Page 1

Editorial: 25th Issue December 1st 2019 Blog: The first lecture is about essay number 7 in Harari’s work “Sapiens”. Essay Number 7 is entitled “The Mariage of Science and Empire” and is intended to highlight the interesting relation that exists between Science and Politics in History and in Contemporary Society. The essay opens as follows: The section entitled "the Marriage of Science and Empire" raises immediate normative issues for the philosopher searching for an analysis of the anomalies of the modernism and postmodernism eras of our History. This work certainly falls into one of these two categories. Having said this it must be added that this is one of the most interesting chapters of the book and it provides a great deal of empirical explanation relating to the material and efficient causes of the phenomena of these periods. The author begins by pointing out that British exploratory expeditions beginning with Captain Cook's in 1768, were in the habit of transporting scientists of various kinds to conduct both inductive scientific investigations in new and strange environments and to verify more deductively structured theories which predict the existence of events, objects etc that have not yet been observed. Harari does not in this discussion make the traditional philosophical distinction between Science in the context of Discovery and Science in the context of Explanation. Indeed his talk in the last chapter of "new knowledge" appears to highlight the observational activity of the scientist at the expense of the theoretical activities of thought and reason.

The kinds of explanations required by Science in its context of Explanation/Justification is very different to the kind of explanation we demand in the Social Sciences and Politics. This issue is particularly relevant in relation to the discussion over whether the Colonization of India occurred with evil intent, ambiguous intent or with the best interests of the Indians in mind. The interesting question to answer here is of course whether the motivations of scholars and administrators were self interested or not. The second lecture analyses essay number 9 in Harari’s work “Sapiens, a brief history of humankind” . The essay is entitled “The meaning of life: Harari argues that The Industrial Revolution was an era in which large-scale experimentation and social engineering led to a radically different form of life to that we experienced during the Agricultural revolution. Precise timetables and schedules were substituted for a form of life determined by the natural movement of heavenly bodies, growth cycles and the weather conditions. As a consequence, there were few timepieces or scientific concern for the precise measurement of things in this ancient world.

The Industrialised society's experiments in social engineering dominated by scientific methodology and scientific materialistic assumptions decoupled from both religious ethical theories and the ethical theories of philosophy that led to the concept of human rights eventually resulted in the bizarre totalitarian "experiments of Hitler and Stalin. Harari refers in this context to an experiment relating to human mentality but it is not clear, however, what he means. Is the suggestion being made that the Industrial Revolution changed our mentality? If so, Science, which was a precursor and one of the theoretical conditions of the industrial revolution must have been a contributor to this change. Does Harari mean that we shifted to a state of discontentment because of the new disenchanted world we were forced to live in?

Harari argues that evolution has resulted in the alienation of the individual at the hands of states and market forces and thereby ignores the rational forces operating in Globalization processes since the time of the Enlightenment. These rational forces are in the name of freedom and work over the time period of hundreds of thousands of years on the time scale that the evolution of the brain operates. Harari’s argument is in the spirit of post-modernism and he argues that those who believe that life has meaning are deluded: In the ensuing discussion, however, it is suggested that any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is delusional! Psychoanalysis is the "science"(in the Kantian sense) of the states and processes of our mind and provides us with our best account of delusional states and processes. In this account, it is very clear that the delusional states of mind which schizophrenics, for example, experience, are primitive dysfunctional affairs in which there is an inadequate relation to reality. Suggesting that all ideas of a flourishing life or the meaning of life are delusional is a popular use of the term that undermines its more objective meaning. Of course one of the "mechanisms" of the schizophrenic's delusional state of mind is the "imagination" that other people, for example, are listening to their thoughts. Given that for this author human rights, money, the nation-state etc are figments of the imagination the whole account risks falling into a kind of psychological reductionism that serious psychologists such as Freud manage to avoid. Ascribing the term "delusional" to the meaning ordinary agents attach to their lives and the faculty of imagination as the source of important ideas and realities such as human rights and nation-states aims of course at inverting the image of reality in our visual systems: a state of affairs that no doubt will have the effect of creating a "strange" impression of our world. Worse still, we know from the result of experiments on image-inversion that the subjects concerned learn to live with the strange feeling that the world is upside down and in so doing the inversion inverts itself and everything "feels" normal. Such is the logic of feeling and the logic of imagination.

