Manifesto: Continuing the Enlightenment
Wim Rietdijk, D.Sci.
1. Most thinking
people feel pessimistically about the world. Literature, postmodernism
and nihilistic relativism reflect this.
Very few have the idea that
they can do anything about it.
2. I suspect the main cause
to be our socio-cultural leaders' lacking both moral conviction
and a coherent theory or intuition on society and the meaning
For the rest, we should not
forget that in history most people actually having them were simply
in error, much cruelty being the result.
Still, we should realize that
- in spite of our less-than-fantastic human nature - some deep
laws led the human race from caves and old Jericho to the Sermon
on the Mount and the Genome Project.
My proposal is our carefully,
hopefully and - more than anything else - in a scientific spirit
joining in with such evolutionary forces.
3. My central thesis is that
the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries' controversy between
on the one side the Enlightenment and the techno-industrial revolution
and, on the other, opposing and restraining convention, nobility
and the clergy, is a mere prototypical specimen of the dynamics
of socio-cultural evolution and progress at all, in our own
era and culture as well as in others. In such process - the "red
thread in history" -, we see a fundamental chasm: man seeking
happiness by reason, by moral enlightenment and action, and by
emotional awakening, as he is confronted by vested interests and
their ideological instruments that shield irrational power and
privilege - especially by being very un-enlightened.
4. My books - The Scientifization of Culture
and Wetenschap als Bevrijding
(in Dutch) -, inter alia, show our main current
social and moral problem to be that stupidity and anti-social
vested interests now are no longer represented by the relatively
well-recognizable Church, nobility and bajonets, but by more subtle
ideological manipulation, and by much obscureness in bureaucracy.
Think here of established powers in business, unions, politics,
the intelligentsia (ideology) and the media, whose main interest
is their own position, and which instinctively (unconsciously)
play into each others hands. (This is not a conspiracy, but
amounts to the fact that many among its members collectively sense
what serves the establishment best. Similarly, old clergy sensed
massive feelings of guilt to serve its interests, and for similar
purposes, jointly with others, "invented" the divine
right of kings.) Reason, rational morals and emotional awakening
- which makes manipulation more difficult - are their ultimate
enemies, just as in Voltaire's time. For this reason, they
are against clarity, open honesty and the primacy of reason in
many vital socio-cultural domains. In the arts, they push the
"abstract" and incomprehensible, as to sex, they used
to prefer repression (though this can be less and less enforced
in modern society), in education, they are against stressing
the intellectual and judging quality. In the judicial domain,
they prefer formalism rather than emphasizing finding the truth
and justice, and in the moral domain they smooth over badness
and failure by relativism and explaining them by "social"
factors. Needless to say, in philosophy and general outlook on
life they are fond of Heidegger, Foucault and the idea of man
being irrational and the world a coincidence rather than functioning
according to deep coherent laws. And, of course, they are
against using lie-detectors in politics... In all, they are not
eager to continue along the red thread of evolving reason, more
openness, and emotional awakening and catharsis that very roughly
characterizes historical evolution.
5. Many complain that a cultural
lag exists: progress in the moral and emotional domains lags
behind that in the techno-scientific and economic ones; they correctly
suspect that this causes many among our woes. Small wonder, if
far more emotional energy and strivings go to sports, royalty
and fashions of many kinds than to serious ideas, moral problems
and fighting subtle manipulation. Small wonder too, if our intelligentsia
affirms defeatist irrationalism such as Wittgenstein's dictum:
"We sense that even if all possible scientific questions
have been answered, our problems of life have not yet even been
Quite to the contrary, it
is the core of substantial progressive thought that human misery,
frustration and error have concrete and scientifically understandable
causes which can be removed by reason and moral enlightenment
Small wonder, again, that
the gist of all philosophies shielding the anti-enlightened, vested
interests and corruption is denying this very thesis.
6. The essential source of -
moral and material - woes in both our own past and the Third World
is that so many problems were not experienced and formulated
in rational (techno-scientific) and enlightened moral terms.
