Saturday, July 11, 2020

On Medium: Godless Honour and the Descent of Reason

This article is part of a series on how to achieve godless honour. When science and philosophy confront an absurd, inhuman, irrational world, the pair undermines our grandiose boasts about our progress and inherent dignity.


  1. To say that scientific premises (namely: empiricism & positivism) lead ineluctably to post-modern agnosticism seems self-evident if we are to judge by appearances, but I think that if we follow the logical consequences of these premises, we will arrive at a very different place.

    If all of our concepts ultimately derive from percepts, then these concepts either reflect some reality outside of ourselves or they are just figments of our imagination with no existence outside of our minds. If the latter is the case, we can never know anything about the world beyond our percepts & concepts or even if such a hypothetical world exists. Given that premise, Ockham's razor would compel us to deny the existence of a material world external to our minds & we would be left with only an idealist, mental world composed solely of thought. But if, on the other hand, our concepts DO correspond to something external to our minds, that means that the world outside of our minds is just another mode of mind because if it were not, then there would be nothing for our concepts to correspond to. So either way, we arrive at idealism. And if idealism, rather than materialism, is true then it seems reasonable to humanize the world around us; a world that exists only in human thought ought to reflect human reason & human values. If it does not, then the scientific method must be flawed.

    Of course, the latter argument rests on empiricism. If empiricism is partially or wholly wrong, then there might be a place for an objective world that need not conform to our human values & intuitions, but this reply is already long enough.

    1. Empiricism does classically lead to metaphysical idealism, as Bishop Berkelely explained, but there's an alternative you left out, which is pragmatism. When empiricists and positivists (arrogant, Wittgensteinian scientismists) manage to take themselves less seriously, they may realize that scientific theories and even math and logic are just the best attempts of certain brainy primates to figure things out. I think of it as a religious conversion to cosmicism, to a vision of the unsettling implications of philosophical naturalism.

      The early Wittgenstein tried out that correspondence theory with his pictorial view of language. His Tractatus is responsible for the infamous verification theory of truth. Once you set up the metaphor of the cognitive mirroring of nature, you implicitly turn that into a prescription. But if you worship science and frown on the humanities for their lack of progress (not realizing technoscientific progress may ironically doom us, as in global warming or nuclear or bio war), you have to say moral, metaphysical, and theological discourses are meaningless (even though they're often not literal gibberish). Once the scientismist makes that second blunder, she's trapped and disgraced herself, since now the prescription of the mirroring metaphor of nature (or of the correspondence theory of truth) must be equally meaningless. All the finer points of this comedy of errors the positivists managed to disguise for awhile with their overflowing mathematical logic and pompous uses of Latin.

      I recall when I was a philosophy graduate student, I took a course on empiricism taught by a holdover from the days of positivism. Practically the whole class was taught in symbolic logic, with very little in the way of English explanation of what the professor was talking about. The professor would fill the blackboard with the symbols like a wannabe Einstein, reading from his handwritten notes, and the students, who were expected to know the meaning of all the quasi-mathematical symbols and concepts would rush to scribble down everything in turn in our notebooks so we could figure it out later on Google.

      Meanwhile, it doesn't take much brainpower to discover the conceptual flaws of empiricism, once you try to lay out the view in plain English; all it takes is a little courage of your convictions. But just as conservative Christians hide the nonsense of their theology by resorting to the Old English of the King James Bible, these dinosaurian positivists obscure the dubiousness of their philosophy by pretending philosophy is as rigorous as physics.

      That's the real conceit, that philosophy doesn't stand between science and art, but is nothing more than a formalization, generalization, or clarification of the sciences (as if scientists would need such minimal help). Thus if physics is coherent, (empiricist) philosophy must be too. They think their philosophy piggybacks on physics, inheriting not just the empirical support but the rigor, the prestige, and the authority. It's the shell game of scientism, which has no scientific justification. Pretty galling, no?

    2. Hi, Ben. Brilliant piece, as always.

      I think the general reputation of philosophy was pretty much destroyed during the modern world. It was a long process, of course, but ever since philosophers started to seriously analyse language and the limits of our experience, the meaning of metaphysical propositions went out the window. This paved the way to scientism as a philosophical doctrine.

