Wednesday, January 13, 2010
A Modern False Dilemma
I had someone ask me about the "best" sigils to use for astrological talismans recently. This gives me another chance to riff on one of my themes which is the false opposition between "there's only ONE right answer!" and "every answer is right if it feels right to you."
The only ONE right answer, we might term the "scientific" approach. This arises out the the view that there is a single objective reality that exists independent of any observer. According to this view, subjectivity is basically negative and the task of the heroic, superstition battling, rational (=atheistic/materialist) scientist is to eliminate all subjective considerations and observe objective reality.
The every answer is right approach might be termed the New Age/pop version of existentialism and deconstructive philosophy gives equal weight to everyone's subjective views. Some tenets of deconstructivist philosophy,
"No one can know anything about the true nature of reality. Some deconstructionists have deconstructed the idea that there is a privileged, objective reality "out there", arguing instead that reality is a social construct"
"A central concept of deconstructionism is that language has no inherent meaning."
Whoa! Why am I getting so philosophical? We just want to know what the best sigil, prayer, spell, system of correspondence, etc., is?
What I am getting at is why it is so natural and obvious to ask "which is the best" and also the why the "natural" and seeming only alternative to one best is everything is best.
The idea of objective reality and objective facts about that reality are a key tenet of modern science.
"Objectivity in science is often attributed with the property of scientific measurement that can be tested independent from the individual scientist (the subject) who proposes them. It is thus intimately related to the aim of testability and reproducibility. To be properly considered objective, the results of measurement must be communicated from person to person, and then demonstrated for third parties, as an advance in understanding of the objective world."
Wikipedia, Objectivity (science)
Part of the desire for objectivity is tied up with the desire of science to eliminate "superstition" ie spiritual causality and the existence of the spiritual.
As useful as objective measurement may be, it is clearly only applicable to a small portion of our experience and certainly in my opinion, the least important parts of experience. Being in love, for example, is not quantifiable or measurable, the object and specific experiences that cause love vary greatly from person to person and yet love is among the most important experiences one can have.
Deconstructivism recognizes the limitations of objectivity and scientific reason and expresses very clearly the meaninglessness of atheistic/materialism. But clearly meaninglessness and an inability to make valid distinctions are not a basis for human existence!
What's the alternative to "only one" or "every view is equally valid (or false)"?
Let's take up the example of love again. It clearly exists and our traditional philosophers agree that it is a potent spiritual force. "Eros is a mighty daimon" says Plato in his Symposium. Yet everyone's experience of love is highly subjective and individual. Not what everyone terms love, however, is love.
That reality includes the spiritual, that subjectivity is an important part of reality as the observer participates in and helps create reality, but reality is not entirely reliant on the observer, all posits a middle path between "one" and "every" valid reality. The key missing from scientific objectivity and from deconstructivist thought, however, is the existence and primacy of the spiritual.