Sunday, 19 October 2014

How to get to the next era of history in one piece

A good friend of mine posted some interesting thoughts (bolded) on my Facebook page, which I felt compelled to reply to here given that it covers a range of my philosophical concerns - and hey, new blog needs content!

How to get to the next era of history in one piece:
• Economic growth needs to be replaced with economic conservation.
I'd say supplemented rather than replaced, given that humans are unlikely to stop breeding or wanting more stuff; I don't think sustainable growth is necessarily an oxymoron. Agree with the sentiment though, yup.

• Technological progress needs to be rebalanced by tradition. 
Whose tradition? I agree that we need to bring our moral (and thus our political) progress into line with our technological progress, as we're still stuck in regressive modes of thinking, but I'm not sure that embracing "tradition" is a solution to that; rather, I'd suggest a complete revaluing of values along welfarist lines.

• Rationality needs to replaced with Post-Rationality. 
I have some idea of what you mean by this from our past conversations, but I'd argue that the things you identify as "post-rational" fit pretty comfortably under a post-positivist rationalist umbrella.

• Reductionism needs to be rebalanced with Process and Network science. 
I don't think the pejorative connotations of "reductionism" that are often implied in these discussions have much resemblance to the way the term's actually used in the sciences or associated epistemology - I agree though that breaking things down into component parts shouldn't obscure our view of the bigger picture, and sometimes it does. That doesn't negate its value as a methodological principle - if you want to explain a physical system, the more you can break things down into components, the better your empirical understanding of that system's going to be.

• Hard scepticism needs to be replaced with Pragmatic magical thinking. 
Hard scepticism is a pretty small niche though; it's hardly a dominant philosophy in our society. There's plenty of magical thinking out there already, though much of it's not very pragmatic. It requires a certain degree of self-awareness to be able to balance things in one's mind the way folks like you can, and while I think that's a valuable thing to encourage I'm not sure I'd agree "lack of ability to engage in pragmatic magical thinking" outweighs "lack of basic reasoning skills" as a problem in modern societies.

• Laws and rights need to be rebalanced with faith-based values. 
Not sure if you're trolling with this one, haha. The obvious trouble with involving faith in lawmaking is that modern multicultural societies feature a wide range of diverse religious and moral views, and if you want to be able to convince anybody of another tradition that, say, "marriage should be between a man and a woman" (obviously that's not your position!), you're going to have to appeal to common values to make that sensical to them - "here's the empirical evidence that it degrades the family unit" is going to be a far more compelling line of argument to pursue than "it says so in my magic book". 'course, in the real world, conservative religious groups can't produce any such empirical evidence, so they quite rightly get ignored by most everyone else.

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