core elements that have been chipping away at order. Add to this other future developments like Marxism and you get the 20th and 21st centuries.

    The modern (and postmodern) age is characterised by an obsession with power. The new questions of the day are how can we remove power structures? We look at women for example, and we say "Hmm, men seem to hold a power structure over women, because they are held to less stringent demands of chastity... women must break free". How? Well easy - by disrupting order - engaging in promiscuous sex, dressing indecently, refusing to marry, and other disruptive activities. Notice that this focus on power is blinding - nobody bothers to ask anymore what is good and what is bad. Nobody asks if a woman living this way can even be happy. The focus is blindly on the removal of power structures, regardless of good and evil. Good and evil are no longer concerns (we are beyond good and evil to cite Nietzsche's work) - that is why words like virtue are disappearing from modern discourse. Virtue too is seen as a power structure in fact, one that, like all other power structures, has to be removed - just look at the reaction that the most progressive members on this board have towards my writings.

    The pre-modern ages, on the other hand, were concerned with good and evil. They asked: what do men and women need to live the best life? The power structure of marriage in fact emerged out of such a consideration - namely, if men did not, by a power structure, have to be devoted to their women, most of them would have treated women like nothing more than cattle that they would use and throw away after. Women would be perpetually subject to poverty, and more importantly to be treated like objects. A power structure was required to restrain lust, and ensure devotion of the men to their women - their commitment. Furthermore, the power structure would prevent conflict between men over certain women - would guarantee order and stability for both sexes. Chastity for men was meant to encourage them to devote themselves to and respect one woman, and develop spiritual intimacy with her. Chastity for women was meant to teach them reverence and respect for their bodies. These two effects functioned to create order - order which made the family possible. Notice that their thinking was not at all concerned with power structures. Today, if there is a power structure, we want to remove it because it can be abused. They recognised that it can be abused, but also recognised that it is better with it, than without. In fact, it was the teaching of the virtues that was focused towards preventing such abuse.

    Notice that the more power structures are removed in the modern age, the more chaotic the world becomes - the more violent, mean and selfish it will become. Slowly slowly, to continue the previous example, decent, non-abusive relationships between men and women will become a rarity, if not impossible - especially in today's climate when women and men are encouraged to fight against each other, and engage in activities which are disruptive to the order between them. The state will move in to deal with this - it will take over children, how they are raised up, and so forth (out of wedlock birth is at 40% in US - up from 5% 50 years ago) - as a way to solve the problem that has been created. Soon we will slide once again into a totalitarianism - which is the necessary result of all forms of progressivism. Because order still requires to be maintained. If it will not be maintained by the traditional power structures, then it will be maintained by the authoritarianism of the state - which is much worse.

    The only thing that can save us is a return to Aristotelianism, with its focus on the virtues. The virtues will teach people how to be kind to one another, how to respect one another, how to care for the feelings of one another. We have to stop being obsessed about power - and become once again concerned about what is good, and what is evil - become once again concerned about how people can lead the best lives, and what is required for them to do so. Become once again concerned with building lasting elements of stability - good individuals, strong families, well-connected neighbourhoods, and so on up the ladder of organisation. Return to an understanding of freedom not as the absence of any constraint, but rather as the liberty required to do what is good for us AND for our fellow human beings.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    The state will move in to deal with this - it will take over children, how they are raised up, and so forth (out of wedlock birth is at 40% in US - up from 5% 50 years ago) - as a way to solve the problem that has been created. Soon we will slide once again into a totalitarianism - which is the necessary result of all forms of progressivism.Agustino

    The number of children born "out of wedlock" -- what a quant phrase that has become -- is yet another item in Hilary's basket of deplorables. [The out-of-wedlock rate in 2013 among Hispanic women was 53.2 percent. For African American women the rate was 71.4 percent. White women gave birth out of marriage at a rate of 29.3 percent in 2013, the CDC said. Aug 14, 2014]

    But... while agreeing that 40% bastardy is deplorable, I'm not willing to agree that "totalitarianism is the necessary result of all forms of progressivism." You might, perhaps, have committed a sweeping generalization there.

