Comments on “What makes a counterculture?”

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Seems a bit too neat

Brian Slesinsky's picture

This is starting to sound like a history of rationalization rather than a history of philosophy.

  • "After the nightmare of WWII, everyone was exhausted, and just wanted everything to go back to normal for a while." Was this really everyone? Some groups gained in status during WWII. They didn't want to hold onto those gains? Why would anyone in the black community believe in any of this (outside of church)?
  • Yes, in every conflict, religious and philosophical arguments are sometimes used as rationalization, but what about concrete problems? Young men afraid of being drafted, racism, and so on. These things make conflict personal. Putting philosophical issues ahead of bad things actually happening to people seems a bit off.
  • "All possible rational bases for systems had been tried, and had failed." Maybe in philosophy departments, but I doubt anyone else really cared? Nobody else decides what to believe based on whether it has a rational basis.

Also, wacky religion (preachers going around telling people what they believe) has been around forever.

A history of rationalization

This is starting to sound like a history of rationalization rather than a history of philosophy.

I'm not sure what you mean by this (or by most of the rest of your comment, I'm afraid). I don't know what "a history of rationalization" would be. And, this is not at all meant to be a history of philosophy.

Was this really everyone?

I would have hoped it was obvious that this is a figure of speech.

what about concrete problems?

Uh... what about them? (What are you objecting to, more specifically?)

"All possible rational bases for systems had been tried, and had failed." Maybe in philosophy departments, but I doubt anyone else really cared? Nobody else decides what to believe based on whether it has a rational basis.

A few web pages back, I suggested that pre-WWI culture and society was organized top-down according to what the elite believed were rational bases. No one believes that anymore; but that rhetoric was still mainstream in the 1950s.

Both counter-cultures were explicitly anti-rational. They wouldn't have had to be anti-rational if they weren't reacting against supposed rationality. This was a big deal at the time.

This may be hard to understand for anyone under about 60, because we take for granted that most things aren't rational. Post-1990, our world is non-rational (not either rational nor anti-rational). Except in pockets of STEM, no one knows or cares about rationality—as you point out.

what about concrete problems?

Brian Slesinsky's picture

what about concrete problems?
Uh... what about them? (What are you objecting to, more specifically?)

Mostly I'm just trying to say that history is complicated. Any theory that tries to explain all of history (as you seem to be attempting to do) is bound to leave out lots of stuff that's just as important as what you choose to talk about.

But, I'm sure you know that.

All of history

Oh! I see. OK—I'm not trying to explain all of history, at all.

This page is part of a history of meaningness. It's explicitly not a general theory of history (at a meta level) nor a general history (at an object level). It covers only one tiny aspect of history, and mostly only covers the past half century.

Its aim is only to provide enough background to understand where we are now, specifically in our relationship with meaningness.

Or, you could put it like this. How is it that several major recent American political movements refuse, as a matter of principle, to say what they are for? How is it that they could oppose each other vociferously, despite their explicit lack of concrete aims?

I chose to trace particular threads of history in order to answer questions like that.

I thought that the introductory pages for the history explained this clearly, but it seems not.

Can you (or anyone) recommend ways to make the nature of the project clearer?

Well, okay, not all of

Brian Slesinsky's picture

Well, okay, not all of history - that was an exaggeration. But still, it seems like you're attempting to summarize a vast amount of history in support of a grand theory. I start to wonder what would count as evidence this theory is true? (or false?)

Not being a theorizing type, I'm not sure what to suggest. Maybe tell stories of particular situations where you think your theory is helpful?

Well, it is a chart that

Brian Slesinsky's picture

Well, it is a chart that attempts to explain everything, sort of. :-) It already has a disclaimer, so it doesn't seem like another one will help.

The "theory of meaningness" really is a grand philosophical project, right? Might as well own up to that.

(I'll confess I'm drawn to this sort of philosophy, even though I don't take it entirely seriously.)

Themes, not theories

The "theory of meaningness" really is a grand philosophical project, right?

