This lecture reviews those thinkers who were at the cuff of breaking into what we now call scientific thinking; they were not yet quite scientific in the sense that their ideas were not testable and verifiable but were very close to it. I believe that all of us, individuals and nations, go through this progression, from less scientific thinking to scientific thinking.
THE ALMOST SCIENTIFIC THINKERS
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
Life seem like a progression from one point to another, is it not? It seems like we are moving in a lineal fashion from one point to another and in retrospect it would seem that the various points on the road are necessary and interconnected, all pointing to one inevitable direction.
Or is the perception of progression an illusion? Is it the case that what exists is chaos and our minds attempt to give order and purpose to that chaos? Is all talk of teleology nonsense and life is mere accidental events that our minds give a semblance of order and meaning? I do not know what the answer to my question is but it seems to me that we seem to be moving from less scientific thinking to more and more scientific thinking.
The group of thinkers that I will review in this lecture appears to be almost scientific in their thinking but is not almost it yet. They are still speculating and not necessarily demonstrating the validity of their speculations with proofs. In science you posit a hypothesis and then prove it or shut up. Mere argumentation does not prove your hypothesis; it is only verification that proves it. Your argumentation can be lovely, poetic and elegant but unless your points are verifiable they are not science. An idea can seem reasonable but is still nonsense.
The folks that I am about to review posited reasonable ideas but those ideas are not yet verified as true. As it were, they were at the door of science but not yet scientists. We give them A for effort. These men are Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Blasé Pascal.
Whereas I lump these thinkers together the tradition is to place them into different categories, such as skeptical, English empiricism and French enlightenment. Let us not sweat small things; if it makes you feel fine please employ the traditional groupings. I will endeavor to explain what the groupings mean, though.
In examining the intellectual climate that prevailed in ancient Athens, I talked about a group called skeptics. These people said that the only way we know things is through our five senses, through perception. They appreciated the problems with perception. Different persons perceive seeming similar events differently. If five of us witness a car accident we are likely to give the police different reports of it and different police men are likely to write different reports of it, each convinced that his report is objective.
Skeptics tell us that it is a mistake to rely on our senses, our perception in determining what the truth is. They encourage us to doubt everything. That is correct; they ask us to doubt even our own existence!
How do you know that you are real? The world you see during the day time and the world you see at night when you sleep and dream look alike so which one is real and which one is unreal. How do you separate real from unreal? What testable, valid and reliable criteria do you employ in ascertaining truth from falsity? Things are not always what they seem.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592):
The French man, Michel de Montaigne, apparently, took a leaf from ancient Greek skeptics and began asking his contemporaries to not just affirm things as true but, instead, doubt everything. He extolled the Roman skeptic scholar Sextus Empiricus and demanded that folk practice skepticism when it comes to knowledge. What is true and what is false, do you think that you know and how do you know? Most people are full of opinions and take their opinions as truth.
Another French man, a person who originally studied mathematics and physics and, indeed, invented analytical algebra, decided to become a skeptic and doubt everything.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650):
Descartes, while keeping his day job (mathematics), dabbled in philosophical speculations. He kept his radical ideas secret for he realized that the Roman Catholic Church was still powerful and could have his head chopped off or fry his entire body in a bonfire for the bishops to warm their bloated bodies with. To the extent that he published his ideas he hid them in tombs that only the very determined reader would bother to read. Monsieur Descartes avoided the inquisition and eventually had his ideas considered the beginning of modern European philosophy.
Descartes doubted everything. In the process he recognized that whatever he said that something is, is really his opinion of that thing, his idea, and that there is no way he can tell whether what he said something is, is actually what that thing is.
You see something and call it a tree. It is you who called it a true. You can persuade those around you to call it a tree and they call it a tree but that does not mean that it is, in fact, a tree. To begin with, those from a different group may have a different name for what you call a tree. Moreover, since what you call a tree in your day life is also what you call a tree in your dream life, is it the case that there is a tree or is a tree a figment of your imagination? Could it be that your mind projected out what you call a tree?
How do you know that the world you see with your eyes is real since you know that a similar world you see in dreams is not real (?).
