a current under sea; picked his bones in whispers

“Every step forward in mechanical technique is a step in the direction of abstraction.  This capacity for living easily and familiarly at an extraordinary level of abstraction is the source of modern man’s power.  With it he has transformed the planet, annihilated space, and trebled the world’s population.  But is also a power which has, like everything human, its negative side, in the desolating sense of rootlessness, vacuity, and the lack of concrete feeling that assails modern man in his moments of real anxiety.”

William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy, 1962

“He [Bergson] was the first to insist on the insufficiency of the abstract intelligence to grasp the richness of experience, on the urgent and irreducible reality of time, and – perhaps in the long run the most significant insight of all – on the inner depth of the psychic life which cannot be measured by the quantitative methods of the physical sciences…”

“…variously called analytic philosophy, Logical Positivism, or sometimes merely ‘scientific philosophy.’  No doubt, Positivism has also good claims to being the philosophy of our time: it takes as its central fact what is undoubtedly the central fact distinguishing our civilization from all others – science; but it goes on from this to take science as the ultimate ruler o human life, which it never has been and psychologically never can be.  Positivist man is a curious creature who dwells in the tiny island of light composed of what he finds scientifically ‘meaningful,’ while the whole surrounding area in which ordinary men live from day to day and have their dealings with other men is consigned to the outer darkness of the ‘meaningless.’  Positivism has simply accepted the fractured being of modern man and erected a philosophy to intensify it.”

“A society coming apart top and bottom, or passing over into another form, contains just as many possibilities for revelation as a society running along smoothly in its own rut.  The individual is thrust out of the sheltered nest that society has provided.  He can no longer hide his nakedness by the old disguises.  He learns how much of what he has taken for granted was by its own nature neither eternal nor necessary but thoroughly temporal and contingent.  He learns that the solitude of the self is an irreducible dimension of human life no matter how completely that self had seemed to be contained in its social milieu.  In the end, he sees each man as solitary and unsheltered before his own death.  Admittedly, these are painful truths, but the most basic things are always learned with pain, since our inertia and complacent love of comfort prevent us from learning them until they are forced upon us.  It appears that man is willing to learn about himself only after some disaster; after war, economic crisis, and political upheaval have taught him how flimsy is that human world in which he thought himself so securely grounded.  What he learns has always been there, lying concealed beneath the surface of even the best-functioning societies; it is no less true for having come out of a period of chaos and disaster.  But so long as man does not have to face up to such a truth, he will not do so.”



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