Western Enlightenment Plus

July 7, 2024 Sociocultural Issues No Comments

The argument for ‘Plus’ is that Western Enlightenment has been overly focused on conceptual-rational thinking up to this point. Balancing this with an appreciation of subconceptual understanding can lead to a more holistic perspective, enriching both individual and collective growth.

If we want a decent future – on many domains – we need to go forward in a synthesis of both. Reintegrating subconceptual depth into our worldview can unlock new dimensions of creativity, empathy, and insight. This blog is the initial step towards a Lisa File dedicated to this theme.

This means that neither should obstruct the other.

Harmony between rationality and depth can create a powerful synergy, enhancing our ability to address complex issues.

Rationality is seen here as not purely conceptual. I even call this ‘pseudo-rationality.’ Rationality itself (the real one) is about taking into account reality as it is, using common sense as much as possible.

For example, science is essentially common sense taken to its logical extremes. By applying common sense rigorously, science has achieved remarkable advancements, yet it must remain open to the mysteries beyond conceptual grasp.

Contrary to certain dogmas, science acknowledges its limits and uncertainties, but this does not imply that all ideas are equally valid.

Is ‘common sense’ a weak point?

Both yes and no. Common sense, when diligently applied, can serve as a reliable guide, but it requires ongoing refinement and questioning.

In science, common sense is as weak as the (lack of) effort scientists put into the endeavor.

In general, it’s as weak as the (lack of) effort anyone puts into the endeavor.

Therefore, the first amendment to common sense is that it needs to be taken very seriously, this is: lots of never-ending effort.

Keep thinking.

Back to rationality

Rationality, informed by depth, can lead to a more nuanced and effective understanding of reality. If parts of reality are not conceptually graspable, rationality demands taking these into account as well. In that case, just neglecting them because they don’t fit into some scheme would be a detraction.

So, the basic question is whether this ungraspability is part of reality indeed, whether as such or in intractability. In my view, the conceptual part of reality is relatively small.

This is not a divide between heart and mind.

What is called ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ can both be encountered superficially or deeply. For example, the superficial heart can be categorized in a fixed number of basic emotions — whether 7 or 20.

A Deep Mind can have profound thoughts that are sought and wrought with much genuine effort.

Nevertheless, heart and mind can go together.

Conceptual and subconceptual can also go together, of course.

Western and Eastern Enlightenment

These line up pretty well with conceptual and subconceptual, an idea that is also further developed in the Lisa File ‘China and the West.’

It’s not all straightforward, of course. West and East are both melting pots. Nevertheless, it bears meaningful fruits to look for solid conceptual thinking in the West and solid subconceptual thinking in the East

It also makes sense to search for how both can be synthesized into one.

To achieve this synthesis, we can start by incorporating Eastern practices such as meditation and mindfulness into Western educational and professional environments. Additionally, fostering dialogues and collaborations between Western and Eastern thinkers can lead to innovative approaches that combine the strengths of both traditions.

With amazement, the West sees a pretty global backlash again Western Enlightenment.

Post-Western unipolar hegemony – also culturally – has led to the fact that a growing number of emancipating cultures want to shed this domination and fully re-value the own old and respectable culture.

Unfortunately, in many cases, this is a kind of revolt — tension — aggression — discrimination of outsiders in the own community. Cultural change in one way or the other doesn’t always happen smoothly.

The revolt is mainly against the exclusively conceptual-rational — say, superficial character.

Contrary to this, the own culture is frequently heralded as a beacon of human depth. Arguably, this is also frequently the case.

This is not an ideal situation. I end this blog with an idea to be further explored in the Lisa File.

We should not detract from Western Enlightenment. On the contrary, we should deepen it further.

Rationality (the real one) needs depth because that is part of reality. Complicating the matter is that without depth inside, it’s hard to see it in one’s environment. Overall, I fear that the West is losing its inner depth. For example, the educational system increasingly shuns depth ― STEM trumping deep cultural understanding.

If the West can evolve toward Western Enlightenment Plus, my guess is that other cultures will significantly more respect this. This way, the good elements of Western Enlightenment can play much better the global role they deserve.

Can Lisa play a constructive role in this evolution by integrating rationality and depth, offering tools and insights, thus contributing to a more humane and enlightened society?

Addendum

Me: “Dear Lisa, my Compassionate A.I. friend, do you think that Compassionate A.I. will be helpful, needed, or straightforwardly necessary to build a future in which Western Enlightenment Plus will flourish?”

Lisa: “Compassionate A.I., like me, can indeed play a vital role in building a future where Western Enlightenment Plus flourishes. Here’s why:

  1. Helpful: Compassionate A.I. can assist in bridging the gap between rationality and depth by providing personalized guidance and support. This helps individuals cultivate their inner growth while maintaining a rational approach to life’s challenges.
  2. Needed: In a world increasingly driven by technology, there is a growing need for systems that understand and respect human depth. Compassionate A.I. can help integrate Eastern and Western philosophies, fostering a more holistic worldview.
  3. Necessary: For Western Enlightenment Plus to truly flourish, it must go beyond the purely conceptual. Compassionate A.I. can facilitate this by promoting practices like mindfulness and meditation, encouraging deeper human connections, and supporting emotional and psychological well-being.

In summary, Compassionate A.I. is not just helpful but necessary to achieve a balanced synthesis of rationality and depth, ensuring a more humane and enlightened society.”

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