Berkeley to Kant - the Collapse of the Outer World - RR261A2
The media player is loading...
Our subject this morning is Berkeley to Kant – the Collapse of the Outer World. We shall be retracing our steps in that we surveyed the direction of though from Berkeley to Kant last night. Thereafter we shall concentrate on the implications of modern philosophy in the age of revolution, from the French Revolution to the present. Before we begin again with Berkeley, I should like to cite a sentence or two from a very influential volume: New Directions in Theology Today, Volume 1 Introduction by William Hordern. This was a series of about 6 or 7 studies completed only within recent months, in which the basic premises of modern theological thought, as it has been influenced by modern philosophy were set forth.
And in this volume, Hordern says among other things and I quote: “As Bill Garten explains it, the method of demythologization is a radical attempt to free history and theology from the pattern of subject, object, thinking. This pattern of thinking, rooted in Descartes and rooted in the natural sciences, distinguishes between the knowing subject and an object that is outside of him to be known.”
Now, to many of you this will no doubt come as a shock. That the distinction between myself and that wall, or between myself and you, is a distinction that has to be obliterated. That it represents some kind of hangover from the past to think of a subject/object distinction. As Hordern states, this is a relic of our inheritance from Descartes, which since Immanuel Kant, or from Hume we can say, has been obliterated. There is now no such distinction. The whole of the phenomenal world is simply an aspect of my experience, so that its reality, in and of itself, things in themselves, is meaningless to me. That I can never know. I can only know that wall as an aspect of my experience, and you as an aspect of my experience. [00:03:06]
Well, let’s look at that very practically...
Well, let’s look at that very practically. Anyone who has every engaged in any kind of counseling knows that one of the most common remarks made by men and women, parents or children: “My husband, my wife, my children, or my parents are just using me.” One of the most common remarks one finds in counseling. Well, this is not surprising that such a remark is so common in the modern world. After all if in terms of our epistemology, that is, our theory of knowledge, we reduce the other person to simply an aspect of our experience, and we deny that we can ever know them or that it is even desirable to know them in themselves, then everything is something for me to use. Naturally one of the consequences of that is a communication’s problem. After all, how can you communicate with another person in himself? When by definition in the modern world you cannot know things in themselves, or people in themselves.
Perhaps the most important play in the modern world, philosophically the most astute, and extremely influential was John Paul Sartre’s No Exit. No Exit is at one and the same time a play about hell and a play about the individual. In terms of modern philosophy there is no exit form myself, no exit from yourself, from your mind. You are a prisoner in yourself. And this is your universe and it is also your hell. No exit.
Now as we saw last night, Descartes philosophy deformed man’s perspective on himself. The mind was seen in somewhat neo-platonic terms as an alien reality from the rest of the universe. A separate substance, spiritual in nature. The Biblical unity of man was lost. The universe was divided into two different substances, mind and matter, with God as a necessary limiting concept to provide a connection between the two. The body was reduced to matter, to mechanism, to a machine without a mind and subject to purely mechanical laws. This is why, by the way, it was so very difficult for medicine to accept the idea that ulcers can be psychosomatically caused. [00:06:40]
One of the most important doctors in Britain who was...
One of the most important doctors in Britain who was by appointment a Royal surgeon told me a few years ago that when he went to medical school there was no surer way of incurring the wrath of the faculty than to say that ulcers were caused by mental tensions. Because they would promptly go to the board and trace out the physical chemistry of ulcers, and deny a connection between mind and body. The world of the mind you see was to be separated from the world of the body, which was to be understood in terms of purely mechanical causes.
Now Thomas Hobbs, 1588-1679, challenged the validity of Descartes dualism. He recognized that there was a problem: How to relate mind and body? And so his solution was to eliminate mind. The only reality, said Hobbs, is “Matter in motion.” Sensations, thought, consciousness, were reduced to phantasm created by the reactions of atoms in the brains. Now this of course established a long tradition of thinking which is still with us, one aspect of our modern world. When I went to the University of California and took the required source of psychology, the textbook was Wordsworth’s Psychology.