The Catholic Church teaches that God created this world. The Catholic Church also teaches that God is a loving person. How can a loving person have created a world that is characterized by pain? It does not add up.
At any rate, how do we know for certain that a loving God created this world? Could it not be the case that Satan (Demiurge) created this world (as Gnostics claim)? You never know. These are Descartes dream and demon hypotheses.
The relevant point is that we do not know about anything for sure. That is the essence of skepticism. Doubting everything seems a reasonable place to be and Descartes staked his claim there.
But who is doing the doubting? What is it in us that does the doubting? There must be something in us that does the doubting, right? If one denied that one has something in ones self that doubts it follows that one doubts ones existence! Apparently, Descartes did not want to doubt his own existence for he thought that he would go mad if he doubted that he existed.
Imagine a fellow who tells you that he doubts that he existed, that he is not the person standing in front of you. You would probably think that he is insane. Descartes did not want to be considered insane.
However, let it be said that there are cultures where the self we take as who we are, the ego separated self concept, the ego and its body, are considered dream selves, dream figures hence not real. Hinduism believes that the self we see ourselves as is a thing of madness, that our real self is not material, and is not perceptual; the real self is not the separated ego self but the unified self, aka Atman/Brahman.
Descartes is a typical Westerner and therefore does not want to deny his self. As any one who has related to Westerners quickly learn, they are extremely narcissistic; they take their separated self concepts, their egos and bodies, as real, as who they are and celebrate it. It never occurs to them that their bodily selves that, sooner or later, would die and rot and smell worse than shit and cannot therefore be who they are (and if it is who they are they are nothing)?
Descartes said that though he must doubt everything that he cannot doubt that he exists. He uttered the famous phrase: cogito, ergo sum, I think therefore I am.
He believed that he is a thinker and as the thinker that he exists, and he cannot doubt that he exists.
He proceeds to do what Anselm did and said that as he knows himself to be, he is imperfect, and is unhappy with that imperfect self, and that he seeks to become perfect. So why does he, human beings, seek perfection? As he sees it, folk seek perfection because they were created by a perfect God (but why didn't he create them perfect?).
Descartes, in effect, posited Anselm like ontological argument. He believed that God exists because God is the perfect self that makes us want to seem perfect.
Apparently, he believed that he had proved his argument. But did he? Let us see. I seek to become perfect, therefore God exists for he must have created me to seek perfection. Is this really a good argument?
Descartes conflated Plato and Aristotle. Plato talked about forms (perfection) and Aristotle talked about universals and potential. Here we go, again; it seems that Western thinkers always return to Plato and Aristotle. Can we transcend these dead white men?
Descartes is known for his dualistic philosophy. He believed that we have two aspects to us, one material the other spiritual. The material is our body and the spirit is the part of us that is close to God, our real self. This is a mechanical view of things.
As he sees it, we have an innate substance that is not material in nature, not made of the same stuff as our material bodies. How do you prove that innate spirit? Of course, you cannot prove it beyond restating it.
Descartes was after all a Christian thinker and wittingly or not restated the Christian concept of soul: that there is something is us that is non-material, something that can think apart from our bodies and experience.
Is this true that something in us can think independently of our bodies? Have you ever seen yourself outside your body and from that standpoint also think?
Contemporary science believes in epiphenomenalism, that is, it accepts that mind is not outside our bodies, and that thinking is a function of the configuration of the atoms and particles in our brains. Man is the sum of his physical and psychological experiences; he is not more, not less, extant science teaches. In this light, Descartes was not a scientist.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679):
What is an Englishman? An English man is a person who sticks his nose to the ground and is grounded and does not allow mere sentimentalism to guide him. Hobbes (Leviathan) observed human beings and concluded that they are inherently self centered. He constructed a political theory based on the notion of self centeredness. People are self centered. In their true state, state of nature, each of them was like a predatory animal, sort of like a tiger or lion, staking out territories and protecting them and attacking other animals that enter their territories. Our motivation is to survive and survive at all costs. We may cooperate if doing so we survive but if not we go it alone. The individual is amoral and if hungry would take from other people what he needs to survive with (who said that something belongs to other people, in nature animals do not recognize private property; the notion of crime, stealing, is a social construct, is it not).
