Sunday, May 7, 2017
Man and Humanism, by John C Wright
(Lifted wholesale from his blog at http://www.scifiwright.com/)
The signature peculiarity of the modern age that one must explain the obvious to the oblivious.
One must explain the self-evident to audiences to whom evidence has no persuasive power. One must point out the paradox of any belief that blithely contradicts itself to audience to whom self-contradiction forms no obvious impediment to belief.
One must then explain why an untrue statement cannot be just as true as a true one to an audience whose majority claims truth is optional, or insignificant. And, finally, one must explain why one ought not to deceive others by saying false things, or to deceive oneself by believing them, to an audience that is offended by the very notion of honesty.
Surely in every prior generation there were stubborn students, young children, and madmen unable to comprehend the differences between true and false, logical and illogical, virtuous and vicious.
But if there were any in any prior generation preaching and teaching that these distinctions were insignificant or incomprehensible or both, no record has survived.
Skeptics of earlier generations doubted whether or not the doctrines as taught by official organs of orthodoxy, Church and crown and academy, were, in fact, orthodox, that is, faithful and true. Some even doubted if their sense organs carrying the appearances of the world to the senses carried it faithfully, and preserved an accurate picture of the way the world, in fact, was in reality.
But they did not doubt their own capacity to be faithful to the truth. They did not doubt that the truth was worth fidelity. They did not doubt that reality existed.
None upheld the idea that the ideas in the mind of man do not exist; nor the brain of man is a mechanical organ whose operations are approximate and untrustworthy; nor that the brain of man is untrustworthy because it is straitjacketed by evolution to produce psychological drives whose meaning and ends are hidden; nor that the cultures and civilizations of man, as unintentional byproducts of these brains, produce nothing to set one above the other in any scale of progress, nothing to excite the loyalty, and no truths to defend.
This is because no previous generation of skeptics doubted the existence of man.
Let me be clear: the moderns do not wander around saying, “No human life exist.” For one thing, the statement would be too definitive for them. But they do wander around saying “No essential thing renders man different from other beasts; certainly nothing renders man a creature of greater dignity than other beasts.”
The moderns do not doubt the existence of men. They doubt the existence of Man, that is, of an essential property or quality that renders members of the category distinct from non-members. This philosophy of indistinctiveness, ironically, is called Humanism.
Humanism is best understood as the philosophy that man is the measure of all things. In other words, nothing has objective value, but only has value insofar as it serves human survival, sates human want, serves human desires, or flatters human vanity. This perhaps seems a practical and useful philosophy at first, for if something is objectively valuable, but serves no human want, surely the objective value is moot?
This philosophy of humanism is not only impractical, and indeed unworkable, it is inhuman.
It is inhuman for the simple reason that it robs mankind of all dignity. If man is the measure of all things, he cannot be measured. If he cannot be measured, he can neither be above nor below other things; he cannot fall short but he cannot rise above.
The yardstick cannot be used to say whether the yardstick is long or short. It merely is the length it is.
In this case, if man is the measure of all things, then no moral standard has any legitimacy beyond the reach of human enforcement. No one on his deathbed, no one contemplating suicide, need contemplate such a standard, as death puts him beyond all reach of mortal retaliation. Likewise for any act beyond the sight of witnesses. Likewise for any hatreds hidden carefully in the heart where no man sees. If the rich and powerful contemplate the likely reach of human enforcement, the heed to be paid to human moral standards is more limited again.
If all laws are manmade, any law can be legitimately repealed by men.
A manmade law can surely tell a man what other men say you ought or ought not do, but it cannot tell anyone when, if ever, such any given manmade law should be repealed or preserved. A manmade law that said, for example, manmade laws should be preserved even when unpopular or inconvenient is itself a manmade law, and has no more claim to be immune from repeal than any other.
The practical upshot of this allegedly practical philosophy called humanism is that it cannot be put into practice. Of old, it was said that man is wolf to man. We are the main danger to our species; no creature preys on us except us.
But if man is the measure of all things, and if one of the properties of man is that we are predators to each other, then, by that measure, to murder, rape, rob, and deceive is not wrong for the same reason wolves eating rabbits is not wrong. It is merely a predator acting out his predatory instincts for his own benefit and the survival of his bloodline.