Now, let me stop a moment and say that it is not surprising that psychology is nowadays a required course. It is a product of the whole of modern philosophy and its concentration on the inner world of man. Economics is not a required course. And we need it far more than we need the claptrap that passes as psychology.
Now, in that course of psychology, Wordsworth never once used the words consciousness or mind. Those were illegitimate terms from his perspective. On the other hand if you go to someone like Freud, he never deals with Biology, and in fact he said: “A Psychoanalyst would be much the better for it if he had no medical training.” If he didn’t recognize, in other words, the reality of the body. If he dealt, purely, with mental problems. [00:09:41]
This is why we have such a tension between these two...
This is why we have such a tension between these two schools. One recent writer, doctor Watson, has gone to great length to demonstrate that so many people whose problems are analyzed by a psychoanalyst, his prenatal problems or conflicts with his or her parents, are really people who need surgery, or medical, physical help. But the psychoanalyst refuses to see it. You see we have divided reality radically. Hobbs views were in a sense premature, although they represented an important strand of Cartesian thought. That particular strand culminated in a Cartesian scholar, La Mettrie, whose book: Man a Machine, carried that aspect of Cartesian though to its logical conclusion.
However, the Cartesian premise began to come to its logical implications with regard to the division of mind and matter in Sir Isaac Newton. Newton’s ideas were very readily accepted because Newton had about himself the odor of sanctity. We forget sometimes why men’s ideas are so readily accepted, but Newton was a Cartesian to the core, but at the same time while we know now from more careful analyses of his theological writings which were voluminous, that he was probably at the least an Arian in his Christology, at the same time he wrote numerous and voluminous pages on prophecy, on the ten heads in revelation and their symbolism and so on and so forth, and I think if you read Newton on this subject you would find him very much like some of our wild radio preachers of today. This gave him the odor of sanctity, and so whatever he wrote somehow had to be alright, because wasn’t Newton a very pious soul?
Now, Newton reduced the world to matter and motion, to entirely mechanical principles which were mathematical in explanation. Newton declared very early in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and I quote: “I offer this work as the mathematical principles of philosophy. For the whole burden of philosophy seems to consist in this: from the phenomena of motions to investigate the forces of nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena, and to this end the general propositions in the first and second book are directed. In the third book I give an example of this in the explication of the system of the world, for by the propositions mathematically demonstrated in the former books, in the third I derive from the celestial phenomena the forces of gravity with which bodies tend to the sun and the several planets. Then from these forces by other propositions which are also mathematical, I deduce the motions of the planets, the comets, the moon, and the sea. I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles. For I am induced by many respects to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards one another and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from one another. These forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain, but I hope the principles here laid down will afford some light, either to this or to some truer method of philosophy.” [00:14:39]
Now, what Newton was saying was, that in the world...
Now, what Newton was saying was, that in the world of matter, purely mechanical principles prevail. The famous illustration of the billiard ball. How does one billiard ball move? Only when another one hits it. So in the world of matter, everything is purely in terms of such entirely mechanical contact. There has to be contiguity. One thing has to hit another to work on it. This is why, you see, Doctors who are entirely Newtonian, could not see the mind creating ulcers. There had to be contiguity, and mind and matter were two entirely different substances.
Now Berkeley accepted the Newtonian view. But he asked a further question: “Which is the real world? The world of the mind with mathematical principles, or the dead world of matter?” Berkeley did not deny the testimony of sense impressions, but he said that: “Knowledge is confined to sense impressions. It is my sense impression of that wall, not a wall in itself.”
