Secular Subhumanists and the Ravages of Reductionism
I suppose one of my main themes is the violence done to man as a result of any ideology that regards him as less than Man. Ideological Darwinism, for example (the strict science notwithstanding), is a philosophical non-starter, since it reduces man to an animal pure and simple. There isn't, nor can there be, anything "special" about man, except perhaps his delusional ability to convince himself that he is something other than an ape with a few additional tricks for survival.
But these traits can have no intrinsic "value," being that value is one of the primary delusions of this human ape. Nor can there be any fixed "human nature" or essence, since man, like everything else in the biosphere, is just a temporary resting spot for genes that are relentlessly changing. Obviously, nothing can be "permanent" in such a view, since every species is by definition "transitional." Which is why the Darwinian worldview is so seriously fluxed up.
Likewise, scientism wreaks havoc on the human qua human, since it goes even further, reducing his animality to mere matter. Marxism too -- and all ideologies that flow from Marxism -- reduces man to a passive subject of forces that both control and define him, whether race, class, gender, or sexual preference.
But to define a man in terms of one of these categories is to rob him of his manhood, which is to say, his individuality (or uniqueness) and his nobility and dignity (or his intrinsic worth). For example, instead of defining Obama as "the first black president," it's actually less of an insult to regard him as the most recent idiot president, since one can at least be a unique idiot. But to insist that his race is important is to limit him by a category that is irrelevant to human essence. Or, to put it another way, Obama's race is not a statement about him, only about how most Americans couldn't care less what race their president is.
Each person is unique -- or at least potentially so -- which makes any reductionistic theory of man a kind of metaphysical straitjacket. Now, can man be described in the abstract? Of course. This is why, for example, modern medicine works. But even then, there are many people who, for reasons unknown, react quite differently to the identical medication. This is especially true in psychiatry, where for one person a medication can be a magic bullet, while it just makes another person feel sick.
And man is surely a social animal, but his social-ism must always be understood in the greater context of his individual-ism. In other words, the purpose of the collective is to facilitate human development. Conversely, the purpose of individualism cannot to be to subordinate it to the collective, as happens in primitive groups (in both their premodern and postmodern varieties, or untenured and tenured, respectively).
A truly human science describes man as he is, on his own level, as opposed to eliminating that level through reduction. The irony is that people who call themselves "humanists" are generally the worst offenders, since their philosophy rejects the transcendent categories that define our humanness. These categories are located "above" (vertically speaking), not below. Which is why there can be no true humanism in the absence of religion, otherwise humanism quickly reduces to animalism or worse (eg., quantity). In other words, if the human is not constrained from above, he will be defined from below. He is a person, not (only) an animal and not a number.
This is the reason, by the way, that poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world." No, they don't cause the sun to rise or the seasons to change. But the poet does cast science in human terms. Or as commenter Frank P. says, "It was not science that described this delightful example of Universal structure and its implications; it was the poet and his art. The scientist merely exposed it, with the aid of the mechanic and the technician. We can trust the poet. The question that you perhaps pose, though, is which employs the most guile to enlighten (or deceive) the innocent and ignorant? The answer -- I suppose -- depends on which scientist and which poet."
Precisely. Which is why some poems are magic bullets, while others can be deceptive or even toxic: all those lousy little poets coming round tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson or Al Gore. (Apologies to Leonard Cohen.)
As Schuon -- in my view a quintessential humanist in the proper sense of the word -- expressed it, "There is a great deal of talk these days about 'humanism,' talk which forgets that once man abandons his prerogatives to matter, to machines, to quantitative knowledge, he ceases to be truly 'human.'"
Schuon always treats the human as human. But in our day, the word humanism "constitutes a curious abuse of language in view of the fact that it expresses a notion that is contrary to the integrally human, hence to the human properly so called: indeed, nothing is more fundamentally inhuman than the 'purely human,' the illusion of constructing a perfect man starting from the individual and terrestrial; whereas the human in the ideal sense draws its reason for existence and its entire content from that which transcends the individual and the earthly."
Again, our essence defines us from above, not below. Likewise, genuine freedom can only find its source above -- which is why the libertarian who vaunts freedom in the absence of transcendence simply falls into a kind of license that, because it has no constraints, cannot be free in any meaningful sense. Yes, if you were lost somewhere in the wilderness, you would be "free." But this is like saying that a baby is a genius because he is completely free of untruths.
And as we were saying yesterday, since man cannot live without the Absolute, secular humanism ends up being "the reign of horizontality, either naïve or perfidious; and since it is also -- and by that very fact -- the negation of the Absolute, it is a door open to a multitude of sham absolutes, which in addition are often negative, subversive, and destructive."
So, just as the leftist dreams of a system so perfect that no one would need to be good, the reductionist -- the Darwinian, the materialist, the logical positivist -- dreams of one in which no one would need to be intelligent or creative. In short, he dreams of a system that eliminates man.