Thursday, June 28, 2018

On Multiculturalism

What is "Multiculturalism"? Many countries today hold to "multiculturalism," but it is not so easy to get a precise definition of the term from them. The term simply means "a theory of many cultures," but besides this it is unclear exactly what it means. In some circles, multiculturalism is extolled as a sign of an enlightened and tolerant society. In other circles, it is demonized as an evil leading to the destruction of Western culture(s). Which is it, exactly? I would suggest that when one actually looks at the term and how it is used, it is both. There are two basic definitions of "multiculturalism," and the two are often confused and conflated by both those for and against multiculturalism. If we are to achieve clarity on the topic, we will need to understand the two different definitions, following which we can then understand how we ought to understand "multiculturalism."

Among those who extol multiculturalism, "multiculturalism" is taken to mean a celebration of cultural diversity. Different peoples from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities come together and mix freely with each other. The various peoples do not have to give up their own specific cultures but rather each diverse culture is celebrated as contributing to the overall richness of society. Whether it is in terms of dress, food or even ethnic festivals, everyone is free to live according to their own culture, without being coerced to change, to conform to another culture.

On the other side, "multiculturalism" is seen as an evil that has resulted in the destruction of their own [Western] culture(s). Particularly in Europe, their view of "multiculturalism" is slanted from watching how "multiculturalism" works out in real life in their towns, their cities and their countries. Welcoming people from diverse cultures has resulted in many immigrants who do not assimilate into the host country, with some not even speaking the native language well. They watch as some of these foreigners come in and violate the social norms of their country, take money in welfare, and do not contribute to society. Also, while not all migrants do so, a sizable minority of migrants commit heinous crimes against the native populace, like mass rape, while the police ignore their plight out of a fear not to appear racist. They watch as their own cultures are belittled in their own country, Christianity denigrated, while it seems that the professed religion of those who commit acts of terrorism is extolled while the terrorists are treated with kids' gloves. Note here: We are not at this moment claiming whether their perception is right or wrong, but merely to note what they have perceived (whether rightly or wrongly). The rejection of "multiculturalism" by the hoi polloi in many Western societies stems from what they have seen first-hand happening in their own societies.

As with anyone who is committed to searching for the truth, and genuinely desiring to understand both the issues being discussed and people being affected by social ideologies, it is imperative to understand what is happening on the ground. It seems obvious, except it is a glaring fault of the elites of the world where they do not really know or care about what is actually happening on the ground. That is why the elites were blindsided and shocked when Brexit or the election of Donald Trump as the American President happened. The elites somehow managed to insulate themselves from the ground, despite appearing to be knowledgeable about many things. And throwing epithets like "racist," "white supremacist," etc etc only produce heat but not light, fomenting enmity instead of understanding.

The first definition of "multiculturalism," extolled by the elites and idealized as a most perfect social good, I would term "social multiculturalism." It might be the "multiculturalism" seen by the elites, because they get to walk around and enjoy the diverse foods, clothes and other such cultural products, while remaining safe in their gated enclaves. In other words, the elites get to enjoy the positives of multiculturalism without any of the negative consequences. No, it is left to the hoi polloi to suffer any negative consequences. If some of the migrants are criminals, the elites will generally be protected from them since they do not stay in the same neighborhood and walk the same streets at night. "Social multiculturalism," as limited to the social sphere, is the belief that diversity of cultures is to be celebrated as a social good.

Alongside this "social multiculturalism" is "philosophical multiculturalism," which is a philosophical value claim about both the diverse cultures and the lifestyle that allows for the celebration of diverse cultures. The liberal elites move smoothly from one (social multiculturalism) to the other (philosophical multiculturalism) without much thought. Philosophical multiculturalism is the value judgment that all cultures and all cultural values are equally good as each other. Also, as a celebration of all cultures, it must relativize all cultures as equally false, in the sense that any truth claims of any culture is to be rejected as being false. All cultures are to be treated as experiences not as actual claimants to how things ought to be. Therefore, in actual fact, "multiculturalism" has become THE culture by which all other traditional cultures must kowtow to. Since it is primarily Western culture that the Western liberals faced, and which they reject, Western culture(s) is regularly denigrated and Christianity incessantly mocked.