    The virtues will teach people how to be kind to one another, how to respect one another, how to care for the feelings of one another.Agustino

    Sounds good. We all like virtues, don't we? What, exactly, is the program for returning to the saving virtues of Aristotelianism? I'm thinking it would take a fairly robust exercise of power to throw the switch that gets the social trolley off the track leading to perdition and onto the track leading to salvation.

    It's a bit tricky, because "virtues" are in themselves not active agents. The virtues of mutual kindness, caring, and respect are propagated by doing the virtues, not in teaching or being taught--though teaching virtue is a necessary thing. (Just "Be ye doers of the word...")
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    Because order still requires to be maintained. If it will not be maintained by the traditional power structures, then it will be maintained by the authoritarianism of the state - which is much worse.Agustino

    Well, I don't know... is order maintained by the state actually any worse than order maintained by other power structures--church, corporation, family...? If there is no state sufficiently strong to maintain order, then some other institution will become like a state, maybe the church, or the corporation, the local strongman. Is a secular authoritarian worse than a religious authoritarian?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But... while agreeing that 40% bastardy is deplorable, I'm not willing to agree that "totalitarianism is the necessary result of all forms of progressivism."Bitter Crank
    That will depend on how we define progressivism I think. I define progressivism as movements which (1) ignore the ineradicable evil in the world (and consider that perfection is achievable on Earth, or in some cases worth striving for), (2) promote rapid social change which is aimed at removing power structures for the sake of removing power structures, and (3) empower (or better said seek to empower, because I don't think, for example blacks, are that empowered today) minority groups in ways which neglect the effect their manner of empowerment has on the rest of society.

    respect is propagated by doing the virtues, not in teaching or being taught--though teaching virtue is a necessary thing.Bitter Crank
    Indeed that is why it becomes necessary that we have leaders - not only in politics - which exemplify and wear the virtues for all to see. People do what seems to be popular to them, and what seems popular is what they see their leaders do - those who are in the public eye. People learn and arrange their lives based on Hollywood, actors, musicians, comedians, politicians, etc. But the media and Hollywood, and Western politicians are mostly hyper-progressive. They don't wear any virtues, apart from the virtue of benevolence towards everyone and everything, which they mistake for complete virtue. Courage, loyalty, trust, kindness, self-sacrifice, chastity - these virtues, they most certainly don't represent.

    What, exactly, is the program for returning to the saving virtues of Aristotelianism?Bitter Crank
    First of all, bringing together all those who understand the need for Aristotelian virtues. That needs to become a strong and united community. It needs to reconcile and unite people of different religions under the common umbrella of the virtues - in this globalised age, the progressive movements are winning because they have divided religions one against the other, and thus nullified their effect. Second of all, educating other people about the importance of the virtues - combatting Hollywood and the mass-media - because the truth is most people haven't even heard about the importance of the virtues. Who would have told them? Hollywood? Clearly not. People for example don't understand what makes stable marriages - they just have never been educated about it. They have no clue - most people end up marrying someone, without any serious consideration about what characteristics are important for a stable marriage. Then they wonder why their marriage failed - no doubt it failed - if you do something without planning for it, what do you expect? People spend years learning to be doctors or engineers or whatever - and they don't even spend 1 week learning what it means to be moral, which is perhaps much more important than all the other knowledge they have.

    is order maintained by the state actually any worse than order maintained by other power structures--church, corporation, family...?Bitter Crank
    Order by the state is order maintained by the threat of law, supervision and punishment - like Stalin. Order from power structures is order maintained by the community itself. For example, if your husband cheats on you, society reacts to this by ostracising him - not respecting him anymore, pushing him towards the periphery of society. That is a form of social order. There is no law determining that to happen. It's just a reaction of the people to say that they do not value this kind of behaviour.

