Saturday, 21 April 2007

Illusion can bind us together?

A friend of mine recently attended my sister's wedding. He doesn't sing hymns because he takes a moral argument that God's existence could not be in a world containing horrible events. I respect him and his sincerity but disagree. Such an argument is referred to through his characters by David Hume in his Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion. It may well be the case that it is unsatisfactory to say that we cannot know God's nature; it may be equally unsatisfactory to say that God's existence can be proved by arguments from analogy in human experience; but equally there is an instinct in us to believe that an existent God has a moral nature despite any evidence being adduced for it. That instinct may be consolatory in a 'vale of tears' (the Dialogues, see introduction); and of course many may argue from nature to suggest that God has no moral nature inherent. But as to my friend's atheism, he has sinply replaced the religion of God with the religion of Man.

Jacob Bronowski referred to man as finding the 'like in the unlike and the unlike in the like'. God is not dead, as we were told by Nietzche, because he is a by-product of the thought process of abstraction which humans possess as part of their metaphysical nature. But we do reach a summit in that an idea of God is held despite their being no experience in which the reality we see around us can be linked to that idea in a principle of cause and effect. It becomes an article of faith that belief in God is possible and that morevover God's nature is benevolent.

My friend may one day realise that all reality is illusion. Then ask the questions about which illusions we should and shouldn't cling to. To that extent, the richness of reality can be seen an an exercise in contemplating the beauty that the human mind can extend in its strivings. It can take from life the sense that we are good for each other only when we are of use to each other; rather we are self-standing 'essences' of value, supporting each other in our own metaphysic rather than seeking to destroy another's metaphysic in search of a truth.

We survive to the extent that we allow each other to thrive in our innocences. Those who are said to be streetwise have merely learnt rules for behaviour in life. The naive person sees what really goes on but in the absence of rule-based behaviour seems inadequate. The streetwise are naive survivors, the naive all-knowing but at risk of condemnation.

Surely as humans we should be more than a conditioned bundle of responses. Or maybe not.

Consciousness and man

I enter bars near where I live and look around aghast. Every experience is a designer one. The bar staff are bottle-twirling stars; flat screen televisions leave little room for people to explore their mental 'spaces', images and sounds served right there; music from audio sources interlace the room, spinning a web to be filtered by the mind as per personal taste; faked importance is shown to meaningless clientele, areas marked as VIP lounges to flatter the easily flattered. Colours, sounds and decor dressed in dimming lights as the night proceeds, all there today, then closed for a reftit tomorrow when we all got bored. Why?

The list could go on, life's descent into a personal emancipation through technology exhibiting a sinister form of social control via the illusion of choice. Why did technology fail to deliver mankind from identity through community, as the high priests of a better world claimed? Why has it made us less able to think for ourselves? And less free (which of these questions has primacy is a moot point as well)?

I don't own a mobile phone. A work colleague of mine summed up his reasons why he doesn't that equally belong to me. He comes from the time when if the phone rang in the pub you said 'if it's for me I'm not here'; now people are forever on their mobile phones, fearing missing the latest text gossip. As communication becomes easier so it's quality declines, but my point is that technology has changed the nature of relations of power in such as way as to make us more accessible to others, theefore more accountable and less free. So when personal identity can no longer provide a shield where can we turn. Intoxicating liquids maybe.

And isn't that the point, that in the 'advanced' world man has demonstatred his ability through technology to replicate consciousness? We, the human animal, live behind consciousness in an unidentifiable unverifable character and find ourselves assailed by the consciousness of a television, a mobile phone text, derived from humans but far outreaching human constraints in their 'claim' on us. So much for Descartes his view that animals are machines because they are not consciousness. Consciousness demands it's escape route to the nature we share with other
animals. Perhaps that's why, after a few drinks in that wood pannelled, darkened, pastel shaded bar, we take pride in having a good night which by definition we can't remember.

Our mistake is not to see machines as forms of consciousness. They're not alive or aware; but they are conscious. We mistakenly think consciousness distinguishes humans from machines, but rather it is our emotions that distinguish us, the mechanism behind the choosing of what we are conscious of. After all, I can still switch this computer off and will do so without it's permission. Our animal natures play in the grounds of emotion, a darkened ground of unknown
striving. We then present a consciousness of presentation to the world. Back in the bar, the degradation of the self to the minimum of presentation is something we barely notice.

Who is man behind his mask?

Welcome. Man is metaphysical by nature, said Schopenhauer, in his dialogue 'On Religion'. Did not Jacob Bronowski speak of the creation of metaphysical-cum-scientific unities in thought, be they scientific or poetic in kind? That science is the language by which we understand the mechanisms of nature and that ambiguities cannot be eliminated by language? In which case, why the much vaunted humanism of the last two millennia, that does rather more than imply that by full access to consciousness we can become, as humans qua humans, masters of our fate by being authors of our life's choices? This is hard an ascent of man, rather a descent. But why should descent from the temptation to master our fate be a setback?

As humans we author practical solutions to the issues which arise; but within a rather narrower field that that we think we can aspire to. We never go beyond the constraints of Schopenhauer's metaphysic. To what extent as humans should we participate, or contemplate, human affairs? To what extent has we been deceived into belief or control when we're simply the player in another's script?

Who is the other? Anonymous authority maybe?