Essays, featured
Comments 50

Marching in Circles: Faustian Thinking and the Myth of Science

by Edward Curtin

Photograph source: AP

In our society those who have best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane.” George Orwell, 1984

This has inspired me to new heights, to wage war against these forces [‘the unfruitful ocean’] and subdue them.” Faust from Goethe’s Faust

The recent marches on April 22nd to promote science and to celebrate Earth Day were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda. Obviously science has benefited us in certain ways, but it has become untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality and its unending efforts to sabotage faith in human freedom by rationally “proving” its illogical deterministic credo. And in doing so it has created and sustained a nightmarish world on the brink of destruction and undermined people’s will to resist this death march. Ostensibly rational, it has engendered a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis.

“In short,” says Dostoevsky’s underground man, “one may say anything about the history of the world – anything that might enter the most disordered imagination. The only thing one can’t say is that it’s rational.”

For two of the major problems the world faces – world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth’s ecology and atmosphere – are the result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies” (Little Boy and Fat Man) that were used by the U.S. to massacre hundreds of thousands of Japanese and now threaten to incinerate everyone, and the chemical and toxic inventions that have despoiled the earth, air, and water and continue to kill people worldwide through America’s endless war-making and industrial applications.

The Save-the-Earth-Science marchers failed, for self-serving reasons or ignorance, to see the obvious. But their failure goes even deeper than omitting the links between science, war, and pollution.

In our technopoly, logical thinking has become illogical; cause and effect, means and ends have been inverted. The causes of our problems are touted as the means to end them. These “solutions” are always offered with a straight face, as if they made perfect sense. This is how societies operate when in the grip of myths. In this case, the myths of science, progress, and history. Such myths render the obvious invisible as they create a hopeless inevitability in people who can imagine no alternative and have been convinced that science is the secret to salvation and the means to the things they have learned to desire, including longevity and perhaps “immortality.” And these things have become the means to additional means in an endless loop from which, by definition, ends are absent. As a result, the search for truth, celebrated as a goal of science, is slyly eliminated.

In this comforting yet absurd myth, science is viewed as the “miraculous knight of reason.” John Saul Ralston elaborates:

Science led the way in the battle against the forces of darkness. Discoveries were celebrated as if new territories were won on the road to a place of eternal light where knowledge would reign. And yet these very real advances in the uncovering of nature’s secrets seemed increasingly to create a world which escaped the control of society. New knowledge and new positive powers in the hands of man seemed inevitably to be matched with new inaccessible elites and a new sophistication in the arts of violence and destruction….As for the scientists, the vast majority of whom continue to believe in the inviolability of progress, they still do so with the driven purity of terrorists.

Comforted and paradoxically terrorized by our creations, yet immobilized by our myths, we seem to lack the imaginations to conceive a different approach. So we applaud what seems so “sensible”: marching for science to save the planet. Meaning well becomes a substitute for missing the meaning of our contradictory thinking and the myth that sustains it.

Delude ourselves as we might, the probability of making all possibility impossible is very real. Poised on the edge of nuclear conflagration and environmental collapse, we tell ourselves that reasonable minds will prevail, knowing, if we choose to think at all, that the central experiences of the past century – the mass slaughter of human beings with progressively more “advanced” weapons and ecological destruction as a result of scientific/technological “advances” (we are always advancing in the myth) – were not prevented by such “reasonableness.” In fact, instrumental reason and its perverted logic of efficiency – our Gods – caused them.

We inhabit a nightmare, and reason is insufficient to awaken us. “The madman,” wrote G. K. Chesterton, “is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” This is true even when the reasoning is faulty.

This scientific/technological nightmare is a world where everything has become a means and the ends no longer exist. We are travelling at breakneck speed to nowhere, but as long as long as we keep moving in our “usefulness,” no one seems to notice that we are travelling in circles and getting nowhere.

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

I’d say the boys – the Beatles – have a point, wouldn’t you? But what do artists know?

We can’t conceive of our ends since they conjure up nothing, having been swallowed by the means, while the purpose of our lives is reduced to staying alive as long as possible. The Faustian goal has always been immortality, and we have been infected with the fear that death, and therefore life, may be meaningless. The quest for scientific “immortality” is a means to a means without end. It is a symptom of the profound spiritual crisis of the age.

Writing about our twisted logic that has banished anything “useless” or “gratuitous,” – including art, people, and nature – the great French sociologist Jacques Ellul says this about modern science:

Once, knowledge of truth was what mattered, but then after the philosophers came the scientists. They developed their theories, which were then applied, first in order to prove the truth of these theories, and then because of their usefulness. From that point on, science was lost! Technical means gradually came to dominate the search for truth. Science became more and more about the effectiveness of technical means. Science today takes its meaning from technique; it is completely oriented to application. It is in the service of means. It has become a means of perfecting the means. The abstraction ‘science,’ to which we still pay lip service, has replaced the search for truth.

Yes, marching for science is marching for science, but not in the way the demonstrators think. It is marching for a means to a means. Wedded to government support and instantaneously applied to technical applications, science serves no ultimate end but its own existence. Holding signs supporting science as a cure for the planet’s ills that science has created is like taking psychotropic drugs for depression because you were told the “cause” of your depression is a brain abnormality for which no causal scientific evidence exists since there are no definitive empirical lab tests. In the former case the cause becomes the solution; in the latter, the imagined cause is remedied by an imagined solution. In both cases, delusional thinking prevails.

Such inverted logic about cause and effect is the way the myth of science works today. No evidence required. The cause is the solution. The means justifies the means.

It is the same “logic” used to support the materialistic, murderous, and imperialistic American empire. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. – bomb, invade, kill, destroy – and when those means don’t work, double down on them.

Paul Virilio, the great scholar of dromology (the study of speed), asks:

“Has the prohibition to prohibit – the basic law of scientific progress – become the only law of a lawless globalism?”

His answer: Yes. This prohibition to prohibit informs our science, war-making, rapacious globalization, and capitalist death trip – everything – as we accelerate toward global suicide.

It was Dostoevsky who long ago warned us of the path we were on and the spiritual nihilism that lay at its heart:

That is not all; then, you say, science itself will teach man (though to my mind it’s a superfluous luxury) that he never has really had any caprice or will of his own, and that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ, and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature; so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature. Consequently, we have only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him.

But “easy” turned out to be hard, as an uneasiness of profound proportions wed to the spiritual crisis of free will created by science has been dismissed as the rantings of religious fanatics who want to return us to the dark ages. Blinded by the myth of science, we fail to see that the loss of our belief in our own freedom is connected to the instrumental rationality that threatens all life.

Nature and all living creatures, including ourselves, have become our enemies and are rejected as ends in themselves. Everything and everyone is a means. We must bomb, bulldoze, manipulate, drug, control, poison, etc. – all in the service of a diabolical willfulness that brooks no resistance.

American society is nihilistic and the ruling political and intellectual elites are of course the leading nihilists. But this nihilism is widespread because it works at the mythic level. Unable to grasp the circular and repetitive nature of instrumental reason and its propaganda that have resulted in a spiritual/existential crisis that is leading to world destruction, average people fall into a deeper malaise that leads to widespread despair, unhappiness, and hopelessness. Everything becomes a means to a means in a kaleidoscopic death trap.

The question is: how can we break out of this mystification of experience that has resulted in a double-bind that has trapped us?

I thing Goethe hints at a solution in a “warning” that the devil, Mephistopheles, gives to a student in Faust, and which Faust failed to heed:

Who would study and describe the living, starts
By driving the spirits out of the parts:
In the palm of his hand he holds all the sections,
Lacks nothing, except the spirit’s connection.

But are we capable of taking such a hint? Or have we passed a point of no return?

I will take up this hint in a sequel to this article, and explore the possibility of a path out of the seeming impossibility of escaping the cul-de-sac of our spiritually disinherited current condition.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/
Advertisements

50 Comments

  1. Sorry, Not Buying It says

    The author fails to diagnose the problem – capitalism-imperialism – and instead blames one of the tools – science – wielded by the problem for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He reduces it to “technology and technique”, an oddly reductionist view from someone who criticizes science for being overly reductionist. If only he’d been more SCIENTIFIC, his argument could have been more of what he decries science for not being enough of: holistic. He could then have broaden the causal chain to include US imperialism. But instead, there’s no mention even of capitalism. To him, science is “the” reason that human civilization finds itself in the situation that it does. Without bringing the class question into the equation, doesn’t this critique of his just devolve into a reactionary screed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • BigB says

      Capitalism-Imperialism is also but an effect – of who or what we perceive ourselves to be. The fundamental building block of our ideologies – our socio-cultural-economic organisation – is the human mind. I suggest that if our systems and societies are flawed (which is undeniable) at the macro-social level – it is but a reflection and inevitable consequence of our misperception of who we are at the micro-social or personal level. These act as mutually self-reinforcing cause and effect, one cyclically conditioning the other. So long as we experience ourselves as separate individualised material mind-body constructs – societies will continue to fail. Like the computer acronym – GIGO [garbage in, garbage out] – we’ll keep recycling various degrees of self-reinforcing; self-aggrandising; self-absorbed misconceptions based on the flawed analysis of who we are. Of course, we’ll label our progress as selfless, humanitarian and altruistic – because our capacity for self-deception is also boundless. The self-deception vehicle called Imperial Capitalism is clearly deeply flawed – and we can all see the lie for what it is – what I pose as a question is how much do we really want change? Will communism ultimately prove to be any better?
      The reason I ask is this – the “tower of wealth” of the first world (global north) is a product of the stolen (as slave labour and commodified material) wealth of the third world (global south.) Frantz Fanon said as much some fifty years ago. The families that are dying neglected pan-globally as I write – whether it be through war, created famine, pollution, artificial poverty etc – as Edward Curtin says, through the instrumental rationalisation of the system – what happens when we give them the opportunity for life? Will it be at our falsely inflated standards of living? Or, more likely, will our standard of living need to be re-adjusted down, possibly toward a near subsistence level, as the wealth and resources are equitably distributed?
      What happens when the ex nihilo worthless paper money is vanquished and we have to face the fact that we have not only stolen from our comrades abroad, but from our children, their children, and collectively – our children’s children? And our debt to the planet – how do we make a fair and equitable recompense for that? I submit that the first world will have to come to closely resemble the third world in order to accomplish a true revolutionary humanism – where the ethical values of liberty, equality, justice, and autonomy are universally applied in a classless post-capital world. That is if we are to all live together equitably in true equilibrium with our one planet. Who is still aboard for the real cultural revolution?

