Sunday, May 13, 2007
Gulliver's Urination: Another Conversation with Thomisticguy, Part 4 of 4
Thomisticguy's response was as follows: "Thank you for defining exactly what you mean by the shift in man’s understanding of himself. I will have to think about this. I do see a number of objections that could be raised to this theory. Let me raise a few and allow you to reflect on them if you wish to."
The previous 3 parts were my response to Thomisticguy, which include his points. Part 4 is an expansion on my central point from which the conversation hinged, and is itself a recording of a previous part of the conversation.
I'll get into this more later where you get more involved in your talk of complexity. My point is that I think you have a point about the complexity thing, but that something shifted and changed - got radically both more complex and simple - when our "frontier" went from some territorial topological line on the earth to the planet Mars. I think that the shift occured especially in light of its very REASON, which was that man had essentially conqured the whole globe.
Additionally, that this referenced shift from modernity to postmodernity (from a topological frontier to Mars...or, previously, to either the outer limits of our globe - witness Sputnik - or the moon - witness our landing there) involved both a radical new simplicity and complexity is why I don't think of the issue in question - of our relation with limits, bodies, scale and location, "especially in light of the powers of the intellect" - to be one simply of complexity. Again, though, I think you have a point about the complexity thing...more on that later.
OK, so I had previously written: "Secondly, the proportion between what an ancient Athenian knew and had some measure of power over was negligible compared to yours. The reason I refer to it as neglegible as opposed to 'must less,' is because man has essentially conqured the whole globe. Now there are little pockets areas into which humans seldom venture, due mainly to difficulty."
And your response was: "●I agree with this. Yet, at the same time I would note that this same situation of the “measure of power” would have applied to the Athenian as compared to the Ice Man. Relatively speaking, the Athenian would have had much more power available to him than the Ice Man. I guess what I am saying is that there has not been some 'great leap' forward in the modern world. I think that sometimes people believe that everybody before the Industrial Revolution lived the same way all the way back to Adam and Eve (like a bunch of cave men). The reality is much more complex and was a gradual process of expanding 'civilizations' (complex human habitats) made possible by advancing technology. This was true when the first viable tribal groups developed that combined more than one family unit. Certain technologies made it possible for individuals to specialize and for the groups (over 100 in size) to settle in specific areas. When this happened it was no longer necessary for each individual to know all of the complex interrelationships between each tribal member. All the brain power was released to focus on fewer relationships and specific activities. This, in its self, released a huge amount of creativity that as continued to bless mankind. Yet, despite the increased external complexity (of which no one person can fully know), man’s individual intellectualizing has not changed."
First, I would like to note again that you have a point with the complexity thing. I think, though, that we can here identify both where we actually agree disagree (I think): "I guess what I am saying is that there has not been some 'great leap' forward in the modern world. I think that sometimes people believe that everybody before the Industrial Revolution lived the same way all the way back to Adam and Eve (like a bunch of cave men)."
To start with where we agree, I take it to be true that men didn't all live as "bar bar" speaking cavement in before the industrial revolution (Romans referred to barbarians as such, because their language sounded to them like "bar bar"). In fact, where some people take the industrial revolution to be the defining ignition point for "modern times," I think that's a total misconception. I think the industrial revolution itself was sort of just an incident in the modern wave of changes already long on the way to changing the face of civilization.
Additionally, I think that the change in the face of civilization was a change FROM what it had been like for so long, going back to your referenced point of the beginning of farming as a technological innovation. On this we also agree. I take this point in our past as one of the most key points in our history, as you seem to do as well. "Civilization," as we now know it, pretty much began with farming. This, I think, is your refernce in speaking of the "complexity" of the various relationships in a "civilization" as opposed to a small tribal nomadic group previous to that point, or maybe even a small tribal settlement near some water.
