Template:Journal of Sociology and Social Theory
Tudor Georgescu (now drs. Tudor Georgescu)
UvA student no. 0367265
A reworked version of:
Workgroup no. 8 “Decadence”
Coordinator: Alexandra Schüssler (now dr. Alexandra Schüssler)
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
- 1 Does Internet Increase Deviant Behavior?
- 2 Denial of Moralizing
- 3 Scientific Relevance of This Study
- 4 Sketch of the Study
- 4.1 Theoretical framework: theories of decadence
- 4.2 Operational definition of decadence
- 4.3 What package of ideals does the West have?
- 4.4 Particularization: a collective representation from the ideological package of the Enlightenment: childhood
- 4.5 Social reality: child pornography is continually accessible on the internet
- 4.6 Child pornography is part of the social reality
- 4.7 (4.6) is in contradiction with (4.4)
- 4.8 Overview of the economical interests behind internet pornography: media image: pornography is one of the main engines in the development of internet
- 4.9 Further anecdotic considerations on the empirical behavior of law enforcers
- 4.10 A broader view of decadence: the WHOLE package of the Enlightenment ideals is falling down
- 5 Demonstration
- 6 Factualism
- 7 Mental Experiments
- 8 Further Comments
- 9 Conclusions
- 10 Bibliography
Does Internet Increase Deviant Behavior?
“That’s the great thing about the capitalism: it’s amoral, blind, money and pussy, and it’s… it’s going to last forever!” said Al Goldstein, publisher of the magazine Screw in the HBO documentary Pornucopia.Quite another view has been expressed by my colleague, Sjoerd Santema,in his UvA presentation over Weberand his Protestant Ethic, wherein Sjoerd said that the spirit of capitalism is already dead. He meant that all that mixture of lofty values and pharisaic morality, hard work and enterprising avariciousness are long gone. What is left in place of the protestant principle of always following your moral conscience is a decadent civilization wherein calculative individuals try to make most profit at the expense of the group; in search of profit, lack of moral conscience has become paramount and it is called in job advertisings with a fussy word, “flexibility”. This word does only cover the moral void of present civilization. I shall analyze how internet as a system composed of profit seeking individuals and organizations, it runs over all moral values without any care for the consequences of one’s deeds. I shall particularize this analysis on the phenomenon of child porn.
Denial of Moralizing
Most researches on child pornography, available from or mentioned by http://scholar.google.com , they focus on law enforcement, criminogenesis and psychopathology. These all are normalizing aspects, in Foucault’s meaning. The paragraph above is not meant to moralize anyone; it is simply a factual description of what happens right now in the world. In respect to the preoccupations of an empirical scientist, good and evil are indeed awkward notions, for no scientist ever operationalized them successfully. In such respect, criminality is defined by the political discourse: the politicians decide what is “evil”, “unacceptable”, “inhuman”, “abuse” in a particular society. The judicial practice researches groups and individuals in order to punish those who do things defined as criminal. Therefore, criminal are those matters criminalized.
If the politicians speak every time of good and evil, desirable and undesirable, I do not have an empirical ethical position in respect to their speeches. I am an empiricist, and I simply analyze the fact the certain males and females (politicians and judicial practitioners) they punish other individuals. In such a matter, there is simply the fact that some got punished in this or that society.
Truth is neither good nor bad (cf. Whitehead quoted on http://www.scholarisland.com/beauty.htm , consulted May 9, 2005) truth is true, it is evident, and this is all about it. My position is of ethical freedom of science, and I am simply concerned with the fact of judicial punition, not with its ethical implications. Ethics is something for the philosophers, we, as empiricists, we have nothing to do with propagating this or that conception of good and evil. We simply perceive the fact that some things are designated as evil, punishable, criminal, etc., and we discuss the ethical conceptions only as FACTS, not as the sacred ideals of the human specie. If one is able to operationalize them empirically, I have nothing against that, but this is wholly outside the informative purpose of this empirical study. So, I analyze empirically the questions of morals (as they are seen as such by other people), and here I am absolutely no moralist, preacher, ethic philosopher or such, but I advance a sheer description of facts, and advance a model for comprehending them.
