• praxis
    6.2k
    In a topic about nihilism Wayfarer stated:

    You (and billions of others) are suffering from a cultural malaise, from the pernicious effects of taking a religious view of science, as others here are saying.Wayfarer

    I'm interpreting this "cultural malaise" to be rationalization (or McDonaldization), the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with rational, calculated ones. And by a "religious view of science," I assume he means scientism.

    What is unclear is how scientism contributes to rationalization.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    What is unclear is how scientism contributes to rationalization.praxis

    It doesn't; ironically it's more of an emotional appeal to rationality based on given cultural circumstances. The enlightenment championing of reason and scientific progress is ultimately what lead to faith in science; the underlying belief manifests itself in technological innovation that's now devoid of the "ends" that the enlightenments growing means originally suggested. The result is an increasingly mechanized society which doesn't have any telos, any ends for the ever increasing means. So now, rationalization of all of life becomes the only threads of a rope left to hang unto in order to avoid the plunge into nihilism. And so, hence rationality as an emotional appeal based on given circumstances.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    As good a place to start as any is Max Weber's notion of disenchantment:
    disenchantment (German: Entzauberung) is the cultural rationalization and devaluation of mysticism apparent in modern society. The concept was borrowed from Friedrich Schiller by Max Weber to describe the character of modernized, bureaucratic, secularized Western society, where scientific understanding is more highly valued than belief, and where processes are oriented toward rational goals, as opposed to traditional society where for Weber "the world remains a great enchanted garden"

    Weber's ambivalent appraisal of the process of disenchantment as both positive and negative was taken up by the Frankfurt school in their examination of the self-destructive elements in Enlightenment rationalism.

    Habermas has subsequently striven to find a positive foundation for modernity in the face of disenchantment, even while appreciating Weber's recognition of how far secular society was created from, and is still "haunted by the ghosts of dead religious beliefs".

    Note the allusion to the 'death of god' in the final sentence. There is also a reference to the Frankfurt school's critique of the 'instrumentalisation of reason' and Habermas' late-in-lilfe reappraisal of the role of religion in culture.

    In his discussion of, or even defense of, scientism, Steve Pinker has this to say:

    the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities.

    This expresses one of the main tenets of the European Enlightenment and also Comte's 'historical positivism' - that culture develops or progresses from religious belief to scientific knowledge. That is a massive subject in its own right. But the outcome is that, as Pinker says, science now acts as the kind of 'arbiter of belief' in the way that religion used to; it 'hems the possibilities' for the kinds of ideas one is prepared to entertain.

    The problem being, that science is primarily, or only, concerned with what can be measured or quantified. The 'domain of the qualitative', so to speak, is then regarded as a matter of private belief, tantamount to a matter of opinion. And the consequence of that, is that it obviates the Platonic distinction between 'mere opinion' and 'real knowledge'; in respect of values, we can only have real knowledge of what we can measure (which is the source of the 'is/ought' problem. There is of course more to say but duty calls....)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    The problem being, that science is primarily, or only, concerned with what can be measured or quantified. The 'domain of the qualitative', so to speak, is then regarded as a matter of private belief, tantamount to a matter of opinion.Wayfarer

    Science attempts to quantify any quality, though there are qualities which cannot be quantified. That's just the nature of reality, not all qualities can be reduced to quantity. This is most evident in the top quality, good, though attempts have been made, such as utilitarianism, to quantify the good.
  • Reformed Nihilist
    279
    Are you familiar with qualitative research and the study of morality in both the fields of sociology and psychology? How do these fit into your claim?
  • _db
    3.6k
    I think any "religious" view of science stems from a misunderstanding of what science is and an ignorance of its methodology and limits.

    The average person's knowledge of "science" comes from superficial encounters with its products, which are things that have gone through a large filtering process before they reach the front headlines or the store shelves. When most encounters with science are these positive, progressive moments, it is no wonder scientism is on the rise.