      Before this, it was thought that philosophy could provide answers to the human condition, a task usually reserved to the different religions, with the advantage of using only reason, i.e. not relying on superstitions, myths, dogmatism, etc. But when the 'critique' of reason, language and meaning arrived, then all the problems concerning the 'human condition' were eventually evaporated, as it were, as pseudo-problems. This was a tremendous blow to philosophy. Religions could still appeal to a 'higher authority' (just old fashioned dogmatism) but philosophers don't have that luxury.

      So, in a sense, philosophy paved the way to the scientific revolution, and now, like Lear, is subservient to its daughters (the natural sciences). After this revolution, with the collapse of metaphysics, ethics became little more than the study of general principles of behaviour, according to an arbitrary set of rules (utilitarianism, virtue ethics, kantian ethics, etc.) with nothing definitive or solid. The very opposite of what Plato thought philosophy could deliver, which contributed immensely to the public expectation of philosophy.

      I still think that philosophy can give us the more complete - omni-comprehensive - view of the world, which eludes natural sciences, but that's pretty much it. There's no real progress or utility to be achieved.

      The tactic used by your professor doesn't surprise me at all. It's a way to obtain prestige and respect that otherwise would be denied to philosophy in the modern world.

      Doing philosophy is its own reward. It's an ethos completely alien to modern mentality.

    3. Thanks. It's funny, I wrote an article today (called "The Cults of Scientism in Philosophy and Economics"), inspired by my exchange with Sybok there on positivism, and you touch on some themes that will come up in the article.

      We're on the same page, but a logical positivist would have said not necessarily that nothing could be done about the human condition (or about morality or religion), but that nothing could be known in those normative areas. Wittgenstein called them pseudoproblems in so far as they're passed off as problems for philosophy or for science (or for cognition in general). Of course, this is all based on a primitive, perhaps sexist distinction between reason and the emotions.

      We certainly also have to distinguish between philosophy and the professional discipline of academic philosophy that developed after the Enlightenment.

      I agree there's reward in doing philosophy, even if much of the reward is to be able to see things clearly enough to realize we ought to be suffering more than we tend to for the awful truth.

  2. I agree. I think we could say that philosophy in general progressed a great deal in the modern world when compared to its state in the middle ages, for example. But philosophy as a profession, its public relevance and social value is decreasing more and more, I think.

    And I think you're right. Philosophy doesn't paint a pretty picture of reality and doesn't provide us with the 'ultimate' meaning of existence, and yet there's a special kind of reward in contemplating total reality as objectively as possible, at least for us humans. I think that is philosophy's main purpose, and also what makes the cultivation of genuine philosophy extremely rare.

    Looking forward to reading the article!

  3. ''on the “postmodern” assumption that everything is political.''

    But it is. Politics is the way humans organize socially.

    ''Begin with the obvious: new atheism castigated monotheistic religions for their irrational tribalism, but new atheists behaved as just such tribalists by subscribing to a craze and to a media fiction, by revering their leading intellectuals and by making a pretentious sport out of their debates with theists.''

    Tribalism is the sense to belong to a/particular community. At priori, It's inevitable. The problem is not tribalism per si but bad one. Ok, almost form of human tribalism has been flawed, not because they are tribal but they are flawed.

    ''Life evolves not according to any rational plan but as a result of blind and pointless natural developments.''

    Life is logic as a reality itself. It's obedient to coherent set of rules, That's logical. That's your or subjective opinion upon what life and its natural developments are. There is no possibility that life is pointless for itself. That's why it thrive. The concept and purpose of any life forms are in itself. When you say its pointless, maybe you are correct to say this but for eveything that exists including inanimate things and atmospheric phenomena nothing is pointless in the human sense.

    ''That a godless world is horrific and absurd is precisely what the new atheists could not concede, because rather than getting to the heart of the conflict between religious faith and secular reason, what they were after was to sell books and to start a protest movement.''

    Because the hyperreality is a big desert of real or convincing consolation we must need to build a oasis to compensate. What i think about it.