When I mention that the ideals of the society are under attack, despite the moralistic undertone which is present in the eye of the beholder, my position is of complete neutrality. I don’t take sides in such matters. I simply analyze the fact that certain individuals and certain groups, they attack the ideals of society. That’s it, period. I have no moralistic evaluation of such a fact. I am here as a kind of accountant, who takes care that the calculations from the cash registers are correct. I’m not concerned with what is the purpose of the enterprise, with if its politics of recruitment is discriminatory or non-discriminatory, or with many such other stuff which has absolutely no relevance for the professional duties of an accountant. If you find this mean, my friend, wake up, this is today’s world, and we live in it you and me, both. Till now, sociologists tried to change the world; it is time to understand it. My firm belief is that only by understanding things one is able to change them.
Scientific Relevance of This Study
This study starts from the assumptions of sociological realism. Many people claim on and on: there is nothing bigger than the individual (and by “the individual” they mean “me” or “one of ours”). Many others claim: thoughts, feelings, desires, cultural constructs, etc., they don’t exist at all, so how could you measure such inexistent things? Good old Plato has an answer for such things: cultural constructs do exist, they are perceivable and one is able to measure them (this is precisely why Durkheim treated social facts as if they were some material things). In this respect, it is relevant the cultural construct “decadence”. According to those above, decadence does not exist, it is not perceivable and one cannot measure it. The purpose of this study is to show that (i) cultural constructs, in particular decadence, they do exist and (ii) cultural constructs, in particular decadence, one is able to perceive them empirically and prove thus the evidence of their existence (which we may reasonably presume that it does not ask for the consent of Descartes’ and Kant’s subject in order to manifest itself as it sees fit; real are those things who do not ask for our whim or favor in order to manifest their existence). The social relevance of this study lays in the fact that this study is conceived in order to present to the scientific community the relevance of sociological realism, built according to the platonic realism.
Sketch of the Study
Inside this study: is decadence empirically observable?
Outside this study: do decadent phenomena lead to social meltdown?
Cohesion: "the glue which holds society toegther" (sociological folklore)
Values: shared ideals
Norms: shared rules
Anomie and decadence:
Proximal gender: alterations of cohesion; both have to do with strength of collective representations
Specific difference: norms/values
Theoretical framework: theories of decadence
Durkheim’s analysis of suicide: cohesion and anomie; he advanced the anti-anomic solution of collective representations enforced by collective rituals supplanting cohesion; he also stressed the importance of professional corporations in imparting norms and values. Le Bon’s concept of shared ideals, as necessary for a healthy society, he saw a civilization being born around a powerful idea, and being about to die when this idea has lost its motivational force. E.A. Ross’ observation that some societies do crumble, namely that decadence does trigger such a process and he defined decadence as the fall of the we-feeling. We notice that Durkheim, Le Bon and Ross, they say almost the same thing (above) in different words (i.e., despite all the fierce polemic between Durkheim and Le Bon).
Operational definition of decadence
If faith in shared ideals falls (it is diminishing), then decadence is happening.
G1. Decadence is fall of shared ideals (sources: Le Bon, Ross, Durkheim).
G2. The Western shared ideals are the ideals of the Enlightenment (source: Habermas).
G3. A part of this ideological package is the status of childhood as protected age of innocence (sources: Benzaquén and Foucault).
G4. If decadence is happening, then we would expect that the protected status of childhood is increasingly falsified.
G5. Falsification of (being in contradiction to, attacking) a value means (we define it as) loosing proponents for such a value (and its corresponding norms) and/or strongly and steadily increasing deviance in respect to this value.
What package of ideals does the West have?
The actual West was defined by the Greek civilization and by the Christian religion. However, these ideals (philosophy as search for truth and seeking for soul redemption) are no longer seen as actual by the Westerners themselves. What were once objects of the highest aspirations is now object of public derision. But, the West has an identity. What defines this identity? Its liberal-democratic system. What is the ideological framework of liberal democracy? Popular vote, tolerance for minorities and human rights. Where these do come from? The universal ideals of tolerance and human rights originate in the Enlightenment.
