Utopianism

A metaphysical paradigm has influence on every aspect of culture, and each of these aspects influence one another. Nothing exists independently of everything else. You don't need to talk about metaphysics or even know what the term means to be influenced by a society's different ontologies.

One might not be religious and know nothing about religion, but every person living in the western hemisphere today- including our scientific enterprise- is heavily influenced by Judea-Christian theology. These things are inescapable and inseparable.


This shit isn't rocket science.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientism and the Scapegoating of Philosophy

What Tyson misses is that the absentminded, angst-ridden philosophers are only harbingers of science. In so far as philosophers are hyper-skeptical and nihilistic, they’re only drawing out the implications of the scientific picture of natural reality. If academic philosophy is presently irrelevant to public debates, that institution is only the canary in the coalmine. Watch as the mass media, democratic government, fine arts, and other modern institutions are further eroded by science’s continuing disenchantment of nature! All that will remain of postmodern Western society is a dominance hierarchy of barren social mechanisms, assuming scientists continue to discover that our naïve image of ourselves as free, conscious, rational, and dignified persons is a self-serving delusion.
Actually, there are several studies that demonstrate people are more likely to behave unethically if they are convinced determinism is true. I posted some of them on a thread here a while back.

Here, although it was only one demonstrating unethical behaviour and one demonstrating increased aggression and reduced helpfulness. Though I do remember that I found one or two others. Looks like I didn't post them though.
Thanks, just going to repost these here:

"The Value of Believing in Free Will: Encouraging a Belief in Determinism Increases Cheating"
http://www.carlsonschool.umn.edu/assets/91974.pdf

"Prosocial Benefits of Feeling Free: Disbelief in Free Will Increases Aggression and Reduces Helpfulness"
https://users.wfu.edu/~masicaej/Baumeisteretal2009PSPB.pdf

"Inducing Disbelief in Free Will Alters Brain Correlates of Preconscious Motor Preparation: The Brain Minds Whether We Believe in Free Will or Not"
http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/5/613.short

Curious if you have more studies. I found another:

Personal Philosophy and Personnel Achievement: Belief in Free Will Predicts Better Job Performance

Or we could just ask them what they believe:

http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

Search for "free will".

~~ Paul
Hopefully I'm wrong, and you guys are right.
 
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I like this writer/blogger:
There’s more to human life than science. Of course, elites like Dawkins and Tyson know this perfectly well since they’re highly cultured individuals. Why, then, the contempt heaped upon poor, already-unpopular academic philosophy? Is this a case of schadenfreude?

No, the best explanation is that the scientismist uses philosophy as a scapegoat to distract attention from the fact that science, not philosophy or religion, threatens indeed all culture. Naturalists like Tyson or Dawkins really ought to rail against the arts, romantic love, and all other cultural illusions, just as they castigate philosophers and theists for not keeping up with the torrent of scientific discoveries. Just as philosophical speculations can appear juvenile next to an ironclad scientific theory, so too a painting, a song, or an intimate relationship seems preposterous in light of the mechanistic facts of nature. But postmodern scientists are typically neoliberals and so they play the game of the double standard. Secretly, they may worry about the apocalyptic implications of naturalism; perhaps they even soothe themselves by blaming hapless philosophy for cultural nihilism and hyper-irony, as if philosophers weren’t just channeling the upshot of scientific naturalism. But scientists aren’t saints, so they tend not to embrace the posthuman, which is to say antihuman, perspective from which phenomena are stripped of all meaning and purpose except for the horror made plain to anyone with aesthetic detachment. Scientists cling to their neoliberal humanistic values and sacred ideas in spite of the antihuman implications of naturalism. Moreover, they need to preserve the infantilizing culture of the uninformed masses, so the peons can continue to support the scientific enterprise, the latter being self-destructively all-important to the scientists’ higher culture.
 
So why is there so much demonizing, caricaturing and stereotyping of materialists around here? There are many reasons, of course, but I think utopianism plays a big part in all of this.
Couldn't you apply this argument to any debate that really matters? I mean, I know from personal experience that statins can have some very unpleasant side effects that are barely acknowledged by the drug companies. I'd love to see statins treated with a lot more caution, but I don't believe that will create eternal world peace!

Clearly the various religions are opposed to materialism, because their doctrines are supernatural (possibly excepting Buddhism), but I am not a fan of any religion, because I know the harm they can do - so I don't think I am a utopianist (if that is a word!).

I just feel frustration that materialist explanations of consciousness have got such a grip at the moment, even though they explain so little. See the latest podcast for a great example of what I mean!

David
 
OK, everybody, here's a thought experiment that might help you to understand where I'm coming from here.

