© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.
It is widely accepted by many leading scientists and intellectuals that self-awareness of volitional consciousness is a phenomenological illusion somehow generated by unconscious material brain matter. Because they reject the axiomatic status of existence, identity, and consciousness, and inappropriately demand proof for their validity that cannot be forthcoming because such proof is a logical impossibility (any proof presupposes these axioms), they choose to abandon epistemology and reason rather than revisit their invalid premises and assumptions. They choose to pretend that the phenomenon we call free will or human agency or human action does not really exist.
It is self-contradictory and irrational to attempt to use reason to put forward arguments and evidence for a conclusion while at the same time proclaiming that reason as an active volitional process of man’s consciousness is a mere illusion. Instead of checking their premises, many scientists and others choose to reject reason.
For such advocates of mechanistic materialism, positivism, and scientism, these types of fatally flawed arguments based on logic fallacies are used to maintain and justify their propaganda that science has “proven” and “settled” that cognitive actions that occur in the brain – activities of the mind undertaken by the human faculty of volitional consciousness – are not real. Because of its status as illusions generated by the causal activities of the brain, the proponents of mechanistic materialism and positivism have concluded that the idea of human agency and free will should be abandoned, and that armed with this new knowledge, enlightened people must recognize the established truth and somehow “choose” or “learn” to get by without relying on their minds.
This means that to be scientific is to “abandon” reason and logic and “seek” or “accept” some other means of human guidance and survival. Such an agenda is explicitly anti-reason, anti-science, and anti-human. As such is consistent with the ideology and destructive teachings of post-modernism.
When the efficacy of reason and the idea that humans are capable of willful thought and action are abandoned, the human and social sciences including epistemology, ethics, politics, economics, law, history, psychology, and their practical applications in professional fields such as business, medicine, engineering, education, and technology, are rendered meaningless and destroyed.
A dead mind cannot discover and know reality. It cannot provide guidance and direction to remove felt uneasiness and improve the human condition. It cannot discern good from bad based on a chosen standard of value. It cannot focus, acquire, assess, choose, plan and act.
The undercutting of epistemology and reason on mistaken or pseudo-scientific grounds opens the door to a single and all encompassing ideology: nihilism.
The outcome of the undercutting and repudiation of the validity of reason as the proper guide to successful, peaceful, and productive human action is underscored by philosopher Leonard Peikoff in his book The Ominous Parallels, in which he summarizes his research into the deeper philosophical causes that enabled Hitler’s rise to power and fueled the pathological fire of what journalist and historian William L. Shirer called the Nightmare Years.
Peikoff’s observations are apropos in this discussion as it pertains to what we have witnessed in history and how ideas directly influence human action, recognizing that he focuses on a specific and unique historical example, and without implying that any person named in this essay or otherwise does or would in any way or manner endorse such a reprehensible political ideology as Nazism.
The moderns reject reason “disinterestedly” with no explicit idea of anything to put in its place, no alternative means of knowledge, no formal dogma to preserve or protect. And they reject reason passionately, along with every one of its cardinal products and expressions, every achievement it took human thought centuries of struggle to rise to, define, or reach. In form, the modernists’ monolithic rejection consists of many mutually contradictory claims; in essence, their line has been consistent and unbreached.
Man’s science, they say, requires the dismissal of values (Max Weber), his feelings require the dismissal of science (Heidegger), his society requires the dismissal of the individual (the Frankfurt Institute), his individuality requires liberation from logic (the Bauhaus) – logic is oppression, consistency is an illusion, causality is dated, free will is a myth, morality is a convention, self-esteem is immoral, heroism is laughable, individual achievement is nineteenth century, personal ambition is selfish, freedom is antisocial, business is exploitation, wealth is swinish, health is pedestrian, happiness is superficial, sexual standards are hypocrisy, machine civilization is an obscenity, grammar is unfair, communication is impossible, law and order are boring, sanity is bourgeois, beauty is a lie, art is shit.
Truth is unknowable, the modern relativists say, and the truth, they say, is the absurdity of life….
What the moderns actually believe in and seek to accomplish is not the exaltation of an absurdity above the power of science, but the sabotage of science; not the adoration of das Nichts, but the defeat of this world; not human abasement as a desperate plea to the gods, but human abasement for the sake of human abasement.
When the leading voices of the emotionalist Republic championed “feeling,” it was not as a source of knowledge or of human happiness, but of freedom: the freedom from objectivity, method, logic, fact. It was feeling not as an alleged means to truth, but as the nullification of thought. (Ch. 10, 205-206)
The trends of National Socialism that precipitated the rise of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist USSR and China had their roots in the destruction of reason brought about by the rise in the 19thcentury by a body of ideas and ideologies that were an assault on the validity and efficacy of the human mind. The fathers of modern scientistic thinking are identified by Mises and Hayek in their works on the subject. For a more substantial identification of anti-reason intellectuals and the cultural impact, consequences, and implication of their ideas in the historical shift from the Enlightenment towards nihilism, see The Ominous Parallels (recently republished as The Cause of Hitler’s Germany), by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, as well as two books by Dr. Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and Nietzsche and the Nazis.
Where the good includes reality, reason, and man, an assault on any one of these three pillars is an assault against all, and an assault on the mind qua mind is a direct assault of the totality of human existence.
That is what Hayek and Mises understood first hand, having witnessed the development of these ideas and the rise of collectivist ideologies and the abandonment of a science of human action in an attempt to destroy economics as a valid and necessary science.
All of this – the broad scope of the purpose and methods of scientific discovery to guide human action – it seems to me, is what lies at the root of the disagreement about the search for “truth” between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson.
NEXT: Part 20. Conclusion: Reaffirming the Intellectual Foundations of Western Civilization
Barry Linetsky has learned a considerable amount from the writings of Mises and Hayek. Barry makes his living specializing in value-driven strategic management, and is the author of the acclaimed business biography The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press, 2017) and Free Will: Sam Harris Has It (Wrong), both available from amazon. He frequently blogs at www.BarryLinetsky.com and has been published in the Ivey Business Journal and Rotman Magazine. Twitter @BizPhilosopher.