Saturday, July 25, 2020

On Medium: The Cults of Scientism in Philosophy and Economics

This article is about the paradox of the secular cults of scientism, namely logical positivism and neoclassical economics.


  1. I think we must avoid the confusion between religion and mythology. Religion is the existential dimension of consciousness/reality By live's perspective while mythology is its historical distortion. Religion is the very human capacity to reach an essentially existential perspective instead continue to be alienated into the food chain labyrinth. Real religion is the core of philosophy. Atheism is the fundamental requirement to live knowing its real meaning.

  2. One of the major problem of atheist activists is that they believe religious belief is an artificial cultural indoctrination and also because basic lack of empathy they can't place themselves in the believer's shoes and understand how precious their belief on god is. Mythologies are gratificating. Make people confortable. Even to take off religion from people's lives we must replace it with similar placebo, maybe retaining the god concept and eliminating morally problematic issues like mysoginy and homophobia, but atheist activism want eliminate mythology without replace it with something similar but less problematic, doing gradually.

    1. You're certainly raising big themes I've tried to explore in my writings.

      I'd say the problematic atheists confuse theism with religion, and indeed they restrict theism to literalistic, exoteric theism (fundamentalism). Religion and irrational faith have social functions, and even secular, as in atheistic societies evidently are propped up by civic religions, myths, and trust/faith, including trust in government, human nature, progress, reason, and so on.

      Paul Tillich explained this well by defining religious faith in terms of our ultimate concern or value. That value is never rationally proven and it propels us in largely irrational, religious directions, including atheistic ones (neoliberalism, consumerism, scientism, authoritarian populism).

    2. I don't think the "ultimate value" is never rationally proven. Absurd logic or ilogic behind the God concept and consequent mythological constructions are easily proven as impossible or false. Know about life finitude is easily perceived and the afterlife, even It's not decisively proven, is very unlikely to be true, first because lack any evidence and second by the logic itself. Just recognizing patterns we can reach these conclusions. The mythology create a fantastic explanation for something which is much simpler. Deep don't need to be complex or unreachable. Deep is synonymous for essencial. I understand human mythology as an artificial reconstruction of selfcentrism which is absolute for another nonhuman living beings. All of them "believe" that their adaptative perspectives are everything of the existence or of the world. What they understand and live of the world is the only-world for them. Mythologies are essentially anthropocentric, you know. Humans rebuilt the necessity to feel in the center of universe what nonhumans live naturally. Humans are unique because we know about things we wouldnt like to know, for example, life's finitude. Nonhuman living beings only know what they need to survive. I disagree with the speciest thinking that only humans who can acquire knowledge. All life forms must need know something about the world by themselves to survive. But their knowledges are directly derived from their instincts. That's the difference. They have their adaptative knowledge/skills always as a mean to the end, their survive. Humans are only ones who have knowledge also as an end in itself. Again, humanity evolved to reach out of food chain or existential dimension but specially with civilizations's emergence exploitation and alienation became the rule. I understand humans as a bird who is forbidden to fly. By existential dimension Is inevitable social justice//harmony, what that psychopaths don't want that happens.

    3. I can see that you've worked out a philosophy, but what exactly would you say are the ultimate values that can be proven? Values can be accepted or rejected, but how could you prove logically or empirically that a value shouldn't be adopted? The naturalistic fallacy stands in the way. We can disprove the theistic beliefs that surround certain religious attitudes and values, but that wouldn't show the values themselves are illogical. I think there's a category error in saying that ultimate values are subject to rational proof.

      My "Godless Honour" series is currently looking at some secular values (human nature, reason, power, pleasure, and art), and I mean to cast some doubt on them or show that they're problematic. But a value isn't the sort of thing you can show is false or illogical; more precisely, those deficits are true by definition, so they don't count as problems for values. Values are ideals that aren't about actual facts; they're about how the facts should be. And values are subjective, emotive, and faith-based rather than driven by logic or arid calculations.

      Do you have a counterexample in mind, a value that's chosen purely on the basis of reason and that can be logically or empirically proven to be superior to other values?

