Friday, 23 March 2012

Chris Port Blog #330. First Draft PhD Proposal - What Is The Current Role of The Martyr? Skeptical Romanticism and a Metamodernist Renaissance: The Resynthesis of Art, Science and Philosophy in the Context of Musical Drama

First Draft PhD Proposal
© Chris Port, 23rd March 2012
What Is The Current Role of The Martyr? Skeptical Romanticism and a Metamodernist Renaissance: The Resynthesis of Art, Science and Philosophy in the Context of Musical Drama

Brief résumé

From 1984 to 1996 I worked in the financial services sector for a life assurance and investments company. My job title was assistant manager of client services. I specialized in being an administrative ‘troubleshooter’, investigating and resolving problematic claims and complaints.

After 12 years I began to have deep-rooted doubts about ethics, corruption and systemic risk. Combining my love of drama with my interest in philosophy and writing, I decided to enter public service and become a teacher instead.

From 1996 to 2000 I studied Drama and Education at the Central School of Speech and Drama, graduating with a first class honours degree and PGCE.

From 2000 to 2010 I taught in secondary and further education. However, after 10 years, I began to have familiar deep-rooted doubts about ethics, corruption and systemic risk.   

A proposal for a PhD research thesis:

What Is The Current Role of The Martyr? Skeptical Romanticism and a Metamodernist Renaissance: The Resynthesis of Art, Science and Philosophy in the Context of Musical Drama

In essence, my proposal falls into three broad areas of research:

1. Metamodernist Theory
2. Collaborative Practice
3. Interdisciplinary Recommendations

My principal aims are:

1. During the first year, to resynthesize art, science and philosophy into a pragmatic metamodernist agenda (in the specific context of musical drama)

2. During the second year, to devise collaborative methodologies for new musical drama (in the specific context of online resources and social/business networks)

3. During the third year, to create a prototype revisionist model project for development (specifically linking: actors, artists, atheists, community action co-ordinators, composers, designers, directors, educators, government agencies, media producers, philosophers, scientists, security services, sociologists, theists, writers).  

Intended outcomes are:

1. A concise artistic manifesto (in the form of an interdisciplinary ‘language map’)

2. A concise ‘guerrilla handbook’ (detailing methods and examples for applying theory to practice)

3. An exemplary playscript, libretto, resources and production notes for collaborative development (with drama schools and media producers)

Here is a brief outline of some key influences, contexts and methodologies.

Ten years ago, towards the end of my degree studies, I became troubled by the implications of postmodernism. For ease of reference, I formulated two antinomic caricatures:

 i)     Pessimism. The ‘failure of the Enlightenment’ perspective: post-ideological trauma and the fragmentation of metanarratives into anomie, what Brian Appleyard termed the ‘survival of the atomised self’ (see Manifesto for Drama Education in the Twenty-First Century

ii)     Optimism. The ‘joys of interculturalism’ perspective: a playful pick ‘n’ mix approach towards individualism and creativity (see Example of interdisciplinary Postmodernism and intertextuality
I then taught Drama, Media and Film for a decade in secondary and further education. During this time, my experiences in ‘the system’ suggested that postmodernism was an ideological scam. There is a metanarrative: global capitalism.

‘Post-ideological’ ironicism is being reformulated by internet pundits (from all shades of the political spectrum). From a pseudo-Marxist perspective it could be seen as the cunning fragmentation of labour’s solidarity by a capitalist oligarchy. From a gender political perspective,‘masculinity in crisis’ forms an interesting subset of this paradigm.

From a pseudo-liberal perspective, the rise of religious fundamentalism is ambiguous. It appears to be a Third World backlash against neo-positivist hegemony. However, it is simultaneously appearing on the political agendas of the developed world. This suggests that fundamentalism may have deep-rooted psychological and memetic causes as well as political and economic ones. Is fundamentalism the inevitable sequitur to postmodernism, or are there more sophisticated and pragmatic options? 

