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October 18, 2015 / compassioninpolitics

Quotes from The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism

This book is quite good if you are looking to:

  1. the critique of naturalism/materialism
  2. the critique of scientism

Or just enjoy philosophy, worldview, apologetics, or CS Lewis.

On the necessity of a transcendent and absolute:

“With its lack of a transcendent vantage point from which humanly to estimate, evaluate, and regulate nature, scientism flounders between the paradoxical extremes of glorification and debasement in its approach to nature.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 23)

Science without metaphysics is doomed/dead:

“With his own unique wry elegance, Pope gives voice to an attitude reasonably widespread among his intellectual compatriots concerning the dire portents of the growth of scientism.  From the outset it was clear to thoughtful analysts that natural philosophy ungrounded from metaphysical realities had the strength to crush philosophy, impugn religion, and subvert ethics among its unthinking disciples.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p.23)

Scientism and dehumanization (Martin Bubers “I-Thou”)

“The case against considering man a thing, a “common object of the seashore,” lies at the heart of the critique of scientism as Lewis makes it and as Martin Buber proposed it in his distinction between “I-it” and “I-Thou” relationships.  The distinction between means and ends, between things and objects on the one hand and persons and essences on the other is at the root of moral culture and civilization; it is a distinction that the characteristic procedures and terms of the natural sciences can neither discern nor make without violence, contradiction, and confusion, and for which they must therefore depend on philosophy and religion.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 31)

Science needs ethics–direction and purpose:

“Science is a good servant but a bad master, a good method for investigating and manipulating the material world, but no method at all for deciding what to do with the knowledge and power acquired thereby.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 33)

Materialistic science misunderstands the human experience:

Monsignore points out:

“Instead of Adam, our ancestry is traced to the most grotesque of creatures; thought is phosphorous, the soul complex nerves, and our moral sense a secretion of sugar.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 33)

Calculative thought bad–results in relativism:

“The tendency to “demonize reason” had begun in the eighteenth century and proceeds apace in our own.  It derives from the fallacy of believing that the tradition of reason can be torn from its metaphysical roots and used instead in a merely functional, utilitarian, descriptive way.  The sociologists have called this newly truncated use of reason, which grew up especially in the nineteenth century along with industrialism, ‘functional rationality,’ and they, among others, have often shown its malignant consequences.  The effects of amoral, functional rationality can be seen everywhere in the contemporary world–in the individual, in society, and in the environment; it is the essence of nihilism.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 43)

Scientism/Deterministic thinking results in skin and bones reality that melts away or imagines away what really matters–it lacks real coherance to reality:

“Deterministic thinking eats away at the common reason: scientific thinking starts by scouring away superstitions and falsehoods, but then scientific thinking, its appetite having grown after continual eating unrestrained by philosophical common sense, ends by devouring truths as well, leaving only the bones and orts of physical reality, with subject and object staring each other across a yawning faithless chasm.

The obsession with means, with utility, with technique, to the exclusion of a consideration to ends and purposes that alone can properly regulate and direct them, is the very essence of scientific relativism.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 44)

Science without a metaphysic (and ethics) is blind:

In Ends and Means by Huxley:

“It is impossible to live without a metaphysic.  The choice that is given is not between some kind of metaphysic and no metaphysic: it is always between a good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 44-45)

Science without ethics is dead:

Gabriel Marcel in Decline of Wisdom:

“…the huge multiplication of means put at man’s disposal…takes place at the cost of the ends they are supposed to serve, or, if you like, at the cost of the values which man is called upon both to serve and to safeguard.  It is as if man, overburdened by the weight of technics, knows less and less where he stands in regard to what matters to him and what doesn’t, to what is precious and what is worthless.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 45)

The need for a balance of science & ways of knowing beyond science:

“Man the knower pursues two related but distinct kinds of knowledge.  As homo sciens, man the knower of scientia, he tends to matters of fact, quantity, matter, and the physical realm; as homo sapiens, man the knower of sapientia, he shows his interest in the qualities of meaning, purpose, value, idea, and the metaphysical realm.  If we are to have truth, neight kind of knowledge can be denied or ignored.  The denial of the reality and importance of scientia is characteristic of radical transcendentalism of Eastern religions, but today the even greater and more damaging imbalance is found in the pervasive radical immanentism of much Western culture and thought that attributes validity only to scientia.  Enthusiasts of scientism fail to see that scientia is utterly dependent on sapientia for direction and meaning; their fervant attempts to pursue scientia in isolation from sapientia amount to a tragic rush into meaninglessness–the very antithesis of a genuine search for knowledge.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 48)

Scientism equals dehumanization

“And it is in an important sense the ultimate effect of scientism to dissolve the absolute qualitative distinction between persons and things–the very heart of the metaphysical tradition, of sapientia–reducing persons to things, denying mans’s rational soul and his transcendence of the physical, giving him a value no higher than that of a camel or a stone or any other part of nature.  This reduction of the human category to the natural runs parallel with a whole series of reductions from quality to quantity, from value to fact, from rational to empirical.  If the doctrine of man as rational moral being, qualitatively distinct from and incommensurate with nature is weakened or destroyed, the grounds for expecting or encouraging moral conduct are similarly weakened.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 52)

Science requires ethics, normative values, and value-judgements:

Whitehead says:

“and this conscious selection involves judgments of value.  These values may be aethetic, or moral, or utilitarian, namely, judgements of exploring the truth, or as to utility in the satisfaction of physical wants.  But whatever the motive, without judgements of value there would have been no science.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 53).

