Saturday, 26 March 2011

The hierarchy of authorities

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Authority comes from masters, via apprenticeship.

And a humble, simple master is not just adequate but the best kind of master for humble, simple apprentices.

His job is to fit the message to the specific circumstances and limitations (of age, time, aptitude, motivation etc).

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Authority must, however, form a hierarchy; and the humble, simple master must stand in an apprentice-relation to his betters - the high-masters, masters of masters.

Above whom stand the eternal authorities.

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And the apprentice relation is individual, one master to few apprentices.

Given this; it is undesirable - as well as impossible, because ineffective - to have a 'flat hierarchy' of one master and many apprentices.

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(Just as it is both undesirable and ineffective to have a flat hierarchy in the military - as if there were to be officers but no sergeants or corporals. Naturally this reduces efficiency; since efficiency is effectiveness divided by resources. As officer/ NCO resources are reduced, so effectiveness declines faster than the saving in resources. At the reductio ad absurdum of saving resources on officers and NCOs we would have an 'army' of one General and five thousand private soldiers.)

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One high-master cannot in reality exert authority over, teach, many apprentices; many apprentices cannot learn from one master.

The master needs to be able to look each apprentice in the eye, and interact with them repeatedly over considerable time in order to know what the apprentice has truly learned.

This explains why modern systems of (tele) communication (radio, TV, recorded media, the internet) do not benefit the transmission of knowledge.

The mass media do not (contrary to popular mis-conceptions) disseminate knowledge more widely.

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What the mass media do is to disseminate the misinterpretation of knowledge more widely.

The mass communication media do not sustain traditions and do not preserve or advance knowledge; rather they undermine and subvert traditions and destroy knowledge.

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(Obviously so! - nobody really believes that a high school kid with Wikipedia at his fingertips, or a hotshot globetrotting research professor, actually 'know more' than Aristotle or Aquinas. Rather, students and academics now actually know almost-nothing, and are - presumably - stuffed and overflowing and mere-conduits-for billions of words, sounds and images of fashions, illusions, delusions, distortions and open-ended misunderstandings.)

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So apprenticeship is replaced with increasingly-fake simulacra: apprenticeships are replaced with formal institutions (schools, colleges, universities) - tutorials are replaced with seminars and 'small group teaching' are replaced with lectures are replaced with electronically disseminated lectures are replaced with 'e-learning' are replaced with 'non-fiction' entertainment, psychotherapy and wholesale distraction.

Maybe at some point on this slippery slope matter are as good, or even better, than pure individual apprenticeship - but once you have stepped onto the slope, it is impossible not to continue sliding beyond this ideal point.

At the reductio ad absurdum of flat educational hierarchy we have a school/ college/ university of one virtual teacher/ professor 'facing' five million students watching an online recording.

Or they could just browse the web on their own, and pick-up a new vocabulary of ignorance and incompetence.

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And the process of subversion and destruction is insensible and wholly deniable, because after just a few generations the tradition has died; which means that there are no authorities, no masters; therefore nobody remaining who can tell the difference between the real and the ersatz.

The maximum level of human achievement then becomes only as much knowledge or skill as a single human can develop in a professional lifetime without benefit of learning from the past.

And without benefit of learning from the past the average level of human achievement drops, since each individual is building from the ground-up.

When knowledge is no longer hereditary, but simulacra dominate; then 'expertise' has replaced authority.

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