See the YouTube Playlist for the Past Sessions of the Course below
Session 1: Social Justice — God is Dead — Feb 27 : See Video, Slides, Questions, Bibliography & Notes here. The 19th-century saw the rise of Electric technology, replacing Print as society’s psycho-environmental ground — while generating both socialism/communism and the robber barons. In response, the Catholic Church invented the notion of “social justice,” attempting to reassert Natural Law while addressing the widely growing conflicts. Hostile states responded by isolating the Church, launching “culture wars,” and ultimately fomenting revolution. Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion underpinned a wide range of social movements — both on the left and the right
Session 2: The Encyclicals — Disenchantment of the World — Mar 6 — See Video, Slides, Questions, Bibliography & Notes Here: Pope Leo XIII aggressively responded with encyclicals including “Aeterni Patris” (1879, retrieving St.Thomas Aquinas) and “Rerun Novarum” (1891, establishing Catholic Social Teaching). Forty years later, Pope Pius XII expanded CST in his “Quadragessima Anno” (1931, a cornerstone of the Church’s anti-Marxist “Catholic International”). On the 100th anniversary, Pope John Paul II issued his “Centesimus Annus” (1991, from which grew CAPP, the lay organization tasked to spread CST). But few heeded the Church’s call.
Session 3: Human Dignity — Faculties of the Soul
Mar 13 — RSVP & See Slides Here: : In the process, the Church’s authority about the character of the human soul (“psyche” in Greek, “anima” in Latin) was severely undermined, as “experimental” psychology took over. Still, underneath Freud’s hostility to religion, a remnant of a Viennese Catholic psychic understanding lurks in the shadows of his theories. Even that has now been discarded and replaced with Cognitive Psychology, modeling humans on computers. Increasingly marginalized, the Church seemed to withdraw, pressured by the rising social sciences, with many relying on a “mystical” interpretation of God’s relationship with humanity. We forgot Aquinas’s Aristotelean Faculty Psychology and manipulating the soul became a social engineering imperative.
Session 4: Human Dignity — Artificial Humanity — Mar 20 — See Video, Slides, Bibliography, Lecture Notes, Comments and Questions Here: Under Digital conditions, this failure to fully understand the unique qualities of the human soul has led to aggressive efforts to build “artificial humans.” If, as modern psychology asserts, humans are simply “information processors,” then why can’t they be replaced by immortal machines? Under the banner of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), and fueled by super-power rivalries, these attempts already consume massive resources. A new “arms race” is
underway. A return to a deep comprehension of the “psyche” is urgently needed and the Church must lead in its retrieval.
Session 5: Subsidiarity — End of Mass Society — Mar 27 — See Video, Slides, Bibliography and Lecture Notes Here: As Electric technology overtook the world in the 20th-century, it generated a society that treated humans as mere elements of the “collective.” Welcome to the Borg. Mass psychology and psychological warfare based on the effects of “mass media” led to world wars and mass suffering. In an effort to find stability, an avalanche of increasingly “soulless” mass consumption and unrooted “globalist” ideology followed. But this is now coming to an end. Indeed, as a result of Digital technology, we no longer live in the “modern world.”
Session 6: Subsidiarity — Memory and Autonomy — Apr 3 — RSVP Here: : Digital technology thrusts us all into a dramatically new cultural paradigm. Whereas Electricity emphasized “imagination” (culminating in the destabilizing effects of “social media”), Digital shifts the emphasis towards “memory” — two of the faculties at the heart of our subconscious “Inner Senses.” As this happens — to us all — our sensibilities are re-shaped and the “conditioning” we have suffered is now being undermined. As a result, we are experiencing a recovery of “virtue” and a widespread re-evaluation of personal responsibilities. “Mass society” is being replaced by one with new social forms and based on increased human autonomy — aligning with the principles of subsidiarity.
Session 7: Solidarity — God’s Diplomats — Apr 10 — RSVP Here: : “Peace on Earth” has long been a key imperative for the Church. Particularly after the Italian seizure of the Papal States in 1870, the Catholic Church has become a “neutral” diplomatic participant with unique moral standing. In an era when imaginary “globalist” cohesion has collapsed, the universal concern for all of humanity has become closely linked to the Church’s quiet and persistent diplomatic engagement. Charity is understood by the Church as a theological virtue — along with Hope and Faith — and much charity will be required as the world goes through today’s fundamental change in paradigms.