    4. I dislike see it as "mine". There is just one philosophy. There are countless ideologies. Of course, philosophy is also an ideology but the most ideal, 100% based on facts. That's what wisdom must be. Values are at priori fact-based. Why we have to care of elderly?? There are important reasons for why. Elderly are people who contributed to society so they must be well treated. Also because they are people, living-beings as us. We must be reciprocal, treat people the way we would like to be treated. Selfish people, those who relativize morality, do it supposedly, because, in the truth, they want to be well treated by others. They relativize morality only for their behavior towards others while they never relativize for other's behaviors towards them. Again about elderly. We have people who have congenital chronic ilnesses who barely contribute to something so why we don't kill them? Because they are like us, we are essentially the same and also the reciprocity. We place in their shoes and would like be well treated by others if we were like them,situationally. Ultimate values come from ultimate or existential truths. Our essencial equality for example. Life's finitude and godless acceptance. Only one life to live. Any divisionism becoming palid in front of hyperrreality. I know there are many religious people who are altruistic at the first glance because their religion (do the good and you will to Heaven when you die) but also because it contain many universal truths as "human//christian (quasi) universal brotherhood' blurred with its typical fantasy as well itscontradictions.

      What you define as "rational proof"??

      Know we will die some day and concluding logically we are in the same boat, is rationally or factually based. It's obviously proven after all It's true we are all lives damned to the same fate and also that any kind of acute divisionism lose its wholeness. For me, rational is always related with perception of objective fact and or capacity to distinguish what is a subjective truth (feelings, sensations and derived opinions) and what is an objective or universal one.

      Wrong and right are based on criteria. Because criteria exist, wrong/ worst and right/better exist and morality has everything with it. Morality is imprescindibility specially without human lies.Imprescindibility is based on species consciousness (reality understanding) levels. It's right for parasitical wasp behave in parasitical way. It's all it know. For us It's at priori facultative and definitely wrong when we embodying absolute or existential truths. Aninalistic fallacy is based on wrong idea that morality is not factually based and then It's not qualitatively accumulative just like any subject-domain. Stupidly It's like compare human with ant's consciousness levels. If ants praticar canibalism It's not problematic if we practice too. Human beings are only ones who are not using/all their knowledges to maximize their existential well being exactly because sociopathic historical sucess in dominating complex societies.

      Know we are the same in essence It's not an entirely subjective perception or how it can or could be. Know we are damned to die and disappear forever and our loved ones definitely It's not what things could be. It's probably the most painful truth, ultimate human or live-defeat. Values are directly derived from what we perceive and it can be considerably more universal and also otherwise, considerably subjective.

      Values can be bad too. Racism is or can be understood as a value.

      I thought i already answered your question in the text.

    5. Homophobia is a moral value based on exageration and lies about homossexuality.

      For example: homossexuality is a disease = we must cure homossexual people.

      Homossexuality is a sign = we must criminalize it.

      Against homofobia is a superior moral value based on facts about homossexuality.

      For example: homossexuality is not a disease = we must accept them the way they are.

      Homossexuality is not a crime = we don't criminalize it.

  3. Good essay. While I did admire Wittgenstein for a brief period in my teens, I've come to see him as the Thomas Edison of philosophy: a popularizor rather than a creator. Granted, every philosopher takes inspiration from others, but unless I've overlooked something there is nothing Wittgenstein said that was not said better by others. Bacon & some of the scholastic philosophers could probably be regarded as positivists. Max Stirner made a much more passionate & persuasive case for nominalism. Though his Tractetus wasn't a total waste of paper in my opinion, as it served as inspiration for Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics -- the only self-help program I've tried that really helped!

    I read somewhere that the young Bertrand Russell once had the temerity to question something the great Wittgenstein had said only to be rebutted by a string of Latin incantations. Not wanting to seem stupid, Russell pretended to be supernaturally impressed, but later on, after he had had time to analyze it, realized it was all nonsense

    1. David Hume's "fork" was also positivistic; he actually said books on metaphysics and theology should be consigned to the flames.

      That story about Russell and Wittgenstein sounds apocryphal, but if true it's quite telling and would fit nicely in my account of the cultishness of positivism. Can you track down the source?

      Either way, Wittgenstein was as arrogant as Isaac Newton, but at least Newton's declarations could be tested.

    2. I think logical-positivism as a philosophical current borrows indeed heavily from precedent currents, particularly empiricism, positivism and, to some extent, even certain aspects of idealism!
      Its political, social and cultural influences are varied and eclectic, that's why I find it a bit problematic to call it a 'cult'. I think a 'movement' might be more just.
      For an appraisal and general history of logical positivism I really recommend this book:

      I don't think that as far as 'cult' mentality goes, we can place logical-positivism as a whole in the same level as, say, Singularitarianism.

    3. Sorry, I own over 2000 books & I could have read it in a public library for all I know. I did an internet search but the closest thing I could find was a letter Russell wrote to his lover Ottoline Morel dated 1916:

      I showed him (Wittgenstein) a crucial part of what I had been writing. He said it was all wrong, not realizing the difficulties - that he had tried my view and knew it wouldn't work. I couldn't understand his objection - in fact he was very inarticulate - but I feel in my bones that he must be right, and that he has seen something that I have missed.

