Repost: Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’

Full piece here.

NY Times review here for contrast.

E.O. Wilson is a popular biologist and naturalist, known particularly for his work with ants.  Arnhart reviews:

‘To answer these fundamental questions about our human place in the cosmos, Edward O. Wilson suggests in his new book, we need to unify all our knowledge of nature by combining the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.  Traditionally, we have looked to religion, philosophy, or the creative arts to answer these great questions.  Wilson argues that these three ways to understand the human condition have failed.  This leaves science–in its quest for a complete knowledge of nature–as the only way to understand the human story.’

That sounds extremely ambitious.  Who needs religion, philosophy, or the creative arts when they don’t yield the same standard of knowledge Wilson is proposing?

Arnhart’s suggests looking to…philosophy:

‘If Wilson’s project for a Darwinian unification of knowledge is to succeed, it must revive that Aristotelian tradition of natural philosophy that includes Thomas Aquinas, Hume, and Adam Smith.  Darwin understood himself as part of that intellectual tradition, particularly in adopting ideas from Hume and Smith about the natural moral sentiments.  Even Darwin’s fundamental idea of the evolutionary emergence of life as an unintended order was derived from Smith and other Scottish philosophers’

So isn’t there a tension between Aristotelians and Platonists?  If neo-Platonists give-up the World-Of-Forms as a source of transcendental knowledge, will they slip into the modern problem of nihilism?

Is Darwinism nihilism?  If you are a Platonist, yes.  If you are not a Platonist, no.
Most Platonists today are disappointed Platonists—people with Platonic expectations that are unfulfilled, because they accept Darwinian evolution as true, and therefore since all living forms have evolved, they cannot be eternal in conforming to Plato’s intelligible realm of eternal Ideas.  If everything has evolved, this must include moral and political order, and thus there is no eternally unchanging Idea of the Good by which we can see absolute standards of right and wrong.  Consequently, there are no moral absolutes, and we must accept moral relativism or nihilism. Darwinism is “true but deadly” (as Friedrich Nietzsche said).  And thus these disappointed Platonists become nihilists.’
As always, worth a read.  Below is Wilson briefly discussing the book on Charlie Rose:
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**Martha Nussbaum has used Aristotle’s natural philosophy.  On this site, see: Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Martha Nussbaum On Aristotle’

***In the realm of political philosophy, for what it’s worth, many libertarians and liberaltarians in lieu of tracing the moral source of the laws back to a transcendent God (thus creating daylight between themselves and religious and often social conservatives), instead turn to the ‘classical’ liberalism of the Scottish Enlightenment:  Hume’s empiricism and atheism, Smith’s Theory Of Moral Sentiments, and later Hayek’s adoption of Hume’s principle that the propositions of ethics cannot be proven.

In addition to putting daylight between themselves and religious conservatives, this tends to put a lot of daylight between these classical liberals and the increasingly progressive Democratic party in the U.S.  See this position fleshed out: Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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-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 80′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.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds 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.’

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Full piece here.

McClay discusses Kristol’s legacy:

‘In the beginning, he saw it not as a root-and-branch repudiation of liberalism in all its aspects but as a corrective to the destructive effects of liberalism run amok, an outlook that presumed the fundamental sobriety and humane good sense of a very moderate and culturally conservative form of liberalism. A neoconservative was, in the famous formulation, a liberal who had been “mugged by reality”—something that purer conservatives could not (and would not be likely to) claim for themselves.’

and:

‘There may be a case to be made for the continuing distinctiveness of the neoconservative persuasion, which rests far more comfortably in the lap of modernity than does the older conservatism, being more accepting (for example) of the principle of equality, or of the mild regulation of the market economy, and accepting, if only because they have become “facts on the ground,” the necessity for many reforms (such as Social Security) that traditionalist conservatives had routinely anathematized.’

So, is a purer conservatism still roaming the land…exiled by neoconservatism?:

“In the end,” he wrote in 1974, “the only authentic criterion for judging any economic or political system, or any set of social institutions, is this: what kind of people emerge from them?” In asking such a question, he offered us a perspective that cuts against both the statist liberalism that is now in power and the anti-statist libertarianism that asserts itself as statism’s only principled alternative.’

Related On This Site: Samuel Huntington responded to liberalism and influenced generations from Fukuyama to Fareed Zakaria:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Fukuyama has moved away from neconservatism and toward Darwin?:  Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke into a strong, libertarian defense of the individual, and also responded to Rawls distributive justice: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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