    I am by no means trying to diminish science and replace it by some traditional religion. But the fact is that, when one actually does science, or when one actually reads real scientific papers, it becomes very obvious that the popular notion of science is wildly skewed. For one thing, most of the time science is incredibly boring - the science that is shown in a documentary or a magazine is only a small portion of the wider ocean of research, most of which is rather unimportant, repetitive, and disappointing.

    Another thing is that scientists are human beings too, and have biases and irrational thinking patterns. Some of the research papers I personally have read were obviously bent in some direction, or the conclusions derived did not follow from the data. Science is not perfect - everyone agrees with this - but not everyone realizes just how imperfect it actually is, just how shoddy a job some scientists do. And just like before, this quality of science is obscured by a confirmation bias - nobody wants to read about the failures of science. So only the successes are filtered through - which makes science seem like some magic methodology that provides answers to everything we want to know.

    A third thing, and one that I've increasingly found to be true of myself, is that scientism seems to depend on a naive Cartesian worldview, the duality between the res cogitans and the res extensa. The res cogitans acts as some kind of "unexplained explainer" - which is precisely how things like eliminative materialism crop up. And it literally makes science out to be like some sort of magic, and scientists as modern wizards and miracle workers. Even if a theory is outlandish and implausible, stamping the label "science" on it automatically makes it the next big thing. It puts science on a pedestal, and some of its crazy theories start looking like magic tricks - the magic is "because science." It sounds like it explains things but it really doesn't at all.

    Finally, I think modern phenomenology has made a convincing case that there are some things that cannot be studied by the common notion of "science" but which require us to think philosophically, or to do phenomenology. The unexplained explainer, the "god's eye view", is a complete myth that is impossible to attain.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    The enlightenment championing of reason and scientific progress is ultimately what lead to faith in science; the underlying belief manifests itself in technological innovation that's now devoid of the "ends" that the enlightenments growing means originally suggested.Noble Dust
    We are now enjoying the "ends" that the enlightenment afforded us:

    Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere aude! [Dare to know!] Have the courage to use your own understanding! That is the motto of enlightenment.’
    - Immanuel Kant, 1784

    And it is unclear what you mean by "faith in science." I have faith in science and technological innovation to supply the next iPhone, but I have no faith in it whatsoever to save humanity from itself or to supply essential meaning.

    The result is an increasingly mechanized society which doesn't have any telos, any ends for the ever increasing means.Noble Dust
    What was the "ends" prior to the enlightenment?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    The problem being, that science is primarily, or only, concerned with what can be measured or quantified. The 'domain of the qualitative', so to speak, is then regarded as a matter of private belief, tantamount to a matter of opinion. And the consequence of that, is that it obviates the Platonic distinction between 'mere opinion' and 'real knowledge'; in respect of values, we can only have real knowledge of what we can measure (which is the source of the 'is/ought' problem. There is of course more to say but duty calls....)Wayfarer

    Hopefully you'll follow up on this is/ought teaser when duty permits.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    We are now enjoying the "ends" that the enlightenment afforded us:praxis

    Autonomous thinking is a tool, not an end. It's just the first step. What's autonomous thinking for, exactly? It serves no purpose (end) in itself. You have to show exactly why it's better than relying on "guidance from another". Showing why it's better will/would reveal the ends; critical thinking in and of itself reveals no ends.

    And it is unclear what you mean by "faith in science."praxis

    In that context I was using it to mean scientism; "taking a religious view of science", as you put it.

    What was the "ends" prior to the enlightenment?praxis

    Generally the afterlife that Christianity offered.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    What is unclear is how scientism contributes to rationalization.praxis

    It's a positive feedback loop or a vicious cycle depending on what one's attitude is. Rationalization leads to science and science leads to rationalization.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Hopefully you'll follow up on this is/ought teaser when duty permits.praxis

    The classic formulation of the problem is from Hume, as I'm sure you know; there's a decent summary of it ]on wikipedia.

    I take it to be the initial recognition of the divorce of facts and values that is one of the basic problems of modern philosophy. It's a consequence of the fact that scientific analysis must be grounded in quantitative measurement, along with the abandonment of the traditional sources of morality, which were previously assumed to provide the basis for 'oughts'. The book of nature, as Galileo memorably said, is written in mathematics, and his grasp of that fact is an essential foundation of the modern scientific method, but one that has consequences beyond simply science.

