Novels of ideas... exhibit a masterplot: a hero or heroine devoted to an idea discovers that reality is much more complex than the idea allows.
For example, a materialist believes that love is nothing but physiology and that individual people differ no more than frogs, yet he falls deeply in love with a particular woman (the plot of Turgenev’s Fathers and Children). A moralist asserts that only actions, not wishes, have moral value, yet winds up consumed by guilt for a murder he has fostered only by his wish for it (the plot of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov)....
As mentioned in the previous post, our Current Project involves the reconciliation of evolutionary and Thomistic psychologies -- where they converge, where they diverge, and where only one can possibly walk out alive. This cosmos -- no cosmos -- is big enough for two ultimate truths.
If I were a novelist, perhaps I'd write a story of a strict sociobiologist who insists that love is nothing but a deception of the genes to trick us into reproducing, yet falls deeply in love with a particular woman. Only then does he discover a reality that transcends his little ideology, and that frogs and persons aren't of equal value and significance.
On an even deeper level, I wonder if the biblical narrative -- the arc of salvation that spans from creation to the beatific vision -- isn't a bug but a feature? In other words, this metastory not only must be told in history, but with history. What if history is made of truth -- the truth of fall and redemption?
I have a note to myself: consequences of Darwinism. Suffice it to say that no Darwinist actually thinks and lives the consequences of his ideology. Indeed, if he takes them seriously, he could under no circumstances take them seriously, because they abolish the very possibility of knowing truth. Only a sociopath could be an intellectually and morally consistent Darwinian.
Volodin recalls Epicurus’s words: “Our inner feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are the highest criteria of good and evil,” and only now does he understand them. “Now it was clear: Whatever gives me pleasure is good; what displeases me is bad. Stalin, for instance, enjoyed killing people -- so that, for him, was good?”
How wise such philosophy seems to a free person! But for Volodin, good and evil are now distinct entities. “His struggle and suffering had raised him to a height from which the great materialist’s wisdom seemed like the prattle of a child.”
Similarly, compared to St. Thomas, the wisdom of evolutionary psychology seems like the prattle of a child.
Solzhenitsyn explains: “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.... it is in the nature of a human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
Here again, a strict Darwinian can never speak of natural law or of a transcendent human nature.
Why is it, Solzhenitsyn asks, that Macbeth, Iago, and other Shakespearean evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses, while Lenin and Stalin did in millions? The answer is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.” Ideology makes the killer and torturer an agent of good, “so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.” Ideology never achieved such power and scale before the twentieth century.
How does the ideology of Darwinism explain this? More to the point, from the perspective of Darwinism, on what basis can we say that Stalin and his ideology are evil?
Anyone can succumb to ideology. All it takes is a sense of one’s own moral superiority for being on the right side; a theory that purports to explain everything; and -- this is crucial -- a principled refusal to see things from the point of view of one’s opponents or victims, lest one be tainted by their evil viewpoint.
If we remember that totalitarians and terrorists think of themselves as warriors for justice, we can appreciate how good people can join them.
Ideologies have consequences. The consequences of atheism are absolutely ruinous:
Bolshevik ethics explicitly began and ended with atheism. Only someone who rejected all religious or quasi-religious morals could be a Bolshevik because, as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and other Bolshevik leaders insisted, the only standard of right and wrong was success for the Party.
The bourgeoisie falsely claim we have no ethics, Lenin explained.... But what we reject is any ethics based on God’s commandments or anything resembling them, such as abstract principles, timeless values, universal human rights, or any tenet of philosophical idealism. For a true materialist, Lenin maintained, there can be no Kantian categorical imperative to regard others only as ends, not as means.
Each of our lives is a narrative, a story. Indeed, how could human life even be conceived if not as an unfolding drama? But what is the drama about? Does it point to a telos beyond itself, or is it only about the past -- about our past adaptations to this or that contingent environment? Can it really be about nothing other than selfish genes, or class warfare, or the elimination of people with white privilege?
Kopelev, Solzhenitsyn, and others describe the key event of their life as the discovery that just as the universe contains causal laws it also contains moral laws. Bolshevik horror derived from the opposite view: that there is nothing inexplicable in materialist terms and that the only moral standard is political success.
To be continued...