Imagine that an authoritarian one-party state like North Korea institutes a new policy. From this moment on, the media and the education system will constantly bombard people with ideas like 'We're all biological robots', 'We live in a meaningless universe', 'Moral values just come from our desires and emotions and don't exist out there independently' and 'You don't have free will because everything you do was determined at the big bang'.

The difference between me and Sciborg is that he thinks the outcomes will be simple and straightforward. He thinks rape, depression, violent crime and suicide will all go through the roof, and eventually you'll have the end of all value and everything good and decent about human life. I disagree. I think it's impossible to make people stop believing in free will and responsibility in their everyday lives. Social life and family life will go on pretty much as normal despite what philosophers, scientists and politicians throw at people. In other words, our own experience of freedom, morality, value and responsibility trumps scientific and philosophical theories on these matters. The bombardment of materialist philosophy almost certainly would have SOME negative consequences, but it's nowhere near as clear and simple as people like Sciborg want to make it out to be.
 
A metaphysical paradigm has influence on every aspect of culture, and each of these aspects influence one another. Nothing exists independently of everything else. You don't need to talk about metaphysics or even know what the term means to be influenced by a society's different ontologies.

One might not be religious and know nothing about religion, but every person living in the western hemisphere today- including our scientific enterprise- is heavily influenced by Judea-Christian theology. These things are inescapable and inseparable.


This shit isn't rocket science.
You're assuming that materialism is an all-encompassing, totalizing world view in the way that Christianity may have been at certain times in history. But I don't buy this. It's perfectly possible to live your life as if Jesus is coming back soon and as if everything we do has cosmic meaning and significance in terms of our salvation. But it's not possible to live your life as if there's no meaning, value, freedom or responsibility. This is why I say these are merely abstract metaphysical ideas. Even the most hardcore materialist cannot live this philosophy when they're with their family and friends. It's a philosophy for the study, not for the real world.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

I think it's better to stick to Pigliucci for a defence of philosophy; this guy seems to have a very pessimistic, paranoid outlook on the world that carries him far afield from a valid critique of Tyson's attitude.
I think you might be overly optimistic about what the final state of humanity will be under materialism. In fact most materialists I count as friends are some variety of nihilist. The scorn that skeptics feel towards immaterialists? That's akin to the disdain they feel for the rallying cries of JREF and the New Atheists who they see as delusional and unable to accept the hard truths about materialism's (supposed) unfortunate triumph over immaterialism. (Note many of these people aren't really familiar with the criticisms of materialism beyond a summary of what the Hard Problem is, so maybe the right information can drag them out of their funk. :))

Anyway, IMO Cain's reaction is at least as legitimate a reaction to the acceptance of the materialist faith as Massimo's or Tyson's is, if not more so. It's silly to pretend there aren't people for whom materialism is - or would be if they were ever convinced of it - a cause of existential unease if not outright horror. This is why I keep saying the New Atheist/JREF/CSICOP movement is shortsighted. I suspect only academics - with fame-thirsty magician in tow - would be so blind as to not consider the cure might be worse than the (supposed) disease, but to bring it back to the thread topic ill-considered rush-to-market is one of the hallmark problems of utopianism.

In any case, Cain does answer the question "Should you then just commit suicide?" in the negative. But understand the entirety of his position is, AFAICTell, a genuine reaction to the success of materialist evangelism. IMO it would be unfair to claim he is going out of his way to note how pessimistic faith in materialism can be.

If anything, he should be praised for taking up the skeptical movement's irresponsible slack and offering solace to those who - if the leaders of the movement had bothered to reflect on the possible horror faced by converts to the materialist faith - would have to be considered "acceptable losses" on the way to the supposed Utopia the end of all immateralist notions supposedly brings.

I like this writer/blogger
Glad to hear it! He also has good arguments against Harris's assertion that Science can determine Morality:

Sam Harris's Science of Morality: A Case Study of Scientific Atheism

Unfortunately, Harris’s case for scientific morality conforms to the positivist’s pattern of ironically celebrating science with a philosophy that must be kept in the shadows. In Harris’s case, he should have two reasons not to call attention to the philosophical nature of his arguments for scientific morality. First, those arguments would demonstrate that there is a crucial philosophical debate about morality after all, namely the debate about whether morality can be scientifically justified; the nature of this meta-debate, in turn, prevents a fulsome, Scientistic worship of science at the expense of philosophy. Second, his arguments happen to be badly flawed, often resting on evasive verbal tricks or contradicting each other, due presumably to his contempt for philosophy and thus for its ideals of clarity and rigorous logic even in discussions of nonscientific issues. Harris’s case for scientific morality, therefore, illustrates the perils of scientific, as opposed to philosophical, atheism.
Answer to Sam Harris's Moral Landscape Challenge

At the start of his website’s FAQ for the Challenge, Sam Harris summarizes what he calls his book’s central argument. That summary is clearly invalid: he slides from the assumption that moral values “depend on” facts having to do with conscious creatures, to the conclusion that morality itself has scientific answers. This is like saying that because land-dwelling animals depend on ground beneath their feet, biology reduces to geology.
 
