Objective Reality, Ideology and the Rational Actor

The first thought that occurs when writing a philosophy piece of sorts is… how do you open a philosophy piece? It’s been at least a few years since I was reading any accepted literature in this area with any regularity and I’ve forgotten. A statement of intent I suppose. Ah yes, that would more or less be that I’m going to attempt to be build a limited rationalist world view from which I will try and determine a form of post-ideological political ideology. Simple.

To preface this I would say that I will try and avoid what is actually a significant chunk of philosophical thought. Inherent to my notion of rationalism, rational behaviour, rational actors etc., is an immediate dismissal of all those considerations that lend themselves to philosophical quandaries. I loathe scepticism. Discourse is effectively irrelevant if nothing is acceptably real based on common empirical experience.

This is almost an anti-Cartesian mission in that regard. Wholesale doubt is not the position from which to advance to practical considerations if all that can be ascertained is that, to the most minimal degree, I exist. I’m seeking to rebuild certain concepts from the perspective of my interpretation of the modern rational actor, whose thoughts might follow these sorts of lines –

“I can objectively accept reality and my environment as my conscious mind perceives it on an empirical basis. I am an intelligent human who reacts and behaves in these conditions with a primary function of self-preservation in a cooperative social context. I can accept through report and consensus the empirical experiences of those beyond my immediate environment, enabling my understanding of different or unfamiliar processes, with particular regards to scientific understanding. Through these things I can reach an acceptable definition of broader scientific truths, effectively circumventing concerns of subjectivity”

I am immediately aware that some readers may baulk at how quickly I reach that last conclusion, and indeed to quote philosophical combatant Jack Reilly,

“Subjectivity cannot be circumvented; rather, subjectivity is constantly engaged in constructing reality according to certain presuppositions. There is no unmediated access to ‘reality’, it is incomplete, anamorphous, fragmented… the task of the subject is to engage in the activity of stabilizing reality through narrativisation (science is one narrative, but it’s impossible to say if it is the ultimate narrative).”

But my “circumvention” is the expedient way to move forward onto real issues, if you’ll forgive that wording. If it helps, I am certainly not advocating any notion of actual or total objective truth, merely a sense of, “Good enough,” because otherwise this is all too sticky for my tastes. Perhaps a common ground can be found in suggesting that we can only really operate in this “objective reality” of mine, and going much further is navel-gazing territory.

Leap of logical faith established, what is the substance of this objective reality? It appears that life in cosmological terms is a transient anomaly in a scape so vast it defeats the comprehension of the best of known living intelligence. To a lesser degree, in terrestrial geological terms, life is a young, struggling phenomena that is evidently capable of existing and propagating in at least these conditions. We have a better understanding within this context of ourselves and life in general, but theory is still prevalent beyond the point of constantly advancing knowledge.

In human terms, our scientific understanding far outstrips our historical understanding which spans, with any genuine sense of effect, perhaps 2000 years at a push. Archaeological exploration is a boon in this regard, but limited in value when compared to properly recorded history in the academic sense. We have evolved in distinct stages from more primitive versions of ourselves, in a biological, societal and technological manner, into what appears to be relatively and broadly the most advanced species on this planet.

This is basically to assert that every living creature exists in multiple objective realities, in a very real, non-science fiction sense. Or perhaps it is better to say, one fundamental objective reality but after the fashion of a Russian matryoshka doll, containing another within another. I accept that more than three ‘layers’ can probably be delineated but I haven’t got forever and don’t want to convolute things. Importantly, going to a smaller degree than the expansively human one I think starts to take matters into more subjective areas.

The problem from here is how do you use these to inform an ideology? On the grandest scale, ideology itself is an irrelevance, but then arguably so is everything. If I’m to maintain logical consistency and not devalue this, any and all exercise in every possible circumstance, I must with some irritation actually discard any consideration of our fundamental objective reality. And probably the secondary objective reality too, as they both do effectively as much to invalidate principles of humanity and ideology as does scepticism.

If irritation is an excessive description of my feelings about this than I would offer that it at least causes a certain amount of dissonance. My dislike of scepticism is in its deconstructive focus based on a rejection of things I determine are (as good as) empirically true. Yet almost to the point where we enter the realm of subjectivity, the primary structures of our objective reality are totally unconstructive with regards to the aforementioned principles of humanity and ideology. Could we even go further to say they are in direct confrontation with these things?

Probably. If the scope of those higher governing forces in our reality are so extremely beyond our will to control or manipulate, all human thought and endeavour is rendered down to a futile and meaningless puddle of ephemeral delusion. And that, to use the philosophical expression, is a total bummer and indeed contradicts the fact that our relative objective reality as a species has, does and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

And within this are all the subjective qualities and experiences that make us distinctly who we are, from suffering to harmony and the rest of the whole banquet of human emotion, creation and otherwise activity. Just because they no longer function within any identifiable sense of objective reality does not mean they don’t exist with real consequence on an individual, societal and historical scale. It’s the best rejection of nihilism I can imagine. Yes, everything is pointless, in a fashion totally disassociated from the human experience, but that experience is real, it exists, and ignoring it is therefore inherently inhuman.

What I’m starting to feel now is that there is nothing terribly useful to ascertain from this analyses in terms of ideology. Within my tertiary, or human, reality it seems reasonable that the commonly understood imperatives of life are the governing forces. And after the fact that the “truth” of our existence is necessarily redundant, we are I feel left with an open field for all the traditional ideologies and their feuding that tends to plague us. There does remain a general feeling, none too revolutionary, that I would best refer back to my rational actor to explain, and is basically a deeper exploration of part of the initial statement –

“I am an intelligent human who reacts and behaves in these conditions with a primary function of self-preservation in a cooperative social context.”

Or, to reduce this somewhat,

“I act in rational self-interest”

And to expand again,

“I act in a manner that promotes and advances my well-being and the security of my person. Humans are social creatures and it can be empirically demonstrated that cooperation within a societal model is the best environment in which to achieve my ‘selfish’ primary motive. Thus my actions should at least be cohesive with the societal model, if not in direct support of it.”

Within that statement is the entire tranche of positive moral attitudes and actions relating to individuals and society. The fact that, based on this, the ideology one arrives at may be wildly different, speaks entirely to the subjectivity of world view and individual experience that I initially set out to dispel. Personally I see this as a rationale for a finely tuned relationship between social, or state, and individual empowerment. Implicit to that assertion is that in their natural form I see state and society as mutually informing entities.

What do you see in that statement? Do you agree with it? My curiosity for input at this point overrides my ability to continue this exploration with any efficacy. If nothing else I think I thus far have been novel in at least creating my own self-defeating and self-fulfilling philosophical discourse.


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