4.0720 Q: Is this what we're doing? (1/26)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 20 Nov 90 21:43:30 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0720. Tuesday, 20 Nov 1990.

Date: Fri, 16 Nov 90 15:05:12 EST
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: is this what we're doing?

"The Odyssey portrays the transformation of comprehensive reason into
mimesis as the price of survival. Man was once weak and ignorant,
whereas nature was powerful and mysterious. Man came to master nature,
but only by imitating her most rigid, routinized aspects. One sees this
in experiments in science, in which the researcher subjects his every
action to the stringent discipline of experimental controls. Reason
comes to be defined in terms of a single task: prediction and control of
the given. Thus man gradually learns to dominate nature, but at the
price of renunciation. He must subject himself to a terrible discipline,
under which he is forced to reject those facets of human nature that are
incompatible with the controls of the scientific experiment.... The
outcome is the diminution of the concept of reason itself. Inasmuch as
it is concerned with the potential of things to become more than they
are, reason is split off as idealism, where it comes to symbolize little
more than `an imaginary temps perdu' in the history of mankind. A reason
powerful enough to ensure human survival and comfort in a hostile world
is purchased at the price of Reason itself. Originating in human
weakness, instrumental reason overcomes nature only by renouncing the
Dionysian aspects of human nature, as well as the potential of reason
itself. Thus it becomes powerful only by becoming an instrument."

C. Fred Alford, _Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School, and
Psychoanalytic Theory_. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, pp. 106f.

Willard McCarty