Monday, September 17, 2007

'3:10 to Yuma' and the World's Last Whimper

“…[Alasdair] MacIntyre writes, ‘At the beginning of modern moral philosophy- which I date in the 1780s- the moral agent as traditionally understood almost, if not quite, disappeared from view. The moral agent’s character, the structure of his desires and dispositions, became at best a peripheral rather than a central topic for moral philosophy, thus losing the place assigned to it by the vast majority of moral philosophers from Plato to Hume.’ Choice- conceived by Kant and Reid as deciding between desire and the requirements of morality and later by Sartre as the condition of an individual’s authenticity- replaced character as crucial for moral agency. And the rest, as the story goes, is history.” – Stanley Hauerwas, “The Virtues of Alasdair MacIntyre”, First Things, October 2007, p. 37.

What is said above by the theologian Stanley Hauerwas in summary of the philosopher and Catholic Christian Alasdair MacIntyre’s view of moral philosophy of modernty is interesting to me. When I discovered many years ago in an obscure nook in my dad’s library a copy of a book with the intriguing title, Celebration of Discipline, which resonated for me as one adrift in a slouchy milieu, I was quickly swept into its challenging and serious depth. It was especially through Richard Foster that talked of the “spiritual disciplines” began to revive at least in the populist Christian culture in which I was growing like a weed. Foster’s book issued a challenge that still resonates with me over the years. It was a book that was the fruit of prayer and listening. He opens his book: “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths.” –Celebration of Discipline, p. 1.

A few pages later he writes, “We are accustomed to thinking of sin as individual acts of disobedience to God. That is true enough as far as it goes, but Scripture goes much farther. In Romans the apostle Paul frequently referred to sin as a condition that plagues the human race (i.e., Rom, 3:9-1. Sin as a condition works its way out through the ‘bodily members’; that is, the ingrained habits of the body (Rom. 7:5ff.). And there is no slavery that can compare to the slavery of ingrained habits of sin. In Isaiah 57:20 we are told, ‘The wicked are like the tossing of the sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.’ The sea does not need to do anything secial to produce mire and dirt; that is the result of its natural motions. That is also true of us when we are under the condition of sin. The natural motions of our lives produce mire and dirt. Sin is part of the internal structure of our lives. No special effort is needed. No wonder we feel trapped. Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack. We rely on willpower and determination… Willpower will never succeed in dealing with ingrained habits of sin…The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us…Law-bound Disciplines breathe death…” p. 3-4, 6, 7.

My mind has often returned to this book and its pregnant words on “spiritual disciplines” such as fasting and study and prayer and service. I heartily commend the book but can tell you some criticisms of it too that I am aware of but which do little to my mind to deface some of the rich veins that can be found in it. I bring it up because what is said of modern moral philosophy, and MacIntyre’s revitalizing critique of it, and work in it, parallels what Foster observed. Richard Foster’s book, if it is taken like a self-help book with maxims for the go-getter to hyper drive the will-to-power-it into the megadeath, bezerker-rage blackout and destruction, becomes of miserably little use. However, as a call to deeper Christian living, to Christian vision in Christian community that calls us to walk with God (not whim with God in a flash-fire of energetic, violent, ineffectualness), to depth as people of God who, no bones about it, know God, who know the Shepherd’s voice and come, it impresses me as on the mark.

Freshly from seeing the film “3:10 to Yuma”, I am still struck by what I take to be the abject poverty of the moral vision, the moral philosophy, expressed in the movie. It seems in some ways to me a popular expression of the long trend in the impoverishment of “the Western world” in its moral philosophy which MacIntyre, Hauerwas, Foster and so many others have noted, and in their way, done their best to counteract. In this movie the character played by Russell Crowe is a Satanic figure who quotes the Bible and accuses others for crimes he himself does. The bizarre thing is how the character seems to be held up to emulate when nothing consequential in the movie is done to establish any redeeming virtue in his character, it seems to me. He points out that a bounty hunter he knows, though being an outwardly pious man, has participated in genocidal acts against Indians in retaliation for attacking trains. Yet, his character also participated in genocidal acts, killing families. The death throes of the moral philosophy in this film seem to me so weak that hardly the slightest movement can be detected. The film is interesting at times in its degree of accuracy of depiction of evil but then it merely becomes an embrace of evil and a lionization of a fool. There is at the end a bizarre feint at a ‘redemptive moment”, so to speak, where the violent and senseless killer is beguiled by the thought of joining in league with the father of a boy in order to create a show, a legend to write on the heart of the boy of nobleness with purpose that does not actually exist. Both the father and Crowe’s character want to appear good instead of be good and they hope that a story instead of the truth will have a benign effect on the boy. The miserable poverty of this view evokes a pity. (People (me above all) need the Lord!)

