Descartes and Modern Philosophy - The Birth of Subjectivism - RR261A1

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Descartes & Modern Philosophy -The Birth of Subjectivism
Course: Course - History of Modern Philosophy
Subject: Subject:Philosophy
Lesson#: 1
Length: 1:06:53
TapeCode: RR261A1
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
History of Modern Philosophy.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

One of the myths that now is well established in textbooks is that there was such a thing as a Copernican Revolution. Supposedly, man emerged in the Copernican Revolution, out of the narrow, (Phrant?), limited worldview of the middle ages, into the vast universe of the modern world. Unfortunately the facts do not jive with this. For one thing, no one in Copernicus’s day, or the century that followed had any idea that a revolution occurred, or that there any, really, great and momentous change in human thought.

This has been a myth of the modern era which has been subscribed to by more and more scholars as they have reflected on the past and said: “This is the way men should have reacted to Copernicus.” Very often these scholars have quoted one another, until the myth has been greatly magnified. One such scholar, who wrote an extremely valuable book in the area of economics, on Fiat Money Inflation in France was Andrew D White, President of Cornell.

In His history of the warfare of theology, of science with theology in Christendom, he gives us the myth of the attack on Copernicus, and he wrote: “Calvin took the lead in his commentary on Genesis, by condemning all that asserted that the earth is not at the center of the universe. He clinched the matter by the usual reference to the first verse of the 93rd psalm, and asked: “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus over that of the Holy Spirit?” Unfortunately, White in this work relied almost entirely on secondary sources, all of which were very hostile to Christianity, and therefore what he gives us is a hodge-podge of modern myths. [00:02:26]

Not too long ago, a scholar, Edward Rosen, in the ...

Not too long ago, a scholar, Edward Rosen, in the Journal of the History of Ideas began to check into this myth of Calvin’s opposition to Copernicus, and from that he went on to a study of the reaction to Copernicus, and what he found out was, that Calvin had never heard of Copernicus. That, Luther in passing made a slightly derogatory reference to one aspect of Copernicus, but a Lutheran clergyman actually edited and introduced Copernicus’s works. As a matter of fact, Calvin had actually prepared the way, to a degree, for an acceptation of Copernicus by writing: “The Holy Spirit had no intention to teach astronomy, and in proposing instruction meant to be common to the simplest and most uneducated persons, he made use by Moses and the other prophets by popular language.” Therefore there was no popular reaction against Copernicus, as a matter of fact, and this has not been given any study and should be, Copernicus became very popular with the puritan clergy a generation or so later.

Why? Because, they said: “Copernicus democratized the universe.” “The Ptolemaic System,” they said, “had a hierarchy. The hierarchy had been abolished from the heavens by Copernicus.” And so in England the battle of Copernicus was between the Puritan intellectuals and, Oxford and Cambridge which were Ptolemaic, and felt it reinforced the crown, to be Ptolemaic.

In reality, however, Copernicus had no intention of overthrowing the Ptolemaic System. He simply revived it. There was no major revolution in astronomy with Copernicus, he has been given undue credit for that, in fact he was honored recently with a place on our postage stamps, but the so called Copernican revolution never existed. As a matter of fact we must say that the modern era began not with the great widening of the horizons of man, but actually a tremendous narrowing, and this narrowing was the work of Descartes. [00:05:21]

Descartes is the fountain head of modern philosophy

Descartes is the fountain head of modern philosophy. Descartes was seeking for a scientific, a rational, and a mathematical basis for philosophy. As a result, and he saw no conflict between reason, mathematics and science, the three were virtually identical for him, because at that time when you said” Science” you meant first of all mathematics, and when you said reason, you thought of mathematics. Mathematics had come to a position of priority. Descartes, as he began to re-think philosophy, broke radically with the long tradition that it had begun with Augustine. Divided on the one hand with Anselm, a tradition that perished, and then with the scholastics beginning with Abelard, and culminating in Thomas Aquinas, had turned to Aristotelian foundations while trying to maintain and Augustinian theology.

