Per Caritatem

“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.


11 Responses so far

Cynthia, this is a very interesting post. I have to wonder though, whether these critiques of scientism assume a more “holistic” view of man


Xavier,

Thanks for your comment. Would you unpack what you mean?

Kind regards,
Cynthia


It looks like we have some common thinking here. Part of the problem is that there is a dichotomy between ivory tower science and real world science. For example, neither Nietzsche nor Dostoyevski were practicing scientists, nor were any of the other authors of the current scientific metanarrative that is embraced by the ivory tower. The real world operates on a different metanarrative(s), although it would be difficult to say what it is due to the fact that there isn’t any spokesman for real world science.


Cynthia, thanks for these posts. I just read Notes from the Underground for the first time this week.

Though I would not agree with the dichotomous view so prevalent in the thinkers above…

Do you think Dostoyevsky agrees with his narrator? Is Nietzsche actually advocating a split mind, or is he saying with some regret that it is becoming necessary?


Hi Byron,

Those are excellent questions. I’ll forego the first one in light of wanting to hear your take first. Regarding the second, N. does seem to speak of the situation as a regretful, yet necessary one. He does though appear to advocate (at least in certain works) a kind of Kantian view as I described in the post.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Cheers,
Cynthia


Apologies for that “hit-and-run” post I left the other day (by the way, this is an excellent blog. I’ve added you to my blogroll). I do take it as true that humans are more than “rational beings.” What I should have said was that (at least) for Nietzsche, the concern is not to insist on some holistic view of man, but rather the tacit assumption that the two realms (science and metaphysics) are mutually exclusive or have no relation to each other (hence the “two-brain” hypothesis). If we wanted to emphasize to believers man’s holistic nature, shouldn’t this be one of the last places to look for instruction? Then again, I may be way off :-)


Hi Xavier,

Glad you are back. I do think that there is much in Nietzsche that is instructive for believers. Just as St. Augustine in “On Christian teaching” encourages Christians to “pillage the Egyptian gold” from various non-believing philosophers (as he himself did) and then to place these truths within a Christian worldview, so too (in my opinion) we should engage philosophers like Nietzsche, not simply with a goal to negatively critique him (though we should do that) but also with a goal of what we can learn from him.

I would highly recommend a post by Byron Smith, “Why I Love Nietzsche.” It can be found on Ben Myers site at the following link:

http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2006/06/for-love-of-god-20-why-i-love.html

In my opinion, Nietzsche’s critique of the Platonist influence on Christianity is on the money.

As to my wording in the post, perhaps I should have simply excluded the part in paranthesis for clarity’s sake.

Cheers,
Cynthia


Byron,

I recently added you to my blogroll–I’ve been meaning to do it for sometime, but kept forgetting!

Cheers,
Cynthia

For those of you who haven’t checked it out, Byron’s blog, http://nothing-new-under-the-sun.blogspot.com/, is worth your time.


Cynthia,

Thanks for the quotes and the thoughts. Your work on this site is admirable.

I would say is that part of the problem we have to day is precisely with scientism (as you conclude), for it is a metanarrative that would subsume under itself the totality of consideration about our existence in the world. In that regard, looney (if I understand him rightly) is on the money, when he observes the dichotomy between “ivory tower science and real world science.” Real world science has a “humility” in its aspirations.

Finally, when one suggests that human beings are more than “rational animals” or “rational beings,” we are certainly not suggesting that we are ever less than that, are we? That is what someone like Nietzsche would have contended regarding faith — it is, for him, a kind of false consciousness, is it not?

The question, then, about relating the “two brains,” is really a false dilemma. What matters is what counts as “rationality” (see Alisdair MacIntyre’s “Whose Justice, Which Rationality”), not whether one could reconcile the two aspects of our existence. That, itself, strikes me as a kind of Platonist dualism.


Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comment and your kind words.

You wrote: “Finally, when one suggests that human beings are more than “rational animals” or “rational beings,” we are certainly not suggesting that we are ever less than that, are we? That is what someone like Nietzsche would have contended regarding faith — it is, for him, a kind of false consciousness, is it not?” In suggesting that humans are more than rational animals, I am (with you I take it) not asserting that we are less, just that an aspect should not be what essentially defines us. Personally, I think that being image Dei might be a better way to “define” a human being.

Also, regarding the last part of your comment, “The question, then, about relating the “two brains,” is really a false dilemma. What matters is what counts as “rationality” (see Alisdair MacIntyre’s “Whose Justice, Which Rationality”), not whether one could reconcile the two aspects of our existence. That, itself, strikes me as a kind of Platonist dualism.” This strikes me as a good way to look at things—a very presuppositional way at that. MacIntyre’s book is only my list of MUST reads, and with my birthday coming up, I am hoping that I will actualize that desire soon : )

Cheers,
Cynthia


Cynthia,
1) Thanks (I have just corrected a similar oversight).
2) Happy Birthday
3) I had read a healthy dose of irony in Dostoyevsky’s narrator in Notes from the Underground. He is sad individual stuck in his own thoughts and bombastic self-perception (aren’t we all? Or at least, well, many of us…), who unwittingly brings redemption to another by the end of the narrative. But is he D? (Or rather, to what extent and in which ways?) I leave that for the D experts. Love to hear the thoughts of others on it.
4) As for Nietzsche’s Kantianism, I admit that it’s there, but I wonder whether he works his way away from it in his later writings. I realise this is the refuge of those without an argument (or without the time to pursue one at the moment): ‘yes, but he gets over it later…’

I’ll get over it one day.