'Verifiable Knowledge' and 'The Sphere Of The Secular'

A place to bring a contemplative / Dharmic perspective and opinions to current events and politics.
Post Reply
User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

'Verifiable Knowledge' and 'The Sphere Of The Secular'

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:56 pm

[ Split from Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History ]
mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:24 pm
Hi Kim,
Kim OHara wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2017 12:02 pm
...
I like the article you started the thread with, more than the one Paul contributed. The latter makes some interesting suggestions, particularly towards the end, but they don't seem to me to be applicable only to Indonesia, or to Islamic societies. E.g.
According to Donald, theoretic cognition led to the post-axial, secular age of the modern world. In the post-axial age of theoretic cognition, the primary dichotomy is no longer between sacred and profane (pre-axial), transcendent and mundane (axial), but rather between the religious and the secular (post-axial) (cf, Bellah and Joas, eds, 2012). At least in the West, science, verifiable knowledge, public discourse, the marketplace and government all take place in the sphere of the secular, whereas religious beliefs and ethical practices are in the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices.
That's a change which is still working its way through Australian society, for better and for worse.
Would you care to expand on that? Do you mean that in societies like Australia/NZ, etc, there is no shared religious experience across the society?

:heart:
Mike
I think that's true, Mike, but it isn't what I meant.
What I was getting at is that "science, verifiable knowledge, public discourse, the marketplace and government" don't yet "all take place in the sphere of the secular." We still have political leaders publicly justifying (I think that word should be in scare quotes) their positions by appeal to religious truths (that one, too). People like Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott come to mind in Australia, Ryan and Cruz in the US ... I don't know who you may be afflicted by in NZ.
I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular' but we're not there yet. (I have good company in my hoping, btw - HHDL's Beyond Religion https://books.google.com.au/books/about ... edir_esc=y argues for it.)
When we get there, 'religious beliefs and ethical practices' will be 'in the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices,' and I think that in an age of free communication and migration between cultures they have got to be.

What we're losing, sadly, as this happens is a shared moral framework. I think we need one, and it has got to be better than the default consumerist 'philosophy' we seem to be working from at the moment.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3296
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:06 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:56 pm

I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular' but we're not there yet. (I have good company in my hoping, btw - HHDL's Beyond Religion https://books.google.com.au/books/about ... edir_esc=y argues for it.)
When we get there, 'religious beliefs and ethical practices' will be 'in the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices,' and I think that in an age of free communication and migration between cultures they have got to be.

What we're losing, sadly, as this happens is a shared moral framework. I think we need one, and it has got to be better than the default consumerist 'philosophy' we seem to be working from at the moment.
I might have misunderstood you, but isn't there a contradiction between these two paragraphs? If ethical practices become part of "the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices" then isn't the shared moral framework necessarily lost? What moral framework could there be that is consistent with ethics being a private matter?

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:45 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:06 am
Kim OHara wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:56 pm

I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular' but we're not there yet. (I have good company in my hoping, btw - HHDL's Beyond Religion https://books.google.com.au/books/about ... edir_esc=y argues for it.)
When we get there, 'religious beliefs and ethical practices' will be 'in the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices,' and I think that in an age of free communication and migration between cultures they have got to be.

What we're losing, sadly, as this happens is a shared moral framework. I think we need one, and it has got to be better than the default consumerist 'philosophy' we seem to be working from at the moment.
I might have misunderstood you, but isn't there a contradiction between these two paragraphs? If ethical practices become part of "the sphere of individual, private beliefs and practices" then isn't the shared moral framework necessarily lost? What moral framework could there be that is consistent with ethics being a private matter?
There's a gap rather than a contradiction.
What we had was a shared moral framework built on a religion - a single religion, which is how it could be 'shared'.
We've lost the 'single' religion as we've moved to pluralistic societies with multiple religions and a substantial non-religious fraction, so we've lost the 'shared'.
The 'single' religion is never coming back, so I think the only way we will regain a 'shared' ethical framework is if we separate its justification from religion. As I said, "I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular'." If that discourse can include ethical aspects (something akin to Rational Humanism seems likeliest) then we can have a shared ethical framework which is consistent (mostly!) with private religious beliefs and practices.
Unfortunately, I can't see any signs that such a thing is emerging. Instead, we're being force-fed consumerism. And consumerism is not just vacuous, it's inconsistent with our long-term survival: look at the sources of our pollution problems, our resource shortages, etc. :toilet:

