The Skeptical Train to Tyranny
You don't know for sure if you exist, declares the modern philosophical skeptic. Existence could just be a dream. Are we sure that what we see and define as reality is actually there and apart from us? Or is it something that is created in our minds?
This is one of the nasty philosophic fallacies that has plagued the world for the past two centuries and a prime contributor to the tyrannical drift of modern day societies. Skepticism is not new. It has been around since ancient times expressing doubt about man and his thought, but its modern, extreme form depicted above evolved from two Enlightenment thinkers -- the radical idealist, George Berkeley (1685-1753), and the radical empiricist, David Hume (1711-1776).
Skeptics have, throughout history, concluded that we can never be sure about what it is that exists, and even that reality itself does not exist except in the mind. With their gospel of "eternal doubt," advocates of skepticism have thus played the role of ideological termites eating away at the timbers of truth undergirding humanity's achievement of morality, justice and freedom.
For most of history, skepticism remained on the fringe of man's philosophical endeavors. It was of no major consequence. But with the ideas of Berkeley and Hume, skepticism has become a nefarious force in modernity. Both of these thinkers made powerful impacts on the world from which we have yet to recover.
George Berkeley maintained that matter per se did not exist. Only ideas were actual realities. Matter did not exist until a mind perceived it. Absent perception, reality was meaningless. David Hume concluded that only "immediate experience" was meaningful, that causality itself (the foundation of science) was suspect, and that man can never know anything with certainty outside of himself.
As a result of Berkeley's extreme idealism and Hume's extreme empiricism, there was spawned a train of radically empiricist / humanist philosophers (starting with the thought of French philosopher, Auguste Comte, 1798-1857) that has, with the breakdown of belief in God, brought about a nihilistic slant to the modern intellectual world. This is the reason why there are intellectuals today who question the existence of matter and reality itself and seriously ask: "Do we exist, or are we something that our minds create?"
Actually Berkeley did not deny the existence of matter and reality. He just maintained that matter and reality don't exist until they are perceived by a mind. If there are no humans around to perceive the candle burning in the room, it is still there and still burning because the ultimate mind, God, perceives it. The "source of all being," as Aquinas defined God, was the power that validated the existence of reality. But what plunged skepticism into modern nihilism was the loss of man's belief in a God centered universe. By the end of the 19th century, belief in God was no longer the pervasive certainty it had been for the previous 2,000 years. Once this took place, Berkeley's anchoring of reality in the mind of God was lost, and numerous intellectuals took his and Hume's ideas to their ultimate conclusion: If matter doesn't exist in itself, but only as the result of being perceived by a mind, then reality doesn't exist "apart from us." Reality is not "objectively out there." It is in our minds and tied to our thoughts. We don't have thoughts about a reality that our senses perceive; our thoughts are reality. Truth is then formed, not found, by man. And if truth is formed, each culture and every era has its own truth. Man can even refashion truth to suit his needs whenever it presents him with what he prefers not to face.
This is the final nihilistic stage in the intellectual corruption process that has been stealing over the world since Berkeley and Hume and the 18th century. Hume was an atheist, and his radical empiricism extended beyond Berkeley to maintain that all we can know are impressions in our mind of what we see, feel, hear and absorb. These impressions are not clear proof of "external reality." Our belief that there is a reality "out there" is a product of our imagination. Our senses do not give us the "self-evident" demonstration of existence that philosophy had always built upon.
Today's intellectual confusion and nihilism resulting from this combine of extreme idealism / empiricism was, of course, not the intention of Berkeley and Hume, but they could not foresee the long range ramifications of their ideas. The Law of Unintended Consequences rules over imperfect humans and always takes their "big ideas" down unforeseen paths in the ensuing centuries.
To believe that man cannot know with certainty what reality is began as a cocklebur under the saddle of civilization's cerebral horse and has now evolved into gangrene that threatens the life of the horse. It is a terrible disease; it leads to the destruction of the values that sustain freedom, and ultimately to nihilism and the breakdown of free society. In the following I will try to point out the weakness of skepticism, and why it is a fallacy that no one should ever take seriously.
To believe that existence is possibly something that our minds create, one must believe that consciousness is primary to reality. In other words, consciousness precedes existence. For if reality is a creation of our minds, then our minds obviously came first in the overall scheme of things.