In nature men were at perpetual state of war and the strong prevailed until he is weakened and others prevail over him. Life in the state of nature was nasty, brutish and short; it was a dog eat dog world; big fish ate small fish and every one lived in insecurity.
This insecurity, apparently, became intolerable and men decided to reduce their natural freedom and elected a ruler to make laws that protected all of them. The ruler was given authoritarian powers to kill those who did not abide by the laws that protected the many.
Hobbes, in effect, said that we need dictatorial governments, monarchs to make laws that protected us; we need draconian implementation of laws if we are to obtain any kind of social security.
Hobbes made a lot of enemies by what he said. First, he invalidated kings' assumption that they were selected by God to rule the people and ruled by divine rights. Hobbes is saying that the people asked the kings to rule them. Such a view is dangerous for if the people asked you to rule them they can also ask you not to rule them.
Hobbes also made enemies of liberals who want a benign government for he is saying that people are so self-centered that they need authoritarian leaders to corral them into obeying the laws; he makes it clear that without strong arms people would not obey the law, for their nature is to go wilding and oppress other persons.
Hobbes established the thesis that government is a social contract, a human construction not some arbitrary god thing. Men form governments for themselves. As Locke will show us, men can form limited governments.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
Spinoza, a Jew in Holland (his forebears were recently chased out of Portugal when that country, upon being regained for Christendom, got rid of its Jews for cooperating with the Mahomet's who ruled them for seven hundred years), outraged his people and their Christian hosts, hosts who gave them respite from their Portuguese persecution, by teaching that the God of Judaism and Christianity is false. As he sees it, there is God alright but he is in everything. That is correct; God is in cockroaches, in trees, in rocks, in everything. This is called Pantheism.
Man is not so special that God is only in him but not in other things; man is not special, he is just like other things; God is in him as he is in other things.
Such a god must, of course, be impersonal, it is not the loving, anthropomorphic Christian god that has nothing else to do but sit and watch over human affairs, protecting people (is he protecting them?).
In his Ethics Spinoza delineated how he believes that people ought to behave; they ought to behave ethically and virtuously for virtue is its own reward. Those who do nice things tend to be happy whereas those who do bad things tend to be unhappy.
If you want a happy and peaceful life then love yourself, love your neighbors, do not steal from any one, and reconcile yourself to your lot.
That is correct; each of us has a lot in life. Some are born with healthy bodies, others with sickly bodies. Whereas seeking medical treatment is a must nevertheless wisdom lies in accepting ones fate without complaining about it.
Spinoza was rejected by his Jewish community and accepted his fate. He learned the trade of polishing lenses and did that and lived quietly, not complaining about his seeming unfair treatment (social rejection because he stated the truth as he saw it).
Whoever told you that the world rewards those who speak the truth? If you speak the truth, is a philosopher, the chances are that the world would hate and crucify you. Be realistic.
Alternatively, become an average Joe, have no mind, conform to the masses wishes and you have many friends. The choice is yours to make.
Spinoza is noted for his philosophy of pantheism.
Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716):
Whereas Spinoza, up there in Holland, talked about a diffuse energy permeating everything that he called God, down in Germany Leibniz was teaching something different about the nature of God. As he sees it, there is God. God spreads itself into particles that he called monads. Each of us is a monad of God. Monad is another name for soul.
God as the chief monad knows what all his monads are doing but each of them, us, does not know what other monads are doing or understand God. We are cursed with not knowing, with limited understanding, whereas God has perfect understanding.
Do you smell Plato's forms and shadows here? Didn't I tell you that if you study Plato that all other philosophers are improvisations? If you want to be a philosopher, young man, study Plato.
Leibniz independently invented calculus (Isaac Newton also invented it); he was also said to have built a computer or a calculating machine.
By the way, most of the philosophers that we have been talking about were also mathematicians. There must be something about mathematics, music and ability to play chess that connects with philosophers. Could it be because we love logical thinking, and mathematics is the epitome of logical approach to phenomena?
