[Home]ImposeRationality

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories

While the conceit of Modern Western civilization is that it is a civilization of Reason, more or less, every society is reasonable and reasons. From the smallest hunter/gatherer tribe to the most advanced civilizations in history, each has had to draw conclusions about the world in order to survive in it. Doing so is a basic trait of human nature, or perhaps animal nature, as everybody and everything has to be able to make inferences about the world in some way in order to survive, either at a genetic level or at a linguistic/cognitive level. If it helps put this into perspective, many if not most hunter/gatherer societies think neighbouring farming societies are stupid because farmers' CommunityLore about the natural world begins to atrophy once no longer exercised.

The MarshallMcLuhan school believed that humanity was pre-rational before the advent of writing. That somehow the introduction of writing modified the brains of thinking people in such a way as to induce rational thought. While Julian Jaynes in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral takes an even more intense (and thoroughly discredited) line of argument to suggest how our brains have been restructured in recorded history, the McLuhan? school is mostly less zealous. They simply suggest that Greek philosophical methods were triggered by writing, using Plato as an example. Ultimately, his argument falls down (and has also been thoroughly discredited) since pre-literate societies including the Greeks also have been shown to have analytical skills. Nonetheless, we can accept the more reasonable argument that writing on a suitable light, mobile, inexpensive medium (cf. MediaOnResearch) enables the creation of increasing levels of abstraction through the SocialConstructionOfScience, which is probably what McLuhan? intuited and then buried in social Darwinistic mumbo jumbo. Simply put by writing things down allows one to bring data from a variety of sources into one place to be simplified into some abstraction, which is then considered an underlying theory or model of all those data; for example, maps are created by bringing into a cartographer's office smaller maps.

It's no surprise that in the HistoryOfAcademia there have been several explosions in abstractions. The second most recent one was PrintCulture?, where paper allowed researchers to pull in data from all over the world into their offices to be collated, studied, simplified into abstractions, and then published into books to start a new cycle where these abstractions were collected into one place to be abstracted again. Hence was born Science, and with it what was called the Age of Reason. The difference between this age and society and any other age or society was not that they began to reason, but that they began to organize socially for the sole purpose of reasoning about the world in a directed, ordered, methodological manner.

As far as things go, reasoning about the world is fantastic when it creates simplifications that are consistent, coherent, reliable, and predictive since that makes planning actions much less riskier, and thus it allows the creation of complex devices worth doing because we can guess what they will do, and sometimes we might like what they do (e.g. the steam engine). If the discussion stopped there, all would be well. Society would be reasoning more and more about the world, and thus learning more about the world, and thus increasingly powerful in the world.

The Age of Reason, however, went further. Looking at Science's successes, directly and indirectly through the creation of new mathematics and mathematical processes capable of making sense out of larger and larger sets of data, those running the State thought they could benefit from following the same technique. The creation of statistics, literally meaning measuring the State, was not far behind once it became meaningful to do detailed censuses. Measuring the State led to the creation of simplifying abstractions about the State, which made governance of the State easier. For instance, if you knew that your tax base was nearly depleted, it meant marching to war may not be a good idea at the moment.

One technique of measuring a domain is to simplify the domain so the measurement is simple. For instance, rather than trying to measure the acceleration due to gravity by counting objects falling from a tower, Galileo rolled objects down an inclined plane to make them go slow enough to time using his means, and then adjusted his calculations to accommodate his controlled simplification. This is an imposition of rationality on the world. Rationality (from ratio, to measure) literally means measurement.

The defining characteristic of States in Modernity is to ImposeRationality. In order to control AnIndividual, they simplify TheIndividual's characteristics, context, and circumstances to fit a simplified statistical system. And similarly to other things within their control (e.g. land, capital). In fact, capital literally means from the head, since it is created through a statistical process in the centre (head) of the State.

All of Modernity's problems comes from curtailing TheIndividual's expression by placing barriers around him or her or it (gender is a simplifying category) in order to make governance of TheCollective easier. This process is compounded by using Natural Science's dominant technique of reductive analysis: breaking down a system into its constituent parts and then determining the logical model that recreates the system from those parts. Reductive analysis is a process of DivideAndConquer?, which leads to State designs that are built around the division of individuals from each other, creating isolation and its associated malaises.

Ironically, Modernity's reductive analysis leads us to the rise of TheIndividual, which in turn leads us to the strongest undermining of Modernity--at least if we believe in freedom, justice, and liberty of individuals. So, the PostModern reaction has been to declare all ImposedRationality as evil, as only a simplification of the world, not the underlying Truth. This distinction is critical since TheIndividual is not AnIndividual, but a sensate sentient being with his or her or its own spirit able to appreciate existence in a way that a molecule does not appreciate its existence inside a fluid, so statistical fluid dynamics is an appropriate way to comprehend that molecule. This is simply an internal/external (often mischaracterized as an East/West) tension. TheIndividual is a construction from inside, from our souls outwards towards our experience in the world. AnIndividual is a construction from the outside, from the outside world towards our personages. Both together create the full continuum of human existence, and neither one alone is powerful enough to OrderChaos in this world.