The medieval system collapsed, as the nominalists pushed some aspects of it to their logical limits, and man found no solution with problems in terms of the developments that ensued. Nominalism reduced the world to the kind of anarchy we have today, where things were essentially meaningless. The renaissance offered a partial return to some kind of philosophical presupposition, in that it went around and behind Aristotle to Plato. The Reformation attempted to give an answer, and gave some very cogent ones, but both the Renaissance and the Reformation were succeeded by a new spirit, one which in a sense was forecast by the Renaissance, which we have in essence in modern philosophy, an new starting point, one which cut loose from the old moorings, which while we had in Descartes an element of traditional Catholic faith, nonetheless represented a radical departure there from.

Because now the starting place was no longer the Christian God, no longer something in the heavens as with Greek thought, the ideas, the ideal forms. Nor even as with the more ancient strand of Greek thought, the atoms Of Democritus. [00:08:46]

Now it was totally different because it was the mind

Now it was totally different because it was the mind of man. You all remember from your introductory y course in philosophy or the history of philosophy that Descartes great starting point was: “Cogito Ergo Sum.” “I think, therefore I am.” The one certainty in the universe is the mind of man, the autonomous mind of man, so that instead of beginning with the universe as supposedly the modern world did with Copernicus, the Modern world begins with the mind of man. Everything else has to be proven, God and the world. The one certainty is the mind of man. You see already the shadow of existentialism. You can see also in this and we shall be touching on this as we go ahead with this stream, this tradition, why classical economics is out of favor. In terms of the modern point of view, to hold that there are any principals, any laws outside of man that bind man and his activity is inadmissible. It is a restraint on the radical freedom of the autonomous mind of man.

Thus it is that the most obvious economic fact is alien to the modern world view. Some of you may recall how in 1963 and 64 when silver coinage was at the end of the road in their country, and had been predicted, by the way, earlier, by one of your faculty, Doctor Han Senholtz, and in fact I recall very vividly when he did previously, we were both together speaking at a two weeks institute, and Doctor Senholtz said emphatically at that time that silver coinage would disappear, and gave the reasons for it. But of course when it began to disappear, the establishment economists said that it could not disappear. That Gresham’s law was no longer tenable, that there were no such economic laws. Well, of course, silver did disappear. It’s Ironic now, that pennies are disappearing, a similar statement is being made, as a matter of fact about 5-6 years ago one of my Chalcedon staff associates wrote an article that was brought to the attention of the treasury in which he predicted that in 1974, copper pennies would begin to disappear in terms of what inflation would do to the price of copper, plus several other factors. Now the treasury knew that, they had that as a part of their clipping, it had been called to their attention, but they will not believe you see, that anything can determine history except the mind of man, the absolute, the given. [00:12:27]

Do you see the direction of what we are going to explore

Do you see the direction of what we are going to explore? Instead of the world out here being determinative as it was in Greek philosophy, or God, being determinative as in Christian philosophy, in the modern perspective it is the autonomous mind of man that is absolute, that takes the place of God and the universe, is itself God and the Universe, the totality, and therefore, the determiner of all things.

This was the significance of Descartes philosophy. Descartes dates are 1596 to 1650. For him, the autonomous mind of mans was a as Rousseau later picking up this tradition was to develop it, uncorrupted, untainted, and therefore the mind of man thus being un-fallen, you see, the fall was in effect abolished, it was not even mentioned. Here is this uncorrupted, autonomous, and absolute monarch. The one certainty in the universe. And outside the universe or God, as question marks. The whole point of Descartes philosophy is a quest to demonstrate the reality of this outer world, this table, your, other people. So when Descartes began there, Sartre was an inevitability, because for Sartre there was no problem of God, that’s out of the question, the problem is other people. “I know that I exist, but I don’t know about you.” You see. “You are phenomena, things I experience, aspects of my experience; you’re independent reality, that is another question, and open question.