Reality however has a way to ruin false ideologies, and nowhere more so than philosophical multiculturalism. Logically, if all cultures are equally true, or equally false, then upon what basis can liberals impose their "multiculturalism" culture on us? In reality, thanks to misbehaving immoral adherents of some cultures, the liberals are placed in a bind whether to condemn the immoral parts of certain cultures, or to allow immorality to thrive. In the case of Europe, the epidemic of mass rape has falsified philosophical multiculturalism, if only liberals had brains to think it through.

The fact is that not all cultures are equal. There is good in all cultures, but some cultures have certain aspects that are just evil. Toleration and celebration of all cultures comes from a Pelagian view of Man and of culture. Since Man is fallen, there is evil in all cultures. But since Man is created in the image of God, there is also good in all cultures. By virtue of how the world develops, some cultures will be more moral than others, and other cultures will be so depraved, like the Aztecs with their practice of human sacrifices, that it almost seem that there is nothing good in them. Will any of the liberals defend the notion that offering human sacrifices to the gods is morally right, and that the Spanish were evil in eradicating human sacrifices? I sincerely doubt so, but then, who knows?

Philosophical multiculturalism is false, but what about social multiculturalism? If one were to reject the immoral aspects of various cultures, social multiculturalism by itself is morally neutral. Liberals place value in diversity, but diversity in itself has no inherent virtue. Diversity might be good because of a richer life experience, but then diversity is good here only subjectively, and in service of what one perceives as a richer life, which is itself subjective. Social multiculturalism can however be a positive good if utilized in the service of allowing people from different backgrounds and cultures to coexist peacefully. It is therefore not a surprise when multi-ethnic countries promote multiculturalism. In this, however, we must differentiate between the two senses of "multiculturalism" and reject its philosophical sense, as it is self-contradictory and contrary to the facts on the ground.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Response: On Emergentism and Consciousness

On, Paul Price wrote an article arguing that consciousness cannot be a property that emerges from matter. According to Price, consciousness has the property of freedom of choice, while emergent properties are solely derived from laws of nature, and therefore do not have real freedom. Therefore, consciousness cannot emerged out of nature. Since that is the case, the more sophisticated atheism that utilizes emergentism is left without an explanation for human consciousness. But is this actually an argument that we should use, and is it sound?

With the failure of Neo-Darwinian materialism to account for higher level immaterial things like the mind, as demonstrated by Thomas Nagel in Mind and Cosmos, emergentism is the current theory in vogue. In Nagel's emergentism, matter itself has inbuilt mental properties which, when constituted in for example a human being, will give rise to consciousness. This does not mean that everything has consciousness, for the whole point of Nagel's emergentism is not that all matter has consciousness, but that all matter has the potential when properly constituted to produce consciousness.

If we assume Nagel's theory of panpsychism to be correct (for the sake of argument), would Price's argument actually hold true? I would suggest not. If matter in itself has mental properties, then it would stand to reason that the emerging consciousness would have true freedom of choice. Yes, things that emerge emerge in a manner consistent with laws, but that does not mean that the thing that emerged is therefore constrained by laws. [Otherwise we would commit the logical fallacy of composition.] Since Nagel would presumably hold that one of the metal properties [of matter] is the freedom of choice, therefore the individual consciousness that emerged will also have and will express freedom of choice. The beauty of emergentism is that matter itself, since it has not been properly constituted, does not express mental properties since consciousness has not emerged, and it is therefore for all intents and purposes without consciousness or cognition, but it can [sortof] explain how an individual person can come to possess consciousness, cognition and value.