The first weakness in this way of thinking is that the skeptic is using his mind to say that what the mind perceives as "existing" does not actually exist. This means he is rejecting man's mind and the power of reason as valid instruments to perceive reality. In order to assert this, however, the skeptic has to use his mind and the power of reason. But if the mind cannot truly perceive reality, and if reason is invalid as a tool to discern objective truth, then is not the skeptic's rejection of the mind's efficacy and reason's prowess also invalid? It is hardly proper to use the mind and reason to claim the impotency of the mind and reason. In fact, it is nonsensical. But this is the contradictory morass into which skepticism drags us.
This is an example of what psychologist, Nathaniel Branden, calls "The Fallacy of the Stolen Concept." Branden tells us:
To understand this fallacy, consider an example of it in the realm of politics: Proudhon's famous declaration that "All property is theft."
"Theft" is a concept that logically and genetically depends on the antecedent concept of "rightfully owned property" -- and refers to the act of taking that property without the owner's consent. If no property is rightfully owned [however], that is, if nothing is property, there can be no such concept as "theft." Thus, the statement "All property is theft" has an internal contradiction: to use the concept "theft" while denying the validity of the concept "property," is to use "theft" as a concept to which one has no logical right -- that is, as a stolen concept.
All of man's knowledge and all his concepts have a hierarchical structure. The foundation or ultimate base of this structure is man's sensory perceptions; these are the starting points of his thinking. From these, man forms his first concepts and (ostensive) definitions -- then goes on building the edifice of his knowledge by identifying and integrating new concepts on a wider and wider scale. It is a process of building one identification upon another -- of deriving wider abstractions from previously known abstractions, or of breaking down wider abstractions into narrower classifications. Man's concepts are derived from and depend on earlier, more basic concepts which serve as their genetic roots. For example, the concept "parent" is presupposed by the concept "orphan"; if one had not grasped the former, one could not arrive at the latter, nor could the latter be meaningful.
The hierarchical nature of man's knowledge implies an important principle that must guide man's reasoning: When one uses concepts, one must recognize their genetic roots, one must recognize that which they logically depend on and presuppose....
When [skeptics] assert that man perceives, not objective reality, but only an illusion or mere appearance -- they evade the question of how one acquires such a concept as "illusion" or "appearance" without the existence of that which is not an illusion or mere appearance. If there were no objective perceptions of reality, from which "illusions" and "appearances" are intended to be distinguished, the latter concepts would be unintelligible....
" 'You cannot prove that you exist or that you're conscious,' they chatter, blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge; the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved." (Atlas Shrugged)....
It is rational to ask: "What exists?" It is not rational to ask: "Does anything exist?" -- because the first thing one would have to evade is the existence of the question and of a being who is there to ask it. It is rational to ask: "How do the senses enable man to perceive reality?" It is not rational to ask: "Do the senses enable man to perceive reality?" -- because if they do not, by what means did the speaker acquire his knowledge of the senses, of perception, of man and of reality? (The Objectivist Newsletter, January 1963, pp. 2 & 4).
One Cannot Have It Both Ways
What the skeptic fails to perceive is that if his views are correct, he has negated his tool of cerebration (his mind) and the validity of all conclusions it may draw. And without the validity of conclusions, all thought, intellectual inquiry, and science become pointless. In other words, one cannot have it both ways. One cannot say that one's mind is not valid, but also say that one's mind verifies that we cannot know reality and that reality does not exist apart from our minds. At least one cannot say such things with credibility. And that's what scientific, philosophic and religious thought are all about. They are attempts to fathom with credibility what's what about existence.
Thus we have two fundamental views about the structure of existence: the traditional view and the skeptical view. The intellectual traditionalist says existence exists apart from man the observer, i.e., that it is objective. Existence is here whether we as observers are here or not. The intellectual skeptic says that existence is not apart from us. What we think we perceive as "objectively out there" is really brought about by our minds. In other words, it is subjective; and thus it is here because we are here.
Reason, science, religion, and plain common sense tell us that the skeptic is not just wrong, but very dangerously wrong. We have just seen how reason sides with the traditional view of an "objective reality" because by declaring otherwise, one must utilize the fallacy of the "stolen concept." Let's now take a look at how science and religion weigh in on this issue.