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:52 am

P.S. this seems relevant, too ...
screens2.jpg
screens2.jpg (50.07 KiB) Viewed 396 times
:namaste:
Kim

chownah
Posts: 7265
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by chownah » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:12 am

Not from the novel, from a 2017 theatrical adaptation of the novel; not orwell it seems.
https://www.snopes.com/orwell-1984-smartphone-screens/
chownah

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:55 am

chownah wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:12 am
Not from the novel, from a 2017 theatrical adaptation of the novel; not orwell it seems.
https://www.snopes.com/orwell-1984-smartphone-screens/
chownah
:thanks:

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3296
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:14 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:45 am
There's a gap rather than a contradiction.
What we had was a shared moral framework built on a religion - a single religion, which is how it could be 'shared'.
We've lost the 'single' religion as we've moved to pluralistic societies with multiple religions and a substantial non-religious fraction, so we've lost the 'shared'.
The 'single' religion is never coming back, so I think the only way we will regain a 'shared' ethical framework is if we separate its justification from religion. As I said, "I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular'." If that discourse can include ethical aspects (something akin to Rational Humanism seems likeliest) then we can have a shared ethical framework which is consistent (mostly!) with private religious beliefs and practices.
Unfortunately, I can't see any signs that such a thing is emerging. Instead, we're being force-fed consumerism. And consumerism is not just vacuous, it's inconsistent with our long-term survival: look at the sources of our pollution problems, our resource shortages, etc. :toilet:

:namaste:
Kim
Ah, I see. I share your pessimism about consumerism, but I'm also more pessimistic about shared ethical discourse. Unless it were grounded upon something more transcendent than Humanism, there would I think be no possibility of it succeeding.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:48 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:14 am
Kim OHara wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:45 am
There's a gap rather than a contradiction.
What we had was a shared moral framework built on a religion - a single religion, which is how it could be 'shared'.
We've lost the 'single' religion as we've moved to pluralistic societies with multiple religions and a substantial non-religious fraction, so we've lost the 'shared'.
The 'single' religion is never coming back, so I think the only way we will regain a 'shared' ethical framework is if we separate its justification from religion. As I said, "I think (and hope) we are all moving towards a public discourse based firmly in the 'verifiable knowledge' and 'the sphere of the secular'." If that discourse can include ethical aspects (something akin to Rational Humanism seems likeliest) then we can have a shared ethical framework which is consistent (mostly!) with private religious beliefs and practices.
Unfortunately, I can't see any signs that such a thing is emerging. Instead, we're being force-fed consumerism. And consumerism is not just vacuous, it's inconsistent with our long-term survival: look at the sources of our pollution problems, our resource shortages, etc. :toilet:

:namaste:
Kim
Ah, I see. I share your pessimism about consumerism, but I'm also more pessimistic about shared ethical discourse. Unless it were grounded upon something more transcendent than Humanism, there would I think be no possibility of it succeeding.
But "transcendent" more or less equals "religious" and I've already argued that any unifying religious has become impossible.
If we could settle for "inspiring" rather than "transcendent", we may find a way towards an ethical framework based on rational principles.
:thinking:
One which occurs to me is partial but already visibly emerging: the "care for our world" principle. It's rational in that if we don't do it, we will live (or die) in a toxic environment; it's inspirational in holding up a vision of natural beauty as our aim.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3296
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:00 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:48 pm

But "transcendent" more or less equals "religious" and I've already argued that any unifying religious has become impossible.
If we could settle for "inspiring" rather than "transcendent", we may find a way towards an ethical framework based on rational principles.
:thinking:
One which occurs to me is partial but already visibly emerging: the "care for our world" principle. It's rational in that if we don't do it, we will live (or die) in a toxic environment; it's inspirational in holding up a vision of natural beauty as our aim.

