Thursday, February 15, 2018

Steven Pinker's Enlightenment


Steven Pinker is drooling over the Enlightenment in his new book, now an Amazon best seller. We wish him all the best and much success.

As mentioned, when I offered some preliminary comments about it in a prior post, I have not read the book. Happily for people like me the Guardian has published a substantial excerpt. In it Pinker explains what he means by Enlightenment. We are happy to know. Yet, he still makes significant mistakes. Since no one seems interested in pointing them out, the task falls to me.

Pinker sees the Enlightenment originating with Immanuel Kant at the end of the eighteenth century. He says that it arose from the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason… but does not give any pride of place to the Industrial Revolution… at least not in the sections that I read.

He offers this synopsis:

The Enlightenment is conventionally placed in the last two thirds of the 18th century, though it flowed out of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason in the 17th century and spilled into the heyday of classical liberalism of the first half of the 19th. Provoked by challenges to conventional wisdom from science and exploration, mindful of the bloodshed of recent wars of religion, and abetted by the easy movement of ideas and people, the thinkers of the Enlightenment sought a new understanding of the human condition. The era was a cornucopia of ideas, some of them contradictory, but four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism and progress.

Let’s state the obvious. Kant critiqued reason in a book called the Critique of Pure Reason. He did his best to undermine the scientific method because he did not believe in facts. Being an heir to Platonic idealism, he believed in appearances. More precisely, he believed in phenomena, in things as they appear and as they are interpreted. 

This anti-scientific approach animated the thinking of Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger, not one of whom had any use for facts or science, all of whom believed that we only know appearances. These thinkers were more interested in logic than in reason. They were all fabulators, mythmakers, fiction builders who believed that the value of their narratives lay in their coherence and consistency, not in whether they corresponded with reality. They believed that the more logical their stories the greater the likelihood that history would prove them to be right in the end. They were prophets, not scientists running laboratory experiments or even pragmatists testing their ideas in human societies.

Most intellectual historians understand that German idealism, of whom those four are the Four Horsemen, gave us Marxism, Communism, Fascism and Naziism. All are efforts to overcome Judeo-Christian civilization, at times by promoting neo-paganism and at times by promoting an atheist culture.

One understands that Pinker must ignore these historical facts… because when you are trying to persuade people to believe something that is manifestly untrue, you do best to ignore facts. Amazingly, Pinker argues that the Enlightenment did not really take hold until after World War II… which is a necessary fiction and an historical absurdity. It manages to leave atheistic Communism out of the mix. True enough, Kant did favor peace… good for him… which means precisely nothing if his philosophy, when put into practice, led to destruction and carnage.

Pinker continues, with a sentence that is so peculiar that I don’t really know what to do with it:

Foremost is reason. Reason is non-negotiable. As soon as you show up to discuss the question of what we should believe (or any other question), as long as you insist that your answers, whatever they are, are reasonable or justified or true and that therefore other people ought to believe them too, then you have committed yourself to reason, and to holding your beliefs accountable to objective standards.

If rational thought involves empirical testing of hypotheses, the German idealists had no use for it. While Pinker is correct to see that rationality means that your belief be held to objective standards of proof, it is peculiar for him to see it in terms of beliefs and about persuading people to believe what you believe. A belief is not really the same as a hypothesis. Dogmas are beliefs, too. Great theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas argued persuasively that belief in dogma was rational, thus, that dogmas were not vulgar superstitions.

I do not get what he means when he says that reason is non-negotiable. Reason is the basis for negotiation... and it comes down to us from the god of Reason, that would be Apollo.

Dare we mention, in our enlightened age where everyone bows down to the Goddess of Science, we are being forced to accept that a boy who believes he is a girl is really a girl. It is not science. It is a form of idealism, where the human mind shapes and interprets reality… where it does not have to negotiate with reality. While we are here, we note that climate change dogma is more dogma than science. Settled science, as has often been mentioned, is not science… since science is always built on skepticism. Skepticism is not about belief.

Pinker declares that the non-scientific idealists who produced the Enlightenment were rejecting everything and anything associated with religion. In so saying they paved the way for Communism, but Pinker has nothing to say about that:

If there’s anything the Enlightenment thinkers had in common, it was an insistence that we energetically apply the standard of reason to understanding our world, and not fall back on generators of delusion like faith, dogma, revelation, authority, charisma, mysticism, divination, visions, gut feelings or the hermeneutic parsing of sacred texts.

