Required Reading For The Era

Pinker On The Enlightenment

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Required Reading For The Era

#1  Postby Calilasseia » Feb 11, 2018 2:39 pm

As the title says, reason is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, the right treat reason as an impediment to their fantasies. Here's the vaccine against that particular virus. :)
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#2  Postby felltoearth » Feb 12, 2018 12:58 pm

Bookmarking. Always enjoy Pinker's writing.
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#3  Postby Keep It Real » Feb 12, 2018 1:23 pm

Better Angels of Our Nature is very therapeutic for the irrationally over pessimistic imo. Pinker da man.
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#4  Postby willhud9 » Feb 12, 2018 11:44 pm

Pinkerfor all his talk of not wanting to promote Enlighten-olatry sure does spread and further misconceptions and historical fallacies.

If there’s anything the Enlightenment thinkers had in common, it was an insistence that we energetically apply the standard of reason to understanding our world, and not fall back on generators of delusion like faith, dogma, revelation, authority, charisma, mysticism, divination, visions, gut feelings or the hermeneutic parsing of sacred texts.


And many of them were complicated practitioners of their faiths and creed. Some were ardent atheists, and others were ardent Christians. The problem is "reason" was ALREADY cherished in the Western world BEFORE the Enlightenment. Scholasticism was a major way of studying that has shaped modern universities. Scholasticism began as a way for older patterns of thinking such as those brought by Aristotle to be reconciled with the new way of thinking brought by the Christian faith.

Anyone here who has actually read Summa Theologiae in its entirety would attest to the fact that while the conclusions are not 100% meritable, the logic and reason behind reaching said conclusions is defined. Aquinas, for all his faults, is an embodiment of reason. He cherishes reason. The same conclusions that the article makes in regards to:

More to the point, they were born too soon to appreciate some of the keystones of our modern understanding of reality, including entropy, evolution, and information.


This can be attributed to any of the great Christian thinkers during the Scholastic period. The Renaissance began in earnest because Christian thinkers were rediscovering the nostalgic value of the arts. The focus was being changed away from looking exclusively at the heavens towards looking at oneself and creation.

The idea of a universal human nature brings us to a third theme, humanism. The thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment saw an urgent need for a secular foundation for morality, because they were haunted by a historical memory of centuries of religious carnage: the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch-hunts, the European wars of religion.


Humanism began long before the Enlightenment.

The author also seems to make the same tired canard equating that without Christianity the Crusades, Inquisition, "witch-hunts" and the 30 Years War, etc. would not have happened. And that is debatable. Any serious contemplation on each of the events listed sees politics more than faith at the center of the violence. Greedy Germanic Princes using Protestantism to free themselves from the politics of the Church. Greedy French Princes using the funds of the Church to help them reclaim former Gaulish territory from the Greedy Germanic Princes. Ordering Inquisitions to arrest and kill political rivals all in the disguise of serving the church.

When you actually read the works of the Enlightenment the point is to say: Absolute Power rests in the hands of the Creator. Some like Kant believe that Creator does not exist and thus draws the conclusion that Absolute Power belongs to no one. A fair conclusion. Others like popular enlightenment Diests believe that the Creator is an ambivalent being no longer interested in our world and therefore absolute power is out of our grasp. And still other Christian philosophers of the time believed only God had absolute power.

It was a cultural evolution built on by previous adaptations. Historiography is annoying to talk about because people like to segment it into easily datable and defined periods. The Scholastic Age, The Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, The Counter-Reformation, etc. The reality is these periods are not easily datable nor defined as they all build on each other into an evolution of human culture.

There is a lot wrong with the Enlightenment:

A humanistic sensibility impelled the Enlightenment thinkers to condemn not just religious violence but also the secular cruelties of their age, including slavery, despotism, executions for frivolous offences such as shoplifting and poaching and sadistic punishments such as flogging, amputation, impalement, disembowelment, breaking on the wheel and burning at the stake.


The Enlightenment thinkers were men and women of their age, the 18th century. Some were racists, sexists, antisemites, slaveholders or duellists.


The same is virtually true for all men and women from previous eras who pushed forth new ideas. The focus on the Enlightenment as this pinnacle or foundation of the modern age is indeed what Pinker says he is not trying to do: Enlighten-olatry.

Sir Isaac Newton for all his scientific brilliance still believed that alchemy was scientifically possible. And while the Enlightenment brought about scientific thought it also brought about and furthered pseudo-scientific thought. Some of which is still practiced today, eg. Herbology.

In my conclusion, I am not arguing that the Enlightenment was not a step forward in human progress, but rather saying it was not this great pinnacle of achievement, but was a natural evolution from the progress made from previous movements in Western human culture. It should be noted that the Enlightenment is Westernocentric as it does not apply to Asia or Africa and it heralded in Imperialism.
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#5  Postby felltoearth » Feb 13, 2018 6:56 pm

The era was a cornucopia of ideas, some of them contradictory, but four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism and progress.


The point of the article wasn't that the Enlightenment invented reason, science, humanism, and progress it's that, as noted above, the ideas that came out of the Enlightenment tied together the above and were underpinned by them. This was the unique contribution of the period. I doubt the Royal Society would exist to this day without it.
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#6  Postby Keep It Real » Feb 13, 2018 11:49 pm

willhud9 wrote:
If there’s anything the Enlightenment thinkers had in common, it was an insistence that we energetically apply the standard of reason to understanding our world, and not fall back on generators of delusion like faith, dogma, revelation, authority, charisma, mysticism, divination, visions, gut feelings or the hermeneutic parsing of sacred texts.



This is a massive error on Pinker's part IMO. There need be more authority IMO especially regarding central issues. Anarchy (ie. free market selfish capitalism (which implies greed/selfishness is an inherently good thing, never mind the rest of the externalities)) is clearly wrong as is not authoritatively stating there is no hell nor that God will take care of our problems (ie. allowing theistic perspectives to go unchallenged/undenounced by "authority"). The list goes on but basically liberalism = anarchy = chaos = damaging bedlam. Children children everywhere, they act as if we shouldn't care.
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Re: Required Reading For The Era

#7  Postby Keep It Real » Feb 13, 2018 11:55 pm

The authority needn't be a person - moreover collective wisdom - instigated by administrators - what was it again - a panel of frequently refreshed academically rounded intelligentsia? Something like that.
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