Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The constellations of philosophy?


The patterns of every socio-economic organization in history and the powers that maintain them are supported by a tacit ontology (myth/theory of what reality is) that underpins public discourse and the social narrative. This ontology serves to legitimate the social order in the same way as the ancient belief in the "divine right of kings" or "mandate of heaven". (Another metaphor that may work in place of the divine right of kings might be heavenly/stellar constellations. Ancient rites seem to have connected them.)

Philosophers are by trade apologists for or critics of the divine right of kings (i.e., the ontology that underpins the social narrative). It is changes in technology that occasion changes in the social narrative (and only indirectly philosophy) because technological change gives rise to the need for changes in the patterns of economic and thus social organization, which then calls forth a new narrative. Philosophers gain a following when they contribute to a sustaining narrative, or to one held onto by soon-to-be eclipsed powers (there's usually a lag...).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds...

I have seen talks about social media by people with expertise who objected to the "everyone's an expert" phenomenon. The issue that concerns me, though, is not so much that some opinionated bloggers :D can claim more of a following than people who know what they're talking about but it's about the nature of influence and the apparent malleability of public opinion.

People's cultural beliefs are generally, well, cultural, historical, inherited and then mussed around by messages that support the economy (the economy is how we are organized and then interact to get what we need from nature.) We know why we need a public broadcaster in a world where messages are dominated by the power-houses of the economy. What's to stop the same people who created so-called "populist" sound-byte news from dominating the social media web-o-sphere and having an even greater influence on public opinion?

Charles Taylor decried the emphasis on the economic machine as a cultural ideal in an article entitled "The Agony of Economic Man" (1971). More generally, and very much related, are the warnings of thinkers like Maslow and Gadamer about our conflation of means with ends in an increasingly instrumentalist society.

Our real social ideals have become seen as "merely" subjective values. A sizable majority of people seem generally keen on aligning themselves with whatever version of "the divine right of kings" plays out in public discourse. Far from being either populist or grass roots wisdom, where each person contributes his or her own carefully thought-out view to the common good, what seems to be the case is that, as Matthew Taylor says in his RSAnimate talk, 21st Century Enlightenment (also posted below), people pursue "simplistic and inadequate ideas of freedom, justice and progress." They're simplistic, IMO, because they're not framed as cultural ideals, but as ideological supports for the "economy", i.e., as supports for the instrumental requirements of the economic power-houses.

With public opinion as the opinion of the electorate/tax payers, whose side do the politicians need to be on when public opinion is so readily influenced?

What is the role of the new media government communications person or policy analyst when this question needs to be taken in to account?

(I'd recommend the article by David Blacker, linked on the side, if you're up for a bit of a think.)

These are all difficult questions.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The State of Ontological Systems and Systems Ontology

Google comes up with 0 hits for ["philosophy of science" "ontology of state-space"]. So I searched ontology of systems (since state space is the mathematical classification of systems), and it seems that the ontology of systems IS the state space. That is utter circularity. That is the perverse effects of metrics at the heart of human cognition. Taxonomy does not equal reality. Our habits are deeply wired.