Now that may seem far out, but as we progress during the week we shall see how this came about quite logically, granted Descartes premise. As Kushman a historian of the history of philosophy has said and I quote: “For Descartes, reality lies within the self, and the next question for him is how to get out of the self.” And indeed this was the question for Descartes, and for all of modern philosophy. How to get out of the self, except, after a while, as they find it impossible, they abandon the desire to get out of the self; why bother? “If I am the ultimate, if I am my own universe and my own world, why bother to get out of myself, why not abandoned the quest?”

Now these are extremely important questions, because we cannot understand what has been happening on the streets of America, and of Europe and all of the world until we understand how the implications of Descartes presupposition come home to us. I am reminded of something that back in 1935 I believe, Roger Babson, who occasionally was a good economist, had to say when he wrote of inflation, which he said at that time as a result of the New Deal and its activities would inevitably overwhelm us. And he stopped at one point and he said: “These statistics I give you may be as dry as dust, but they will come alive some day, perhaps in your lifetime when you hear feet running in the streets at night, and anarchy all around.” Well so it is with the very wordy sometimes, and often dry analyses of Descartes. Men soon would be running in the streets, generations later as a result of what Descartes taught. [00:17:13]

Descartes had this to say

Descartes had this to say; and I quote, He equated, to introduce his remarks, knowledge and being. The one being he had in a awareness of was his own being, the autonomous consciousness of man. Therefore, he had to locate knowledge with being. So, he goes on to say: “Because in this case I wish to give myself entirely to the search after truth, I thought it was necessary for me to take and apparently opposite course, and to reject as absolutely false everything as to which I could imagine the least ground of doubt, in order to see if afterwards there remained anything in my belief that was entirely certain. Thus, because our senses sometimes deceive us, I will suppose that nothing is just as they cause us to imagine it to be.” (That is, the senses.) “And because there are men who deceive themselves in their reasoning and fall into paralogisms, even concerning the simplest matters of geometry, and judging that I was as subject to error as was any other, I rejected as false all the reasons formerly accepted by me as demonstrations, and since all the same thoughts and conceptions which we have while awake may also come to us while asleep without any of them being at that time true, I resolve to assume that everything that entered into my mind was no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I noticed that whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential that the I who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that this truth: “I think, therefore I am” was so certain and so sure that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the skeptics were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that I could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy for which I was seeking.”

So, Descartes began by doubting his senses, his sight, his hearing, his touch. Doubting his reason, but not himself. “I exist. I think, therefore I am.” So that however fallacious the world out there may be, and what I experience waking may be as much an illusion as what I dream when I sleep, what is real is myself. This is the one certainty. [00:20:31]

Now, from this point of course philosophy as I indicated

Now, from this point of course philosophy as I indicated, took its new starting point. God for Anselm had been the starting point of all philosophy, but for Descartes this concern had been eliminated. What Descartes did therefore was first of all to take truth, knowledge, and to make it something entirely separate from God. So that while Descartes later said there is a god, but only as a limiting concept, we will come to that in a moment, what he had done was to separate truth and knowledge from God, so that his God no longer had any centrality in his system or any real importance. For Anselm, God and truth, God and knowledge were inseparable. In scripture the declaration of Christ is: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Truth cannot be separated from His person. But now it is entirely separated from God, and it is separated from the universe.

Separated from God and the universe. So it is not necessarily a matter of correlation between what I see and what is out there. There are 65 or 68 people here. My statement, we believe, because all of us whether we admit it or not still think as old fashioned Christians who want and insist on a relationship between our world and our knowledge. If I say there are 135 people here, you will say: “Oh but you are wrong.” But as a Cartesian, you see, I can say for me it seems like there are 135 people, and therefore it is true. We will come into this aspect of Sartre’s thinking, what happens to knowledge in existentialism later on in the week, but this is the direction it takes. For us there has to be a correlation, but when you separate truth, knowledge, from God and the world and associate it only with the mind of man, total solipsism, subjectivism is in principle born, although it took a few centuries for it to come to its full fruition. [00:23:34]

Then, Descartes philosophy was a scientific rationalism

Then, Descartes philosophy was a scientific rationalism, with mathematics as the essence of science. Mathematics gained a position of priority until Darwin. This was a most devastating fact, because mathematics is the science of abstraction, and if a science of abstraction begins to dominate our perspective, then we distort reality. We take life, we take mind, we take most everything that we regard as reality, out of things. Moreover, mathematics of necessity, reduces things to equations. For example, 2+2=4, the two sides of the proposition of the equals sign have to balance. But take 2+2=4, and put something real, living, on either side and what happens to your equation? It becomes nonsense. Nonsense. 2 Englishmen equal 2 Africans. Well that’s ridiculous.