This predatory property, it must be said, is not due to some defect in our social institutions, laws or customs, nor something caused by a misuse of vocabulary words with misleading or hurtful implications. It is a fact of human existence that no generation, no race, no tribe and no clan has ever escaped.
If man is the measure of all things, then men himself is neither good nor bad for the same reason that a yardstick is neither long nor short. Likewise, if man is the measure of all things, he is not a creature whose rights and privileges are sacrosanct and inviolate. Men, like other natural resources, are merely presently useful or useless, convenient or inconvenient, as means to achieve survival, sate want, serve desires, or flatter vanity.
The Twentieth Century was marked by the retreat of all Christian considerations from public life, from the academy, the courts of law, the halls of power. The Christian religion devolved from a corporate and organized worship to a matter of private opinion, then to a matter of private taste, then to a public embarrassment. Sodomy came out of the closet and Christianity went into it. We have reached the point where none but the boldest nonconformist is likely publically to admit he had surrendered his life to Christ.
I suspect many a public figure would sooner say he had contracted a loathsome venereal disease than admit he had gone to confession and taken the host. I have seen at least one famous public figure wearing ashes on his head in sign of his repentance who unrepentantly advocates support for abortion and sodomy and much else that sign forbids. So perhaps Christian life is still tolerated in public much as the eccentricities of a lunatic uncle, provided only neither the uncle, nor anyone else, takes the ravings seriously, that is, treats them with dignity.
The promise was made that social justice, freedom and peace and the evolution of the race to utopia could be accomplished by human beings relying on human strength and human wisdom. Modern science could eliminate defective and inferior races, mental diseases, and social maladies such as crime; modern psychiatry could eliminate guilt and neurosis; modern political economics could eliminate the laws of supply and demand as rapidly and thoroughly as modern artists had eliminated the laws of art. Man was the measure of all things, and nothing he conceived in his heart to accomplish could be denied to him.
Instead of utopia, history witnessed the bloodiest century in history. Science, instead of bringing forth a race of Prussian supermen, gave a whole nation over into the hands of subhuman savagery in the form of the Holocaust. Instead of producing wealth and peace, socialism has killed one hundred million souls, and produced poverty, misery, and pollution. Instead of honesty, secularism has given us fake news, fake history books, fake facts, junk science, and an endless nauseating stream of lies from our current generation of countless little Pontius Pilates, who endless ask “What is truth?” and endlessly crucify the one who is the truth.
Humanism turned humans into brutes more dangerous than brutes. Creature without speech and reason cannot organize mass media campaigns necessary for the largescale megadeaths and democides we have been discussing.
Such is the lesson the harsh schoolmistress of history teaches: but the point of the lesson is lost. The modern secular humanist is convinced that Communism failed because it is too much like a religion, and that religion causes injustices and wars, and ergo the sole ingredient needed to abolish injustice and war forever from human existence is to eliminate that religious impulse which has never been absent from human history. This jabberwocky issues from people claiming an ability to think with scientific rigor.
What went wrong with the Twentieth Century, and what is going wrong now, is a loss of the dignity of man.
The Nazis regarded Catholics, gypsies, profiteers, homosexuals, retards, and Jews as subhuman, and so, by the same logic any horsebreeder uses to cull the breeding stock of bad strains, attempted to eliminate all these folk. The Soviets regarded Christians and profiteers as subhuman, and did likewise.
The Europeans abroad and the Leftists in America regard the poor as being unable to better themselves, and the people in general as being subjects of an administrative state, not free and equal fellow citizens whose voice held equal sway with experts and intellectuals. They are not yet as bloodthirsty as to turn on their fellow men as wolves among sheep, but they are clearly willing to introduce endless numbers of wolves into the fold, and to condemn, silence, and persecute those who object.
But what, if anything, in their worldview would forbid the same excesses that their more violent brethren in Eastern Europe a generation past, or the Far East now, who believed all the same axioms and utter all the same rhetoric, saw and see as necessary and laudable?
Posted by Shiningpeak at 8:25 AM