    The result is an increasingly mechanized society which doesn't have any telos, any ends for the ever increasing means.
    — Noble Dust

    What was the "ends" prior to the enlightenment?
    praxis

    If I may hazard a reply - for example, in Buddhist philosophy, one of the cardinal abilities of the Buddha is designated 'yathābhūtaṃ', which means 'to see things as they truly are'. In the Buddhist view, the ability to 'see things as they truly are' is inherently virtuous, or salvific, even. That is quite alien to the modern mentality, insofar as for the modern, 'how things really are' is essentially value-free; it simply adds up to the net sum of a vast number of molecular, energetic, and chemical reactions, which give rise to the varied phenomena that are studied by the sciences. I think the Buddhist view is plainly similar to other traditionalist philosophies to which 'the vision of truth', as a kind of holistic grasp of the totality, is central. I even think science itself has in the past sought something similar.

    I believe that, originally, philosophy likewise was grounded in a the 'vision of the Good', in Platonist terminology, which has analogues in many other types of philosophy. And that was what underwrote traditional morality, insofar as to be wise, was to know the good. It is that which has fallen away due to the 'reign of quantity'.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    scientism seems to depend on a naive Cartesian worldview, the duality between the res cogitans and the res extensa.darthbarracuda

    An opportunity for one of my all-time favourite quotations:

    Cartesian anxiety refers to the notion that, ever since René Descartes promulgated his influential form of body-mind dualism, Western civilization has suffered from a longing for ontological certainty, or feeling that scientific methods, and especially the study of the world as a thing separate from ourselves, should be able to lead us to a firm and unchanging knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. The term is named after Descartes because of his well-known emphasis on "mind" as different from "body", "self" as different from "other".

    Richard J. Bernstein coined the term in his 1983 bookBeyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I believe that, originally, philosophy likewise was grounded in a the 'vision of the Good',Wayfarer

    I think that this concept evolved as one possible branch, but if we were to go back to origins, I would say philosophy was primarily concerned with: 1) observations that could provide practical explanations and advice about life as it was being experienced, and 2) some ideas about the connection between life and death.

    Daoism, for example provide very particular ideas and advice about medicine, evolution, spirituality, relationships and was relatively neutral in concepts such as good and evil.

    I do agree that science, by driving stakes in the ground with unassailable facts and installing themselves installing themselves as the final arbiter of the right way to think, did create their own brand of religion which itself morphed into a self-perpetuating industry that is wholely dependent on a belief system of infallibility.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    We are now enjoying the "ends" that the enlightenment afforded us:
    — praxis

    Autonomous thinking is a tool, not an end. It's just the first step. What's autonomous thinking for, exactly? It serves no purpose (end) in itself. You have to show exactly why it's better than relying on "guidance from another". Showing why it's better will/would reveal the ends; critical thinking in and of itself reveals no ends.
    Noble Dust
    The essential benefit of autonomy is freedom, and in this context, freedom from ignorance. To offer an extreme example, there's a 0% chance that I'll be burned at the stake by the government for being a warlock. It isn't just fairies and pixie dust in Weber's "great enchanted garden," demons live there too.

    Prior to the enlightenment, was the separation of church and state possible?

    And it is unclear what you mean by "faith in science."
    — praxis

    In that context I was using it to mean scientism; "taking a religious view of science", as you put it.
    Noble Dust
    I was quoting Wayfarer. Personally I find his phrasing somewhat misleading.
  • Nils Loc
    1.3k
    To calm your Cartesian anxiety:

    "The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42." ~Douglas Adams

    "On page 42 of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jonathan Harker discovers he is a prisoner of the vampire. And on the same page of Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein reveals he is able to create life." ~Anonymous

    Stay tuned for the sequel to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. An AI program named Mary Shelly will give birth another AI program that will retell the story of Frankenstein. You will no longer go to the cinema or read a book for this new mandatory telling. You'll preform in the cinema for an otherworldly set of authors. Don't worry, it will be a choose your own adventure version (unless you unluckily enough to encounter page phase 42).

