Archives for posts with tag: Nietzsche

Whence comes nihilism, the uncanniest of all quests?
by Lou Keep

Friedrich Nietzsche was most famously concerned with the problem of nihilism. All societies, in his view, rely on implicit value judgments. If the foundations of these are lost, he predicts terrible consequences: widespread apathy or violent, fanatical attempts to reclaim a sense of purpose, or perhaps both. We talk about values a lot, and we know they do something, but we have little idea how. Compounding this is uncertainty over their loss. Nihilism is not a choice or intellectual commitment, but a thing that comes upon you. As Nietzsche put it in 1885: ‘Nihilism stands at the door. Whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?’

Part of the answer comes from understanding how values connect to knowledge and action. In Seeing Like a State (1998), the political scientist James C Scott classifies knowledge in two ways: epistemic knowledge, which can be quantified, theorised and transmitted in abstract, and metis (from the classical Greek), which concerns knowledge gained from practical experience, such as personal relationships, traditions, habits and psychological states. Metis governs local experience: farming the family’s land, for example, rather than agronomic study. We all recognise it; it’s why we hire for experience. For instance, Jane and Martha have identical diplomas, but if Jane’s first shift was on Tuesday and Martha’s was in 1970, then Martha will have certain tricks and habits to expedite her work. Still, it’s not easy to quantify just what that is: Martha has metis, and metis can’t easily be reproduced. If it were trainable, it would have been in Jane’s training.

Scott’s genius is to compare metis to local traditions. Over a long enough time, habits and behaviours are selected for and passed down, just as evolution selects helpful traits. A successful group will institutionalise an irreducibly complex set of cultural tools that relate to its environment. Since these are metis, and not epistemic, they won’t always be obvious or quantifiable. Scott recounts dozens of examples of customs that might appear backwards, confused, unscientific – yet when they’re banned or discouraged, productivity collapses. He calls this the problem of ‘legibility’.

Epistemic theories rely on isolated, abstracted environments capable of taxonomy, but these are far removed from the dynamic, interconnected systems of nature and human culture. Metis, by contrast, develops within complex, ‘illegible’ environments, and thus works with them. But that also means its application is limited to a specific act, rather than a broader theory. Outsiders want to know why something works, but locals will explain it in a language unintelligible to them.

These practices and traditions are, of course, more than work experience. They’re used to efficiently solve political problems. In The Righteous Mind (2012), the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes Balinese rice farmers who needed to coordinate irrigation along a river. Since they were politically divided into small familial units – called subaks – they needed to rely on means older than governance to ensure cooperation:

The ingenious religious solution to this problem of social engineering was to place a small temple at every fork in the irrigation system. The god in each such temple united all the subaks that were downstream from it into a community that worshipped that god, thereby helping the subaks to resolve their disputes more amicably. This arrangement minimised the cheating and deception that would otherwise flourish in a zero-sum division of water. The system made it possible for thousands of farmers, spread over hundreds of square kilometres, to cooperate without the need for central government, inspectors and courts.

This still occurs. A 2017 paper by the economists Nathan Nunn of Harvard University and Raul Sanchez de la Sierra of the University of California, Berkeley mentions gri-gri, a magical powder that witchdoctors manufacture. In 2012, following a period of widespread banditry and state insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, gri-gri came to a village elder in a dream. Applying this powder made the user bulletproof, and it worked so well that neighbouring communities swiftly adopted it. The reason was simple: groups fight better than individuals, and more people will dare to fight if they believe they are bulletproof. Hence, a village using gri-gri was more likely to survive.

Gri-gri and water temples are kinds of metis, but they require belief in larger structures: respectively, magic and gods. However these structures first developed, it’s critical that they rest on more than mere faith or tradition. Shared values provide conviction for greater actions, but those values are certified by the success of those actions. Gri-gri’s success is an empirical testament to magic, and its utility inclines one towards trusting more activities by witchdoctors. Nunn and Sanchez de la Sierra point out that

many of [the spells] appear to provide individuals with a greater sense of security and confidence, which could serve to … reduce their anxiety and thus improve their performance. For example, most of the spells provide protection, whether it be from drought, disease, attacks on the village or even to harm potential thieves – and thieves also believe in their efficacy, which acts as a deterrent.