      Like

      • Sobering and discomfortingly honest BigB.
        Some on the Left talk of a new era of ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’. I am more pursuaded that we are witnessing the death of the religion of progress.
        How will the devotees cope when they realise that all the promises were unable to be kept? How can we step down from this ridiculous hubris with grace and honor, and not just blow the whole thing to shit?

        Like

        • BigB says

          I wish I knew, I can only offer a trite non-answer: by owning less, acquiring less and being less – at least in the terms the world accepts. But a few hundred thousand denying themselves the luxuries of the developed world won’t alter much – probably as much as three quarters of the worlds population don’t even qualify for the corporate rollercoaster – collectively consuming virtually nothing – in most cases almost literally. It is sad and depressing – in the majority of places this world is still so beautiful – and should have been beautiful and bountiful for all. Given the chance, it probably still can.
          It is going to take a massive shift of conscious awareness to avert disaster – for a supermajority to realise our true self in harmony with nature – not seperate and in dominative control of. Life is peace and compassion based, or could be – and cooperative in nature. Life is affirmative of life – this is so simple, even a child knows this. Yet great and mighty intellects have used sophistry to convince us otherwise. Peace.

          Like

        • Sorry, Not Buying It says

          “Some on the Left talk of a new era of ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’.”

          I hope you’re not mistaking this for serious revolutionary Marxism? Because if you’re not, why bring it up in the first place?

          Like

      • Sorry, Not Buying It says

        Sorry, but you’re just waffling aimlessly. You provide no strategy for the international working class to get to what you’re talking about. And this claim is pulled virtually out of thin air:

        “So long as we experience ourselves as separate individualised material mind-body constructs – societies will continue to fail.”

        You’ve been reading too much Deepak Chopra. Most people actually have dualist misconceptions about the mind-body “problem”. You seem to be confusing philosophical materialism with the commodification of human relations. There’s no necessary relation between the two.

        Even though you acknowledge the feedback loop between the mind and the “macro-level”, you seem to be arguing for the mind as ultimately a “stand-alone thing, separate from the physical world. Yet ironically, this feedback you allude to is precisely what demonstrates that the mind is a manifestation of matter. It is a product of our history as biological and social beings interacting with and shaping the material world (it’s no coincidence that the human brain is the most complex in the animal kingdom), is dependent upon a physical substrate that develops through the life of the human organism, and is continually shaped by the “macro-level”. Your take denies the material BASIS of the mind and the social nature and origin of human consciousness, and simply presents it as something “outside” of the physical universe while still, somehow, being able to interact with it. It is also, ironically, the zenith of “greedy reductionism”: society’s ills are to be treated as really the “reflections” of the imperfect mind. This lets capitalism largely off the hook, because if everything can be reduced to the faults of the mind, then we need not pay attention to social relations of production, the structural imperatives of capitalist behavior, or the accumulation dynamics of capitalism. THIS is why your take is obfuscation, a distraction and a poisonous weed that must be struggled against. It is petit-bourgeois idealism, because it falls back on the comforting trope that to overturn the exploitative relations that exist in class society, we don’t have to engage in hard, bitter struggle and bring the masses to our way of seeing things; we only have to come to personal “realizations”. This is ironically an example of lifestylist activism, the preferred form of activism within capitalism, even while you rail against the ecocidal aspects of that system. By expunging concrete questions of class and the objective relations among people in capitalist society, your position takes the heat off of the system, and banks everything on whether people can spontaneously come to personal epiphanies.

        The revolutionary communist approach, on the other hand, is entirely opposed to this. It teaches instead that the key to emancipation is to engage the masses, to be among them, listen to them, learn from them, organize them and infuse them and their movements with communist consciousness. It aims to ARM the working class with the science of revolutionary Marxism in order that it can achieve the strategic goal of overthrowing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and replacing it with the dictatorship of the proletariat. What you’re doing is simply waffling, engaging in bourgeois idealism that sidelines the capitalist system and replaces it with complaints about the imperfect nature of the “the human mind”, refuses to concretely engage the masses of people in a struggle for their emancipation, wallows in fatalistic but self-congratulatory self-pity and defeatism (“Will the people in the First World agree to live like people in the Third World?”; “Will communism be any better?”), and at most is akin to throwing water balloons at a brick wall. It has absolutely zero moral and practical relevance to the concrete struggles of the masses anywhere. For those how have made revolution, died fighting for it and contributed to the science of revolution through hard-won practice, your vacillations are worse than useless: they are downright noxious, because they sap the vitality of worker’s struggles with phantasms and high-sounding drivel.

        So I’m afraid that it’s back to Marx, Lenin and Mao (and yes, Fanon, who was a serious thinker and revolutionary, and whose writings spoke about the necessity and moral correctness of revolutionary violence), not whatever soggy liberal blow-hards you’ve been reading, who have zero clue about how to defeat capitalism.

        Like

        • BigB says

          The easiest way to contrast our POVs: and the question you manage not to answer is – will the coming revolution benefit the entirety of the global population and treat us all ethically and equally? Will the classless society be pan-global or not? If not, then revolutionary Marxism is not that revolutionary; based on a category error (aka – the misconception of our true nature) and just another reactionary ideology. Or, put another way, just a different way of exploiting the global commons and distributing the communal global wealth among those – some of whom must necessarily be deemed more equal than others.
          You also sidestepped my pivotal question: what happens when we give the global poor a real and lasting chance for life – beyond just economic aid at subsistence level or the welfare redistribution of what amounts to be their wealth – a real participatory and inclusive share in the global economy as full and equal partners? As you are well aware, the dominant current world system is structurally flawed, deeply exploitative, structurally violent, structurally racist, etc – what happens when we address those flaws and everyone gets an ethical and equal share? What I am really getting at is – are we really all born equal – or not?

          As to some specifics: actually, I have no concept of mind, as the continual attempt to categorise the mind is at the very fundament of the crisis of humanity, IMHO. This renders the materialist/immaterialist debate moot. You cite science as a ‘proof’ – but is the physical material even physical and material? Not to Niels Bohr or David Bohm. We are nothing more or less than localised fluctuations in the quantum field – what is so ‘solid’ or grounding about that?
          The fact that you conclude that the mind is a “stand-alone thing, separate from the physical world” – is thus your philosophical overlay – I make no such assertion, nor does such an assertion underpin what I say. The mind and its environment are mutually arising and co-dependant in nature, thus no separateness can occur. No environment, no mind – and vice-versa.
          So the crux of our differing POVs is whether the mode of behaviour we call ‘Capitalism’ is a separate entity from the mind that creates it? Does it have an external Platonic substantiality? Or is it an abstracted construct that we use to label the quasi-disorganised mindset that is currently de-constructing our home for the short term gain of but a few of its adherents? Is Capitalism an actual ‘thing’ or merely a useful way of referencing the collective behaviour of an unethical minority?
          If we cannot separate the entity we label ‘Capitalism’ from the collective irresponsibility of its individualised actors – clearly we have a manifest state of mind. Clearly, you don’t agree?
          Another subtle inference I made can be covered by the philosophical concept of ‘otherness’ – defining the Self by what it is not. From this POV: Capitalism and Communism are not so different – in fact, they are mutually co-dependent idealisms. A true revolutionary Humanism is not dependent on either – but arises from the mutual respect of our inter-connectedness with each other and the earth, our home.
          Human greed is neither Capitalist, Socialist, or Communist in nature – yet it can take on any political ‘flavour’ it likes. We need to get to the “poisonous root” of the selfish mind, understand and uproot it permanently. We need to understand how the selfish mind seeks refuge in religion, political ideologies, nationalism, statism, militarism, etc – as an extended and collective defence and validation process. We need to understand how the selfish mind can indulge in the self-destructive and self-deceptive collective exploitation behaviour known as ‘Capitalism.’ We need to understand how the selfish mind can indulge in the acquisition of wealth and power to try and alleviate the existential angst of mortality – by buying an ersatz immortality – even thought this in itself is a deeply irrational and futile strategy [Ernest Becker] We need to lose our ‘animal masks’, a work we have barely begun (according to John Grey) and begin to experience ourselves beyond the rationalistic materialistic deterministic straight jacket we have created. We need to develop the science of empathy and inter-connectedness – which can be the only true basis of international solidarity. In short, we need to come of age – now.
          Marx was insightful and is still relevant – but a “dictatorship of the proletariat” can be no better than that which it seeks to replace. Not least, because it must violate the moral imperative to do no harm to be installed – and must be coercive and therefore inherently violent to maintain. The only vehicle for a peaceful world is a peaceful mind – to that end it was my “soggy liberal blow-hard” the Buddha, that showed the Eternal Way.

