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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Constrained View and Communication

Hot on the tail of the previous post: Bottom points out that up until The post-WWI period in America, there was a relationship between religion, politics, and economics as spheres of cultural life that provided the common language be means of which all could make sense of and appreciate rival points of view: denominational pluralism, commercial capitalism, and republican federalism. The picture focuses on these as they are in themselves but also jointly as a common culture. See the previous posted article.

As one looks at these components, it's clear that separately they each apply what Thomas Sowell called "The Constrained View" as opposed to "The Unconstrained View". So it's very plausible that the Constrained View is the jointly held perspective that holds it all together and provides the common presupposition to the language. Thus, the abstract idea [constrained/unconstrained] is the key to understanding.

Capitalism is rational given the constrained view given man's irrevocable selfishness. Socialism is rational given the unconstrained view since with direction human economy is capable of greater perfection. Similarly, republicanism is rational given the constrained view by instituting obstacles of review to curb the self-deceit of government. Statism is rational under the unconstrained view since there is nothing that needs an obstacle to check. Similarly, Protestantism is characterized by it's belief in the ubiquity of sin in human nature. Further, the need to allow a plurality of denominations allowed for checks and balances between them. This is the constrained view. Modernism was characterized by a therapeutic perfectionistic deism with a similar structure of competent elitism.

To the constrained view, humans are universally characterized as having weakness of will, always preferring the bird in the hand to the two in the bush, in spite of what of what the expected utilities are. It would be difficult to imagine how expected utility calculation would have evolved and how man would have survived this long if not conscience evolved along with it to impose painful penalties over time as the immediate price of doing what experience has taught as inexpedient, thus making moral formation possible. Even then, the goodness thus achieved is fragile as conscience can become numb. Fragility is also a feature of the measures humans take (religion, government, economy) to anticipate and check weakness of will.

But now we have reached scoping were many think science and technology have made all this unnecessary. Humans even as we find them are plastic and it only takes competent social engineering be the best and brightest to shape that clay to an ever more optimal society. We can now transcend our cultural evolution. This is the unconstrained vision. This also includes seeing through conventional morality now that it need not apply to the brave new humans we might develop. The religious function need no longer be based on the arbitrary stories that percolate out of ancient history. Religion is just movement psychology that can be fulfilled by taking up the crusades that the experts pick out to suit the greater purpose of improved social functioning such as global warming, non-smoking, gay marriage, euthanasia, and so on.

But according to the constrained view, this grossly underestimates human weakness and without factoring this in is bound at the end of the day to be an elaborate social self-delusion of the most Machiavellian sort. But if checks and balances remain there's hope that human will can keep in line with the rest of human nature to promote human happiness for more humans. So one of the most important checks is the lionizing of the sine qua nons of human happiness in the form of a regime of human liberty rights and corresponding perfect duties. This includes the freedom of religious expression.

So in America, the constrained view has finally been displaced from the central position it had in the National Mind and the unconstrained view has become the new center of thought.