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Stop assuming what other people are assuming. I didn't make that claim.

How dare you, sir.
OK, sorry about that. Let me have another try at this.

Many people here, and indeed many materialists themselves, think of materialism as a world view or even as a religion. The idea is that slowly but surely materialism will seep into more and more areas of our life and eventually take over everything, in the way that perhaps some religions have.

I don't buy any of this for the simple reason that materialism is not livable, and therefore it's very different from, say, Christianity, Islam or Judaism. It can never take over from religions and do what they have done. To be a world view or a religion, it has to be able to make sense of people's everyday lives and everyday experiences, and it's pretty obvious that materialism can never do this. In fact, it goes against pretty much everything we feel and experience.

So what I'm saying is that materialism is always inconsistent and unlivable, and there's always a spilt between what materialists believe in the study and what they believe in everyday life. As Sciborg has pointed out, though, some materialists like Harris and Coyne don't understand this split, and they think we have to try to incorporate ideas from materialism into ethics and the law. These guys seem to think that materialism is a world view that can tell us how to live, what's valuable, and so on. They're totally wrong.
 
I think you might be overly optimistic about what the final state of humanity will be under materialism. In fact most materialists I count as friends are some variety of nihilist. The scorn that skeptics feel towards immaterialists? That's akin to the disdain they feel for the rallying cries of JREF and the New Atheists who they see as delusional and unable to accept the hard truths about materialism's (supposed) unfortunate triumph over immaterialism. (Note many of these people aren't really familiar with the criticisms of materialism beyond a summary of what the Hard Problem is, so maybe the right information can drag them out of their funk. :))

Anyway, IMO Cain's reaction is at least as legitimate a reaction to the acceptance of the materialist faith as Massimo's or Tyson's is, if not more so. It's silly to pretend there aren't people for whom materialism is - or would be if they were ever convinced of it - a cause of existential unease if not outright horror. This is why I keep saying the New Atheist/JREF/CSICOP movement is shortsighted. I suspect only academics - with fame-thirsty magician in tow - would be so blind as to not consider the cure might be worse than the (supposed) disease, but to bring it back to the thread topic ill-considered rush-to-market is one of the hallmark problems of utopianism.

In any case, Cain does answer the question "Should you then just commit suicide?" in the negative. But understand the entirety of his position is, AFAICTell, a genuine reaction to the success of materialist evangelism. IMO it would be unfair to claim he is going out of his way to note how pessimistic faith in materialism can be.

If anything, he should be praised for taking up the skeptical movement's irresponsible slack and offering solace to those who - if the leaders of the movement had bothered to reflect on the possible horror faced by converts to the materialist faith - would have to be considered "acceptable losses" on the way to the supposed Utopia the end of all immateralist notions supposedly brings.
I can't say that I've met many people who carry materialism to that extreme. Most people I know don't even use terms like that in casual conversation. I have concerns about the displacement of custom and ritual in a globalised society, and about certain branches of secularism being so determined to eradicate everything about spirituality, but I don't think there's any danger of nihilism conquering the world. I don't think people as a collective have the energy to be miserable 24/7.

When I said I found him pessimistic and paranoid, I wasn't referring to his attitude toward materialism - I skimmed through some of his other blog entries and he, as a whole, seems to have a negative attitude that affects his commentary.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Cain's actually very life affirming in his own way. When I first came across him I thought he was completely out of it, but over time I realized he provides a potentially livable endgame should majority acceptance of materialism come to pass.

All these studies are fine, but I find it difficult to ignore my analysis of free will just because it would be nice to have. Perhaps we should keep the masses in ignorance, however. ;)

~~ Paul
Well - assuming there isn't a smoking gun for the paranormal - we could always wait to share the Good News of materialism until we get cosmetic neurosurgery and thus edit out the existential horror. ;)

Of course it's a big question as to whether or not cosmetic surgery will cause such a dramatic bifurcation of what it means to be human that the concept of "humanity" will cease to mean anything.

