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If it were proven that the afterlife did not exist, how would it affect society?

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This is a discussion on If it were proven that the afterlife did not exist, how would it affect society? within the INTP Forum - The Thinkers forums, part of the NT's Temperament Forum- The Intellects category; Originally Posted by Eryngo Right. That is a necessary part of what I'm saying for sure. Because, of course, we've ...

  1. #81

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    Right. That is a necessary part of what I'm saying for sure. Because, of course, we've already tested this question several times in history, namely with Copernicus/Gallileo and Darwin. All these guys effectively disproved the divine model as everyone knew it. And the model adapted.

    But I'm actually taking it further and saying something a bit more radical: namely, that the model adapts because it must, not (just) because people are stubborn in their need for God. I leave room for the possibility that people are actually having spiritual experiences, and that maybe access to such things is not meted out to humans evenly. Why? Who knows. Why not? Personalities aren't even. Opportunities aren't even. Histories aren't even. So it would follow that there are some people He/She/It talks to/interacts with/appears to, and others not.
    Now you're getting closer to my personal definition of religion (which....is very hard to describe). A belief that is greater than oneself.

    Jonathan Haidt described humans as being 90% chimp, 10% bee. The 10% bee is where religion comes into play. We're subconsciously attracted to the hive (though everyone's view of the hive may be a little different). For some it's a church, or a mosque....for others, it may be their city or nation....and for yet others, perhaps humanity as a whole.

    Without the belief in something greater than oneself, we're all selfish (chimps) and aren't able to accomplish as much. So yes, as a species, the model is forced to adapt. And those that don't...might not evolve like the rest of our species.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    So IF that is happening (and I cant' think of a way to prove it isn't) then whatever contradicts the concept of God-ish things they're experiencing means merely that we haven't got it right yet, like we didn't have astronomy and evolution right. For example, CS Lewis discussed this concept of a kind of God Time where he thought that the reason a Good God can withstand the necessary evil in the world/allow free will, etc. was that God experiences reality without time.


    And what do you know, that theory of time is actually something that physicists take seriously today (for their own reasons, of course). So. I don't know if that's true, but I can't say it isn't. Substitute whatever we know or don't know from that and you'll see where I'm coming from. There is an infinite level of knowledge out there, and infinite variations on how we can get it wrong.
    That's very interesting. And I've heard variations of that theory before (though not from CS Lewis).

    More or less the idea that we experience time in a linear manner, but God sees the complete picture. Your entire life. Not necessarily laid out in a neat, (hopefully) lengthy scroll.

    I like your thoughts on there being infinite levels of knowledge and variations. That is what helped me give up on the idea of something being absolutely right or wrong. There are too many variables. I'll just stick with what makes the most sense at that point in time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    Exactly this. And I love that your example is sportswriting, because somehow that's easier to pin down as an authentic area of expertise.
    I think you could easily sub politics, too, because people study politics and can be well-informed on the subject....but every rube out there has a political opinion. And with social media/blogs, said rubes can actually gather a following with their misinformed, venomous hot takes.

    Sportswriting is just my experience...because I've witnessed the rise of the current group of talking yelling heads.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    Sure. But my point was I didn't think it was as effective as, say, reading philosophy. Because of the lack of depth--some things are really complicated. Unless you're posting on a philosophy message board, I guess, or with people who have read philosophy. If fewer people read, the efficacy of message boards diminishes. We're limited to what humans think right now instead of what they've spent hundreds of years and collective lifetimes figuring out.
    True, but perhaps, like this board, some members have read philosophy, and can at least share a little bit. That's better than nothing, right?

    I will say that it's not a good substitute for actually reading and reflecting on it yourself. And I will say myself, I have a lot more patience to read a 3-400 page book than I do to read a 3,000 word message board post.

    But that aside, even though message boards may not always be filled with enlightened minds, if they are discussing an issue, and there are actually opposing views. And they're actually debating it, not engaging in a flame war....that counts for more than simply ignoring the problem. I know a lot of people in real life that will actively leap away from a political discussion because they are uninformed, don't want to be informed, and are generally willing to just let others decide on these ugly matters and bring it to them when a consensus has been formed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    A very astute observation, thank you--but a little edit there.

