What’s Wrong With The World Part XVII—Foolish


The one aspect of philosophy which stands as a shining exception to the criminal neglect of philosophy of the modern age is the study of the natural world, the discipline called natural philosophy or physics.

Here, it is not the ignorance or neglect of philosophy which is the error; the error is the over-emphasis, the exaggeration, the idolatry of science which leads to a perversion and hence, ultimately, to a neglect of science.

A basic and repeated folly of Modernism springs from a single cause: with the well-merited success and progress brought about by the scientific and industrial revolution in the West, the intelligentsia of three and four generations sought to idolize the physical sciences, and apply empirical methods to the study of Man.

So when the Moderns thought to turn the telescopes and microscopes of the physical sciences, they thought that economics could be placed on a scientific basis by drawing up lots of charts and graphs of Keynesian complexity with no particular meaning, that history could be placed on a scientific basis by treating history as a subset of evolutionary biology, that the study of the mind and soul of man could be placed on a scientific basis by making up unproved and unprovable myths about such hidden and occult entities as Id, Ego, and Superego, each conveniently not open to empirical observation.

Above all, it was thought that the other disciplines, theology, metaphysics, logic, mathematics, epistemology, ontology, aesthetics, ethics and politics would either be banished forever as mere verbal vapor, or would be placed on a firm empirical foundation, as soon as something having anything to do with said subjects produced material phenomena which could be placed before a material telescope or material microscope. On that glorious day, all aspects of philosophy would be as certain and sure and actionable as the theories of science, and the endless quibbles and disputes of the schoolmen silenced forever!

Now, even a schoolboy could see at the outset what the two difficulties are.

The first difficulty any schoolboy can see is that you cannot use scientific methods, that is, empirical and contingent reasoning confirmed  by empirical observation, on non-scientific subject matter, such as the meaning of the life of man and his place in Creation, which is based on necessary deductions from categorical or metaphysical axioms.

Scientific knowledge deals with contingent facts, that is, with things that happen to be true, not that necessarily are true.

The various non-empirical disciplines, such as ethics and economics and mathematics and metaphysics, so on, deal with things that are eternal because (in the case of ethics and politics) the nature of man throughout human history does not change or because (in the case of logic, mathematics, economics, metaphysics) the nature of the eternal order of being cannot change. Eternal things have no particular place or time where they manifest empirical events. A geometer studying triangles in the Fifth Century BC in Greece is studying the same triangle as any mathematician anywhere in the universe, at any point in time—and if there are mathematicians among the choirs of angels or in the court of the Demon-Sultan Azathoth, the same as any outside the universe and beyond time.

The conclusions of the non-empirical disciplines are necessarily true. “A is A” because it is true by definition, not because it is seen to be so. They are not, as scientific theories are, true under some conditions dependent on the surrounding cosmos. Newton’s Second Law of Motion is true because it is seen to be so.

Hence the method of empirical observation, which deals and can deal only with contingent facts, cannot deal with non-empirical and logically necessary truths. You cannot prove A is A, or that ghosts or real, or that justice is not merely the will of the stronger, or that bad money drives out good, or that a bicameral legislature is less prone to factional enthusiasm by using a microscope or telescope; neither can you disprove. It is outside the range of empirical investigation.

Now, the way a revolution in the physical science is done, among other things, is to look at the data with fresh eyes, ignoring the models and methods that have come before, and to fit the old data into the new model to see if the new model has the explanatory power and clarity equal to or better than the old.

Once the scientific advances of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and similar figures had utterly revolutionized and overthrown the previous models of the way the physical world worked, no one studied the Ptolemaic model or the motions of the epicycles, read the atomic theory of Democritus or Lucretius, nor pondered the five elements of Aristotle except as exercises in history or literature. No one studying chemistry studied the writings of alchemists like Paracelsus or John Dee. The scientific scholarship of the ancients was without scientific value.

The scientific revolution is in once sense ultimately democratic: no one’s conclusions are taken on authority. It is observation and experimentation, not the consensus of opinion, which determines the scientific truth. A patent clerk like Einstein has as much right as the head of the Royal Treasury like Newton to revolutionize the field. The scientific revolution in another sense is ultimately un-democratic. Nature is sovereign. Data are data and facts are facts, and you do not get a vote, nor is there any appeal.