    ''Secular humanists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson had to be upbeat about the prospects of science and technology, and new atheists like Richard Dawkins waxed poetic about the privilege of being alive. Even as we retreat from globalization, recognizing the neoliberal frauds that produced so many plutocracies in advanced societies, the wealth of which was sustained by cheap labour, Third World conditions, and Middle Eastern oppression; even as science-centred disenchantment with godless nature has reinforced mass infantilization by the corporate media and by “deregulated,” functionally-sociopathic corporations, Dawkins had to pretend we could “stop worrying” and enjoy life now that God is dead.''

    I think he has a individually realistic approach because he is speaking for ordinary people and from certain specific profiles and not for people who really pretend to be philosopher or a political career. I don't think he is trying to alienate people consciously. He seems undoubtely aware about all these problems.

  4. "Liberals" or progressists overwhelmingly denies certain set of sciences like intrinsic differences among human groups. Many are specialized in pseudo sciences and pseudo philosophy. And lots of them are crypto or secularized christians. The egalitarian ideology has been significantly distorted by christian-based beliefs for example, everyone is absolutely equal from the god eyes or exagerated pacificism or jesus literal doctrine.

    1. Thanks for your reflections on the article.

      Politics may be how we organize socially, but the postmodernist goes further in saying that scientific and philosophical judgments are likewise purely political. You see this in the progressive, PC war for social justice and in cancel culture. Jordan Peterson calls it "neo-Marxism," which is sloppy, but there's a kernel of truth in it.

      The word "pointless" is informal and wasn't the best word to use for my purposes, since pointlessness is about subjective meaning and relevance. Anything can have a point to it if it's relevant to someone. So even if we're scared by the objective lack of intelligent design in nature, the evolution and eventual self-destruction of the universe would still have a point, since the very lack of objective purpose would be the cause of our fear and would thus be relevant to us. So yeah, that description in the article isn't a particularly strong one.

      You seem more sympathetic to conventional secular thinking than I am. It's relative, though, to some extent, since compared to conventional religion, I'd side with secular humanism, the new atheists, and Dawkins and Tyson and so on, assuming there were no third option. But there are hints of a third option, in existentialism, cosmicism, pantheism, and so forth. From that third option, I have no choice but to criticize both conventional secularism and religions, like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Spinoza, the mad prophets, and other marginalized social critics.

    2. ''Thanks for your reflections on the article.''

      For nothing, :)

      ''Politics may be how we organize socially, but the postmodernist goes further in saying that scientific and philosophical judgments are likewise purely political. You see this in the progressive, PC war for social justice and in cancel culture. Jordan Peterson calls it "neo-Marxism," which is sloppy, but there's a kernel of truth in it.

      I'm conceptualizing politics in its essence, or try to do. They seems a minoritary but loud group who believes scientific and philosophical judgement are purely political, but when they become praxis even starting with the means which are used*, namely scientific method, they become i would not say purely but definitely political. It's the difference when we discover something than when we applying this new truth into the social fabric.

      * indiscriminated use of nonhuman living beings in so called "experiments" is an example of how politics can start attached to scientific method.

      Also there is a politically correct from the (always problematic) right wing or "conservatism". I'm very against the usual confusion by these pc hive between "inconvenient truths" and prejudices. But social justice is one the most fundamental ideals a decently sane human being can have. Better, the ultimate end is not justice but social harmony. Unfortunately It's a rule the progressist leftists be less smarter than they think and It's potentially harmful for everyone less for the predators on the reich side who love leftist stubborness or arrogance.

      Cancel culture is an potential way to superficially control what empowered or famous people do (morally) but as expected It's very badly applied by pop culture aficionados who are in these front probably because their openess combined with extroversion.

      Peterson is a pseudo philosopher who became one of the most important names of primitive humanlike creatures who self called as "conservatives" and who elevate him to this pedestal because as a pseudo philosopher Pederson says what they want to hear and not what they must hear. Independent of its name, i would be more scandalized if is neocapitalism.