What in the end appears to me a whim, a very violent whim, is supposedly the redemptive moment. This is the weak climax of the decline of moral philosophy. This is the whimper that T.S. Eliot refers to when he asks how the world ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper. That Crowe’s character has not made a substantive change seems clear to me in the end in that once the story he wishes to paint seems securely imprinted on the boy, he is ready to go back to what he was before the moment. Nothing has changed. It was merely catharsis instead of grace. His character has not changed. He has merely had a self-delusional, self-help moment, in his case involving the death of a lot of others, for a cathartic “choice”. The story of moral action, according to this view, is a mere story we construct- a captive truth, like the ark born away by the Philistines. Crowe’s character bears away the ark, the symbol of the Lord’s presence, as a story he cherishes like an aesthetic bauble, something he does not comprehend. Moral action has become merely an aesthetic notion, a “glinting transiency”. (Nietzschean aesthetic materialism, anyone?)

The character is similar in some ways to the main character played by Tom Cruise in Collateral, another violent movie which lionizes a character who is a fool, a Social Darwinist Nietzschean materialist, who like Wade, mentors others to sieze life by embracing his ethos of moral fog, “beyond good and evil” mentality, like a beast, a wolf, freeing itself to live at bottom by the fundamental truth of its assumed biological nature, a sham authenticity from which springs a fountain of evil. (In that movie the character invokes Darwin’s name as justification for his nihilism).

Contrast that with what Hauerwas says of Alasdair MacIntyre’s lifework: “If I am right about the trajectory of MacIntyre’s work, the central contention in After Virtue is his remark that ‘the concept of an intelligible action is a more fundamental concept than that of an action”. If I understand right, this means, applied to moral philosophy and to “3:10 to Yuma” that the choices have become almost unintelligible and absurd, mummified returns of the dead, because they are removed from the context of character in community upheld by the grace and provision of God. As the sociologist/philosopher Charles Taylor says, the moral sources have been occulted. The assumptions of modernity are driving one to it. It is better to seek a respite from the object lessons God gives in such cases by prayer and fasting and humbling ourselves before the Lord and listening to the deep call to our depths rather than giving way to the pretentious mystique of the Satanic.

Monday, September 10, 2007


“One would think that the generation I have the honor of living in must be a kingdom of gods. But this is by no means so.; the vigor, the courage, that wants to be the creator of its own good fortune in this way, indeed, its own creator, is an illusion, and when the age loses the tragic, it gains despair. In the tragic there is implicit a sadness and a healing that one indeed must not disdain, and when someone wishes to gain himself in the superhuman way our age tries to do it, he loses himself and becomes comic. Every individual, however original he is, is still a child of God, of his age, of his nation, of his family, of his friends, and only in them does he have his truth. If he wants to be the absolute in all this, his relativity, then he becomes ludicrous.” –Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part 1, “The Tragic in Ancient Drama”, I-123, (p. 145).

