Is the idea of a metaphysical substrate, of stories, meaningful? I have been listening to some talks by Jordan Peterson, and it seems he posits this idea of a metaphysical substrate as counterpoint to the postmodern condition, that there are real subjective preferences for specific systems of thought based around presumably aesthetic preferences for living particular types of stories.
I am instinctively hostile to his privileging of the mythos of his own in-group. But at the same time as a former atheist and now agnostic Buddhist, I feel we have been over quick to dismiss all religious ideas as misguided, and failing to see the true context and functions of ideas that can turn out to be far more sophisticated than expected when we do account for them.
Peterson uses this metaphysical substrate idea to suggest there is something unique about Judeo-Christian practices or thought and it's impact on how we live, that has contributed to the modern Western ideas landscape, and scientific thought in particular, which we overly-minimise or fail to be aware of. It is an argument I have heard from Jewish scholars too. Even if there is, is any legacy still valueble? I guess observing the dynamics of it historically could give insights.
A criticism that immediately springs to mind, is that we can see from the https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Needham#Needham_Question that although compasses, gunpowder, canals and paper, all originated in China they didn't have the transformative effect of ushering in the modern age until they reached Europe. That seems to have been because of conflict across Europe, shaped by geography. Religious ideas in Europe too, went through a more dynamic diversification and selection process, eventually leading to robust secilarism.
Positive evidence seems to relate to the generation of a law-based idea of causality, as opposed to karmic (psycological) and life-force based views of causality in India and China respectively. Covenant-based religion and the arising of social contract theory also seem like they might be linked. The Red Cross, just war theory and human rights, as well as hospitals, could also be said to have arisen directly from a Christian group.
It seems the bigger picture, is looking away from individualism, and towards what stories that bind people and societies together. Perhaps there is a way in which consciously admitting that stories -religious or otherwise- are fictional, diminishes them? Some modern stories, like Harry Potter and Starwars, or even Marvel & DC, seem to have been especially taken up and 'lived' or identified with by fans, who expand the cosmologies of the worlds described. Do we misunderstand our politics, by looking for evidence instead of stories? Are they what really motivate and bind us together?
Does the idea of a metaphysical substrate offer any useful analysis of history, or ways to shape our behaviours and choose our stories for the future?