Friday, May 23, 2014

The five Dimensions I - Socioeconomic status and dominant reason

Those familiar with my ongoing dissertation (yep Carmen, that's essentially you :-)) know that I'm defining what I call the dominant reason of an era along five dimensions, each influenced by a parallel dimension adequate for describing the socioeconomic reality of the time. The concept of dominant reason is a neccessarily blurry one, as in any moderately sophisticated societies there are always many competing opinions vying for domination along any of the proposed dimensions, and the judgement of which one of those is predominant at any given moment is wont to be a matter of appreciation, influenced both by personal preference (which unavoidably biases us towarsd those positions we identify more with) and by the contemporary sources we have been more or less randomly exposed to (which are also just a fraction, the longer we go back in time the smaller, of all the journals, books, pamphlets, diaries, newspapers, reviews, periodicals, academic papers and the myriad of publications that in any civilization reflect the different positions with which the opinion leaders advance their cause).

That does not mean that the concept of dominant reason is useless (at a minimum, it helps us put in perspective the thought of each inhabitant of the civilization we are concerned with) or that we can define it pretty much as we wish, as with every historical analysis, tings can be teased out at the borders, as we may say, but through competent scholarship we should be able to reach a broadly agreed understanding on how things were. New materials can cause minor adjustments to our ideas, but that doesn't invalidate them, and the more information they draw on the more accurate they will be (in their core, as opposed to the borders mentioned before, which will always be more subject to review). The main motive I have to characterize that particular construct (the dominant reason of an era) along the five dimensions I have identified is to increase our awareness of its contingent nature. We (humans in general) tend to think that the way we reason is the only possible way, and that the conclusions we reach (about the ultimate nature of reality, the likelihood of a person as foundation of such ultimate nature, our own role in the grand scheme of things and to what extent that role is to be voluntaryly determined) are the only conclusions a well informed and intelligent being could reach.

By identifying the ways in which such modes of reasoning are dependant of socioeconomic variables which evolve independently of our desires, and even of ourselves being conscious of their evolution I hope to clarify and refine (or may be make more independent) the validity of the conclusions, through a critique which reveals its contingency and essentially historical nature (which means much of its prima facie plausibility is derived from its attunement with the way the society they are born in is organized to produce and exchange goods). It is important to set that critique aside from any position regarding the centuries old debate between cognitivism and relativism (in ethics) or between skepticism and again realism (this time in epistemology). I happen to be a cognitivist and a realist, so I do think there is a way things "really" are regarding that ultimate nature of reality, the possible existence of a God, our ability to "truly" act as free agents and the good or bad character of our actions, so this critique is not intended as a means to undermine our belief in each of those areas (as the revelation of the historical character of the traditional positions in each, through the different eras, is traditionally used). Rather, I intend to use the Critique as a means to reconduct the public debate (as my own contribution to the dominant opinion of the next age) towards positions I consider closer to the ttruth, as I consider the evolution of Western society in the last Century to have skewed that dominant opinion in mostly wrong directions.

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