Posts Tagged ‘polytheism’

Thinking about it from the standpoint of the history of philosophy, it was once a “given” in philosophical thought that all things had a sort of inner spirit or purpose for being. When certain “advances” in human civilization occurred (e.g. the Enlightenment), the ensouled view of matter was thrown out in favor of a disenchanted and mechanistic one. It was no longer proper to speak of all things as having a teleological purpose. So in at least some contexts, animism does not particularly describe a religious belief at all, but a philosophical position. It could be seen, in a religious context, as similar to polytheism.

By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents — or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised. . . . The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines. – JRR Tolkien

A natural history which is composed for its own sake s not like one that is collected to supply the understanding with information for the building up of philosophy. They differ in many ways, but especially in this: that the former contains the variety o f natural species only, and not experiments of the mechanical arts. For even as in the business of life a man’s disposition and the secret workings of his mind and affections are better discovered when he is in trouble than at other times; so likewise the secrets of nature reveal themselves more readily under the vexation of art [i.e., artisanry, technology] than when they go their own way. – Francis Bacon, Aphorism XCVIII

Although Bacon’s identification of knowledge with industrial utility and his grappling with the concept of experiment based on technology certainly underlie much of our current scientific thought,m the implications drawn from the Cartesian corpus exercised a staggering impact on the subsequent history of Western consciousness and (despite the differences with Bacon) served to confirm the technological paradigm–indeed,, even helped to launch it on its way. Man’s activity as a thinking being–and that is his essence, according to Descartes–is purely mechanical. The mind is in possession of a certain method. It confronts the world as a separate object. It applies this method to the object, again and again and again, and eventually it will know all there is to know. The method, furthermore, is also mechanical. The problem is broken down into its components, and the simple act of cognition (the direct perception) has the same relationship to the knowledge of the whole problem that, let us say, an inch has to a foot: one measures (perceives) a number of times, and then sums the results. Subdivide, measure, combine; subdivide, measure, combine. – Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World.

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