Animism is actually pretty reasonable

Magical Realist Offline

"Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, advances an interesting point about animism. Broadly defined, animism is the belief that everything has a spirit: trees, birds, rainstorms, rocks. Asma points out that in the Western world, amidst the ongoing, headline-grabbing scuffle between atheists and the devout, we don't often hear from the planet's animists. He offers the following points you may not have known about animism:

It's incredibly widespread. "Most of the world is made up of an­i­mists," writes Asma. "The West is naïve when it imag­ines that the ma­jor op­tions are monotheistic. In ac­tu­al num­bers and geo­graph­ic spread, be­lief in na­ture spir­its trounces the One-Godders. Al­most all of Af­ri­ca, South­east Asia, ru­ral China, Ti­bet, Ja­pan, ru­ral Central and South America, indig­e­nous Pa­cif­ic Islands--pret­ty much ev­ery­where ex­cept West­ern Eu­rope, the Middle East, and North America--is dom­i­nat­ed by an­i­mis­tic be­liefs."

It doesn't get no respect. "Even re­li­gious dev­o­tees of mono­the­ism in the de­vel­oped West look down their noses at an­i­mism," Asma says. "Animism is the Rod­ney Dan­ger­field of re­li­gions."

It's actually kind of a rational response to life. "The dai­ly lives of peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ing world are not filled with the kinds of in­de­pend­ence, predicta­bil­i­ty, and free­dom that we in the de­vel­oped world en­joy," writes Asma. "You do not often choose your spouse, your work, your num­ber of children ... In that world, where life is particularly ca­pri­cious and more out of individuals' con­trol than it is in the developed world, an­i­mism seems quite reason­a­ble." This may seem like a strange attitude to First-World rationalists, says Asma, but "in the de­vel­op­ing world, an­i­mism lit­er­al­ly makes more sense."

Asma goes on to say that even though he's an agnostic, he'd be the first to acknowledge the value of religion:

Religion, even the wacky, su­per­sti­tious stuff, is an an­al­ge­sic sur­viv­al mech­a­nism and sanc­tuary in the de­vel­op­ing world. Religion pro­vides some or­der, coher­ence, re­spite, peace, and trac­tion against the fates. Per­haps most im­por­tant­, it quells the emo­tion­al dis­tress of hu­man vulnerabil­i­ty. I'm an ag­nos­tic and a cit­i­zen of a wealthy na­tion, but when my own son was in the emer­gen­cy room with an ill­ness, I prayed spon­ta­ne­ous­ly. I'm not naïve--I don't think it did a damn thing to heal him. But when peo­ple have their backs against the wall, when they are tru­ly help­less and hope­less, then grov­el­ing and ne­go­ti­at­ing with any­thing more pow­er­ful than themselves is a very hu­man re­sponse.

Militant atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are too quick to condemn faith, says Asma. "Re­li­gious ideas that encour­age dehumanization, vi­o­lence, and fac­tion­al­ism should be re­formed or di­min­ished," he writes. But "those that hu­man­ize, con­sole, and in­spire should be fos­tered ... Wheth­er it is Ca­thol­i­cism, Protestantism, Is­lam, Bud­dhism, or animism, the vir­tues can be re­tained while the vices are mod­er­at­ed. In short, the re­duc­tion of human suf­fer­ing should be the stand­ard by which we meas­ure ev­ery re­li­gion."
confused2 Offline
If you lived in an era or location without television you might spend some time passing on stories, legends, culture and stuff like that rather than let's order in and watch a film. Even as a lifelong atheist I know a fair (some) part of christian theological stories and I'm ok with it - it is my 'culture'. I am occasionally surprised by people who take the existence of christian type god as 'fact' and put it down to there's some folks that do some things and other folks that do other things. In Tibet I guess they're shut indoors for most of the year (I know nothing about Tibet) and once you've discussed whether the Yak butter has gone off enough you're at a conversational dead end unless.. I don't know, I give in
C C Offline
(May 12, 2022 06:54 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:

"Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, advances an interesting point about animism. Broadly defined, animism is the belief that everything has a spirit: trees, birds, rainstorms, rocks. [...]

