PRE- AND POST-FREUDIAN HUMANS
Most modern thinkers realize that the human race has entered a new era of evolution, in that we are in a position to control our own evolutionary destiny. We’re in an age of consciousness, of reason and science that we could never before imagine. However, many human animals lag far behind, dragging their religious chains behind them, like so many Joseph Marleys.
We Americans should look to the Europeans as our leaders in this. They’ve been living within the artificial walls of conscious civilization for far longer than us. We’re still primitives in this, still down home types, still bound in the chains and boxes of religion. Europeans are farther along toward the freedom of atheism and/or at least secularism and into the freedom that modern science opens the door to.
America remains divided unevenly between those who are becoming modern and those still in primitive religious chains, those still looking for a philosophy or a superbeing to enslave themselves to. We progressive, forward-looking Americans must hope that our science malingerers don’t find an earthly being (yes, like Hitler or Stalin) to bind themselves to before they can find true freedom of will. We should never forget that it was the religious psychologies of the Russians and Germans which made them vulnerable to world leaders who inspired them to hatred, violence and revolution.
As an aside, I just wonder if African-Americans stay faithful to the freedom struggling Democratic party rather than the conservative, mentally enslaving, religious Republican party because of their history in slavery. Even though African-Americans count among their number so many Baptists of deep religious dye, they sense, I hope and imagine, the slavery which lies under conservative religious fundamentalist beliefs. They sense that old time religion in Republicanism which had no trouble enslaving them because of Bible beliefs.
Let me pass on another thought from Daniel Dennett’s book, “Freedom Evolves”. It’s a fascinating book and I come across so many ideas that I want to pass on. Only a reader of the full book can enjoy its treasures:
“Free will is like the air we breathe, and it is present almost everywhere we want to go, but it is not only not eternal, it evolved, and is still evolving. [Like earth’s atmosphere] the atmosphere of free will is another sort of environment. It is the enveloping, enabling, life-shaping, conceptual atmosphere of intentional action, planning and hoping and promising—and blaming, resenting, punishing and honoring. We all grow up in this conceptual atmosphere, and we learn to conduct our lives in the terms it provides. It appears to be a stable and ahistorical construct, as eternal and unchanging as arithmetic, but it is not. It evolved as a recent product of human interactions, and some of the sorts of human activity it first made possible on this planet may also threaten to disrupt its future stability, or even hasten its demise. Our planet’s atmosphere is not guaranteed to last forever, and neither is our free will....
“What happens... when we try to imagine living in a world without the atmosphere of free will? It might be life, but would it be us? Would life be worth living if we lost our belief in our own capacity to make free, responsible decisions? And is the ubiquitous atmosphere of free will in which we live and act not a fact at all, but just a facade of some sort, a mass hallucination?
“There are those who say that free will has always been an illusion, a pre-scientific dream from which we are now awakening. We’ve never really had free will, and never could have had it. Thinking we’ve had free will has been, at best, a life-shaping and even life-enhancing ideology, but we can learn to live without it.” (Freedom Evolves, pp. 10-11)
Hey! Do these passages take your breath away as they do mine? Do they make you tingle with thought and emotion? Do they make you feel freer or more imprisoned? Do they frighten you as they once did me? I’m the sort who’s willing to think I don’t have free will, but who actually lives as if I do, one who accepts the illusion and who continues to live mindlessly mindful, untroubled by the intellectual ramifications of the matter.
An interesting companion read to Dennett’s book might be Robert Wright’s “The Moral Animal” (Buy It!) which traces many moral behaviors to other animal kingdoms.
"Perhaps there is no life after death. . . there's just Los Angeles." —Rick Anderson