It’s easy to caricature religion. But, this word salad means very little. Authority, one of the bad things that the Enlightenment supposedly overcame, is essential to the human condition. A teacher whose authority is not respected in the classroom will not be able to teach. Good order and discipline requires authority, even in secular organizations as armies. As for charisma, Pinker and most left thinking people have formed a cult to the charismatic figure of Barack Obama and they worship at the altar of America’s first great charismatic president, John F. Kennedy.

Enlightenment thinkers were supposedly all humanists. They weren’t, but don’t let that bother you. Famed empirical thinker David Hume-- who had nearly nothing in common with Kant-- famously observed that while science is about things as they are, ethics is about what people should or should not do. To imagine that you can devise ethical principles on the basis of science is to miss the point entirely… and perhaps intentionally.

Pinker touts the virtue of humanism and tries to define it as a concern for the individual, as defined separately from group membership. This will lead him to thinking that we are all citizens of the world. This is yet another piece of nonsense, the kind that leads to open borders and the horrors that poor immigration policies has visited on Western Europe. The term, citizen of the world, is intellectually incoherent. There is no such thing. All human beings belong to groups. Their memberships means that they do not belong to other groups.  And that gives the game away. This so-called scientific and rational theory is yet another fiction, one that is at clear variance with the facts. After all, didn’t Aristotle explain that no human being cut off from the state or from social groups can possibly survive? Pinker’s Enlightenment is based on a fictional being, living as the citizen of the world:

They laid that foundation in what we now call humanism, which privileges the wellbeing of individual men, women, and children over the glory of the tribe, race, nation or religion. It is individuals, not groups, who are sentient – who feel pleasure and pain, fulfillment and anguish. Whether it is framed as the goal of providing the greatest happiness for the greatest number or as a categorical imperative to treat people as ends rather than means, it was the universal capacity of a person to suffer and flourish, they said, that called on our moral concern.

Privileging the individual over the group, placing the good of the individual ahead of the good of the group renders people dysfunctional. It makes people into self-centered, selfish, self-sufficient louts, people whose behavior is not determined by rules of proper conduct— which rules are not a function of religion—but by sentiment, by sympathy, by empathy, by fellow feeling. Ethics shows you how to do the right thing to remain a member in good standing of your group. If we are all human beings, there is nothing you can do that will make you a member of the human species or that will cause you to be expelled from it. Humanism is at heart a recipe for amorality. It's great to imagine that we all love each other for being human, but Pinker must know that some of the worst violence the world has seen was committed by humanists who declared certain peoples to be subhuman.

Strangely enough, and I will leave the point as a question, this theory systematically rejects all rules for social interactions, all social roles, everything from courtesy to politeness to decorum to propriety. It does not tell us whose feelings we should and should not share. Paul Bloom, after Adam Smith, argued persuasively that one will normally feel empathy towards someone who is unjustly insulted and offended, and that this empathy will lead us to want to retaliate against the offending party. It's not a formula for peace. Of course, no one pays much attention to the thoughts of great Enlightenment thinker, Adam Smith.

Without going further into it Pinker seems to have lit on Martin Heidegger’s attempt to define all human interactions in terms of feeling care for others, in German Sorge. We recall that Heidegger was not exactly enlightened. He was a staunch supporter of the Third Reich.

What is because we are endowed with the sentiment of sympathy, which they also called benevolence, pity and commiseration. Given that we are equipped with the capacity to sympathise with others, nothing can prevent the circle of sympathy from expanding from the family and tribe to embrace all of humankind, particularly as reason goads us into realising that there can be nothing uniquely deserving about ourselves or any of the groups to which we belong. We are forced into cosmopolitanism: accepting our citizenship in the world.

Since Pinker declares Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence the apotheosis of Enlightenment thought, we cannot fail to notice that this same Jefferson gloried in the Reign of Terror that was occurring in France during his tenure as Secretary of State. The peace-loving oh-so-sympathetic Jefferson had no problems with the mass murder because he believed that the tree of liberty needed to be fertilized with the blood of martyrs. So much for peace.