Now, one may disagree with Nagel's emergentism, which I do. But it cannot be denied that Nagel's emergentism has produced answers that are somewhat plausible to account for many immaterial things from an atheistic point of view. The problem with Nagel's emergentism is that his emergentism is actually a form of pantheism more than atheism, with all its attendant problems. But as an explanation of consciousness, I think Nagel has done a decent job of explaining it while remaining (nominally) an atheist. It is for this reason that I think that Price's argument fails, because his argument is formulated against pure materialism, which is not what emergentist philosophers like Nagel actually hold to and believe.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

On Reformed Piety: Defining Evangelicalism (Part 2)

Defining Evangelicalism [cont'd]

The second pillar of the Bebbington Quadrilateral, Activism, seems to be something that does not actually distinguish Evangelicalism as a separate movement, but rather it is meant to emphasize one major focus of Evangelicalism. In that sense, it seems that Evangelicals of any kind are merely obeying the command of Scripture, which calls us to do good works (Eph. 2:10), at it states that "faith without works is dead" (c.f. Jas. 2:20). Also, Evangelicals note the Great Commission given for sharing of the Gospel in Acts 1:8, where we are all called to be a witness for Christ wherever we are, spreading the message of salvation to all and sundry. Thus, this pillar of the Bebbington Quadrilateral does not seem to be a particular distinctive of Evangelicalism, or does it?

We would all certainly agree that the Scriptures teach that good works are necessary for Christian living (not for salvation), and that a "faith" that works wickedness is not really faith. But in the translation of good intentions to its application to society, to what extent should the church be actively taking a stand on various social ills? Here we see how activism has shifted every so slightly the focus concerning good works. Historically, the teaching of good works and its application to society has always been rather specific. No doubt the largely agrarian nature of much of medieval and early modern European societies aided the direct application of Israel's civil laws to the context of their times. With the advent of the Industrial Age however, the rapid changes in society have made Israel's civil laws less applicable. As Evangelicalism began with the First Great Awakening, along with the revival came a renewed interest in dealing with the problems of society. Unfortunately, there is no obvious blueprint in Scripture for how that is to be done in a modern context. Christians were left with a text that seemed dated, and many did not really wrestle with how to derive sound general principles that are both biblical and applicable to their times. Instead, Christianity intellectual thought became focused on the "spiritual," while Enlightenment philosophy permeates all other fields.

Evangelical Activism thus become tied with expressing the biblical command to do good and to witness for the Gospel. (We will discuss the Gospel witness as we discuss the fourth pillar). And in this command to do good, the failure to adequately wrestle with all that is to be translated to the modern context has resulted in an Activism that is very much informed by the world and her ideas (Zeitgeist). Therefore, in the modern era, Evangelical Activism has been typically split into left-wing and right-wing movements, depending on which movement is currently in vogue among Evangelicals. In a politicized era like 21st century America, that means that Evangelical Activism becomes highly political, either on the right or on the left, as opposed to a faith that will only speak where the Scriptures speak and keep silent where the Scriptures are silent. Therefore, we have both the "Moral Majority" in late 20th century America (right), and the "Evangelical Left" of which Jim Wallies of Sojourners was one such prominent figures, both of them Evangelicals. And in the early 21st century, we have the nationalist Trump supporters on the "right" and the Social Justice Warriors and Critical Race Theorists on the Left.

Bebbington's pillar of Activism, in light of the social history of Evangelicalism, therefore needs to be modified. Bebbington had defined it as "a commitment to participate with God in his saving mission in the world." But in light of Evangelicalism's history, activism should be modified to be "a commitment to participate with God in doing good according to the world's current social notions of doing good, and to witness for God in a way that focuses on the spiritual alone." The latter point we will pick up again as we discuss the last 2 pillars of the Bebbington Quadrilateral, which are where the most obvious differences between Evangelicalism and the Reformed Church are.

[to be continued]