Nietzsche and Dostoyevski on the Effects of a "Purely" Scientific Metanarrative
“And here you have begun upon it. Indeed, if there really is some day discovered a formula for all our desires and caprices—that is, an explanation of what they depend upon, by what laws they arise, how they develop, what they are aiming at in one case and in another and so on, that is a real mathematical formula—then, most likely, man will at once cease to feel desire, indeed, he will be certain to” (Fyodor Dostoyevski, Notes from the Underground, Part I.VIII).
In a similar vein, Nietzsche writes,
“If science produces ever less joy in itself and takes ever greater joy in casting suspicion on the comforts of metaphysics, religion, and art, then the greatest source of pleasure, to which mankind owes almost its whole humanity, is impoverished. Therefore a higher culture must give man a double brain, two brain chambers, as it were, one to experience science, and one to experience nonscience. Lying next to one another, without confusion, separable, self-contained: our health demands this. […] If this demand made by higher culture is not satisfied, we can almost certainly predict the further course of human development: interest in truth will cease, the less it gives pleasure, illusion, error, and fantasies, because they are linked with pleasure, will reconquer their former territory step by step; the ruin of the sciences and relapse into barbarism follow next. Mankind will have to begin to weave its cloth from the beginning again, after having, like Penelope, destroyed it in the night. But who will guarantee that we will keep finding the strength to do so?” (paragraph 251, “Signs of a Higher and Lower Culture”).
Both authors seems to be saying that passions (as found in religion, art, etc.) are what drive us forward and that science (utilizing “objective” reason) lacks this kind of drive, as it functions as a kind of regulator of passion. In essence, the scientific metanarrative claims that truth lies in science, not in metaphysics and religion. However, according to Dostoyevski and Nietzsche, if all we have is truth (meaning the truth of science), we would have no reason to keep on living because the kind of truth science gives is a humble truth and does not satisfy the core of our being. As a result, we have to have another side to us—a side strictly separate from the other side—a side that inspires us and motivates us to press on. Here of course we see many similarities with Kant who restricts science to a realm of universally valid judgments—a realm primarily of quantifying and doing experiments that are reproducible. In contrast, religion and metaphysics according to Kant cannot produce these universally valid judgments because we have no faculty for making universally valid judgments for objects beyond our possible experience.
Though I would not agree with the dichotomous view so prevalent in the thinkers above, I do see their critique of scient-ism, as well as their desire to understand the human person as something more than a “rational animal” (i.e., a more holistic view of the human person) as “on the mark” and instructive for believers.