Session 8: Solidarity — Three Spheres — Apr 17 — RSVP Here: The post-WW II “World Order” that we have lived under has collapsed. Onetime globalist ambitions have been shattered, as a result of Digital technology. This presents new challenges and substantially increases risks. Groups that evaluate “existential threats” have proliferated. Under Digital conditions, Catholic Social Teaching has become an even more crucial component of global affairs. Will we learn the lessons from the past and embrace the Church’s experience and charity towards all? We have entered into a dangerous historic period and the Church has a vital role to play. Digital Catholic Social Teaching has become a particularly important source of guidance and grace.
Mark Stahlman is President of the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL). A retired Wall Street technology strategist, investment banker and serial entrepreneur, he launched his first software company – Computron Technologies, Inc. – in the early 1970s after leaving his study of Theology (University of Chicago) and Molecular Genetics (University of Wisconsin, Madison) to join the still nascent digital revolution. Stahlman started his digital career as a computer architect and programmer, designing computer and networking systems for Wang Labs, Citibank and the Diplomat Arabic word processor for Computron. He began his Wall Street career as a principal at Sanford Bernstein, and is credited with being the first to cover Sun Microsystems (SUNW) in 1986. He continued at Alex Brown and Sons, where he was a partner and he formed the New Media banking practice which managed the initial public offering for America Online (AOL) in 1992. Stahlman’s work in computer architecture led him to coin the term “network computing,” which Sun Microsystems adopted for their corporate motto “The Network is the Computer.”
In the 1990s, Stahlman co-founded the world’s largest Internet group, the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), and is credited with the term “Silicon Alley.” His Why IBM Failed article for Harvard Business Review led to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and a consulting assignment at IBM that pushed the company towards its leadership in the services business. More recently, Stahlman helped organize an East-West “Dialogue of Civilizations” conference at the United Nations, and guest-edited a Special Centennial issue of the literary journal Renascence, devoted to Marshall McLuhan. He is a prolific writer whose reports have generated over $50M for his firms and 10-20x investment returns for his clients. He was on the first Institutional Investor magazine All American Team for Microcomputers, has appeared often on CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg TV, was profiled by Forbes as “The Futurist,” has written for Wired and Information Week, and was a contributing editor at Strategy + Business. His godfather was Norbert Wiener, and he considers CSDL to be a continuation of his father’s participation in Wiener’s “Genius Project.”
22 thoughts on “Digital Catholic Social Teaching (DCST) by Mark Stahlman – a Scribal Hyperbook”
Does “Death of the Author” as a concept or way of approaching literature, survive in the digital/scribal age?
No, it doesn’t. “The Death of the Author” was a 1967 essay by Roland Barthes. Like his compatriots, Barthes was ELECTRIC (c. 1850-2000) in his sensibility — who often find themselves arguing with the earlier PRINT sensibility (c. 1550-1850). This is why some of them are called “post-modern,” since they consider the earlier paradigm to be “modern.” Under DIGITAL conditions, we are doing *any* of that anymore — in fact, we no longer live in the Modern World . . .
Thank you. By the way I finally got around to starting to read Weiner’s Cybernetics, and it’s been astounding how much of his thought is only now filtering down to “common discourse” in different channels on social media.
Do you think the various subcultures on the internet centered around Nostalgia of different eras (with the 80’s, cottagecore, and in a more abstract sense “lofi” (low fidelity) music are a consequence of digital media/memory, or is that still running on the fumes of fantasy from the electric age?
On a less related topic, I was reminded today by an aritcle (https://www.sciencealert.com/some-people-are-mixing-their-psychedelics-with-digital-drugs-and-it-s-all-a-bit-weird) of the book Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Out of curiosity I was reading up on it and Stephenson was partially inspired by Julian Jaynes’ book on the Origin of Conciousness. Are you familiar with Snow Crash at all? If so, do you think its depiction of a balkanized America is an example of a more subsidiary society?