          Like

          • Sorry, Not Buying it says

            “The easiest way to contrast our POVs: and the question you manage not to answer is – will the coming revolution benefit the entirety of the global population and treat us all ethically and equally?”

            This question s quite vacuous, and is again indicative of your bourgeois outlook on things. You talk about “the entirety of the population” – as though social classes didn’t exist and as though everyone on Earth had the same interests. This is the bourgeois narrative, which seeks to pull the wool over the eyes of the masses by blurring class distinctions and obscuring the class nature of state violence. To answer your question: no, it won’t treat everyone equally. The revolution will institute democracy for the struggling masses, and impose dictatorship on the bourgeoisie. Both of these are absolutely essential and are in fact inextricably linked. We cannot ensure the success of the proletarian revolution unless the masses have both authentic democracy AND their own political hegemony, imposed on and at the expense of the interests of the bourgeois.

            What do you mean by “treating us all ethically”? Who is “us”, and what counts as “ethical”? What counts as ethical to the bourgeoisie often bares no similarity to what counts as ethical to the revolutionary proletariat. Your blather about “peaceful minds” is certainly “ethical” to the bourgeoisie, who love the idea of the masses being depoliticized, pacifistic and disdainful of the revolutions in Russia and China on the basis of an idealist commitment to “universal principles of non-violence”. Revolutionaries, on the other hand, have no wish to box the masses in with these “standards” foisted upon them by their class enemies. To the bourgeoisie, it is ethical to control the state in the interests of capital, and to use violence to maintain that control; to the proletariat, it is ethical to control the state in the interests of the proletariat and to use violence to prevent the bourgeoisie and its agents form reimposing capitalism. Currently, it is the bourgeoisie that controls state power. Violence is not something that the proletariat “prefers” out of some infantile blood lust; it is a material condition of life imposed on us by concrete social conditions and concrete social relations. That violence is necessary to eject the bourgeoisie from the stage of history is not something that we get to decide upon by voting or feeling good about ourselves or writing to our Congressman; it is an objective reality, whether or not anyone personally “likes” it. The exploiters will fight like hell to maintain their class privileges and their power; they will utilize all means they deem necessary, up to and including violence (as they’ve demonstrated, time and time and time again). To ignore this is to mistake one’s personal wishes for reality – certainly a bourgeois proclivity.

            “Will the classless society be pan-global or not?”

            Yes, the ultimate goal is the elimination of capitalism from every square inch of this planet. It is thoroughly internationalist in outlook, largely because of the necessity of learning from practice and developing a science of revolution that has broad applicability. It will include selfless devotion to the most oppressed and marginalized sectors of the international proletariat.

            “Or, put another way, just a different way of exploiting the global commons and distributing the communal global wealth among those – some of whom must necessarily be deemed more equal than others.”

            Revolutionary Marxism is fundamentally anti-imperialist and anti-national chauvinist. it aims for the complete emancipation of the world’s masses. It allows for no colonial or neo-colonial arrangements, and has in fact been the inspiration for many struggles against these arrangements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

            “You also sidestepped my pivotal question: what happens when we give the global poor a real and lasting chance for life – beyond just economic aid at subsistence level or the welfare redistribution of what amounts to be their wealth – a real participatory and inclusive share in the global economy as full and equal partners? As you are well aware, the dominant current world system is structurally flawed, deeply exploitative, structurally violent, structurally racist, etc – what happens when we address those flaws and everyone gets an ethical and equal share? What I am really getting at is – are we really all born equal – or not?”

            You talk about this stuff as though revolutionary Marxism hadn’t already inspired peoples in the global South to rise up against imperialism and national exploitation. And your vocabulary still reeks of bourgeois assumptions. You talk about “partners” in a “global economy”, rather than comrades, brothers and sisters working for the emancipation of humanity from all exploitation. To answer your historically ignorant question: yes, it will deliver all these things – IF the commitment is to revolutionary Marxism rather than revisionist opportunism, First World social imperialism or tailing of reactionary trends within the movement. Incorrect political lines must be struggled against to ensure that the basic tenets of revolutionary Marxism are not sold out or diluted. That is a sure way back to capitalism.

            You know, some of your questions are actually quite insulting in a way, because they ignore the massive strides made by struggling masses in the “Third World” under the banner of revolutionary Marxism. It reeks of imperialist chauvinism because while you belittle revolutionary violence and revolutionary strategy, millions of poor African, Asian and Latino peoples have taken part in concrete struggles, and many of them have taken up arms. THEY are the leading spear of the revolution; if there is revolution in the imperialist centers, the internationalist spirit that you snidely doubt the existence of is precisely what will link up these revolutions to one another and will inspire the masses here to follow the example of revolutionaries in India, Nepal, the Philippines, Peru, Turkey and many other places where class contradictions are much more acute than they are in the imperialist centers. Salvation won’t come from comfortable people living in gentrified neighborhoods with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers pontificating about the need for non-violence and judging the “ethics” of the oppressed taking up arms. Y’all will need to shut the fuck up, jot down some notes and learn. Frankly, if you had devoted even a smidgen of the time you spend trying to promote religious mysticism and pacifism as you did in studying the history of people’s liberation struggles, people’s protracted war, or the class nature of the state, you might know all this.

            Like

          • Sorry, Not Buying it says

            “As to some specifics: actually, I have no concept of mind,”

            Okay, so you just want to waffle, as when you laim that:

            “as the continual attempt to categorise the mind is at the very fundament of the crisis of humanity, IMHO. This renders the materialist/immaterialist debate moot.”

            No, that doesn’t follow at all. Trying to categorize something and then noting the negative effects of that attempt doesn’t at all render that categorization “moot”. One might think that, if anything, attempting to categorize the mind PROPERLY would at least ameliorate some of the ills that you cite, but apparently the mere act of trying to categorize it “the very fundament of the crisis of humanity.”

            “You cite science as a ‘proof’”

            No I don’t; I cite the absurdity of an immaterial mind interacting with a material world as proof.

            “– but is the physical material even physical and material? Not to Niels Bohr or David Bohm.”

            So now that these men “confirm” your philosophical take, science is no longer self-delusion?

            “We are nothing more or less than localised fluctuations in the quantum field – what is so ‘solid’ or grounding about that?”

            Who said that matter has to be “solid”? Matter has aspects of both solidness and emptiness; the ideal of solid matter is just that, an ideal, one that helps us to understand matter in its various manifestations.

            Like

          • Sorry, Not Buying It says

            “The mind and its environment are mutually arising and co-dependant in nature, thus no separateness can occur. No environment, no mind – and vice-versa.”

            It’s one thing to say that the mind and the environment constructed by human beings – their machines, their social relations, their infrastructure and so on – are co-dependent. It’s an entirely different thing to say that the physical world per se is dependent upon the mind. The former is a tenet of historical materialism; the latter is the use of the former to smuggle in idealist gobbledygook.

            “So the crux of our differing POVs is whether the mode of behaviour we call ‘Capitalism’ is a separate entity from the mind that creates it?”

            It’s of course dependent upon their being humans to engage in relations with one another. It’s the PARTICULAR FORMS of relations that give capitalism its definition, its objective presence. Capitalism, like any other political-economic system devised by humanity, doesn’t so much exist as it occurs and happens. Things exist; processes and systems occur and happen.

            “Does it have an external Platonic substantiality? Or is it an abstracted construct that we use to label the quasi-disorganised mindset that is currently de-constructing our home for the short term gain of but a few of its adherents?”

            No, not just the “quasi-disorganised mindset” or some other pompous category, but the relations among people in a society. Some relations we call “feudalism” (because they have A, B and C qualities developed through historical processes and which distinguish it from other forms of production and politics), others we call “socialism”.

            “Is Capitalism an actual ‘thing’ or merely a useful way of referencing the collective behaviour of an unethical minority?”

            It’s a useful way of referencing a system of production in a particular historical epoch, arrived at through a long process of struggle between contending classes (in this case, the bourgeoisie struggling against the landed aristocracy). That’s what you don’t seem to get: history. Not just the personal pathologies of “an unethical minority”. You talk about “the collective behaviour” of this “minority” (i.e. the capitalist class engaging in a particular mode of exploitation); the key to understanding WHY they engage in this behavior lays partly in your own description of how the mind and the “macro-level” interact and shape each other. Properly put: capitalists engage in capitalist relations because to do otherwise, they would fail as capitalists by not doing what that mode of production compels them to do, REGARDLESS of whether they personally agree with that or not. That is the sense in which capitalism has its own objective laws of development, which are beyond the ken of any individual capitalists’ personal proclivities or pathologies as an individual personal to change.

            “If we cannot separate the entity we label ‘Capitalism’ from the collective irresponsibility of its individualised actors – clearly we have a manifest state of mind. Clearly, you don’t agree?”

