Sunday, March 09, 2008

Theory, Innate to Man, Turned the Ending of Man

“Modern theory is about objects lower than man: even stars, being common things, are lower than man… (Even in human sciences, whose object is man,) their object too is ‘lower than man…’ For a scientific theory of him to be possible, man, including his habits of valuation, has to be taken as determined by causal laws, as an instance and part of nature. The scientist does take him so- but not himself while he assumes and exercises his freedom of inquiry and his openness to reason, evidence and truth. Thus man-the-knower apprehends man-qua-lower-than-himself and in doing so achieves knowledge of man-qua-lower-than-man, since all scientific theory is of things lower than man-the-knower. It is on this condition that they can be subject to ‘theory,’ hence to control, hence to use. Then man-lower-than-man explained by the human sciences- man reified- can by the instructions of these sciences be controlled (even ‘engineered’) and thus used…And as the use of what is lower-than-man can only be for what is lower and not for what is higher in the user himself, the knower and user becomes in such use, if made all-inclusive, himself lower than man…Inevitably the manipulator comes to see himself in the same light as those his theory has made manipulable; and in the self-inclusive solidarity with the general human lowliness amidst the splendor of human power his charity is but self-compassion and that tolerance that springs from self-contempt; we are all poor puppets and cannot help being what we are….”

-Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life, (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 195-196.

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