    Also I should add that order maintained through power structures like the family is organic - whereas order maintained by the state is bureaucratic and mechanic.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    The pre-modern ages, on the other hand, were concerned with good and evil. ...if men did not, by a power structure, have to be devoted to their women, most of them would have treated women like nothing more than cattle that they would use and throw away after.Agustino

    What is the time of your dividing line between pre-modern and modern? 300 years ago or 3,000? 10,000--back to the time of the first buildings in Jericho?

    This view of history is characteristic of modern consciousnessAgustino

    Maybe intellectual discourse hasn't always been concerned with power structures, but those who had power or who were challenging a power have always been concerned about it. The Pharaohs, the kings of Babylon, the Roman emperors, the first feudal lord in his first small castle, the cruise director abroad a pillaging Viking longboat have all been pretty clearly concerned about power. And so have the recipients of exercised power.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    What is the time of your dividing line between pre-modern and modern? 300 years ago or 3,000? 10,000--back to the time of the first buildings in Jericho?Bitter Crank
    Based on the philosophical movements. Pre-modern = Renaissance and before. Modern = Enlightenment and after
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    Your interesting OP is keeping me from getting to church this morning. I hope you are aware of the negative effect on my morals your writing has.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Your interesting OP has kept me from getting to church this morning. I hope you are aware of the negative effect on my morals your writing has.Bitter Crank
    LOL :D
  • Barry Etheridge
    349
    up until the 1800s, the concern over power structures was almost non-existentAgustino

    What? What do you imagine the Catholic Church was doing from 325 until the Reformation? What's the burning of heretics if not a concern to maintain power? What were the Crusades about? Why was there a Pope and a Holy Roman Emperor? What was Ambrose doing publicly shamiong the emperor if not asserting the primacy of Chruch over State?

    What the heck was Cromwell doing marching around Britain knocking noble head's together if it wasn't a concern with structures of power? I don't think I imagined that he was asserting the primacy of Parliament over monarchy?

    And while we're in Britain, do you have no idea just how deeply structured the feudal system was under the Normans?
  • S
    10.2k
    I'm a bit confused by your title. You don't once mention God in the text of your opening post.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.7k
    And when Henry VIII wasn't divorcing or beheading a non-heir-bearing wife, he was busy burning monasteries -- partly to fulfill the Long Range Landscape Plan which called for romantic monastic ruins, but mostly because he was busy seizing their Roman Catholic wealth -- for his own use, and power.
  • Barry Etheridge
    349
    Clearly that's what he means when he says 'transcendent'! :D
  • Marty
    160
    It's related to our prior conversation when I said God is completely transcendent.

    Any way, I'm mustering up a reply to this...
  • Marty
    160
    It's interesting you say this. This view of history is characteristic of modern consciousness - up until the 1800s, the concern over power structures was almost non-existent.Agustino

    I'm not sure how you can say this, though. That the concern for power structure is a "modern thing."

    Beginning somewhere from some of the earliest historical writings, like the Peloponnesian war from Thyucydides, has shown the exact opposite of virtuous societies existing harmoniously with each other. I'm sure he can be said to be a inaccurate in some way today, but the conditions he spoke of in ancient Greece seemed brutal. For example, as history shortly moves on from 432BCE with the Debate at Sparta and Declaration of the War, to the speeches given in 416 BCE by the Melians in war, there became a sudden decline in what speakers could consider justice, and how the collective polis itself begins to crumble to merely fear, violence, and power. This is just shortly after the Persian War where Sparta and Athens battled together - which makes it surprising that once the Athenians were reaching a state of power in the Mediterranean they were already attacking, and shortly after attempting to persuade Sparta not to start a war they provoked. The most baffling thing is that Sparta accepted their plea (which was mostly pandering) even after justifying a promise to protect Potieda whom the Athenians attacked. The ethical dimension of language and reason already moves considerably in just fifteen years. Reason was ruptured between slaughtering others for survival, to a pragmatic stance in not slaughtering others so that maybe "other might not attack again if we showed some mercy."