    On page 42 you must commit to some regretful or promising mistake. You might be imprisoned by a monster or have given birth to one (or 42).

    (Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, Douglas Adams and Daniel Dennett, by marriage of neural happenstance)

    (The strangeness of this post is principally the effect of psychological compensation and other mostly predetermined stuff.)

    On the Cartesian Anxiety of Our Times and What Faith Can Offer

    Charles Pope is seriously NOT helping.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    What is unclear is how scientism contributes to rationalization.
    — praxis

    It's a positive feedback loop or a vicious cycle depending on what one's attitude is. Rationalization leads to science and science leads to rationalization.
    TheMadFool

    I still need to study Weber's theories, but with just scratching the surface it occurs to me that scientism may be an expression of rationalization. Today rationalization appears to apply widely, even to religion.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    The essential benefit of autonomy is freedom, and in this context, freedom from ignorance.praxis

    Right. But freedom in general still isn't the ends. Freedom is a state of being. It's another prerequisite for something else. It's possible to live a meaningful life in a state of ignorance; it's possible to live a meaningful life without political freedom or social freedom.

    Prior to the enlightenment, was the separation of church and state possiblepraxis

    I doubt it, but I'm not sure why you're asking?

    I was quoting Wayfarer. Personally I find his phrasing somewhat misleading.praxis

    How So? Is this what your initial comment in the op referred to?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    Freedom is a state of being. It's another prerequisite for something else. It's possible to live a meaningful life in a state of ignorance; it's possible to live a meaningful life without political freedom or social freedom.Noble Dust
    It's possible to live a meaningful life without religion. We're free to find our own ends rather than, for example, the afterlife that Christianity offers.

    I was quoting Wayfarer. Personally I find his phrasing somewhat misleading.
    — praxis

    How So? Is this what your initial comment in the op referred to?
    Noble Dust
    I apologize for answering a question with a question, but if you don't mind, what does taking a religious view of something mean?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    On the Cartesian Anxiety of Our Times and What Faith Can OfferNils Loc

    St. Augustine well described the human person without God as curvatus in se (turned in on himself). That is what seems to have happened to us as we have retreated into our minds. Through faith God can turn us out again to creation, to truth, to one another, and to Himself. This is the real cure for our Cartesian Anxiety. — Msgr. Charles Pope

    And what if we're unable to swallow this pill?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    what does taking a religious view of something mean?praxis

    It means many things, but in this context, it means taking something a source of moral authority or a basis for normative judgement.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    It's possible to live a meaningful life without religionpraxis

    Perhaps your confusion lies here? I don't think anyone in this thread is making an argument for religion; personally I repurpose the word religion to illustrate the irrational dependence on rationality and science found in scientistic and even some less severe materialist positions. The goal is to make those folks evaluate their assumptions and underlying beliefs. It's an ironic use of the term for the sake of provocation. The notion that mankind is freed from the religious mindset is bogus, and reusing the word religion seems like an effective way to illustrate this. Take the underlying principles of religious belief and apply them to prevailing materialistic views. The problem is that most materialists ive encountered don't even seem to be equipped to try this out. That's the depth of the inherent assumptions and hubris involved.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    I repurpose the word religion to illustrate the irrational dependence on rationality and science found in scientistic and even some less severe materialist positions. The goal is to make those folks evaluate their assumptions and underlying beliefs. It's an ironic use of the term for the sake of provocation. The notion that mankind is freed from the religious mindset is bogus, and reusing the word religion seems like an effective way to illustrate this.Noble Dust

    By "religious mindset" do you mean an irrational dependence?
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    By "religious mindset" do you mean an irrational dependence?praxis

    No.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    It's possible to live a meaningful life without religion
    — praxis

    Perhaps your confusion lies here?
    Noble Dust
    You claimed:
    The enlightenment championing of reason and scientific progress is ultimately what lead to faith in science; the underlying belief manifests itself in technological innovation that's now devoid of the "ends" that the enlightenments growing means originally suggested.Noble Dust
    I pointed out that the enlightenment allows us to find our own ends.


