Archive for the ‘Postmodernism’ Category

The Last Man

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Science has undoubtedly created numerous benefits for the world, but it has also been detrimental in many ways as well. By far its most detrimental effect has been the way it has steadily diminished the depth and scope of human consciousness over the past century. Despite the fact that we nowadays have access to vast amounts of information from all corners of the globe, the human race seems to be becoming dumber and shallower with every passing year.

With global communication tools such as satellite television and the internet, we are in constant contact with all kinds of different cultures, languages, perspectives, and theories, which has undeniably broadened our minds. But just as a piece of rubber becomes narrower when stretched, our consciousness has been thinning out as it has broadened. It is thinning out because people are unable to rationally cope with the torrents of information that are daily bombarding them. They have to resort to shutting down large swathes of their cerebral cortex in order to suppress their sense of confusion.

Since no one is ever encouraged to think powerfully in a logical manner, and since no one is able to take time out from their busy lives to engage in serious thought in the first place, people nowadays have no means of reconciling the conflicting views and beliefs that swirl around them. The only way they know how to deal with the confusion is either by seeking refuge in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of religion, or in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of postmodernism (i.e. truth can never be known; everything is uncertain; everything is subjective; everything is relative, etc). In both cases, the act of thinking is abandoned, the shutters come up, the confusion is pushed aside, and everyone can get on with the important business of mindlessly enjoying life.

The religious side of this shutting down process is already well-known, so I won’t bother addressing it in this blog. Religious people, as a whole, tend to be very generic and uninteresting. To spend one’s life suppressing reason and thrusting one’s mind into childish bed-time fantasies that are clearly designed to make the ego feel more secure would have to be one of the most boring activities imaginable. And when you look at their plastic smiles and forced jolliness, and their wooden conversation composed of religious clichés and scripts, it is obvious that their minds are almost completely dead. So instead I will be using this blog to focus on agnostics – that is to say, on those who seek refuge in the standard bundle of postmodernist clichés (i.e. truth can never be known; everything is uncertain; everything is subjective; everything is relative, etc). Not only are they a growing menace in today’s society, but their lives are filled with all sorts of interesting contradictions and amusing ironies that are worth highlighting.

But first we need to make a distinction between agnosticism and atheism. The primary difference between them is that the atheist openly makes claims of certainty, while the agnostic does not. For example, the atheist categorically rules out the possibility that God exists, while the agnostic believes it is impossible to be sure. From the agnostic’s point of view, the atheistic rejection of God is nothing more than an act of faith, and thus the agnostic believes that he is more rational than the atheist. What the agnostic does not see, however, is that his own position is supported by similar acts of faith.

Let us examine the typical agnostic more closely. You will recognize him instantly, for they are everywhere and they are all clones of one another. He is first and foremost a worshipper of science. He subscribes to the view that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world. He even goes so far as to equate rationality with science, such that the two terms become synonymous with one another, and thus he believes it is impossible for anyone to be rational in a meta-scientific manner. If he observes anyone moving beyond science in their search for understanding, he automatically dismisses them as religious fanatics who have entered the realm of blind faith, regardless of how rational and clear-sighted their search might be.

Just as a religious person has his mantras (“God moves in mysterious ways”, “Faith surpasses understanding”, “He who speaks does not know”, etc) and cunningly employs them to dismiss all opposing points of view, the agnostic too has his own mantra – namely, “Everything is uncertain”. Whenever he spies a thought beginning to emerge, whether in his own mind or in the words of others, he immediately wields his mantra like a sword and lops it off. Indeed, he comes to do this so regularly and so instinctively that over time the whole process slides imperceptibly into his subconscious and he is no longer aware that he is doing it. In effect, he has performed a philosophical lobotomy on himself and since forgotten that it ever happened.

I remember when I was younger and pushing myself ever more deeply into philosophy, I used to hate the fact that I was uncertain of everything. It is a truly terrible experience not knowing where to ground the mind. Being uncertain of everything is like having a bad acid trip, with everything flopping about topsy-turvy. It is not a realm in which you can rest and take it easy. Quite the reverse, in fact. It is very much a life or death situation, with the prospect of madness only a finger-snap away, compelling the mind to become intensely focused on finding the certainty of absolute truth. The very fact that agnostics do not have a problem with their supposed uncertainty – indeed, they even seem quite smug and comfortable about it – shows that something is seriously amiss.

To put no finer point on it, their proclaimed uncertainty is fake. It rests on all kinds of secret certainties that reside deep within their minds. Even the idea that “everything is uncertain” is subconsciously treated as a certainty.