    3. ''You seem more sympathetic to conventional secular thinking than I am. It's relative, though, to some extent, since compared to conventional religion, I'd side with secular humanism, the new atheists, and Dawkins and Tyson and so on, assuming there were no third option. But there are hints of a third option, in existentialism, cosmicism, pantheism, and so forth. From that third option, I have no choice but to criticize both conventional secularism and religions, like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Spinoza, the mad prophets, and other marginalized social critics.''

      Sorry by my english. Also worsened by faster use of smartphone to write my comments.

      I have no proper knowledge about conventional secular thinking. I'm often totally against the falacy of cultural relativism because i understand morality as a knowledge of our own behaviors and its consequences (its meanings and probabilities) and thus an accumulative understanding. Otherwise science, about philosophy//morality, we already know with some certainty some of the most important truths that, for example, altruism and brotherhood are very required Fundamentals from the moment we know there is only one life to breath (truth) and we are essentially the same (not superficially/truth). I'm totally against scientificism or scientism because people start to fool themselves mislearning the history of science coopted by multiple tirannies. Maybe there is a philosophism too but philosophy seems a diferent case.

      Maybe we have similarities in our thinking lines, but you write heavily and i try a very minimalistic style to adapt my natural laziness.

    4. Cancel culture seems to me an offshoot of self-entitlement. Having grown up in a high-tech environment that shortens our attention spans, millennials and other young adults think they're changing the world by hunting for scalps and piling on some hapless persons who said something rude once on Twitter. Instead, these fake warriors for social justice are only signalling their virtue in pointless, superficial displays, ignoring the major problems that require far more systematic, long-term thinking and action, like global warming and the need to reform capitalism.

    5. I think they are not essentially wrong because they behave just the way they are. The problem is the way they instrumentalize cancel culture, for example, with recent mob against J.K Rowling. I can see a majority of them as excessively focused on identity politics. Some people call them liberal left in contrast to marxist left. I don't understand what self entitlement really means. Seems all of us practice it at some degree. The major problem, despising hive mind behavior, is the hypocrisy, also common thing among us. Left has been a opposite mirror of conservative right but with the same dominant intelectual dishonesty.

    6. Liberals or progressives may be more hypocritical than some conservatives (conservative Christians are plenty hypocritical, because their religion has been Americanized), but that's only because progressives actually have ideals that are hard to live up to. Conservatives don't have ideals, since they want to reduce civil society to a Darwinian free-for-all, taking their cue not from values, ideals, or myths, but from what they assume are universal facts of nature (such as original sin).

      Perhaps we can all be self-entitled sometimes, but it's a question of character. The more arrogant and the less humble you are, the more likely you'll seek to impose your way of thinking on others. Obviously, that's what's happening with political correctness and cancel culture. Those who are more skeptical and pessimistic won't be so quick to assume they know how everything should be; they won't be so reactionary or succumb so easily to a mob mentality.

    7. ''...because their religion has been Americanized''


      Social equality is hard to achieve??
      Respect is hard to achieve??

      Stop to eat excessively and "meat" is impossible??

      Seems you are intoxicated by pseudo enlightment or pseudo redpillers.

      Humble or someone who have no opinion at all, a vegetable citizen??

      Impose right truths (ex.:africans were enslaved by europeans for 4 consecutive centuries and this is utterly morally wrong and its historical sequelae must be fixed )

      is not be arrogant, even i know there are many arrogant progressives, one of the our biggest Achilles's heel, the pressuposition to be right (and its group think) about everything without truly check-facted.

      A good philosophy is the basic practice of search and internalization of truth of all types of truths but specially the most important ones. Overwhelmingly Majority of human "sapiens" standardly internalize a qualitative variety of informations by veracity's criterion.

      Say to people that be manipulative, dishonest or evil is wrong it's not be arrogant, sorry.

      Yes western progressivism has many tons of factual distortions attached to factual precisions.

      But it doesn't mean it is mostly or essentially wrong. All human beings have ideals. Idealism is the impetus for evolution or for change. Just nonhuman living beings who have no ideals because they already take their adaptation as such.

      "Free" for ALL??

      Barely look like this.