    What do you mean by "The notion that mankind is freed from the religious mindset is bogus"?

    I need to study these theories more on my own, so I'll limit further questions before doing so. Thank you for your patience.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    I pointed out that the enlightenment allows us to find our own ends.praxis

    I'm not sure your series of quotes before this statement follow each other.

    As to having the freedom to find our own ends, I think it's an illusion. I hear this claim often, but what exactly does it entail? It's usually an appeal to comfort or pleasure, which is a poor, pale comparison to religious or spiritual ends; this is ironic considering how the enlightenment championed this new found freedom. Enlightenment freedom seems inherently materialistic, which undermines the entire concept in my view.

    What do you mean by "The notion that mankind is freed from the religious mindset is bogus"?praxis

    Basically what I wrote above.

    I need to study these theories more on my own, so I'll limit further questions before doing so. Thank you for your patience.praxis

    Of course, you have good questions. I'm studying them as well.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    As to having the freedom to find our own ends, I think it's an illusion. I hear this claim often, but what exactly does it entail? It's usually an appeal to comfort or pleasure, which is a poor, pale comparison to religious or spiritual ends; this is ironic considering how the enlightenment championed this new found freedom. Enlightenment freedom seems inherently materialistic, which undermines the entire concept in my view.Noble Dust
    You assume nonspiritual or religious ends when that is not necessarily the case at all. And there is overwhelming evidence that people can find their own spiritual "ends," as you call it, even prior to the enlightenment. A quick google search estimates 4,200 religions in the world. Are all these religions illusory except for yours?
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k


    Hold on, you keep moving the goal posts, I think unintentionally. You're initial statement in your OP was:

    What is unclear is how scientism contributes to rationalization.praxis

    And my first comment here was a direct response to that statement; that statement appeared to be the only thing you wanted to discuss in this thread, because the rest of your OP was an introduction to that topic.

    From there, all of your responses have veered off into other directions for the most part, based on things I said in my initial response, and I played along because I thought the additional topics were interesting, and some of them tangentially related.

    Now you're doing that again, and I'm not sure where you're going. What are you arguing for here? Are you mainly just asking questions?

    You assume nonspiritual or religious ends when that is not necessarily the case at all.praxis

    No, I didn't assume that, I was specifically critiquing scientism, or any belief system that places so called "blind faith" in science; that was the topic of your thread. As I already said, my references to religion here are an analogy used to provoke thought about the topic.

    Are all these religions illusory except for yours?praxis

    Ironically, I'm one of the practitioners of a personal spiritual practice that you felt the need to alert me to here. I'm not a member of a religion. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to have assumed so simply because I'm not critiquing religion here, and I'm using it in a neutral way as an analogy. All the critiques I'm making here are primarily historical, rather than rational or religious.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Today rationalization appears to apply widely, even to religion.praxis

    But the feedback loop is missing. We rationalize religion but the converse isn't the case. Isn't religion about faith, the suspension of rationality?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Isn't religion about faith, the suspension of rationality?TheMadFool

    Rationalist philosophers such as Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes, to name a few, were religious. Thomas Aquinas' works are scrupulously rational. There is a tendency in religion called 'fideism', which is taken to mean that 'faith trumps reason'. But that is a minority view. I think the idea that religion amounts to the 'suspension of rationality' is the kind of thing that only pathological haters of religion, such as Jerry Coyne, would say.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Yes rationality contributes to religion but does religion return the favor?

    No!

    On the other hand, rationalization in science has produced undubitable results. These in turn bolster our trust in rationalization. It's a two-way street, each supporting the other.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    Yes rationality contributes to religion but does religion return the favor?

    No!
    TheMadFool

    Couldn't you make the argument that religion gave birth to rationality? The historical thread of Greek myth -> Greek philosophy, and similarly, Christianity -> modern rationality via the Enlightenment? Edit, it would be Greek philosophy also pointing to Christianity and modern rationality as well...
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