Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Secular Subhumanists and the Ravages of Reductionism

Ravage: to wreak havoc on; visit destructively and often violently; to commit destructive actions

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.

14 Comments:

OpenID kaffepaus said...

Yes, the secular humanist tends to believe more in systems than in acctual humans.

2/16/2010 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Flipping between NPR and the lone conservative talk station on Sirius today. NPR had a "poet" on. Her poem wasn't. It was a checklist of every leftist trope from the past 40 years strung together. It had nothing whatsoever to do with poetry.

Leftist poetry: either political manifesto or depravity or ennui. That's all she wrote.

2/16/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

More echoes of various OC themes: The Era of the Narcissist

2/16/2010 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

One thing I have learned in the middle years of a human lifespan is this: Having a fast brain is of little use if you don't also have a higher perspective from which to make sense of all the myriad of facts and connections. They don't simply fall into place on their own without.

2/16/2010 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."

Excellent. It's only through those vertical constraints that Freedom and Liberty can be found.

In being defined from below, your every action defined by seeking one thrill after another... and the ever necessary ratcheting up of those thrills in order to keep them thrilling... slavery and death.

wv:emingly
what happens when you don't See it coming.

2/16/2010 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."


Or all at once from your great, great grand uncle Godwin, who said:

"...Having frequently quoted Rousseau in the course of this work, it may be allowable to say one word of his general merits as a moral and political writer. He has been subjected to perpetual ridicule for the extravagance of the proposition with which he began his literary career; that the savage state was the genuine and proper condition of man. It was however by a very slight mistake that he missed the opposite opinion which it is the business of the present volume to establish. It is sufficiently observable that, where he describes the enthusiastic influx of truth that first made him a moral and political writer ... He was the first to teach that the imperfections of government were the only permanent source of the vices of mankind; and this principle was adopted from him by Helvetius and others."

Oh... that the State would be allowed to force us to be free! Ouiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

2/16/2010 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...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...

Trapped in time, imprisoned by regrets and consequences.

2/16/2010 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

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."

Shamsolutely!

2/16/2010 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Which is why, referring to my last comment, all the leftist ideals that are costantly bein' peddled by leftist politicians(and their eager lapdogs which we all know of so well, unfortunatly) sound like one of those sham-wow "info" mercials (except worse, since their policies include enforcement to buy their defective products).

"You have to SEE it to BELIEVE it!"

"No household would be COMPLETE without it!"

"Think of ALL THE MONEY, TIME and ENERGY you will SAVE!"

"The SHAMSOLUTE will transform your life!"

"I don't know how I survived WITHOUT it!"

2/16/2010 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I had some shamsolute vodka once...and all I can say is that's some purty rot gut stuff right there. Plus, they skimped out on the alchyhol, so it's not jest a matter of tastin' badder than expired head cheese smells.

I got it on good authority that they didn't even use real 'taters to make that swill.

Skully, the "go to" authority on sham spirits.

2/16/2010 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

This from a tract I once read:

"There are a number of gradations among people.

The lowest grade is the "animal man" who is concerned with vital drives, procreation, and the satisfaction of the appetites. Nature replicates these in abundance.

Next comes the dynamic man, who lives for action, struggle, the championing of causes, the pushing of human limits in all aspects of living. There are fewer of these.

Then there is the mental man. He lives somewhat detached from the drives of the body and the passions. He lives in the world of ideas and becomes a powerful force for the advancement of humanity. Pure mental types are scarce.

At the apex of Nature's human experiment is the spiritual man; he trends towards a self-exceeding even beyond mind. He goes within and above, looking to remove barriers between himself and God. These are the saints, the God-lovers, prophets, and mystics. These types are not numerous.

Nature, in her broad advancement of evolution, likes to keep her first formulation, the animal man, in abundance as a foundation for her more subtle and refined works.

The dynamic and mental men, having gone as far as they can go, are also kept as a stage in relative abundance.

The spiritual man is he who is still carving out new areas; these are Nature's sharp edge and for these the rest are a foundation."

Seen in this light, our objections to the logicial postitivists, valid as they are, may not point the way to needed change but perhaps chastise Mother Nature for being cautious and redundant in Her ascendancy.

Each human has his intended place at the table of life; if you are a spiritual man, attend your spot at the table.

2/16/2010 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speakin' of lefties and their shamsolute mockery of everythin' good, decent n' alcoholic, there's not so much as a "wow" factor in anythin' their sellin', or, to be more purcise, tryin' to take by force, 'cause let's get down to brass tacks here, they can't possibly sell that crap to folks who have at least a lick O sense, which happens to be most folks, includin' yers truly, so they gotta take it by force.

Of course, this gets folks riled up, just like those so-called "sin" taxes get me riled up.
Now, if they taxed those congresscreeps each time they lied that would be a sin tax I could support.
Or they could tax everytime those weasels change a meanin' of a word.

Perfesser Skully, takin' the sham outta the absolut, one bottle at a time.

2/16/2010 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Black hoe said:
"Each human has his intended place at the table of life; if you are a spiritual man, attend your spot at the table."

The "mental" table is over at LGF.
Just sayin'.

2/16/2010 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Black Hole:
The main error of your quote is stasis. It sees a snapshot of the world, but ignores the relentless movement of individuals and groups in either one direction or the other. Where do you want to go today?

2/17/2010 09:36:00 AM  

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