Yet, Pinker is thrilled to see that the Enlightenment thinkers promoted peace. One might say that their hopes were clearly dashed during the twentieth century… which saw some of the worse wars in human history. Pinker will not credit it, but the French enlightenment and the thinking of famed Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau gave us the French Revolution, the reign of Terror and the Napoleonic Wars. No less a great philosopher than Hegel was thrilled to see Germany invaded by Napoleon’s armies… because he thought that they were bringing liberty.

Here is Pinker’s na├»ve attempt to distort the facts, to take idealistic yearnings for fact. It’s nice to promote great ideas. But, sometimes we need to see what they have produced in reality. The reality, the facts, tell a completely different story.

This brings us to another Enlightenment ideal, peace. War was so common in history that it was natural to see it as a permanent part of the human condition and to think peace could come only in a messianic age. But now war was no longer thought of as a divine punishment to be endured and deplored, or a glorious contest to be won and celebrated, but a practical problem to be mitigated and someday solved. In Perpetual Peace, Kant laid out measures that would discourage leaders from dragging their countries into war. Together with international commerce, he recommended representative republics (what we would call democracies), mutual transparency, norms against conquest and internal interference, freedom of travel and immigration and a federation of states that would adjudicate disputes between them.

Kant might have imagined that he wanted Perpetual Peace. Yet, he lived in Germany. His thinking influenced German culture… for the worse, certainly not for the best. Pinker is trafficking in belief, even in dogmatic belief. His beliefs are based on a fiction, on a narrative, on a story. None of this even resembles science or rational thought. 

30 comments:

Jack Fisher said...

1. "Privileging the individual over the group, placing the good of the individual ahead of the good of the group renders people dysfunctional."

This is not so. This is what constitutional due process amounts to. The constitution acknowledges legitimate interests of both individual and group (where group means government or government legislating on behalf of the many against the few), and shifts the fulcrum of the scale towards one or the other depending on the nature of the right. Where the issues are broadly economic or concern traditional police powers (e.g., fishing rights), government action is given deference so long as there is any reasonable connection between law and goal. But where personal rights are at stake, such as those enumerated in the bill o' rights, the fulcrum shifts towards the individual and in order to overcome those rights, the government has a heavy burden to carry (e.g., content regulation of speech).

2. "The peace-loving oh-so-sympathetic Jefferson had no problems with the mass murder because he believed that the tree of liberty needed to be fertilized with the blood of martyrs."

I believe this is both rhetoric and literal trvth. The purchase price of American liberty was 17,000 dead (all causes), and five years of war. It is a rhetorical argument for the 2d Amendment and should be a reminder of where the real power lies.

4. Reason, in general. To me, a lot of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment/Reason derive from a confidence that science through Newtonian causal determinism and reason could provide fundamental answers to questions about the physical and by extension, the political world. So I wonder how this Age of Reason would have developed if its philosophers had known that the universe is fundamentally non-causal and probabilistic, and that our commonsense notions of cause and effect grasp reality, as the Orange Catholic Bible puts it, through a glass darkly.

3. "This brings us to another Enlightenment ideal, peace."

That would be ideal, but the aphorism, "si vis pacem, para bellum" puts this in perspective. If the US had posed a credible deterrent threat in Summer '41 to give teeth to its diplomatic efforts to lever Japan out of China, then December '41 would have turned out much differently.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Privileging the individual over the group, placing the good of the individual ahead of the good of the group renders people dysfunctional. It makes people into self-centered, selfish, self-sufficient louts, people whose behavior is not determined by rules of proper conduct— which rules are not a function of religion—but by sentiment, by sympathy, by empathy, by fellow feeling. Ethics shows you how to do the right thing to remain a member in good standing of your group. If we are all human beings, there is nothing you can do that will make you a member of the human species or that will cause you to be expelled from it. Humanism is at heart a recipe for amorality. It's great to imagine that we all love each other for being human, but Pinker must know that some of the worst violence the world has seen was committed by humanists who declared certain peoples to be subhuman.

This paragraph makes a lot of assertions and labels. I thought it was the libertarians who placed individuality over good of the group. It seems like we have to define humanism to have any hope here. Perhaps there are different definitions?

Humanism: an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

Nothing in that definition is clearly individualistic. And it would seem to exist to protect us from dogmatic religious beliefs that can condemn certain people to external damnation for the wrong beliefs, or a will to conquer and convert people to your beliefs for their own good. But I can imagine humanism as a belief system can be just as prone to dominionist thinking.