            It’s one of the basic tenets of historical materialism that people who compose the different social classes will have outlooks that reflect the interests of those classes. Classes are defined by antagonistic relations with other classes – that is, countervailing, antagonistic interests – to other classes. One classes (or set of classes) exploits, the others are exploited (by may themselves engage in exploitation).

            “Another subtle inference I made can be covered by the philosophical concept of ‘otherness’ – defining the Self by what it is not. From this POV: Capitalism and Communism are not so different – in fact, they are mutually co-dependent idealisms. A true revolutionary Humanism is not dependent on either – but arises from the mutual respect of our inter-connectedness with each other and the earth, our home.”

            But how to get there? As Marx said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

            “Human greed is neither Capitalist, Socialist, or Communist in nature – yet it can take on any political ‘flavour’ it likes.”

            Human greed is one aspect of our psychology that can be brought to the fore depending on the conditions of existence. Some economic systems bring it out, others don’t. And if you’re going to point to and its various “flavors”, then at least acknowledge that it also poses a problem for what YOU’RE proposing.

            “We need to get to the “poisonous root” of the selfish mind, understand and uproot it permanently. We need to understand how the selfish mind seeks refuge in religion, political ideologies, nationalism, statism, militarism, etc – as an extended and collective defence and validation process. We need to understand how the selfish mind can indulge in the self-destructive and self-deceptive collective exploitation behaviour known as ‘Capitalism.’ We need to understand how the selfish mind can indulge in the acquisition of wealth and power to try and alleviate the existential angst of mortality – by buying an ersatz immortality – even thought this in itself is a deeply irrational and futile strategy [Ernest Becker] We need to lose our ‘animal masks’, a work we have barely begun (according to John Grey) and begin to experience ourselves beyond the rationalistic materialistic deterministic straight jacket we have created. We need to develop the science of empathy and inter-connectedness – which can be the only true basis of international solidarity. In short, we need to come of age – now.”

            Yes to solidarity; but no to class-neutral solidarity. I certainly don’t want to foster solidarity with the bourgeoisie. I want to impose dictatorship on it. THEN we can move towards what you’re talking about. But all the stuff you listed above is pure fluff UNLESS the working class is first armed with conscious revolutionary politics.

            “Marx was insightful and is still relevant – but a “dictatorship of the proletariat” can be no better than that which it seeks to replace.”

            That’s quite a claim given that hundreds of millions of people were uplifted from capitalist-feudal oppression precisely because they had a dictatorship imposed on the exploiting classes.

            “Not least, because it must violate the moral imperative to do no harm to be installed”

            And who’s “moral imperative” is that? Again, why are you trying to trap the working class with this muddle? Do you think that the Haitian revolution that booted out the French colonial oppressors was “no better” than colonial oppression because it didn’t live up to your “moral imperative to do no harm”? The Haitians would have laughed in your face, and rightfully so. Don’t you see that by taking the side of “doing no harm”, you’re taking the side of the class that systemically imposes it on the working class and has the most fearsome tools for dispensing this violence? Why would you disarm the exploited class of this weapon and leave it in the hands of the exploiters? Oh, that’s right: because of your petit-bourgeois refusal to acknowledge material reality. Bourgeois idealists, as I mentioned, often mistake their personal preferences for reality. Since they abhor violence, they also think that the working class has a “responsibility” to live up to this preference. If they don’t, then the workers are “just as bad” as the fascists, the reactionaries and the exploiters in their eyes. Your class-neutral “imperative” is objectively a weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Sorry, but it’s just ridiculous nonsense. The workers will never achieve emancipation from the structural violence of capitalism unless they shed the pacifist straight-jacket that exploiters try to make them wear. The working class needs to stop begging for “credibility” by using the terms of reference chosen for it by the class that robs and oppresses it.

            ” – and must be coercive and therefore inherently violent to maintain.”

            Yes – just as all class societies have been. Capitalism is inherently violent towards the working class, just as socialism will be inherently violent towards the bourgeoisie. Socialism will not yet be communism, because it is still only a transitional stage (and still necessarily retaining many features of capitalism). To prevent a reversion to capitalist dictatorship, however, the working class must install their own dictatorship. This is the other aspect of socialism: the dictatorship of the emancipated class. Again, nothing to do with one’s personal preferences or some mindless blood lust that seeks out violence for its own sake, but a historically NECESSARY condition given that the bourgeoisie will fight like hell to keep its privileges and position. You’re essentially calling for – actually, sanctimoniously yelling at – the proletarian hegemony to immediately open itself up for defeat. Marxists don’t like violence; we simply acknowledge that it is bound up in the class relations of class societies.

            “The only vehicle for a peaceful world is a peaceful mind”

            No, the only vehicle for a peaceful world is to destroy exploitative relations between human beings, and that means developing a revolutionary strategy and tactics that are shaped by concrete conditions, not airy-fairy “moral principles” foisted upon us by Oprah.

            “– to that end it was my “soggy liberal blow-hard” the Buddha, that showed the Eternal Way.”

            Sorry, no deal. You need to read Lenin, Mao and Fanon (the part where he mentions that violence cleanses the oppressed of their inferiority complex).

            Like

  2. I was glad to have read this piece.

    For me the issue is best framed within the epistemological debates about what constitutes ‘knowledge’.
    Science is not going away. What needs to be challenged with the utmost urgency are the philosophical underpinings of the ‘scientific world view’ : i.e. Materialism. The scientific establishment (bolted into the capitalist world system) has built a collosal edifice upon first principles, that, when thought through carefully, are the most extreme form of superstition ever devised by humans.
    Our culture has objectified our very selves and at the same time presupposes the whole physical universe. Most religions assert that this material world is essentially illusory, and that death is a gateway into a revelation of what is truly real. Materialism goes one further and insists that not only is the picture in our minds illusory, but that when we die, there is the oblivion of never knowing anything ever again. When pulled appart, it explains for me how we have managed to build such an insane world as we have; we did it by starting out with a philosophical position (really a religious position) that contravenes our most basic experience of being alive.
    The greatest irony is that advanced scientific research into matter, has itself upturned the precepts of Materialism, not that many research scientists would really grasp the implications of the discoveries. Quantum physicists have many a mystic in their ranks.

    Rudolf Steiner was another character (besides Dostoevsky) who wrote in that period between Darwin’s destruction of the old certainties of faith, and the embedding of the new certainties of our age of materialistic science. He attempted to reconcile the divide by developing a philosophical basis for scientific knowledge that had the human thinking being as the fundamental world concept. I frequently recommend his book , The Philosophy of Freedom, to anyone -regardless of their opinions of his attempts to apply the ideas within.

    Bernard Kustrup is a contemporary thinker who seeks to flesh out the case (both philosophically and scientifically) that materialism is balony:
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20543665-why-materialism-is-baloney

    I would say that it is.
    Only a widespread recognition of this fact affords the chance of averting the greatest calamity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Edward Curtin says

      I usually don’t comment on comments about what I write, but I feel compelled to reply to mog’s astute words since they prefigure the sequel I am writing. Let me be brief: Mog cuts to the heart of the matter – materialism is the issue and people like Steiner and advanced scientific thinkers confirm that. The mainstream scientific materialistic presupposition is a religion.

      Like

      • You say, Edward, that ‘materialism’ is the issue, that the mainstream scientific materialistic presupposition is a religion.

        What, then, do you understand by the term ‘materialism?’ And has it led us astray because it is a religion, or because it is the wrong kind of religion?

        (Leaving aside for the moment what you understand by the word ‘materialism,’ by designating it as a ‘religious’ presupposition, you mean, I take it, that this prefiguring assumption is an arbitrary and therefore dogmatic and irrational assumption. It is a belief, in other words, that is unexamined and therefore effectively unconscious, arbitrary and irrational. Is this correct? I just want to make sure that I’m getting your drift as pertains to designating ‘materialism’ a religion. If I at least “get” this part of your purport, I’ll be in a better position to grasp the other part, the thing you call ‘materialism,’ should you define it for me . . . But perhaps I should let you complete your sequel before trying to engage you further, so as not to unduly divert you from your task? Perhaps Mog might be able to step into breach since she seems to be altogether on your wave length . . .)

        Like

    • Sorry, Not Buying It says

      “What needs to be challenged with the utmost urgency are the philosophical underpinings of the ‘scientific world view’ : i.e. Materialism.”

      Not even slightly true. Philosophical materialism needs to be PROMOTED, because right now the world’s masses are wallowing miserably in all sorts of philosophical idealist claptrap – holdovers from the ages of pre-science and feudalism, and promoted by the forces of anti-communism – that is preventing them from seizing power for themselves. Anti-materialist notions add nothing to scientific understanding and serve only to dilute and muddle it. This is why most scientists are agnostics or atheists; the religious overhead of past centuries is no longer seen as a tool to understanding but an outright hindrance to it.

      “The scientific establishment (bolted into the capitalist world system) has built a collosal edifice upon first principles, that, when thought through carefully, are the most extreme form of superstition ever devised by humans.”

      Well, everything’s “bolted” into the capitalist world system, given that capitalism is the dominant economic system in the current era, so that statement is worthless unless you can distinguish it with something else. Christian Evangelism is “bolted into the capitalist world system” – indeed, it was a conscious construct of capitalists contributing to the promotion of their system against “godless communism” during the Cold War. Workers struggling to take down capitalism are also “bolted” into the capitalist world system. Even socialist states that wanted to build an independent sphere free from capitalist penetration were still, in many ways, bolted to the world capitalist system. So you have to be a bit more specific here.