    Much of the movement to initiate chaos comes from an unrealistic and utopian ideal of what will happen when the chaos comes. Like, you know, the Bolsheviks who promised redistribution and delivered Stalin. Who, it's worth noting, at least advanced state atheism for them like they wanted. So maybe that's bringing this discussion full circle.
    I'll allow the edit. Back to having too many variables, with something as complex as society, you really don't know what will happen when you burn it all down (which is what makes this thread so interesting to begin with -- the unknown). You might have an idea. It might be based on similar past events. But it's hard to believe that even the most brilliant mastermind will be able to predict all of the contingencies. The more people involved, the more complex the equation.
    Eryngo and Mick Travis thanked this post.

  2. #82

    Most people wouldn't acknowledge the proof. Over time, more would renounce to afterlife-based beliefs, but not spirituality. They would keep assuming that their consciousness is still spiritual and preservable, transferable via technology or spiritual awakening to living or artificial mediums. Hence they would abandon deist religions to join growing transhumanist and postbuddhist sects.

    Yet many wouldn't renounce to divinities as well, some would claim gods are sadistic and should be honored with acts of sadism or masochism ; some would pretend gods simply ignore our presence, so we need to establish the connection ourselves in order to be saved.

    The most pseudo-scientific sects would pretend to work on downloading people's mind into a paradisiac, everlasting virtual reality, which would be a very popular expectation because of the improvement of enhanced reality techs.
    Last edited by IDontThinkSo; 07-25-2017 at 07:58 AM.

  3. #83

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashvols View Post
    I will say that it's not a good substitute for actually reading and reflecting on it yourself. And I will say myself, I have a lot more patience to read a 3-400 page book than I do to read a 3,000 word message board post.
    Tangent:
     

    As it should be. On behalf of everyone who writes books, thanks for appreciating the difference.

    Writing a book is (or should be--I don't even know anymore) thinking about something for 10 months (10 years?) instead of 10 minutes. So it stands to reason that the investment in your time reading it pays off more pound for pound (word for word).

    I used to work for a newspaper in my 20's. I wrote editorials, and I always was clutching them at deadline because I was sure someone was going to dig up this terrible writing I had to do in a day and show what and idiot I could be, once I started writing higher-quality pieces. The editor almost killed me every day. Obviously, I've gotten over that via message board posting, but honestly, sometimes it still rankles. I like to chew on things.

    I am sure the difference with boards now and my comfort level is that that my name was on those news pieces. And come to think of it, that's a benefit to message boards, too. They can be a place to try things on, without worrying about it coming back to haunt you later.
    Nashvols thanked this post.

  4. #84

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    the possibility that people are actually having spiritual experiences
    This atheist has them all the time. Because I've studied mine all my life, I have an understanding of the psychology behind them. I also still enjoy them for the magical feeling. This seems to be an adaption to combat stark reality.

    Religion represents law and ethics. Society obviously needs to discuss and agree on these to some extent.

    A quick and dirty psychological session can resemble an exorcism.

    I'm saying that religion is not the definition of our nature, but a sample. We can't radically change our nature, but we can look for the true underlying factors instead of putting gods in the gaps. This is the persuasive point from which I approach believers.

  5. #85

    Quote Originally Posted by Nashvols View Post
    True, but perhaps, like this board, some members have read philosophy, and can at least share a little bit.
    Philosophy makes me go, "Really?" Epicurus was alright.

  6. #86

    Quote Originally Posted by Eryngo View Post
    It's not a matter of rejecting. The way you outlined the evolution of religion made it sound like once the next transformation happened, you can't go back to the old one because your worldview had changed (you've "matured"). Maybe I misunderstood you. The example in the arts was to show that some things, in fact, stay the same. For good or for ill. Regardless of whether people try to make them stay. Religion, may be like that, and there's no reason it wouldn't be. So it isn't that Shakespeare doesn't work, it's that people aren't reading Shakespeare in high school. And it may not be that people have outgrown religion (in cases where they seem to have) it's just that they've not been provided with the infrastructure that made it useful to them in the first place. It's been replaced by more immediate (though potentially less useful) rewards. In theory. (Wow, déjà vu...I feel like I've said this exact thing over the years on this exact board. Hmmm.)
     