    You see this type of strife all throughout Greek tragedy too. Each play within Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides shows that each of those authors understood how attempting to resolve ethics ended in disaster. Each play shows a mythical past that's riddled with ethical puzzles that had no answers, no resolution, and ended with aporia.

    You see this in the Macedonia culture during the time of Alexander the Great. All the city-states attacking each other for power - particularly easily reclaiming land and power at the moment Alexander's father dies. It seemed that each city broke into not just herd mentalities, but ruptured differences each considerably brutal…

    ...Although, I do think that value of individualism and the beginning of egocentricity was marked at the emergence of capitalism predominantly, this definitely didn't begin in the 1800s. The beginning can be found at the tail end of the middle ages. I would agree before then there was probably more of a commune between the caste systems, but only because social ranking was divinely and financially put into place from birth. If one has no distinct and changeable lifestyle from others, then you're initially rooted into a place where identity becomes homogenized with the rest of society. The need for competition becomes less needed. Freedom and identity wouldn't have existed together at that time. But to think this was an era of prosperity for these individuals seems contentious.

    After this time, going into the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment, egocentricity only became worse and worse, imho. But I do think that in the modern period is probably the worse concerning this particular issue. You have a sort of paradoxical individual-collectivism: where everyone must be individual. But if everyone is an individual then the idea becomes a part of mass culture. Where society begins to flatten out the antagonisms between good and evil, between higher art and lower art, between high and low culture which you have in mind.

    Notice that the more power structures are removed in the modern age, the more chaotic the world becomes - the more violent, mean and selfish it will become.Agustino

    We live in a world where there is more law, more power structures, more surveillance than ever before. We've created a society that refuses to acknowledge any other system than its own. When mankind cannot no longer see alternatives to the society it lives in, where forms of suppression now become invisible forces in the guise of a "neutrality," then one could be completely analogous to a somnambulist — walking through his daily life asleep, and in-taking new forms of "progress" without realizing their mass consumption, (and essential non-radical conformity).

    Our society can hardly be called radical or progressive. In fact, we live in probably one of most dangerous times where newer ideas become harder to come by due to the crushing status-quo.

    The explosion of pathologies today isn't because we've become radical and progressive, it's come because we can't find an identity anymore in the meaningless (secularized) bureaucratic and technological world.

    Indeed that is why it becomes necessary that we have leaders - not only in politics - which exemplify and wear the virtues for all to see. People do what seems to be popular to them, and what seems popular is what they see their leaders do - those who are in the public eye. People learn and arrange their lives based on Hollywood, actors, musicians, comedians, politicians, etc. But the media and Hollywood, and Western politicians are mostly hyper-progressive. They don't wear any virtues, apart from the virtue of benevolence towards everyone and everything, which they mistake for complete virtue. Courage, loyalty, trust, kindness, self-sacrifice, chastity - these virtues, they most certainly don't represent.Agustino

    I think all these things are a result of technological rationality. People are no longer really a result of localized beliefs and values, but history and technology. But perhaps I'm too Marcusean.
  • Wayfarer
    7.4k
    A book of note - Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O'Neill.

    Weapons of math destruction, which O’Neil refers to throughout the book as WMDs, are mathematical models or algorithms that claim to quantify important traits: teacher quality, recidivism risk, creditworthiness but have harmful outcomes and often reinforce inequality, keeping the poor poor and the rich rich. They have three things in common: opacity, scale, and damage. They are often proprietary or otherwise shielded from prying eyes, so they have the effect of being a black box. They affect large numbers of people, increasing the chances that they get it wrong for some of them. And they have a negative effect on people, perhaps by encoding racism or other biases into an algorithm or enabling predatory companies to advertise selectively to vulnerable people, or even by causing a global financial crisis.
    In relation to 'technological rationality'.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    What? What do you imagine the Catholic Church was doing from 325 until the Reformation? What's the burning of heretics if not a concern to maintain power? What were the Crusades about? Why was there a Pope and a Holy Roman Emperor? What was Ambrose doing publicly shamiong the emperor if not asserting the primacy of Chruch over State?

