Home > anthropology, consciousness, philosophy, society > On The Pomposity of Science, Religion, and Philosophy

On The Pomposity of Science, Religion, and Philosophy

I have called science a ‘performance enhancing philosophy’, and like philosophy, it is biased against subjectivity from the start in that all formal writing is publicly directed. When we are doing science or philosophy, we are automatically put into the perspective of being a generic ‘one’ who says this or demonstrates that. The vocabulary and cadence implicitly evoke a style which would be equally well suited for a Classical Greek oration as a 17th century treatise. In all cases, the author is conscious of themselves as a person according to society’s most official protocols. They write as a potentially esteemed public person appealing to other esteemed public persons, and invite them to consider propositions and conclusions which can be esteemed publicly.

This may not be doing us any favors when it comes to considering consciousness itself. With our intimate personal contents neatly tucked away behind dramatic flourishes of prose and persuasion, our impressionable minds soon forget that we could be anything else but fine upstanding members of the human zoo. We speak as if we were one-of-many rather than a unique and unrepeatable image of eternity.

The interior view, which was so much more prominent when we were just waking up this morning, and which we can barely remember surrounded us as young children, now becomes completely transparent to the protocols and politics of the public view. To do philosophy or science, we need not even objectify subjectivity any further than it already has been, because we are already standing three yards behind the toy model of ourselves which has been dressed up for the occasion in a robe, toga, or lab-coat. Suddenly the product of insight and reason alone is not enough to survive the marketplace of ideas. It must be groomed and packaged and toilet trained out of its native poetry in order to fit in with the customers expectations. In a way, philosophy seems to compensate for its inability to get out of its own way in considering subjectivity fairly by taking itself too seriously. We wear the disguise of formalism that keeps us pointing to a picture of a mirror rather than taking a look at our own reflection.

While religion differs from both philosophy and science in that it projects a subjective significance onto the public world, both philosophy and science owe their serious demeanor to religion. Ritual and ceremony are public interactions in which the event is made to signify itself – to represent self-consciousness socially as a performance of particulars.

The aesthetics of temples and cathedrals are monumentally pompous, as are those of elite universities, and for good reason:

pomp (n.)     c.1300, from Old French pompe “pomp, magnificence” (13c.) and directly from Latin pompa “procession, pomp,” from Greek pompe “solemn procession, display,” literally “a sending,” from pempein “to send.” In Church Latin, used in deprecatory sense for “worldly display, vain show.”

The paradox of religion is that in order to send the message of spiritual other-worldliness into the world, it succeeds in direct proportion to its hypocrisy. The more magnificent its public image, the more popular the religion tends to be, and the more quiet contemplation of private depths becomes a choreographed sporting event tied to military conquest and political control.

Can this state of affairs be improved, even on this internet where time and worldliness are switched on or off at will, or is the public perspective perpetually predisposed to pomposity?

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  1. October 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    What you convey always hits home with me, in my own way I suppose. I realized after blogging for about a year that everything I was conveying was only for me. It was just me talking to myself and trying to evolve my own perspective. I almost stopped blogging because I realized that it was my choice to listen to what I had to say to myself and that it doesn’t necessarily apply to others, but I did not really want to stop so I just took it for what it was and continued on without the intention of reaching others but just leaving it open in case others found it beneficial to their lives.
    I think there will never be a train for masses of people to board to find what was inside them all along. With the pomposity, righteousness, and esteem of these branded schools of thought and belief the goal is completely nullified and the ego is completely satisfied. Awesome post as usual my friend!

    • October 8, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      Thanks Travis! Yeah, I seem to be in a mode where I feel like I’m wearing out my welcome even with the few who have liked my stuff. If I wanted to do anything else, I would definitely be thinking of doing it about now, but it’s good to know that a couple of people out there get something out of it. If nothing else, it’s nice to have a semi-searchable database of all of the things I have thought about. I agree, there is not likely to be a mass illumination any time soon, and sometimes I wonder if the universe is trying to give me a hint to that effect. Historically it seems like everyone who really had a feel for this kind of thing stuck to slipping cryptic hints into art and stories. Is it time to learn how to mix truthy fiction with intentional fiction and sell it as entertainment, or is there some value in spewing naked subversion to spook the herd?

      • October 9, 2013 at 12:02 am

        Funny you mention the cryptic hints into art and stories… I think the art of storytelling is the most effective way to reach deep into the perspectives of people. Since you brought that up… I am working on a story just for that. I have been doing animation, VFX, and video production freelance for the past 12 years and I am sick of working on superficial crap for lame clients. I have recently decided to invest in another business that will free up my video/animation tools for my own project. Do you have any experience or interest in creating something? Just throwing it out there due to potential synchronicity. I have a concept that just might be perfect but it still needs all the meat and potatoes.

      • October 9, 2013 at 2:13 am

        Yes, I definitely have interest and sort of have experience too. I have a lot of visual ideas that come up but haven’t been able to synch them up with a good way of expressing them. Email me if you like if you feel like getting into it. multisenserealism@gmail.com

  2. October 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    (copying from Facebook)

    SK: ” Hmm… I learned some of the best science in the grungiest of settings and it was the *ideas* that felt like cathedrals… The origin of the thinker, his or her background, or setting of the discovery are of no ultimate consequence to a theory’s final acceptance. But thinkers do need to be able to communicate their thoughts in an agreed upon way in order to have their work confirmed and implemented… For the hard sciences, this language is math. For empirical sciences we use statistics. Science is deeply social in this sense, very much about sharing and having others confirm our ideas. In non-scientific fields, people can make whatever claims and statements they want. From the humanities to astrology – it’s all good. When you step into the octagon with science however, you are constrained to making only *necessary* statements. I recently argued with someone about “water memory”. Read everything on the web I could find about it. I concluded that while there might some kind of effect going on, the promoters of these theories were not “doing science” and I was unable to make sense of their experiments and methods. I don’t feel that I was being harsh or judgmental in rejecting the theory, only that the discussion was not concerned with the *inclusive* nature of science. Scientists are very eager to communicate with others generally. The idea of walling one’s self off, using obscure methods, and publishing cryptic theories is rejected not because of a hatred of subjectivity or creativity, but because it is at it’s root, a kind of anti-social act. “Show your work…””

    Multisenserealism: ” I don’t have a problem with having a particular criteria to distinguish ‘science’ from ‘non-science’, except when it relates to the particular issues of subjectivity. It’s not because subjectivity should be treated with some special respect because it’s ‘us’, but because if we conflate science with objectivity and then approach subjectivity as an object, then I think that we contaminate the data before we even know that we are looking at it.

    What we are running into now seems like a combination of a justified reaction against scientifically illiterate assertions and a legitimate bigotry against all ideas and approaches which challenge fundamental assumptions. I have seen the water memory stuff (there’s a lot of weird water stuff actually) and been similarly confused at why it’s supposed to be compelling. Even so, I think the best defense of science is to publish experiments or even perform informal demonstrations of why we should question wacky ideas, rather than just labeling them pseudoscience. In the case of consciousness, the effect of that labeling is doubly harmful because the result seems to be that the phenomenon of awareness itself is deemed pseudoscientific except for the particular aspects of which have been convenient to measure.

    That’s a great line about the ideas feeling like cathedrals, and it points to the other side of the issue that I hadn’t thought of – the connection between grittiness and authenticity. It’s really only the institutionalization of science, religion, and philosophy that I think are toxic to understanding subjectivity. Prior to political assimilation, where inquiry is grounded in personal curiosity and insight, there need not be any limit to what science can access.”

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