    I can seen that sense in that I think as society has changed, so have people as what has been produced through societal development and it's relations changes people. The emphasis I wanted to give kind of a progression in our own psychology having a sociohistorical element which I think is relevant to how religion is now seen.
    That I have a very crude sense that through increasing complexity and division of labor, we broke a holistic sense of being with nature that had a kind of divinity to it, we split the world into object and subject increasingly so to the point that there is still a clear dualism for many. Though I do believe there are philosophers that may have overcome that dualism and made complex thoughts on the relation between particulars within the universal, parts and their whole. I'd have to look into it, but my impression of early societies is a very nature based relation, the idea being that they directly saw the divinity within nature itself and they most clearly saw themselves as one with it, that they belonged to the land.
    As there's changes in social organization, our ability to abstract became increasingly complex as our labour did. I particularly like the example of the first leaders who had to conceive of borders in the abstract, lines in their minds as represented from real world barriers. This is of great important in that I agree with the general sentiment that we discover the world through our activity (nice paper emphasizing activity as means to knowledge). SO with a division of labour, there were those whose labour was largely about the abstract, but the height of their thought could only extend as far as the influence of the real worlds effects.
    As such, that kind of religious experience that was once quite direct, seen as existing within nature itself, which was displaced into more abstract but still somewhat literal things like in Catholicism, then becomes more abstract and its metaphorical. And then at some point atheist comes out which is some strange return to the material but not in the holistic fashion, but one in which we wish to exploit it as an increasing rate. Mechanistic materialism that comes about alongside machines and their functions to increase production.
    And under capitalism, religion whilst still having the same texts, has a different content to what it did in different worldly conditions. Interestingly enough, whilst pre-modern religions were happy to be content with the explanation of a metaphysical being as the origin of our reality and how it works, we see a modern trend in creationism which tries to introduce a kind of pseudo-science into it to justify itself which. I can't imagine any person in contact with most societies today and their interconnections and relations could experience religion in the way that it did in earlier conditions, unless their entire existence is comparable in its production and relation to nature.
    I suppose i can see the offensiveness in Marx's view which puts the basis of religion on suffering, but that may well be specific to its expression with rising capitalism, the idea that it was the heart in a heartless world and used it to critique atheists who too long argued the non-existence of God rather than change the world.
    But I think religion has a place deep within our psychology, so much so that even secular view points couldn't exist without their development and owe much to the notions within them.
    Or more specifically, there are tendencies within people that religion fills that secular ideologies and such also fill.
    And it relates well to discussions about consciousness and how we have a symbolic relationship with others.
    To which the history of religious thought has played a significant role in the development of the modern ability to even think of it in certain ways.

    And when I say ideology, I'm not using it in Marx's sense of one sidedness abstractness, but thinking more of how our self is a sort of mask of meaning (relates to a process sense of self) that's put in relation to culture. In which, it's dubious that we'll ever be without this sort of broad sense of ideology which is an integral part of our sense of self as individuated from the 'external' world.

    I thought Shakespeare was still being taught in school O_O
    I got a taste in my high school years of MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet. Though I think others got a bit more than I as I keep forgetting what Hamlet's about as I don't think we went over it. But then again, that is a pretty stereotypical entry into his work I guess as those are titles in pop culture.

    But I can see the sense in that, religion does need to find it's feet again. Though might worry that religion gets kind of twisted by other influences. Here's something someone wrote on another site that caught my eye.
    The OP may not believe in poststructuralism and postmodernism, but they certainly believe in him. These intellectual trends are merely symptoms a deeper malaise in Western culture - the lack of an ontological grounding for our social, political and moral values. In the past, religion provided that grounding, but the development of modern science and of social liberalism following the Enlightenment has dissolved that grounding. This accounts for at least some of the appeal of things like Communism and Fascism for many European intellectuals: Marxism provides that grounding through the historical dialectic and the messianic role of the proletariat, and fascism provides it through the concept of race and 'Blut und Boden'. Liberalism and unfettered capitalism have no such grounding and are, intellectually and morally speaking, running on empty, on the last few vapours of traditional moral values. Once the last traces of Europe's traditional religious faiths have faded away, social liberalism and economic neo-liberalism will sputter out.
    It's no coincidence that the most vehemently pro-capitalist American political groups are also the most rabidly religious.
    That connection doesn't really exist in Europe, which is why capitalism will probably last longer in the US than it is likely to in Europe. Capitalism, in and of itself, is a morally vacuous system. It is, after all, merely a mode of production, and rather a successful one in the sense that it has led to a massive expansion of the forces of production. It has achieved this efficiency, however, by being ruthlessly amoral in its mechanisms and in its disregard for the human cost of its operations. This means that it requires moral values from some external source (usually traditional religion) to sustain itself over the long term and to give a veneer of morality to its amoral functioning. In the long term, however, the struggle to make capitalism compatible with traditional morality will cause that traditional morality to become either a hypocritical parody of itself (as in the US) or to simply vanish altogether (as in Europe).
    I found this to be an interesting description and it's where I can see that religion as used in a hypocritical way by say the Republican party is hardly representative of the significance it holds for someone who is deeply invested in their spirituality and the wisdom in holy texts and the guidance it offers.
    And it kind of talks to that point about religion being a basis for morality, and point about that God has receded in modern society from being everywhere to being confined to the Church on Sunday in a practical sense.
    Capitalism hasn't been good for religion, spirituality and what ever the 'deeper' fulfillment of human beings in a sense that runs deeper than consumption of commodities.