Good question! “Nostalgia” is, of course, a confusion of Memory and Imagination. It isn’t real (i.e. nothing like that actually ever happened) but it attempts to link today with this fantasy past. Reenator style (pick your decade or century). Renaissance Faire style — https://renfair.com/ny/. Yes, this is an ELECTRIC phenomenon (along with much that happens in video-games &c).
A much more robust effort by some Catholics is called “Ressourcement.” It grew out of dissatisfaction with those who were either *rejecting* or *embracing* “modernism” (i.e. the effects of PRINT and ELECTRIC). St. Thomas Aquinas had become a standard-bearer for the “rejection” crowd, ossifying into “Neo-Scholasticism.” On the other hand, you had Phenomenology/Existentialism &c trying to bring the Church into “modernity.”
Both of them were off-base because they ignored what had *caused* the “Modern World” in the first place — the PRINT and then the ELECTRIC psycho-technological environments. These mistakes became the context of Marshall McLuhan’s lifework. His goal — alas, never achieved — was get people to understand the *formal* causes at work. Understand media. Perhaps CSDL will be somewhat more successful.
Yes, I know Snow Crash and Stephenson’s work (he’s a friend of one of my Center’s Fellows). I’d recommend his more recent “FALL, or Dodge in Hell,” in which he reconstructs the “Book of Genesis” in a virtual world. Whether Neal understood Jaynes is an interesting question (most do not). “Balkanization” is an ELECTRIC term (from the one-world era), so, no, that’s not what Subsidiarity means. We are no longer doing that — which means that social structures are moving towards a distribution of responsibilities to their “lowest” levels.
Have you read anything about Distributism? I’d start with Hiliare Belloc’s “The Servile State” (free online). What we are doing now is “Digital Distributism” (w/ robots &c), so the book on this era hasn’t been written yet (but we’re heading in that direction) . . . !!
Fairly certain Elden Ring was a timed release to coincide with the shattering of the World Order (The Golden Order). Bitcoin solves that whole social credit garbage that one Good Ol’ Boy brought up, I’m surprised Mark hasn’t touched on Nick Land’s idea of the blockchain constructing artificial time (absolute succession or “memory”). Excited to hear about the rise of Thiel’s Republican Neo-Confederacy under Natural Law next week 😈😈😈. Please start either a podcast or a group Discord server or whatever Mark, I want to see what kind of breakaway civilizations spooks are planning right now.
HA!! Interesting that you would bring ups the “spooks” (colloquial for “spies”) . . .
My involvement with elements of “intelligence” dates back to the 70s. Once you are on their “list,” someone has to keep on filing reports. As you might know, the “services” maintain an active approach to the fringe. There are people circulating who collect and report back to HQ. New things tend to come from there; not the center.
My approach is to talk to them (and anyone else) — with certain exceptions (like the “satanist” I recently blew-off). It will be interesting to see if they can figure things out. Their history indicates they won’t, but we’ll see. A colleague of mine wrote his PhD on the systemic “perception” problem at the CIA (check out the line-up here — https://digitallife.center/index.php/about-us/people). He called it “Constructing Cassandra.”
Discord? Podcast? Perhaps. But for now, I like 52 Living Ideas (and Shrikant) . . . !!
What would be your definition of Satanism within this Digital paradigm? Would it be opposition to or corruption of “form” or something like that? Having read Land whose work seems in many ways influenced by Aquinas, I would say the whole digital environment is based on the “demonic”. Digits are tools for tallying who have no inherent meaning (unlike the Word or Logos I suppose(?) which are made of characters recognized by their shape (form?)), while numbers are “Legion”-dary swarms. What does that make the practice of Gematria, then? Some kind of Middle Path where angels and demons converse? A properly exhaustive session on angels and demons would be massively stimulating, in my opinion.
Interesting question! The DIGITAL paradigm is a radical shift in the structures of society and human psychology. Life as-we’ve-known-it has been tossed overboard. It *retrieves* the SCRIBAL environment (c. 500BC-1550) and, for us in the West Sphere (i.e. Alphabetic), much of this will likely resemble what many call the “High Middle Ages.” Back to the future we go . . .