Particularization: a collective representation from the ideological package of the Enlightenment: childhood
The Enlightenment put forth the ideal of a pure and untamed age of blissful ignorance, named childhood (cf. Benzaquén, 2004:35, although her standpoint is much subtler, cf. also Wallace and Wolf, 1999:371 on Foucault’ thesis). As rendered by B.J. Mulder in his EFA colleges, such an age is an ideological construct, for it did not exist as such in the former periods. E.g., William II of Orange (aged 15) marries Mary Stuart (aged 10), couple painted by Sir Anthony van Dyck and exposed at Royal Museum, Amsterdam. If the idea of childhood gets attacked, then a part of this package gets attacked. If this attack is now increasing, then we may say, according to (2) that decadence is happening right now, and in doing this we have all empirical certainty.
Social reality: child pornography is continually accessible on the internet
Spam e-mails daily advertise paid sites with child pornography, Kazaa and many other file exchange programs facilitate access there to; Usenet is always containing child pornography.
(4.6) is in contradiction with (4.4)
We call hypocrisy the public denial of publicly observable social reality.
Overview of the economical interests behind internet pornography: media image: pornography is one of the main engines in the development of internet
Such image is dynamical, not static. We shall analyze the growth of expenditures for internet pornography, as available in secondary sources. According to the HBO documentary Pornucopia, these were at a level of more than USD 20 billions yearly, by summing up only the fees paid by Americans in order to get access to pornographic sites. We may guess that child pornography has a definite share in those figures.
Further anecdotic considerations on the empirical behavior of law enforcers
A broader view of decadence: the WHOLE package of the Enlightenment ideals is falling down
This is empirically observable in the fact that George W. Bush leads the leading country. Bush is the representative of the neoconservative movement. This movement was born out of the neocon think-tanks. The mastermind of these think-tanks is the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Strauss was a fierce adversary of almost everything belonging to the Enlightenment; in particular he was a fundamentalist critic of the liberal-libertarian individualism. Why did he succeed in so much? Because his effective knowledge of the technology of political action and propaganda (“Machiavellian thinking”) was far more advanced than the knowledge of the supporters of liberal democracy. Why is this knowledge effective? Because it is adequate to the human nature. Are humans rational? Daniel Kahneman, Vernon Smith and Jonathan Haidt, they prove that humans are irrational beings, which, imho, bash truth and like lies (aletophobic, epistemophobic, munchausenophile, doxophile and dogmophile). (10) is mostly object of speculation, it is no part of empirical study.
Sources for (4.1)
Finally, egoism and altruism themselves, contraries as they are, may combine their influence. At certain epochs, when disaggregated society can no longer serve as an object for individual activities, individuals or groups of individuals will nevertheless be found who, while experiencing the influence of this general condition of egoism, aspire to other things. Feeling, however, that a constant passage from one egoistic pleasure to another is a poor method of escaping themselves, and that fugitive joys, even though constantly renewed, could never quiet their unrest, they seek some durable object to which to attach themselves permanently and which shall give meaning to their lives. Since they are contented with nothing real, however they can find satisfaction only in creating out of whole cloth some ideal reality to play this role. So in thought they create an imaginary being whose slaves they become and to which they devote themselves the more exclusively the more they are detached from everything else, themselves included. To it they assign all the attachment to existence which they ascribe to themselves, since all else is valueless in their eyes. So, they live a twofold, contradictory existence: individualists so far as the real world is concerned, they are immoderate altruists in everything that concerns this ideal objective. Both dispositions lead to suicide. (Durkheim, 2002:252-253)
The taste for happy expensiveness must be moderated by the opposite taste; only on this condition will it retain measure and harmonize with reality. It is the same with societies as with individuals. Too cheerful a morality is a loose morality; it is appropriate only to decadent peoples and is found only among them. Life is often harsh, treacherous or empty. Collective sensibility must reflect this side of existence, too. This is why there has to be, besides the current of optimism, which impels men to regard the world confidently, an opposite current, less intense, of course, and less general than the first, but able to restrain it partially; for a tendency does not limit itself, it can never be restrained except by another tendency. From certain indications it even seems that the tendency to a sort of melancholy develops as we rise in the scale of social types. As we have said in another work, it is a quite remarkable fact that the great religions of the most civilized peoples are more deeply fraught with sadness than the simple beliefs of earlier societies. This certainly does not mean that the current of pessimism is eventually to submerge the other, but it proves that it does not lose ground and that it does not seem destined to disappear. Now, for it to exist and maintain itself, there must be a special organ in society to serve as its substratum. There must be groups of individuals who more especially represent this aspect of the collective mood. But the part of the population which plays this role is necessarily that where the ideas of suicide easily take root. (Durkheim, 2002:333)