“His own working assumptions involve free will, deliberation, and evaluation as aspects of himself, but those qualities and capacities are stripped away from and denied to the human ‘object’ or ‘thing’ he is inspecting.  Ofren unwittingly engaged in, this is the classic reductive prodcuess, what Koestlet calls the ‘ratamorphic fallacy…”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 55)

“But Lewis’s complaint extends beyond the monstrous practical implications of this line of reasoning to its essential inconsistency and self-contradiction.  It suggests that no validity can be claimed for anything–yet the scientistic modern naturalist inevitably attributes validity overtly or covertly to some beliefs, statements, acts, and procedures.  Morality and validity cannot be derived from scientific analysis and empirical knowledge, but systemic and coherent analysis is equally impossible without implicit or explicit reference to a rational doctrine of metaphysical validity.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 77)

“We reduce things to mere Nature in order that we may conquer them, and the price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature.  The logical outcome of this tendancy is to make the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature.

The intellectual reduction of man to a natural mechanism has of course been realized by the likes of B.F. Skinner, the behaviorists, and all the other eager conditioners.  They have demonstrated tragically that it is, indeed, as Lewis says, ‘in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgements of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 77)

This insatiable lust grows out of the anxiety of the isolated self in an absurd world that is the consensus of reality bequeathed to modern man by scientific materialism.

Lewis attacked the consensus of absurdity on the grounds that it omits the ‘one thing needful,’ the intelligible Good which alone makes purposeful sense of intellect and morality.  He saw that one of the essential forms of idolatry was the quest for power without goodness-the modern totem of technical power which he called “hideous strength.”  It is the idol created by the will to power ‘liberated’ from the intelligible Good which is its only true curb, guide, and governor.  He argued that the refusal to know this Good is caused by cankered wills rather than by weak minds and that it is the duty of the wise man to work to restore its lustre.  He held self-knowledge and sapientia primary, and the knowledge of objects secondary, and warned that if the latter took precedence over the former, error and disaster would not lag far behind.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 79)

“Lewis insisted that man was not a thing, but an essence, a soul, and that it will profits a man to gain the whole material world at the expense of the elementary self-knowledge that tells him that he is a soul qualitatively distinct from and superior to those things.  Persons are ultimate ends and ought never to be treated only as means; they always have the character of ‘thou’ and ought never to be treated merely as ‘it.’  This is the root of common sense dualism which Lewis, like Chesterton, considered the birthright of homo sapiens, without which men would inevitably turn first into homo sciens and then into mere nature.  He placed these truths at the core of civil humanity; the res publica on which laws, manners, and civilization itself are built; they are the roots from which stem human virtue, decency, accomplishment, and sanity itself.  He did not argue they constituted a panacea; they are merely the truth, the only path an honest person ought to tread.”

(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. p.80)

Additional Authors References:

• GK Chesterton

• Swift, Pope, Johnson

• Wordsworth

• Blake

• There are a number mentioned in the Afterward

6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. compassioninpolitics / Oct 18 2015 3:03 am

    “The maps produced by modern materialistic Scientism leave all the questions that really matter unanswered; more than that, they deny the validity of the questions. The situation was desperate enough in my youth half a century ago; [but] it is even worse now because of the ever more vigourous application of the scientific method to all subjects and disciplines has destroyed even the last remnants of ancient wisdom–at least in the Western world.”
    E.F. Schumacher
    [A Guide for Perplexed, p. 4-5]

  2. compassioninpolitics / Oct 18 2015 3:06 am

    Here are three more quotes from Schumacher:
    Thus Cartesian evidence goes straight to mechanism. It mechanizes nature; it does violence to it; it annihilates everything which causes things to symbolize with the spirit, to partake of the genius of the Creator, to speak to us. The universe becomes dumb.

    The whole of physics, that is, the whole of the philosophy of nature, is nothing but geometry.

    As Descartes has demonstrated, the mind of man can doubt everything it cannot grasp with ease, and some men are more prone to doubt than others.

    http://philosophymagazine.com/others/MO_Schumacher_Perplexed.html

  3. compassioninpolitics / Oct 18 2015 3:07 am

    From the point of view of philosophical mapmaking, this meant a very great impoverishment: entire regions of human interest, which had engaged the most intense efforts of earlier generations, simply ceased to appear on the maps. But there was an even more significant withdrawal and impoverishment: While traditional wisdom had always presented the world as a three-dimensional structure (as symbolized by the cross), where it was not only meaningful but essential to distinguish always and everywhere between “higher” and “lower” things and Levels of Being, the new thinking strove with determination, not to say fanaticism, to get rid of the vertical dimension. How could one obtain clear and precise ideas about such qualitative notions as “higher” or “lower”? Was it not reason’s most urgent task to replace them with quantitative measurements?

    E.F. Schumacher

  4. compassioninpolitics / Oct 18 2015 5:02 am

    “We assume in ourselves–experimenters assume in themselves–rational attributes, free will, rational consistency, openness to evidence, desire for truth, and in short, all those nonquantifiable quantities that we rigorously exclude from the human objects of our inspection. The end determines the means, the means, the end: the desire for power, the libido dominandi, scientia potestas est, exceeds the love of truth, and scientism attacks the canons and doctrines of philosophical truth from which it derives whatever rational consistency and validity it maintains.
    The traditional values and ideas that Lewis defends against this imperial scientism are disinterestedness, truth, and the distinction between ends and means.”
    (The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 77-77)

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