There is method to the condescension


My previous post has gotten a lot of comments—some positive, some negative—particularly in my forum. On the negative side, a criticism often leveraged against my essay writing style has, unsurprisingly, returned: some of you dislike the condescending tone of my criticisms of materialism, preferring me to stick to purely objective, sober argumentation without scornful overtones. I understand the point and acknowledge that my essay writing sometimes is indeed a little disparaging.

However, contrary to what some might assume, this isn't a reflection of my evil personality (I actually tend to be quite kind in person); it is and has always been deliberate, aiming to achieve something very specific that I consider integral to my work. Allow me to explain.

Since at least the late 19th century, the western intellectual establishment has placed materialism on the high-ground of reason and plausibility (how and why this happened is something I discussed here). The attitude of most academics, for instance, is that the burden of argument and evidence rests squarely on those who do not endorse materialism, even though the latter has devastating—even insoluble—problems of its own.

Consequently, idealists such as myself must fight an uphill battle against entrenched prejudices. Throwing rotten tomatoes down from the high-ground of rationality they believe to occupy, many materialists feel they don't even need to bother acquainting themselves with the opposing argument before mocking and dismissing it. When an entire intellectual establishment is biased in your favor, I guess it is hard to avoid this kind of entitlement complex.

And indeed, the entrenched metaphysical bias that plagues our intellectual establishment manifests itself in the derogatory manner in which materialists feel entitled to criticize other metaphysics. Such derogatory behavior, in turn, reinforces and perpetuates the entrenched bias. The result of this vicious circle is a normalization of conceit, indolence and condescension; provided that they are expressed by materialists. The more we see non-materialist views being disparaged, the more the notion is subliminally inculcated in our minds that materialism is the default metaphysics; the most plausible, coherent and 'serious' view of reality.

The problem is that materialism is neither plausible nor coherent. As a matter of fact, the only reason it isn't considered bonkers is the peculiar intellectual habits developed by our western culture since the early Enlightenment, in the 17th century. The rational high-ground materialists believe they occupy is a fiction without basis on fact or reason, a mere cultural artifact of our ephemeral age.

And this is why I deliberately adopt a condescending tone in my criticisms of materialism and the incoherent arguments of its spokespeople: to level the playing field; to restore some semblance of balance; to help legitimize and normalize a hard-nosed critical attitude towards materialism as well.

Through my own rather uncompromising and vocal example, I want to help others give themselves intellectual permission to overtly break with the mainstream storyline if they can't buy into it. By getting accustomed to seeing materialists being as disparaged as they disparage others, and on solid grounds, perhaps our intellectual establishment will eventually realize that its favorite metaphysics is just a tentative story full of holes; something far, very far from an unassailable fact.

I deliberately emphasize my utter lack of reverence for materialism in an attempt to help dispel its religious aura of untouchable metaphysical superiority. I want to grab the pretentious little impostor by the hair, pull it down to the earth and drag it through the mud in full view of everybody, so people see that materialism isn't a god in the pantheon of reason, but just a very vulnerable conjecture—a mere opinion—full of holes. My overt scorn for materialism aims to get us slowly accustomed to the fact that it is as legitimate a target of rational criticism—and yes, even disdain—as any other metaphysics might be.

The equations 'evidence + reason = materialism' and 'science = materialism'—nonsensical as they are—are very prevalent in our culture and have very real effects. In philosophy circles, for instance, I feel that dualists, panpsychists, cosmopsychists and idealists alike tend to be somewhat shy, submissive, apologetic, even reverential, when submitting their case to the scrutiny of an overwhelmingly materialist intellectual establishment. They seem to implicitly concede that materialism has some kind of head start, so that the full burden of argument and evidence falls on them alone. I find this an extremely counterproductive attitude without any basis on fact.

I make a point of conceding nothing to materialism that it hasn't earned on the basis of good argument and evidence, as opposed to mere intellectual habit; and I explicitly reject the materialists' presumptuous claim of rational high-ground: they have the same burden of argument and evidence as the rest of us. My tone aims at illustrating this attitude by example, so to help non-materialists vanquish their needless inferiority complex.

Only by publicly desecrating the false god—dragging the bully by the ear and then scolding it—can we reveal to the world the weakling it has always been. By subjecting materialists to scornful criticism—the same kind they liberally dish out to others—whenever I have a strong, substantive basis to do so, I am trying to empower those who are skeptical of materialism but fear being taken for irrational 'mystics.' I want to help intelligent people give themselves permission to feel proud—not insecure or shy—of repudiating materialism on rational grounds.

A cultural game as this admittedly is, I believe it is as integral a part of my work as elucidating and promoting idealism, for I have never seen others playing the role I've described above; at least not as explicitly as I've been trying to. The substance of my arguments has always been, and shall always remain, the foundation of everything I do; I have never replaced, and shall never replace, substance with empty rhetoric. But whenever the foundation is solid and the chance is presented to me, I shall not be shy to leverage it for maximum rhetorical effect. I believe this to be necessary to restore a semblance of metaphysical balance to our culture and I wish others would join me in the effort.
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17 comments:

  1. That was a fun one.

    To be clear, I enjoy a well used condescending tone in a debate. I'm not on the team saying that should be dropped. But, one can passionately condescend to the silliest of ideas without projecting odd and disparaging motives to the person wanting to chat with you.

    Seems like a significant difference.

    A great example of condescension well used is when Christopher Hitchens debated the Rabbi about the rabbi's justification for slicing into baby boy's penises with knives.