I don't know how much or morality is derived from a fear of eternal damnation, but I'll agree humanists don't seem to use that as a sword over people's souls.

Jack Fisher said...

AO stated: "And it would seem to exist to protect us from dogmatic religious beliefs"

You need protection from an idea? Grow a pair, snowflake.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Placing the good of the individual ahead of that of the group means,in German idealism, that you should take what you want, regardless. It's Hegelian and Nietzschean. It ends up being about what you can get away with. Functioning within a constitutional government means playing by the rules. This affords some individual freedom and protections against the power of the state, but, in a market economy it means that what matters is the transaction, the give and take of the marketplace. This is more important that the individual who believes that he should not respect the verdict of the market or the results of an election.

Jack Fisher said...

Market economies are, and should be, regulated. Hence, blue sky and white slave laws. The question is to what extent and that is not being debated here. The presumption that elections and the market are inherently fair is false.

James said...

Well a lot of smart stuff here. Before I retreat to the stool of silence (quickly I may add), a few things.
"The presumption that elections and the market are inherently fair is false."
Correct, because they are made of people, of which nothing is fair. You may try as well as possible to make them just, but fair is impossible.
I fall back om Madison's (I think) discussion of the tyranny of the majority vs the tyranny of the minority. Now to the stool of silence while I have a chance.

Jack Fisher said...

James, I think most people are satisfied with predictability, rather than fairness. It's a rare individual who says, "enough" and won't give up her bus seat.

David Foster said...

"It is individuals, not groups, who are sentient – who feel pleasure and pain, fulfillment and anguish."

Yet Marxism, "progressivism", and Fascism see the individual only as part of a group. With Marxists, the groups are economically and class-defined. With today's "progressives", the definition centers around race, sex, and sexual preference. With Fascists, the primary group is that nation (in the Italian flavor) or the race (in the Nazi flavor.)

James said...

Jack,
People do seem to confuse fairness with justice, that's age old. To be honest I don't think I'm that competent to discuss the overall construction of the US legal edifice nor it's use historically or today. It does seem to me that all arguments about human institutions root back to the fact that we are humans (flawed) and anything we construct will be flawed, though construct we must or kill each other (which of course means a lot of paper work and as we all know..... bureaucrats). Back to the stool.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

All people belong to groups. They follow certain rules, respect certain customs and norms, and are loyal to their groups. The same applies to nations, to states, to sports teams, to armies and to companies. Obviously, there are extremes, many of which derive from the philosophical groundwork that pretends to have defined the individual as separate from the group. The promise of Nazism was that fully actualized authentic individuals could join a group that would allow them to get away with anything whatever.

Jack Fisher said...

James, I think the constitutional framers understood that, and that the system was designed to function assuming these flaws. Justice is the end result when you turn the Crank of Due Process and people are satisfied with that, so long as it is predictable and even if its unfair, so long as it's not horribly so.

Kansas Scout said...

Thumbs up.

A-Bax said...

I think you're misunderstanding Kant by lumping him in with the phenomenologists. Hegel, et al. consciously jettisoned half of Kant's philosophy to focus on phenomena (as opposed to noumena, which are similar to the Platonic ideals.)

Kant is a very difficult philosopher, and is the first to really attempt to synthesize both the Platonic and Aristotelian perspectives. It's a disservice to the depth and complexity of his thought to simply lump him in with the rationalists (Descartes, Leibniz) or the phenomenologists (who were heirs to one side of his arguments, but too dim or disingenuous to recognize the power/legitimacy of the other side of Kant, his partial embrace of empiricism).

Re Hume: It's not so much that they were complete opposites - the opposite of Hume is probably Descartes. Rather, Kant was explicitly influenced by Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, which laid out ideas that woke Kant from his "dogmatic slumber" as he put it. Kant recognized that Hume's arguments completely demolished what has come to be seen as naive rationalism: the idea that we can reason from first principles to establish matters-of-fact (a perspective perhaps best exemplified by Spinoza, who attempted geometric-style arguments/proofs about factual matters.)

Kant recognized that Hume had essentially defeated Rationalism with an upper-case "R", but attempted to salvage what he could via transcendentalism - which relegated the noumena (similar to Plato's Forms) beyond the ken of human experience/perception. Where Kant is absolutely right in his critique of Hume - and this is borne out by modern neuroscience - is that the mind (brain) does not passively receive impressions (sensory input) and dryly correlate them, as Hume posited. The mind actively shapes and molds the input that comes in.

