Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Richard Rorty, Nietzsche and Jungian Darwinism

On page 3 of Essays on Heidegger and Others, Richard Rorty writes, “ . . . when you switch over from Deweyan talk of experience to Quinean-Davidsonian talk of sentences, it becomes easier to get the point of Nietzsche’s famous remark, in ‘Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,’ that truth is a ‘mobile army of metaphors.’

            “I interpret this remark along the lines of my treatment of Davidson’s treatment of metaphor . . .  I take its point to be that sentences are only things that can be true or false, that our repertoire of sentences grows as history goes along, and that this growth is largely a matter of literalization of novel metaphors.  Thinking of truth in this way helps us switch over from a Cartesian-Kantian picture of intellectual progress (as a better and better fit between mind and world) to a Darwinian picture (as an increasing ability to shape the tools needed to help the species survive, multiply, and transform itself).”

            COMMENT:   When I read this, I immediately thought of Jung.  Jung hypothesized a sort of “Oversoul” for each species.  The Oversoul manipulates the general or collective actions of the individuals of a given species for its own good.  It takes responsibility for a specie’s “survival strategy.”     

            Jung’s thesis seems consistent with the idea of “intellectual progress” involving an “increasing ability to shape the tools needed to help the species survive, multiply, and transform itself.”   One might think of Jung as providing a more sophisticated form of Darwinism.  That is, whereas “Natural Selection” is a pragmatic use of chance, the Oversoul involves intentionality.  Jung’s thesis would answer one of the objections to Darwinism, namely that there hasn’t been enough time since life began on earth to account for the development of species with the randomness that Natural Selection involves. 

            Then, in a tenuous intellectual leap I wondered whether this Oversoul, if it exists, is inspiring us to take our species off planet in order to survive, multiply and transform ourselves on other planets.   We in the US worry about the nature and danger represented by Islamism, but other nationalities worry about other things.  In the current issue of The Weekly Standard is an article by John Rosenthal entitled “America the Baleful, A German view of the nuclear threat . . . from the United States.”  The Germans, some of them, seem to be worried about us.  Skipping whatever validity there is in the German fear, let us accept the idea that we spend a lot of time worrying about and mistrusting each other.  If there is a Jungian Oversoul, thinking logically from the Jungian assumption, it might well be stirring things up to hasten our departure from earth.

            This sounds like fanciful speculation, and perhaps it is, but those who see the Earth as all there is want to take us in a Luddite direction: get rid of the machines.  Get rid of Technology, and we can perhaps learn to bring ourselves back into harmony with nature.  Don’t worry about the sun one day going nova and destroying the earth.  Our species will  have disappeared by then anyway.  That strikes me as rather “Neville Chamberlain” of them.  Are they really content to seek peace for our species during a limited life time rather than pursue our continuation off-planet?   I suppose they are.  The Luddite Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski seems to have been.

            In ancient days there were “portents in the skies” warning of coming disasters.  Nowadays we have disaster movies.  You can watch movies about comets, asteroids, tsunamis, 10.0 earthquakes, alien invasion, plagues and nuclear disasters.  As for myself, I’ve recently begun watching the series, Battlestar Galactica.  Yes the Cylons did come and destroy human life on the Twelve Colonies, but the Battlestar Galactica has escaped and hopes to find the mythical world, Earth.  Most think Earth never existed.  Even Commander Bill Adama believed it was a myth, but he lied to the small colony following Batttlestar Galactica, telling them he knew where Earth was, in order to give them hope.  Okay, I can accept that, but for now let’s worry about getting to the Twelve Colonies.  We can worry about the Cylons and whether Earth really exists later.


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