      All knowledge comes from social practice. This is the most important point and is the acid test for whether one is a mystic or one adheres to a scientific outlook. Only through interaction with the physical universe do we ever come to any realizations about anything. Every atom of knowledge that has been handed down to us through the ages has only been possible because men and women applied their brains and muscles to manipulating portions of the universe and using their physical eyes, ears and hands to collate and organize and refine the knowledge accrued. The notion that knowledge comes from anywhere else is a Platonic creed – the sort that the bourgeoisie and its ideologues cling and promote precisely to in order to DENY the material basis of knowledge and to obfuscate the realization that humanity’s social consciousness is a product of its material environment.

      Science is the most powerful weapon in the hands of the working class. It must be wielded like a weapon. What you seem to be doing is calling for the working class to be disarmed, to leave this formidable tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie that you decry. This is capitulation to the enemy, in exactly the same way that pacifism is. “These tools have been used to oppress and rob from us. Let’s hand all of those tools to the enemy.” This makes no sense.

      It’s odd, isn’t it, that if capitalism is so enamored of science, as you seem to be alluding to, that it has to keep promoting mysticism and obscurantism, and that the most powerful, coherent and promising social movement aiming to overthrow capitalism – namely, Marxism-Leninism – was explicitly ANTI-religious and also pushing for philosophical materialism against ALL philosophical idealist muddle. This is no accident: capitalism can only vacillate on the question of science and religion. It’s certainly true that it has undermined religion by seeking to make everything “quantitative” and assigning an exchange value to it. This is certainly not in keeping with traditional religious principles. But at the same, it has promoted disconnection from the masses, leading to mysticism in other forms. Disconnection from the masses inevitably means disqualifying the contribution of the masses in the production of knowledge. This is a ruling class ideology, and it’s therefore no accident that the bourgeoisie finds much stock in it, for they want to deny the role of the masses and to cast themselves as the sources of wisdom. So partly, it’s to keep the bourgeoisie in power, by promoting the idea that if the workers put up with their lot on Earth and just “mind their own business”, they’ll be rewarded in heaven (notions of “God and Country” are pushed for this very reason, so that workers become parties to their own oppression and exploitation). Religious morals are often used as distractions by reactionary forces (for example, anti-homosexual initiatives, predicted on religious principles, are the standard go-to quick fix favored by many kleptocrats and demagogues who find themselves at the sharp end of their people’s disconnect; it is only natural that these reactionaries wish for the masses to go off on stupid errands fighting among each other over irrelevant nonsense rather than uniting against the common enemy of the working class). Religion is also often big business in capitalism, and a symbiotic relationship has developed in which evangelical leaders and organizations receive corporate largess in exchange for promotion of a pro-corporate message. Religious fundamentalists are also excellent cannon-fodder for imperialism, lending their services in the overthrow of secular independent governments leaning towards socialist tendencies. US imperialism, with all its worldly materialism, is the single greatest supporter and sustainer of the feudal-religious tyranny in Saudi Arabia, which served as an excellent anti-communist ally during the Cold War.

      It is RELIGION, not science, that is a severe hindrance and obstacle to the overthrow of capitalism. The sooner the world’s masses throw off the ideological muck dumped on them by their class enemies, the better.

      “The greatest irony is that advanced scientific research into matter, has itself upturned the precepts of Materialism, not that many research scientists would really grasp the implications of the discoveries.”

      This is claptrap, but it’s widely believed claptrap. Discoveries into the nature of matter have not overthrown materialism; they have simply refined our conceptions of how matter behaves. In the absence of matter, there is no object left to study. This is the most fundamental point. We are left with nonsensical, surrealistic notions of “mind creating the universe” – which explains precisely nothing. All that “spooky” quantum phenomena reveal is that matter, at the level at that we can currently directly study it, APPEARS to behave in odd ways. But that can simply mean that some other aspect of that behavior has not yet been revealed to us, or that the level at which we are looking at it is not sufficient to uncover the causal aspects that would lend themselves to no longer being “spooky”. Ironically, those who say that science is irrational because it draws conclusions from what “mere” humans can perceive and uncover with their instruments and theorizing, appear giddy when quantum phenomena – uncovered by that very system of investigation – seems to show aspects that violate materialist precepts. Then, suddenly, science is seen to “overthrow” materialism. But when it clearly overthrows idealist conceits – such as about consciousness, the mind and biological processes – then we’re back to “this only reveals a tiny portion of the universe, and we can’t trust these limited data to tell us the full picture”.

      To avoid devolving into absurdity, however, we must ground science in the realization that effects must necessarily have effects, that mind is an aspect of the interactions of matter, that something never comes from nothing, and that the universe exists outside of ourselves. These are, naturally, notions that the bourgeoisie wishes to obscure. Bourgeois scientists love to dabble in mathematical Platonism (some even make the claim that the universe is, perhaps, “nothing but mathematics”; this is pure religion, not science), because it makes them appear like sages to whom all questions of origins and the workings of matter must be deferred to. Authentic materialism, on the other hand, is seen as a threat by the bourgeoisie, because it equips the working class with the tools to understand the material basis for the laws of social development and for the emancipation of the workers from capitalism.

      “Quantum physicists have many a mystic in their ranks.”

      It’s regrettably and absolutely true that modern “physics” and “cosmology” is utterly infected with philosophical idealist conceits. Much of it cannot really be called science at all, because it wallows in the worst forms of logical contradiction and the magical notion that effects do not require causes. What’s missing from much of scientific discourse is that scientific experiments must themselves be INTERPRETED through a particular philosophical lens. There is the lens of philosophical idealism, which denies the necessity of matter as a prerequisite for mind, and there is the lens of authentic philosophical materialism. The one that we choose is going to be largely a reflection of our class outlook. If we realize the need for the working class to consciously grasp the laws of social development, and to wield this knowledge as a weapon for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and its social order, then we choose authentic philosophical materialism. If we want to join the ranks of bourgeois blow-hards and to obscure the laws of development, then we choose philosophical idealism.

      Like

      • Sorry, Not Buying It says

        Meant to say “effects must necessarily have causes…”

        Like

    • Sorry, Not Buying It says

      “Most religions assert that this material world is essentially illusory, and that death is a gateway into a revelation of what is truly real.”

      That’s precisely why religion serves a reactionary social role: it trivializes the material world by casting it as “illusory”. The emancipation of the working class cannot come about through such mystical obfuscations. Unbeknown to you, you’ve listed a reason why religion needs to be struggled AGAINST.

      Like

    • Sorry, Not Buying It says

      “Bernard Kustrup is a contemporary thinker who seeks to flesh out the case (both philosophically and scientifically) that materialism is balony”

      This culture is replete with bourgeois blow-hards seeking to make a name for themselves by smuggling mysticism in through the back-door and appearing to be “heretics” against a scientific establishment that is itself replete with philosophical idealist infections. What the working class needs isn’t Bernard Kustrup, but V.I. Lenin. I recommend reading A. O. Sternin’s ‘Lenin’s “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”‘ (Progress Publishers Moscow, 1988). Lenin was a serious thinker and an actual revolutionary who cut through the idealist muck like a scythe. People like Kustrup are veritable clowns in comparison. They are in fact much closer to modern “atheist” cosmologists who espouse the view that the universe “came from nothing” and who they think they are “opposing” than they are to authentic philosophical materialists like Lenin and Mao.

      Like

      • @Sorry I’m Not Buying It
        It is important to distinguish between (or define) ‘religion’, ‘mysticism’ and metaphysical arguments. It is important to distinguish the discipline of science from the metaphysics of materialism. Some of your reply uses these terms interchangably, which makes it harder to get to your core argument.

        But what is ‘greed’? If it’s so destructive, why can’t we ‘fix it’? I don’t think these are political questions, in fact asking such questions quickly leads us to others about fundamental human nature, i.e. to the three fundamental speculations that have troubled people for as long as we know : Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?
        I think what Curtin is saying, and I am saying, is that the materialist philosophy can only answer these questions with, ‘We came from nowhere, there is no meaning to us being here, and we are going nowhere’.
        Such responses very easily feed the immorality of ‘…so I am going to get as much as I can whilst I am here’.

        I recently read The Yogi and The Commissar’ by Arthur Koestler, and it would seem to respond to a lot of where you are coming from.

        Like

        • Sorry, Not Buying It says

          “It is important to distinguish between (or define) ‘religion’, ‘mysticism’ and metaphysical arguments.”

          The problem is that the religionists themselves refuse to do this. Whenever some aspect of their belief system is focused upon by the atheist, they move the goal posts and feign ignorance as to what the atheist is talking about. Thus, God is imagined by many people in this sappy culture to be an amorphous something-or-other that “can’t be defined”, and yet, it “gives people hope”, is the object of people’s prayers, and is supposed to provide a moral framework for living.

          “I think what Curtin is saying, and I am saying, is that the materialist philosophy can only answer these questions with, ‘We came from nowhere, there is no meaning to us being here, and we are going nowhere’.”

