Thursday, August 30, 2018

Needed: A New Ontology and Epistemology

8/30/2018—Now there is an accessible slogan for the 21st century. Basically, a new ontology and epistemology means a new way of thinking about what there is and what we can know. With the death of god, announced by Nietzsche in The Gay Science in 1882, the West became materialistic in what was real and sensory in how we could know things. And this is true for most people, including most religious people. And this is both how and why science became so powerful. This worldview says that matter is all that is real and we learn things only through the five senses.

This way of relating to the universe was a long time coming. David Hume, who died in 1776, a hundred years before Nietzsche’s announcement, was a key figure. But with this ontology and this epistemology, there not only cannot be any god, there cannot be any invisible thing-—justice, goodness beauty and truth become things we agree with rather than descriptions of anything real in the universe. And the universe becomes a collection of forces without meaning or purpose. You get a headline like the one last summer in the New York Times, The Universe Doesn’t Care About Your Purpose.

Religion under this worldview becomes a kind of fiction, incapable of providing knowledge about the world.

Law is dominated by this current ontology and epistemology. Even someone like Ronald Dworkin, who wanted to claim that goodness was real in some sense, felt he had to pay homage to Hume. Dworkin therefore wrote self-refuting nonsense toward the end of his life.

I thought all this was an insurmountable dilemma. That is even why I left Judaism. Its talk of God became unreal to me.

People have a hard time seeing what this has to do with President Donald Trump. But to me it is obvious that the next step in our current worldview was the death of truth. Once truth is gone as something reliable, I lose the common ground from which to reach out to my political opponents. We then have to hate each other because only winning counts.

Before, years before, there was lying and cruelty in politics, but it took place within a context of meaning and truth. Now, there is lying and cruelty within a context of chaos and chance.

What I did not realize is that the current worldview is not at all insurmountable. In fact it was surmounted by thinkers like Bernie Lonergan, Alfred North Whitehead and Martin Heidegger. Their thinking does not yet seem to have become popularized in the culture, however. American lawyers were not all lucky enough to have a teacher like Robert Taylor. Nevertheless, it will happen. In a hundred years, it will no longer be thought strange to say that the world is more than matter and not mean that there is a supernatural realm.

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