    What the heck was Cromwell doing marching around Britain knocking noble head's together if it wasn't a concern with structures of power? I don't think I imagined that he was asserting the primacy of Parliament over monarchy?

    And while we're in Britain, do you have no idea just how deeply structured the feudal system was under the Normans?
    Barry Etheridge
    As BC noted I probably wasn't referring to political leaders and their enemies, who have always struggled over power. So try a more charitable reading. I was referring to intellectual currents - what people who were talking about how society should be organised were concerned about - people like Kant, Descartes, Aristotle, etc.
  • Barry Etheridge
    349


    Isn't Aristotle pre-1800 then? Doesn't Plato have a book entirely concerned with the structure of society and the nature of rule? Isn't Augustine's City of God a treatise on the same subject? What else is Machiavelli talking about in the 15th Century or More in Utopia before him or Hobbes after him? Marcus Aurelius? Cicero?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Isn't Aristotle pre-1800 then? Doesn't Plato have a book entirely concerned with the structure of society and the nature of rule? Isn't Augustine's City of God a treatise on the same subject? What else is Machiavelli talking about in the 15th Century or More in Utopia before him or Hobbes after him? Marcus Aurelius? Cicero?Barry Etheridge
    Again - you don't get it. Yes it's precisely the point that these people were talking about how society should be organised. However - unlike people like Marx - they weren't concerned with removing power structures. Their questions were never "Who has power in society, and what can we do to eliminate this structure of power?" - their questions were always "What is good for society? How can society be made better?"
  • Barry Etheridge
    349
    "Who has power in society, and what can we do to eliminate this structure of power?"Agustino

    So Plato's Republic isn't an excoriating critique of 'power to the people' (democracy)?

    It seems to me that your argument is subject to death by a thousand self-inflicted cuts. I simply don't think you can make all these distinctions and survive with a coherent understanding. History, it seems to me, is entirely concerned with who has power and how it can be taken away from them and wherever history goes philosophy is sure to follow. This being the case I really don't think you can ignore politicians and rulers any more than you can ignore uppity plebs. It simply isn't the case that philosophy only exists if it is written down by philosophers. Yes, the number of works in this area and the labels they generate have increased exponentially but that doesn't for one second mean that we have only become concerned with the matters that they discuss in the last 200 years or so. Just the complexity of the thought involved in the demands that led to the Magna Carta, for example, demonstrates that even the most ordinary men were actively engaged in critical analysis of power. But without printing presses and universities and media outlets and with engagement in a daily struggle just to stay alive there was no way to academise and thus eternalise such thought.

    Just as increased reporting to police does not an increase in crime make, the flurry of academic works does not a new concern make. People today just aren't that different ultimately!
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    So Plato's Republic isn't an excoriating critique of 'power to the people' (democracy)?Barry Etheridge
    No - it's not focused on power structures. Plato's Republic is focused on how to form a good society. The focus is The Good - not Power. I'm talking about people's consciousness, which is reflected in the intellectual movements of the times. This consciousness has drastically changed - changing the way one relates and perceives the world, around the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Enlightenment. I'm not the only one to note this either: you can check the works of Owen Barfield, Mircea Eliade, Eric Voegelin to name a few.

    You seem to be concerned to talk about something different - namely the goals of different groups of people in society. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in our consciousness, and how that has changed the way we feel, perceive and relate to the world.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    821
    The Roman Empire developed a significant and extensive bureaucracy commencing in the second century C.E. The various crises of the third century resulted in its dramatic increase. By the time of Diocletian, many thousands were in imperial service (not including the military). I've seen estimates of the size of the imperial bureaucracy as high as 35,000 in the fifth century. I think bureaucracy wasn't entirely a modern development.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I'm not sure how you can say this, though. That the concern for power structure is a "modern thing."Marty
    That's not what I'm referring to. I'm referring to what intellectual circles are concerned with - the ideas which guide their thinking, and which represent the "glasses" they look through at the world - those glasses that they can't remove without much practice. Today power structures govern the thinking of intellectuals - just have a read of Rousseau, Marx, Foucault, and other such modern thinkers. Power forms the glasses through which society is perceived. These ideas which govern intellectual circles seep through into the general culture - it is seen as "intellectual" to hold those ideas, they become something associated with social status. Sooner or later the general population starts to be concerned with and see the world only through this prism.