      So I've either grossly embellished & misrecalled that quotation or I'm remembering a different letter (likely a subsequent one to Morel).

      But here's a rather incriminating quote from Wittgenstein's own Tractetus:

      "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

      So he seems to be admitting here that his assertions are, at best, koans with no truth value, but they can provoke the reader into discovering the truth for themselves. To me it just sounds as if Wittgenstein is admitting here that he was trolling serious philosophers & wanted to see how far he could push them before they realized it.

      In that case, he has my sympathy.

    4. Kevin, I'd agree that logical positivism isn't as egregious or destructive a cult as free-market economics. But there is a utopian creepiness to positivist rhetoric that goes back to Enlightenment zeal, found for example in Hume's conviction that any text that lacks scientific or abstract logical support (as in theological, metaphysical, or moral ones) should be burned.

      Here are some definitions of “cult” that apply to the Vienna Circle’s worship of science: “a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents,” and
      “a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centred on sacred symbols, esp one characterized by lack of organizational structure.”

      It's the deviousness and hypocrisy that most concern me, the scientistic pretense that a philosophy can inherit the esteem of science even if the philosophers are plainly as utopian, puritanical, and sanctimonious as the religious fundamentalists they condemn.

    5. Sybok, yeah, Wittgenstein has a mystical side. If he were trolling empiricists, that would have been a fantastic prank and indeed pretty respectable as performance art. That seems like an elaborate scenario, though.

      I think he was of two minds about philosophy. He wanted to push reason as far as it could go, even though he knew there are deep truths left over that are more experiential and subjective. I think Wittgenstein was influenced by Kierkegaard's fideism.

      Thanks for searching for the quotation. Wow, 2000 books is a very nice collection. I've got a bunch myself. I wonder what you'd say your favourite five or ten books are that you own, the ones that have most influenced you.

    6. I have well over 2000, but I also live in a small trailer, so I've been in the process of exchanging my hard copies for e-books. Fortunately, many of them have expired copyrights, so all I had to do was go to Project Gutenberg & Forgotten Books for either free or inexpensive copies. But that still leaves me with hundreds of hard copies that I would have to pay top dollar for on the Kindle or which were never (and likely never will be) published in an electronic format.

      Ten Most Influential Books on my Life

      1) Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson
      2) 1984, by George Orwell
      3) Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Nietzsche
      4) The Great Mirror of Male Love by Ihara Saikaku
      5) Plato's Dialogues
      6) Juliette by the Marquis de Sade
      7) The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman
      8) Thus Spake Zarathrustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
      9) Infinity & The Mind by Rudy Rucker
      10) The Thunder of Silence by Joel Goldsmith

    7. Sorry I missed this reply of yours, Sybok. Wilson's an interesting figure. I tried reading his Illuminatus trilogy, but found all the skipping around annoying. I should try again.

      Here are some books that have certainly influenced my thinking, in no particular order. (I cheat with the last entry.)

      Straw Dogs, by John Gray
      The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, by Shadia Drury
      The Intentional Stance, by Daniel Dennett
      Ethics, by Baruch Spinoza
      Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant
      The View from Nowhere, by Thomas Nagel
      Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul
      The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker
      Dialogues on Natural Religion, by David Hume
      Critique of Religion and Philosophy, by Walter Kaufmann
      Techgnosis, by Erik Davis
      The Conspiracy against the Human Race, by Thomas Ligotti
      The Myth of the Machine (2 vols), by Lewis Mumford
      The works of Nietzsche, Plato, and Richard Rorty

  4. It wasn't a post I expected a reply to given that you were the one asking the question. But I am happy you have shared some of your own favorites. Out of these I'm sorry I've only read Spinoza, Hume, Nietzsche, Plato, & Gray. I've been meaning to ask you about a good introduction to the ideas of Leo Strauss & will definitely put Drury's book on my to read list.

    The Illuminatus does jump around but that's mostly do to co-author Shea's influence. The sequal to the Illuminatus, Schrodinger's Cat, is all RAW & has a much more linear narrative (despite taking place over multiple parallel universes).

    Prometheus Rising is actually a non-fiction book in which Wilson explains Dr. Timothy Leary's 8 circuit model of human consciousness. What makes it really unique is that at the end of each chapter Wilson assigns homework ('exercizes') to the reader who really wants to get an experiential knowledge of each circuit. Some of these homework assignments entail the use of illegal drugs, but he offers non-drug alternatives for the law-abiding.

    1. I have a copy of the Schrodinger's Cat trilogy too. Maybe I should start with that one. I haven't read many other books on Strauss, but Drury certainly connected a lot of dots for me.