Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wallow-Drunk. — “I think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are either zombie or capture algorithms when not tied narrowly to a system’s persistence optimization”, says some fellow [1], who, I would guess, believes he is being scientific or rational: it is always the image such men are after, however far it may drift from reality; and I would say that this man has ended up much closer to modern performance-art.
     It is amazing to think that it has taken only a few hundred years from relative calm to this kind of madness. Lately I have had in mind the role of romanticism: the intoxication with feelings, the beautiful-soulism, the individualism which bids a man to fancy that he can define reason and truth in line with his passions, and the irrationalism which has made a fatal pact with the image of reason, science, and progress. [2] But the roots of the madness go very deep, seen in the mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century, seen in the nominalism of the late middle-ages, and then we look at Old Greece, and there it is again: some kind of intoxication, some desire for formlessness, some humanity-denying animality. It was such that Plato saw and set out to fight.
     Things are not repeated in quite the same way, but it seems that man, when he reaches a rank whereat his humanity is starkly reflected back at him, may, if wisdom has not reached the same rank, conceive a desire to sink into beasthood, as if the sight of what it is to be specifically human frightens him with its calling and responsibility. For that calling is the good life, the rational life, the examined life, and the responsibility is always to it, far away from a life of moral indolence and devil-may-care free-spiritedness. But what a ghastly thing to the man who wishes to cut loose in a spree of thrills and feelings! Better to be a wallowing swine than a striving man — or so the pig-philosophers teach. [3] 
     By this desire for sinking, however, I do not mean the longing for a simpler life. On the contrary: therein one can be fully human. Oddly it seems that man can use all the sophistication of his rational nature to try and thwart that very nature. In our advanced technology and in our complex, long-accumulated systems of thought, we are far better able to bestialise ourselves than were the Old Greeks.

[1] Hopefully Anonymous, comment of 16th December 2010, to TGGP, “Barack Obama as Rockefeller Republican?”, Entitled to an Opinion (weblog), 2nd December 2010. (Transhumanists, in denying their human nature, that is, in refusing to understand themselves as essentially rational animals, or as anything spiritual, but rather in mistaking themselves to be mechanically-determined, algorithmic genebots, or somesuch, are slipping from the human towards the merely animal, whilst pathetically dreaming of reaching the godly.)
[2] See Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919). Therein: “Man is in danger of being deprived of every last scrap and vestige of his humanity by this working together of romanticism and science. For man becomes human only in so far as he exercises moral choice.” p.262.
[3] For vain protestation against the accusation of pig-philosophy, see J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism (London: Parker, Son, & Bourn, 1863), above all, pp.11-14.

1 comment:

TGGP said...

H.A's reaction.

You may be interested in the (crypto-creationist?) argument discussed here.