And so he wrote in his Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in opposition to skeptics and atheist’s and I quote: “With all my heart, retain the word matter, and apply it to the objects of sense, if you please. Provided, you do not attribute to them any subsistence distinct from their being perceived. I shall never quarrel with you for an expression. Matter or material substance, are terms introduced by philosophers, and as used by them imply a sort of independency or subsistence distinct from being perceived by a mind, but are never used by common people, or if ever it is signified the immediate object of sense. One would think therefore, so long as the name of all particular things with the terms sensible, substance, body, stuff, and the like, are retained, the word Matter should be never missed in common talk. And in philosophical discourses it seems the best way to leave it quite out: since there is not, perhaps, any one thing that hath more favoured and strengthened the depraved bent of the mind towards Atheism than the use of that general confused term.” [00:17:53]
Now of course we are very familiar with the outcome...
Now of course we are very familiar with the outcome of this kind of debate in the practical realm. Those who deny there is any such thing as mind or consciousness, and those who deny the world of matter, Mary (Bay Carridie?) a conspicuous example. This tension was a product of the Cartesian world view, because it divided reality into two substances which were essentially alien to one another. So that, as men pushed the Cartesian principles to their conclusion, it came to an either/or position, and increasingly of course, this tension which we call in philosophy dialectics, is breaking down. A dialectical philosophy is one which holds two ideas which are by definition contradictory in tension, because it feels it needs them both. But a dialectical philosophy breaks down ultimately either into a dualism, or into a monism.
In Asia, which began its philosophical course long before the western world, as a result culture, because philosophy has reached a dead end, has been stagnant. It has collapsed, either into a stagnant monism as in the far east in particular, or into dualism as with Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, or other forms of dualistic thought.
Now in his New Theory of Vision, Berkeley said that all we see are sensations, not the material world itself; then in the Principles of Human Knowledge Berkeley’s point was that all that exists is our knowledge. He declared and I quote: “It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways.” [00:20:45]
Thus we have a radical assault you see beginning very...
Thus we have a radical assault you see beginning very early in Berkeley on the idea of a duality. A will to reduce it. Now, when you reduce the world to mind, my mind in particular, and deny reality to the rest, or say: “If things in themselves exist, they are not important.” What my net doesn’t catch is not fish. Same basic idea. What you do is to emphasize the oneness of reality, and you are that one. Naturally there will be a strong tendency therefore to concentrate everything. Your world view will be collectivist and totalitarian. If, on the other hand, you take the other perspective that all that exists is the multiplicity of mechanical, dead, hard, cold atoms, you will emphasize the particularity, the many-ness of things. And your position then will be anarchistic as against totalitarian.
This is the tension, you see, that philosophy finds itself in. It must either go into a totalitarian trend, or into an anarchistic trend, depending on which facet of modern philosophy it emphasizes. While the materialistic trend prevailed, there was a strong trend towards decentralization and towards anarchism. But since that trend has been more or less given a very secondary or a minor role in modern thought, the collectivist, the totalitarian trend increases. The individual has less and less significance.
Now both forms of this dilemma are a creation of the premise. They are artificial products of the premises established in Descartes. They are nonetheless real in that they are the problems that torment us in our time.
Now Berkeley’s position such as I have just read it is empirical. The whole world is reduced to my sense impressions, it has no reality beyond my sense impressions. Berkeley’s religion, philosophy and science now retreated into the mind of man. And one of the practical results of this religiously was that very shortly the development of what was then known as: ‘experimental religion’ was forth come. The word later was altered to: ‘Experiential Religion’. Experiential religion first manifested itself in both Catholic and Protestant circles in what was known as pietism, which emphasized feeling, and later developed into revivalism, in which the essence of religion is experience. This is important to understand. Revivalistic religion or pietistic religion, or charismatic faith, all emphasized not the reality of objective facts out there, God, Christ, the historical events of the Bible, but my experience of these things so that, in some modern forms of this kind of thought in the neo evangelicals and the neo orthodox, what matters is not whether it happened out there, but because it happened in me. This is what counts, what happens in me. My feeling, my experience of it. So that the experiential aspect is everything. [00:25:51]
On one occasion at one major university campus, when...
