God of the Philosophers : God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob :: Map : Territory.
My good friend-and-colleague at SUNY Oswego, Richard Cocks, who teaches on the Philosophy Faculty, has a discussion of the contradictoriness of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Existentialism at Angel Millar’s always-provocative People of Shambhala website. The article is succinct. I strongly recommend it to aficionados of The Orthosphere. The article is entitled “Nietzsche: Allure and Misunderstanding on the Left and Right.”
Here is a sample:
The saint of acceptance tries to accept everything as a consequence of unconditional love. But when he tries to accept Nature, he finds endless death and no mercy. Better and worse. Strong and weak. Out of love and compassion he will send the weak to the gas chambers and deny their pleas for help because in not accepting their fate, the weak are rejecting LIFE. They must be shown the light. Those who seek to protect the weak are the naysayers.
In a conversation with several other Christians, someone mentioned some atheists who are declaring themselves de-baptized. They have a hokey ceremony incorporating a hair-dryer, and witnesses, and a celebrant: the whole nine yards.
It can’t be done, of course, any more than pigs could fly. Once baptized, always baptized.
A young Evangelical in the company responded, “You gotta wonder: if they are really atheists, *why do they care*?” We all exploded in laughter. Someone else said, “It just goes to show you that despite what they say about baptism being meaningless superstition, in their hearts they don’t really believe it is.”
You can’t rebel against something you know does not exist.
My article on ancient atomism appears at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. In particular, I undertake a reading of Lucretius’s great poem On the Nature of Things, a strange mixture of bold speculation that anticipates modern physics and cosmology more interesting perhaps for its fairly concerted critique of sacrificial religion. I offer a sample –
Posterity knows only a little about Lucretius and much of what it knows it gleans from autobiographical references in his poem. The poem itself is paradoxical. Alleging to explicate, for the sake of a potential recruit, the scientific truths discovered by Epicurus, the truths that will redeem life for the one who accepts them, On the Nature of Things couches itself in the language of insistent evangelism, making of its intellectual hero, as George Santayana noted in his study of Lucretius in Three Philosophical Poets, a secular saint. The poem attests a powerful experience on the part of its author, which can only be described as spiritual conversion, which he then wishes to foster in another. Already in the generation just after Epicurus, his followers acquired the habit of referring to him under the honorific of soter or “savior,” an etiquette that imitated in turn a propaganda device of Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasts. Lucretius, whose time and place knew the afflictions of political breakdown, picks up this thus slightly tainted habit.
Who do you say that this is?
For every phenomenon of nature, there is a perfectly natural explanation. Such is the credo of naturalism. In practice, it has worked out amazingly well, so far. This should not surprise us. In a causally coherent and ordered world, it could not be otherwise, for in such a world (as in no other state of affairs) every event would be neatly and completely tied to its antecedents and successors by definite and orderly causal relations. And this would be so, whether or not the causal relations were intelligible to its denizens, or even apprehensible. In other words, it would be so, even if there were nothing in the universe more intelligent than amoebae. If the world were not coherent, and therefore, in principle, completely intelligible, then we – i.e., members of the world – could not understand any bit of it. For, if things were not integrated with each other in an orderly way, then the world would not really hang together – it wouldn’t be a world at all, properly speaking. It would be nothing but a jumble of unrelated events, a Humean chaos.
Many people have quite naturally concluded that the causal integrity of the world precludes the operation therein of causes exogenous thereto. This is the second sentence of the naturalist credo: there are no causes exogenous to our world, and no things exogenous to it, either.
But it won’t do. For, there is no perfectly natural explanation of the natural phenomenon that there is a perfectly natural explanation of every phenomenon of nature. Nature can’t explain the fact that there is a Nature of Nature.