PostModern people often go further than decrying ImposedRationality, as they mischaracterized ImposedRationality with all reasoning. It's not a far step to go from saying one shouldn't impose simplifying assumptions about society in order to control it to one shouldn't make simplifying asumptions about the world at all. Thus, a rise in Faith and a denouncement of Science is natural, which is only exacerbated by the fact that 20th century Science (e.g. relativity, quantum mechanics, neurophysiology, space exploration) has become so distant to most people those who claim to believe in Science only take it on Faith.

This goes too far. First, it's always valuable to reason about the world. Second, while it may be potentially evil to ImposeRationality, it is necessary to do this in order to make decisions and plan about large and small societies alike. Limitations that respect the internal-outward construction of TheIndividual, such as HumanRights, only go so far though. A fuller response is to have a FairProcess that each of us can alter the rational framework around us. The reality unfortunately is that is impossible at the level of global decisions, and so we have the anti-globalization movement (e.g. QuebecCity) that rejects the creation of larger States and libertarianism that rejects the concept of States altogether.


Libertarianism doesn't reject the existence of States; it feels that they should exist, but should have very narrowly defined roles (preventing military conquest, and preventing "crime", by which some libertarians mean violent crime and theft). -- BayleShanks

It's simple to understand from Greek and Roman roots of law and democracy. Both come into existence very much for the "lucky owners" (Latin: beati possidentes) who are strong and able enough to handle these new tools (Latin: tua res agitur). From the owner-point-of-view the state should protect their possessions, but not otherwise interfere. This seems a bit simple-minded. The term "violent crime and theft" is interesting in this context, for it puts a reflective spot-light on "non-violent crime and theft". -- HelmutLeitner

Libertarianism is a satellite ideology to liberalism, one that exploits the legal system of liberalism without offering a coherent alternative model, and so it believes in the social welfare State as a legal entity, but it then rejects the social welfare part that created capitalism (the economic system of ImposedRationality). Libertarianism without a dominant liberalist society would be reduced to a chattel-based economy once again, and thus it is self-destructive, and must be tirelessly opposed. A chattel-based economy does not believe in the State, but more in filial relationships (e.g. tribes, clans, castes). The post-colonial world places the liberalist State system against the more libertarian ideal of a chattel-based economy in most of the South. Since people without property do not have value in a libertarian state, or conversely, people who are not valued are not protected as property owners by the State, this has made hundreds of millions of stateless people in the South, who in turn are often treated as chattel (e.g. sweatshop labour in economic free zones). This creates bizarre and unjust despots and banana republics at the front of the two colliding systems, but it is only a rallying cry to liberals everywhere to further extend their system of government, not retreat and widen the front.

A pertinent question for all armchair libertarians, "Who decides where the border is?" In reality, the answer has been former colonial masters, who have arbitrarily drawn borders straight down the middle of tribal territories, and thus created totally untenable States in much of the South. How do you prevent military conquest in a "State" or a banana republic? Borders in Europe were only drawn after centuries of warfare, and even then they are still complex and unsettled, such as the Basque region, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Alsace-Lorraine, and the whole of Italy. The State system was the result of diplomatic negotiation to avoid further warfare, but it could only be created after Europeans had decided what constituted a nation: one language and one religion, and that could only have been created after PrintCulture? unified otherwise heterogeneous peoples.

I think it's not really that inaccurate to say that libertarianism doesn't believe in States, but it's only controversial since libertarianism depends on liberalism in order to be coherent. -- SunirShah

> Libertarianism without a dominant liberalist society would be reduced to a chattel-based economy

That's not a very good criticism of libertarianism, because any political/economic system that I know of goes rotten/self-destructs when the culture/morality of its people goes rotten (so it would be nice if you could find a political/economic system that encouraged good culture, but unfortunately, exactly the opposite seems to happen a lot; at least, I get the idea that in America, having lots of money and showing it off and buying lots of dumb stuff has gotten cooler over the last 60 years; and I doubt it's a coincidence that the economic system is based on money and corporations.)

I hear you on the case of the border. Ideally there should be some legal mechanism for localities to (very slowly, over a period of decades) secede and join (or create) different states in order to allow borders to change.


I think one of the main reasons I like Meatball so much is that we don't ImposeRationality, instead treating BarnRaising as more important. -- NathanielThurston

Discussion

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories
This page is read-only | View other revisions | Search MetaWiki
Search: