Bhaskar begins from the premise that in our sciences we engage in experimental activity and that when we engage in experimental activity we create closed systems in which to observe things (he also has a similar argument about perception, but I’ll set that aside). Having observed this, Bhaskar asks why we engage in this curious activity. Bhaskar’s thesis is that this activity is only intelligible if generative mechanisms or objects behave differently in open and closed systems. In open systems, Bhaskar contends, objects or generative mechanisms can be operative without producing certain events due to the intervention of other objects or generative mechanisms. Likewise, in open systems, generative mechanisms can be present in open systems without being active at all.
In ethics, we are often asking what we ought to do — what would be good in the way of practical action. Should I give up philosophy and train to be a psychiatrist? Was it too callous to have decided not to meet your friend because you felt too drained to listen to their problems? Is a society without socialised medicine thereby unjust? These are first-order ethical questions, and they are normative because they are oriented by the question of how it is correct to act.
But we can also ask (as metaethicists do) about the metaphysics, epistemology and semantics involved. What does it mean to say I should do something? What is it for an action to be good? Is it possible to know whether I did the right thing? How? What, if anything, separates ethical demands from those of social etiquette? These are metanormative questions, also oriented by the notion of correctness in action, but which try to uncover what this notion of correctness amounts to. At its limit, it might even conclude that there is no sense in which actions are appropriate or inappropriate — they just are.
But perhaps the purpose of philosophy is to be creative, and by means of this, to enhance our chance of coming into sync with the immanent structure of what is. Certainly this is what the Taoists, as well as the Roman Stoics, and their ‘modern’ inheritor, Baruch Spinoza, would argue, and I think there’s a lot to say for this sort of immanent ethics of that which lies potentially beyond knowledge and error, but not beyond the sort of curiosity needed to continually problematize, and to encourage the development of a society that collectively does the same. 9:39 AM
Technology, Crisis and the Evolution of Consciousness by Eric Weiss from Posthuman Destinies by deb banerji
In this long and extensive meditation, Eric Weiss considers our present evolutionary condition as earth creatures and its relatedness to technology. Linking this question to the evolutionary metaphysics of Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin, he conducts a cross-examination leading to a clarification of the crisis in which we find ourselves today - which he identifies at bottom as a crisis of technology. How are we to respond to this crisis? The author appeals for a reversal of the directionality of technology, aligning with a question which has always been one of the cornerstones of our consideration - will man disappear in technology or technology disappear in man?
Third, the efforts of the past twenty years to address these issues of secularism and secularization in terms theoretical have mostly run out of steam. The study of religion and modernity has traced the same arc as so many other humanistic disciplines, ending in a kind of genealogical or deconstructive cul-de-sac, where we can see the problems (secularism as governance, say) without being able to imagine any alternative. Are scholars really willing to give up on secular norms of truth seeking? At this moment, I doubt it—not least because the alternatives seem so impossible to inhabit intellectually or ethically. Struggles to force ourselves beyond either tie the knots tighter or become so frantic as to seem altogether irresponsible. What results is a version of Dipesh Chakarabarty’s “politics of despair,” where our conceptual armature seems too crude and yet impossible to abandon.
It seems to me that it is precisely at this moment that empirical study—of past and present—might play a creative role in generating possibilities “after secularization.”