I personally come down on the side of Aristotle, Hume, Russell vs. Plato, Leibniz, Wittgenstein. But it is truly unfair to lump Kant in with the more hardcore rationalists/phenomenologists. Though as a religious man he was ultimately tugged toward the rationalist camp, he simultaneously recognized that experience + reason alone could not get you there. (Unlike, say, Aquinas who thought you could reason your way to the divine presence).

In my view Rousseau and Hegel are the true midwives of the intellectual degradation in the West. Heidegger is a joke, and Nietzsche is poorly understood by just about everyone (owing, in part, to his literal insanity.)

MAGA.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Hume asked whether ideas precede experience or whether experience precedes ideas. In the Treatise he argued that we cannot understand an idea without having a preceding experience. You cannot understand redness if you have never seen anything red. Kant believed that we need to have a priori senses of time and space before having any human experience. By his theories, noumenal realities were barely attainable, if attainable. This contrasts with Aristotle who believed that we begin with objective facts, then advancing to hypotheses and testing, the better to determine which hypotheses gave the best explanation of the facts observed. Wittgenstein was of course one of the most empirically minded thinkers... especially in his ideas about language usage. By his lights words did not express ideas... thus ideas did not precede speech. He did not care for theories about language but about the way people use language in everyday conversation. He posited that the meaning is the usage ... which makes language usage a free market.

Jack Fisher said...

"You cannot understand redness if you have never seen anything red."

How can you understand quantum superposition if you have never seen a photon in its particle/wave state? (and you never will see it that way)

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Fisher said...

AO, guess where I think your pussy hat should get stuffed.


to all: correction to my original post. the position of the balance beam fulcrum should move closer to the government's position when the government wants to infringe personal liberties, and centered with the government needs to justify ordinary exercises of power.

Ares Olympus said...

Okay, here's an example of individual vs groups. Does a police officer see a person as a threat who must be neutralized or as a human being who needs help?
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/police-officer-fired-not-shooting-suicidal-man-175-000-article-1.3817584 West Virginia police officer fired for not shooting suicidal suspect gets $175,000 settlement

If you're a police officer, should you consider the lives of other police officers over everyone else, because you're all in the same group?

Enlightenment and Humanism would say tribal identity is not the important issue. The important issue is whether you trust yourself to handle a dangerous situation without being the person who has to murder someone else on a theoretical risk. There's no right answer, but you've got a much higher chance of coming up with the wrong answer when you dehumanize someone else just because they seem threatening to you.

-------
Jack Fisher said... You need protection from an idea? Grow a pair, snowflake.

Wow, you're really a bully. Your name-calling doesn't hurt me personally, but people have killed themselves because of other people ideas. And people will kill others because of ideas they absorb. It's called internalization, and its how we learn, and when we have benevolent parents and teachers, it can help us control our own worst impulses, but it also makes us vulnerable when they don't mean us good.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internalization

Just because you and I are often strong enough to not internalize other people's fantasies doesn't mean we're all so capable, especially fantasies by parents and leaders who prefer to mock and call names to try to control or silence other people.

Redacted said...

JF: "How can you understand quantum superposition if you have never seen a photon in its particle/wave state."

You don't "understand" it.

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics then you don't understand quantum mechanics."
--- R Feynman

QM has "interpretations"; many worlds, de Broglie-Bohm, Penrose, etc.

Nevertheless, QM is the most successful theoretical structure in the history of science. Detection of the Higgs boson at CERN is nothing short of staggering.

Redacted said...

AO: "Wow, you're really a bully."

Tell me where to mail the pacifier. Meanwhile, pillbug up in a Safe Space.

Jack Fisher said...

Redacted, read for context. Dr. S, referring to Hume, said, "In the Treatise he argued that we cannot understand an idea without having a preceding experience. You cannot understand redness if you have never seen anything red."

Hume's claim is negated, as quantum superposition cannot be "experienced" in that state.

Redacted said...

"quantum superposition cannot be "experienced" in that state."

Or any state.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @February 15, 2018 at 10:51 AM:

“Wow, you're really a bully.”

Wow, you’re really a pussy.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Jack Fisher said...

