Why Secularism Failed in Half of the World
Persian Article مقاله فارسی
Rene Descartes: I think, therefore I am
Ask Ray | The future of human self-awareness: deeper mirrors
November 15, 2010
Hello Ray [Ray Kurzweil],
In the last few years I have been basically writing in Persian and hardly
anything in English. One thing I've been recently discussing that I thought may
be of interest to you is that it seems to me the next stage of human
consciousness will be about being self-aware of ourselves in a different body.
Maybe recognizing ourselves in the mirror after plastic surgery is the first in
a series of steps that with augmenting human body artificially and with
possibility of upload and download of the brain will continue. Just as we are
amused when we look at the smarter monkeys who can recognize themselves in the
Maybe future humans will have a much different sense of self-awareness than we
do and will be amused to watch us. Especially recognizing music tunes as part of
one's identity or self-"finger"-print!
It is remarkable how much people identify with their visual appearance. When I
changed myself into Ramona for my 2001 TED presentation, even though the
technology was fairly crude by today's standards, it did give me the idea that
my true identity is not my visual appearance, that we can and will change that.
We need deeper mirrors.
All the best,
Thank you, Ray,
In Persian there is an expression that says if you do not like what you see in
the mirror, break yourself - not the mirror. Apparently our self image in our
internal mirror is something worth investigating.
Let me note why I am looking at evolution of self-awareness nowadays. I have come to the conclusion that secularism failed in half of the world for over a century because of a reason different from major explanations.
Socialism, Fascism, and various nationalist movements such as Kemalism in Turkey were all secular and failed. The first critics of Leninism like Lucas and Mannheim in 1929 thought the reason for Communist dictatorship was its utopian thinking (1).
But the democratic thought of modern society, from John Locke to John Stuart Mill, is very utopian. Of course, not all utopians have promoted *closed society*. Thus Karl Popper said the problem is not ideologies but is lack of strife for an Open Society. Nonetheless he failed to explain why socialism in half of the world and various forms of nationalism such as Kemalism in Turkey were not able to form Open Society (2).
Liberalism in its comprehensive form of Kantism was also ideological in societies that could hardly be considered inclined to Open Society and comprehensive liberalism itself, which is like any other strong ideology, in contrast to liberalism of recent thinkers like John Rawls, was the main version of liberalism promoted during Enlightenment in Europe and America but they did not end up in dictatorship.
Daniel Bell in his End of Ideology in 1960 concluding from Stalinism thought the time of ideologies which were at their zenith in 19th Century is over and predicted parochial currents of thought after that. But his prediction failed and we witnessed comprehensive ideologies again in 60′s and beyond including Maoism, feminism, antiwar currents, etc. (3).
My point here is that in Western Europe and countries that can be considered extensions of Europe like America, Canada, Australia, where the successful half of secularism we see, intellectual currents followed a paradigm that was best formulated by Descartes' ergo sum principle of "I think therefore I am."
In other words, Enlightenment even in its most comprehensive form of Kantian liberalism did not try to think for people but challenged various thoughts, whereas for example Marxist-Leninists even said it outright that worker's ideology cannot be arrived at by workers themselves and had to be injected to them by the intellectuals who had discovered it (4).
And starting with Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, the modern state was not considered as referee of people and various social groups and was looked at as representative of dictatorship of one class and thus by the time of Critique of Gotha Program, we see the advocacy of Dictatorship of Proletariat to replace the assumed dictatorship of Bourgeoisie, i.e. by using so-called workers' class ideology formulated by Marxists.
Similar patterns can be seen in other forms of secularism of the failed half of the world. In fact, Medieval ideologies were closed societies too because the God of Abrahamic religions was supposed to think for people. It is true that the Gods of Greece or Rome had power, and they were creators, but they did *not* think for people whereas the Christian or Islamic God, in most versions of these religions, not only thought for people but He was even in people's head thinking for them all the time (protestants) or had representatives to speak on his behalf (Catholic priests or Islamic Mullahs) (5).
European modernism ended all that by getting people to think for themselves. Descartes himself was not against religion or against the state of his time but was advocating people thinking for themselves. Today in US or in Europe most people are still religious but their Christianity is different from that of Medieval Times when the adherents choosing it by themselves (6).
Of course when people think for themselves they will not necessarily be irreligious or scientific even though Descartes founded scientific thinking and modernism and people like Willis Harman and Morris Berman were anti-scientism as far as modern Copernican science is concerned, but neither one throws away self thinking of the individual. This is what was failed by the secular currents of half of the world. (7).
I mean Karl Popper said that if all be equal he would choose socialism but since it means sacrificing freedom for justice, he would rather not, because then when justice is not present, he cannot challenge the situation due to lack of freedom (8)
I think one should even go one step back from the issue of freedom versus justice and see that *self-awareness* is what is more fundamental to both. This is why self-awareness has come to my focus (9).
Hoping for a Democratic and Secular Futurist Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
2. The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper
3. The End of Ideology, Daniel Bell
* For my incomplete book about Secularism and Pluralism please check the