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From the Stars to the Nothing

ShabShoral
Posts: 3,234
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9/5/2016 2:41:13 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
When the modern intellectual speaks of the "march of history," they generally see movement in two dimensions: forward and upward. The modern is always better than the ancient, and the future is held in even higher regard, so it goes.

This has held true occasionally, to be sure: Aristotle surpassed Socrates; Aquinas surpassed Augustine; Spinoza surpassed Descartes; Nozick surpassed Rawls. In these cases, though, time played only an accidental role.

For all those times which affirmed the rule, there have been ten which denied it.

Look to 1969. Man extended its body into the heavens.

Look to modernity. Man extended its body into oblivion.

"Surely", the objection will go, "things have only gotten better! These criticisms are unfounded."

This is the second tragedy of modernity: Man considers its suicide an achievement.
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NHN
Posts: 624
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9/6/2016 2:11:01 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 9/5/2016 2:41:13 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
This is the second tragedy of modernity: Man considers its suicide an achievement.
A well crafted OP, I must say. And I think it went way over the head of most readers (which is why it rendered such a limited turnover).

Aristotle considered courage the lowest of the virtues. The first thinker who flips this on its head, placing courage as the highest of virtues, is none other than Machiavelli in the Prince. The Machiavellian, modern turn early in the 16th century also involves the calculation of the purse -- by extension, tying pride to riches and a lack of pride to poverty. The political problem of modern man thus became a problem of scarcity versus plenty -- distribution -- which would be laughable in the ancient context.

The second "flip" is executed by the Scottish Enlightenment of the 17th century, and Hobbes's Leviathan. Here, prudence -- phronesis or practical wisdom of Ancient Greece -- is replaced by the (whiggish) progressive movement of history, the absolute authority of the state, and the paradigm of technology and the scientific method.

In conclusion, I promote a return to the prephilosophical condition in order to reignite the ancient order, where social prudence and personal magnificence and magnanimity will rise in the place of modern nothingness, i.e., of society's empty progression and the individual's private calculation.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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9/7/2016 6:48:14 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
The issues that now threaten human survival arose not out technological or intellectual decay, but out of "asymmetrical progress" ; advancement in some respects while stagnation (and occasional decline) in others. Science has brought us to a point where human stupidity is now a far more lethal defect than it has ever been. If we were a little less smart our stupidity wouldn't be so dangerous. Sadly, humans fall right within the danger-zone level of intelligence.
jinks908
Posts: 1
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9/13/2016 11:21:56 PM
Posted: 2 months ago
At 9/7/2016 6:48:14 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
The issues that now threaten human survival arose not out technological or intellectual decay, but out of "asymmetrical progress" ; advancement in some respects while stagnation (and occasional decline) in others. Science has brought us to a point where human stupidity is now a far more lethal defect than it has ever been. If we were a little less smart our stupidity wouldn't be so dangerous. Sadly, humans fall right within the danger-zone level of intelligence.

Well said. I think the only real detriment to our status as a society is the intellectual dichotomy further exaggerated by the advent of the technological and scientific revolutions. On one end of the spectrum, we are advancing as a species and remain on the frontiers of science, knowledge, exploration, and technology. However, on the opposite end of that spectrum, we have emancipated ourselves from the need to think philosophically, intellectually, or scientifically. It is through our scientific and technological advances that we become a "dumbed down" version of our former selves. We no longer study or read anything of classical importance (books, essays, philosophical texts, notable thinkers and scientists, etc.) because we can look up any one thing we choose right on our smartphones. We no longer see the need in immersing ourselves in the broader range of information because all we have to do is cherry pick the tidbits we wish to know, and we safely assume that everything else will fall into place. The information is out there, freely on the internet, and so if someone were to make an inquiry, they assume it can readily be answered, thus eliminating the need to think provocatively or intellectually.

However, the idea that modernity itself is the cause for the downfall of man is absurd. It is not science or technology that is responsible for the end of our growth as a society, rather it is our application of it. The intellectual and social dichotomies that exist today have existed as long as have civilized societies. So the notion that historical societies were more philosophically-driven, rather than "dumbed down" is a false one, and a naive one at that. Of course, the texts and ideas of Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, Descartes, Neitzche, Hobbes, Locke, etc. seem to declare otherwise; however, there still existed the lower social classes and lesser-minded thinkers of their day as well, they just aren't represented in the same fashion, because their lack of intellectual prowess did not promote progress. It is easy to assert that the thinkers of the ancient world were far greater than those we have today, but in the course of societal evolution, it follows naturally that all of our knowledge and philosophies are built upon the previous ones. So, had you placed out greatest thinkers of today in place of the ancient thinkers during their time, one might assume that they could have come up with equal arguments. Today, however, we have an exponentially larger wealth of knowledge, and an equally larger amount of resources for that knowledge. So, the increments at which our knowledge increase also exponentially get smaller and smaller. The ancient world took big leaps in philosophy and science, and as a result, created an ever-receding body of discovery than make can know make known.