Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Abraham Joshua Heschel May 29, 1968


Almost 49 years ago, Heschel said that the materialistic consideration of people as objects was at the center of all our crises and he implied that our consideration of nature in those terms was part of it.  I can only imagine what he would have to say, today, when the materialistic tendencies he condemned and decried has become the standard ideology of the entirety of Western and even other cultures.  His identification of the alternative to that, or at least one of the major and most effective alternatives, is found in the Jewish Bible, is exactly why it is so hated by a culture which has adopted the "enligthenment" materialist concept of people as objects along with the amorality that view not only permits but which is its motivation.

In the course of his lecture he referred, off hand to Julien Offray de La Mettrie's book  Machine Man, one of the landmark publications of the European "enlightenment" considered to be one of the foundations of modernism.   La Mettrie, certainly believing in the amorality that is a logical conclusion of materialism, lived his philosophy and espoused it in later writings in which he praised the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  His biography is instructive as to the wisdom of such materilism as his libertine philosophy and life style reportedly was disgusting even by the standards of his fellow French materialists of the "enlightnement" which led him to flee first to the Netherlands and when he'd disguted folks there, he fled to the Prussian court of Fredrick the Great where he was celebrated as a great hero of the new enlightnement and as a medical expert.  Only the ass, in a feat of epicurean indulgence, ate himself to death one night, stuffing himself full of pate at a feast given in his honor, dying of gluttony at the age of 41.

His materialist theories of humanity are a development of Descartes' machine theory of animals. There is a long but direct line between those absurdly naive reductionist views of humanity and the 20th century and today's mass murders.   Whatever you can say about the mass murderers of the earlier epochs, those of todays are intimately tied in with the scientific, materialist view of life that started this view of things we call "modern".  Note how Heschel discussed the thinking of the kind which held "We had to burn the village to save it".

Update:  I listen to a lot of lectures because I like to listen to lectures.  Perhaps due to my failing eyesight, perhaps because I like to have something to think about while I do housework and gardening.  What would you rather I listen to?  Seinfeld reruns?  I hadn't known till recently that Steve Bannon had a hand in that awful show, it figures.

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