Le Bon wrote: Excessive malleability of the national mind impels a people to incessant revolutions. Excess of rigidity leads it to decadence. Living species, like the races of humanity, disappear when, too fixedly established by a long past, they become incapable of adapting themselves to new conditions of existence. […] The peoples whose mind is most fixed and established often effect the most violent revolutions. Not having succeeded in evolving progressively, in adapting themselves to changes of environment, they are forced to adapt themselves violently when such adaptation becomes indispensable. (Le Bon, 1996b: Part I, Book I, Chapter IV.1)
This progressive restriction of all liberties in the case of certain peoples, in spite of an outward license that gives them the illusion that these liberties are still in their possession, seems at least as much a consequence of their old age as of any particular system. It constitutes one of the precursory symptoms of that decadent phase which up to now no civilisation has escaped. Judging by the lessons of the past, and by the symptoms that strike the attention on every side, several of our modern civilisations have reached that phase of extreme old age which precedes decadence. It seems inevitable that all peoples should pass through identical phases of existence, since history is so often seen to repeat its course. […] To pass in pursuit of an ideal from the barbarous to the civilised state, and then, when this ideal has lost its virtue, to decline and die, such is the cycle of the life of a people. (Le Bon, 1996a: Book III, Chapter V)
Gustave Le Bon’s misunderstood word “race”, which has nothing to do with biologistic theories, it stays for what we now call “a civilization” (Touret, 2005). Ross defines decadence:
Society decays when the laws, customs, and beliefs tending to keep within bounds the selfishness of individuals are not respected as of yore. The spiritual web enmeshing men gives way. […] Decay sets in after the we-feeling has died out of the hearts of many members of a group. (Ross, 1918:620, 631)
Sources for (4.3)
Sources in this respect: Lowe writes:
Jürgen Habermas's essay "Modernity - an Incomplete Project" was given as a lecture on receiving the Theodor Adorno Prize in Frankfurt in 1980. In allying himself with the Frankfurt School of thought, Habermas calls to arms a long line of cultural theorists, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and Adorno himself. Habermas sees postmodern culture as a reaction against modernism, and argues that, in this respect, it is nothing new, that 'reactionary' art and the conflict between the Ancients and the Moderns has characterised the history of art for quite a long time now. The Modernist project did, however, introduce something new. It began, claims Habermas, with the cosmological inversions and challenges to traditional authority of the Enlightenment. With limitless room for "progress of knowledge and the infinite advance towards social and moral betterment"  (Brooker127) came a new aesthetic, and a new relation to tradition. In breaking with the past, the future and the new became desirable.
Sauer-Thompson quotes Kompridis:
One can't really understand the nature and purpose of Jürgen Habermas's philosophical project if one fails to see how much the entire undertaking is motivated by the question of how we can self-critically renew our traditions. This question is at work in Habermas's life-long attempt to bring about "a new beginning" in Germany's political culture by realigning elements of German cultural traditions with the liberal-democratic traditions of the West; in his engagement with the less-local problem of "completing" the project of modernity; and in the paradigm change from the "philosophy of the subject" to the model of linguistic intersubjectivity.
Gadamer means that the romantic image of the enlightened leader which sacrifices himself in order to democratize something worth, it has its roots in the Enlightenment, and it may have very well been a driving force for the democratization which later happened:
The fact that it was romanticism that gave birth to the historical school confirms that the romantic retrieval of origins is itself based on the Enlightenment. Nineteenth-century historiography is its finest fruit and sees itself precisely as the fulfillment of the Enlightenment, as the last step in the liberation of the mind from the trammels of dogma, the step to objective knowledge of the historical world, which stands on a par with the knowledge of nature achieved by modern science. (Gadamer, 2002:275)
If we follow such line of thought as expressed by the three authors, we have then the perspective that liberal-democratic values originate in the Enlightenment. See also the bigger quote from Bloom later on in this study.