The West is already struggling to recover its practices of Virtue, which, in turn, requires an understanding of the Faculties of our Soul. And, yes, “satanism” will likely play an important role in all this, along with our new understanding of Vice &c.
Marshall McLuhan has been noted for his statement, “The Prince of this World is a very great electrical engineer.” Where, of course, PotW is a euphemism for Satan (and where ELECTRIC was the previous paradigm). So, what will be the role of the PotW under *digital* conditions?
To answer this question, as you have signaled, I’d start with Aquinas. Read his Commentaries carefully. Google “Aquinas satan” and see what you come up with . . . !!
For an elaborated discussion of Angels &c, you might find this interview with Mark Barker helpful — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHwqULqDvsc.
I’m not really familiar with the work of Nick Land, but if you’re trying to relate what we’re saying to the so-called “Dark Enlightenment,” I am much more familiar with the ideas of Curtis Yarvin (often described as an influence on Land). I met Curtis last year and we’ve spent many hours in discussion. Clever fellow (who likes to draw a crowd).
He is proud of being an “original” thinker and rarely cites other’s work. As best I can tell, he does not fully grasp the way that *formal* cause shapes our behaviors and attitudes and he is also not familiar with the Faculties of the Soul — implying that he would also benefit from a study of Aquinas. Likely the same for Land. Many today imagine that they are coming up with “new” ideas when they really aren’t — as you no doubt have observed.
Disappointing you’ve not met with the actual author of The Dark Enlightenment. Although, it is Land’s earlier work I think you may be interested in, “CCRU Writings” which is an occult/theological work on Base-10 decimal numeracy and the toroidal diagram (the Numogram) that unfolds from the basic arithmetic relations between those numbers and the “Demons” that inhabit it. Anyways, I’ll try to splice together what you’re doing here with him best I can.
Okay. To understand what we are doing, it would be helpful for you to read McLuhan — starting with “Laws of Media: The New Science.” Have you tried that out yet (and has Nick Land tried that yet and why did you think he was influenced by Aquinas) . . . ??
It seems appropriate for people now-a-days to lay their cards on the table. Where did “their” ideas come from. “I made it up” doesn’t work anymore. TELEVISION ~ Fantasy (i.e. endless make-believe “occult” schemas &c). DIGITAL ~ Memory (i.e. remembering where all this comes from). Which of them is Nick Land? And which of them are you . . .
“Occult,” of course, means *hidden* (with etymological roots in astronomical “occultation”). My general sense is that *nothing* is actually “hidden” and that those who promote such notions are really promoting themselves. Magician style. I once got in trouble for asking a publisher of “occult” books if the “secrets” he was selling were still “occult” once published. Those who know don’t talk . . .!!
McLuhan used the term “invisible” to refer to how we tend to ignore the *ground* of our experiences. He borrowed the Figure/Ground relationship from Gestalt psychology in the process. But he also considered his work to help us get over that problem. When asked if he was an optimist or a pessimist, he answered, “Neither, I am an apocalypsist”). That means “to reveal.”
Has Nick Land actually *revealed* anything — or is he just making things up . . . ??
Gee, I wonder if *drugs* might have been involved . . . !!
The Wikipedia entry for CCRU is brutal on Nick Land. Amphetamines for someone associated with “accelerationism.” Who would have guessed . . . ??
At least D&G were writing under the influence of LSD (the ideal TELEVISION drug, if you have a RADIO sensibility). As was Foucault. Rhizomes indeed (check out footnote 16).
Btw, “CCRU Writings 1997-2003” is available at Libgen (in various formats). Very *trippy*. I’ll take a look when I have nothing better to do . . .
Mark, he wrote his first book “The Thirst for Annihilation” as a diagnosis of the failures of Descartes, Kant, psychology, and the Catholic Church. CCRU Writings is about how the digital paradigm is unearthing long forgotten things, written in a Lovecraftian style (as a horror story, the apocalypse is pretty spooky).
How is the “Expert” class replaced/reformed under digital conditions?