Maybe an extinction event of that level will coax our Holy Guardian Angels to appear and set things aright...or at least it'll make the Archons reset the Matrix. <<insert appropriate smiley>>
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Well - assuming there isn't a smoking gun for the paranormal - we could always wait to share the Good News of materialism until we get cosmetic neurosurgery and thus edit out the existential horror. ;)
Before that happens, perhaps someone could explain what eliminates the existential horror under immaterialism. As far as I can tell, it's just something like "I know there is a higher purpose." :)

~~ Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

I don't buy any of this for the simple reason that materialism is not livable, and therefore it's very different from, say, Christianity, Islam or Judaism. It can never take over from religions and do what they have done. To be a world view or a religion, it has to be able to make sense of people's everyday lives and everyday experiences, and it's pretty obvious that materialism can never do this. In fact, it goes against pretty much everything we feel and experience.
This seems like a partial argument as you've only said materialism is unlivable. That doesn't show that humanity would survive widespread adoption of the materialist faith. Perhaps people just stop having kids to spare them the existential horror of a world very every award show and sports competition has been leeched of enjoyment? <<insert appropriate smiley>>

In light of the aforementioned studies it's hard not to think you're placing your beliefs above the available scientific evidence, and that your assurance lies in a personal gnosis - a truth of your heart - that will be confirmed in the future.

Thus it seems to me we've found another tenet of skeptical/materialist evangelism that's grounded in a religious faith. Cain actually goes into this repeatedly, how the New Atheist hope is materialist-based skepticism will magically stop short of devouring the humanist values the movement claims the decimation of immaterialism leads us toward.

But this seems like nothing but ungrounded optimism to me.

So what I'm saying is that materialism is always inconsistent and unlivable, and there's always a spilt between what materialists believe in the study and what they believe in everyday life. As Sciborg has pointed out, though, some materialists like Harris and Coyne don't understand this split, and they think we have to try to incorporate ideas from materialism into ethics and the law. These guys seem to think that materialism is a world view that can tell us how to live, what's valuable, and so on. They're totally wrong.
Now you're speaking my language! ;-)
 
This seems like a partial argument as you've only said materialism is unlivable. That doesn't show that humanity would survive widespread adoption of the materialist faith. Perhaps people just stop having kids to spare them the existential horror of a world very every award show and sports competition has been leeched of enjoyment? <<insert appropriate smiley>>

In light of the aforementioned studies it's hard not to think you're placing your beliefs above the available scientific evidence, and that your assurance lies in a personal gnosis - a truth of your heart - that will be confirmed in the future.

Thus it seems to me we've found another tenet of skeptical/materialist evangelism that's grounded in a religious faith. Cain actually goes into this repeatedly, how the New Atheist hope is materialist-based skepticism will magically stop short of devouring the humanist values the movement claims the decimation of immaterialism leads us toward.

But this seems like nothing but ungrounded optimism to me.
The fact that materialism is unlivable is extremely important. It means that Dennett, Churchland and Harris cannot turn either themselves or your children into mindless zombies or immoral killing machines. It also means that materialism can't really be considered a world view or a religion. Rather, it's a set of abstract beliefs that certain people have when they quietly reflect in their studies or philosophy classrooms on the nature of existence. As soon as they start living in the real world again, they're no longer materialists.

As for the scientific studies showing that people cheat more when they they're thinking about determinism, this reminds of that old joke by the British comedian Tommy Cooper:

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Doctor: Well, then, don't do it.

If it's true that bombarding people with messages about determinism can make them lie and cheat more, then we should simply not do that. It would be exactly the same if we found out that by bombarding people with messages telling them that we're all made of atoms they will lie and cheat more. Social psychologists have all these studies showing that environmental factors like the smell of baking bread can affect how much money we give to beggars and things like that. If all of this stuff about determinism and cheating is true then it's just another environmental factor that we need to know about and take into account.  
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

The fact that materialism is unlivable is extremely important. It means that Dennett, Churchland and Harris cannot turn either themselves or your children into mindless zombies or immoral killing machines. It also means that materialism can't really be considered a world view or a religion. Rather, it's a set of abstract beliefs that certain people have when they quietly reflect in their studies or philosophy classrooms on the nature of existence. As soon as they start living in the real world again, they're no longer materialists.

As for the scientific studies showing that people cheat more when they they're thinking about determinism, this reminds of that old joke by the British comedian Tommy Cooper:

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Doctor: Well, then, don't do it.

If it's true that bombarding people with messages about determinism can make them lie and cheat more, then we should simply not do that. It would be exactly the same if we found out that by bombarding people with messages telling them that we're all made of atoms they will lie and cheat more. Social psychologists have all these studies showing that environmental factors like the smell of baking bread can affect how much money we give to beggars and things like that. If all of this stuff about determinism and cheating is true then it's just another environmental factor that we need to know about and take into account.  
Nietzche would say thoughts come when they will not when you will them. I would posit more control over one's own mind than that, but your "cure" - if we can even call it that - seems to be overly optimistic. I suspect if it were that easy we wouldn't have past posts from varied persons bemoaning the apparent lack of evidence that mind != brain.

If anything, this seeking of distraction as pseudo-cure would support the contention that M1_Materialism -> M2_Materialism, as the existential unease of M1 is mollified by the consumption of varied media/potables/etc.
 
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