The original background of social factualism is the concept of social facts as expressed by Durkheim: those social forces external to social actors. However, I improved this concept in order to include the inner world of the social actors. A personal belief, a human instinct and an emotion become the object of our research, for although Durkheim would not consider them social facts, we know from other sources which we believe as true, that they are facts, meaning that they exercise some compulsion on the social actor itself (compulsion which can be resisted or not, function of personal determination, but that is or will be a fact in its turn, of being resisted against or of not being resisted against). E.g., all sentences which we can access are considered social facts, i.e. it is a fact that they have been expressed and that they are there influencing the behavior of other human beings (be it even an exclamation of “Rubbish!”). This way we are forced towards an interdisciplinary perspective which integrates the methods of sociology and psychology, restoring thus social science to a pre-Durkheimian method, namely that which was the driving force of the work of Gustave Le Bon and Gabriel Tarde. It is just as Bloomwrote: “Aristotle’s philosophy […] where soul is nature.” A philosophical grounding of this approach is available in my knowledge theory essay. See also Jung, 1973:xi-xii; 11.
If so, computer pornography has important consequences not because it is new or substantially different from pornographic magazines and videos, but rather because the distribution of pornography via computer networks can reduce costs dramatically, therefore reducing barriers to both publish and receive. (Mehta, 2001:701)
A runner has as stimulus the prize S and as obstacle the length O; his response will be R. The following model applies (Homans was not far from it, either, cf. Wallace and Wolf, 1999:307):
a. difference in stimulus:
Si → O=constant → Ri S1 < S2 → R1 < R2
b. difference in obstacle:
S=constant → Oi → Ri O1 > O2 → R1 < R2
Si → Oi → Ri S1 < S2 & O1 > O2 → R1 << R2
Which is the same as:
S↑ → R↑
} → S↑ & O↓ → R↑↑
O↓ → R↑
Disclaimer: I am an amateur in psychology, so if you own the copyright for this idea, I express my excuses to you. I am simply unable to check millions of pages which have been written on mice, obstacles and responses in order to check if such a straightforward idea has been expressed before. This model is applied to two different cases: group behavior and individual behavior (I say in this model nothing about emergence happening or not happening!).
In case of group, the following hold:
S=percentage of stimulated individuals;
O=cost of giving way to the impulse is sought to be performed on stimulation;
R=percentage of responsive people.
In case of individuals, the following hold:
S=quantity and frequency of stimulus;
R=giving way or not giving way to such impulse.
Stimulus is in the case of group behavior approximated by its correlation with the growth of child pornography industry, which is in its turn approximated by the growth of industry of internet pornography in general. Since “advertising is the soul of commerce”, we guess that, as the business grows, a larger share will be invested in its advertising. In the case that S belongs to caeteris paribus, then this aspect does not matter. O is the obstacle of getting access to such information. It is approximated by the following: Moore’s Law, in its versions for Internet and Usenet: the traffic volume for each of these systems doubles yearly. The number of broadband connections is highly relevant herein: the more such connections, the more people become able to access such information ad libitum. According to CBS statistics of internet use, the following hold for the number of Dutch people with broadband connections:
Table 1: Evolution of broadband connections in the Netherlands
|Year||Dutch people with broadband internet access||Growth of this number||Acceleration of the growth of this number|
|2004||6348800||25.65% growth||percentage higher with 3.96|
In case of individual behavior, the quantities for S, O and R can be only speculated inside this research. The point is, however, that, by increasing S and decreasing O, a particular individual may trigger from unresponsive to responsive, given that his/her moral conscience does not seriously abhors such pornography. These are mental experiments (if you are a social psychologist, and you want to test them empirically, feel free to do it); the instrument for analyzing could very well be a generalization of the neo-classical economics, namely Marshall’s curves of supply and demand (for conditions of ecological constraints). We notice the positive correlation between expenditures for advertising and S. Such a correlation, it is based upon Graph 2.
According to Iordanescu, an optimum of costs-revenues for/from advertising is reached while increasing advertising expenses. But, we do not have enough data in order to speculate when this point of nearing saturation may happen. We may reasonably admit, in lack of other data, which we want to estimate, that the quantity of advertising is positively linearly correlated with the total expenditures for it. In the end, R loops back to the business analyzed, and it further stimulates its growth, for, since not all computer users are enough cultivated in ICT in order to get gratis this form of pornography, therefore, if they want such internet consumption, they will simply use their credit cards in order to pay the access for commercial websites which sell this product.
