Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Outline for a chapter

Perhaps I should give those natural scientists more slack. For a while it has been apparent that some kinds of forgetting are crucial for progress, perhaps progress on a larger scale than the individual, where the struggle against forgetting is the mark of someone concerned with empirical cosmological and psychological knowledge (the last phrase is the words of Jan Cox). Obviously forgetting is crucially important to the operations of our world or else, it would not be the signal characteristic it is.

To sketch a wee corner of my interests here, Voltaire is supposed to be a philosopher, but his method of argument is to poke fun at the ideas of religious figures. Yesterday I pointed out that scientists need a devil, the fundamentalists, to keep their world steady. Today I found a quote which suggests I have over simplified things.

The quote is : 'What I write here is the account that I believe to be true. For the stories told by the Greeks are many, and in my opinion ridiculous.'

Sounds like Voltaire. But these are the words of Hecataeus, who wrote in the 5th century (born around 530 BC), and he is part of that movement described as the birth of human rationality, and centered on Miletus. In his words we see a forgetting which looks to be a unnoticed but fundamental mechanism of human progress. For those Greeks stories were a way to understand the world, with the tools at their disposal. (Jan made this point once about mythology.) But to Hecataeus, the myths are "ridiculous." This name calling is a kind of forgetting.

So perhaps what I took to be a means of intellectual domination, is actually, a part of that essential forgetting, which can be seen at various scales. If so, those scientists are just doing their job, and really one should have emphasized that more.

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