23 April 2016

Materialism, Nihilism and the Subjective


This 4 minute video while both humorous and repugnant reveals more than it intends. Like it or not this is the social trajectory and it is a path of self destruction. Both dominant secular models that of the Scientific Materialist relying on sceptical inductive empiricism and that of the Subjective Individualist resting in existentialism have led the culture to epistemological chaos and can offer no remedy.

This is relativism run amok and I say that as one who believes relativism has a place and limited validity in the epistemological scheme. But it's not just relativism, it's the breakdown of scientific realism. Dawkins and those of his atheist ilk decry the public's retention of non-scientific worldviews, the refusal to embrace Materialism which defines matter as the only reality.

Humanity intuitively knows this isn't true, it doesn't match experience and it's frankly unlivable and thus unviable as a philosophy. It strips us of what it is to be human. In fact Materialism cannot even define or hope to define what 'human' even means.

Materialism is utterly unable to reckon with the nature of existence. Evolutionist Steven Pinker admits that Materialism cannot account for consciousness, the self, free will, meaning, knowledge or morality. That's a rather telling list and Materialism must reckon not just with its failures but the fact that it is in the end a product of subjective idealism, a creation of the mind and a system that is not verifiable but one that must be accepted on the basis of faith. It cannot explain reality because it is a false hypothesis. In order to make it work many of its foundations are built on a type of faith.

Mankind in seeking these answers and knowing that there is a coherence to the universe but in rejecting Christ, forms its own coherences, what we call idolatries.

And yet all attempts to form these coherences or universals on an objective basis fail. Man is limited by sense experience and even his ideas are informed by it. Pure reason turns out to be less than pure, is subject to biases rooted in experience. Experience is corrupted by individual interpretations, preference and ordering of data. This is true both for the individual and for whole societies and cultures. Subjectivity seems to reign. Despite the contradiction and ensuing scepticism, man rather than embracing Christ the revelatory answer, seeks to keep forming new coherences, new philosophies and sociologies, new narratives to somehow hold things together. Since they're false they ultimately fail.

But eventually cultures seem to run out of steam and degenerate. They turn to total or absolute subjectivity and individualism as a means and an end. The individual lives for himself, embraces a self-serving philosophical eclecticism and eventually this degenerates into unmitigated decadence and rank hedonism.

Even this doesn't satisfy and individuals begin to embrace nihilism and destructive fantasy. At this point it takes something pretty radical to rescue the society, a new idea, a new messiah that will forge (often by force) a new vision. When society reaches this 'low point' it's a dangerous time indeed.

Western and particularly American culture is on the cusp of that point. While there are still very strong ideal based movements in the society there is a growing Nihilistic cancer. Even the idealist camps are infected by self-destructive ethics and mythological narratives. Violence is quickly becoming the only solution. Might will make right or so it is believed. Truth is sought through the point of a sword.

But for many individuals in society there is a sense of defeat and despair and desire to escape and recreate. And yet this hyper-individualism leads to a collapse of society, further alienation and destruction. Relationships, meaning and ethics all evaporate and the religion of the self is exposed as impoverished and insufficient. People will ultimately retreat to an isolated world of technology and virtual reality for only in that milieu will they be able to make their fantasies seem real. And yet that will quickly fail to satisfy as do addiction to drugs, lust and every other thing. Many will turn to suicide. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the lost soul in the video resorts to the same in the end.

When I see a video like this, of course on the one hand I want to burst out laughing at its absurdity. Apart from being ludicrous it is of course very wicked. But there's another element about it that is concerning, even beyond the moral choices of this individual and his rejection of the God ordained natural order. This total subjectivity when it comes to identity, humanity and thus gender means the foundations of the social order are collapsing. It's not a matter of right and wrong anymore but it's now becoming a matter of what is true and false. There's a slight difference between the two. Right and wrong as I'm using them here are objective but they are also interpretations of reality through an ethical lens. As Christians we accept and submit to the parameters given to us by Divine Revelation and we can be thankful for them because without them we're caught in a world of epistemological darkness and metaphysical idolatry.

True and false (as I'm using them here) reference empirical realities, whether things are real or not--facts as opposed to truth which implies a larger coherence of facts. As I said, we're not Materialists, we understand that the real is something more than that which is tangible and quantifiable. As human beings we are both material and immaterial and yet the two aspects cannot be completely separated. We cannot separate physical realities from cognitive desires and/or confusion. Due to sin, idolatry, judgment and natural limitations we cannot comprehensively know or properly understand anything apart from revelation enlightening us. Sadly the theology of Christendom has proven very confused on this point and even while it sought to build an objective coherence as the basis for understanding the universe it planted the epistemological seeds of its own destruction. Scholasticism as a theological movement is not the answer to Enlightenment Philosophy, rather it is its progenitor.