    Which is why I think Marx's sense of alienation is based in some sort of notion of the social being of humans being disrupted and interfered with by our modern economic organization. Money has encroached upon civil society and our psychology to such a degree that it is the means to an active life.
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/fro...1/man/ch04.htm
    Marx recognized that the science of capitalistic economy, despite its worldly and pleasure-seeking appearance, "is a truly moral science, the most moral of all sciences. Its principal thesis is the renunciation of life and of human needs. The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theatre or to balls, or to the public house [ Br., pub], and the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you will be able to save and the greater will become your treasure which neither moth nor rust will corrupt -- your capital. The less you are, the less you express your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the greater is the saving of your alienated being. Everything which the economist takes from you in the way of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth. And everything which you are unable to do, your money can do for you; it can eat, drink, go to the ball and to the theatre. It can acquire art, learning, historical treasures, political power; and it can travel. It can appropriate all these things for you, can purchase everything; it is the true opulence. But although it can do all this, it only desires to create itself, and to buy itself, for everything else is subservient to it. When one owns the master, one also owns the servant, and one has no need of the master's servant. Thus all passions and activities must be submerged in avarice. The worker must have just what is necessary for him to want to live, and he must want to live only in order to have this." [51]
    http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/...s_ETD_2011.pdf
    In this description of the character of labor, Marx turns his attention from the worker's product as accumulated or “dead” labor, to the character of the labor process itself. Labor, Marx thinks, is in reality the essence of free human activity and a process through which human nature can be fully realized. However, under capitalism, labor is so odious that the worker performs labor only because through the sale of his labor-power he can satisfy his private needs. Insofar as the worker's labor-power is not his own, and belongs to a foreign power (the capitalist), labor appears as a denial and a sacrifice of the worker's existence, and as something to be studiously avoided whenever possible.

    Because labor takes on such an unattractive character, instead of recognizing the labor process as the essence of human activity, workers feel that they are truly themselves and truly human only when they are at leisure or satisfying those needs which they have in common with animals.

    As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.
    Certainly eating, drinking, procreating, etc., are also genuinely human functions. But taken abstractly, separated from the sphere of all other human activity and turned into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal functions. (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, MECW 3:275)
    The above reminds me of something I read by a woman who had been dubbed the poster girl for poverty, Linda Tirado, a rather articulate and smart woman who expresses poverty in a way that isn't fed in the classist political depictions. Where she summarizes how working so much that you're just constantly tired and you feel so shitty that there is no long term thought, you don't have a long term existence, but a more moment to moment one where to feel anything good to break the exhaustion is compelling.
    This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense | HuffPost
    Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that’s all you get. You’re probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable. It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters. We don’t plan long-term because if we do we’ll just get our hearts broken. It’s best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it.
    And I imagine Marx's point could be imported into the above.
    And by the same person who posted those comments about capitalism requiring and external moral grounding, they also made an interesting point about that long term thinking and it's classist nature which I think compliments the above well.
    This. There seems to be a widespread ignorance among the middle-classes and upper-classes as to why the working classes have the attitudes and values which they do. They seems to ascribe it to 'bad breeding' or 'viciousness' or just plain 'ignorance', anything to refuse to acknowledge that the lower classes are, in fact, simply behaving rationally, given the objective conditions of their lives. For example, I can remember watching a TV documentary in Britain a few years back in which a working-class lad was asked whether he would rather have £1 right now or £2 in a week's time. He answered that he would rather have £1 right now. A middle-class psychologist (with a middle-class accent and a smug self-righteous expression on his face to match) casually diagnosed him as a "psychopath" because of this one answer, since he clearly could not think a week into the future. What this middle-class wanker of a 'psychologist' refused to perceive was that it is, in fact, rational for a working class person to prefer to be given £1 right now rather than accept the promise of £2 in a week's time. The working classes live in an unstable and uncertain social and economic environment. If they turn down that £1 right now and opt for £2 in a week's time, then when they try to claim their £2 a week later, the offer might not still be open, or the person who made the promise might deny they had done so, or their child might have died of whooping cough because of a lack of medicine when they needed it. You take what you are offered when it's available, because who the fuck knows what might happen in a week's time. If you are middle-class, of course, then you live in a very stable social and economic environment, and you tend to be comfortably off anyway, so it is then rational to wait a week for the £2, and if they refuse to pay it then you simply get your lawyer to sue them for breach of promise. The middle-classes can afford to plan ahead, whereas the working classes cannot. In other words, it's a different fucking world. Airily and smugly dismissing the lower classes as "psychopaths" simply because they behave rationally in the social and economic environment which the middle-classes have fashioned for them is an abuse of psychiatry and an abuse of one's social position. It's also why the working classes hate liberals and hate the political and moral system they have been 'thrown into', to use Heidegger's phrase.