Great question. Harvard is a plague (where my father was once a professor, along with MIT and Brandeis). And people know it. Jeffery Epstein taught us all we need to know about “elite” institutions . . .
Subsidiarity suggests that not only *responsibility* will be “distributed” but so will expertise. At every level there will be the associated “experts.” Not in charge but fulfilling their duty to inform the proper decisions. More likely with *phronesis* than with “credentials.”
Perhaps most importantly, the “experts” in the *intelligence* services have already lost their leverage, as DIGITAL forces them to go “open-source” and as their primary outlet, TELEVISION, becomes widely considered not just be fake but also full-on manipulated.
Thank you for this series. The broad, idealist stance taken by Popes in encyclicals only touches on the actualization of these ideas in criminal justice systems, in sustainable agriculture/fishing/food production; protection of human life [not embryonic stage]; the demeaning of both women and children, not to mention pregnancy. ‘Liberation’ theology ruined much of central american countries … crazy right-wing stuff always ends in violence. Mark hits the most useful and practical of things when he talks about ‘balance’ but completely sends half the human race scurrying away when he talks ‘having babies’ without any reference to women. We can subsume AI under the umbrella of ‘technology’ . . . a more humane and more balanced selection tech in light of human life. – Barbara, raised Catholic, now a Taoist.
Geng: Thanks. Here are few thoughts that might help stimulate further discussion —
1) The “digital world” is quite *soulful* — like all human environments. However, the question is what does this psycho-technological environment do to that soul? How is the human soul “shaped” by the habitual use of digital technology? To answer this question, it helps to also ask what earlier technologies did to us. How did TELEVISION change our lives? What were the effects of the Printing Press?
2) Catholic Social Teaching (CST) — as expressed in these Encyclicals — is a comprehensive effort to address social issues, likely the most comprehensive ever assembled. That should not be surprising, since “catholic” means “universal” and because CST is based on what was called Natural Law. Plus the Church has been thinking about these matters for a very long time. Importantly, these are fundamental principles that have largely been forgotten — contributing significantly to the chaos we are now experiencing.
3) Not only is the Church imperfect but it has also not aggressively applied CST. As a result, I am *not* suggesting that that the Church is the “solution” to any sweeping social problems. It may not be at all! However, if we are to retrieve a “medieval” sensibility — which means one reflecting a world “before” the effects of PRINT on society — it is the place to go. Under DIGITAL conditions, we will have to make this journey (yes, for many, reluctantly), since that is the primary effect on us of the “digital world.”
4) To date, no one has taken this comprehensive effort and specifically focused on how it applies to our current DIGITAL paradigm. You can study CST in many places, but this is the only place you will find Digital CST (DCST). In our new *digital* paradigm, we have to deal with the robots that are being built to “replace” us. The only way I can see that happening is to “remember” what it means to be human and not a machine. PRINT tried to convince us that we were “mechanical.” Then ELECTRIC tried to convince that we are “electronic.” But we’re not either of these things. My hope is that DCST helps us to get a grip on recovering our humanity — just in time.
Thanks for the lecture. I really enjoy the speech brought up the problems of the soulless digital world. I can’t totally agree with Catholic as the organization can help to solve the problems. Through history they had so many problems, i think celibacy is against human nature that led to child sexual abuse, ban of abortion, women lack of power, i think the new Christian churches are less restricted religion as part of the solution. So if the Catholic can’t even solve the social issued before with their own problems and flaws, how can we expect Catholic to solve current problems with digital society when most people are not religious at all, seems like a far fetch. But i would be interested to learn all the Catholic teaching with follow lectures. With all tools from different religions, maybe we can eventually find some kind of solutions…
Actually the problem of child sex abuse exists in the entire world. The Catholic encyclicals are not a method of solving every human issue but particular issues as they arise in span of time for human existence. Surprisingly, no other organization has ever addressed these social issues in univocity like the Catholic church; thus, there would not be any other tools we could incorporate that would be well rounded nor consistent if they even address some of the topics in these Encyclicals.
My comment above only deals with real data and research, if you have research that shows the Catholic Encyclicals we use are not well rounded concerning the topics that are handled…im all ears.