IAC, Teddy Roosevelt's been stealing your material.

"and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly"

a loser is still a loser.

Anonymous said...

Jack Fisher @February 15, 2018 at 6:01 PM:

Indeed, I included the quote as a reminder to Ares Olympus. It is a quote he has seen me share here many times before, reminding him that he is nothing more than a critic.

So yes, a loser is still a loser. You may think that someone who fails while daring greatly is a loser, but at least he’s not a critic... the lowest of the low.

I am sure we can agree that the Olympian One is one of those cold and timid souls who knows neither victory nor defeat.

It’s easy to be a critic. And it is easy to abandon one’s own blog to instead needle and rummage around another’s successful blog, claiming a superior intellect... while all the while claiming that he is claiming no superiority at all.

In my description I give you one Ares Olympus.

-IAC

Stuart Schneiderman said...

It would be a good idea, in general, to read Hume before dismissing the most important English language philosopher with a glib remark. Obviously, he offers explanations for objects you cannot see. Hume's epistemology is also the basis for much of cognitive therapy, so the notion that it has been refuted by neuroscience is ideologically driven. As for particles and waves... do you want to claim that you have never seen them?

Redacted said...

Actually, Hume's choice of "red" was an extremely insightful (no pun intended) one. Not sure how much he understood about the physics, but it's still extremely insightful.

There is no "red" out there in the cosmos. In fact, there is no color at all, as we understand the concept of color, "out there". That was always a shocking revelation to my students. Color "happens" during preprocessing in the fovea of the eye. Specialized cells, cones, have different sensitivities to the frequency of electromagnetic radiation in very narrow bands. What we perceive as light is just energy in the narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum our retinas are sensitive to. Radiation in the visible band is no more inherently "colored" than FM signals, microwave oven radiation, the radio emissions from your cellphone, or cosmic rays. All those great images from the Hubble? They are colorIZED by NASA (not many folks would be very happy about spending billions to take black and white pictures of ancient clouds if they weren't "pretty"). The original images are grayscale (radiation intensity levels). Many animals are "colorblind", as are some people (mostly men). Completely colorblind humans could function perfectly well if so many cultural artifacts had not been color-coded. In fact, color vision is a tradeoff, given that the we would have much better night vision if there were no cones in our foveas. A completely colorblind person has no meaningful concept of "red", apart from the purely theoretical and linguistic.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, Sure, it's a great masculine quote from Teddy Roosevelt, and being a critic has little need for courage, and being an anonymous critic of other critics, doubly so, and an anonymous critic to other anonymous critics to other critics none at all.

Myself, I'll go more towards Kipling's poem, If, advice to his son.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if---

OTOH, Kipling's son John felt compelled to be a leader among men and broke is father's heart dying at age 18 in the World War.

Real courage might not begin until you've lost something/one vital to you, and can't ever replace, and still have to go on doing the right things for the right reasons, and not give into self-destructive impulses.

The problem I have with Pinker's optimistic Enlightenment is that it arose with the industrial revolution as Stuart says, and a rise in standards of living such that we all have much more affluence than we deserve in the sense of our own efforts. So my fear is when the technical progress hits natural limits that we can't transcend that Carl Sagan's demon haunted world will return with a vengeance, and we'll find ourselves not much wiser than our ancestors, and dumber in other ways for our unrealistic expectations.

Then we'll really need courage to not let our own narcissistic rage add to the misery of the world. And there, giving yourself over to the group will protect you, but then real courage is the will to stand up to your own group's will to demonize outsiders as the cause of your collective woes.

Jack Fisher said...

Dr. S said "As for particles and waves... do you want to claim that you have never seen them?"

Hume never experienced particle/wave duality as the act of observation (or the interaction of systems) collapses the duality and the photon is seen as either a particle or a wave but never both at the same time. This is not linguistic quibbling, the photon exists in both states at the same time.

This is in no way the same as doubting the existence of Mongolia, which Hume never saw, but could have, or could have read descriptions from others how had. Human senses cannot experience quantum superposition, the human mind therefore cannot intuitively grasp the concept, and human language must rely on awkward constructs like the ones I've used to talk about it. Presumably God does not have these limitations and "sees" superposition with the same clarity we see Mongolia.

So my related question remains valid: how would the Enlightenment been different if its philosophers knew that the universe is not deterministic but that God does play dice.