    So the political examples you give from Alexander or the Pelopponesian War, while describing the political behaviour of human beings (an innate desire to conquer and rule others - which I agree is present, and was present, and will be present in human beings) do not describe the consciousness of man during that age. It doesn't describe the glasses through which people saw, understood and related to the world. It's those glasses that I am concerned with here.

    The beginning can be found at the tail end of the middle ages. I would agree before then there was probably more of a commune between the caste systems, but only because social ranking was divinely and financially put into place from birthMarty
    In other words there existed order - after this period, which in many cases lasted well into the Renaissance, order started to collapse. And my hypothesis is that order collapsed because the consciousness of man changed.

    But to think this was an era of prosperity for these individuals seems contentious.Marty
    Depends what you mean by prosperity. Spiritually I think the Renaissance and the Middle Ages were more advanced than we are today.

    Where society begins to flatten out the antagonisms between good and evil, between higher art and lower art, between high and low culture which you have in mind.Marty
    Yes - this is a change which I believe you have correctly spotted. I think when you're talking about the increasing in egocentricity in this period you are noting a change which is a manifestation of the change in consciousness I am trying to refer to.

    We live in a world where there is more law, more power structures, more surveillance than ever before.Marty
    And paradoxically also less - many people today are truly lawless. People have access to a miserly "freedom" today to do as they please - without realising how limited their choices have actually become.

    I disagree about the power structures only because by this word I am referring to things which have been qualified as power structures by people who have used this word in intellectual circles (Marx/Foucault): the importance and role of tradition (that is a power structure), the importance of morality (another power structure), the importance of religion (that too is a power structure), the importance of the family (also a power structure), etc. I am not referring to bureaucratic structures of the state such as secret services, governmental agencies, courts, etc. - even though they can and also are power structures in a different sense of the term. In that regard I agree with you, that there are more of those than ever before.

    We've created a society that refuses to acknowledge any other system than its own. When mankind cannot no longer see alternatives to the society it lives in, where forms of suppression now become invisible forces in the guise of a "neutrality," then one could be completely analogous to a somnambulist — walking through his daily life asleep, and in-taking new forms of "progress" without realizing their mass consumption, (and essential non-radical conformity).

    Our society can hardly be called radical or progressive. In fact, we live in probably one of most dangerous times where newer ideas become harder to come by due to the crushing status-quo.
    Marty
    I agree.

    The explosion of pathologies today isn't because we've become radical and progressive, it's come because we can't find an identity anymore in the meaningless (secularized) bureaucratic and technological world.Marty
    Which is merely a symptom of the lack of order that exists both in our souls as individuals and in the rest of society. The secularised, bureaucratic and technological world - these, in my opinion, are merely the outward reflection of the change in consciousness which took place - it's the change in consciousness that has produced all these, and not the other way around. People make technology - not technology people. And now, when we behold ourselves through the world we have made - we are as Kierkegaard would say, in despair.
  • Punshhh
    618
    Well, you've really whipped up a hornets nest there.

    I'm not going to get stuck in on that one other than to point out that ever since the development of intellect in early humanity competing power structures have dominated human society. Also that our current decadent and chaotic age is primarily, as you say, a result of the breaking of strong, or brutal power structures, in favour of the more enlightened ideal, something which requires the cooperation of the masses, hence our problem.

    Anyway, shall we get back on topic, radical Gods?

    I am withy Marty on this one, although I wouldn't put such a strong emphasis on ethics.
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