          No, that’s simply your misconception of materialism. You take materialism to deny meaning and goals, yet nature is replete with goal-oriented behavior, reasons and meaning. You also, pretty absurdly, ascribe to materialism a belief that we came from “nothing” – as though this weren’t precisely the religious view, which has it that human “souls” and the mind were magic-ed into existence out of nothing by an immaterial being. Materialism, on the other hand, posits that everything comes from something, that matter is in perpetual motion, and that the physical world is all that there is.

          “Such responses very easily feed the immorality of ‘…so I am going to get as much as I can whilst I am here’.”

          They would, yet they have nothing to do with authentic philosophical materialism. However, if you harbor the misconception that they flow from materialism, then of course you’re going to ascribe to material an inevitable immorality.

          “I recently read The Yogi and The Commissar’ by Arthur Koestler, and it would seem to respond to a lot of where you are coming from.”

          I’ll take the commissar’s view any time. I’ve never found anti-communist mysticism very useful.

          Like

            • Sorry, Not Buying It says

              The sob of the petit-bourgeois who doesn’t appreciate that revolution isn’t a dinner party.

              Like

              • revolution isn’t a dinner party.

                exactly !

                Historically it has unleashed absolute terror, most of which dealt out from the hands of people who see things in very simplistic binary ways. Any means justify the ends. No different in nature from Spanish inquisitors or conquistadors.

                Read Koestler.
                It is not ‘The Yogi OR The Commissar’, it is ‘The Yogi and The Commissar’.

                Like

    • Mog, if you could be so kind, see my reply to Mr. Curtin. Not that you are under any obligation, of course. But I’m genuinely not sure I understand how either you or Edward intend the term “materialism” and, therefore, the sense in which the two of you understand “science” to be in trouble or troubling.

      Like

      • I intend the word ‘materialism’ as a metaphysical position, one that states that everything is material, that all phenomenon – including our consciousness, are material in their fundamental nature. It insists that there is ‘real world’ of matter that exists entirely independently of our perception of it.
        I think it is worth clarifying that there is an often overlooked confusion between scientific modelling which seeks to find repeating patterns of relationship in nature (and to thereby try and make make accurate predictions); and metaphysics, which seeks, philosophically to understand the fundamental nature of things in themselves.
        I have no problem with science as a method and practice, my argument is about the metaphysical position of materialism, which when thought through thoroughly is incompatible with our experience of being conscious beings.
        My argument is also against what I know as ‘Scientism’ – that is, to be more accurate than before, the aspect that I really regard as ‘religious’. Scientism I would say is the belief that the models of science and the scientific project can replace all other approaches to knowledge, including philosophical speculation. It is a fundamentalist development of the metaphysics of materialism that shows all the same dogmatism of theistic religion.
        Just as biblical literalists have shown a tendency toward fundamentalist reversion in the face of their ‘truths’ being overturned, so too do the adherents of materialist philosophy become increasingly dogmatic as the weight of the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ reveals the limitations of their core belief.

        Like

        • Thank you for your reply, Mog.

          Okay. Lets see if I get this:

          A materialist in your sense of the term believes that reality is wholly deterministic and that in its relations of causes and effects, it is largely independent of whatever anyone may believe about it, and furthermore, that it is possible for us to apprehend aspects of reality more or less as they are in themselves, as structures or patterns both external to and independent of any experience of ‘knowing’ them, that is to say, of ‘knowing’ in either a perceptual or conceptual sense.

          But materialism defined in that sense isn’t really what you deem to be the ‘problem’ or the crux of the ‘crisis’ of ‘instrumental reason’ or ‘science.’

          The problem arises when this ‘materialistic’ conception of reality and our relation to it takes a metaphysical or dogmatic turn, and insists that what we think we know is all that there is “to know” and that we know this “exhaustively.” At this point the unceasing exploration that ought to be the activity and ethos of scientific inquiry simply hardens into what you call ‘scientism,’ the point at which scientific pursuit ceases to be scientific, only to become another instance of fanatical orthodoxy.

          In contrast to this, your position is that although we can indeed know some aspects of the objects of our inquiries as we define them for our purposes, there are limits to our ‘knowing’ of these objects, that human knowing, scientific or otherwise, can never be exhaustive, limited as it is by its inherently ‘perspectivist’ nature. Reality may appear to us to be a conglomeration of discrete entities caught up in hard and fast circuits of interaction, but our modelling of these entities and their interactions is of necessity limited and one sided, with aspects of their ‘being’ or ‘reality,’ however one may conceive the fundaments of that ‘reality,’ forever lying beyond the limits human comprehension.

          Consequently, you don’t really take issue with the quest to understand and control those aspects of our reality which we can and must understand and control if only in order to live, that is to say, you do not object to science and technology as such, which are only means to ends, or should ever mostly remain but means to ends; but you do take exception to ‘dogmatism’ in science, which is the death or stalling of science, exactly as it is the death of any other kind of possible human development or refinement, wherever an attitude of arrogant certitude may settle. Your scruple, in short, isn’t with ‘science and technology’ or ‘instrumental reason,’ which in any case we cannot do without, but with the more general and obstinate refusal ever to question the convictions of one’s established faiths.

          Science, then, in your opinion, turns against us and itself when it becomes dogmatic, because in doing so, it simply ceases to progress and stagnates. This, I think, is the crux of your unease, that we live in a time when science has all but stalled and become ‘reactionary.’

          But there is also a second way in which science turns against us: because science as instrumental reason is not only an end in itself, but also a means to ends, the purposes it serves can transform it from a competent midwife into a scheming whore, into a commodity to be bought and bartered and used and abused.

          In our society, under our cultural regime, in which everything is transformed into a commodity, isn’t “this” the paramount corruption of science?

          How else to explain the nightmare of modern warfare and the dystopia of modern production and industry, of the rank misuses and abuses of technological innovations?

          Is all of “that” the result of ‘instrumental reason,’ or is it not rather the result of the predominance of ‘profit seeking’ imposed as an unassailable political imperative over ‘instrumental reason,’ of science being held hostage to corporate interests?

          And if it is ‘profit seeking’ that is the corruption of science, how can “that” be confronted and ultimately undone?

          Like

          • I think you have made a few leaps in there that I have cannot follow.
            I say that materialism is philosophically and scientifically flawed. As such the dogmatic adherence to it manifests as a kind of religion of Scientism. (I would suspect that many on the science march would fall into this category.)
            It is the false idea of neutral objectivity which this metaphysical underpinning gives to contemporary science that leaves science at the whim of nazis or transnational corporations.
            Science is not neutral, it is always going somewhere, and if we write our very SELVES out of the pursuit of knowledge, then it is no surprise that it will be hijacked by the most retrograde forces in society.
            As Zinn wrote, ‘You can’t be neutral on a moving train‘, and that I think, is why some believe that excessive liberalism, not conservatism is the precursor to extremism.
            We can’t go back to the superstitions of the past, so we need a new moral rudder to steer science as an alternative to state/ corporate capitalism and global war.
            Steiner wrote, ‘We need to start thinking with our hearts’.

            Like

            • Okay, Let me try again. I’ll take what you’ve written a few lines at a time:

              a) “I say that materialism is philosophically and scientifically flawed. As such the dogmatic adherence to it manifests as a kind of religion of Scientism. (I would suspect that many on the science march would fall into this category.)”

              To put briefly, you declare that we live in an age where science grounded in the precepts of materialism — which you’ve yet to adequately define — is essentially a cult. And I suppose that that’s certainly one of the hallmarks of a cult, that adherents tend to be dogmatic about what they believe.

              Question: can materialism ever under any circumstances be adhered to in an open minded, as opposed to dogmatic, fashion?

              b) “It is the false idea of neutral objectivity which this metaphysical underpinning gives to contemporary science that leaves science at the whim of nazis or transnational corporations.”

              Again, without much argument or elaboration, you assert that the presumption that science can aspire to something like ‘objective truth’ makes it vulnerable to the machinations of corporations and Nazi-like ideologies.

              Question(s): does it follow from this as an implication that if once science relinquishes its purported claim to ‘objective truth,’ it becomes more impervious to the purposes of Nazi-like ideologies and corporations? How does accepting the truism that scientific knowledge is always incomplete make science less susceptible to the whims of nazis and corporations? Don’t scientists already accept the less than perfect nature of what constitutes scientific knowledge? Isn’t this acceptance one of the crowning virtues of a truly scientific outlook? In what sense might ‘materialism’ as a philosophy be at odds with the insight that scientific knowledge can only and always remain partial or incomplete?

              c) Science is not neutral, it is always going somewhere . . .

              Question(s): if science is not neutral, should it be? Can it be? Neutral or not neutral in what sense? In terms of the purposes it serves? If so, what is the range of purposes, then, that science could serve? And if there is a range, doesn’t that mean that science is in some sense a “means” and consequently in some sense “neutral,” in the way, for example, that a ‘tool’ might be used for good or for bad? And then in terms of it’s possible neutrality or lack thereof, is there not is a distinction to be made between the values internal to the practice of science that comprise the code of integrity of its practitioners and the values or purposes external to the discipline as such but yet served by the practice, as for example, the development of technologies which can help or harm people?

              d) As Zinn wrote, ‘You can’t be neutral on a moving train‘, and that I think, is why some believe that excessive liberalism, not conservatism is the precursor to extremism.

