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aries1988 : enlightenment   12

Four Flavors of Doom: A Taxonomy of Contemporary Pessimism - Quillette

According to Mahbubani, this enormous improvement in the human condition is a result of Western ideas and practices—modern science, liberal democracy, free markets—spreading to other societies.

Looking beyond their specific concerns, it is possible to identify four prototypical kinds of pessimism. Each has a different take on the course of human history, but all share a general skepticism about the idea of progress.

Right-wing declinists romanticize a time when people (especially the young) were still obedient towards authority and tradition, while their left-wing counterparts imagine a time in which solidarity and mutual trust were still widely cherished values.

Bad people can do bad things, but an apocalyptic mindset can encourage even good people to do bad things.

The French sociologist Bruno Latour, a former postmodern critic of science who has found a second calling in climate alarmism, sounds this note of despair in his book Down to Earth: The war is over, and we have probably lost it.

concept of progress—of the continual betterment of the human condition through the application of science and the spread of freedom
the methods of science, free markets, and liberal democracy provide our best hope of succeeding
progress  debate  enlightenment  pessimism  analysis  today  west  future  crisis  disaster 
5 weeks ago by aries1988
Steven Pinker on slavery and the Enlightenment - Marginal REVOLUTION
Early modern Europe, including its later manifestation of the Enlightenment, brought great benefits to the world. Part of those benefits involved enhanced capacities. Some of those enhanced capacities were used to do great evil
a more complicated mood toward progress

I would note also that so many of the most radical abolitionists, including in Britain, were Christians.

Pinker's critics argue that the world was better before Europe and its enlightenment values took off. They point to slavery as evidence of this.
Pinker argues that slavery was a common place institution before and after the enlightenment and it is largely enlightenment ideas that motivated it being abolished.
debate  enlightenment  world  slavery  history  progress 
february 2019 by aries1988
H-Diplo Commentary 1 on Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress | H-Diplo | H-Net
Reviewed by Nicolas Guilhot, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

The crippling division between the natural sciences and the social sciences is a thing of the past, and economic science is now firmly established on laws that are also those commanding the development of human societies and of nature throughout history.

Science and technology also project their light into the deepest recesses of human nature: while past centuries gave credence to metaphysical speculations about the inner workings of the mind, there is now a true and materialistic science of it.

magic—“something in the nature of technology, particularly information technology, works to decouple human flourishing from the exploration of physical stuff”—but more generally the unidirectional flow of all the trends Pinker claims to map “makes it seem as if there really is a mysterious arc bending toward justice”

Pinker’s proposition that humanity is on its way to solving all the problems that have beset it since the origins of time, thanks to the global diffusion of a set of ideas that, according to him, define the Enlightenment.

any urge to interfere with the course of progress is misconceived,

There is indeed an explanation for progress and it can be captured in one sentence: “The Enlightenment has worked”

the more problematic confusion that undergirds Pinker’s narrative: his vision of what constitutes the Enlightenment is highly idiosyncratic and its connection to the historical record tenuous, to say the least. Pinker takes as intellectual pillars of the Enlightenment elements that emerged later but also, decisively, in reaction to it.

offshoots of the tradition they represent: entropy, evolution, and information.

deliberative reason, which is utterly different and in many ways opposed to the algorithmic rationality of twentieth-century economic theory,

despite paying lip-service to reason and rationalism, Pinker can admit in the same breath that most people are not rational after all

an ideological argument in favor of the status quo and against political alternatives.

It is because we see things through our own limited, cognitively biased perspective,

we should not trust people’s opinions and anything that does not look like a PowerPoint chart.

The only thing that matters is aggregate figures.

its history without historical agents and without power, in which “science,” “reason,” “capitalism” or “industrialism” dispense their benefits to an ungrateful mankind.

the marketplace of ideas will soon be flush with solutions to the problem of securing sufficient food for a growing population while diminishing the impact of agriculture on the environment:

Cognitive psychologists, behavioral geneticists, and neuroscientists could thus help “innumerate” political theorists or impaired literary scholars think better about “human nature,” which is what political theory and literature are about

Like general systems theory in the 1950s or logical positivism in the 1920s, the cognitive sciences are yet another pipe dream of unification of the social and the natural sciences, with the humanities now thrown in for good measure.

Not all important questions can be answered in such terms. Evidence is not always easy to define, nor is it always quantifiable.

Bringing the issues of life and death, war and peace, population and poverty, race and inequality into a PowerPoint-like narrative of universal and linear human progress that dispenses with the complexities of history and politics is meaningless.
critic  book  enlightenment  to:marginnote 
september 2018 by aries1988
Steven Pinker. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. New York: Viking, 2018. ISBN: 9780525427575 (hardcover, $35.00).
Reviewed by Nicolas Guilhot, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and the
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

The crippling division between the natural sciences and the social sciences is a thing of the past, and economic science is now firmly established on laws that are also those commanding the development of human societies and of nature throughout history.
book  enlightenment  critic 
july 2018 by aries1988
Steven Pinker: The Disconnect Between Pessimism and Optimism | Time

It’s not that people are naturally glum. On the contrary, they tend to see their lives through rosetinted glasses: they say they are happy, their schools are good, their neighborhoods are safe and that they are less likely than the average person to become the victim of an accident, a disease, a layoff or crime.

But when people are asked about their countries, they switch from Pollyanna to Eeyore: everyone else is miserable, they insist, and the world is going to hell in a handcart.

Most positive developments are not camera-friendly, and they aren’t built in a day. You never see a headline about a country that is not at war, or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists–or the fact that since yesterday, 180,000 people have escaped extreme poverty.

A quantitative mind-set, despite its nerdy aura, is not just a smarter way to understand the world but the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as equal, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of our problems and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to solve them.
optimism  pessimism  history  mindset  enlightenment  perception  society  mentality  people  idea  development 
february 2018 by aries1988
How the Index Card Cataloged the World

Carl Linnaeus, the father of biological taxonomy, also had a hand in inventing this tool for categorizing anything. An Object Lesson.

The index card was a product of the Enlightenment, conceived by one of its towering figures: Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and the father of modern taxonomy.

The Swedish scientist is more often credited with another invention: binomial nomenclature, the latinized two-part name assigned to every species.

species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom.
enlightenment  tool  nature  knowledge  epistemic  botany  research  history 
december 2017 by aries1988
The Islamic World Doesn't Need a Reformation - The Atlantic

There is simply is no “Muslim Pope,” or a central organization like the Catholic hierarchy, whose suffocating authority needs to be broken. Quite the contrary, the Muslim world—at least the Sunni Muslim world, which constitutes its overwhelming majority—has no central authority at all, especially since the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924 by Republican Turkey. The ensuing chaos in itself seems be a part of “the problem.”

The contemporary Muslim world needs not a Martin Luther but a John Locke, whose arguments for freedom of conscience and religious toleration planted the seeds of liberalism. In particular, the more religion-friendly British Enlightenment, rather than the French one, can serve as a constructive model.

Islam, as a legalist religion, has more commonalities with Judaism than with Christianity.

in a reality where the state is already deeply involved in religion, its steps toward moderation and liberalization should be welcome. It’s also worth remembering that the success of the Enlightenment in Europe was partly thanks to the era of “Enlightened despots,” the monarchs who preserved their power even as they realized crucial legal, social, and educational reforms.
from:rss  religion  islam  opinion  enlightenment  future  comparison  christianity  history  politics 
november 2017 by aries1988

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