Sunday, October 2, 2011

Secular as Anti-Consciousness

This idea seems obvious to me, but it shouldn't. This post is this one thought, put into words, and look how long it is. Inspired by a Joseph Fouche comment, that he himself noticed was especially good. (Also, object lesson on priming, from his use of the word 'notion.')

Secular is supposed to mean anti-spiritual but ends up being materialist and meaning anti-consciousness.

Assuming gods don't exist, where does the notion of them come from? Why is it so natural to suppose e.g. volcano gods?

Humans are conscious. You unavoidably and unmistakably observe your own consciousness. Humans are similar - you see other people are almost certainly conscious - but their consciousness is also quite mysterious. Before civilization, you don't know what goes on in it exactly, or how they're conscious, or often, even understand consciousness well enough to realize it needs a name. Instead, when volcanoes show human-like traits, such as capriciousness, it's reasonable to suppose they're also conscious.

Indeed, when the wind and sun give you the same kind of feeling that humans do - when they seem meaningful - it's reasonable to suppose just about everything is conscious.

As civilization develops, the idea of consciousness is refined, (specifically spirits and anima) and more things start being seen as inanimate. More interconnected people makes more information come in showing that previously-reasonable rituals in fact do nothing, and thus the ritual target cannot be conscious - it cannot understand what you're trying to tell it to do, nor appreciate your offers and sacrifices.

However, all historical societies preserved certain spirits. For example, dualism is usually attributed to Descartes but the suite of notions that make up Cartesian dualism are basically instinctual. It's totally normal to think you have a mind separate or at least essentially different from the body. If the arguments regarding the God Instinct are true, it's also quite normal to believe in an idea similar to the notion that concepts are conscious. That Death is not only well-defined, but has desires and can make decisions. Or that Love can run around trying to promote the creation of mortal love. Or that Good, for that matter, wants more of itself around. ("Good likes us. We like Good - by definition. Perhaps we should cooperate, yeah?")

Eventually, though, materialists arose - people who were so well-networked they had all the information to realize that gods don't make much sense, if any. So, desiring to serve Reason, they rejected gods. Unfortunately, at this point their human natures doomed them, as Fouche noted.

Humans are tribal. When you reject a notion, it's perfectly natural to reject socially associated notions along with logically associated notions.

Humans naturally respect consciousness.
When materialists rejected respect for gods, they also rejected this respect for consciousness. Consciousness is associated with gods precisely because it's reasonable for the epistemically innocent to conclude that gods, given consciousness. Materialists were less innocent, they were better informed and networked, but not by enough. It seemed necessary for them to reject not only all spirits, but all spirit-like things, to avoid falling into logical traps that lead to belief in gods.

As a result, all 'secular' societies are consciousness-denigrating societies. This wasn't helped by the fact that consciousness is associated with freedom, (specifically free will) and so coercive hierarchies have routinely found ways to disparage consciousness - materialists inherit a long and respectable tradition.

I plan to also write on how badly mistaken this is, how broad the infection is, and how to work alternatives. We'll see what in fact happens.


P.S, presented without comment: (via)


Unknown said...

Secular doesn't mean anti-spiritual or materialistic, but merely a-spiritual, not sacred, i.e., not set apart for religious use. In my mind, "secular" implies neither moral failing nor hostility to revealed religion.

Unknown said...

As for the rest, I basically agree with the thesis. Tho' I think your 5 years ago self was a little too breezy with accusastions of "epistemic innocence", which could just as easily be thrown back in the face of materialists. No purely materialist theory (that I can imagine) can explain existence.

Alrenous said...

It's not an accusation, ref. affirming the consequent. That epistemic innocence implies belief in gods does not mean belief in gods implies epistemic innocence.