The Mythology of Reason

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"...Indeed, these religious phenomena are experienced in countless situations in their lives by those who are otherwise not religious and not believers. There are mysteries which even those who are religious are not able to reach, wrote de Chirico in relation to shadows...phenomena which perhaps could best be termed atheistic religiosities. What does this mean? It means that even if someone is not a believer in God, every human being undergoes certain recurrent experiences during which human life is revealed as deeply embedded in a series of profound coherencies pointing well beyond the manufactured structures (social, political and economic); these states, therefore, can reliably be designated metaphysical.

Historically, the disposition of God from his throne began during the Enlightenment. Humans tried to base their foundation upon their own self, seeking no further external reference points. But the Enlightenment—while bidding farewell to traditional metaphysics—nonetheless preserved its own belief in a final Rationality, to be achieved in an unknown future, in which everyone would take part. This belief, as demonstrated by the Culte de la Raison introduced in Paris in the last decade of the eighteenth century, was the equivalent of a new faith. When André Breton and Marcel Duchamp organized the large exhibit they called Le Surréalisme en 1947, Georges Bataille wrote the text for the catalogue, “The Absence of Myth.” In this piece he writes, “The decisive absence of faith is resolute faith.” This thought practically rhymed with the idea, expressed in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (published a couple of years earlier), that the Enlightenment, while claiming to expose everything as a myth, itself towered over everything as a colossal unavoidable myth.

Enlightenment, while depriving the world of its so-called metaphysical dimensions, applied newer metaphysical categories to it—and this was due to the simple reason that we cannot exist without metaphysics. Even in a secularized age, a sense for metaphysics can be maintained and nurtured: this is the sense for the uniqueness of our life, for the exceptionality of our existence within this universe, for the great wonder of the incomparability and unrepeatability of each moment of every one of our lives. Each human life emerges thanks to a fracture, a break—it plunges from nonexistence into existence—and traversing the same fracture and break, it is thrown back again: from existence it falls back into something that, for want of a better term, we are compelled to call nonexistence. These two unknowns—preceding and following existence—form the roots of susceptibility to metaphysics. It is not necessary to be a philosopher; this susceptibility resides in everyone; in certain situations it flares up, becoming an experience that sweeps everything else away. If for no other reason, then, it is because of the consciousness of our own mortality that we are doomed from birth to this homesickness for the metaphysical...

-L. Foldenyi, Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears  
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

The Future Is Immanent: Speculations on a Possible World

JF Martel

Quote:Imagine the following. A neuroscientist makes an incredible discovery showing once and for all how all processes of the mind can be reduced to neuronal activity. She reacts with joy, excitement and pride at having made an important contribution to the advance of human knowledge. Her head fills with visions of medical breakthroughs, Nobel prizes, TV interviews and science textbooks. That night she dreams of diving into the ocean to recover a magical pearl in the ruins of a sunken city. She brings the pearl back to the surface and saves the kingdom. If death is the great equalizer on the physical plane, then dream is its correlate in the psyche. In dreams we all believe in magic, regardless of our faith or opinions.

In order to get money for their research projects, scientists must tell potential funding agencies why their project should be financed; they must present the purpose of their work. Even a hypothesis whose proof would shatter all hopes of finding meaning in nature would never get backed without some sort of justification. A scientific hypothesis is insignificant until it is wrapped in a myth, be it “the betterment of mankind,” “victory against the Nazis,” “the war on drugs” or “the quest for knowledge.” Like everything else, science must take root in mythic soil in order to bear fruit.

Myth is the life-world of humanity. As science continues to describe the workings of nature, it will create new gaps where meaning will suddenly withdraw, only to be found anew:

Quote:“The scientist tries to examine the “real” nature of the photograph; he tries to get away from the psychological configuration, the meaning of the image, to move down to some other, more basic level of patterns and alternating dots of light and dark, a world of elementary particles. And yet what does he find there but another mental configuration, another arrangement of psychological meaning? If he persists in this direction long enough, the mythological dimensions of science will become apparent in his work, as they would have if he had asked himself questions about the meaning of sunlight rather than questions about the behavior of photons.” [9]
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

(This post was last modified: 2021-03-19, 04:06 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)

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