    Yes, this new world would be great news for all the people who were "oppressed" by capitalism. For those who thrived under that system, however, less great news. Or would they, too, go to this utopia willingly? Otherwise, how, exactly, do you, or other people, plan to get them there?

    Whoa, nevermind. There it is. Okay.

    We'll have to agree to disagree on that. Because to me, a rationale for good will/ought may be all you get. I'm not ready to forcibly dispense with the top tier of earners under the current system so that we can all be "un-alienated from our human nature" ("human nature" as defined by someone else) and all indications are the 1 percent or bourgeois or whoever are not going to go willingly. So barring that revolution, this is what we have.

    I mean, really, Wells. Historically speaking, when utopia has been imposed by force, especially socialist/communist utopia, the track record hasn't gone well for that. And without force, you simply don't get the utopia because -gasp- some people like things the way they are. So to me, the way forward is sticking with the alienating-but-not-especially-murderous system and figuring out what is best for society and the individual given the world that we actually live in.
     

    I think such conflicts are inevitable in that peace is impossible as long as humanity is organized in so divided a way. Which is why Engels makes that quote that a universal morality isn't possible until there is truly a universal humanity in a real sense. Which requires a resolution to the origins of such conflict which doesn't emerge purely because Marx wishes it so as the struggle in ideas often reflects a real world struggle as the two aren't independent of one another. The peace time which people experience isn't a real substantive peace, but a an effective maintenance of many people's subjugation.

    And sacrifice doesn't mean that violence and death is necessary, but rejection of violence out of principle doesn't seem to fare well to the notion of struggle. Many people are brutalized and die today for the maintenance of capital's function personified by a capitalist class. But their deaths are not seen with the significance that the death of figures of higher status would be given.
    \
    No body panics when things goes according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If Tomorrow I tell the press that like a gangbanger will get shot or a truck load of soldiers will be blown up, no one panics. Because it's all, part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds.
    I like this point in that with the French Revolution, what was shocking wasn't people dying. It was the type of people who were dying that was shocking.
    But I suppose I like to emphasize this point by Rick Roderick of how very normal it is for so many to be deprived whilst we have so much and to be perfectly satisfied with this state of affairs.
    |
    Quite often, because the optimism of many sees their deprivation in no relation to other things, that we have simultaneously so many empty homes whilst so many are homeless, so many who need medicine whilst having the means to help them. Such a tension comes from the contradiction between the uses of things and their value purely for exchange. It's the absurdity of such powerful productivity capacities that there should be such deprivation.

    I could find quite reasonable the expressed doubt of the ability to achieve any such transition.
    Though I generally reject the notion that it's not a desirable want, but I think that's just the partisan nature of the matter.

    Indeed they will not go willing, in the same way that it required things like the French Revolution or the American war of independence, which were brutal and violent but now seen for their progressive role for establishing the basis for liberal democracies and the ideals which everyone in the abstract appeals to.
    I wonder if you reject violence whole sale or revolution or whether your dislike the ends and ideals themselves as expressed by the Bolsheviks.
    To which I'd also like to share a notion expressed by Alfred North Whitehead.
    He [Whitehead] has a strong materialistic sense of history: ‘The great convulsions happen when the economic urge on the masses have dove-tailed with some simplified end.' He also recognizes why 'gradualism' may be insufficient: 'It may be impossible to conceive a reorganization of society adequate for the removal of some admitted evil without destroying the social organization and the civilization which depends on it.' Can war, for example, be eliminated without eliminating an economic system that seems to require war? (History 282)
    I'll ruminate some with a few points even though it's off topic since we're here

