The Diagnosis and Treatment of Man
What is wrong with man? Other animals may do damage, but it is within limits, whereas man's possibilities for mayhem seem boundless. It must have to do with our being conformed to the Absolute. That being the case, we are unbound at both ends, for both good and evil, intelligence and stupidity, beauty and depravity.
All religions -- and I suppose all philosophies -- begin with a diagnosis, although the worst ones tend to give man a clean bill of health, and instead diagnose the system in which he is embedded.
For example, Black Lives Matter finds nothing whatsoever wrong wrong with black people. To the extent that there is something wrong, it is 100% due to white people. So white people earn the diagnosis of being racist oppressors. And if you deny you are racist, that only makes you more racist -- just as a mentally ill person who doesn't know he's mentally ill is that much more insane.
You will have noticed that this reflects a larger pattern, in that the left never diagnoses man as such, but only a class of men. For Marx, you could say that the proletariat class was free of disease, whereas all classes above were sick and in need of treatment, up to and including literal eradication. For feminists, men are the problem, never women. It is written into Islam that non-Muslims are the problem, not Muslims.
Conversely, conservatives always begin with universal human nature, for both good and ill (the dividing line of which runs through the human heart). The left denies that there is any such thing, but this means there is an absurdity at the very foundation of their worldview, for if there is no such thing as human nature, then there can be no such thing as a deviation from it. The left can call its opponents "greedy," but on what basis can they say that greediness is wrong? So it's really a bait-and-switch operation, such that they deny human nature up front, only to impose their own version of it through the back door.
For example, what the left calls "homophobia" is probably a part of human nature -- and for obvious reasons if you believe in natural selection. This hardly means it must redound to oppression, let alone violence, but it does mean that it's something that cannot be legislated away. Likewise sexual differences. To imagine they can be eliminated is to have utterly misdiagnosed mankind.
This book on Polanyi is divided into four main sections: diagnosis, prescription, treatment, and evaluation. What does Polanyi say is wrong with us? And is there anything we can do about it?
"Many people today suspect that something ails the modern mind." Yes, problems have been amplified over the past century, but this is mainly due to mankind having the means to do what in the past it could only dream of. Would the Romans have nuked Carthage if they had had the means to do so? The effect was the same, only it took a lot more man-hours to to accomplish. Nor did the Romans -- unlike the US -- extend a hand of friendship and help the Carthaginians rebuild a thriving nation. When the Romans nuked you, you stayed nuked.
What if the caliphate had had nukes when they were thrown back at the gates of Vienna in 1529? Same thing. As a matter of fact, Levin highlights a problem we've discussed here, and that is a people possessing a technology that it could have never developed on its own. Which is why we don't worry about Israel possessing nuclear weapons, whereas Islamic nations possessing them is an entirely different matter.
Polanyi points out that "it was intellectuals... who played the largest part in destroying those very things" that make the intellectual life possible. The list of infertile eggheads who spoke well of communism and fascism is a who's who of modern progressivism (AKA liberal fascism), despite the fact that no intellectual life is possible in the absence of freedom.
As early as 1940 Polanyi wrote of the "prevailing progressive obsessions" which "led him to believe that the modern mind was not well." There must have been something in the air, because this is around the same time Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom, and both men ultimately touch on the nature of complex systems that are beyond the reach of intellectual knowledge and control (even though this was prior to the emergence of complexity as a separate scientific discipline).
It turns out that the same intellectual pathogen that resulted in fascism and communism was very much present in the west. Now that I think about it, this pathogen can be traced all the way back and down to Eden, in that it is the presumption of a kind of omniscience that is absolutely barred to man. Any form of socialism is rooted in three delusions about mankind, which come down to the problems of incentive, the problem of knowledge, and the problem of calculation. These three not only make socialism difficult, they make it strictly impossible.
Nevertheless, there was a "concerted movement in England in the 1930s to deprive science of its autonomy and to make it responsible to society and for its welfare." This ends up not liberating science, but constraining it -- very similar to the billions of dollars governments spend on subsidizing the global warming hysteria that inevitably results in greater government power. Can you imagine the state subsidizing research -- or even paying for an education -- that calls for its shrinkage? That's like enlisting cancer to fight tumors.
To be continued...