Life is too rich, too varied for you to be able to say two Englishmen equal two Africans, or two Africans equal two Africans, or two Englishmen equal two Englishmen. You cannot reduce life as such, reality as we experience it, to mathematics without destroying it, without deforming it. And yet the mathematical model governed from Descartes to Darwin. It began to crumble after Immanuel Kant, but it governed really to Darwin. And our whole modern perspective is still influenced by it, and even the biological perspective of Darwin as we shall see later in the week is still dominated by the implications and the effects of the mathematical model of reality. Now even if you take the mathematical model and apply it well, it works best for lumber, because there you have boards, you saw them to specification, you stack them up, you can deal with such things mathematically. Without stripping them you see, of any reality. But even there, can you say that two boards that are 12 inches by 6 feet are equal four boards of 6 inches by 16 feet? Well not if you need 12 inch planks, you see. Superficially the two have the same amount of lumber in them, but they are not equal if your specification calls for a twelve inch plank.

Mathematics thus, when it was made not a necessary aspect of dealing with abstractions in reality, but a means of dealing with reality as such became one of the great distorters of the modern world. When people talk about the Copernican revolution, they should be talking instead about the mathematical revolution, because it was the mathematical revolution that Descartes initiated that destroyed man’s view of the world because it abstracted progressively, and in Newton this comes to full fruition, mind and life out of the world, and left it a dead cold world of mechanical reactions. [00:28:00]

Now, this retreat into the primitive world which Descartes

Now, this retreat into the primitive world which Descartes began was carried a step further by John Locke. We shall go ahead tonight to Immanuel Kant and a kind of survey, and then go back and pick up some of the strands in the Cartesian worldview, and explore them a little more carefully. John Locke, whose dates are 1632 to 1704, while outwardly an orthodox Christian of puritan background, was in a very real sense one of the founders of Deism.

Now for the modern world view as against Christianity the approach to factuality differs. For the modern philosopher, whether strictly in philosophy, or a philosopher of science as Doctor Coon who edited the Encyclopedia of Chemistry, and wrote the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a very important work. The world out there is made up of brute facts, brute factuality. Now what is brute factuality? Brute Factuality is a universe of meaningless, mindless, unprogrammed, unpatterned facts. They have no purpose, no direction, no meaning whatsoever, they simply exist, as Sartre was later to say: “Man exists, but has no essence.” So very early, modern philosophy said that the universe is a world of brute factuality, it has being but no essence, no meaning, no pattern.

This is why the concept of causality had to be dropped, after a time. Because causality implies a mind, the probability concept followed it, and now the probability concept is under fire and is being dropped by some, because it still points to a pattern, a mind, a God behind factuality.

On the other hand for Biblical faith there is no possibility of any brute factuality. All facts are God created, God interpreted facts, they have a meaning, a direction, a purpose, they move in terms of their created purpose and are definable in terms of laws. So it is our function to understand the laws of this physical universe; the universe is understandable because it has essence. Man is understandable because he has an essence, a pattern, a meaning, a direction. [00:31:37]

However this idea was dropped in essence by modern

However this idea was dropped in essence by modern philosophy, and beginning in Lock, the point of view increasingly was not that God creates the meaning, but that God is the first cause. At this point you see because of mathematics and the mathematical model they could not yet drop causality. It was the necessary part of the equation. Causality had to be retained. Now, Descartes had said that we have the mind of man, one kind of substance. This kind of substance we know, certainly: “I Think, therefore I am.” And I believe that outside of me there is another kind of substance, matter. How do I know matter? By my sense impressions, by my reasoning, but this does not make it certain, you see. This is secondary knowledge. I do not have direct awareness, I feel that this podium is here, but it is only because my senses touch and sight and hearing when I strike it, report it to me. But then, my senses report certain things in my dreams which are similar, so that I do not have a direct and certain knowledge of you, or this podium, or of this room, or anything in the material universe.

