Skip to comments.The Dark Side of the Enlightenment
Posted on 04/07/2018 6:05:00 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
What, then, was the Enlightenment? This term was promoted, first and foremost, by the late-18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant . . . [who declared] that only reason allows human beings to emerge from their self-incurred immaturity by casting aside the dogmas and formulas of authority and tradition. For Kant, reason is universal, infallible and a priorimeaning independent of experience. As far as reason is concerned, there is one eternally valid, unassailably correct answer to every question in science, morality and politics . . .
This astonishing arrogance is based on a powerful idea: that mathematics can produce universal truths by beginning with self-evident premises . . . and then proceeding by means of infallible deductions to . . . apodictic certainty. Since this method worked in mathematics, Descartes had insisted, it could be applied to all other disciplines. The idea was subsequently taken up and refined by Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and Rousseau as well as Kant.
This view of reasonand of its power, freed from the shackles of history, tradition and experienceis what Kant called Enlightenment. It is completely wrong. Human reason is incapable of reaching universally valid, unassailably correct answers to the problems of science, morality and politics by applying the methods of mathematics.
The first warning of this was Descartess 1644 magnum opus, The Prnciples of Philosophy, which claimed to reach a final determination of the nature of the universe by moving from self-evident premises through infallible deductions. This voluminous work is so scandalously absurd that no unabridged English version is in print today. Yet Descartess masterpiece took Europe by storm and for decades was the main textbook of the Cartesian school of science. Kant followed this dubious example . . . [by claiming] to have deduced Newtons laws of motion using pure reason, without empirical evidence.
(Excerpt) Read more at paywallnews.com ...
Illuminating discussion of Enlightenment philosophy and its relation to the French Revolution, Marx, and the rest of the usual suspects.
I would have loved to have understood this article when I faced the Introduction to the Humanities problem in my freshman year in engineering school. Apparently it is even more needed today by college freshmen generally.
Its a long article to which a 300 word excerpt cannot do justice.
Don Rumsfeld famously spoke of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. But I put it to you that there is another quadrant in that matrix, unknown knowns. On face value that seems absurd concept - if you know something, how can your knowledge of it be unknown? But, not so fast.
The reality is that we are not aware of everything we know - and we certainly cannot articulate it. A concrete example of an unknown know came to my attention when I was traveling what had been, a week before, an unfamiliar road. I found myself in what was logically the wrong lane, and moved over to the right lane. I was instantly rewarded with a drubbing to my undercarriage due to the rough pavement at that point. And I realized that rough patch was known to me before then but I had not consciously realized that I had known it.
Tradition and conservatism keep us in what may rationally seem to be the wrong lane because the knowledge which justifies sticking to that lane is not conscious and/or not readily articulated.
The Enlightenment’s strict emphasis on Reason as the only way to comprehend the universe led inexorably to the French Revolution, Marx, Darwin, and our modern world of Secular Materialism.
How ironic that the Progressives of today, who unquestionably came out of that heritage, now reject notions of Truth and Reality. They believe that there is no God, we can make our own Truth, and that if a Man wants to be a Woman, that choice is open and available.
It’s a shame our society has not put greater emphasis on Faith and Morality, which may not lend themselves so much to Reason, but which do help channel Human Nature is more responsible ways.
Ping to an article I really liked.
I read it, and also agree with him for the most part. My only disagreement with the author is whether David Hume was pro- or anti-Enlightenment. Personally, I’d argue he’s just as much for the Enlightenment as Kant. In fact, if anything, there’s evidence to suggest Kant’s on reason was meant to enhance Hume’s Empiricist argument rather than reject it. There’s at least one article exposing how Hume was ultimately as damaging to science as the Enlightenment was, and gave pretty good solid reasons for the case:
Maybe (not really but pretending) Kant could deduce the best way to hit a baseball coming at him at a certain speed and trajectory. But could he hit it that way?
Reason is to the whole deal the way a plane/slice is to a 3 dimensional object. You can be totally accurate and internally rationally consistent within the realm of the slice with no height, and it's meaningless.