In other words: these practices and institutions serve several different roles, all bound up in one another. This intermingling exacerbates the problem of legibility.

When we discuss changing values, we often think top-down: a new and persuasive ideology that took hold for intellectual reasons. What Scott and the adoption of gri-gri suggest is the opposite: the motive force of values requires a degree of certainty that is dependent on action. It was gri-gri’s empirical demonstration that allowed it spread it to neighbouring villages, not its poetry. The inverse to this is also important: we can improve on a specific task, but other roles need time to sediment and evolve. Trade the temples for a government, and you have zero-sum bickering. Explain the game theory behind gri-gri, and no one will fight with it. The utility of a cultural institution first allows adoption, but its maintenance allows metis ample time to tinker and perfect.

If we’ve lost faith in certain values, then I doubt this was because of academic debates. The 20th century profoundly changed labour, technology and social organisation in the Western world. It’s hard to imagine that this didn’t change metis, or render older forms of metis irrelevant. While the values of metis might still be desired – or even identified with – they lack the same certainty they once had. Nothing can prove them and thus justify the higher claims. ‘Faith without works is dead,’ as the Bible said, but faith without metis is unbelievable.

A top-down view of value implies that we can simply create new reasons for living, that the ideology itself is its own proof. But if values come bottom-up, then man’s quest for meaning cannot be separated from his labour. They are the same.

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This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

https://aeon.co/ideas/whence-comes-nihilism-the-uncanniest-of-all-guests

“legible” versus “illegilbe”…

After all, metis remains – for now, illegible simply because we haven’t yet found a way to ‘read’ it.

And to write it back in a teachable form!

Or, to put it in a more concise manner, we haven’t got, yet, to the bottom of it!

The key word here being we.
WE haven’t got to the…
It all boils down, again, to the limited nature of our consciousness!


He’s right, right?
A freshly minted golden coin feels differently between your fingers – teeth? – than a ‘note’, no matter how ‘crisp’.

Yes, but…

No buts. He’s right!

Yeah?!?
Then how about this guy?
Is he right too?

Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its nature – nature is always value-less – but has been given value at some time, as a present – and it was we who gave and bestowed it.

Well, from the rational point of view, yes!
But they cannot be both right! Not at the same time, anyway… Not in the same world!

OK. I gather you have heard about Solomon?

The wise king of Israel? Yes, I have.

And about the ‘split baby‘?

Yes, of course! What do you think I am? A savage?

What I think of you and what you are in reality are two different things.
But this is another kettle of fish.

A ‘different’ kettle of fish, you mean.

Have it your way. But you have to take into consideration that the kettle itself remains the same. Only the fish inside are different, one catch at a time. Even when the fish belong to the same species, are of the same size and you take the pain to add the same number of fish to the kettle.
Let’s go back to Solomon splitting babies.
The ‘official’ story, the one presently belonging to the “Hebrew lore” and “recorded at 1 Kings 3:16-18“, had been redacted. From what had actually happened:

As we all know, Solomon had many wives. An a few concubines. 700 and 300, respectively. In these circumstances, he rarely had a full night’s sleep. No wonder that whenever he had to make a judgment, specially early in the morning, he used to send for his trusted personal advisor.
When the two women, both pretending to be the mother of the disputed child, had come to seek justice before king Solomon, he was rather sleepy. But the faithful – and very discreet, ‘coach’ was there. As always.
The first woman was asked to tell her side of the story.
Solomon, at some point, waived his hand. ‘Enough, you seem convincing enough. Take your baby and scram’.
‘But sir, shouldn’t you also listen what the other woman has to say? Before deciding the fate of the poor baby?’ whispered the adviser in Solomon’s ear?
‘Wait. Come back, both of you! Now, the other one, what’s your story?’
‘….’
‘You’re also very convincing… you have the child…’
‘But sir, they cannot both be right! At the same time… There’s only one child…’
Solomon, suddenly awaken, turns back to face the counselor: ‘You are absolutely right too!’
And only then, after realizing that sometimes – when there’s only one child to be had, for example – two people cannot entertain two different opinions and be right at the same time, Solomon did put his mind to work. In earnest. And came up with his famous solution.
“Split the child!”