Almost all scientists accept the fact that the Big Bang and the creation of existence came about some 15 billion years ago. Several billion years later, the planets formed, followed by vegetation, and then animals after a few more billion years. Then came man and human consciousness. Thus our conscious minds come AFTER existence. They do not create existence. Also all Western religions agree with this: God created the universe, and THEN created man, i.e., the human consciousness, afterwards.
Thus reason, science, religion (and by implication, common sense) all tell us that reality does indeed exist apart from man the observer, i.e., that it is "objective." And these four methodologies all tell us that the skeptic's view of "subjective reality" or "illusory reality" is a fallacy. In other words, existence precedes consciousness. It is not a creation of our minds. This, the intellectual traditionalist accepts as self-evident. He realizes our perceptions of reality might not be clearly grasped (for example, the oar in the water appears to be bent when it is really straight), but there is a reality being perceived apart from our minds.
A Pernicious Chain of Thought
Skepticism's danger lies in its doubt and the uncertainty it spreads regarding the validity of man's senses and his values. Once the plausibility of radical skepticism spreads among the intellectuals that guide a society, there is set in motion a pernicious chain of thought. The skeptic view launches the following ideas and social forms: subjective reality, which spawns moral relativism, which spawns arbitrary law, which spawns tyrannical government.
This is why conservatives get so upset when we hear the purveyors of skepticism rising up. They are out to destroy the concept of an "objective reality," i.e., a reality that is apart from man and the same for all men. If reality is a creation of our minds rather than something that precedes us and is apart from us, then it is a subjective creation of us, and certainly not something that is the same for everyone -- for all men will have their own vision of what reality is.
Once we begin to doubt the concept of objective "reality," there is no longer any basis for an objective "morality," i.e., a universal concept of right and wrong. If reality is not the same for everyone, then our concepts of good and evil will not be the same for everyone.
Once we cease to believe in objective morality, we then undercut the foundation for a free society and usher in tyranny. The precursor to all tyranny is moral relativism, i.e., non-objective morality. This is because if there is no objective concept of right and wrong, then dictators can abolish "objective law" (equal rights) in favor of "arbitrary law" (special privileges). They can take away our rights under the guise of seeking national security. They can confiscate our earnings under the guise of promoting social justice. They can enact martial law under the guise of confronting an economic crisis which their socialist policies have created. They can basically do what they wish as long as they can bamboozle 50% of the voters to go along with it, or accrue enough police control.
Benito Mussolini was a powerful example of this process: "Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism.... If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective, immortal truth... then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity.... [T]he modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable." (Diuturna, pp. 374-377. Cited in Henry B. Veatch, Rational Man, 1962, p. 41. Emphasis added.)
It is only with an objective code of morality that citizens can challenge such usurpation because only an objective morality can intellectually define evil. If we continue to relativize evil (i.e., refuse to define what it is), then evil will continue to grow because men cannot contest something that they cannot objectively define. Once they are made to see right and wrong as relative, as ever-shifting to accommodate the social needs of the moment, then dictatorship is inevitable. Government tyranny and its base of arbitrary law can be sold to them as a "modern necessity," as a "new kind of freedom."
The whole structure of free civilization is dependent upon belief in an objective concept of morality. But such a belief is impossible without first a belief in an objective concept of reality. And an objective reality is impossible if existence is tied into the subjective creation of our minds. This is why the skeptic's belief about reality is such a terrible danger. The Law of Unintended Consequences will drive any society that subscribes to it straight into despotism.
Seeing the Inherent Fallacies
What then are we to conclude from all this? No traditional, rational intellectual would ever ask: "Is existence a creation of our minds?" He readily sees the inherent fallacies. He also sees the big picture and thus the dangerous chain of consequences that results from trying to enshrine such skepticism. He knows that reason, science, religion, and common sense all dictate to us that existence is primary to consciousness. The traditional intellectual sees skepticism as pseudo-philosophy. He sees the skeptic's view as not just sophistry, but dangerous sophistry. The traditional intellectual sees the philosophical skeptic as a cerebral version of the clever IT geek who builds viruses and sends them out into the Internet.