:namaste:
Kim
Yes, that's certainly one possibility. It doesn't even need to be inspiring. It could be merely rational - in the Kantian sense of being merely what is required to be the basis for a binding form of world government. Or, heaven help us, it could even be based on fear. My concern with it not being transcendent is that one merely needs to withdraw assent from the general principles, or to cease to believe in them, and they cease to be binding.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:09 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:00 pm
Kim OHara wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:48 pm

But "transcendent" more or less equals "religious" and I've already argued that any unifying religious has become impossible.
If we could settle for "inspiring" rather than "transcendent", we may find a way towards an ethical framework based on rational principles.
:thinking:
One which occurs to me is partial but already visibly emerging: the "care for our world" principle. It's rational in that if we don't do it, we will live (or die) in a toxic environment; it's inspirational in holding up a vision of natural beauty as our aim.

:namaste:
Kim
Yes, that's certainly one possibility. It doesn't even need to be inspiring. It could be merely rational - in the Kantian sense of being merely what is required to be the basis for a binding form of world government. Or, heaven help us, it could even be based on fear. My concern with it not being transcendent is that one merely needs to withdraw assent from the general principles, or to cease to believe in them, and they cease to be binding.
But the beauty of grounding ethical behaviour in rational discourse is that no-one can 'withdraw assent' from it and retain any real credibility. It becomes a matter of understanding, not a matter of belief, and any differences can (in theory, at least) be resolved by rational debate - which is the only possible source of public truth in a post-religious world.
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, we are (finally!) seeing this in regards to climate change and we are beginning to see the first stirrings of rational support for social justice amongst sociologists and (even more pleasingly) economists.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3296
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:26 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:09 am

But the beauty of grounding ethical behaviour in rational discourse is that no-one can 'withdraw assent' from it and retain any real credibility.
Yes, but they don't need credibility. For a person who rejects rational discourse - for whatever reason - the opinions of others are not important. They will have to be "forced to be free". My concern is that the "understanding" which replaces "belief" requires belief in its epistemic superiority.

With regard to the environment, though, I would accept almost any set of beliefs, or myths, or use of force which keeps us safe.

I'm conscious that this is something I have feelings about, but my thoughts struggle to catch up!

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4840
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Nov 29, 2017 1:13 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:26 am
Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:09 am

But the beauty of grounding ethical behaviour in rational discourse is that no-one can 'withdraw assent' from it and retain any real credibility.
Yes, but they don't need credibility. For a person who rejects rational discourse - for whatever reason - the opinions of others are not important. They will have to be "forced to be free".
That will happen. :guns:
:smile:
Seriously, though, it does happen all the time and is why we have made the progress with climate change (to use the same example) which we have made.
My concern is that the "understanding" which replaces "belief" requires belief in its epistemic superiority.

With regard to the environment, though, I would accept almost any set of beliefs, or myths, or use of force which keeps us safe.

I'm conscious that this is something I have feelings about, but my thoughts struggle to catch up!
:thumbsup:
You're not alone there. It's something I have been thinking about for a while: we need to connect knowledge with emotions because emotions drive actions and we need the actions. How to do it? That's something I'm still working on. :thinking:

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 3296
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:08 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 1:13 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:26 am
Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:09 am

But the beauty of grounding ethical behaviour in rational discourse is that no-one can 'withdraw assent' from it and retain any real credibility.
Yes, but they don't need credibility. For a person who rejects rational discourse - for whatever reason - the opinions of others are not important. They will have to be "forced to be free".
That will happen. :guns:
:smile:
Seriously, though, it does happen all the time and is why we have made the progress with climate change (to use the same example) which we have made.
My concern is that the "understanding" which replaces "belief" requires belief in its epistemic superiority.

With regard to the environment, though, I would accept almost any set of beliefs, or myths, or use of force which keeps us safe.