              Zinn was speaking of one’s class loyalties when he quipped that “[y]ou can’t be neutral on a moving train.” He wasn’t speaking to the issue of science and materialism as such. Although to be sure, the class allegiances of individual scientists will have a bearing on the degree to which such a person will collaborate with ‘the powers that be’ in his or her capacity as a scientist. That political orientation, however, doesn’t necessarily derive from the metaphysical presuppositions informing that person’s outlook in scientific terms, although it could if the person’s discipline happened to fall into the category of the so called ‘social sciences,’ given the inherent political nature of those particular branches of inquiry.

              But I do not see the necessary connection you imply exists between the impossibility of one’s actions not being inherently politically consequential and extremism, whether of a liberal or conservative kind, or how it is that liberalism predisposes someone to being more extremist than does conservatism. That, you will have to explain if you want me to grasp your meaning.

              e) We can’t go back to the superstitions of the past, so we need a new moral rudder to steer science as an alternative to state/ corporate capitalism and global war.

              We certainly do need a new moral direction, and scientists, no less than anyone else, have an ethical responsibility to push for political change however they can, and especially so, given their positions of privilege in being able to glean, generate and distribute information.

              f) Steiner wrote, ‘We need to start thinking with our hearts’.

              Yes. We need to start caring about one another. And that is why we must purge ourselves of the capitalist ethos, of the belief that it is possible and good to become rich, and that being so is at no one’s expense. And once we convince ourselves of that in our heart of hearts, we need to start using our heads, our ‘scientific’ knowledge about our world and society, to make the rule an oligarchy impossible.

              Like

              • This is a big subject. I have linked to writings that I think best make the case as I have read it.
                It would be much easier if science as we know it could ‘make the rule of an oligarchy impossible’. I think though, that is a fool’s errand. Morality lies beyond the realms of scientific investigation, and the kind of scientism that purports to replace the avenues that we do have for addressing moral dilemas, would cut us off from the chances of a moral society.
                Soviet and Chinese communism are prime examples of attempts at this which failed.

                Like

                • If, as you suggest, making the rule of an oligarchy is a fool’s errand, then we are simply fucked. Because for as long as it exists, enforced expropriation, poverty and war will be the rule, exactly as it is now, with science and technology easing the way for that interminable rape.

                  As for the successes or failures of the Russians and Chinese, they were but opening gambits. It took the bourgeoisie 300 years to topple Feudalism in Europe, and not for trying and failing numerous times. But here we are under “their” reign.

                  Attempts along the lines of the Soviet Union and China will again be made. Why? Because the human misery that is the effluent of Capital is there in the open for all to see and experience, and it only keeps getting worse. At some point people will again stand on their feet, remembering the examples and the lessons from the Russians and the Chinese, and they may fail again, but the next time around, maybe fail better than their Russian and Chinese brothers and sisters, and there will be a next time after that, and eventually, from schooling themselves in trying, men and women everywhere will one day know how to wage a successful revolution, and the ruling class will finally and forever be lowered into its final and ignominious resting place.

                  Otherwise, as I said, we will remain as fucked as we currently are.

                  And yes, I agree, it is “a big subject.” And that’s the point, isn’t it, that “science” is not a substitute for morality, which is the God that ought to rule it, and not as it is now, the God that we call Money and to which all life is literally being sacrificed and wasted.

                  If you want to put your finger on the nihilism of the age, put your finger on “that.” As Philip Roddis puts it, “. . . everything is subordinated to the dctates of profit. That really is everything. That, more than anything else, is what defines the moral decadence and decay of our times.

                  Like

        • Sorry, Not Buying It says

          “Just as biblical literalists have shown a tendency toward fundamentalist reversion in the face of their ‘truths’ being overturned, so too do the adherents of materialist philosophy become increasingly dogmatic as the weight of the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ reveals the limitations of their core belief.”

          There is no “hard problem” of consciousness, because consciousness isn’t what we thought it was. Ultimately, consciousness is just a bag of tricks. It is in fact the weight of neuroscience and computer science that are revealing the limitations of the dualist approach.

          Like

  3. Phantastron says

    There seems to be considerable agreement here regarding Curtin’s piece. But what is he saying? What do remarks like the following mean, precisely?
    “We can’t conceive of our ends since they conjure up nothing, having been swallowed by the means, while the purpose of our lives is reduced to staying alive as long as possible. The Faustian goal has always been immortality, and we have been infected with the fear that death, and therefore life, may be meaningless. The quest for scientific “immortality” is a means to a means without end. It is a symptom of the profound spiritual crisis of the age. ”
    And if one cannot say clearly what it says then how does one know if it is true or false? And without knowing this how can one be in agreement, even partially, with Curtin’s position?

    I would also take exception to Curtin’s use of “we”, explicitly or tacitly, in remarks like:
    “We must bomb, bulldoze, manipulate, drug, control, poison, etc. – all in the service of a diabolical willfulness that brooks no resistance. “

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Edwin Curtin. I totally agree.

    Spirituality has generally been lost in the headlong rush to “unlock the secrets of nature” . We now have good reason to rue the hubris which flowed from what seemed like a wholly beneficial power to manipulate the external world, blissfully unaware of the possibility of unintended consequences.

    Actually we may not be scientific enough, The dogmas of science are holding it back from investigating connections that weren’t thought possible – from understanding ecology, as distinct from isolated phenomena.

    Rupert Sheldrake makes some good points:

    Like

  5. Neutron says

    “Who would study and describe the living, starts
    By driving the spirits out of the parts:
    In the palm of his hand he holds all the sections,
    Lacks nothing, except the spirit’s connection.”

    It is entirely possible (and I would say sensible) to be cautious with regard to the truth claims of scientific theories. This does not mean throwing science out wholesale — it means a more realistic appraisal of both observable and unobservable phenomena, especially how the latter are treated in theory-building and research.

    Confidence in the science behind cancer treatment leading to ‘real world’ successes should be lower than in the science that gets your car’s internal combustion engine firing every morning.

    The real problem lies with the exaltation of all products of scientific research, without understanding better what constitutes ‘normal science’ (in Thomas Kuhn’s terms).

    It is a belief in reductionism (as Mephistophele’s quote above highlights) and a strong scientific realist stance that leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of what ‘is’ — from living systems to consciousness itself.

    “As a philosophy, reductionism is a failure. From the point of view of method, the attempts at detailed reductions have led to one staggering success after another, and its failures have also been most fruitful science.”

    — Karl Popper

    Like

  6. paulcarline says

    The existential problem is the problem of meaninglessness and purposelessness (other than pleasure and the amassing of possessions) which so-called science has persuaded many is our ineluctable lot. Evolutionism (the pesudo-science of a purely materialistic evolutionary biology) has told us for a century and a half that we are the accidental creatures of an undirected, meaningless and purposeless process – and that the ‘law of nature’ is the “survival of the fittest” in the struggle for existence: the founding myth of modern capitalism.
    Real science – the search for the truth regardless of where it may lead – is almost non-existent. Almost all science now serves vested economic, political, military and other interests.

    Like

    • Sorry, Not Buying It says

      “Evolutionism (the pesudo-science of a purely materialistic evolutionary biology) has told us for a century and a half that we are the accidental creatures of an undirected, meaningless and purposeless process – and that the ‘law of nature’ is the “survival of the fittest” in the struggle for existence: the founding myth of modern capitalism.”

      So for you, a “true” science of evolutionary biology would have to smuggle in mysticism?

      The working class needs science, not mysticism. It needs to grasp historical laws of development so that it can consciously utilize them rather than being unconsciously shaped by them. Evolutionary biology is the law of development as it pertains to biological nature. It does not negate the role of mind – which is itself a manifestation of the interactions of matter. It does not negate the role of consciousness and of having reasons to conduct actions. In capitalism, science is used to alienate the producers from the product; it becomes another tool in the arsenal of class domination and oppression. But that is emphatically NOT the same as saying that we should throw out science just because the bourgeoisie uses it, and backslide into mysticism. The working class must wield science as their own weapon. Importantly, under capitalism the masses are fed only so much science; they are also fed a diet of mysticism and religion to obfuscate their minds and prevent them from seeing the connections that shape their lives. It is bourgeois mysticism (including “feel good” New Age woo-woo) and a lack of concrete scientific understanding that keeps the masses wedded to capitalism, not an over-abundance of it. Religion is in fact a massive obstacle to the overthrow of capitalism.

      Like

      • MS says

        But popular “science” as served up on TV and in the media, and promoted through funding isn’t really science any more. It’s simply another arm of the propaganda monster. Real science is a methodology, a means of approaching a problem, not a set of pre-detertmined beliefs or orthodoxies to be defended with threats of excommunication or cries of “woo.”

        Real science doesn’t exclude anything a priori and regards knowledge as impermanent and evolutionary. Real science is not in opposition to “woo” or mysticism. Real science is not in opposition to anything except its own antithesis – non-science. That is to say the silencing of doubt by any means. The perpetual acceptance of doubt, in fact, is the essence of science

        Marxists need to update and realise that popular “science” is now the opiate of the masses, serving exactly the function religion once did to silence dissent, and offer paternalistic illusions of certitude.

        Like

        • Sorry, Not Buying It says

          “Real science is not in opposition to “woo” or mysticism.”