Leibniz said some other things but those can be explored by you at your leisure. For the purpose of this lecture his relevance to philosophy is his restatement of Plato to make us imperfect monads and God the perfect monad.
Let us now turn our attention to the English and later to the French. The English have a bull dog, hang dog mentality. In street language we say that they do not tolerate bullshit. They do not like sentimental or idealistic talk; they like realistic talk, that which is of the here and now world. Does an idea have relevance in the real world we live in or is it esoteric? If it is esoteric, idealistic, that is the purview of the Germans (we shall talk about German idealism in the next lecture).
If you want to appeal to John Bull you must be practical, be of the here and now world (how do you make bucks with an idea, the ultimate pragmatists, Americans, ask, if not get out of here, and do not waste their time).
The English empirical school (also called logical positivism, in France, physiocrats) consists of Francis Bacon, John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume.
Francis Bacon (1561-1625):
In England, Francis Bacon is regarded as the father of English empiricism. While he was not himself a scientist, he was a politician, a Member of Parliament, he wrote essays arguing that true knowledge must be empirical, observable by all and verifiable by all.
An idea is a useful scientific idea if it contains ways to prove that it is true rather than merely ask us to accept it as true.
It is okay to have preconceptions and presuppositions about the nature of things, we all do, what has to be done is to examine all our opinions on things and select those we can prove to be true and give them to other people to prove and if they do accept them as scientific ideas, until disproven (so said the philosopher of the scientific method, Karl Popper).
Bacon wrote a book on how to develop real knowledge of the world; in it he pointed out that we have to remove our cherished idols of what things are and replace them with ideas of what they are (as we all can demonstrate as so).
John Locke (1632-1704):
Locke has had tremendous impact on world civilizations. The founders of the American state literally copied his writings in his book, Second Treaty on Government. Americans talk about the pursuit of happiness, liberty and property, those came straight out of the Englishmen, John Locke. Thomas Jefferson who wrote the American Declaration of Independence had a copy of Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Plato and Aristotle's books. Ideas do matter; they do affect what men do or do not do (bad ideas lead to the type of rotten governments they have in Africa hence the efforts to give Africans good ideas on how to govern human beings).
Locke was strictly empiricist. He accepted the here and now world as his reality. How do we know anything? It is from perception. All that I know for sure is what I experience through my five senses (not six senses that supposedly include one for extrasensory perception). Experience is my only teacher.
Locke rejected Descartes notion that we can know something without experiencing it. Descartes talked about something that is innate in us, substance, spirit, that can know something without us having to experience that something. In other words, knowledge can be gained from extra material state, disembodied rationalism.
Locke did not accept any concept of innate, disembodied knowing. We know from our experiences. When we are born we are a blank slate, tabla raza (do you remember anything before you were born?). Upon birth our brains experience our physical and social environment. That experience leaves an imprint in our brains.
Whatever we think that we know is what we learned, experienced; there is no external God in us that tells us what is true or not true.
Locke's "An Essay Concerning the Human Understanding" delineated his epistemology, empiricism.
As already noted, Locke's fame rests on his political theory. He took on Hobbes head on. Whereas Hobbes leaves no doubt that he believes that an autocratic government is what is needed to govern men, to get them to obey the law, Locke disagreed. Based on his own observation of human beings he concluded that they tend to seek happiness, liberty, and private property and therefore seek governments that offer them the opportunity to optimize those desires.
The people Locke sees with his physical eyes want happiness and liberty; they do not want to kill each other, as Hobbes said that they are programmed to do.
Locke made it abundantly clear that government is a social contract, a contract entered by free men and their leaders; leaders are like hired guards meant to protect the people. We hire guards to guard our properties but not to be our boss.
Governments are established to protect people but not to boss them around. Governments that become dictatorial have gone way beyond what they are hired to do and are now illegitimate and must be thrown out.
Since rulers are tempted to be tyrannical, Thomas Jefferson, a student of Locke, asks folk to always have their guns handy (and resist all laws that ask them to do away with their guns for that is the first step towards tyranny). Jefferson recommends that folk ought to form posses and chase tyrants out of office. The tree of liberty is, realistically, always watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants!