This put Descartes in a serious bind. After all, he was a philosopher of science, he was concerned with abolishing all of Christian philosophy as untenable, non-scientific, and now how was science to be able to function if the world out there is not even real?

So, Descartes posited a third substance, God. Now for Descartes God was in effect a limiting concept. A limiting concept to something we posit, in order to be able to keep things together, to make tenable the other portions of our proposition. [00:34:31]

It’s a set of rules we go by, it’s not necessarily

It’s a set of rules we go by, it’s not necessarily objectively true. Now this is not to deny that Descartes was ready to affirm God as objectively true, but practically, practically his God was only a limiting concept to ensure the validity of science; to say that when I see you out there I really see a person, and I am not dreaming awake, as well as when I am asleep. However, the God in the system began to recede more and more in Locke to nothing more than a limiting concept. And Deism eventuated. Deism with the idea that God was only the first cause and no longer active. There had to be a first cause, because science required it. Later science was to say: “We don’t need causes.” But at this point science felt the need of causes, so it wanted a God. It did not want that God monkeying around with the universe or with man after having started things. And Deism was the answer. “God started it, and then withdrew and is the absentee landlord.”

Now, as H.E. Cushman, whom I cited earlier has said and I quote: “Deism was founded on three principles. The origin and truth of religion may be scientifically investigated first of all, second, the origin of religion is in the conscience, third, (Caustic?) religions are degenerate forms of natural religion. Deism was quite consistent with the central principle of this period, the self-sufficiency of the individual.”

Now deism worked for rational religion, that was the great slogan of Deism: Rational Religion. Let us eliminate superstition from religion and make it rational. Deism was then the father of the enlightenment, and the enlightenment began to work for something else: the abolition of religion, and in its place the rational state. The rational state. And hence it was that the goal was philosopher kings. And you had the beginning of the kind of monarch that Frederick the Great represents, monarchs who became patrons of philosophy and science, who regarded themselves as champions of right reason because only right reason had the right to govern.

However, as against the reign of right reason in the rational state, in the person of the king, the conclusion was that right reason should reign in the person of the philosophers themselves. And this of course, led to the French Revolution and to the whole of modern socialism. The elite philosophers, the planners as the embodiment of right reason, and we shall see in Dewey how right reason is defined as the philosopher, who alone can think properly, and therefore alone should govern the world, govern philosophy, and govern man. [00:38:39]

Now Locke’s psychology was the psychology that had

Now Locke’s psychology was the psychology that had been first developed in Aristotle, then revived in Aquinas, and now brought to its logical conclusion in John Locke; The mind as a blank piece of paper, clean, clear, and impartial. This was a necessary idea, and it did its most damage in and after Locke, because he began with the Cartesian principle and the ultimacy of the mind. The autonomous mind of man as the God of the system. And so to posit the mind of man as clean, as blank, as impartial, meant that modern education was effectively on its way, because now all you had to do was to capture education and you would produce the person of the future. You could condition man totally, that the capture of the children in state institutions and subjecting them to the right kind of experiences and the right kind of training would enable you to produce any kind of person you so desired, and behaviorism is simply the logical application of this premise.

Of course of late, the behaviorists have said that education is too slow, and we need the electrodes to control man or chemistry, so that we can do it more rapidly, and you have had the introduction of chemistry into these schools, that is, drugging children to make them more amenable to teaching. All this is a logical conclusion of this premise.

Locke’s epistemology still retained a course and was in the tradition of Descartes with the dualism of mind and matter. And this naturally posed a problem. The reality of matter out there as another substance and the mind here, and the mind having a problem gaining knowledge of that world, especially now as with Locke, God had been boosted upstairs to being chairman of the board as it were, and withdrawing from running the company or the universe. So that now there was a problem with regard to knowledge. And at this point of course, Bishop Berkeley, a churchman, but not necessarily an orthodox clergyman, in those days churchmen were politicians, now they are worse usually, solved the matter. Bishop Berkeley’s answer was that there is no necessity to say that the material world exists. And Berkeley put it thus in his Treatise Concerning Principles of Human Knowledge and I quote: “That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination exist without the mind, is what everybody will allow.”

