Materialist reductionist science is the bottom layer upon which our civilization is built. The outcome of materialism in philosophy will be the outcome of materialism in society. This is because all technology is embedded in the reductionist principle, and all the wisdom that has granted us phones, neural nets embedded in hard drives, skyscrapers and space travel are thanks to the bisecting of the Earth into mechanical parts. We can’t have 21st century capitalism without a society built on reductionism.
The modes of science pull apart phenomena and freeze them in time – after all, it is only by freezing a system in time that it can be properly understood. At the macro level, we can see this principle in the study of life. It is incoherent to study life as a force, as an element of reality, without disintegrating it into specific species, nervous systems, organs and limbs. And yet, conceived of as a whole, life is a transformation of all these material parts along the axis of time. We are, as apes who have followed the world of dinosaurs, the children of serpents. We are the inheritors of the evolutionary potential that once culminated in massive reptiles with tiny brains, and who were usurped by rodents, who in time became apes capable of grasping the sea of psyche and articulating it into language and the arts. The way of fang and claw on Earth has utterly given way to techne – that much is uncontroversial. But is that process not continuous? In the trajectory of all life on Earth, haven’t we clearly observed since the primordial ooze a decisive move toward larger brains, more complex brains, and more complex thoughts? At the dawn of life, the warm seas spread protoplasm all across the Earth. Today, thoughts encircle the Earth via techne, digital transmission of thought. The answer to any alien watching four billion years unfold would be obvious – we are the latest stage in a great process of becoming.
Perhaps there is poetic looseness in what I say. The entire enterprise of science has been committed to expunging this poetry from reality. Evolution, as Neo-Darwinists say, refers only to the process of natural selection, conducted through genetic heredity without purpose or final aims. It is erroneous to speak of the evolution of life as a whole – this whole, to science, simply does not exist, because there is no physical mechanism by which thought evolves out of unthinking matter. That is perfectly fair, and perfectly limited. But unexplained is the central claim of Neo-Darwinism – that a single species of ape should fold in upon itself to the point of discovering its own DNA, its own evolutionary tree, its own material origins. And as long as this remarkable knowledge goes unexplained, human beings are an incoherent object in the world of science. The existence of subjective consciousness, the world eternally in motion, made of events and not objects, is also a fatal anomaly. Materialist reductionism has mapped the entire world save for the mind of the being doing the mapping. I am certain, that in the future, this self-reflective faculty of human beings will be the key to understanding both techne and poetry.
Science, in its commitment against poetry, has achieved the Neo-Darwinian synthesis and the hyper-technological society that is currently usurping and molding all the world in its warpath. Indeed, the world is being encircled by thought, and at the moment, in its primordial phase, the great encircling of the world in digital consciousness has failed to generate a new mode of being. Twitter and viral marketing have given us Trump, not a revolution. Instead of a technological Eden of free information, we live in perpetual streams of reaction, prose spit-balled on Twitter and social media in the spirit of cynicism, resentment, irony and satire that ferments profound distance between digital posturing and living, breathing people. And yet, the social media timeline, the ultimate invention of reductionist techne, is more addictive than any book, it is the omnipresent eternally-mobile blur of a world we do not understand and can no longer differentiate with any hermeneutic other than conservatism or Marxism. We are polarized in these times because two great dragons are at war who each seek to consume the other and have nothing in common save for the will to power. Their essential war is waged over hierarchy.
Marxism is the principle of horizontal power, collectivism and equality, opposed to the principle of vertical hierarchy. And yet, Marx himself is more a mystic than the most Christian capitalist, who favors the ball-and-chain of the Old Testament’s eternal toil instead of the grace and salvation of the radical Gospels. The Gospels do not flatten hierarchy, but reverse it. The first shall be last, the last shall be first. The poorest and filthiest among us shall have their feet washed by the resurrected body of Christ. In seeking to free humankind from the nightmarish future of industrial growth without spiritual benefit to the life of humankind, Marx was a profound believer in grace. The good news of the Gospels is that the path of toil and sin is only half the story. There is transcendence, there is an escape from the cycles of eternal recurrence, eternal life in the below. It is this ‘eternal recurrence’ that Marx saw as the life of a factory worker, a perpetual sentence to powerlessness and fruitless toil. Marx saw that the Old Testament described the sorry condition of man, but decrying Christ as an opiate, offered politics as the source of grace. Of course, the 20th century was one long tale of how this failed.