Those who do not want to die for their liberties and merely wish for liberties, such as Nigerians, get tyrannical leaders. Whoever told us that life is a bed of roses? In the real world men sleep on the bed they made.
Locke wrote on several other subjects, including on economics. He proposed the labor added definition of property. In nature land appears to have no intrinsic value; it is only when human beings add value to land, improve it with their labor that it becomes property hence has monetary value. Karl Marx took on this concept and proposed a different definition of property. Let it just be said that John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes are considered the founders of the study of Economics.
George Berkeley (1685-1753):
This Irish Catholic bishop had an interesting double life. On the one hand, he was an empiricist and on the other hand he was a solipsist, an idealist of the far out kind. How so? In the here and now he accepts the empiricist's argument that the only way we know that something is real is through our senses and experiences. Reality is what we see in the external world not some woolly philosophical idea (such as Plato's forms). Okay.
But Bishop Berkeley then asks: how do you know that the world you see as out there is not really in your mind? At night you sleep and see a world that looks like the day world. He says that the world we see could be ideas in our minds, pictures that we projected out and make seem real.
If so does that follow that if a tree fell and there is no human being there to observe it fall that no sound was made? Solipsism would say yes but old Berkeley said no.
How come? In the world of the here and now if a tree fell and no one observes it fall another force observed it fall, God.
Does that then mean that God exists even if people do not exist? Ah, we are getting into interesting stuff and Berkeley does not necessarily want to go there.
Let us just say that in the here and now, Berkeley satisfied himself that what he thinks that he knows is what he knows through his experience hence he is an empiricist. He was no starry eyed idealist but an English realist. Indeed, he was so realistic that he even came to America to get his own booty from taking from the Indians.
Who said that a philosopher cannot do what it takes to make it in this world? Berkeley made contributions to physics, especially light (optics). My Alma Mater, the University of California, named ones of its campuses Berkeley after the Irish bishop! Perhaps, that is why the school produces radical thinkers, such as moi, just kidding (humor is permitted around here).
David Hume (1711-1776):
Hume, a Scotsman, was the quintessential empiricist. Pleases do not talk to him unless you want to talk about the world of the here and now, how our experiences shape our understanding and how even the self we call ourselves as are products of our history of learning, our experiences, not some small man (spirit) in our brains.
Hume was an atheist and accepted that he was determined by the environment; that the individual is a product of his world, no more, no less. There is no such thing as god, heaven and hell; no platonic forms, no Aristotelian universals, all those are bullshit.
You learn whatever you think that you know and B.F. Skinner, in our time, restated that fact. Your brain was blank, empty, when you were born; your world filled it with ideas and whatever you think or do is explainable by your history of learning.
As you might expect, Hume was going to alienate people. The run of the mill humanity believes in God and likes to be fooled by those who tell him that he is a treasured son of God and that when he dies he goes to heaven (and should fear going to hell). Whatever makes people overcome the fact that when they die they decay and end existence is acceptable to them? Whoever tells them that they are mere animals is going to be their enemies.
Hume made a lot of enemies. If I may digress, when I was in college I was called Mr. Hume, Mr. Logical Positivism, Mr. Reason on Wheels, and Reason in Locomotion; all these names were because I was a thorough empiricist and an atheist. Folk felt that their imaginary dignity was invalidated by me. I would see folk all dressed up, coxcombish, and would remind them that the bodies they slave for were mere food for worms. Nobody liked my realistic company. (Hume, a bloody white racist who believed that Africans are genetically inferior to the other races, would have cringed to see an African that his fellow white professors called by his name!)
On the other hand, if you told your girl friend that her body is gorgeous, she is very likely to be pleased for you stroke her vanity; tell her that the body she thinks that all people are admiring is a pile of protoplasm that is likely to smell to high heaven, as I was likely to tell her, and she became woman scorned, and hell knew no fury like her.