“Now, what will this human voice say? It will say: Man must be biologically re-bred. The obsolete apparatus of the created human organism must be modernized. ‘Biometrics’ (as this new method is called) will take these long-since outworn designs of the Creator, this hoary and antiquated old dodderer, and breed the new man, the space man. Why do I mention this story? Because it expresses a feeling about life which is shared more or less by all of us, even though it may not be stated as drastically as it is here. We can describe this feeling by reference to an idea which has already become almost a commonplace: we are convinced that we can make anything. Good heavens, what have we not made with out technology! We can see things that happen a thousand miles away, [etc.]…why shouldn’t we be able also to change the biological construction of the author of all these things, man himself? After all, this is what the Marxists have always wanted to do. All you need to do- this is their formula- is to change the social conditions and man will change. Then you can turn him from a person with an unpredictable will and an unmanageable conscience into a compliant marionette, indeed, into an insect which will conform without friction to the termite state. The possibilities are endless. No rules are laid down for us, nothing is prescribed as far as creation is concerned; we are not limited by any alleged Lord of the world. “Everything is created,” you say. Nonsense! Everything can be made!... They have their proper place in it because all this concerns our soul. For anybody who holds that everything can be made must want to make everything. And anybody who has taken everything into hand must then keep on moving that hand. He can no longer be still. Our overactivity, which constantly keeps us on the merry-go-round and yet, no matter how fast we go, gets us nowhere but only makes us dizzy, is not caused by the fact that we were so nervous or that we had no time. It is just the opposite. We are nervous and we have no time because we think everything will stop without us and because we think we are so tremendously important- we parvenus in this old business of creation! And this is why we can never let anything get out of our hands and be entrusted to others. That’s why we hold on to everything convulsively and thus wear ourselves out all over again. Undoubtedly, all this is connected with the ultimate decisions of our life and not so much at all with medicine or with the problem of our modern way of life. And because we have thus taken over the management of the bankrupt assets of creation, because now we do everything ourselves and therefore must always be producing something, we never get away from constant care and concern. For anybody who takes everything upon himself finds that everything depends on himself…Luther once said, ‘While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer the gospel runs its course.’ That is truly the finest and most comforting thing I have ever heard said about beer and trust in God….The fanatics who believe that man can “make” everything are really fools at bottom. They are not realistic at all, even though they have the cold, sober eyes of hardheaded men of fact. But the man who has grasped the mystery of the seed growing secretly and, like the farmer in the parable, goes out and does his part of the job and then commits the fields to God and lies down to sleep in his name- that man is doing not only the most godly thing but the wisest thing. For godliness and wisdom are far more closely related than out philosophy and the wisdom of the ‘managers’ ever dream.” –Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, (1959), “The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly”, p. 84-85.

"Of course, there was always a certain oafish audacity in Fletcher’s degenerate driveling about “morons” and “defectives,” given that there is good cause to suspect, from a purely utilitarian vantage, that academic ethicists—especially those like Fletcher, who are notoriously mediocre thinkers, possessed of small culture, no discernible speculative gifts, no records of substantive philosophical achievement, and execrable prose styles—constitute perhaps the single most useless element in society. If reproduction is not a right but a social function, should any woman be allowed to bring such men into the world? And should those men be permitted, in their turn, to sire offspring? I ask this question entirely in earnest, because I think it helps to identify the one indubitable truth about all social movements towards eugenics: namely, that the values that will determine which lives are worth living, and which not, will always be the province of persons of vicious temperament. If I were asked to decide what qualities to suppress or encourage in the human species, I might first attempt to discover if there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to moral idiocy and then, if there is, to eliminate it; then there would be no more Joseph Fletchers (or Peter Singers, or Linus Paulings, or James Rachels), and I might think all is well. But, of course, the very idea is a contradiction in terms. Decisions regarding who should or should not live can, by definition, be made only by those who believe such decisions should be made; and therein lies the horror that nothing can ever exorcise from the ideology behind human bioengineering. Transhumanism, as a moral philosophy, is so risibly fabulous in its prognostications, and so unrelated to anything that genomic research yet promises, that it can scarcely be regarded as anything more than a pathetic dream; but the metaphysical principles it presumes regarding the nature of the human are anything but eccentric. Joseph Fletcher was a man with a manifestly brutal mind, desperately anxious to believe himself superior to the common run of men, one who apparently received some sort of crypto-erotic thrill from his cruel fantasies of creating a slave race, and of literally branding others as his genetic inferiors, and of exercising power over the minds and bodies of the low-born. And yet his principles continue to win adherents in the academy and beyond it, and his basic presuppositions about the value and meaning of life are the common grammar of a shockingly large portion of bioethicists. If ever the day comes when we are willing to consider a program, however modest, of improving the species through genetic planning and manipulation, it will be exclusively those who hold such principles and embrace such presuppositions who will determine what the future of humanity will be. And men who are impatient of frailty and contemptuous of weakness are, at the end of the day, inevitably evil.

“I repeat: Let no one take me as a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with any who enslave you or exploit you or take advantage of you or push themselves forward or slap you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!” 2 Corinthians 11: 16-21

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Poor, Powerless America

"Lately Americans have enjoyed pretending they are powerless, disenfranchised individually and deep in decline as a society, perhaps to grant themselves latitude responsible people do not have or desire. In fact, our ability to do harm, by act or omission, is great beyond all reckoning, and greater by the measure of our refusal to accept this fact and its implications. Powerless people can hardly demand coherency of themsleves, since they must always react to the forces they cannot trust, whose wiles they cannot anticipate. They are safe from responsibility, safe from blame." -Marilynne Robinson, "Facing Reality", The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, p.78-79.

Truth is God.