There are a slew of irrationalities that go into laying the groundwork for dictatorship. One of the most lethal of those irrationalities is "philosophical skepticism" and the invidious doubt, moral relativism, and arbitrary law that result from it. Unfortunately skepticism is a way of thinking that will probably always be popping up every century or so because there are always going to be clever sophists among the human race wishing to dispense cerebral viruses.
Thankfully the traditional view of reality prevailed for 1600 years after Aristotle, and was continued via Aquinas for another 400 years. This is what built Western civilization. Since the 18th century, however, this traditional, rational view of existence has been under attack from skeptical, empiricist, relativist, nihilistic minds. The modern world's philosophical chaos and plunge into despotism are the consequences. If such destruction is to be stopped and reversed, it will require a restoration of the concept of an "objective reality" as self-evident, from which we then build the ideological constructs conducive to freedom as a way of life.
Posted by Huh? on 07/05/10 01:29 AM
"blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence"
This claim is wrong. IMO proof presupposes truth.
Consider the following: haven't you heard of the mathematical proof for the existence of a prime number larger than 10^1000000000000000 ?
Posted by Ryan on 06/24/10 12:40 PM
Here's another timely piece for this discussion.
Doug Casey on Ethics, Part One
Click to view link
Posted by James Jaeger on 06/24/10 11:11 AM
Nelson has laid out this difficult subject with his usual brilliant clarity. Thanks Nelson, I was starting to doubt even my own existence. :)
Posted by Avenist on 06/23/10 05:55 AM
About ten years ago I decided to try and figure out how and why 'humans' developed the ability to do things like calculus or ponder the beginnings of this existence. After all, a large brain is a costly adaptation and just a few moderately complex weapons and tools would be sufficient to cause a rise to the top of the food chain. Homo erectus is an example.
In the animal kingdom social hierarchies play a prominent role in the evolution of intelligence. Social forces drive social intelligence and greater social intelligence allows for larger hierarchies. Limited resources and reduction of altruism through a decrease in shared genes possibly put an upper limit on tribal size.
Throughout most of hominid development there has been a very slow growth in technology along with intelligence. Recently, this growth has greatly accelerated.
So what about calculus? There is a adaptation/mutation currently ongoing in 'human' evolution that is stripping away much of the collectivist-social brain software. The adaptation-the Autistic Spectrum brain. The article linked below, 'Mentalism and Mechanism-the twin modes of human cognition' by Christopher Badcock is, to me, the single, most enlightening thing on the internet.
Click to view link
The large social brain lost its social imperative, reverted back to a previous operating state, and kept its high intelligence. The social brain (which I call the Psychopathic Spectrum brain-aren't most social actions manipulative or controlling?) analyzes the social world, the Autistic Spectrum (asperger's) brain analyzes the real world. That is, reality.
I propose that individuality, freedom, free markets, and technological civilization, amongst many other positive things, are manifestations of the Autistic Spectrum brain. So is calculus. And understanding that reality exists outside the brain and is knowable. Joe
Other interesting stuff:
Click to view link
Click to view link
Homo sapiens is splitting into two species based on organizational incompatibilities arising from physical differences in the brain.
Posted by Peter Rudolph Zidek on 06/23/10 01:21 AM
The only morality possible to man is a rational morality based on objective reality and man's life as a standard of value.
Morality is a code of values accepted by choice... and humans need it for one reason only: they need it in order to survive. Moral laws, in this view, are principles that define how to nurish and sustain human life; they are no more than this and no less. It is the science of human preservation.
Posted by Facundo on 06/22/10 10:41 PM
For me, the logical chain for libertarians is: God " Soul " Free will " Rationality " Objetivity " Reality " Morality.
Is it right? Has it a right order? If you take one of this principles out, you cannot have a coherent path to freedom?
Posted by Lila Rajiva on 06/22/10 08:37 PM
Outside academia, when people say things are a matter of perception, I don't believe most of them are saying that if you're hit by a hammer, it isn't real. I think they're saying that depending on what the story is, the person who hit you could be an aggressor striking you, or a victim fighting back. You could be getting what you deserve or being an innocent victim. Or the whole thing could be an accident. Or the hammer could actually be something else that just looks like a hammer. Or you could be hallucinating.
In eastern religious philosophy, sunyata (emptiness)in Buddhism is not "non-existent," it is "unreal" " which means something different. It means that things are everywhere interdependent and don't exists as self-contained entities.
