Monday, July 16, 2018
Mark Shiffman vs. Cartesian Gnosticism
I’ve read First Things for years, but somehow I missed Mark Shiffman's brilliant 2015 takedown of transhumanism “Humanity 4.5”. The essay aims particularly at transhumanist Steve Fuller, but is strong and concise enough to be considered almost a manifesto.
For decades, even since high school in the 1980s, I've been deeply suspicious of our culture's tendency to see science and technology as means of transcendence. For many years, not surprisingly, I was unable to articulate my unease. (If I learned anything in my twenties, it was how deeply all of us are enculturated, virtually incapable of thinking outside our own culture's categories.) Nonetheless, I kept following that unease, always remaining something of a half-Luddite. And I don't regret it, because now I see the demons I previously only suspected.
What's great about Shiffman's essay is that it puts a lot of my half-formulated inklings (re: Nominalism/Descartes/techno-gnosticism) into nutshell form. Thus, again, something like a manifesto.
Interesting to contemplate, for me at least, is the question of why certain of us (like myself) feel repulsed by the technological vision, almost as a matter of disposition, while others (clearly most of my contemporaries) embrace it wholeheartedly. If I'm flattering myself, I might attribute it to intellectual depth, a better bullshit detection system, whatever; but really--it may largely be temperamental. Or is it perhaps, as I sometimes think, the gift of grace, a whispering of sorts, to steer me clear?
I know I'm no genius, so it must be either temperament or grace. Which then?
Kudos to Rod Dreher for posting on Shiffman's piece at TAC.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.