[Something we should pause to consider, it seems to me, is the stress these two men of unquestioned moral strength and courage lay on truth, which in one place Ghandi calls "my God". The vey concept of truth is now questioned among the church as well as outside but we should ask, it seems to me, whether we can act nobly like these men if we forsake the concept, the quest and the life of truth. A book by Richard Rorty and another has the title "What Use Is Truth?" but it seems the wrong question to ask. If truth is used it is abused in our hearts and minds. Truth is God.]

Ghandi on Truth (and Study): "Generally speaking, observation of the law of Truth is understood merely to mean that we must speak the truth. But we... should understand... Truth in a much wider sense. There should be Truth in thought, Truth in speech, and Truth in action. To the man who has realized this Truth in its fulness, nothing else remains to be known, because all knowledge is necesaarily included in it. What is not inlcuded in it is not Truth, and so not true knowledge; and there can be no inward peace without true knowledge. If we once learn how to apply this never-failing test of Truth, we will at one be able tofind out what is worth doing, what is worth seeing, what is worth reading." - from Yeravda Mandir, qtd. in Ghandhi: A Man for Humanity, p. 19. Ghandhi's word cause me to recall Solzhenitsyn's, which parallels Ghandi's so I will also quote at length a relevant passage from Solzhenitsyn here what I have quoted elsewhere: ""When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: ``I am violence. Run away, make way for me--I will crush you.'' But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally--since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies--all loyalty lies in that. And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me. This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism. We do not exhort ourselves. We have not sufficiently matured to march into the squares and shout the truth out loud or to express aloud what we think. It's not necessary. It's dangerous. But let us refuse to say that which we do not think. This is our path, the easiest and most accessible one, which takes into account out inherent cowardice, already well rooted. And it is much easier--it's dangerous even to say this--than the sort of civil disobedience which Gandhi advocated. Our path is to talk away fro the gangrenous boundary. If we did not paste together the dead bones and scales of ideology, if we did not sew together the rotting rags, we would be astonished how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and subside. That which should be naked would then really appear naked before the whole world. So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood--of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one's family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies--or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries. And from that day onward he: Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth. Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role. Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music. Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue. Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept. Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities. Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question. Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda. Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed. Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook. No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice. But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude. " -Sozhenitsyn in "Live Not by Lies!",

Brave New World, Materialism and Artificial Happiness

"Brave New World at 75" “‘Mr. Huxley, of course, sees so clearly what the psychologists do not see, that such a world must give up not only war, but also spiritual conflicts of any kind, not only superstition, but also religion, not only literary criticism but also great creative art of whatever kind, not only economic chaos, but also all the beauty of the old traditional things, not only the hard and ugly parts of ethics, but the tender and beautiful parts too.’ Lamenting the death of metaphysics, Needham wrote that science, which was born of philosophy, had overtaken its parent to become “the only substratum for Reason” and “nothing more nor less than the Mythology accompanying a Technique.”

[ME: *Science was born of philosophy, especially Baconian and Cartesian philosophy. It is not a surprise that science has overtaken its parent, philosophy, when one considers that the philosophy that it was largely born from heaped contempt on philosophy and religion. See Descartes’s Meditations.

*Suppressing spiritual conflicts based on a wager that everything is material would seemingly be sensible if materialism was adequately shown to be true. But if it is not, solving spiritual conflicts by trying to suppress spiritual reality is bound to exacerbate the spiritual condition causing the conflict to express itself in more extreme ways. That is what happened in the political mass movements of modernity.

*The Epicurean mythos of materialism attempts to solve mankind’s problems by dismissing religious claims altogether. This “terrible simplification” is hardly a cure. The Soviet Union was powered by a materialist philosophy whose ostensibly humanitarian motives of justice did not end as the materialists predicted. The Enlightenment solution to the wars of religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has proven a hoary nightmare. One might consider Nietzsche’s maxim at this point (paraphrasing from memory): “When you go to hunt monsters, be careful that you do not become one yourself.” That is indeed what happened. Now collective amnesia is cultivated to prop up the materialist narrative of the world, the meaning of unmeaning that they fitfully ascribe to the cosmos.]

“Needham saw in Huxley’s book an illustration of something Russell had observed: the mutinous tendency of the modern scientific enterprise, as the means of mastering nature overtake its original intended ends. “It is as if a number of passages from Mr. Bertrand Russell’s recent book The Scientific Outlook had burst into flower, and had rearranged themselves in patches of color like man-eating orchids in a tropical forest,” he suggested. Indeed, Russell’s blueprint of a scientifically ordered society in his 1931 book is very similar to Huxley’s World State, highly regimented and organized around the principles of comfort, stability, and efficiency.” - Caitrin Nicol , “Brave New World at 75”, New Atlantis, Number 16, Spring 2007. (Quoting Joseph Needham, a Cambridge biochemist and embryologist contemporaneous with Aldous Huxley).