The following is part of an essay on Eric Voegelin that I published about a decade ago at another website. The topic in the section that I repost here is Gnostic extremism. In light of the DOMA decision and other items recently in the news, the discussion seems relevant. –
When the differentiated, fully transcendent God—either Plato’s God beyond the gods in Phaedrus or “The Father” to whom Jesus refers in the evangelists—breaks into reality the articulation of the breakthrough inclines no less than any other idea to false objectification, to a discourse of propositions to be endorsed or refuted and of things in the social fabric that one might alter, rearrange, or eliminate. As Voegelin carefully notes, however, not only is “existence… not a fact,” but “if anything, existence is the nonfact of a disturbing movement in the In-Between of ignorance and knowledge, of time and timelessness… and ultimately of life and death.”
I’ve already shared my complaints about the humanities and the natural sciences; now I’d like to turn to the social sciences. As with these other disciplines, my “problem” with the social sciences has more to do with a general attitude I sense pervading the whole enterprise than with any particular result. That attitude can be summed up in the following statement: the correct way to understand a human being or a social system is to look at it from the point of view of a hostile outsider. The hostile outsider has a privileged perspective. The ways human beings and social organisms understand themselves are illusions; they are unscientific; they are masks behind which hide the reality of structures of oppression, unconscious desires, blind economic or sexual striving. Thus, the skill college students are to learn above all else is critical thinking, which basically means learning to assume the perspective of the hostile outsider. They are to critically question the assumptions of their upbringing (unless, of course, they are from urban Leftist homes). And if the student decides his inherited religion and ethnic loyalties are defensible? Well, then, he obviously hasn’t thought critically enough! The “questioning” of gender roles and inherited tradition has a predetermined outcome.
Needless to say, social scientists–psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists–are, by and large, my political enemies. However, my ultimate objection is philosophical. I don’t disagree that one can study human beings in terms of their psychic desires, or that one can study societies in terms of economic forces and structures of coercion. Nor do I deny that some insights can be drawn from this. What I do deny is that this gives us the ultimate truth about men or communities. It is an exercise in abstraction, of systematically ignoring aspects of the subject in order to more clearly focus on some particular structure of interest. The most important thing about a social practice is how it is experienced and understood by its participants. Even when the things critics claim to find “beneath the surface” are really there, it’s the “surface”–the lived conscious reality–that is most fundamental and most real.
This is even more true when it comes to the study of the individual human being. I myself have had two types of encounters with psychology. (My experiences with the psychiatric profession I’ll save for another post.) First, as a teacher I’ve been exposed to some of the results of research on how people learn. Overall, this work is empirically grounded and consistent with common sense and my own experience. The studies of memory, cognition, visual perception–basically of any type of mental activity that we humans are conscious of performing–also seem relatively healthy by soft science standards (although I am here speaking without much knowledge). On the other hand, as a reactionary I am also exposed to psychological claims purporting to explain my authoritarian, homophobic pathologies. That I might actually have reasons for my beliefs is dismissed out of hand. This type of psychology demands that human behavior have explanations rather than reasons. The explanations involve my unconscious fear of new experiences, my unconscious fear of my father, my unconscious homosexual urges, or some other such unconscious prompting. None of these claims has any credible evidence behind them, and they all clash with the evidence of direct introspection–hence the recurring need for “unconscious” qualifiers.
“The unconscious mind” is one of those things that people are afraid to question for fear of being thought “unscientific”; I’m sure I’ll shock some readers with even the basic observation that “unconscious mind” is a contradiction in terms.
In reaction to my post “Say No to Same-Sex Pseudo-Marriage,” commenter “The Man Who Was…” objects to our claim that homosexuality is largely caused by one’s upbringing. He says no evidence exists for this claim.
The truth is rather different. That homosexuality is largely due to the environment in which one is raised is very nearly true by definition, and is therefore not subject to either proof or disproof by empirical means. If The Man Who Was… objects that “studies” don’t prove that homosexuality is induced by a disordered environment, he’s probably failing to notice that “studies” also don’t disprove it. Continue reading
Is your philosophy asking you to understand some common aspect of human experience as illusory? If so, it is almost certainly false.