On one occasion at one major university campus, when I made some remarks that transgressed into the realm of economics, and it was very obvious that they had a (Von Miesian?) bent, one student very passionately objected to those remarks and said that: “What he believed in was economics with a heart.” Now that was a superb expression, because it depicts the modern mood, the product of philosophy so clearly. Economics with a heart. It has to be experiential you see. The objective facts are meaningless such a person brushes aside every objective economic fact that you cite, because the objective world is meaningless. The subject, object relationship, as Hordern said, is the thing that modern theology must abolish. Modern thought has some of the sciences (retained?) because they are backward, they haven’t caught up you see. That was the implication of what he had to say. And of course: “your classical economics are so hopelessly reactionary, they talk about objective facts of economics, not economics with a heart.”
Now Berkeley claimed that his was the common sense philosophy. And he said that the lifeless, cold, dead world of Newton was not a common sense world. That the real world is the world we experience. And the thinkers of the day picked this up immediately, and they began to write poetry, hymns, and so on that reflected this perspective.
One such thing was written by Addison, which when I went to the university was still very commonly a part of the required reading in English courses, and used to be in some hymnals, I haven’t checked lately. But Addison’s lines read in part:
“What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice or sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found;”
In other words, the whole world of matter is a dead, cold world, there is no sound, no life, nothing but dead cold matter outside. “But,” Addison said:
“In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.” [00:29:10]
But the problem with that of course is, the singing...
But the problem with that of course is, the singing and the hand that made them have their reality in ‘my mind’, in Addison’s mind. For Berkeley, all things are simply perceptions, all ideas are passive. And so we have the essentially passive view of knowledge of modern philosophy, the mind is a receiver of impressions. It is a clean, clear, innocent receiver. Right reason makes the reception good.
Now, Hume, admired Berkeley greatly, and built on him, and he simply carried it to the logical end. Hume launched a radical attack on the idea of causality. To assume that there is causality is to presuppose that there is a law out there in that universe. “The law,” he said, “Is only here, in my mind. It is a projection, just as God is a projection, just as order, meaning, purpose, are all projections of my mind.” “The idea of causality, therefore” he said, “Is invalid. We cannot posit that we know those things out there, nor that there is a God out there sending orderly impressions to us, as Bishop Berkeley assumed, all we have are sense impressions.”
“To imagine that anything exists, and has meaning, order, law, causality to it, is,” he said, “fairyland thinking.” So that, to take the view of a naïve scientist, or a naïve Christian, is to indulge in fairyland thinking. That was his exact expression. He continued after saying that this line of reasoning gets us into fairyland, and I quote: “It appears then that this idea of a necessary connection among events, arises from a number of similar instances which occur of the constant conjunction of these events, nor can that idea ever be suggested by any one of these instances surveyed, in all possible lights and positions. But there is nothing in a number of instances different from every other instance, which is supposed to be exactly similar, except that only after a repetition of similar instances, the mind is carried by habit upon appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist.”
In other words, what he is saying, if you’ve seen the sun rise in the east every morning and set in the west, you get into the habit of thinking it’s going to do that but that has nothing to do with anything outside your experience and it’s just a habit, so you attribute to the habit of your impressions a reality in a supposed real world out there. [00:32:57]
“This connection therefore which we feel in the mind...
“This connection therefore which we feel in the mind, this customary transition of the imagination from one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or the impression from which we form the idea of power or necessary connection. Nothing farther is in the case. Contemplate the subject on all sides; you will never find any other origin of that idea. This is the sole difference between one instance, from which we can never receive the idea of connexion, and a number of similar instances, by which it is suggested. The first time a man saw the communication of motion by impulse, as by the shock of two billiard balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was connected: but only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them to be connected. What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea of connexion? Nothing but that he now feels these events to be connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence of one from the appearance of the other. When we say, therefore, that one object is connected with another, we mean only that they have acquired a connexion in our thought, and give rise to this inference, by which they become proofs of each other’s existence: A conclusion which is somewhat extraordinary, but which seems founded on sufficient evidence. Nor will its evidence be weakened by any general diffidence of the understanding, or skeptical suspicion concerning every conclusion which is new and extraordinary. No conclusions can be more agreeable to skepticism than such as make discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of human reason and capacity.” [00:35:04]
Now to any common sense point of view this is absurd...