What we conditionally do not agree on, however, is that the modern world itself was not a great "leap foward." I say "conditionally," because I think we actually even agree on that, in a sense. I don't really think that the great change from ancient to modern was one from wayward incivility and economic despair to sudden mannerliness and economic prosperity. I do think that, in those terms of an economic and operational shift in daily living, the shift was one that occured in terms of complexity and "specialization." This shift in the level of complexity and specialization is related to my point on where we might disagree, but is not the same thing, I don't thnink.
Now here's where I think we outright disagree. I do think that modernity brought with it a great shift. It wasn't necessarily a shift in "progress," as discussed above - although that came to be more centrally valued in the modern world. I take the shift in modernity to be a shift in how humans viewed themselves, specifically in relation to the issues that I am taking to be central, of bodies, scale, limits and location.
The shift from ancient to modern modes of specialization (leading to higher levels of complexity, I think by incident) was only one example of the shift that occured in modernity between man's viewing himself more primarily as a bodily, sensing being with limits defined by that body and those senses and which deliniate a location of his life, his being and even his identity. I say "identity," because an ancient man primarily viewed himself as an "Athenian," from a particular household in Athens. Modern specialization, in regard to these sensory limits in qeustion, was what McLuhan referenced as an "explosive" force.
The economic shift from ancient to modern was not when economics came to dominate politics, but when the very field of economic play "exploded" - via specialization - to include and (vulnerably) rely on the entirety of the globe. Now, on that we agree. We also agree that at that point there still are not any characteristic mental differences (I am not saying that there are). Where we disagree is where this shift implies a huge and fault-changing shift in the human being and human identity (how he views himself).
My point here, in regards again to bodies, scale, limits and locatoin, is that the shift from ancient to modern involved one that fundamentally dwarfed and made irrelevant the human body, which was previously so central to man's understanding of who and how he was in the world. The modern body is dwarfed and made irrelevant (relatively) precisly because of the "explosion" that occured as the defining moment of the start of modernity. The human body has no "real" rational relationship to the globe, and yet the globe sets the field of play, defines the location and/or deliniates the limits of modern life.
This, then, for a psycho-somatic being, is a HUGE shift - involving specialization and complexity - but not necessarily one of some sudden burst in "progress." As I hinted earlier, I think that the modern world was one of growing specializaton and complexity - by co-incidence with the fact that the modern world IS the whole globe, rater than being Athens, Sparta, Vienna or Venice.
In other words, I totally agree with you when you say: "If anything, we have a weaker mastery over our immediate environment as is demonstrated every time there is a 'brown out.' If there was an extended brown-out we might have to start using our brains to be creative again." This relates to what I was saying in your most recent post about the difference between a Davidic ruler and a CEO who simply learns the rules by which he is to play. But I think you are viewing the CEO style of leadership as condusive to a certain kind of blessing, namely "that each individual can become specialized in a profession and with the abundance of prosperity pay for goods and services that people living 200 years ago had to do for themselves." My point is that I'm aware of that blessing, and agree that it is a blessing (obviously); but I think it comes with a curse as well for a psycho-somatic such as ourselves.
I think that might serve as a summary of where we agree and disagree on that, no? Although I actually question whether we even disagree at all, to be honest, because of your quoting of Aquninas: "“Therefore sense, which is a power of the body, knows the singular, which is determinate through matter: whereas the intellect, which is a power independent of matter, knows the universal, which is abstracted from matter, and contains an infinite number of singulars."
More specific to something you actually said that causes me to question whether we even disagree at all, was where you wrote: "I think I see what you are saying here that modern 'real time' technology gives men access to information that only God or the angels possessed in the ancient era. This is without a doubt true."
And while we are on the topic of our agreement, your very next sentence was: "I would add that man’s inherent relationship between that information and himself has not changed." I think I would agree with you here, at least in the way that you mean it.
I guess maybe your phrase was more correct. I guess we have "very different approach[es] [to] the topic," rather than simply disagreeing. I guess where we disagree is where our differnet approaches lead to different opinions about connected issues, such as systematic theology. Even that, though, I suppose shouldn't really be termed a disagreement, as much as a difference in approach. It can sound like we disagree, but I don't think either of us are disputing any facts (correct me if I'm wrong there).
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