Same thing here. Both J.P. Morgan and Friedrich Nietzsche had been partially right.
There is a difference between ‘real’ – a.k.a. ‘golden’, and fiat money but the difference is made by us!

See, no need to split the child. Not this time, anyway.
But we have to keep in mind that, no matter what any of us thinks, for money to retain their value – no matter whether those money are ‘real’ or ‘fiat’, we need to be able to make good use of those money.

A heap of gold and a suitcase of dollars are equally useless if there’s nothing to be bought!

Are you done laughing?

It isn’t funny?

Well, it wasn’t meant to be funny… only illustrative for the way in which some people understand freedom… ‘they’ being free to impose their will upon others while all the rest are free to obey. Or else.

My point being that freedom is nothing more and nothing less than what we make of it.

In order to make myself understood I have to mention that there are two kinds of liberty and that, historically, there have been two only apparently conflicting visions on whether freedom is real or not.

Freedom, like most things human, is both a concept and a reality.
We think about it, hence it is relatively simple to accept ‘freedom as a human concept’.
If you find it hard to accept that liberty is also real… when was the last time you took a dog to a park where you can unleash it? To a meadow where it can run its heart out without you being afraid of the city warden? And no, I’m not thinking about the joy experienced by the dog…

We have ‘internal’ freedom – the manner in which each of us relates, in their heads, with the concept, and ‘social’ freedom – the vectorial sum of all that the members of a certain society put in practice about freedom.
It’s a matter of ‘obvious evidence’ that these two may swirl in two directions.
Form a virtuous circle – the natural evolution of humankind, from slavery to feudalism to democratic capitalism, sometimes interrupted by ‘vicious’ epicycles –  the last two being fascism and communism.

Before discussing whether liberty is real or just an illusion let me poke another wasp nest.
How big is this thing we call ‘freedom’?
How big can this ‘vectorial sum’ be?

Infinite? Nobody can live that long, anyway…

Then where does it stop? At the ‘tip of our collective nose’?
It’s up to us to decide? Through constant negotiation? Always keeping in mind that all ‘imperial’ endeavors have failed, sooner or later? That no human being has ever been able to survive alone for any considerable length of time, let alone to grow up by him/herself?

Communism and fascism being only the last two examples of what happens when too many of us forget the most important lesson history teaches us?

One more thing. I still owe you an explanation about why I consider the conflict between the ‘promoters’ and  ‘deniers’ of liberty to be a false one.
Currently, most people agree – even if most of them only implicitly, about ‘your liberty to swing your fist ending where my nose begins’.
From time to time various ‘hot headed’ individuals have contested this.
Either philosophically – Nietzsche, Marx, or practically – Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol-Pot…
The most interesting aspect of all this being that there still are ‘philosophers’ (?!?) who continue to argue one side of the argument against the immense historical evidence which keeps growing. Not only ‘against’ the immense… but also producing fresh pretexts for the ‘willing practitioners’ to try for yet another time. And to continue to increase the mountain of evidence…

‘But what are the arguments marshaled by the ‘freedom deniers’?
What if they are right, after all, only the ‘practitioners’ have not yet been able to ‘do it right’? You, of all others’ – that would be me, ‘should remember that “Critics of early steam-spewing locomotives, for example, thought “that women’s bodies were not designed to go at 50 miles an hour,” and worried that “[female passengers’] uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed”!
And, even more importantly, who are you to tell us that freedom is real?’

