Sunday, November 20, 2011

We must try to retain our humility

Continuing to enjoy and profit from The Master and his Emissary - now on romanticism.
McGilchrist quotes a very perceptive remark by RH Brady:
An extremely odd demand is often set forth but never met, even by those who make it: i.e. that empirical data should be presented without any theoretical context, leaving the reader, the student, to his own devices in judging it [1]
He also draws attention to the importance of "depth" and "longing" as categories of romantic, and indeed human thought. The romantics understood that one can feel pleasure and pain at once, it's not an either/or (c/f the recent paper in Science which makes this point).

He points out that "we half create and half perceive the world we inhabit... Further...the sublime is more truly present when only partially visible than when explicit...[like] the erotic, or... the divine... limited information is less limiting, more capable of permitting them to presence to us... The Romantics perceived that one might learn more from half-light than light"  and quotes Blake
This Life's dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with, not thro', the Eye
He debunks some of the myths of materialism, such as:
  • "The myth of the unity of science - the left hemisphere's view that there is one logical path to knowledge regardless of context; whereas in reality science is...'a loose grouping of disciplines with different subject matters, tied in various ways each of which work for some purposes but not for others'...
  • The myth of the sovereignty of the scientific method - of the left hemisphere's planed, relentless progress following a sequential path to knowledge.  In fact... the greatest advances in science are often the result of chance observations, the obsessions of particular personalities, and intuitions that can be positively inhibited by too rigid a structure, method or worldview....
  • The myth of science as above morality, oddly coupled with an uncritical acceptance of the idea that science is the only sure foundation for decency and morality...
  • The myth of its brave stand against the forces of dogma"
 He also quotes Heisenberg's highly perceptive observation that technology no longer appears
as the product of a conscious human effort to enlarge material power, but rather like a biological development of mankind in which the innate structures of the human organism are transplanted in an ever-increasing measure into the environment of man [2 - but the translation is that of Hannah Arendt]
All fascinating stuff.  We must try to retain our humility in the face of the techno-hubris that is tending to envelop modern culture, and getting if anything worse in the last few years.

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