    Jeff

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  2. Monistic Mentism is what I believe. Panpsychists still accept a solid aspect of physical materialism. Quantum Physics accepts that particles are 99.9% empty space (no such thing) and a vibration within a field -- there simply is nothing there, but our perception of it being there.
    Consciousness isn't just fundamental, it's all there is. Our perceptions of an objective reality "out there" are real. The objective reality "out there" is not. We are conscious consciousness perceiving other conscious consciousness and interacting with the same. As our perceptions are all that is required, why would the Universe (Primary Consciousness) feel compelled to produce anything else?
    The Idea of the World is a challenging read only as it is demanding of deep thought and intellectual commitment to understanding, designed to sway even the most hardened materialist.
    I think it is much simpler, and I would love to see you produce a work for those who don't need convincing, Bernardo. A Consciousness Manifesto as it were. I believe science will respond more quickly to groundswell grassroots demand to include consciousness as a fundamental force, primordial, superintendent, executive, and creative of the other perceived forces, as opposed to a top-down attempt to convince the entrenched academic elites who would see it as an admission of error.
    Love your mind, sir. And your pursuit!

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    1. Well put. And I agree as far as it being much simpler. His friend Rupert Spira - a non-duality 'teacher' - really emphasizes the direct experience. I'd love to see them team up and do something together, combining a fierce direct approach of non-duality with the rational, logic philosophy of metaphysical idealism. thereby maybe if the philosophical angle doesn't reach the person, mayhaps the non-dual teaching will...vice versa.

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  3. Bernardo, sometimes just knocking isn't enough, so kick the doors down!

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  4. This is painfully ironic, considering you chastised me for the same methods when I used them to point out the elitist, class-ignorance inherent in the way you approach idealism, while pandering to authorities for personal validation. Maybe this can be a wake up call for you that there are people not validated by their professions who think just as deeply or deeper about non-materialism as you. I hope.

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    1. I've been following Bernardo for roughly eight years now and I don't think I've ever seen him come close to chastising anyone. If he did you really must have earned it.

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  5. As always you are right on the mark with the tone you take. I find it delightful that you have the metaphysical mettle to meddle with the madness of materialism so marvelously

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  6. Very good. I'm sure James Hillman would approve of your use of the scold archetype.

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  7. You are fighting an uphill battle, one that needs to be fought if we are to survive as a species. Materialism is an incredibly seductive philosophy and also a terribly destructive one. I for one would certainly forgive you for transgressing any boundaries of politeness. I don't know you but do get the sense that you are indeed a kind and probably even nice person. :-) I'm sure that kindness would come immediately to the forefront in your writing the day that materialists and non-materialists are finally battling on even ground. Until then, a strong statement needs to be made, one that needs strong means to be heard. Thanks for your couragous work.

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  8. We tend to acquire presuppositions, either by adopting them consciously at some later point in development, or as an unquestioned fact adopted by osmosis from our culture in our youth. In either case, ideas we accept and approve as fact form a lens through which we then filter the world. The image rendered includes a confirmation that the premise is correct. We can then use this self affirming image as the basis to take the rational high-ground – to be justified in dismissing or attacking contrary perspectives with the passion of certitude. However most of our certainty is fiction.

    What we espouse as true may or may not be true, but we have no way of knowing with certainty. The best we can to is assemble a coherent image based on an assumed premise and then share that perspective. Our premise is the campfire that lights our vision of the world, but that is different than seeing an accurate image of the entire territory. Premises by definition generate a focus area that has a membrane aspect to it, but also an exclusionary aspect – it renders all else into the blurry periphery or beyond a dark horizon.

    Certainty, except perhaps for the fact that something rather than nothing exists, and that meaning exists, is an illusion ultimately fueled with abstractions, not objective truths. Our posturing is an artifact of the unquestioned and unprovable premises with which we filter our world. At this foundation level our assumptions can render a clear image, but we cannot know if it is accurate. Conflating the coherency that comes from clarity with accuracy is a mistake as far as I can tell.

    As far as I can tell, nature is both process, (object) and meaning. (subject) Nature expresses stories (subjects) by way of entities in relationship with each other. (objects) Our human ability to use abstractions to tell stories is part of the storytelling property inherent in all of nature. As a local embodiment of nature we, like nature, are both object (process) and subject (story).

    Sorry if I broke your lens. I know you have an awful lot of social currency invested in it.

    I could be missing something(s)

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  9. As I read these comments I'm struck by how many people readily give advice to you. It reminds of me of when I was building an airplane and curious onlookers would stop by and ask questions. There was always a percentage that would tell me how they would do it if it were them. They knew nothing about flying, aircraft construction, etc. It always amazed me. Personally I feel your motives and goals are spot on. Watching people pursue a life that is so hopeless, sad and horribly damaging to themselves and others is difficult to watch especially when it is a lie. At times it makes me feel like a parent that watches their child walk out in the street and almost get hit by a car. You want to grab them and shake the life out of them for their own good.

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  10. Just finished reading “The Physicalist Worldview as Neurotic Ego-Defense Mechanism.” I think it’s excellent. Especially this:
    “By distinguishing themselves as a segment of society uniquely capable to understand facts and concepts beyond the cognitive capacity of others, the scientists and academics who promote the physicalist narrative stand to gain in self-esteem.”
    This has another wrinkle. Along with “the unique capacity to understand,” goes the “unique capacity to rule.” We are talking technocracy here, which will entail an almost total loss of agency for ordinary people.

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    1. Oh so true. Their arrogance is enough to make one scream. However their attitude and approach ends up many times killing their effectiveness because most people can see through it.

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  11. With you here.

    You are fighting the good fight in all the best ways.

    Having a solid rational argument is not incompatible with the expression of personal feelings.

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  12. I agree.

    When a conception permeates a thought collective strongly
    enough, so that it penetrates as far as everyday life and idiom and
    has become a viewpoint in the literal sense of the word, any
    contradiction appears unthinkable and unimaginable. Ludwik Fleck

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  13. If only I could reply here, with a meme....sigh...

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