          Of course it is. What you wrote is a petit-bourgeois deviation guaranteed to lead right back to the noxious tendencies that you yourself decry. While doubt and uncertainty are undoubtedly important foundations of science, this emphatically doesn’t mean that “anything goes”. It doesn’t mean that science is not grounded in the material interactions of the world and how people come into contact with that material world. The masses need to be armed with the science of revolution, the science of social and historical development and to grasp the laws of this development. As Mao said in “Where do correct ideas come from?”:

          “Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment. It is man’s social being that determines his thinking. Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world. In their social practice, men engage in various kinds of struggle and gain rich experience, both from their successes and from their failures.”

          https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_01.htm

          This single tract alone is a million times more profound and useful than any of the tomes written by bourgeois blow-hards through the ages who dabble in philosophical idealist conceits and who speak in hushed tones to sell their “genius” to the masses. Science needs the scythe of an explicitly philosophically-materialist grounded Marxism-Leninism, not the sorry swamp of a “perpetual acceptance of doubt”.

          Mysticism and New Agism are bourgeois idealism. Their social function is to obfuscate the material basis of social and biological development, the origins of scientific discovery, and the relations among classes. Their social role is therefore reactionary. They are poisonous weeds and distractions that must be struggled against. As Lenin noted, these idealist trends within the revolutionary movement in Russia were like mud dropped on the head of the masses in Russia. Today, they serve the same role: promotion of obscurantism, attempting to detach consciousness and ideas from their material basis, and muddying the nature of class by casting everything in terms of “love” and “individuals”.

          Like

        • Sorry, Not Buying It says

          “Marxists need to update and realise that popular “science” is now the opiate of the masses, serving exactly the function religion once did to silence dissent, and offer paternalistic illusions of certitude.”

          Yes, the bourgeoisie do wield science in their class interests, just as they do everything else. This, however, is not to credit mysticism at all, especially since mysticism is also wielded by the bourgeoisie.

          Like

  7. michaelk says

    It’s, I would argue, impossibler to look at modern science without examining the relationship it has to liberal capitalism. They are joined, as is almost everything else in modern culture, at the hip. Overwhelmingly science is financed by the state and the corporations in the United States. Roughly, about three quarters of all science is linked, in one way or another, to the vast US military/industrial complex. This fact alone has profound implications for the direction and character of modern science. Arguably, this has always been so throughout history, only today it’s become integrated and institutionalized to an absolutely extraordinary degree. The production of knowledge and information, and controlling it, along with ideology/religion is vital for the stability of the state in every civilization. Ours is no different. On the contrary, this fundamental relationship has never been more important.

    Capitalism has triumphed over all other ‘belief systems.’ Sweeping everything aside or incorporating them, or subordinating them in the service of the marketplace. The ‘marketplace’ has grown and expanded out of the traditional marketplace like something magical to engulf the surrounding streets in the town, then the churches, palaces and castles, and outwards until it’s consumed virtually the entire country and then the world.

    Capitalism is the most revolutionary, destructive, productive, successful and wealth creating economic system of all time. But, paradoxically, today, it’s that very ‘success’ that massive global wealth creation that threatens civilization and ultimately capitalism itself, because capitalism is too good at creating wealth, way too much wealth at the cost of sucking the planet dry of resources and ravaging it leading to envirnomental catastrophe and runaway uncontrollable global climate disaster on an almost unimaginable scale.

    Today many scientists understand and can’t ignore the nature of the Faustian pact we’ve made. In return for knowledge and power we’ve sold our souls to the Devil. This works well, for a time, but then he turns up and wants payment in full.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The problem isn’t ‘science’ or the ‘idea of progress’ as such; the problem is as with everything else now subordinated to the ironclad rule of ‘Profit,’ to the implacable God of Money and Blood, that which must be served above all else, the end of all means, the reason of all reasons,

    Science, like war, as purposeful activity directed to an end, as presently institutionalized under corporate control, doesn’t just happen; like war, it is funded to a specific end, namely and at bottom and as it happens, to increase the wealth of the already supremely rich.

    The kernel of the real myth at hand isn’t that we have somehow or other fallen prey to the false promise of ‘instrumental reason,’ but that we have somehow or other fallen prey to just “this” particular corruption.

    In themselves, science and technology, as with any other kind of “socially organized labour,” are neither good nor bad. Rather, the purposes served by these “collaborative efforts” are what ultimately determine their moral qualities and outcomes.

    The myth is that instrumental reason — science and technology — is what threatens us and the world; the truth is that ‘Profit’ currently rules supreme and that it will stop at absolutely nothing to satisfy its greed, not even at the murder of entire nations nor the irrevocable destruction of the earth.

    In not naming and indicting the one thing that until it is laid to rest, guarantees the continuation of our current nightmare, Curtis himself exemplifies the essential shape of the spiritual alienation of our age — or so it seems to me.

    Like

    • Completely agree. Re your penultimate paragraph, my big gripe with liberalism is its refusal – understandable but wrongheaded – to confront the full implications of a system where everything is subordinated to the dctates of profit. That really is everything

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dead World Walking says

    ‘There’s only one big lie.
    It goes a lot like this.
    Work hard, believe and buy
    You’ll have perpetual bliss’
    Many scientists see themselves as the new priesthood. Science is as fallible as religion, and far more deadly.
    The numinous cannot be weighed or measured, but like love, its existence is irrefutable.

    Like

  10. Willem says

    ‘Yes, marching for science is marching for science, but not in the way the demonstrators think. It is marching for a means to a means.’

    As a person with a scientific occupation who has to spend much of his days in trying to get his projects funded, I am kind of disheartened by the idea that I have to use myself as ‘a means’ to get ‘a means’, i.e. that my CV, or with whom I work is so very important to get funding, which is a means to do my research.

    And this is what I did not like about the march. To me, the march was not about science, but about ‘science’, it was about how science supposedly ‘looks like’ (to outsiders) not about what science is. The meaning of the march seemed similar as what the meaning of winning a price is in physics, chemistry, medicine, it was a PR stunt. It was a means of getting science funded. Real science is often dull and boring and frustrating and not very telling to be used as a means for propaganda, yet very satisfying when you have the right mindset and peace of mind. And it can change the world, although in my opinion what is more important is to keep the mindset alive, then trying to produce a life changing result, which will come perhaps only once in one’s lifetime and then often due to serendipidity or chance.

    Here is a quote from Democritus, who said that he would ‘rather discover one cause than gain the kingdom of Persia.’ That is the right mindset for a scientist, it appears to me. And Scientists who march for science don’t have that mindset. They act like as if they first have to invent the King of Persia before they even can start to think about getting their scientific studies done. That just seems totally wrong to me.

    And it also pathethic, this marching for science by scientists, when at the same time unwinnable wars are being thought in our name in the Middle East on behalf of ‘Democracy and Safety’ that kill thousands of people and bleed the economy dry. Why not march against that? – Not good for CV building, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My problem with this is its failure to disentangle effects of science and technology from those of their subordination – and consequent threat to environment, peace, human welfare and real freedom – to the dictates of profit. Monopoly ownership of private capital by a tiny elite, itself a slave to the iron law of chasing the highest return, and the chaotic effects these things have on wealth creation – hence every other aspect of our lives – this, surely, is root driver of the existential problems Curtin speaks of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anna Zimmerman says

      Whilst I would agree that the profit motive does not help, it is simplistic to attribute all the problems from arise from the worship of science/technology to that alone. The real problem is the arrogant notion that humanity can and should dominate nature, using science and technology as the means – this would persist with or without the profit motive. There is nothing wrong with science when it is respectful of all, but like all knowledge it has the potential to lead to inflated egos and megalomania. This is really what needs cutting down to size.

      Like

      • Jen says

        That notion of humans dominating nature comes from Christianity (specifically, from the Book of Genesis in which God tells Adam that he has dominion over the creatures God has created).

        Not so long ago of course, science and technology lent themelves to buttressing and justifying the seizure of lands (and their resources) from aboriginal peoples who were often forced to give up their bodies and skeletons for science as well. Sciences like anthropology and linguistics have dubious histories of association with racism and white supremacy.

        Like

      • writerroddis says

        “The .. arrogant notion that humanity can and should dominate nature, using science and technology as the means – this would persist with or without the profit motive.”

        Hi Anna. With respect, neither of us know this. But here is a fact: capitalism is existentially antithetical to planned wealth creation. Its guiding principles – nay, iron laws – are (a) private monopoly ownership of the means of wealth creation; (b) pursuit of the highest returns on invested capital; (c) deification/reification of The Market. Planned economies – not in some warped parody of socialism within a capitalist world order but as dominant global mode of producing wealth – under real democratic control would be capable of respect for our environment precisely because they’d be free of the profit imperative.

        I stress ‘capable of’. I don’t suppose the arrogance you speak of would fall away overnight. But we’d no longer be giving it free rein in the way we organise humanity’s most basic imperative;: daily reproduction of the material conditions of existence. We’d no longer be promoting greed, arrogance and what I call criminal insanity – all of which exist in each of us – over every other aspect of the human condition.

        Put another way; the end of capitalism may not guarantee the disappearance of all evils but its continuity most certainly does guarantee that they will flourish and multiply.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Frank says

    Ah yes, the inevitability of progress, a Whiggish invention.

    Consider the following. When the Crossbow was first invented it was thought that this was such a barbaric and heinous weapon that the Second Lateran Council under Pope Innocent II in 1139 banned its use against Christians, as well as slings.

    However in our more enlightened times, we have made weapons that can literally indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of people at a stroke.

    This is called: Progress.

    Like

.....................

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s