Ah, maybe this is the heart of the misunderstanding! There is no theory, and this is not a philosophical project. I think I've probably said that somewhere in passing, but there's a couple of draft pages that cover just this point. I will move them up in the priority queue.

Philosophy is (mostly) systematic, and theories are systematic. This work is meta-systematic (like its subject matter), and therefore non-systematic.

So, it has themes, but not theories. Or, occasionally it might sprout theories of one sort or another, but they are incidental side-effects of the process. (Off hand, I can't think of any theories, but there might be one somewhere in the book!)

Terminology

Brian Slesinsky's picture

Instead of "philosophy" maybe I should say "explanation" if you'd prefer. But it does seem like you're attempting to explain something about the world in a non-rigorous but elaborate way, which I would normally call a philosophy. A philosophy of science, for example, comes from thinking about it is that we're doing when we do science.

I guess my question is why a theory of meta-systems isn't a system? It's certainly not a formal system, but then again neither is religion or some of the other things you call systems. (At the very least, you're saying that some things are systems, and others aren't, which seems like a systemizing thing to do?)

There are a lot of different levels of mathematics but we still call them math.

Meta-systematicity

I guess my question is why a theory of meta-systems isn't a system?

Yes, this seems to be the crux of the line of questioning!

I'm writing about this elsewhere—eventually, I hope, in depth. "A first lesson in meta-rationality" would probably be a good starting point—I wrote it particularly for computer science folks!

Universalism—the claim that

Bad Horse's picture

Universalism—the claim that what is right, is right for everyone, everywhere, eternally

I think the term means just the opposite as used by Unitarian Universalists.

Rationality, counterculturalists thought, was probably to blame for all the Twentieth Century horrors

This is where the answer lies to your recent question as to whether anybody still uses the term "Rationalism" in its ancient sense. The widespread hatred of science and rationality in 20th century art criticism and philosophy makes sense only under the assumption that the speakers are using the ancient definition of rationalism. People in the sciences use a modern definition; people in the humanities use the ancient definition; nobody ever realizes that they're using different definitions. The scientists don't realize it because they just assume that people in the humanities are stupid. People in the humanities don't realize it because they aren't aware there is any other definition of rationalism, as they usually don't know anything about science after the 18th century.

(This development came about because people wanted, perhaps for racial reasons, to pretend that empirical science came from the ancient Greeks, rather than from Africa and Asia Minor. This led Renaissance humanities, and all the humanities thereafter, to study the ancient Greeks from Greece, but not the ones from Egypt or Asia Minor, while imagining they were getting a complete education.)

I don't have the memory to call forth quotes or citations, but right now I'm reading Hegel's lectures on aesthetics; here's a quote in front of me: "In its content, science is occupied with what is inherently necessary... For the very word 'nature' already gives us the idea of necessity and conformity to law, and so of a state of affairs which, it can be hope, is nearer to scientific treatment and susceptible of it."

This re-iterates the claim, which may have been true when Hegel said this in 1827, but is now a gross ignorance, that science deals only in necessities (statements about necessary causality, X => Y where X always implies Y). I remember many such assertions in Lawrence Brown's 1963 book /The Might of the West/, which I read immediately previously.

"Science" could be said to be a set of methodologies developed specifically to avoid getting trapped by that sort of nonsense. Necessary causality is how Rationalism functions, not science. Science deals with the extraction of information from observations; information is always probabilistic, and claims of certainty or necessity are literally impossible in scientific thought.

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This page is in the section Countercultures: modernity’s last gasp,
      which is in How meaning fell apart,
      which is in Meaningness and Time: past, present, future.

The next page in this section is Hippies and Evangelicals: monist and dualist countercultures.

This page’s topics are Countercultures, Eternalism, and History of ideas.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book (in progress), plus a “metablog” that comments on it. The book begins with an appetizer. Alternatively, you might like to look at its table of contents, or some other starting points. Classification of pages by topics supplements the book and metablog structures. Terms with dotted underlining (example: meaningness) show a definition if you click on them. Pages marked with ⚒ are still under construction. Copyright ©2010–2017 David Chapman.