Now, let me stop there and point out that some of the things that Berkeley have in a sense, to a degree been born out since then. He raised up questions like this: “If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear the sound?” Do you remember this from your classes? There is no sound where there is no ear, there are waves. It’s the human being that converts them into sound with his ears. [00:42:55]

“So,” he said: “There are only transmission of things, not necessarily matter. What we call matter is in a sense no more than thought.” And of course Sir James Jean said that: “The Universe is a gigantic thought.”

So there is a great deal in modern science that seems to confirm Berkeley. “And,” he says, to continue: “It seems no less evident that the various sensations are ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together, that is, whatever objects they propose, cannot exist otherwise in the mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be attained of this by anyone who will attend to what is meant by the term ‘Exist’ when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say, exists, that is, I see and feel it. And if I were out of my study I would say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it smelled; there was a sound, that is to say, it was heard. A color or figure and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.” [00:44:54]

Thus, For Bishop Berkeley, to be is to be perceived

Thus, For Bishop Berkeley, to be is to be perceived. If I don’t perceive you, you don’t exist. Nothing exists unless it is perceived. Well, this is a very radical conclusion, but it’s a logical one. After all, in almost any system, in any and every system of thought, your given is ultimately the only world you have, and your starting point and what it encompasses is all that you have in your universe. If you begin with God, then God encompasses all of things; but if you begin with the autonomous mind of man you find that you can never get out of the autonomous, or so called autonomous mind of man. You have nothing but the perceiving mind.

Now of course for Bishop Berkeley, these perceptions, these sights, sounds, touches and all were sensations that came directly from God. So his God was nothing but a great broadcasting station as it were, he’s not the personal God of scripture, but he’s the great broadcasting station that sends out the vast multiplicity of sensations which we pick up. And the dualism or trichotomy rather, of mind and matter with God, ensuring the reality, was reduced by Berkeley to the dualism of mind and god the broadcasting agency. Now one of the most enthusiastic followers of Bishop Berkeley was David Hume.

David Hume’s admiration for Berkeley was almost unbounded. And Hume whose dates were 1711 to 1776 came along and said: “I agree. Emphatically. There is no evidence of the material universe out there, just sense impressions. But, just as there is no proof of that material world, so there is no proof of the broadcaster, God. All we have are minds and sense impressions. So nothing exists except my autonomous mind. Nothing more. [00:47:48]

Well, of course this was a devastating conclusion

Well, of course this was a devastating conclusion. And for a time scientists felt that: “Well, are we indulging in myth making and illusion as we pursue our sciences?” It’s hard for us to comprehend the crisis that the philosophical tradition as it culminated in Hume, meant for society. Thinking men were greatly dismayed. It’s interesting, it seems staggering to us, but some people just didn’t feel that it was worth while getting out of bed. And we have cases of contemporaries of Hume who literally stayed in bed and ate until they died. They were gentlemen you know, men of means who could afford to do that. But they could see no point for living; what was the world but a gigantic illusion? Nothing exists except the mind, and the mind doesn’t have to go anywhere, all impressions, all ideas are formed of the mind.

And so it was the work of Immanuel Kant, 1724 – 1804, that tried to rehabilitate science, to rehabilitate knowledge. But he did so by going back to Descartes Trichotomy, only altering it a bit. So that for him, the fundamental is the autonomous mind of man, then there are phenomena, the sense impressions that we have. And then there are things in themselves out there, god and the world and what else may exist that we don’t even have any idea of. “But,” Said Kant, “Things in themselves we can never know. So that we will simply say that things in themselves may exist, they probably exist, but they are irrelevant to us. We can never know them. All we ever can know are phenomena. The sense impressions we receive. And therefore we must confine ourselves to these sense impressions.”