Perhaps Stalinism can be considered a disfigured attempt to create the kingdom of God on Earth. The vortex of souls toward revelation was redirected toward the image of the vulgar state. A false idol stood at the apex of transcendent yearning, and so an alchemical transmutation of Earth into Hell was achieved, the reversal of grace. The lesson of Stalinism is this: attempts to flatten hierarchy at the macro-level always fail. It must be built up from the local domain if it is to work, I am convinced. This equality, defined as the irreducible worth of each individual, must be fought for, lest we accept Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Exxon as the striving spirit of the human race, and accept the corporatized internet as the ‘natural’ path of encircling the globe with human thought. I think such a proposal, to worship the techne of corporations who each will own a thousand sub-corporations, and provide products and services for every domain of our lives, will lead only to a gulag of a different order.
We must first come to terms with time, the reality of a world and truth in an unfolding process, not static Newtonian blocks, but a perpetual evolution in motion. In the final analysis, time will lay bare the fate of techne. If eternal development of the matter-energy of the Earth, which is the project of Amazon and Facebook and Uber and Exxon, is a pathway toward self-consumption, or the snake swallowing its own tail, then all the structures of science will also come into question.
How could they not?
When Marxism led to Stalinism, it was considered disproven by the West. Likewise, if a corporate neo-feudalism, or major climate disaster, or both, come to pass by the end of the 21st century, then the mode of reductionist science and its practical application, technological development, will be revealed as insufficient for the completeness of the human soul. We forgot something. We advanced with only one principle, we crystallized into technical beings to the point where technology swallowed us, and we became our own Tower of Babel, our own misguided attempt to realize the Kingdom of God through banking, surveillance and Silicon Valley. A gulag of a different order.
The chain of fault, if techne leads to a dystopia, would strike back to the core of the Enlightenment. Follow the chain: there is no Silicon Valley without industrialization, there is no industrialization without technology, there is no modern technology without modern science, and there is no modern science without the empiricism and rationalism of the Enlightenment.
Techne has the power to strip humankind of all its freedom and individuality. The Internet, if corporatized and censored, would no longer be free. Artificial intelligence could easily fail to come close to its legendary promises, casting doubt on the current axioms of neuroscience and reductionist philosophy. The struggle of objective science to understand subjective consciousness, if it continues to fail, would only highlight the incompleteness of the scientific worldview. The fallout of climate change by 2100, especially, will rock industrial man to his core. It will strike us at our foundations, in the same way that the collapse of the USSR struck at the core of Marx’s notions of hierarchy. It beats us down at every level of our techne: the scientific, the technological, and the industrial.
We have forgotten grace. Or rather, we have forgotten our own experience, we have forgotten the notion of divinity in each and every human being which is the foundation of law and the last bulwark against self-interested barbarism running rampant over man. Without intuition, without love, with only techne, we are as giant serpents wriggling through thunderstorms in the sky, aiming for the face of God. We will meet only a tyrant, not a source of radiant love and hope for all mankind, but a reflection of our own tyranny. And that realization, that meeting with the tyrant, will plunge the Tower of Babel back to dust, and with it all our notions of science, technology, and the industrial economy that these forces have created.
Of course, we can never abandon hierarchy. We can never abandon technology. To suggest so is spiritual darkness, a denial of the will. But it is not wholly sufficient for a complete life on Earth. The flood of climate change would be direct feedback from reality that this is the case. The inability of reductionist science to understand consciousness would also be direct feedback that our current mode of thinking is insufficient.
The true work of humankind is synthesis, not domination. The alchemical marriage of techne and grace is the goal of all fertile thought. What is grace? The hope of something new, the hope of a greater structure for the world than the cycles of depression and existentialism that grip all thinking people who cannot leap into ideology as their salvation. Now it becomes clear why we must synthesize techne with grace – because techne without grace creates a world without individual meaning. It creates an externalized psyche in the form of online phenomena without the corresponding growth and achievement that should follow from a genuine community of psyches in global interaction.
The world is not what it should be. Knowing this, and striving to redeem it anyway, is the impulse of grace. And grace must aim for the root – the threefold foundation called reductionist science, capitalism and technology. The technocratic end of history, the salvation of man at the hand of machine, and the myth of boundless material expansion are all tied together as the core of hubris, man without inspiration, left solely to the dominion of machine.
If we believe that dominion is inevitable, then we must merely wait for the singularity, and acknowledge that our individual wills are impotent and pointless. Try to live this way without falling into nihilism. It is surely impossible.
No, the human will is essential. Your will is essential. The synthesis you make of your own life and its practical value for the whole of humankind – that source of grace cannot be infringed upon. Your mind is more important than the hive mind. No accelerationist fantasy can deny that without declaring individual life a redundant enterprise.
Where do we begin? Each will have their own field. But it will certainly involve the synthesis of ideas across fields, and lived example. Without lived examples, like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Jung, Henri Bergson, and Alfred North Whitehead, the ideals of synthesis lack practical value. Do not move backward. The immensity of techne daunts us all. But it will not be the final synthesis at the end of history, and thus it should not cow us into silence.
Strive against all membranes until one gives way to novelty.