Was Hume's maximum empiricism the only way to understand reality? Are there other ways of knowing other than through our five senses and perception? The religious minister who claims that God speaks to him, is he insane for there is no God outside our bodies? What is epistemology? Respond to those questions.
Whether you know it or not, you have an epistemology and might as well have clarity on it. What you think is true might not seem true to other persons depending on their epistemology. If, for example, I believe that we can only understand things through our senses I would say that Mohamed was hallucinating when he claimed that god spoke to him through the angel Gabriel. I am merely being true to my epistemology and until you can persuade me that it is possible to know from sources other than our bodies you cannot convince me that a man could hear voices from disembodied agents. On the other hand, there are human beings who believe that spirits exist and that those talk to them and they are not insane, or are they? Enough of English empiricism; life seems more than empiricism?
Let us turn our attention to some French men, aka enlightenment philosophers. If I may ask: is there such a thing as national characters? If not how come the English tend to be empiricist, the German tend to be idealist and the French tend to be rationalist and the American tend to be pragmatic to the point of being irritating in his anti intellectual orientation?
You answer these questions for yourself and keep your answer to you and or share it with your friends.
For now let us review the conclusions of some interesting French men all of whom had sophisticated understanding of man and his nature; I am talking about Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Jean Jacque Rousseau and Pascal. Of course there were other French men who were part of the French enlightenment, such as artists and playwrights, but I am limiting myself to the philosophes, the thinkers, the philosophers.
The French enlightenment thinkers shared one characteristic: they remained Christians but were a pain in the ass of Christianity. They criticized the Christian church no end. They saw nothing good in the church's behavior. Nor were they charitable to their rulers, their king. They made a caricature of their kings and were naturally almost always apprehended and jailed (the Bastille was their second home) and yet they kept at it.
Even in jail they continued writing about the evils of their society. Upon release from jails they were invariably dumped in other countries but always managed to come back to Paris (who can stay away from the city of lights) and continue being a pain on the soft behind of Maria Antoinette.
One may ask why the French authorities didn't simply get rid of these enlightenment thinkers who made life miserable for them by executing them. You mean, execute, say, Voltaire or Rousseau? Destroy a national treasure that all French men were proud of? The Kings were not that mad. One Rousseau is worth more than a trillion French Kings! Genius comes along once in a while and the wise cherish their unique blessing to humanity. When one of these morning stars shines on our world everything changes forever; the world does not remain as it was before they were born.
Charles Montesquieu (1689-1755):
This man's fame rested on one book, the Spirit of laws. In it he stated that since human beings are given to tyranny that the only way to avoid tyrannical governments is to divide the powers of government into its seeming three branches: legislative, executive and judicial, and have different actors engage in each area and have them compete with each other. Each branch of government should be in adversarial relationship with the others and each must be striving to protect its turf and it is only from this behavior that we can have democratic governments.
If you concentrate the powers of government in one hand you are going to get what you consciously or unconsciously asked for, tyranny. Any questions? Was Montesquieu smoking something? Was he stating the truth? What do you think?
Montesquieu said that he studied the English Parliament and saw democracy at work. Actually, in the English system of government all three branches of the government are fused in Parliament.
The framers of the American polity copied from Montesquieu (and from Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, and from of course the ancients, Plato, Aristotle and the Roman Senate etc); the American founding fathers consciously divided government into three separated branches and wants them to fight each other.
What happens in the orient where they concentrate powers in one hand? What happens in the Muslim theocratic world where all power is concentrated in the hands of so-called enlightened mullah? The answer is simple. Oriental dictatorship and economic backwardness!
Are Muslims different species of human beings; do they not become corrupted by power?
Is democracy not a good form of government for Muslims? Are these folk best served by the idiotic rulers that rule them and give them nothing but ignorance and poverty (and encourage them to strap bombs on their disease ridden bodies and go and blow themselves to smithereens and kill some folks)?
Is Boko Haram (Western education is evil) good for Hausas? Is it time for return to a little primitive life styles? Has modern living become too complicated and confusing that folk must flee from it and return to less complicated times when an Arab peasant told them what to do with their lives, to chop off the limbs of men and women for looking at each other with lust in their eyes?