I am particularly interested in focusing on the conflict between science and religion (as exemplified by the work of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens). One aspect of my proposed ‘language map’ would be the repositioning of aesthetics as a lingua franca (with the ultimate aim of reconciling science and religion in an artistic framework).

I intend to analyze the role of mainstream musical theatre within this framework since this is clearly one of the most populist art forms. My aim is to subvert the dominance of formulaic commercialism by devising rhizomatic strategies to circumvent the existing cartels. Ultimately, I intend to use these as a springboard into new ‘total’ art forms (influenced by some of the ideas of 19th century German Romanticism) reconciling skepticism with romanticism.

German Romanticism is associated with a synthetic nostalgia for medieval integration of the sacred with the secular. I intend to transpose this paradigm to metamodernism, positioning Sam Harris et al. in the secular camp.

I have not yet decided on the ‘sacred’ camp and will be open to suggestions from my supervisors here.

I intend to position my resynthesis using both a Žižekian framework (based on an interdisciplinary analysis of power relations) and a Wittgensteinian analysis of the language games involved.

From an initial manifesto, I intend to research and develop effective online networks leading to collaborative partnerships (initially with composers). This action research section of the thesis will be heavily dependent on advice and contacts provided by the university. One of the challenges of the research will be in developing effective methodologies which preserve the artistic and ethical integrity of the project while adapting to the realpolitik of parochial agendas. A rhizomatic, interdisciplinary approach is therefore vital here in order to tap into different funding root systems.

For further elaboration on preliminary research, please see:

Marty Gull Ideas Tap

Marty Gull - Open Invitation for Collaboration on a New Musical Art Form - Link to Central School of Speech and Drama

Marty Gull Complete Libretto

Marty Gull Playscript Extracts

The ‘Meaning’ of Life (Emergent Properties)

Here’s Hoping the Chinese Still Like Ghost Stories: Why I Love Gothic Horror Films

Avowed Atheism versus Deputized Deism: God, whatever He is (or isn’t) is certainly a sense of humour…

Can Science Answer Moral Questions?

The ‘God’ Measurement. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? I think we’re both talking about the same thing…”

God’s Null Hypothesis: The Banana Skin on the Pavement…

“The truth of any statement depends upon its purpose.”

Winning the Narrative: Empiricism, Rationalism and Metaphysics

A Classic Example Of How Empiricists Can Get Themselves Into Trouble… Which came first, maths or the universe?

The Incomprehensibility of Car Mechanics

Free Will: A Suspension of Disbelief in Our Own Ghost Stories (The Rugby Ball in the Mud, the Ghost in the Machine…)

“I name my demon…” - the Atheist’s Epiphany

Providence: The Lazarus Taxon

Marty Gull - The Guerilla Guide to Revenge Musicals Publishing Pitch

Is all art inherently political?

“Art & politics Now” - Transcript fragments from a Facebook forum discussion in September 2011 (no longer available online)


  1. Dear Sir and/or Madam,

    I am so glad that you appear to have re-engaged with the pursuit of thought, expression and articulation of these areas of thought; ones about which you feel so passionate. I am pleased further that now you appear also both willing and prepared to commit these intellectual pursuits to paper, by way of a doctorate (which I am certain you shall achieve). There was a real danger that your obvious abilities were going to remain dormant for a time and that would be a real waste of your 'gift.' Well done, good luck and congratulations on taking this next-step.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thank you for your kind encouragement and support.

    2. "The greatest obstacles are invariably petty. Defeating totalitarianism is straightforward. Defeating bitchiness - that will be the tricky part." #roleofthemartyr

  2. On the 'redefinition' of God...


    Sam Harris (world famous neuroscientist philosopher) is offering his critics a chance to put up or shut up. He's offered a cash prize of $20,000 (about £12,800) to anyone who can convincingly refute his central argument for a scientific morality.

    Assuming no-one can refute him, there's a consolation prize of $2,000 (about £1,280) for the most interesting response.