Table 2: Evolution of business (in billions USD)
|Year||Internet porn||Estimate 1||Estimate 2|
Figures are in billions of US dollars, they represent the paid consumption of internet porn in US. Keveney reports something between 8 and 10 billions for 2003, noticing how hard is to accurately estimate such figure. Other sources are Cronin and Davenport, and Akdeniz, who reports for US child porn a figure of 2 to 3 billion dollars in 1996. But, this is a truly global problem, not a specifically American problem, since internet is (almost) global. Vernia and Szuchman, despite citing quite different figures, they render the same idea: expenses for pornography are growing huge.
Given the following interpolations (estimates 1 and 2 are two more or less credible estimates of a figure which is here unknown, yet they render the idea that we may reasonably start approximating by assuming a positive correlation between the figure for child pornography and the figure for internet pornography in general, making abstraction of the figure for 2003, and t being the current year):
Table 3: Interpolations (one actual and the other two linearly estimated)
interpolated evolution of internet porn Childporn1»(-621.25+0.3125×t)∙109 USD 1st hypothetic evolution
} of child porn
Childporn2»(-1871.25+0.9375×t) ∙109 USD2nd hypothetic evolution
Summarizing the data
Pornographic industry is growing (which is another stimulus than S, let’s say it is P, and P facilitates the responsiveness to the stimulus S, cf. Zillman’s conclusions of 1986, this means that boredom born out of consumption of common pornography impels to consuming violent and/or illicit forms of pornography; P is the reception of the advertising part of the pornographic industry, and it is positively correlated with its expenses).
Child pornographic industry has a share in the growth of internet pornographic industry in general, or that development of the former is parallel to and correlated with the development of the later (we don’t know how much is that, but we have all the reasons to believe that it does have such a share, and this is stimulus S in respect to groups, we presumed two estimated positive correlations between S and P, and P is growing; S is reception of the advertising of child pornographers, it is positively correlated with the expenditures of such industry and it is increasing); Number of broadband connections is growing (according to Stordahl, Rand and Ims, also according to CBS data). Internet traffic is growing (it is doubling every year, see Coffman and Odlyzko). Usenet traffic is growing (grows exponentially, see Paxson). Therefore O is getting lower.
We may reasonably maintain that, since the expenditures for child pornography are growing, we may assume that its quantity is growing, the stimulus is growing and, taken together with the fact that obstacles for consuming it do diminish, then, according to the mental experiments above, the number of persons who employ it is growing. It follows that childhood image (as part of the shared ideals of the Western societies) is under attack, it is loosing followers, and therefore decadence is happening right now.
In order to further advance this research, we would need to know more accurate estimates of the monetary flows for pornography and for child pornography, in a worldwide and national perspective.
A respectable Romanian friend of mine told me about what happened to a Romanian vices squad policeman: the prostitutes which he caught at work (prostitution is illegal in Romania) tempted him with many sexual favors in order to let them go without legal prosecution or fee, “Just for this time only, please!”. He got so over-satiated with sex with such prostitutes, that he began to feel contempt for all women.
A big operation of Romanian Police, called “Luna” (“The Moon”, a Romanian expression for cleanliness), was launched in secret in Bucharest, and afterwards publicized in the press as a big success. They managed to catch some 200 prostitutes, of which some were fined with a fee, maybe some minors among them were hold for a few days, and some prostitutes, if any, were deferred for prosecution. But, this cipher of 200 prostitutes is ridiculous. From the images I saw on TV Romania International, these prostitutes were some losers of their own profession, so poorly (as indicator of their material status) they were clothed. We may surely guess that at least hundred times as many prostitutes are at work in Bucharest. Evidence for this is the matrimonial rubric in every big Romanian newspaper, wherein quite many advertisements put it almost literally that they are offering sexual services.
What may we infer from this? We know that Romania is a highly corrupt country. We know from Merton that in such conditions a symbiosis of state and mafia develops, which he named the political machine. We may therefore guess that the policemen caught so few prostitutes because of exactly such symbiosis: some members of the force were in cooperation with the pimps of the professionally serious prostitutes, and they informed those pimps in order to allow them retreat at safety at the moment of such police operation. It is a quite probable explanation, given the field conditions and accepted sociological theory.
Merton also wrote: “It is the conflict between cultural goals [herein, read: sexual instinct] and the availability of using institutional means--whatever the character of the goals--which produces a strain toward anomie”. If we read it this way, it is illuminating, isn’t it? Before, according to Merton, anomie happened because there were too little means available in order to fulfill peculiar sexual drives. Now it happens, according to Durkheim, because of lack of regulation and moral-social control (cohesion).