OK.
As I mentioned before, there are two categories of deniers.
‘Relative’ and ‘absolute’ deniers. The ‘Nietzsche-s’ and the ‘Marx-s’.
The ‘Nietzsche-s’ argue that freedom is up for grabs, that it can – no, actually that it should – be cornered by those having the strongest “will to power”. ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’.
The ‘Marx-s’ argue that freedom is nothing but an illusion and that everybody must observe the implacable laws which derive from the world being made of nothing else but matter. Hence, according to Marx, the ‘communists’ – those who have understood the ‘scientific’ nature of the world/society, have the duty to take over the society and to take it, forcefully if needed, to its ‘scientifically’ determined destination.
‘Quite a Platonic vision of the world, don’t you think?’
‘Well… I’ve already covered this subject…’
Coming back to the apparent conflict between the promoters and the deniers of freedom, it is now rather simple to observe that ‘Marx’ is nothing but ‘Nietzsche’ dressed up in ‘scientific’ garb – don’t be fooled by the fact that Nietzsche was way younger than Marx, they had been kindred souls, while ‘Nietzsche’ had been a very focused ‘freedom fighter’ – focused exclusively on ‘his’ freedom, that is.

A petty conflict about ‘who has the bigger one’, hidden under pretentious make-up…

‘And were does all this leave us?’

At the conclusion that being free means, before and above anything else, being responsible?
For one’s own fate and for at least some of what’s going to happen in the (near) future?

 

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Over reliance on ‘tradition’ and over reliance on ‘science’ (a.k.a. rational thinking).

The individual prone to falling victim to the first method is convinced that:

They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer, to that particular problem or to one close enough so that the old answer is still usable,  has already been found and recorded in the collective archive currently known as ‘tradition’.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer inside that huge wealth of  rather haphazardly accumulated knowledge.

The individual prone to falling victim to the second method is convinced that:

– They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer to that particular problem can be reached scientifically.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer using the scientific tools currently at their disposal or to develop new ones, if necessary.

If, on top of all this, that individual, in no matter which of the two situations described above, is so convinced of the adequacy of “their” answer as to be prepared to impose it on others, even against their will – or without telling them before starting the implementation of “the answer”, then all hell will break loose – sooner or later.

By now you have probably figured out why these two methods are ‘only apparently different’.

In fact both of them are nothing but variations of the ‘inflated ego syndrome’.
This theory has been proven by the fact that all the dictators that have ever ‘ruled the Earth’ have always been convinced they were ‘rational people’, regardless of all of them either pretending to had been ‘blessed by God’ or explaining their ‘arrival’ as a ‘natural consequence’ of Marx’s scientific/dialectic materialism and/or Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

The people suffering from this syndrome can be identified by the manner in which they react to every input they receive. If their response is either ‘No, you’re wrong about this’ or ‘Yes, I was thinking along the same lines’ but never ‘Thank you for this fresh and very interesting perspective’ then you are dealing with someone harboring a very ‘inflated’ – and usually also very jealous – ego.

This kind of people are usually very good at spearheading change but allowing any of them  to acquire any considerable amount of power is, to say the least, suicidal.

Nietzsche a avut o bucățica de dreptate cand a spus ca “Dumnezeu a murit” numai ca luat-o razna înainte sa fi apucat sa facă cu adevărat lumina în problema asta.
Ce vreau sa spun
este că Dumnezeu nu a murit pe cont propriu. L-am omorât noi. De două ori. Și în timp ce prima dată am fost în stare  să rezolvam situația acum se pare ca nu mai știm pe unde sa scoatem cămașa.

Permiteți-mi să mă explic.