The third essay is entitled “Intelligent Design� and opens controversially: A genetically engineered fluorescent green rabbit and a mouse with an ear on its back are cited as examples of the presence of intelligent design as a principle of life forms. Evolution, it is argued, as a biological limit and explanation comes to an end in the twenty-first century. This so-called principle of intelligent design is of course "scientific" intelligent design which raises the obvious question as to whether this is in accordance with the philosophical concept of intelligence. William James argues in his work "The Principles of Psychology" that the concept of intelligence is a descriptor of the "way" an intelligent life form does something or solves

problems. His citation illustrates the principle of the freedom humans possesses in choosing how to act. A magnet attracts iron filings but if you insert a cardboard strip in between the magnet and the strip the filings will never reach its goal. On the other hand, if Romeo is attracted by Juliet but her family places a fence between his goal and himself, he will find a way to eliminate the obstacle of the fence and find a way to his goal, Juliet. Intelligence, then, does not refer to any particular goal but rather to the way in which we achieve that goal that will include thinking critically about how to solve the problem. The iron filings when it reaches the magnet without any intervening obstacle is not intelligent. In the light of these reflections, one can wonder whether the use of the word "intelligent" in this principle of intelligent design is an appropriate term to use in relation to the insertion of genes into organisms that do not naturally possess these genes. If rabbits needed to be found in the dark or mice were hard of hearing then, of course, these feats of "engineering" would be motivated and may deserve the term "intelligent". Indeed it seems difficult to even say whether there was any point to the "goal" that was achieved considering that no natural processes were involved. On the contrary, these experiments appeared to require the disruption of natural processes. Of course, these "experiments" are revealing of the practical reasoning capacities(or lack thereof) of the scientist. The whole process positively reeks of the lack of intelligence of earlier "experiments" such as the splitting the atom which managed to produce a weapon that could destroy humankind in a world war(One must admire the consistency of Science: if the universe began with a Big Bang human life might as well end with a little bang). There is, as has been pointed out on a number of occasions, nothing in the scientist's assumptions or methodology that will enable him to evaluate whether just because something can be done, it ought to be done or ought not to be done. Harari has, on a number of occasions, used the term "imagination" in relation to nations, human rights etc which are intelligent "creations" of moral and political agents respecting the processes of cultural evolution from families to villages to city-states to nations. For Aristotle, this process(up to the level of the city-state) was both organic and intelligent. It wasi exactly because science lacked the "tools" and concepts to describe the process of cultural evolution that Freud was forced to resort to mythology and its "Intelligent " theory of what is important to mankind.

Science is also experimenting with out ideas of immortality and may be trying to create a race of Gods. The essay closes with the following words: If the attempt to create man in the laboratory resulted in Frankenstein one can but wonder what will happen when man attempts to create a race of God's in the laboratory. Perhaps they too will be fluorescent with an ear on their backs. Harari has given us a glimpse of the world in which History has become a virus and the word "intelligent" no longer has an intelligent meaning.

Profile for michaelrdjames

The World Explored, the World Suffered: 25 th issue of the Journal for Humanistic Lectures  

Critical synopses of Harari's essays 7, 9 and 10 from "Sapiens, a brief history of humankind" Lecture 1 The Marriage of Science and Politics...

The World Explored, the World Suffered: 25 th issue of the Journal for Humanistic Lectures  

Critical synopses of Harari's essays 7, 9 and 10 from "Sapiens, a brief history of humankind" Lecture 1 The Marriage of Science and Politics...