    I would assert that todays utopianism is the notion that capitalism is not subject o the same termporarility as with all systems of production.
    https://www.marxists.org/reference/s.../ot/zizek1.htm
    The ultimate answer to the reproach that the radical Left proposals are utopian should thus be that, today, the true utopia is the belief that the present liberal-democratic capitalist consensus could go on indefinitely, without radical changes. We are thus back at the old ‘68 motto “Soyons realistes, demandons l'impossible!": in order to be truly a “realist,” one must consider breaking out of the constraints of what appears “possible” (or, as we usually out it, “feasible”).
    And I think that the advocacy of such force is justified in the same degree in which the bourgeoisie revolutions were justified, to attempt to overcome the fetters on human freedom. Because capitalism isn't about the freedom of people, but free flow of capital/commodities.
    http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/...s_ETD_2011.pdf
     
    Marx argues that bourgeois freedom, equality, and property only retain their validity within a specific form of activity under capitalism—the exchange of commodities and in particular, the sale and purchase of labor-power. Abstracting away from the rest of social existence under capitalism, it is possible to believe that the worker is truly free, because he is able to make his will effective through contract, truly equal, because he receives in exchange for his labor-power a wage of equivalent value, and truly in possession of the rights of property, because he is able to dispose of his belongings—and of course in his case we are speaking chiefly of his own labor-power—as he wills.

    In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes:

    [The sphere] within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labour-power, are constrained only by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks to himself only, and no one troubles himself about the rest, and just because they do so, do they all, in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an all-shrewd providence, work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal and in the interest of all. (Capital, MECW 35:186)

    But as soon as we leave this realm of abstraction and see, for instance, that the worker is denied access to the means of production, it becomes possible to notice that he is not truly free to dispose of his labor-power as he wills, but rather compelled to sell it that he might continue to live. These illusions of bourgeois morality become less and less tenable, the more concretely we understand the real situation of the worker and the real economic relations of capitalist society.

    The “Benthamite” notion that out of mere selfishness and private interest, the general commonwealth can be safeguarded, becomes harder to believe and the hypocrisy and contradictions of capitalist society become clearer to see.

    In the Grundrisse, Marx discusses the nature of freedom and equality in bourgeois society, and addresses the limitations of the goals of the French Revolution. His comments on those themes in these notebooks provide an early look at arguments about the insufficiency of bourgeois ideals that are later discussed in greater detail in Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program and in Capital.

    Marx argues that socialism cannot be conceived of as simply a realization of bourgeois ideals such as freedom, equality, and justice, because bourgeois freedom, bourgeois equality and bourgeois justice are already realized in bourgeois society. The French socialists are foolish, he writes, “who wish to prove socialism to be the realisation of the ideas of bourgeois society enunciated by the French Revolution” (Grundrisse, MECW 28:180). It is “utopian” to suppose that the

    inevitable difference between the real and ideal shape of bourgeois society, and the consequent desire to undertake the superfluous task of changing the ideal expression itself back into reality, whereas it is in fact merely the photographic image [Lichtbild] of this reality. (Grundrisse, MECW 28:180)

    Once realized, bourgeois equality and freedom are proven to be inequality and unfreedom. Bourgeois freedom is the freedom of the atomistic, individual agent to buy or sell a commodity, and bourgeois equality is the formal equality of individuals who expect to receive remuneration equivalent to the value of the commodities they enter into exchange. The worker and the capitalist already confront one another as formally free and equal in this manner116. It is precisely this formal universal freedom and equality which forms the basis for the capitalist mode of production and which gives rise to the widespread de facto bondage of workers and the de facto social and economic inequality so characteristic of capitalist society.

    Although in capitalist society free competition is taken to be individual freedom, “free competition is the free development of the mode of production based upon capital; the free development of its conditions and of its process as constantly reproducing these conditions. In free competition, it is capital that is set free, not the individuals” (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, MECW 20:38). Although capitalist exchange gives rise to freedom and equality, it obscures the fact that the individual, even the capitalist individual, is not totally free because he must produce in accordance with laws that operate independently of him and which dominate him. Marx writes:

    This type of individual freedom is therefore, at the same time, the most sweeping abolition of all individual freedom and the complete subjugation of individuality to social conditions which assume the form of objective powers, indeed of overpowering objects--objects independent of the individuals relating to one another. (Grundrisse, MECW 29:40)

    Therefore, what is necessary now in order to promote the further development of a free human individuality is not for bourgeois freedom and equality to be realized, but rather for these to be practically superseded by higher forms of freedom and equality, with substantive freedom and equality created in the place of merely formal freedom and equality

    Hence, in the preamble to The Programme of the French Workers' Party, Marx writes that “the producers cannot be free unless they are in possession of the means of production” (Preamble to the Programme of the French Workers' Party, MECW 24:340). This type of freedom, the freedom of the majority of society to appropriate the means of production, is of course not a realization of bourgeois freedom at all, but rather a distinctly socialist freedom in which workers would exercise direct control over the raw materials, tools, machinery, infrastructure, and so on that are required in order for production to be carried out at the level of efficiency to which it has been developed under capitalism. This substantive freedom would be directly at odds with the capitalist mode of production that depends on the forcible separation of the producers from the means of production (cf. Marx's discussion of primitive accumulation in the first volume of Capital).