Nu am nici o modalitate de a ști dacă Dumnezeu a fost cel care ne-a creat. Îi voi lăsa pe alții să decidă în problema asta.
Pentru mine este suficient că nu văd nici o dovadă serioasa în favoarea acestei ipoteze. Există doar unele “mărturii” furnizate de persoane aflate într-un ‘conflict de interese’ mare cât o catedrală. A Neamului. Așa că aceste mărturii mi se par cel puțin părtinitoare. Pe lângă asta eu unul nu am nevoie de vreo explicație de tip Deus ex Machina cu privire la nimic din ceea ce exista în acest Univers. Știința modernă a făcut o treabă destul de buna, cel puțin pentru mine.
Pe de altă parte ipoteza contrară este absolut imposibil de demonstrat. Și atunci, de ce sa-mi mai bat capul?

Ce știu, sigur, este faptul că cel puțin un fel de Dumnezeu există cu adevărat! Cel care a fost creat de noi, o reprezentare socială a cărei existență provine direct din relația noastră mentală cu El.
Simpla existență a acestui Dumnezeu virtual a avut două consecințe foarte importante. Astfel a fost facilitata aparitia democrației și a unui mod coerent de a înțelege lumea – un Weltanschauung, ca sa folosesc un termen tehnic nemțesc.

Voi face aici o scurtă pauză. Mantra curenta este că “Dumnezeu ne-a făcut după chipul său”. Acest lucru are doua consecințe practice foarte importante:
– Că, cel puțin la nivel declarativ, suntem egali între noi – am fost cu toți turnați în aceeași formă, nu?
– Și că fiecare dintre noi adăpostește o scânteie de divinitate. Iar aceasta natura, parțial divina, pe care o împărtășim cu toții vine însoțită de o mare responsabilitate. Așa se explică principala poruncă „practică” pe care am primit-o – să nu ucizi și să nu judeci pe altul. Cine suntem, fiecare dintre noi, ca să jucăm rolul lui Dumnezeu față de alți „semeni de-ai noștri”?
De asemenea, împărtășirea unui același Weltanschauung a fost ceea ce ne-a oferit posibilitatea de a acționa ca o comunitate, cadrul în care ne putem ajuta unul pe celălalt. Pentru un timp, cel puțin, dar cât de bine a fost cât timp acest cadru a funcționat ca lumea. Dacă stăm puțin să ne gândim am înțelege că nici unul dintre noi nu ar putea face mare lucru fără acest cadru. De fapt  nici măcar astăzi, cu toate tehnologiile moderne pe care le considerăm acum „normale”, nici unul dintre noi nu ar fi în stare să supraviețuiască prea mult, dară-mite să prospere, pe termen lung.

Și acest lucru, uciderea lui Dumnezeu, s-a întâmplat de două ori.
Am dat naștere unei prime generații de zei, făcuți și aceștia tot după chipul nostru, bine și rău împreună. Zeii Antichității Egiptene, Grecești, Romane și mai apoi cei ai Nordului împărtășeau același comportament cu cel al oamenilor. Ba chiar, din când, unii dintre ei coborau din Olimp și împărțeau cu noi chiar și paturile. Asta până la un moment dat. După aceea ne-am obrăznicit și i-am abandonat. Filozofii noștri ajunseseră, încă de-atunci, la concluzia că știu ei mai bine ce trebuie de făcut și că pot oferi soluții complete pentru toate problemele noastre doar prin puterea gândurilor lor. Și uite așa autoritarismul absolut a sfârșit prin a avea binecuvântarea oficială a Academiei, în timp ce adorarea zeilor a fost lăsată pentru masele de fraieri.
Din acel moment s-
a dezlănțuit iadul. Pentru 6 secole după ce Platon a scris Republica sa Marea Mediterană a fost martora unui șir de imperii care s-au distrus unul pe celalalt, fiecare dintre ele condus fiind de tot felul de împărați care se credeau care mai de care mai zei, mai filozofi sau chiar și una și cealaltă.

Până când am pus în loc un alt Dumnezeu. Unul care ne-a spus să nu ne mai certăm între noi – pentru că toți suntem frați – și să începem să trăim în comuniune. Până când l-am omorât și pe acesta.