[ME: “highly regimented and organized around the principles of comfort, stability, and efficiency”. In other words, Epicurean ataraxia. The lukewarmth of it and the repugnance naturally felt toward this including by Russell is of the essence. The root suppression of primal reality in order to make the flashing, soulless halls of power is sensed but not understood by the materialist who axiomatically, schematically can not incorporate the signals of transcendence into his understanding, making his understanding a mockery of knowledge the more perfect it gets. Only in the materialists imperfection and backsliding from their doctrine is their knowledge good. ]

“In a review of Brave New World called “We Don’t Want to Be Happy,” Russell elaborated on the promise and perils of this scientific deliverance. Huxley, he wrote, “has undertaken to make us sad by the contemplation of a world without sadness.” After describing the material comforts of the fictional society, he reflected on the puzzling instinct to recoil from it:In spite of these merits, the world which Mr. Huxley portrays is such as to arouse disgust in every normal reader, and obviously in Mr. Huxley himself. I have been asking myself why, and trying hard to think that his well-regulated world would really be an improvement upon the one in which we live. At moments I can make myself think this, but I can never make myself feel it. The feeling of revulsion against a well-ordered world has various sources: one of these is that we do not value happiness as much as we sometimes think we do.Unlike the other great dystopias, Huxley’s World State, though totalitarian in its orthodoxy, is ostensibly ordered on the wants of the governed rather than the governors. Threats are rarely used or needed. Rule by bread and circuses has proved more potent than force—and more pernicious, precisely because every means of control is a perversion of something people really want. The only people with any capacity for dissatisfaction are a handful of Alphas, who are as unable to articulate their objection as Russell is. It is difficult to reject the sinister when by slight distortion it masquerades as the sublime. Why feeling should be able to distinguish these things while reason cannot is an interesting question, one which could be left forever unsettled by tinkering, through biotechnology or psychological control, with what Huxley (in a later foreword to the book) called “the natural forms and expressions of life itself.One such expression, of course, is a certain measure of autonomy over the meaning and direction of our lives. Its total absence in the World State is ominously signified by the professional title of the genetic engineers: the Assistant Predestinators. But conflating the influences and experiences that shape our identities with the biological reconstruction of life, Russell, revolted but bemused, reasoned himself into a corner:But we are shocked—more, I think, than we ought to be—by the idea of molding people scientifically instead of allowing them to grow. We have a notion that we can choose what we will be, and that we should not wish to be robbed of this choice by scientific manipulators drugging us before we are born, giving us electric shocks in infancy, and whispering platitudes to us throughout our childhood.But this feeling is, of course, irrational. In the course of nature the embryo grows through natural causes. The infant learns haphazard lessons of pleasure and pain which determine his taste. The child listens to moral propaganda, which may fail through being unscientific, but which, none the less, is intended to mold the character just as much as Mr. Huxley’s whispering machines. It seems, therefore, that we do not object to molding a human being, provided it is done badly; we only object when it is done well.”In the end, Russell said, “what we cling to so desperately is the illusion of freedom, an illusion which is tacitly negated by all moral instruction and all propaganda. To us human life would be intolerable without this illusion. In Mr. Huxley’s Brave New World men live quite comfortably without it.”[ME: Russell, like Dawkins today and so many other materialists, in their idolatrous exuberance for the power of the method, become apologists for the enslavery of man. He, like Dawkins, must axiomatically call freedom an illusion. To me this seems fundamentally because freedom can not be incorporated into the mathematical method, which would mean that Descartes was wrong in his extrapolation, the modern materialistic extrapolation. No, man must be cipherable under the Method as well. This is the initial commitment. You don’t want to have an embarrassing God of the Gaps exposure moment do you? So stick to the Method like a madman even when it means sacrifice, massive sacrifice. Thus an expression of faith such as the following by Sam Harris is commonplace: “In a follow-up article, Fish deepens his inquiry by looking at the kind of evidence that atheists like Dawkins and Harris present for their "scientific" outlook. Harris, for example, writes that "there will probably come a time when we will achieve a detailed understanding of human happiness and of ethical judgments themselves at the level of the brain." (Qtd. in: the sake of these future dream worlds present life is to be sacrificed. Such was the Communist schtick as well, and they sacrificed millions of lives to that illusory end.What I find especially interesting in this article’s treatment of Russell is what it reveals of Russell’s ambivalence, of his unrest in exerting his “logical”, “scientific” point of view when it comes to human freedom and happiness. He struggles with Huxley’s insight. After all, it is a story envisioning his materialist dream world. He cannot figure out why it is repugnant and suggests it is because we don’t value happiness. His ambivalence is revealing of the materialist suppression of reality in their pursuit, in an idolatrous fever, of a feeling-less world of quantified happiness, one that repulses them when it is reflected to them in a prophetic mirror. The aspect of human freedom is a key aspect of materialism. I do not understand those who claim freedom and meaning as materialists (perhaps if they could explain) but their adopted spokesmen are clear enough in their repudiation of these. But it necessarily involves a suppression and disingenuousness to go forward with the materialist program. I sympathize with those who call Marx and Nietzsche “intellectual swindlers” on this point. If everything is determined by things outside of us, who is driving the boat? And why are materialists moralizing and avidly, in some cases, rabidly, trying to persuade and move the course of events as if they were, well, free agents? Because they lie and suppress. That seems the best reason I can make out for how they could hold such belief contradictory to their behavior. Has anyone come up with a better answer?]."In the Grand Inquisitor’s indictment, he pits Christ’s offer of redemption against the church’s promise of security:With us everyone will be happy, and they will no longer rebel or destroy each other, as in your freedom, everywhere. Oh, we shall convince them that they will only become free when they resign their freedom to us, and submit to us. Will we be right, do you think, or will we be lying? They themselves will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember to what horrors of slavery and confusion your freedom led them."{ME: How to escape the weight of glory in being free? Succumb to materialist doctrine}.“In the thematic climax of the novel, Mond defends his spiritually arid civilization by recalling the terrible history that preceded it. Love, literature, liberty, and even science itself are sacrificed in this most scientific of societies—all to serve the goals of happiness and stability. “Happiness,” Mond says, “is a hard master—particularly other people’s happiness. A much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth.” To achieve lasting social happiness, all else must be given up…”“Christ’s answer is a resurrection and a kiss; John parries, thrusts, and grandstands. His haphazard education has ill prepared him to argue with the World Controller—but armed with Shakespeare, desperation, and an excess of nobility, he bravely embraces those things which once made bravery necessary:

“Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death, and danger dare, even for an eggshell. Isn’t there something in that?” he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond.

“Quite apart from God—though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”

“There’s a great deal in it,” the Controller replied.

“Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.”

“What?” questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

“It’s one of the conditions of perfect health. That’s why we’ve made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.”

“V.P.S.?”“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.”

“But I like the inconveniences.”

“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.”

There was a long silence.“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re welcome,” he said.”

“… In the foreword to Brave New World’s 1946 edition, Huxley regretted not giving John an alternative to “insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other,” an alternative he would later try (unconvincingly) to negotiate in his positive techno-utopia Island. But read in conversation with The Brothers Karamazov, West saw that something deeper is on trial: “Mr. Huxley is attacking the new spirit which tries to induce man to divert in continual insignificant movements relating to the material framework of life all his force, and to abandon the practice of speculating about his existence and his destiny.”…

[ME: This is another key aspect, it seems to me, of embracing philosophical/ religious materialism: suppression of primal questions. One of the evasive movements in currency today of the practice of elevating to the level of certainty speculation about multi-verses, to replace the ancient materialist belief in the eternality of matter. With such a “warranted” belief in place, the question why anything exists at all is put at a further remove, allowing materialists to assume the answer to this question as part of their core doctrine: The universe is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be (Democritus originally, before Carl Sagan)].“By shifting the question from political control to personal conscience, West’s reading anticipated the decentralized way that many of the particular scientific and cultural furnishings of Huxley’s world have made appearances in ours. Orwell’s and Zamyatin’s predictions of inevitable centralized totalitarian government have not come to pass—and indeed, neither have Huxley’s. But the separation of sex from procreation, and love from sex; the consumption-saturated culture threatening to commodify the consumers; the increasingly physico-chemical attempt to explain and treat a troubled psyche—we did not need bureaucratic threats or hypnopaedic repetitions to want these things, and in this sense Huxley profoundly overestimated (or is it underestimated?) mankind, and his book may, in the deepest sense, have gotten our present all wrong. We chose these things ourselves, uncoerced by terror or war or social engineers. They have been developed to respond to real human hurts and desires; and, as might be expected of human choices, the results and motives have been mixed.”