The house is not the hammer you built it with.
Here is the article, text only, without the paywall.
I found it very well done, and very well worth reading.
So it seems, to a few. It could asl be astonishing subterfuge: this is all about what you admit as evidence.
But yes, to say that the evidence one decides to admit is "universal" is a bit over the top. After all, reason can't produce a universe.
The French are derided for their “Cartesian” way of thinking and rightly so.
It’s still behind a pay wall. Thank you for posting it though.
What you described is more like a forgotten known.
Subconsciously, we KNOW what is and what is not. At least I believe so. There is right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. It very well could be that which nature or nature’s God or God instilled within us so that we may function according to a rational or logical set of rules. I know what I know, even if it is unknown. If any of that makes any sense.
So we have to learn to govern our emotions, and to apply Reason where it is useful, and emotion where it is not.
Well said. Except thatFaith and Morality, which may not lend themselves so much to Reason, but which do help channel Human Nature is more responsible ways.
Is a bit pessimistic. As the full article notes, reason has never been excluded from Christian thought, to the contrary reason has flourished within guardrails under Christian tutelage.
Jordan Peterson is engaged in a study of this very issue. He is clear that we know very little of the world about us. Tat knowledge comes, he believes, through the kind of enlightenment exemplified by Jesus and to a lesser extent Buddha.
The religious community is clear about the vital significance of tradition and historically derived knowledge.
The founding principle upon which all knowledge is built according to the aforementioned luminaries is universal love. This is the authority that will bring down the demonic pantheons that rule our world. Love is a cleansing power. It grinds evil into dust.
The authorities that deny the power of love are being challenged like never before. Because we love our nation we will end the reign of those who would destroy it. Through all his many trivialities Trump stands strongest for the love of country and the love of fellow citizens. These are traditions embedded most deeply in our consciousness.
We are admonished by those who would be our masters that we must cast off principles that separate us. We know better and we are teaching these ancient truths with a fervor born of the knowledge that we stand on the brink of chaos.
It is our love that will triumph. Our love and the discipline to require love when hatred and fear are beating down the door is our weapon against those who would destroy us.
It is love that puts a gun in the pocket of a father to protect his family.
It is love that builds a wall to stop the chaos of unfettered immigration.
It is love that denies and rejects the progressive teachings against God, family, and our beloved country.
It is love that requires an orderly society based upon our best laws to which every citizen is subject.
I have a friend who believe in what he calls a “cosmic consciousness” that permeates all and is imprinted upon every human being. This imprint informs us as to what is right and good. It rebels against darkness, evil, chaos, death, destruction. I am not so sure about his theory. He calls it “cosmic” while I call it God.
Its still behind a pay wall. Thank you for posting it though.
“Everything is everything.” Marvin Gaye
In the 18th Century, everyone thought that truth would be established as a certain fact and all that needed to be done would be to sum up the limits of expanding knowledge.
This is the idea behind the American and French Revolutions -freedom, equality and reason come to us through laws discovered by God and any human being can unlock them and make new discoveries.
Unfortunately, there are lots of unknowns that make doing that far from simple, because life doesn’t conform to human expectations of it. And conservatism arose in part because of the realization in reality we can never know everything with absolute confidence.
you need to read up on the French Revolution.
If we could know the outcome of knowledge, I don’t think any one would disagree with the assertion the human mind is enriched by new knowledge. That’s human nature - we are a curious species and have a need and a want to know more - the quality that sets us apart from every other animal on earth is our ability to ask questions about the world around us.
What troubles conservatives is not seeking knowledge for its own sake but rather the meaning of that knowledge and its practical and moral consequences for our well-being. Liberals tend to be completely blind to adverse consequences. And these happen quite often in life and we can’t assume knowledge will always benefit us.
Conservatives too are children of the Englightenment and on the whole its made our world a freer and better place than it was in the Middle Ages but it shouldn’t be taken on blind faith. The real world has taught us more often than not that more things are bound to go wrong than right and the pursuit of knowledge must be tempered with healthy skepticism.
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