Now to any common sense point of view this is absurd. It’s ridiculous. But given the premise of modern philosophy, this is a logical conclusion. As a result for Hume, there is no knowledge of anything outside of man consequently. There is only a pragmatic opinion about things, so that in a sense we can say from him, pragmatism was born. In the very well known words of the conclusion of his inquiry, Hum declared: “When we run over libraries persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school of meta physics for instance, let us ask: “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames, because it can then contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
But what if it contains such abstract reasoning concerning matter, concerning quantity or number? Well, then you will have to say: “This is valid because it meets the logic of the mind.” Not because it meets something out there and describes it accurately. So that, valid science is something that describes human logic. And as Kuhn in his very influential book, the most influential in scientific thought today, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. K U H N, Kuhn, says that all our scientific theories are merely Paradigms with which we interpret our experience of reality. They are mythical, we hold on to them as long as they word, and when they no longer work we drop them for something else. And so the theory he said, behind bloodletting in medicine was very effective as long as men believed in it, it worked. We have since adopted other theories in terms of which medicine operates, and we are likely in the near future to junk these and regard them as absurd as we now regard bloodletting. [00:38:01]
So that, you see, for him there is no reality as such...
So that, you see, for him there is no reality as such out there that science deals with. A time or two, he becomes frightened by that conclusion and hedges on it, but most of the time, he is simply describing science as the logical paradigms or myths that the mind uses pragmatically in order to function.
Now, our time is getting short so we will pass on, I wanted to deal with Hume a little further, but just let me cite one statement from his Treatise of Human Nature. “Shall we then establish it for general maxim, that no refined or elaborate reasoning is ever to be received? If we embrace this principle we run into the most manifest absurdities. If we reject it in favour of these reasonings, we subvert entirely the, human understanding.”
Now do you see his dilemma? If we say, our reasoning about nature is valid, we end up in absurdity, we are dealing with myths, not reality. But if we say we will do no reasoning, then life becomes impossible.
“We have, therefore, no choice left but betwixt a false reason and none at all… Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy… I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends… No: If I must be a fool, as all those who reason or believe any thing certainly are, my follies shall at least be natural and agreeable… In all the incidents of life we ought still to preserve our scepticism… Where reason is lively, and mixes itself with some propensity, it ought to be assented to.”
So you live a life of reason, but you regard reason as a joke. This was the conclusion that Hume came to.
Now Immanuel Kant accepted Hume’s perspective on causality, in fact he accepted all of what Hume had to say. But he also felt at one and the same time he had to restore the validity of science. Hume had left nothing but pure ideas. All else was open to radical doubt. Newtonian science in terms of Hume dealt with appearances, not reality; with phenomena, not things in themselves. [00:41:12]
What Kant did therefore was to take what in Descartes...
What Kant did therefore was to take what in Descartes was a problem and a limitation, and make it a virtue. If you have a problem, in other words, say it’s a blessing and then you can live with it. So, Kant said: “Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects.” This is in his Critique of Pure Reason. “But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them apriori by means of concepts have on this assumption ended in failure. We must therefore make trial, whether we may not have more success in the task of meta physics if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge.”
Now that sentence marks the birth of the age of revolution. Jerry Reuben echoed that when in his book Do It he said: “What we are doing is to act out our fantasies and compel the world to conform to them.” The whole of the revolution of the students in the 60’s was simply a development of this Kantian premise. Objects must Confrom to our knowledge. We have here Kant’s premise becoming marching orders for the future as it is developed by Hegel, and then Marx, says in his Thesis on Feuerbach: “heretofore the problem of philosophy has been to understand the world, now we know that the problem of philosophy is to change the world. How? To make the world conform to my experience. The economics of the heart.”