This democratic nature allows the scientist to throw out the model of an authority like Ptolemy if the model of Copernicus explains the motions of the planets better. Science is no respecter of authority. But on the other hand, the observations, the data, of Tycho Brahe are undemocratically sacrosanct, and not to be thrown out. Science does not throw out non-erroneous data, and no valid theory can ignore the data sought to be explained. Outside of the halls of East Anglia University, scientists cannot vote on what data to observe and what data to ignore.

So when intellectuals sought to overthrow all of non-empirical philosophy and thought, they took the first step of the scientist, and doubted the authorities.

But since non-empirical disciplines have no empirical data, there was no next step to take.

Having doubted the authorities, and having no scientific method of making and non-empirical observations or drawing non-contingent conclusions about such matters as free will and determinism, the nature of the one and the many, the nature of history and man’s role in it, the nature of morality and justice and human laws or divine laws, the modern intellectuals either fell back in the most primitive imaginable conceptions, stone-age style thinking, about these high matters, or they pretended to draw no conclusions at all, and dismissed all philosophy as meaningless.

Metaphysics had been demoted to something not studied. Ethics was now simply the endless and illogical whining of victim groups that White Male Christians were oppressing them. Politics was now the unmoored delirium of bloodthirsty utopia-seekers. Aesthetics was forgotten. Ontology and epistemology were redefined to be either meaningless word-games or a branch of abnormal psychology. Attempts to put logic on a non-Aristotelian or non-logical base devolved into meaningless word-games. The investigation of non-Euclidean geometry led the modern intellectual to conclude that even mathematics was a meaningless and arbitrary dances of symbols having no relation to physical reality.

Therefore far, far from grounding philosophy onto a firmer and more certain foundation, all that was done was to treat the conclusions of reason, both contingent and certain, as if they were unproved and unprovable.

The second difficulty any schoolboy could see is this: if you hold up Man to be investigation as if he were a beast, or a machine, then you cannot account for by what means you, the investigator, a man, perform the act of investigation. The act of investigation is an act of thought; a deliberate act; and, if the investigation is honest rather than dishonest, it is an ethical act.

Modern writers, like Hegel and Nietzsche and Marx, tore the Darwinian idea of evolution out of its context, where it made sense, attempted to apply it to the deliberation and ethical nature of man, where is makes no sense. Hegel proposed that all philosophical inquiry was merely the unfolding or evolution of thoughts inherent in a timeless and universal Absolute thought; Marx reversed this idea, and held that thoughts are mechanical by-products of the material course of the evolution of various economic struggles, a material dialectic leading inevitably to socialist utopia; Nietzsche proposed that in the same way the morals ideals of man have no meaning for apes, so too the moral ideas of the superman will have no meaning for man. Hitler interpreted Nietzsche to mean that modern man had license to ignore all laws of civilization and Christian decency, and to commit any and every act of barbaric bloodshed and horror, so long as it served the Darwinian and eugenic purpose of improving the self-anointed master race.

And other writers, an endless fusillade of them, proposed that since man evolved from beast, man was beast, and had no purpose on Earth except to survive and to propagate the species: therefore any evil done in the name of self-propagation was not only justified, it was modern and scientific and the latest fashionable divertissement of the smart set.

The human-shaped vermin called Peter Singer is the latest and most famous, at the moment, of these bestialists: he waxes poetic about the rights of dumb animals, and prays us neither to enslave nor murder them, and then urges that we should slaughter any children under two years old found displeasing or boring to their parents. This is not a resurrection of the ancient Roman right that father had to kill sons who had dishonored the family, or the Spartan custom of tossing babies deemed weak into the pit at Apothetae: because Singer and the moderns do not have even the excuse of the ancients, that the murders were done for honor, or the help the city maintain her stock of fit fighting men. The modern infanticides are done for the sake of convenience, or for no reason at all.

But if man is a beast, why not breed him like cattle, as the Nazis wished, or exterminate lesser breeds, as Margaret Sanger wished, or cull the weak and inconvenient, as Peter Singer wishes?

But to treat man as beast was not the depth of degradation. Another allegedly scientific investigation of man was undertaken by Freud, who perpetrated what is essentially a tremendous fraud upon a gullible generation. Freud proposed the theory that the mind operated by hidden or subconscious mechanisms, and that these true motivations were always base and ignoble, usually involved sexual deviancy, such as Oedipal incest, and they could be applied to explain and explain away everything.

