Monday, February 10, 2014

reason as accursed

Benjamin Cain says reason is accursed. The formulation I'd been using in my head was something like "intellectual 'progress' is a story about dreary narratives beating the hell out of less dreary ones."

Every narrative appeals to self-interest somehow or no one would believe it. (I'm using the term as it relates to claims meant to be about the way things actually are, Platonic forms, Kant's noumena, as opposed to fictional worlds.) If you ask "what's in it for the person who believes it?," you can always find something in there and this something is the best answer to the question "why do people believe it?" Reason finds the reason you believe it, and it's not what you thought, and this kills the narrative. If everything is narrative, reason kills everything. Well, but not all narrative need be truth claims so you've still got art and whatever truth claims you haven't let reason attack. Art is possibly off limits, if you can talk yourself into that, because you can't take truth away from it. It wasn't even claiming that so it has nothing to lose.

All narratives are selfish. Progressivism offers a shiny future where the unpleasantness of past and present are airbrushed out, conservatism offers a shiny future that will return the believer to a past that never happened. Alex Jones offers a group of evil masterminds plotting to destroy you just because they want to (the easiest villain type to hate), us against them unity (read: tribalism), hope, non-complicity. Chomsky types offer the tribalist good feelings of class war, at least a little hope, and with only a dash of complicity. Even antinatalism, the philosophy that life is a cycle of suffering and that therefore you shouldn't bring new life into the world gives the antinatalist the satisfaction of feeling ethically right. Further still, the position that we're suffering driftwood and should accept our fate makes accepting one's driftwoodiness the right thing to do and the satisfaction that comes with that acceptance selfish.

Reason offers an ultimatum. Either selfishness (perhaps a re-branded version) is good somehow or...kill yourself (or at least don't have kids). Reason always offers ultimatums whether you're explicitly talking about "selfishness" or not. You're just an animal, you're just a bunch of molecules (those being dead, valueless things), you're just this and that thing you had gotten high on not being. Reason is an abusive (expletive) that feeds on foiling expectations.

Narrative can't kill itself because it is narrative. Narrative is selfish, anti-narrative is narrative, and selfish. There is no anti-narrative that can engage with narrative without being swept up by it. I recently commented somewhere: "Saying people should stop complaining and be more positive is itself complaint. Stop being so negative, anti-complaint complainers!" Someone said maybe they're just giving advice. I said "advice to  NOT complain, i.e., anti-complaint. You're just shifting the subject to that murky area called intentions, where complaints + good intentions = advice, which is good." Once you complain about complainers, you've lost. This also reminds me of atheists claiming that their belief in no God is a non-belief. No, you engaged. Now you revolve around it.

Reason is anti-"narrative about the way things are." It's a reaction and feeds off the narrative it claims to oppose. It rightly reveals that no one knows what "the way things are" is, which effectively means that there is no "way things are." One way around it is to stop believing that there is a way things are. Which there is not. But it's still hard to do because we're rigged to think there is.

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