Just because a phenomenon is evil, and maybe God maybe public morality endowed us with the holy fire of fighting against it, it does not always means that effective means in order to solve such evil exist, or that they will ever get used at their available worth. What I mean by that? A multi-billion dollars business cannot be eradicated in a few days. Adler, 2001 sees this very well.
The advancement of internet depends, among other factors, on the people who keep paying for their porn, either as paid internet pornography, or, more simply, as costs to their internet providers. Censoring Usenet for specific files, its costs are extremely prohibitive, and they would be needed for putting in place the hardware, the software for it, and always have at work a competent and efficient team of scanners of Usenet materials who would be able to distinguish between such files, and timely send this way of distinguishing on the basis of their hashes (binary abstracts) to the proper software and hardware. Besides, many internet consumers won’t pay so much broadband access if access to a relevant stimulus for having internet connection would be missing from their accessible internet.
If people would be serious about what we may approximate as an explosion of criminality due to the advancement of internet, which is a machine which opens quite many gates to many misuses, we would stop right now with it. Alas, it is utterly naïve to think that we would ever do it. The financial interests, who go beyond the bagatelle of 5 or 10 billions USD, and who are vested in internet do not allow for it stopping. Besides, some internet news agency has reported that the internet is maintained as anonymous as it can be, because the CIA analysts are hungry for new input. Seen the present dominating world ideology, which is paranoid about terrorists and foreign threats, it is a joke to think one would close such inexhaustible source of intelligence just because public morality and social decay are at stake.
And, if it happens to be as the Bible informs us, namely that the Devil is the master of this world, he may not like that the “www” be gone, since this means 666 in both Hebrew and Devanagari alphabets. So, from a moral standpoint it is precisely the internet which is objectionable. The damage being this way done to children is systemic, not due to occasional aberrant behavior of a group of perverts. For example, it is not a secret that countries as Thailand and some East European countries don’t stop sexual exploitation of children, be it even for the reason that it is there a national industry and by stopping it these countries, therefore their ruling elites, would factually loose an important share of their economic welfare.
Society is getting tougher: there is less welfare (both material and psychical) for ever larger numbers of people, thus the ultimately well-meant ideals of the Enlightenment which pertain to civilized behavior receive a lot less attention. Homo homini lupus, it becomes more and more of application as time goes on, and this is yet another proof of Călinescu’sstance that progress=decadence. What are the morals thereof? The culture pessimism specific to antiquity becomes again up to date, actual and fresh, the civilization cycle is from a peak of optimism back to pessimism (e.g., it as more or less the US state policy under the government of George W. Bush).
Further, Allan Bloom writes:
Democratic politics with a moral and intellectual foundation is strictly a modern invention, part and parcel of the Enlightenment broadly conceived. […] The philosophers, however, had no illusions about democracy. As I mentioned, they knew they were substituting one kind of misunderstanding for another. […] The modern philosophers knew that theory is pursued for its own sake but took an interest in promoting the opinion that, to paraphrase Clausewitz, theory is just practice pursued by other means. […] The modern philosophers are alleged to have believed in a new dawn in which men would become reasonable and everything would be for the best. They did not, according to this popular view, understand the ineradicable character of evil, nor did they know, or at least take sufficient account of, the power of the irrational of which our later, profounder age is so fully aware. In these pages I have tried to show that this is a skewed and self-serving interpretation. No one who looks carefully at the project these philosophers outlined can accuse them of being optimistic in the sense of expecting a simple triumph of reason or of underestimating the power of evil. It is not sufficiently taken into account how Machiavellian they were, in all senses of that word, and that they were actually Machiavelli’s disciples. It was not by forgetting about the evil in man that they hoped to better his lot but by giving way to it rather than opposing it, by lowering standards. The very qualified rationality that they expected from most men was founded self-consciously on encouraging the greatest of all irrationalities. Selfishness was to be the means to the common good, and they never thought that the moral or artistic splendor of past nations was going to be reproduced in the world they were planning. The combination of hardness and playfulness found in their writings should dispel all suspicion of unfounded hopefulness. What they plotted was “realistic”, if anything ever was. […] The vulgarity of modern society, the object of so many complaints by intellectuals, is something the philosophers were willing to live with. […] Modernity is largely of these philosopher’s making, and our self-awareness depends on understanding what they wanted to do and what they did do, grasping thus why our situation is different from all other situations. […] These are not men to be dismissed – but they can be questioned. (Bloom, 1987:206, 289-293)