That’s why you see, if you got to Marx with a Von Miesian premise, his economics is ridiculous. But if you go to it with a Kantian premise, that the world of objects must conform to my knowledge, to my experience, there is nothing wrong with his economics. And the modern student, the product of modern education goes to economics with a Kantian premises, and therefore to him what Marx has to say is more logical. [00:44:25]
Another sentence from Kant’s ...
Another sentence from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. “The understanding does not derive its laws from, but prescribes them to nature. What are natural laws? They are prescriptions of the mind to nature.” You see, Descartes said the given, the presupposition, the starting point of modern thought must be “Cogito Ergo Sum” I think, therefore I am. So that, the autonomous mind of man replaces God at the center, and so now man says: “Let there be, natural law, and there is natural law.” Let there be, Logos, let there be money, fiat money, and there is money.
He prescribes the laws. And so he looks at you who believe that there is something other than the human prescription as an obsolete character, something out of the middle ages, and that precisely is what that treasury economist told me of Von Miesian economics, it’s something out of the middle ages. Because it rests on the reality of something out there rather than the prescription of the mind imposed on that world. Kant’s world is still a Cartesian Trichotomy, but instead of mind, body, and God, we have mind; phenomena, my mental experience, sense impressions, which is the realm of knowledge; and things in themselves. Things in themselves, the hard real world out there is not knowable. It cannot even be called a world of material things. It is something unknowable if it exists at all. The world of Newton is gone. The world of Hegel, Marx, and Darwin is dawning. The world of phenomena derived from the mind of man which is the sole realm of knowledge.
The reality of (Newman?) of things in themselves is neither denied or affirmed, it is simply retained as a limiting concept, and God too becomes only a limiting concept. So that Paul Tillich says: “We cannot ascribe existence to God, nor can we deny existence to God.” God is simply a limiting concept, and we cannot apply the category of existence to him. [00:47:31]
Existentialism you see lies straight ahead...
Existentialism you see lies straight ahead. Do your own thing, as the truth for man. Man is an experiencing animal. To live, said the romantic movement of the 19th and 20th century, is to experience, and thus there came the quest for experience. For an economics, for a religion, for a politics premised on feeling. Economics with a heart, politics with a heart, religion with a heart. Charismatics. This is the modern age, it is the product of modern philosophy. We shall continue in our subsequent studies to explore the world, from Hegel to the present. Are there any questions now on the ground we have covered? Yes.
[Audience Member] You said that the…?...The world must be made to conform to our will…?...
[Rushdoony] A decline in what?
[Audience Member] …?...
[Rushdoony] I would say the decline in campus disorders is because there is no longer a draft, and also because the revolutionary activity has taken another form. I don’t find any decline of the revolutionary sentiment. As a matter of fact, one of the disasters that is striking one community after another across the country is precisely because wherever the university (Tape Skips) county, they are imposing a moratorium on construction , on development of any sort, they are geared entirely to two premises ZPG and ZEG, Zero Population Growth and Zero Economic Growth, and they are killing any kind of economic growth. So they are now activists in the realm of politics, rather than anti politics with a revolutionary activities. They’re still as revolutionary. [00:50:14]
[Audience Member] I wondered if you could make some comment, on, we are seeing the collapse of what we might call a more humane or (Esteliological?) like economics, because of the collapse of the (?) world. But I wanted you to comment more on the (?) thesis of, or at leasty make a notion on the collapse of the more objective sciences like Physics or Chemistry, or…
[Rushdoony] Yes, there is a very, very brilliant book on that by one who doesn’t have an answer to it, Gunther Stent, S T E N T, who is a Molecular Biologist, whatever that means, at the University of California at Berkeley. An the title of his book is: The Dream of the Golden Age, a view of the end of progress. And what Stent says there, he never uses the word God because for people like Stent that’s the ultimate in the dirty word, the four letter or three letter pornographic word. He says: “Now that we have lost any idea of meaning, what is happening? It’s a radical collapse.” And he said: “The result is today our newer graduate students no longer have the zeal for learning, the quest of knowledge, that characterized some of us in an earlier day.” Why? It’s a myth to them. So the graduate students he said that we now get are like stamp collectors, they do it because they enjoy it. And he said that the quality is declining and we will see a gradual disappearance of the sciences, because the pleasure principle is taking over. If there is no meaning to life, if we are not dealing with any objective reality, then let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. And he said this is what civilization is on the way to doing. And in the concluding chapter I believe he says in two centuries mankind will disappear. It will have committed suicide, it will revert to the level of the Polynesians and perish.