      Conservatives have no mythological beliefs??? What????

      Yes, i know they believe they are ideological but i know even in details they are so ideological as progressivists.

      Be skeptical is not always have no opinion at all. For example, about how society must work ideally. I know a society "governed" by greedy parasites is not what i believe as ideal or most harmonic...

      Eveything you say is about what, politics??

    8. There's a big difference between sharing your opinion and imposing it on someone. Cancel culture, the #MeToo Movment, and the rise of totalitarian political correctness in so-called progressive discourse have gotten out of hand and they demonstrate left-wing complacency and self-righteousness that are far beyond healthy self-confidence. We're talking full-on decadence. When progressives seek to censor and silence other people's speech, they're revealing that their arrogance is a mask for their cowardice (just as bullies often pretend to be stronger than they are).

      I've made my case against conservatism in several articles (links below), in which I show that the philosophies of so-called conservative intellectuals such as George Will and Julius Evola amount to non-idealistic social Darwinism.

    9. There are opinions and opinions ...

      In the true, there are opinions who are lies, half truths or truths. Sharing opinions is always with a end to impose even in debates or temporarily. You have a very biased view about "liberalism". I hope you are aware about a millennium of totalitarianism from "right" wing or "conservatism". If not, you will look like another "alt right", absolutely ignorant about (consciously or not) history and the endless pernicious role of "conservatism" on it. Progressivists are just repeating what conservatives do for centuries ..

      Censor the/people who says extremely insensitive things just for fun ... It's look like horrible ??

      The idea that censorship is always wrong is wrong ..

      Censor trump to open his mouth to say stupid and evil things show how relative to context censorship can be.

      I never will waste my time anymore reading the poison and crap lies of so called "conservative" "thinkers". Even the very concept of "conservatism" is a garbage-euphemism to hide its real meaning. Conservatives are true enemies of philosophy, much more than progressists. Indeed, when progressists act in wrong way they are just copying Standard-behavior conservative elites from centuries.

      nteresting.. I will read them ;)

      I can agree with you about all mistakes and weaknesses of progressivism. I'm very critical about them but since i perceived how deeply horrible so called "conservatism" can be and experiencing it in Brazil, i can't no more see it just as healthy oposition to progressivism.


      I agree with white nationalists about white displacement, lol.

      I agree with Evola about the problem of democracy when quantity is more valuable than quality But It's happens by popular l definition for "people" as a "majority of population" while people is a plurality of groups or identities which share the same political territory. I'm people even i'm belong to minorities, for example. In the true "spiritual" or existential Dimension, we are all essentially equal, individuals, lives and condemned to the same ultimate destiny, the death. Believe people's or beings's superficial differences as the "spiritual/The most important dimension" or perspective seems completely wrong. If i see a homeless as a homeless i'm not emphasising his essence as a human life. Sorry, i'm very bad reader. My short term attention is, well, literally very short. I will try to continue read part of your text.
      Well, Evola tried to sophisticate "organic" parasitism. Scruton at least tried to paint conservatism as a honorable ideology. I may agree there are people who are more rational and thus more inclined to be great politicians. Unfortunately they tend to be self repelled to the current dirty politics. These people would compose a "natural" political elite in hypothetical intelectocracy, my ideal government.

      No thinker who believe in obviously ridiculous "super naturalness" deserve to be defined as philosopher. It's completely otherwise of wisdom.

    11. We seem to agree on the problems with conservatism. I don't know if it's possible to level a more negative charge against conservatism than the one I do. I deny there's such a thing as conservative philosophy. Conservatism reduces to social Darwinism, and the rest is propaganda and rationalization.

      But I also criticize liberalism, on less hostile grounds. These articles give my basic take on politics:


    That's why i don't lose my time to waste with this Perfect sophism or pseudo philosophy we call "conservatism". It's more important to develop correct reasonings about what is right than waste time with what is obviously wrong or fake. Great text!! Exactly, conservs are like primitive or obsolete version of humanity. And essentially speaking conservatism is absolutely against human intelligence maximization. I have an idea about morality but i will not occupy more your space here. I have some texts about it.