    The implementation of such a genuine, substantive freedom of course would require “despotic inroads117 on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production,” something Marx already wrote earlier, in The Communist Manifesto (Manifesto of the Communist Party, MECW 6:504). It would neither be a realization of bourgeois freedom nor would it even be commensurate with, or justifiable on the basis of, bourgeois freedom and equality, even as it is bourgeois production which makes this substantive freedom first possible.

    In the reformist struggles of workers under capitalism, we see a first inkling of how this genuine, substantive freedom comes into conflict with formal, bourgeois freedom. In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes:

    It must be acknowledged that our labourer comes out of the process of production other than he entered. In the market he stood as owner of the commodity “labour-power” face to face with other owners of commodities, dealer against dealer. The contract by which he sold to the capitalist his labour-power proved, so to say, in black and white that he disposed of himself freely. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.” For “protection” against “the serpent of their agonies,” the labourers must put their heads together, and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier that shall prevent the very workers from selling. by voluntary contract with capital, themselves and their families into slavery and death. In place of the pompous catalogue of the “inalienable rights of man” comes the modest Magna Charta of a legally limited working day, which shall make clear “when the time which the worker sells is ended, and when his own begins.” Quantum mutatus ab illo! [What a great change from that time! – Virgil]. (Capital, MECW 35:306)

    In Capital, as in the Grundrisse, we see that the worker's freedom to enter into a contract and to dispose of his labor-power as he wills is only an illusory freedom, and that he was never in this transaction a totally “free agent” at all because he is not simply free to sell his labor-power or not, but rather is compelled to sell it if he wishes to live. That compulsion makes the worker susceptible to the most brutal working conditions. Thus, the first step in bringing about substantive freedom from oppressive working conditions and exploitative relations of production is for workers to combine together and push for laws that actually curtail the abstract freedom granted to them in bourgeois society. These measures on the part of workers are vehemently opposed by the bourgeoisie:

    The same bourgeois mind which praises division of labour in the workshop, life-long annexation of the labourer to a partial operation, and his complete subjection to capital, as being an organisation of labour that increases its productiveness, that same bourgeois mind denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to socially control and regulate the process of production, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and unrestricted play for the bent of the individual capitalist. (Capital, MECW 35:361)

    As an illustration, Marx describes how in the French Revolution, the rights which could aid workers, such as the right of association, were subordinated in practice to the right of bourgeois property:

    During the very first storms of the revolution, the French bourgeoisie dared to take away from the workers the right of association but just acquired. By a decree of June 14, 1791, they declared all coalition of the workers as “an attempt against liberty and the declaration of the rights of man,” punishable by a fine of 500 livres, together with deprivation of the rights of an active citizen for one year. This law which, by means of State compulsion, confined the struggle between capital and labour within limits comfortable for capital, has outlived revolutions and changes of dynasties. Even the Reign of Terror left it untouched. It was but quite recently struck out of the Penal Code. Nothing is more characteristic than the pretext for this bourgeois coup d’état. “Granting,” says Chapelier, the reporter of the Select Committee on this law, “that wages ought to be a little higher than they are, ... that they ought to be high enough for him that receives them, to be free from that state of absolute dependence due to the want of the necessaries of life, and which is almost that of slavery,” yet the workers must not be allowed to come to any understanding about their own interests, nor to act in common and thereby lessen their “absolute dependence, which is almost that of slavery;” because, forsooth, in doing this they injure “the freedom of their cidevant masters, the present entrepreneurs,” and because a coalition against the despotism of the quondam masters of the corporations is – guess what! – is a restoration of the corporations abolished by the French constitution. (Capital, MECW 35:730-731)

    Bourgeois opposition to the attempts of workers to exert social control on production further reveals the practical contradiction between formal bourgeois freedom and the real freedom workers struggle for within capitalism, in struggles that necessarily point beyond capitalism for just this reason. While the capitalist defends “sacred” bourgeois freedom, he is at the same time also perfectly willing to defend the real unfreedom of the worker, the “complete subjection” of the laborer to capital.