“The realm of knowledge,” said Kant, “is phenomena. The sense impression within our mind, which we receive.” And these we organize, so that indeed our knowledge never gets out of our being, but why does it have to? If I am ultimate, then things in themselves are irrelevant to me. After all an ant crawling around on your kitchen sink is irrelevant to God. God doesn’t need to know that ant, we posit in Christian Theology that all things are known to God, but God doesn’t need to know that ant from this perspective, of Hume or Kant rather, and so it is that I don’t need to know things in themselves, they may exist, they may not, but it’s irrelevant. It has nothing to do with knowledge. [00:51:27]

Kant separated knowledge you see from any correlation

Kant separated knowledge you see from any correlation to things out there. “What I organize are my ideas, my sense impressions, I stay within the locked world of my own mind, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s my Universe.” And so, with Kant, the only truly knowable world became the mind of man. Total subjectivism. The implication of this subjectivism subsequent philosophy was to develop, down to the present day.

As Hume said before Kant as he wrote his Natural History of Religion, he traced the evolution of religion and theology in terms of the proposition that man doesn’t know anything else there, but he projects the categories of his mind onto the world. And therefore he creates Gods in his own image. And he creates a world, a universe in his own image, he ascribes to the world the kind of mind and direction and purpose which he himself has. And he said and I quote: “There is a universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object those qualities with which they are familiarly acquainted, and with which they are intimately conscious, the unknown causes which continually employ their thought, appearing always in the same aspect, are all apprehended to be of the same kind or species; nor is it long before ewe ascribe to them thought and reason and passion, and sometimes even the limbs and figures of men, in order to bring them near to a resemblance with ourselves.”

Life, order, meaning, purpose, direction, were withdrawn from the universe as well as God or things in themselves of any variety. They were entirely limited to the mind of man. the only truly knowable word now in terms of Kant, was in the confines of man’s mind. Subjectivism. This then was to have radical implications for history. Our history is marching to the tune of this philosophy. The difficulty of making for example, economics relevant to modern man is almost insuperable, because the idea of an outer universe of law or of direction or a pattern to out reality is a challenge to the basic proposition of the modern world, the life order, meaning, intelligence, purpose direction, are confined to the mind of man, but out there nothing like that can exist. And it means therefore the priority of politics economics takes a back seat. Economics is virtually abolished. This college and Gross city college are about the only two schools which consistently teach economics, though I understand Cedarville does too, does it not. You have classical economics there, and Spring Arbor, but there are very few. Doctor Colesmith’s Spring Arbor and Mr. Monroe from Cedarville, but there are very few you see. Just a remnant. [00:55:54]

Why? What they teach elsewhere is Cartesian, it is

Why? What they teach elsewhere is Cartesian, it is that politics, man, can determine the kind of economic order that shall exist, that all man has to say is: “We shall do thus and so.” And it shall be done. What is Fiat money? Well, the word fiat tells us. The word Fiat comes from the vulgate, the Latin version of the bible. Genesis one: “Let there be light.” Fiat Lux. And so modern man has fiat money, because he says: “Go too now, let there be money. Paper. This is money. Therefore, take it, pass it.” If you have Gresham’s law operative it is only because people, by their minds, are still dominated by this old kind of thing.

I had a very amusing experience about, I believe it was 8 years ago, 6-8 years ago when I was in Washington and I was speaking on economics, not my field but a hobby of mine, and there was a demand for that from some of the people who asked me to speak and the wife of the very important treasury official was present. And she said: “I am going to have to bring my husband to hear you tomorrow night.” So she did. Well, after the meeting was over, he stood around until finally it was just himself, his wife and me. And he was violently opposed to the idea of gold coin standard. To any trust in Gold as a monetary medium. And he gave all the traditional arguments and so on, and he said: “Look. In a very few years before the decade is out, gold will be totally worthless as we proceed without world wide plans, so that its only value will be for filling your teeth and for jewelry, and it’s going to get a price of $6 an ounce.” That was his planned figure. [00:58:26]

