Thursday, May 24, 2007

This too shall pass


"The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment. . . . The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species cultivating . . . renouncing false judgments would mean renouncing life and a denial of life."¹

In the Middle Ages roses held especial significance for Christians. The red petals signified for some the life-giving blood that Christ shed on the cross. As time passed it came to be understood that the reason why roses were red was to point to the blood of Christ.

I had a philosophy teacher who used this as an example of the heights the anti-intellectualism of Christianity could reach, which he made sure we understood was the cause of all the darkness of the Dark Ages. It is through science that we can find out the truth of the redness of a rose. A rose is red in order to attract certain flying insects. In this way the plant uses the insects it attracts to pollinate other flowers, in an attempt to reproduce itself. This is the Truth of the rose.

It didn't occur to this teacher, or else it didn't bother him, that all art and all science are built upon myth or at least presuppose myth for their foundation. The judgments of scientists are ultimately just as arbitrary as those of nuns, monks and laymen regarding the color of rose petals.

Today, if we want to find out why something is the way it is, we look to science. We cannot go back in time. We can't erase the legacy of science. Roses are not red because of Jesus' blood.

I hope to disrupt the monopoly of scientific judgments as much as I can in my short life, as they don't seem to me to be as life-giving and life-preserving as the countless specialists have claimed. In fact I very often see them as downright destructive and coercive, and the line between scientific technique and capitalism is much too blurry for my liking. I can't say the same about the judgments of a monk or a nun seeing the world as infused with meaning.

¹Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 1966), pp. 11-12.

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