    Look at the bolded for the great example of how even in it's origins, the rise of capital was about the freedom for trading commodities (clearly reflective of the interests of the merchant/emerging capitalist class)

    Of course I agree with this, and can't imagine how anyone couldn't.
    There's a good review of John Berger's book in regards to seeing history as always relevant to the present and in a sense not really history, but a sense of now.
    https://newrepublic.com/article/1266...es-john-berger

    rambled enough, hope it's at least interesting.
    Eryngo, stathamspeacoat and Salmon thanked this post.

  7. #87

    I think people who believe in afterlife, karma, ghosts, etc. do not generally listen to reason. Even with conclusive proof, they will still believe whatever feels more comforting. Even now, I'd say there is very strong proof of the non-existence of these things. But let's assume somehow people no longer believe these things :)

    Some people center their world around their beliefs and for them this will be a shock. They will no longer have meaning in life, goals to pursue and comfort. I guess there will be some suicides. Others will conclude moral doesn't exist and start lying, stealing, beating others, etc. On the positive side, there will no longer be religious fanatics ready to kill themselves.

    For other people religion is complementary (I think this is the majority in the world) and I think they will just need to substitute it with something else. This group generally accepts moral values not because they are part of religion, but because they understand the idea behind them. The substitute could be arts, sports, science, etc. I think this change will have a positive impact on the world.

    The rest never believed in such things and not much will change for them. There will be no need to argue about afterlife and everything else. Other than that, these people will live the same way they do now. I'm part of this category.

    In general, people will learn to value the present more and maybe not invest in the future that much. Taking action as opposed to waiting for things to happen will be valued more in such a society. Some will be driven to make a lasting change in their lifetime.

    Religious beliefs as a moral compass are superceded by education. After the generations change and there are no longer people from the first group who are likely to harm others, the world will be a better place, assuming everybody has access to education. I don't think there will be much use for religion at that point.

    There is much more to be said on this topic.
    Last edited by martinkunev; 07-26-2017 at 01:12 PM.
    stathamspeacoat thanked this post.

  8. #88

    If God didn't exist and an afterlife didn't exist I'd probably be an asshole. I DO care about other people but I seem to be pretty oblivious to how my actions affect them. When I do notice I don't really care and just keep plodding along.
    Really, the only thing that's stopping me is a guilty conscience, if I didn't feel guilty I wouldn't care that much.
    stathamspeacoat thanked this post.

  9. #89

    The thing is.. it's impossible to prove that something doesn't exist. It's difficult to reason with people who strongly believe in something that they cannot even verify. It is possible that the rationals are missing something.. something which allows them to sense the power of some deity, and the rationals are just assuming that everyone else is like them, without deity-sensing power. So, the truly rational people can only claim that they don't know because they cannot verify it.

    Whether something is proven or not doesn't matter. What does it even mean to be proven? You can say that many authoritative sources agree that X is true, but you cannot say that you KNOW that it is true even when you've verified it through your own experience. This applies to both religion and science. In other words, to see reality in its purest form, it's necessary to be humble and accept that whatever "truth" you've been conditioned to can collapse at any time.

    I think it's healthy for individuals to view reality as accurately as possible. And, by extension, society as a whole would be healthier too. This was the original intention of religion. However, truth does not care about survival, so it is only natural for the survivalists to conquer everything including religion, morphing organized religion to what it is today.

  10. #90

    A useful piece on considering basic outline of the implications of alienation.


    Where Ludwig Feuerbach posits that God is a inversion of ourselves, we create God within our image and highest ideals but then forget that we created God and reverse it saying God created us in his image.
    But "God is dead" and instead commodities are the new God which mediate our relations. It too entails an inversion our consciousness in which we imbue commodities with abstract qualities. The mediation of human relationships is in a sense very real but are indirect and abstract.
    Presumably, such a perspective leads to the conclusion at least in the abstract that the task is not to make a denial of God, but to change the conditions that lead to alienation. As things do not disappear in a puff of smoke through reason alone, though reason can be a precursor to making explicit an understanding of things in order to motivate effective action to a coherent goal. A tension between an abstract goal/ideal (abstract end) that motivates action through some means in order to achieve a realized end, to which one repeats from the new conditions of the realized end until the difference between the abstract and the reality disappears as they become one.
    But what are the conditions of alienation and thus what solves or diminishes it?
    2.2 ALIENATION
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