Reflections on Modernity, Materialism, and Metaphysics

If there ever comes a day when the machines are threatening to take over, we humans, who could easily end the threat in a heartbeat by simply destroying the machines, will instead plead the machines’ case, urge our fellows to consider all the benefits the machines have provided for us, demand that we all try to see the situation from the mechanistic perspective, and of course insist that the only reasonable solution to this threat is to build better, more powerful machines.

“Stockholm syndrome” is merely a pseudoscientific name for ordinary life. By isolating and defining it as the extraordinary case, we conveniently overlook our own normalized deference to, and identification with, the oppressive forces of proximity, practical dependency, and familiarity. In truth, resistance to, or the overcoming of, this “syndrome” (i.e., the immature state of individuation) is extremely rare, usually partial, and results only from the most intense of spiritual struggles.

The free man is he who does not impede himself from doing what is best, who defines what is best without deference to social expectations or short term advantage, and who never acts without knowing why. The modern man regards the good as an illusory motive, defines himself by social utility, and reduces all “why questions” to the irrational passions or “drives.”

The materialist argues that the immaterial is not necessary to explaining experience. But this reveals his hidden (and false) premise; for truth is what is, not what is necessary. Has materialism, in its presuppositions, turned out, with benefit of hindsight, to be just another variant of pragmatism?

That the metaphysicians did not achieve all they intended is no evidence against the validity or worth of their intentions. Reaching higher than man can reach only appears to be a refutation of the existence of the unreachable, or proof of the uselessness of so reaching, to those who insist on reducing reality to the length of their own arms. Who would do this, but one who lacked imagination, which is to say a sense for the metaphorical? Hobbes, Locke, Kant: Philosophers who suspected and even despised figurative thought — the first two explicitly condemning figurative language as an abuse of speech, the third openly eschewing examples, which at their best are often, in effect, living and breathing analogies.

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