And having rendered folk useless dumps them on the streets of Lagos for other Nigerians to support them via arms giving.
What exactly is the madness that has taken hold of Muslims? Jesus Christ said: let him who is not a sinner judge the sinner and cast the first stone at him. Yet sinful Muslims judge others and cut off their limbs.
Where in the world did these people learn their morality? Cannot some one tell them that to understand all is to forgive all, hence forgiveness, which is the true meaning of love, is the highest form of human development?
Why does the world tolerate primitive practices in lieu of religious relativism? Why can't some one tell Muslim countries to treat their women folk as equals of men? God, human beings can be infuriating. No wonder Arthur Schopenhauer said that they are a mistake of nature and ought not to have been created.
In the main, Muslims live in dirt poverty and absurd ignorance. Who would like to live in Afghanistan where the life span is less than forty (is that what the great Allah wants it for his people, poverty and death?)
Look, the West has its problems and nobody is asking any non Westerner to blindly imitate everything Western. From where I stand, what is good in the West is her science and technology. I want to transfer those to Africa. I am also aware that science and technology have underpinning and supportive culture, a culture that permits folk to indulge their minds desire to know, to pursue inquiry into the nature of things. I could care less for the West's infantile narcissism but I do care for the West dogged pursuit of scientific knowledge.
Perhaps, old Chuck had a point after all? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Until we change human nature, Montesquieu appears a man we ought to listen to when we organize our governments.
Voltaire, aka Francois Maria Arouet (1694-1778):
Voltaire was responsible for the French encyclopedia, the hallmark of the enlightenment, a no mean accomplishment; additionally, he wrote satires, such as Candide. In his satires he made fun of Leibniz's notion that we live in the best possible worlds.
So this world is good, eh; so God protects people, eh? Voltaire had his Candide character go around the world and at each place experiencing the particular calamities that is the usual fare of those living there.
No one with any kind of eyes to see can say that we live in a best of all possible worlds; even a child could create a better world. I have never been able to understand those who thank God for creating them; placing them in this hell they call a beautiful world.
Ours is a world where men kill men for the sake of doing so and no god stops them and nature wipes out people and that is all there is to it. It is simply silly trying to please churchmen to say that their god created a beautiful world, as Leibniz did.
That is not to say that we should all be crying because of our horrible fate. Voltaire isn't asking us to cry over spilled milk but to be like men and accept our rotten fate and make the most of it.
Interestingly, Voltaire did not do what one would have expected him to do, reject the god hypothesis; he fancied himself a deist, a person who believes in an impersonal god, not the Christians theistic god.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778):
Very few human beings have had such great impact on the affairs of men as Rousseau. His book, Social Contract, was literally the Bible of the Jacobins that over threw the ancient regime, the French Monarchy. This man's impact on humanity is total.
In the Social Contract he talked about how we are born free but everywhere live in chains. How did this come to be?
He took us on an uneducated foray into the life of those he called noble savages (American Indians) and fancied how they lived in harmony with nature and are free. Actually, the noble savages were busy chopping off each others heads and Rousseau simply did not know it. In Africa, Africans were running around capturing each other and selling them to either Arab or European slavery. So much for the natural goodness of unspoiled savages!
Nevertheless, Rousseau's point is well taken: that living in so-called civilized societies does a number on people. Civilization means passing all kinds of laws, including laws on how to urinate (in raising our children we used Dr Spock's baby caring manual and included in it is how to have the baby sit on the potty!).
In America professional law makers at many levels of governance (federal, state, county and city) are busy, day and night, churning out laws. There are laws in the books on how to have sex, not kidding. If a crusading district attorney wants to get you he could bring you to court on the basis that how you have sex with your wife is illegal. That is what Rousseau was talking about.
There are too many laws and any one who tried obeying all of them is a slave, not a free man.