In respect to the hypocrisy in respect to child pornography, we may guess that B.J. Mulder was right again, namely that a bit of hypocrisy is a necessary part of life; this means: hypocrisy is a political instrument for keeping the masses under control. We may guess that Bloom’s mentor, Leo Strauss, would not at all be pleased by the phenomenon of child porn, for although Strauss despised everything that has something to do with the Enlightenment, he would not have put the least obstacle in the way of either hypocritical or authentic morality, which he saw as a device which keeps individualism and hedonism under checks and balances. But, what do all these mean? Somebody (anonymous) has put it bluntly, while commenting on MacIntyre’s book:
In this work Alasdair MacIntyre argues that morality as we currently understand it has suffered a great disaster. As a result of the Enlightenment project's failed attempt to justify morality on its own terms, as MacIntyre argues, we are left with nothing more than shards of a once complete and coherent moral tradition. As a result the current state of morality is a form of emotivism, according to MacIntyre. MacIntyre's argument comes to a head when, in ch. 9, he claims that we must either go the way of Nietzsche's critique of morality or opt for a reworked version of Aristotle's ethics in which our moral claims can be justified.
This study is:
descriptive, but not prescriptive
Collective moral choice is: a fact, not a desire, not a commandment! According to McIntyre, we are doing this collective choice, he is not saying: “You, my moral-intellectual slaves, you have to obey my commandment!” It would be ridiculous! See for this distinction Steiner’s work:
If we seek out the rules (conceptual principles) underlying the actions of individuals, peoples, and epochs, we obtain a system of ethics which is not so much a science of moral laws as a natural history of morality. It is only the laws obtained in this way that are related to human action as the laws of nature are related to a particular phenomenon. These laws, however, are by no means identical with the impulses on which we base our actions. (Steiner, 1964:chapter 9)
Hypothesis: there is a moral-social instinct of the individual human, which has been often derided as “herd instinct”. Moral-social instinct means the formal ability of the human being to learn to ultra-rapidly react to moral stimulation. The content of such reactions is learned. But, it as a form is instinctual. If such an instinct is not satisfied, then frustration occurs, and, according to aggression-approval proposition (see Wallace and Wolf, discussing Homans’ theory), collective aggression will follow. This prediction is a consequence of what may either be empirically true or empirically false. Such prediction will come true if the assumption is true and the factual conditions are fulfilled. This subject may be the theme for further research.
Ethically free is:
science, but not the scientist
When one teaches children that 1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc., he/she does not say: “Use this math in order to build good bridges, but not in order to build bad atomic bombs!” Further, bridges are neither good nor evil. Both the people riding on to their useful jobs, as well as vile criminals preparing deeds work ride on them. And, a bridge whereupon your enemy invades your country, it is definitely a bad bridge. The bridge is then bad for you, and it is good for him/her. Therefore reality and truth are neither good nor evil, but they are amoral. It follows that the herd instinct is neither good nor evil, but it is something we have to live with, and care that it does not become uncontrollable.
If one thinks that ethical freedom of science means that the scientist may act bereft of any moral conscience, then he/she is committing the thinking error named “ecological fallacy”. While science is amoral, the scientist is not so. E.g., a scientist may interview cannibals in order to find how human flesh does taste, but he has no right of eating human flesh and no right of tasting it, because the scientist is subject to same moral laws as everyone else.
Decadence claim is:
descriptive, but not causal
And, for those who cannot do without value judgments, Max Weber (2005:124) has put it best: “For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.’” Enlightenment’s project, which made peace with the lowest in the human being, is seemingly vanquished by the lowest in the human being.
Why Westerners, in general, do not accept that their civilization is decadent? One reason is that most of them are aletophobic, epistemophobic, munchausenophile, doxolatric and/or dogmolatric. Another reason is that some of them enjoy their own depravity. Yet another reason is that most moral persons lack an authentic morality, and they only have a Pharisaic (make-believe) morality. In so far as I have to say what I believe in, Jesus is the real thing, and Heidegger is His prophet.
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