Nu că nu am fi fost avertizați. Pascal, matematicianul francez, ne-a spus că este complet irațional să respingem cu totul existența lui Dumnezeu. Dacă, în realitate, acesta nu există credinciosul nu pierde nimic iar necredinciosul nu câștigă nimic – în afară de satisfacția dubioasă de a se putea lăuda, după moarte, cu “Ți-am spus eu!”. În schimb, dacă Dumnezeu există, atunci credincioșii vor moșteni lumea, în timp ce non-credincioșii și-au făcut-o cu mâna lor. Numai că, între timp, toți au trăit într-o lume structurată de presupusa existență a lui Dumnezeu și s-au bucurat de cele două consecințe menționate mai sus – egalitatea între oameni, chiar dacă numai în teorie, și capacitatea de a face lucrurile în mod concertat, mult mai eficient decât de unii singuri.

Acum, că ne-am ucis Dumnezeul pentru a doua oară – episodul la care face referire Nietzsche – ne-am „rătăcit” din nou. Numai că de data asta nu am pierdut doar o ipotetică viață de apoi ci am început să transformam, treptat, chiar lumea în care trăim într-un infern.

Și dacă nu mă credeți, haideți să urmăm sfatul lui Lešek Kolakowski.
“Să comparăm lumea fără Dumnezeu a lui Diderot, Helvetius, și Feuerbach cu cea a lui Kafka, Camus și Sartre. Prăbușirea creștinismului, care a fost așteptată cu atât de multă bucurie de către Iluminism a avut loc aproape simultan cu prăbușirea Iluminismului însuși. Noua Ordine, antropocentrică și radiantă, care avea să se ridice și să îl înlocuiască pe Dumnezeu de îndată ce ar fi fost răsturnat de la putere, n-a mai venit. Ce s-a întâmplat? De ce a fost soarta ateismului în așa fel ciudat legată de cea a creștinismului, astfel încât cei doi inamici să ajungă să împartă același ghinion și aceeași incertitudine””(Dumnezeu într-un timp fără Dumnezeu, 2003)

Acum, de ce nu putem face efortul minim de a încerca să înțelegem ce ne-a spus Pascal? De ce este atât de greu să înțelegem că noi înșine stricăm viața frumoasă pe care am putea-o avea dacă am continua să pretindem că Dumnezeu există ȘI dacă ne-am comporta în consecință?

De ce ne este atât de greu ca măcar să ne prefacem că îi respectăm pe cei cu care s-a întâmplat să împarțim planeta?
E adevărat că respectul mimat nu este la fel cu cel autentic numai este mult mai bun decât imensul dispreț generalizat în care ne bălăcim continuu.

Chiar și mai important este faptul că dacă nu vom mai folosi atâta energie pentru menținerea câmpului de forțe de care avem nevoie pentru a ne proteja de disprețul care ne sufocă am avea mai multe posibilități să ne imaginăm o lume mult mai bună decât suntem în stare acum.
Și, cine știe, poate că vom reuși să descoperim cât de frumoși suntem atunci când ne dăm jos armurile.

Poate că în felul acesta vom da naștere unui nou Dumnezeu.
Spre satisfacția celui care se uită de sus la noi.
Dacă există.

Lešek Kolakowski, Dumnezeu într-un timp fără Dumnezeu, 2003, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/06/visions-of-eternity-7

Nietzsche was somewhat right only he went bonkers before he was able to shed some real light on what was going on.
The point is that God didn’t die on his own. We killed him. Twice. And while the first time we were capable to fix the situation now we seem incapable to ‘make the right thing’.

Let me explain myself.

I have no way of knowing if it was God that created us or not. That’s something for others to decide.
For me it’s enough that I see no evidence to support the first hypothesis except for some ‘testimonies’ provided by people with vested interests in the matter. I find those testimonies highly biased. Nor do I find any need for a Deus ex Machina kind of explanation for anything that exists in this Universe. Modern science has done a good enough job in explaining the world to me.
On the other hand the second hypothesis is absolutely impossible to demonstrate. So, why bother?