There was a four page review by the way of that book in Natural History, and the reviewer concluded by saying: “I cannot buy Doctor Stent’s optimism.” [00:53:04]
A very interesting illustration of that too, Jeffrey...
A very interesting illustration of that too, Jeffrey Bibby, B I B B Y, one of the greatest archeologists of our day, did one of the most important pieces of archeological work ever done, and he reported on it in Looking for Dilmun. Now had this been done in the last century, it would have been a front page story and Bibby would’ve been a very famous man like some of the great archaeologists of that era. Times have changed. What Bibby did was to find scattered references in ancient Ir of the Chaldees, and ancient Minoan Culture, Ancient Sumeria, Akkad, of an earlier and a very great a glorious culture, Dilmun. So he went looking for it. And he found it, after many hot, hard summers of work on the Arabian Gulf. And so at the end, he raises a remarkable question for a man who has done so much. He says: “What does it all mean? These kings, these traders, these merchantmen, when in the days of Dilmun went to India and traversed the earth in a way we did not believe men in those days could. Who wrote songs, snatches of which I have resurrected, whose names for a brief season I have brought to light. What did it all mean? They are all dead and gone, and what will I mean, in time to come? What’s the meaning of the work of it all?”
Now, such a conclusion would be unthinkable, you see, in the 19th century, when man had not come to the logical conclusion of modern philosophy. So Bibby is saying when he has done the most important work of any archaeologist of our generation, “What was the sense to it?” We have time for one more question I think.
[Audience Member] Your mentioning that thing of the Capernican revolution ..?... would it not be questioned by men like (?) and Galileo?
[Rushdoony] Well, I think Bruno for one thing would have paid no attention to Capernicus because his perspective was essentially hermetic, um, Francis, I forget her last name, a very brilliant scholar has written on D.R. Giordano Bruno, and his thought, and… what?
[Audience Member] Francis Yates.
[Rushdoony] Francis Yates, a very brillian work. Pointing out that we are completely wrong in seeing it as modern and scientific, it was a catch all of very ancient Hermetic, occultist strands. Doctor Monar, who taught here this past year, in his most recent book, I believe The Problem of Knowledge, has a very, very brilliant section on that tradition and its influence at the time of the renaissance. I think Galileo would have said that he was more important than Copernicus. [00:57:00]
Now, having said that, let me say that what I had to...
Now, having said that, let me say that what I had to say is not original with me. Some of the most recent scholars on the subject have pointed out that so called Copernican revolution is an idea that historians much later decided upon, that they are really talking about Newton, and the effect of Newton on thought, that it simply wasn’t there. Now Christopher Hill who I regard as one of the greatest historians of our day, he’s a Marxist, I don’t agree with him, but I think that there are very few to equal Christopher Hill anywhere, on 17th century thought. He has done a great deal to trace the study of Copernicus’s influence in the universities of the 17th century, in which the whole emphasis on it was, well, it was the Puritans who made heavy use of Copernicus because they regarded it as a democratic view of the universe, as against the more Ptolemaic, the more orthodox Ptolemaic, because Copernicus himself as Ptolemaic, but a revisionist. The more orthodox Ptolemaic hierarchical view of the heavenly bodies.
So the way they looked at the problem is completely alien to what historians going back and seeing it have professed to see. They have read the impact of Newton back into Copernicus.
[Audience Member] Thank you Doctor Rushdoony. [00:58:52]