And he refused to budge on his arguments, and finally

And he refused to budge on his arguments, and finally his wife who was fully in agreement with me spoke up at this point and said to me: “You know my husband has so little confidence in Gold that he’s just gotten a private license from the treasury from the office next to his and is flying to Paris to pick up $20,000 in U.S. gold coins.” Well at that point I thought he was going to be a little bit abashed by it all, but he only laughed. He only laughed. And he said: “Well, as long as there are people like you going around convincing Americans that gold is worthwhile, it’s likely to go up again for a little while, so because of the superstition, I figure I can cash in on it for a while.” You see, he was a thoroughly modern person. The only thing that determines the course of human affairs is the mind of man, there’s no law in the universe, no pattern, nothing, and so because the superstition was still somewhat prevalent, there was a possibility that gold could go up, and being a very well-paid treasury “economist” with quotes, he could afford to invest $20,000 in U.S. $20 gold pieces. Now that gives you the essence of the modern mind. Hence its trust in politics, which is determinism, predestination by man. because the essence of the modern point of view is that: “Yes, there is no meaning, no purpose, no determination in the universe, but there must be one created and imposed by man.” As against predestination by God, predestination by man. And of course that’s socialism. That’s your modern economics. [01:00:47]

And it is Cartesian in essence

And it is Cartesian in essence. Reality is only that which is in the mind of man. well, I’ve taken a little longer than I shall during the other lectures this week, because I wanted to lay the ground work, and I’ll leave more time for questions in the subsequent lectures, but I--- can we take a few minutes for questions now.

[Audience Member] …?... Kant tried to mix two worlds, the world of sense perception, and the world of faith land, and I noticed tonight you took us back to Descartes, do you think in terms of a position of a God order that (?) is more disastrous to Christian theism, or do you think..?..

[Rushdoony] (Difficult to hear, some words may be wrong) Well, most of our thinking today is an exception to the results, Cartesianism and Descartes, or rather Kant gave us the results and so when they talk about the centrality of Kant, they are saying that the whole tradition began with Descartes, that Kant brought into full focus, in the matter of Kant. We shall we what this meant in terms of Hegel, Marx, Dewey, because they simply took and applied it. As we could point out, the logical implication then is man is god, see, and man’s history is divine history. And of course is the idea that Hegel and Marx take and run with. So they are right, but in essence they are condensing it to Kant when it is Descartes to some extent.

Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience Member] What’s the interesting thing about all of these men is that (?) economists in deist terms, (?)

[Rushdoony] Yes, but Skinner you see is in this tradition, in that what he is saying is: “It is to be the autonomous mind of a few men.” You see. My answer to the people who discuss Skinner with me, that is favorably, is this: “I am all in favor of planting electrodes in the brains of men, if I can do it to you first of all.” The argument ends there, you see. Because the whole point is that this is to be a short cut to the predestination of the world and man by man, and how they define man is in terms of right reason. Well, right reason ends up by meaning the elect few, the planners, so our reasoning is not altogether right, so we are not fully man, if you define man by right reason. So since we are closer to an animal, because we don’t have right reason, that is we don’t agree with Marx or Dewey or Skinner, therefore if we can’t be trained very quickly the simplest thing to do is to condition us through electrodes or chemistry. [01:05:08]


[Audience Member] Reverend Rushdoony, can’t you take the line of reasoning, that is objective reasoning vs. subjective reasoning all the way back to Plato vs. Aristotle, where Plato was in favor of subjectivism, and Aristotle and (?)

[Rushdoony] I’m aware of it, some do that, however I would say that while there is a validity to that argument, plato, and I am definitely and totally anti-Platonist, I have a little book, the Flight from Humanity in which I speak of the total disaster that Platonism represents for Christendom because of its influence. Plato’s thinking was still anchored to ideas, forms. He never cut the tie with it. But in the Cartesian point of view, you see you begin by dropping all of that as excess baggage, you begin with the autonomous mind of man. so it is far more radical than anything Plato devised.

[Audience Member] Any more questions?... Thankyou, Reverend Rushdoony. [01:06:34]

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