Other ideas similar to sunyata " such as, Maya in Hinduism " are different, depending on which tradition you're looking at (Vedantic monism or other traditions).
But most of those traditions don't view the teaching of the relativism of things as nihilistic. Some do, but they are a minority.
Posted by Facundo on 06/22/10 08:14 PM
"Thankfully the traditional view of reality prevailed for 1600 years after Aristotle, and was continued via Aquinas for another 400 years."
And then? In order to get the right philosophy, I need the right map! What about: Descartes, Kant, Paine and Herbert Spencer?
And what about Schopenhauer? For moments his views looks pro natural rights, he is always analizing the individual and He takes something like descartes`s "I think therefore I am" in his "On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason". This, is the basis for rationality and therefore morality.
thanks for helping to clarify my mind
Posted by Robbie on 06/22/10 07:14 PM
One error here. There are actually 3 separate realities in terms of perception:
1)the reality one individual has of existence;
2)the reality another has of existence which can be different than #1;
3)the common reality that exists between all individuals or what we call objective reality of existence (the most agreed upon at any given moment).
All of these can and do shift, which does not negate the separate existence of the universe outside perception or mis-perception, or non-perception. Examples are the shifting cultural realities of civilizations; science making new discoveries which alter the perception of what was thought to be the way things are; changes in what is agreed to be beautiful or sad, or evil, or fun, etc.
The skeptics fail to differentiate between what the individual perceives and what is really there or just says it's what the individual perceives. Life and existence are viewed through viewpoint. Viewpoint is shaped by experience, education, awareness, and emotional tone among other things. Chronically angry people find life a threat and things around them dangerous. Happy people find beauty in life, see opportunity everywhere, and wish to share reality with others.
But all these various human viewpoints must be tempered by the objective reality of existence or one falls down and goes boom! There are laws which the universe operates from. We, as human beings, have discovered a number of them but, if we delude ourselves into believing we know them all, we are in for trouble. Look at any field of endeavor and see the constant change in how we shift viewpoint of the objective reality sitting out there.
This world of 'viewpoint' is where the "bad guys" like to play and they misname it 'perception'. All normal human eyes perceive the same thing, but one man finds a cobra snake fascinating and of value, the next is fearful and knows they are dangerous " each forming a different 'reality' about the same physical thing.
The skeptics attempt to mold a reality they say is real, like history written by the winners. They tell us how it REALLY is, how to think about things. They tell us who to like, what to like, how to like it. They change moral values, saying theirs are correct and the old values outdated. They say the Constitution was a fine document once, but is outdated with the changing 'realities' of today. And so on and so on. They are attempting to shift viewpoint and hope no one will perceive too hard to see the lies.
When men of good will get together, they can create a reality that can lay over the physical universe and cause prosperity and liberty for all. If this reality does not violate natural law (I'm talking about things like gravity and the law of exchange, etc) then it can prosper. Men of ill will can do the exact opposite and can bring about a dark age " it's been done before.
Hultberg is pointing to the men of ill will who took what Berkeley and Hume posited and bent it into a new 'reality' which says there is no reality beyond the mind. The logical arguments he presents as to why they are ridiculous are fine. I would go one step further and suggest to such people to stand in front of a hammer and have it swung at their heads and not duck. Better yet, jump off the Grand Canyon rim and see if it's all a figment of their imagination.
The battle has always been for the minds of men for those who wish to control them. They seek to change viewpoint and call it perception. The battle to tame the physical universe is more often fought by men of good will who do not seek dominion over men but, rather, to aid them. Realities can be created in the minds of men that are not "real" in relation to actual existence, particularly if that man is ignorant, and has no firm, reasoned viewpoint.
The less experienced and educated a man is, the easier for an external source to provide whatever reality it wishes without much argument. The Founding Fathers were very aware of the need of an informed population in order to hold together a republic based on law (natural law, for the most part). We have long since lost that battle and the media, who should be keeping us informed, has become a yapping dog, snarling over dead meat, as if it's important. Modern education dumbs down the student and despite the vast value of the internet for the learning of life, in most cases it's wasted. (present company who read this blog, excepted).