The so-called Anti-Enlightenment is not so much a response and rejection of rationality but rather an application and testing of the Scholastic hypothesis, a demonstration of its failure and self-destruction. It was found that it couldn't stand and men tried to rescue the nature of thought by forming a new type of epistemology or more properly re-casting the old debate that's been around since antiquity, for what was Idealism but another round of Plato v. Aristotle? Regardless of the school, all man-made philosophies ultimately disintegrate into scepticism. I would add this is also true when it comes to so-called Christian philosophies and syncretistic attempts at forming worldview.

The debate with someone like Dawkins rests in the realm of prolegomena. We can't agree on basic issues of epistemology, the place and limitations of logic and the nature of the presuppositions we necessarily and often unconsciously impose on concepts and data in order to relate them to our knowledge as a whole. And yet I will grant Dawkins one point, he is absolutely committed to the real, even those his 'real' ends up being a delusion. The real is a lot bigger and more complicated than he thinks it is and in fact his epistemology cannot comprehend it. Yet, he laudably wishes at all costs to avoid subjectivity and a reality rooted merely in conceived ideas.

The vision of Dawkins which has gained some ground in recent years is at the same time slipping away. He's trying to build a social construct rooted in Scientific Materialist-Realism. And yet the society is going the other direction. What he can't see in the data the society as a whole seems to detect by intuition. Scientific Materialism cannot explain the nature of existence.

I continue to wonder why the Scientific Materialist community won't 'come out' and condemn transgenderism but that's unlikely as the social consensus has granted psychology the status of a bona fide science which it clearly is not. Divorcing gender from physical even chromosomal reality is to embrace subjective fantasy. Subjectivist tendencies in psychology and a host of sociological factors have completely undermined all forms of objective realism and have cast down empiricist and scientific epistemologies. Matter over mind doesn't seem to be working because in the end matter itself has to be understood by a mind. Dawkins would say mind is matter but is forced to admit the statement itself is not subject to scientific verification.

As much as man wishes to forge reality on a Realist and Empirical basis, no matter what he does he falls right back into the subjective mind-dependent trap.

Subjective Idealism rooted not in a quest for a coherent account of reality but instead in a hedonistic self-serving fantastical paradigm can only lead to social breakdown and nihilism.

When society reaches the point of collapse if previous patterns are precedent a very zealous Right-wing movement will likely take shape, one in which the society is no longer left to the whim of the individual. It will be revolutionary but utilise a reactionary narrative. This is an old story from the collapse of Athens and Rome to Revolutionary France and Weimar Germany. The messiah proclaims that you have to destroy the foundations of society in order to save it.

And yet I keep wondering if Scientism won't be the new paradigm, the new religion that invigorates the empire and gives it a raison d'ĂȘtre. I'm reminded of a film that came out a few years back called 'Equilibrium' wherein the society was forced to take drugs to suppress their emotions. It's hard not to think that the Evolutionary worldview wouldn't view the emotional life as socially subversive due to its subjective and even fantastical nature. Isn't the subjective thought-life gratuitous in the evolutionary schema? I know some will argue that it serves some purpose, whether cathartic or a means of the brain insulating or defending itself. But these views are hardly scientific as they are unverifiable and certainly rest in a type of inefficiency. The arguments along these lines rest on transcendental foundations which are inherently unscientific. We need transcendental arguments (necessary conditions) in order to function (a lower order type of faith) but they are invalid in the realm of scientific thought.

A Scientistic regime would be nightmarish and very evil and of course would wish to eradicate all religious or idealistic thought.

Only God knows the course of the future and what the end of the century will look like. I'll be long gone by then as will many reading this. And of course my prayer is that Christ would return before we see this present evil age reach its full potential minus the restraining hand of God.

But when I see videos like this, I know our society has crossed a line.

When I see what's happening in the culture at large and in the realm of political discourse, I see a society that's charted a course of self-destruction.

When I see what's happening in the Church, it's hard not to be somewhat discouraged and yet we can't think that way. We can be grieved but we must make sure our grief doesn't turn into a lack of faith and confidence in God's reign and rule. The ascendant apostate Christianity of our day will not stand in the face of a new order. While many groups claim Sola Scriptura in fact there are very few that are actually following through and making it the foundation of their epistemology and hermeneutics. They're building their houses on sand and when they collapse many will in their confusion believe the problem is Sola Scriptura itself. I think we're already beginning to see that.

Empires rise and fall and the Church survives. I'm not for a moment suggesting that it won't but I think the fall of this society will be particularly ugly and what may arise out of the troubles may be something unprecedented. Men don't change, that at least is a constant but the new technology and some of the problems facing the world in terms of resources etc., mean the situation is probably a bit different this time. The scales of change and their tempo will operate on a different level and that alone may radically change the nature of struggle. I have other reasons to hope the end may be soon, but no one can be sure. It is our calling to persevere in hope and proclaim the truth to this dying world.