‘It is true that the theory of the meme does not deny the role of culture, nor does it undermine the nineteenth-century view that culture properly understood is as much an activity of the rational mind as is science. But the concept of the meme belongs with other subversive concepts — Marx’s “ideology,” Freud’s unconscious, Foucault’s “discourse” — in being aimed at discrediting common prejudice. It seeks to expose illusions and to explain away our dreams. But the meme is itself a dream, a piece of ideology, accepted not for its truth but for the illusory power that it confers on the one who conjures with it. It has produced some striking arguments, not least those given by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell, in which he explains away religion as a particularly successful but dangerous meme.’
Those concepts according to Scruton, are not science, but rather ‘scientism.’
And he focuses back-in on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence:
‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead
Worth a read.
-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy‘
-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic: ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.‘
-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’
-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.
-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities. Don’t let it happen.‘
-Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responded to Wieseltier:
‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’
So, how do you teach the arts and tilt the culture? Camille Paglia had some ideas, including the idea that George Lucas has taken root in more 20th-century minds than anyone else with his space opera:
According to Paglia, there were the real Marxists, and then there were the Post-structuralists and Deconstructionists. She favors the radicalism of the ‘real’ Marxists against the careerism and priestly cant of the latter, though I doubt either group is necessary for a good humanities education.
With a somewhat Nietzschean (Schopenhauer’s ‘Will‘ is now the ‘Will To Power’), and New Historicist approach, Paglia is also a bit disposed towards an appreciation of art, religious art, and religion, within a longer anthropological view.
She sees feminism and the ‘studies’ departments as ungrounded, wanting biology, medicine and anthropology to provide structure in order to study the arts:
Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’
Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’…From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce
From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?…From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…
Larry Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Roger Scruton, 1944-2020: The Romantic Conservatism of Atheistic Religiosity:’
‘As is often true of the traditionalist conservative thinkers today, his thought was shaped by the Kantian Romantic tradition of the Nineteenth Century that saw a religious attitude as essential for a healthy moral order, so that traditional religious experience needed to be defended against a Darwinian science that claims to explain the place of human beings in the natural world without any reference to a transcendent realm beyond nature. And yet–again like many traditionalist conservatives–Scruton did not believe in the literal truth of Christianity or any other religion.’
Kelley Ross at Friesian.com, discussing ‘Scruton’s treatment of Wittgenstein:’
‘At the same time, there is the irony and paradox of this treatment that Scruton is “considered to be one of the world’s leading conservative philosophers” — which is what it says on the cover of his own book. Now I see Scruton called “Our greatest living conservative thinker,” by Daniel Hannan (an “author, journalist, and politician”), and “One of the most eminent philosophers in the world,” by Robert P. George (a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence). But “conservative” thinkers are not generally happy with the cognitive and moral relativism, if not nihilism, that follows from anything like Wittgenstein’s thought, and even from, as we shall see, Scruton’s own analysis of Wittgenstein’s thought. This is particularly surprising given the devastating critique in Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Thinkers of the New Left [Bloomsbury, 2015], which exposes the irrational “nonsense machine” of “post-modernism” and “Critical Theory” Marxism. But even in that book, and in the passage I have just quoted, there is a clue to what is going on and to what kind of “conservative” Scruton may be. And that is, in the former, his benign and complacent attritude towards Hegel, and, in the latter, the impression he gives that the “ambition” of Kant and Hegel is comparable or even equivalent.’