It is one thing for a person to recognize that he is personally uncertain of everything and to say to the world, “I do not know anything” – for that would constitute an honest appraisal of his own situation. But for him to project this onto everyone else and state emphatically that no one can ever reach genuine certainty, or that it is impossible to know the absolute truth – well, that is something else altogether. That is his own dishonesty gone mad. In effect, he is claiming that he possesses mystical or supernatural powers and has peered into the minds of everyone who is alive today, as well as everyone who has ever lived in the past, to establish with absolute certainty that indeed no one has ever reached the certainty of absolute truth. Even the most fanatical of fundamentalists wouldn’t dare make such a wild religious claim, yet the agnostic is somehow able to perform this miracle without blinking an eye. And like all religious claims it is contradictory in nature, since it involves being certain (“I know for sure that no one knows anything for sure”) and uncertain (“I myself don’t know anything for sure”) at the same time.

Oh yes indeed, scratch the surface of a sober agnostic and there is always a religious nutter underneath!

Of course, in saying these things I have been a little disingenuous in my treatment of agnosticism. For I have been treating it as though it were a serious philosophic position, one that is worthy of being rationally analyzed, whereas in reality it is nothing more than a crude attempt to destroy philosophy altogether. The agnostic is happy enough to erect an intellectual facade for the sake of appearances, but in reality he is anti-philosophy and anti-truth to the core. Behind it all, what he really wants is peace of mind and the opportunity to live like a contented animal, enjoying the little things in life. That is the root of the matter. He wants to run along with the herd, make some money, have a social life, marry a woman, produce kids and grow comfortably to a ripe old age. His innermost desire is to merge into the crowd, to not create any waves, to remain invisible and mediocre. As such, the very last thing he wants to do is take logic seriously and form a relationship with truth.

We can think of agnosticism, then, not as an intellectual activity, but as a Borg-like process in which mediocrity consumes everything in its path and begets even more mediocrity.

Given this, you can see why the agnostic wholly commits himself to the scientific world-view and actively promotes the idea that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world. He is fully aware that the scientific method can only ever yield theories that are “provisionally true”, and therefore he knows that all scientific theories are fundamentally uncertain in nature. And so by praising the scientific method to the skies and dismissing everything else, it allows him to mount the argument that it is impossible for anyone, anywhere, to reach absolute certainty in their knowledge.

How does he know that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world? He doesn’t. He just makes it up. Having no interest in truth, he is free to make up what he likes. Again, all he wants to do is promote the uncertainty meme within the community. He wants the world to think that the very idea of absolute truth is a pipe-dream entertained by superstitious people who are anti-science. And why? Because in eliminating every other point of contrast, his own attachment to mediocrity can begin to gain a semblance of respectability.

It only takes a few moments to see through all this. It is very easy to become aware of the logical pathways that extend beyond science into the realm of absolute truth and thus see agnosticism for the nonsense that it is. For example, the view that “scientific theories are always provisional and uncertain” is itself a logical truth that is absolute in nature and can be known with certainty. Since a scientific theory ultimately relies on empirical evidence for its validity (i.e. on what is observed through the senses), and since what is observed through the senses always carries an element of uncertainty, it automatically becomes true by definition that all scientific theories are inherently uncertain. Poof! Straight away, with this piece of reasoning alone, the existence of absolute truth and the human mind’s capacity to apprehend it is proven without any shadow of a doubt. With a single stroke of logic, the irrationality of agnosticism is exposed. And yet this simple logical step, which only takes a moment to execute, is one that the agnostic will never take.

Since the agnostic spends his time blocking out deeper forms of logical thought, he is unable to see how foolish he is. For example, in his desire to present philosophy as a form of quackery, he often says things like: “Philosophy is to science what astrology is to astronomy”. What the fool does not realize is that if philosophy is a form of quackery, then science itself must also be a form of quackery, since the validity of science can only ever be established by philosophic thought. Turning to the scientific method does not help in this instance. It is meaningless to conduct a scientific experiment to test the validity of science, for that would involve pre-affirming what is being tested. It can only be tested and established by a higher methodology – that is to say, by a philosophic act of logic.

There are countless logical truths beyond science, with many of them able to provide meaningful knowledge about the world. For instance, there is the truth that nothing can exist of its own accord. A car, for example, is necessarily dependent on the parts that comprise it. If you take away its panels, windows, steering wheel, seats, tyres, etc, then you also take away the car. The very existence of the car depends on the existence of its parts being assembled together in the proper manner, and as such the car cannot exist of its own accord. The same principle can be equally applied to all things in the Universe without exception, including electrons, quarks and strings – and of course, ourselves.  Anything that exists can be divided into parts, either physically or mentally.  Again, this is not a piece of knowledge that can be uncovered by the scientific method. It is a philosophic truth, one that is purely logical in nature, and it is very meaningful to those who are awake to its implications.