I'm conscious that this is something I have feelings about, but my thoughts struggle to catch up!
:thumbsup:
You're not alone there. It's something I have been thinking about for a while: we need to connect knowledge with emotions because emotions drive actions and we need the actions. How to do it? That's something I'm still working on. :thinking:

:namaste:
Kim
Hi Kim,

Some random thoughts on this. More random even than my usual offerings - I did say that my thoughts are struggling here!

1) I'm not sure that the welcome developments regarding the environment are the result of rational understanding. Many people (on all sides of this multi-faceted debate) seem to be merely following a set of slogans and feelings because they are trendy, or suit their lifestyle or current interests. That's not to dismiss any of them; as I said earlier, I'm happy for environmental protection and the welfare of the planet to be brought about by almost any means. But so much is taken on faith. You are very much a local expert on this, but when I try to dig a little deeper into the science, I run into the sands of competing theories and my own lack of knowledge and evaluative skills. No problem there - I'm a bear of little brain, and need looking after! - but I see many people on the internet sounding off about topics they clearly know little about, and talking as if they have worked it all out for themselves instead of taking it on faith from people they just happen to trust. That's one reason why I'm a bit sceptical about the role of secular, rational "evidence". It might be that for most people (your good self and any number of others excepted, of course!) they are still in thrall to the priesthood, but the priests happen to be scientists now.

2) It might be the case that some truths about the world are settled by the presentation of publically verifiable evidence. And, hopefully, those truths tending towards our species-survival will prevail. The emotions that motivate this process might very well be fear (i.e. if we carry on in certain ways we will destroy the planet). But in terms of ethics, there is so much that secular scientific evidence cannot settle. Despite what Sam Harris and others think, I don't see any sign of difficult problems of duty and morality being decided by rational scientific debate. The value of human consciousness compared to others species, for example. Abortion and euthanasia. War or violence against those who will not be bound by maxims drawn from what we consider to be incontrovertible evidence. The relative value of life and consciousness. Truth versus expedient myth. Pleasure versus duty. Hence my original point to you. It might be that these issues remain purely subjective, or at best inter-subjective issues within communities of believers; and that publically verifiable discourse about facts remains limited to a much smaller sphere of the environment and mutual survival. I don't see much sign of the traditional topics of dispute being settled by science.

binocular
Posts: 5077
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Post by binocular » Wed Nov 29, 2017 2:40 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:26 am
Yes, but they don't need credibility. For a person who rejects rational discourse - for whatever reason - the opinions of others are not important. They will have to be "forced to be free". My concern is that the "understanding" which replaces "belief" requires belief in its epistemic superiority.
Which is yet another belief, a characteristically dogmatic one.

And rationality isn't a solution either; just like there has been a tradition of people fighting over who has the right doctrine about God, so people fight over who has the right understanding of rationality, each party believing to have the monopoly on setting the standards of rationality. So it still comes down to an appeal to power.

- - -
Kim OHara wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:09 am
But "transcendent" more or less equals "religious" and I've already argued that any unifying religious has become impossible.
It's not clear whether there ever existed any _unifying_ religion.
As far as I know, there have been dominant religions, among weaker ones. Dominant religions can have a unifying effect or function: they disempower and eliminate others. A new dominant religion certainly seems possible.
One which occurs to me is partial but already visibly emerging: the "care for our world" principle. It's rational in that if we don't do it, we will live (or die) in a toxic environment; it's inspirational in holding up a vision of natural beauty as our aim.
The only problem is that holding up that vision of natural beauty requires such technology and infrastructure that destroys this beauty.
But the beauty of grounding ethical behaviour in rational discourse is that no-one can 'withdraw assent' from it and retain any real credibility.
Credibility in whose eyes?
For example, most people probably don't care whether they appear credible in your eyes.
It becomes a matter of understanding, not a matter of belief, and any differences can (in theory, at least) be resolved by rational debate - which is the only possible source of public truth in a post-religious world.
In debate??
There can be no rational debate. There can be rational discussion, but not rational debate. Rational discussion requires equality of power between participants; and that equality is not only not a given, but very difficult to obtain.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests