Society

Beyond Modernity: Thoughts We Might Consider

If we thought together, what would we want for a world civilization?

Right now it seems we are being driven into a world civilization pell mell by the vast engine of late-capitalist successes. This engine already links much of the globe, bringing higher standards of living, jobs for most, even in today's tough times. It also results in a web of corruption and inequality spanning the globe.

If we, together, envisioned something else: What? And how might we get there?

Max Weber, said that with Newton we became disenchanted and entered modernity. He was right. I think many of us sense that we are at some transition point, but do not know "transition to what"? I suspect that we are, inarticulately, lost in modernity and must find our way beyond it.

Then perhaps we need to be re-enchanted.

I believe there is a path to re-enchantment, for the evolution of the biosphere and human life is beyond Newton's explanatory framework in science of laws of motion, initial and boundary conditions and deduced, so entailed, trajectories of, say, billiard balls on a billiard table. The increasing grounds for this hope is elaborated on in two of my books, Investigations and Reinventing the Sacred, and in an ArXiv posted article by mathematicians Giuseppe Longo, Mael Montevil and myself, entitled, "No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere." If we are right, this is "The End Of A Physics Worldview: Heraclitus And The Watershed of Life."

The living world is not what we have thought. It is beyond Newtonian entailing law, its becoming is not fully knowable beforehand and, to borrow from Heraclitus, life bubbles forth.

In this bubbling forth beyond Newton lies a chance for the "Re-Enchantment Of Humanity." Part of this re-enchantment lies in a natural magic. In the evolution of the biosphere, with no selection achieving it, the biosphere literally creates its own future possibilities of becoming. So too does the evolution of the econosphere and human culture.

The invention of the Turing machine enabled the main frame computer, enabled the personal computer, enabled word processing, enabled the WEB, enabled selling on the Web, enabled Google, then Facebook and the Arab Spring. No one could have prestated this evolution. We live in an enabling magic that we cannot prestate.

We live in an enabling magic that we co-create. How should we live with this magic?

A few posts ago, "Living The Well Discovered Life," I tried to build on Aristotle and the great American Transcendentalists and Pragmatists, Emerson, Thoreau, Pierce James and Dewey. Emersonian "perfectionism" envisioned "Living The Well Considered Life," in which one assesses one's virtues, or strengths, and builds upon them. Yet, this feels too static, as if one knew from the outset one's virtues in a knowable world. But this vision from the last two centuries is deeply inadequate.

Often, not only do we not know what will happen, we do not even know what can happen. Then reason, the highest human virtue of our Enlightenment, is an insufficient guide for living our lives forward, as Kirkegard said, into mystery. We need reason, emotion, intuition, sensation, metaphor spanning what we cannot yet say. We need all we've evolved with.

Living the well discovered life, only partially knowing, discovering as we go, points toward what we might want of a global civilization. Let our civilizations touch one another gently enough to leave the roots of each intact, but firmly enough to engender ever new and unexpected cultural and economic forms by which the diversity of well discovered lives can flourish in bursting creativity.

That civilization must recognize that our sprawling economic system, with all its virtues and vices, lives within society and society lives within the biosphere. At some stage, we must forego our dream, born of the Bronze Age Bible in the Abrahamic tradition, in which God creates All and sets humanity in dominion over all of creation to use as humanity will. Forever GDP growth is today's expression of this early Bronze Age dream.

We are millennia beyond the early Bronze Age, on a crowded planet we despoil. At some soon point we must evolve to zero GDP growth with respect to using planetary resources, at sufficient wealth, well distributed, to be "enough" in a thriving global economy enlivened by thriving global cultures.

To transform beyond modernity, we must evolve, including the power structure of our capitalist world. No one gives up power willingly. Unless? Unless: i. By necessity on a finite planet. ii. A new and commanding vision is wrought of what we can become, what magic we can co-create, altering our ethical view of our lives and what form of civilization might best serve our humanity.

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