Men who seek answers for themselves, look at life, experience it firsthand, form strong viewpoints based on natural law, leave the skeptics in the dust. If I see my family, my community, my friends prosper through my efforts, whether it's all mind or not, who gives a damn. Just don't try and change my viewpoint by telling me I'm perceiving it all wrong, or I just might show you that hammer.
Posted by Liberty666 on 06/22/10 02:50 PM
When I was only 14 and our headmaster put forth the arguments that we can't even prove we exist. It seemed so strange to me, I couldnt help thinking that if I punched him in the face would he still think I didnt even exist.
Posted by Lila Rajiva on 06/22/10 01:27 PM
"Mind" (manas) in Hinduism shades into consciousness. It's not the same logic or rational thought though I think in some versions it is linked hierarchically.
Here is an interesting book that tackles these questions from the perspective of neuroscience:
Click to view link
Posted by Rob Gerhardt on 06/22/10 12:10 PM
Consciousness is a difficult concept to define, but it is certainly not the same as the mind or thought, which can more readily be lumped together with ego. These are all related to the brain, and thus to matter. Matter constitutes the sense organs, but the interpretaion of this sense data is done by mind. Consciousness seems to stand back one step from this, and could be related to energy in some way " another phenomenon whose origin is not possible to pin down.
To bring things full circle at the subatomic level wave/particle duality shown by Heisenberg suggests that matter is strangely not unequivocally material. Using non scientific terminology we could talk of spirit and body, with the spirit as 'energy/consciousness' animating the body as 'material sensory apparatus and a brain decoder'.
All of these could be thought projections of God (or Universal Spirit) so that the whole universe is actually is the consciousness of God
Posted by Lila Rajiva on 06/22/10 11:12 AM
At the risk of sounding naive, isn't the story of the blind men and the elephant relevant here? Each blind man touches one part of the elephant and pronounces the elephant thin and bony (tail), hard and sharp (tusk), wet and soft (mouth). All these "versions" of reality are correct, from a limited perspective, even though they contradict each other. They are also all wrong, as far as the elephant as a whole is taken.
They are relative or partial 'truths' and cannot be confused with the underlying Truth (capital T). Surely this kind of 'relativism' is simply common sense.
The mind can very well understand things less complex than itself (elephant parts) and come to correct conclusions about them, while remaining skeptical that it understands the elephant itself
Yet, even without being able to grasp the elephant in its entirety, it's possible to ride the elephant, hunt the elephant, avoid the elephant, carve the tusk, tan the hide, use the blubber, or a million other things.
So too, skepticism (religious and to some degree philosophical) should be compatible with good technology, good science, and good ethics.
I think thorough-going philosophical skepticism about all things is probably a contradiction in itself...and probably quite rare. Perhaps that is what Hultberg is referring to. That kind of radical skepticism (we know nothing and can never know anything truly) is more an emotional/spiritual problem than an intellectual problem. It could be described as a refusal to see truth, not an inability to see it.
But then, maybe that's what Hultberg is talking about.
Posted by Timothy Von Fuelling Straus on 06/22/10 10:43 AM
We have lost our souls and increasingly pray at the altar of the irrational, of the lie supported by an intellectual elite that demonizes truth and propagates social memes adopted by the herd all to readily as we have become lobotomized by the destructive forces of cultural and moral relativism. Those that seek the truth at the expense of the accepted are ridiculed and belittled by the increasingly defensive posturing of the edifice of a crumbling pedestal of the narcissistic, self-delusional incompetence of the power elite in politics, science and finance"we have become delusional, irrational and prone to demagoguery.
How rapidly we can become believers in Wizards of Oz, and yet when the curtain is pulled back to reveal a weak charlatan frantically pulling the levers we do not reflect upon on our own collective loss of sanity and rational judgment, but instead leap forth to embrace whatever ideology is there to fill the void. We, in the Western world have lost our philosophical moorings"I am afraid we must suffer far worse, like Job, before we are redeemed, if we ever are.
We will, I am afraid, continue to marh headlong into the embrace of increasing tyrany or the abyss of chaos and socioeconomic terror before we emerge from this period of punctuated equilbrium an intense dialectical process, to emerge, hopefully into the light of a new Enlightenment.