Pavlov and B.F. Skinner took the fraud to a deeper level by announcing that the consciousness of man did not exist, or was mere epiphenomenon, and that the consciousness was nothing more than the side-effect of material changes to brain-matter, which in turn were nothing more than associations of stimulus and response.

No one seemed to notice that, if these theories were true, then they were true as well of Freud, and Pavlov and Skinner, in which case the words seeming to come from their pens as they described their theories were merely the upwelling of buried and irrational mechanical forces, and ergo no more meaningful than the wordless clanking of the gears of a steam engine.

The image of the Modern idolater of science is of an earnest fool seated on a treebranch, busily sawing through the segment between his buttocks and the main trunk. The same mistake is endlessly repeated in modern philosophy and modern thought, and it is a mistake a schoolboy can spot in five minutes: if the depiction of man as merely an unintelligent, materialistic, beastlike mechanism of nature is correct, then there is no room in the universe for the investigator of man. If there is no investigator, there is no investigation, and ergo the conclusions of the investigation cannot be true. If all thoughts, including yours, are merely the thoughtless and unintentional by-product of blind natural forces or meaningless brain spasms, then no conclusion, including this one, is either true nor false, but merely nothing.

The scratches made by a chicken in the yard are not the letters in a language with a message for you; since not done with the purpose of conveying a message, they can hold no message. If the motions of brain atoms are no more purposeful than the scratches of chickens, they likewise can hold no message. That means that they can hold no messages at all. That means the message “all motions of brain atoms are no more purposeful than the scratches of chickens” must likewise be a non-message, that is, meaningless.

It is a self-refuting statement.  All modern philosophy consists of little more than tottering superstructures built atop self-refuting statements.

The idolater of science seeks to find empirical and non-rational causes to explain the non-empirical and rational causes of that rational animal, man.

By the very nature of such a study, the real causes of human action, non-empirical and rational, will not and cannot be considered; and by the very nature of the study, those things that cannot possibly cause any actions in the consciousness of a rational and living non-machine, i.e. empirical and mechanical causes, they and only they will be considered.

The results, as one might expect, will be pure gibberish and nonsense: Freud saying all human acts are provoked by a buried desire aiming at parricide and incest; Marx saying all human acts are provoked by economic classes conditioned by material objects such as hand-looms and factories that just so happen to exist in the environment; Skinner saying humans are machines built by no mechanic and programmed by no programmer; Sanger saying humans should be bred like dogs; Singer saying humans should be slaughtered like rats. This passes for science? Real scientists, men who study real facts and perform real experiments, and who question and defend their theories, would point out that self-contradictory speculations founded in nothing, explaining nothing, proved by nothing are not “science” but are instead the absence or antithesis of science.

If the investigator applies to himself the very conclusions he applies to the objects of his study, then the possibility of the investigation is contradicted. An unthinking machine cannot think about why it is an unthinking machine.

However, a wide field of evil becomes imaginable and permissible once men are regarded as nothing but livestock or manikins: the meddling social engineer and all his anarchy is loosed upon the world like a savage dog that slips his leash, and the blood he spills is no more to be regretted than the oil spilled from defective machines being repaired. The vision of man as a brainless beast or as a lifeless machine contradicts the vision of man as a moral actor, a creature of rights and dignity, a created being granted inalienable rights by his Creator. Such is the damage done by the modern theory that man is not man.

Freud committed even greater damage by proposing the theory that the way to cure the subconscious mind of neurosis was to give full reign to the passions and appetites, especially illegal or harmful or unnatural appetites. Only in this way could true honesty and true psychological health be achieved. Self-command and self-control were relabeled as repressions and hang-ups: and with this relabeling, and with no further research, thought, or investigation than that, the Western world repudiated all the warnings and teaching of pagan sages and Christian saints, and determined that selfishness and self-centeredness were good, but that self-indulgence without restraint or thought was best of all.  Virtue became vice and vice became virtue.

In one fell swoop, the heart was pulled out of Western thought, and nothing was left except the prolonged and absurd death throes of an irredeemably and irrecoverably spoilt generation of brats and whiners.