Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 38

Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 37
Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 39

Remembrance Sunday was held this year in Whitehall on November 13th and the ceremony was staged…with the usual spectacular turnout of the British Royal Family and the UK/Commonwealth establishment.  The presence of WW1 veterans has virtually ceased, but the haunting music which rings out while wreaths are placed on the Cenotaph is a powerful reminder of the immense sadness suffered by the UK community in the first World War.  That this institution has remained strong is a poignant reminder of the evil effects of militaristic opportunism … but this year’s Ukraine War shows that the problem it results from has not been solved. There are still brutal militaristic opportunists around who are tone deaf to the misery they create and the depth of revulsion their aggressions provoke.

The previous blog raised the central ethical question which we are still grossly neglecting, namely the problem of re-instituting minimal personal ethical standards for society generally, and particularly for families bringing-up children (and schools  “educating” them) in an era which is never going to return to the archaic religions en bloc —because they are based on dubious, sketchy history, ancient, long-abandoned world-views and obsolete concepts, not to mention the antique rituals (i.e. theatre) of their services.

Religion may be seen in a modern sociological context as a kind of “discourse” which was formerly a proven, reliable way to transmit minimal ethical standards to the young generations. It worked for more than 2,000 years.

But unfortunately, religion has lost its way, because respect for its message has been diminished by the oceanic rise of science, the four Whammies and the implications of cybernetics. 

It has been realised by a thoughtful minority for quite a long time that religion is not the only way to underpin minimal ethical standards.  

Moral philosophers have long since focused onto the central concept which must underlie minimal ethical standards, namely, personal accountability. The main reason why we all need minimal ethical standards is that —in civilised societies— we are personally accountable for our potentially psyche-bruising actions vis-à-vis others, and if we don’t take any notice of this “accountability”, our reputations will inevitably be blackened by those who suffer the bruising. 

This bruising is seared into the memories of those who have been bruised: they are not going to forget it, so the bad reputation it attaches to the bruiser will stay, and dog her or him for a long time.

The problem about this today is not that the concept of accountability has been abandoned —on the contrary it has been embraced by many young people in new vivid, emotive ways— but that it has lost its rigour.  A very high, unobvious standard of accuracy, generality and sensitivity is needed, because the psyche-bruising which can flow from our actions is a thousand times more vivid to the victim than the perpetrator.  We all have minds and consciousness, which makes us acutely aware of our own experiences, but relatively only dimly aware of how our actions bear down onto others.

The very word ‘accountability’ hints here at an association with maths, and religious monotheism too was probably a consequence of mathematic rationality refining the putative explanation of existence, and attributing it to a single infinite supermind. 

But mathematics lost the plot in 1901 with Russell’s Contradiction, and after first going into a dim, unpopular, phobic condition, maths has now almost disappeared from ordinary conversation. 

We need a quite new, fresh, naturalistic concept of mathematics based on its twin goals, to be a Pathfinder for Progress and the Heartland of Truth. (You can read much more about this in my recent six essays in the New English Review.) We need a new way of teaching mathematics, which makes vivid sense to the learner. Finally we need to realise that mathematics is not the only 100% abstract modelling logos. There is also the newly emergent Anti-mathematics —unveiled in these blogs— which can potentially enable us to acquire a much more credible, realistic model of physical and cosmological reality … one closely related anthropically to our own psychic freedom and creative powers.  The net effect will hopefully be a much more rigorous personal accountability … which is probably the only way we can envisage the presently ominous, badly messed-up, crisis-prone world sorting itself out.  

CHRISTOPHER ORMELL 1st December 2022