What I do know, for sure, is that at least one kind of God does exist. The one that has been created by us, people, a social representation whose existence stems directly from our mental relationship with Him – the One who supposedly created us.
The mere existence of this ‘virtual’ God had two very important consequences. It brought us democracy and it provided us with a coherent way of understanding the world – a common Weltanschauung in German terms.

I’ll make a short break here to elaborate a little. The common lore is that ‘God made us in his image’. This means that, basically, we are equals among ourselves – we’ve been all cast in the same mould, right? – and that each of us has a spark of divinity in him. Quite a heavy responsibility – being of a Godly nature – don’t you think? Hence the ‘do not kill/judge’ commandment. Who are we to play God towards other Gods?
Also partaking in the same Weltanschauung was what offered us the possibility to act as a community, to help each other. For a while at least but it was good while it lasted. After all none of us could have done much by himself.
In fact none of us is able to survive for long by himself, let alone thrive solitarily. Not even today, with all the modern technology that we now take for granted.

We gave birth to our first generation of Gods, made exactly into our image, good and bad together, during the Antiquity. The Greek, Roman and German Gods were our look alike-s and shared our unruly behavior. Some of them even occasionally shared our beds. Then, at some point, we got cocky and abandoned them. Our philosophers thought they knew better than that and that they could come up with comprehensive solutions all by themselves. That’s how absolute authoritarianism ended up having official blessing from the Academia while the adoration of Gods was left for the unsuspecting masses.
All hell broke loose from that moment. For some 6 centuries after Plato had wrote his Republic the Mediterranean Sea had been a string of empires toppling one another.

Until we came up with a different kind of God. One that first and foremost told us to stop quarreling – for we were all brothers – and start living in communion. Until we killed him also.

Not that we haven’t been forewarned. Pascal, the French mathematician, told us that it is completely irrational to reject the existence of God. If, in reality, God doesn’t exist the believer looses nothing and the non believer gains nothing – except for the lame satisfaction to be able to brag ‘I told you so’ after death. Conversely, if God does exist, then the believers are going to inherit the world while the non believers have dealt themselves the worst hand ever. Meanwhile, by living in a world structured by the presumed existence of God both believers and non believers enjoyed the two consequences I mentioned above – equality among people, even if only in theory, and the ability of doing things in concert, a lot more efficiently.

Now, that we’ve killed God for a second time – the murder described by Nietzsche – we’ve lost it again. Only this time we didn’t lose just the hypothetical after-life, we’re gradually transforming this one – the only life we have for sure – into a bloody nightmare.

And if you don’t believe me do as Lesek Kolakowski suggests.
“Let us simply compare the godless world of Diderot, Helvétius, and Feuerbach with that of Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. The collapse of Christianity that was so joyfully awaited by the Enlightenment took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Enlightenment itself. The new, shining order of anthropocentrism that was built up in place of the fallen God never came. What happened? Why was the fate of atheism in such a strange way tied to that of Christianity, so that the two enemies accompanied one another in their misfortune and in their insecurity?” (God in a godless time, 2003)

Now why can’t we make the small effort to understand what Pascal told us? Why is it so hard to understand that we are spoiling the beautiful life we might have if only we kept pretending that God existed and behaved accordingly?

Why is it so hard at least to fake some respect for those who happen to share the planet with us?
Fake respect is not as good as the genuine one, of course, but is a lot better than the huge amount of scorn that is publicly traded these days.
Even more important is that if we won’t have to use so much energy in maintaining a force field to protect us from being drenched in scorn we’ll may be able to imagine a better world than the one we currently have to deal with.
And, who knows, maybe we’ll have time to discover how beautiful we really are, inside our armors.

A new (representation of) God would be born this way.

god-is-dead

Lesek Kolakowski, God in a godless time, 2003, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/06/visions-of-eternity-7

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