An animism "spirit" is sometimes interpreted as a "personhood" today. How could either the former or the latter refined ludicrousness even be possible? 

Leibniz's monadology, maybe?

While a distinct macroscopic entity would be relationally composed of many atoms in its empirical form, it also corresponded to one of Leibniz's size-less and location-less monads (that arguably interpenetrated each other rather than being materially separated by space). Each monad also "holographically" contained all the other countless monads, as well as its own sequence of past and future modifications.

So while a flower pot might be just that to me -- in terms of extrinsic relationships and spatial appearances... Internally it could be experiencing itself as any of the myriad conscious organisms of its closed intrinsic reality that was also duplicated in my own respective monad.

After the death of that particular individual, the monad's perceptions could shift to the unfolding timeline and perspective of another mind pattern or phenomenal continuum residing within it -- even that of a bird or possum (at least it would be awareness, even if not psychologically anthropomorphic). While simultaneously also being represented as and serving the function of innumerable inanimate and non-conscious objects in the representational sensations of other monads.
- - - - - -

Monads and Complete Concepts

EXCERPTS: “Monad” means that which is one, has no parts and is therefore indivisible. These are the fundamental existing things, according to Leibniz. His theory of monads is meant to be a superior alternative to the theory of atoms that was becoming popular in natural philosophy at the time. Leibniz has many reasons for distinguishing monads from atoms. The easiest to understand is perhaps that while atoms are meant to be the smallest unit of extension out of which all larger extended things are built, monads are non-extended (recall that space is an illusion on Leibniz’s view).

In accordance with his theory of pre-established harmony, Leibniz argues that monads do not affect one another and that each monad expresses the entire universe. He has rather unique and extraordinary set of phrases for this; Leibniz states that every monad mirrors the whole of the universe in that it expresses every other monad, but no monad has a window through which it could actually receive or supply causal influences. Furthermore, since a monad cannot be influenced, there is no way for a monad to be born or destroyed (except by God through a miracle–defined as something outside the natural course of events). All monads are thus eternal.

[...] We must begin to understand what a monad is by beginning from the idea of a complete concept. As previously stated, a substance (that is, monad) is that reality which the complete concept represents. A complete concept contains within itself all the predicates of the subject of which it is the concept, and these predicates are related by sufficient reasons into a vast single network of explanation.

So, relatedly, the monad must not only exhibit properties, but contain within itself “virtually” or “potentially” all the properties it will exhibit in the future, as well as contain the “trace” of all the properties it did exhibit in the past. In Leibniz’s extraordinary phrase, found frequently in his later work, the monad is “pregnant” with the future and “laden” with the past.

All these properties are “folded up” within the monad; they unfold when they have sufficient reason to do so. Furthermore, the network of explanation is indivisible; to divide it would either leave some predicates without a sufficient reason or merely separate two substances that never belonged together in the first place. Correspondingly, the monad is one, simple and indivisible.

Just as in the analysis of space and time Leibniz argues that all relational predicates are actually interior predicates of some complete concept, so the monad’s properties include all of its relations to every other monad in the universe. A monad, then, is self-sufficient. Having all these properties within itself, it doesn’t need to be actually related to or influenced by another other monad.
Magical Realist Offline
Interesting worldview there. I am reminded of Alfred North Whitehead's experientialist view of reality composed of innumerable "actual occasions" each with their own objective and subjective poles. Personhood and "mind" would be one of the properties these units would add up to. However, unlike monads they remain open to the world and to God thru the process of becoming.Time is not something separate from this process. It is interwoven into the very fabric of reality, emerging as the universal surge of all events towards novelty and God. Properties and qualities are instantiated as the proto-consciousness of the actual occasions.

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