    See FAQs in link for further details. Closing date for entries is 9 February 2014, so you've got time to buy his book and boost his royalties.


    Hmmm… Traditionally, science has been regarded as descriptive and morality as prescriptive. But science is also predictive. So, in Sam’s moral landscape, do good* predictions = good** prescriptions?

    * Falsifiable
    ** Beneficial

    Possibly. But if they’re truly equivalent, does it work vice versa? This leads out onto some very thin ice…

    The real question is always “Cui bono” (to whose benefit?). So I suspect that Sam’s thesis could only be refuted by reference to de facto cynicism rather than de jure principle (i.e. selectivity and performativity)


    I don’t actually want to refute Sam’s thesis (fortunately for me). I just want to qualify it (modesty is my only flaw). But, in order to qualify it, I’ll have to fail to refute it in a way that grabs his interest. So, all I’m really looking for is a fascinating aesthetic conundrum at the heart of his argument…

    See also:

    Can Science Answer Moral Questions?

    First Draft PhD Proposal

    Woolwich Threads

    A Crash Course in Aesthetics

    Metamodernist Case Notes on a Think Tank Thread: Why Us and Why Now?

    Notes on Metamodernism: The Pit and the Pendulum...

    The Name of the Ghost

    Teachers Talking Rot (1 of 2)

    Teachers Talking Rot (2 of 2)

    See also: "Perhaps description is the key?"

    Marty Solves One of the Problems of the Universe

  4. WG: If morality evolved for the purpose of fostering community, can we deduce anything about what is moral/immoral without committing the naturalistic fallacy? If so, what?

    Naturalistic fallacy

    CP: Assuming evolution (and discounting intelligent design) we would be committing a teleological fallacy if we claimed that morality evolved for any purpose.

    See Teleological Argument

    It would be less erroneous if we simply claimed that community evolved as a successful survival strategy. From this we can deduce that morality evolved from a natural hierarchical pecking order into etiquette.

    See Etiquette

    The problem of the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' arises because of a manmade distinction between natural and manmade.

    This distinction seems to be an inverted form of the anthropomorphic/pathetic fallacy.

    See Pathetic Fallacy

    Man (i.e. homo sapiens) evolved IN the natural world. However, our intelligence evolved as another successful survival strategy. Eventually, this sapient differential resulted in misrecognition. We began to see ourselves as SEPARATE from the natural world.

    However, this separation is a fallacy. In (physical) reality, sentience is an emergent phenomenon. The artificial is still part of the natural world.

    From our initial premises, we can deduce that morality (i.e. evolved etiquette) can only exist in higher level consciousness. Therefore, we can deduce that morality is a complex emergent property.

    After that, we can only deduce that we are playing Wittgensteinian language games.

    See Language-game (philosophy)

    In 'The Moral Landscape', Sam Harris proposes we should discard cultural relativism and quantify these language games in terms of 'the well-being of conscious creatures'. It's a logical deduction and a valid premise.

    See 'The Moral Landscape'

    Whether his arguments are sound is still up for grabs though.


    CP: If morality is ‘the well-being of conscious creatures’, then consciousness must precede well-being.

    This is a one-way logic gate. We can talk of consciousness without well-being, but it makes no sense to talk of well-being without consciousness.

    Ergo, existence must precede essence (sans Sartrean Free Will).

    Ergo, survival must precede morality.

    But survival of what? Individuals, communities, genes, or memes?

    These qualities are entangled and interdependent. But which is most important?

    Ironically, we cannot be equitable from first principle here. Unfortunately, we do not live in a deathless paradise. Therefore, in the physical universe, we can only talk of survival and morality in terms of priorities (e.g. dilemmas or conflicts of interest).

    The scientific method can quantify well-being. But can it qualify existential priorities? If not, then a scientific morality without aesthetic qualification has no system of prioritization.

    Ergo, does ‘scientific morality’ encounter similar inconsistencies to those identified in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?

    Raatikainen, Panu, "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)