Agnosticism is very much the flavour of the modern technological age. There is something about agnosticism and electronic devices which makes them so compatible. It is as though they are made for each other. They are like soulless-mates. A positive feedback loop has thus emerged in modern society, one that involves technological progress and agnosticism mutually reinforcing each other. As people become more and more overwhelmed by the pace of society and its endless technological distractions, they have less and less time to think and thus increasingly fall ever more deeply into the black hole of agnosticism; in turn, the mental vacuum created by agnosticism needs to be filled somehow and so the agnostic naturally gravitates towards information overload and endless distraction, if for no other reason than to ward off boredom. And so it goes on. A continuous cycle that is strengthening and gathering pace, consuming everything in its path. And all the while the intangible path of philosophic reasoning, together with all of its treasures and glories, slips further and further out of sight.

In the past, the masses used to be in awe of the religious temples and cathedrals that stood in their midst. These grand buildings, full of colour and religious imagery, created the impression that religion was a matter of great significance. To the ignorant peasants living in nearby hovels, these buildings seemed as though they belonged in another plane of existence far removed from their daily lives. How could they possibly begin to question the authority of those who build these temples and inhabit them? In a similar way, the technological marvels of modern science – computers, TVs, smart phones, cars, aeroplanes, space shuttles, etc – are seducing the masses like never before. With agnosticism effectively turning people into intellectual peasants, the authority of science in their eyes has become absolute.

The effect this is all having on children as they grow up is devastating. Without knowing what is happening, children absorb by osmosis the agnostic vacuity which is in the air, and so by the time they reach adulthood they are no longer capable of believing in anything. And as their own minds become increasingly more vacuous, they become hopelessly addicted to electronic devices. Indeed, their addiction is so ingrained that they can no longer bear the thought of being alone with themselves. They can barely sit still for a couple of moments before having to desperately reach for their mobile phones in order to send an inane text or watch a moronic video on youtube. They do not live, they flit. From one thing to the next, they flit, never stopping long enough to derive any real pleasure or satisfaction, always on the look out for the next quick hit, always on the look out for something to poke fun at. Laughing at anything and everything is the only thing they know how to do. However, it is not a laughter which comes out of intelligent understanding, but out of a desperate desire to gain a sense of control over their lives. For their lives have long ago fractured into thousands of disparate elements. They have become utterly disconnected from the deeper parts of their minds. They have reached adulthood and now they are spiritually dead. This has been agnosticism’s gift to the world.

Just as all closed systems invariably degenerate towards a state of maximum entropy, the world is gradually becoming more bland and homogenous. The signs of this are everywhere. How long will it be before the various nations and cultures of today are replaced by a vast mono-culture in which everyone speaks the same language, holds the same values and engages in the same kinds of shallow activities? It will be maximum entropy right across the board – physically, in the form of science, technology and market-based economics; psychologically, in the form of mindless hedonism and feminization; and intellectually, in the form of agnosticism.

Nietzsche, with his usual prescience, was able to discern this trend way back in the 19th century and wrote about it in the prologue of his seminal work, Thus Spake Zarathustra:

It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the germ of his highest hope.

Still is his soil rich enough for it. But that soil will one day be poor and exhausted, and no lofty tree will any longer be able to grow thereon.

Alas! there comes the time when man will no longer launch the arrow of his longing beyond man — and the string of his bow will have unlearned to whizz!

I tell you: one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: ye have still chaos in you.

Alas! There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself.

Lo! I show you THE LAST MAN.

““What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”” — so asks the last man and blinks.

The earth has then become small, and on it there hops the last man who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man lives longest.

““We have discovered happiness”” — say the last men, and blink thereby.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one’s neighbour and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Every one wants the same; every one is equal: he who has other sentiments goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

““Formerly all the world was insane”” — say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled — otherwise it spoils their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

““We have discovered happiness” — say the last men, and blink thereby.

It has long been one of my goals in life to eliminate religion from the face of the earth. I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise religion, with its insane theologies and banal rituals, its timid reliance on rules and scriptures, its closed-mindedness, its herdliness, its violence. To submit to a religion is truly cowardly behaviour. But even so, I would much rather have the company of a religious person than I would an agnostic. For no matter how insane or fanatical the religious person might be, at least he still has a bit of life in him. He might be a buffoon, but at least he can be an amusing buffoon.

But with agnostics you get nothing. It is like staring into a void. Aimlessly flitting from one petty thought to the next, passively accepting whatever happens to be fashionable on the day, passively going along with whatever the majority think, filling one’s life with emotional relationships and hedonistic pleasures, having no interest in the absolute truth or philosophic wisdom, living in the moment, waiting to die – can anything be lower than this? In letting himself go like this, the agnostic has committed a very grave crime, perhaps the biggest crime that a man could possibly commit. He has degenerated into a woman.