Rousseau was the typical over socialized child; he was a brainy neurotic child (his nanny spanked him when he was eight years old and he experienced an erection and from then on associated sex with older women; and made the most of it by always cohabiting with rich old women who, incidentally, support him while he wrote his books). Rousseau was messed up, big time. He had many children with different women and abandoned all of them. The man who wrote on how to improve the world did not try to improve his own children. The lesson here is to love children so that they do not grow up to become neurotic geniuses; we could use healthy geniuses (can a normal person be a genius? Carl Rogers thinks so; see his book, Client Centered Therapy; he talks about how to accept children in an unconditionally positive manner, not just when they behave as we want them to but at all times.)
Rousseau was seeking a way to make governments less controlling, to augment liberty in our lives. He took issue with the monarchy and showed how the concept of divine right of kings is a crock.
Governments are legitimate because they represent the will of the people; governments are a function of social contract.
If the people did not elect their king he is illegitimate, period. He has to go; there are no two ways of going about it.
Of course, Rousseau was arrested and charged with sedition and jailed and eventually ran out of town. He migrated from one European city to another, always finding rich dowagers to support him while spending his time at Libraries. Rousseau probably had a personality disorder, such as paranoid personality disorder, for he was always accusing folk of doing bad things to him and quarreling with them. His friend today is his enemy tomorrow.
As noted, his ideas led to chopping off the powdered heads of the French King and his "let them eat cake" queen. Rousseau's ideas literally changed the world.
Rousseau dabbled in many areas, including how to educate children (his novel, Emile delineated the best way to raise children so that they would not turn out neurotic, not suppressed so that their natural instincts are driven into their unconscious mind and from their make their lives miserable, this was pure Freudian psychology).
Rousseau touched on just about every aspect of society and had an over sized impact on everything in his world and still does so today.
America's hippies were actually trying to live as Rousseau's noble savages. To the present those interested in educational reforms take a look at Rousseau's suggestions.
Clearly, Rousseau was a genius albeit a troubled one (his book, Confessions read like what we deal with in psychotherapy sessions with our upper class clients, their complicated lives, their confusions etc). Rousseau's courage and honesty in describing his messed up sexuality gave rise to a genre of literature that insists on truth, not the fiction, the made up trash that second rate writers churn out as literature.
In his Pensees, Pascal recounted his experience of mystical union with God. His description of his sense of oneness with all there is, aka God, appears to be congruent with what mystics all over the world describe as the experience that led them to believe in the reality of spirit and eternal life. Pascal therefore tends to be of interest to theologians and those persons intent on demonstrating the reality of God. In his day work, he was a mathematician and noted French scientist.
In this lecture we looked at some men whose ideas prepared Westerners' entry into the world Westerners now live, secular, scientific world. Those thinkers were not quite scientists but their thoughts led the path to science.
My thesis is that people and societies go through a certain trajectory as they move from a less to a more scientific state. Those persons and societies who are intent on moving towards scientific states ought to study how those who have already accomplished that state did it.
I believe that in the future our present particularistic cultures would be replaced by a universal science based culture; the scientific culture is the fate of all mankind. I make no apologies to any one about my preferred scientific civilization.
I am particularly peeved by those Africans who talk about returning to their African culture. What African culture are they talking about, the one that for over a thousand years (900-1900 AD) rewarded folks who sold their brothers and sisters to Arabs and Europeans. Let us not make fools of ourselves, okay. Let us seek universalistic and self evidently useful ways of relating to each other.
Science posits universal principles that apply everywhere in this world; we must replicate that situation in the area of culture; we must come up with a universal culture that applies everywhere in this world. It must be a culture that treats all human beings as the same, no exceptions permitted.
No more religion induced maltreatment of human beings. The time for religious superstitions is over.
Nationalism and the idea of cultural relativism is a refuge for the scoundrel. There are good and bad cultures, not all cultures are equal; let us stop fooling ourselves with the gibberish of multiculturalism.
Our job is to seek a positive culture that treats all human beings, black and white, men and women, adult and children, as the same and equal, and gives all of them access to education and employment opportunities.
Discrimination of any kind must be eradicated from the surface of this earth. The United Nations Organization ought to make its self useful by requiring its Muslim members to treat their women as the equals of men and give them every opportunity that men have.
Next lecture: German Idealistic Thinkers.
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
August 27, 2009