The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays

The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays

The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays

The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays

Excerpt

The expulsion of mind and purpose from the domain of nature offers no novelty in the history of thought. But in our own day, determinism and mechanism are no longer esoteric beliefs but generally accepted axioms. To be sure, one often encounters pious affirmations of faith in some supernatural agency, in the soul, or in immortality; but such faith has degenerated into a vague hope, into an attractive but hardly defensible aspiration. Nowadays one needs to apologize for teleology, whereas mechanism no longer labors under the burden of proof. Even psychology openly boasts of its emancipation from the ghost-soul and complacently displays its wares in terms of stimulus-response events, where the whole story wins approbation in the measure that it can be restricted to material and mechanical concepts.

Since the seventeenth century this doctrine has acquired force and persuasion. The achievements of science have given it prestige; the order and regularity which it postulates and describes promise to man the chance of power, of control, and of a unified picture of his world. Apparently we cannot rest in meaningless and lawless variety. And, if mechanism thereupon bars us from free participation in the creation of our world and of our fortunes, it seems to offer compensation in the splendid sweep of its intellectual vision..

Mechanism destroys the possibility of freedom. Indeed, where everything is as it must be, nothing can become what it ought to be. Consequently all values in ethics, logic, and esthetics disappear. Weak attempts are often made to save for them, at the very least, the status of pleasant illusions, of useful hypotheses calculated to make living tolerable. One may, of course, wonder how a wholly mechanical world could produce so psychological an event as illusion and error. But apart from that, whoever is smart enough to pierce this veil of subjective deception over the autonomy of values must needs fall back into a pallid stoicism. Consequently there have appeared delicate and emasculated connoisseurs, the apostles of pity, of taste, and of egocentric voluptuousness, who make the universal death more horrible and ghastly by pretending that they are alive..

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