Posted by Ichabod on 06/22/10 10:13 AM
The covenant mandates human freedom, honest money, division of labor based on God given talent, and a moral law to protect one's vision of freedom versus another's vision of tyranny. It's assumed and asserted to some degree in the US Constitution. Assertions appealing to false covenant concepts are just that.
Posted by Victor on 06/22/10 09:33 AM
It is obvious that this exposition reflects your view of history and of the development of modern civilization, but it is lopsided and distorts the philosophical schools of thought that you characterize.
The "traditional view of reality", the objective, religious, morality tinged view of reality created some of the most dark moments in history: hundreds of years of serfdom and aristocratic rule in Europe that was portrayed as GOD's WILL, as dictated by a fiefdom and protected by the CHURCH. The same view imbued with "ecclesiastic objective, morality" brought humanity the horrors of the Inquisition!
The thinkers of the Enlightenment which you vilify, freed humanity from those same "Objectivist" forces that hunted heretics, and dissidents. Read Voltaire's CANDIDE, and you might get a tinge of the idiocy of the religious zealotry that almost doomed humanity to an existence of serfdom forever, while pandering the belief that all is well and good if we believe that it's God's WILL.
I do agree with you on one major tenet, that our society, perhaps the Western world is facing the prospects of tyranny; but it is not due to a skeptical inquisitiveness, but rather to the rebirth of oligarchs seeking to attain a status of aristocracy and as a result turn the rest of us into their virtual slaves (through personal and socialized sovereign debt).
I further think that what we are experiencing today will one day be characterized as the century of corruption. The kind of corruption experienced during the downfall of the Roman Empire. These are the fruits of the decrepitude in man, sui generis; it is in his character--the eternal yin yang spiritual fight between good and evil. Thus we have Dark Ages supplanted by times of Enlightenment. Dark supplants light because we allow it. Corruption wins the day because so many "good people" sit back and do nothing! 1930's Germany is an example, as was 1480's Spain amid the spectacle of the Catholic Inquisition.
Your essay tries to pin the sins of our age on the wrong "trains of thought". There is much below the surface in most religions, and most of it is noxious to human freedom.
Posted by Ichabod on 06/22/10 08:04 AM
I just received a CD set titled "Basic Training for Defending the Faith." It's a five-part video lecture series featuring Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen and it covers all of the basic philosophies that student will meet as they approach college.
The set was made available through Click to view link. In today's world those committed to Christ will find a vast array of views attempting to discredit their faith. They need to be prepared.
I met Dr. Bahnsen and had some correspondence with him. He was a Christian scholar who studied under Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he was his most gifted student. In the set he encourages his students to identify the opposing world views they will encounter, skepticism among them.
Thanks for introducing the subject.
Posted by Puzzled on 06/22/10 06:41 AM
Our justice system today must operate on this "Truth is formed" theory, for in the courtroom truth is purely subjective. Whether we exist or think we exist, try going to work every day for one month with nothing to eat for lunch, doing physical labor, eat beans & cornbread for supper, oh, no breakfast. Then tell me if you exist or think you exist?
Posted by Peter Rudolph Zidek on 06/22/10 05:57 AM
"If such destruction is to be stopped and reversed, it will require a restoration of the concept of an "objective reality" as self-evident, from which we then build the ideological constructs conducive to freedom as a way of life."
And I would add in the sciences such as cosmology, theoretical physics, and economics as well!
Posted by Ed on 06/22/10 03:03 AM
The following words are from an unknown author but are quite timely.
"The thinker has run out of thoughts"
There was a time when I foolishly believed if I simply presented truth to my fellow citizens, they would believe or at least investigate and then believe when they found the information to be accurate. I believed that people were essentially intelligent, that they would recognize how they were being manipulated and deceived once they were shown the evidence.
I was wrong. Our once proud nation continues its decline. Her citizens scurry like mice in a maze, always busy and never noticing how the walls of their cage contract around them. They honor greed and sloth, reward immorality and punish achievement.
Demagogues and dilettantes lead us, thieves and whores govern us, morons and masochists entertain us. Rights are now privileges, freedom an illusion.
I have come to realize there is nothing to be done, no amount of information or proof will penetrate the wall of indifference and entitlement so many have erected. America really was once the land of the free, the home of the brave. I wonder if our grand-children will remember.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Perhaps things will look better in the morning.