Well, we ourselves are far from having overcome such primitivism:
the cultural lag and Wittgenstein's pronouncement demonstrate
this. For, he - as well as most current (anti-rationalistic) philosophy
and incoherent "abstract" art that suggest chaos - precisely
maintains that "life" is far beyond science and reason.
Dominant relativism adds that moral action is rather irrelevant
(powerless) too, viz. by not even having an objective basis, while
emotional enlightenment and awakening - and human quality at all
- have not much priority either in a climate of uncertainty, subjectivism,
and pushing the idea that the world is a coincidence and chaos.
Egalitarianism joins in by implying that "man cannot be improved
in principle", since it even taboos discriminating between
high-quality and lower-quality individuals - let alone our speaking
about genetic engineering or eugenics.
7. It is one of our core theses
that the above - Wittgenstein's dictum and our cultural establishment's
not even formulating essential problems of life and society in
scientific and moral terms - constitutes precisely the modern
successor of the anti-rational ideologies of the Church, convention,
nationalism etc. that in former periods served or shielded
establishments, abuses and irrational power and privilege.
Concretely, it created a socio-cultural
climate - an ideology - in which it does not fit to remove
the cultural lag and address vital problems of life in rational
and moral ways.
(a) Those many who believe in life after death, should propose
a NASA of parapsychology, with a budget of billions of dollars;
this problem is not less important than bringing man on the moon;
(b) Those many who rightly deplore so many politicians and bureaucrats
to lack sufficient moral integrity should translate such feeling
in rational action: clamour for the application of technological
lie-detection in the relevant domains;
(c) Those seriously considering sexual problems should realize
the core ones to be a psycho-biological scarcity of "attractive
qualities" - eventually to be removed by genetic engineering
- and the primitivity of the "sexual market". The latter
is far too small in scale, too irrational - not allowing one,
e.g., to compare many thousands of videos and data sets of pre-selected
potential partners whose preferences are also roughly known -
and too dependent on coincidence. (Of course, the mere evolution
of Internet will eventually rationalize this situation.)
It is precisely vigorously
rejecting, or declaring irrelevant, the ways of thinking and solutions
as given above that characterizes current anti-rational - unenlightened
- thinking and ideology, as they follow naturally from former
ones that considered man (and much more) to be "beyond the
realm of science and natural law". Think of the sexual
taboos, religious orthodoxy, convention, "dying for your
country" and the divine right of kings. Once one saw censorship,
irrational convention and the Church limiting or counteracting
rational thinking, ethic (values) and solutions, now we see postmodernism,
moral relativism, incoherent art and the cults of "the poly-interpretable",
subjectivism and fundamental uncertainty doing so. (In the same
vein, old-time subordinating the individual to conventional social
groups was succeeded by Riesman's other-directedness as
a means of conforming people.) All of them boil down to keeping
many waters troubled in antagonizing the scientific method in
typically "human" domains.
8. Within the above scope, it
is not the error of liberalism and socialism that they imply society
to be highly makable, but their degeneracy from this to
the position of pressure group on behalf of moral and/or genetic
rearguards such as underclasses, anti-socials, educational problem
cases and the "helping bureaucracies". The latter will
have a vested interest in the relevant problems not being solved
at all, and act against such solution by means of a permissive
ideology (about "the disadvantaged") rather than fostering
law and order, performance ethic and eugenics.
That is, the left "institutionalized"
into egalitarianism and political correctness, which constitute
the latest orthodoxy.
Mind in this context that
the latter is a mere variant of a more general modern anti-progress
ideology that as such partly succeeded old-time conservatism.
Viz. relativistic nihilism disguised in pervasive slogans - gratifying
the masses and mediocrity - such as: "All people are
of equal value" (that is: human quality is not so relevant).
Or, to the same effect: "Genetic engineering and eugenics
cannot `improve' man" (with quotation marks). Or: "Art
needs neither to be beautiful nor make impressively perceptible
to the senses some moving truth" (that is: we are far from
being on our way to something objectively valuable). Or: "For
the most part, the essential things in life are subjective or
coincidental" (that is, neither truth nor our fundamental
purposes are within the realm of objective science and criteria;
human existence and destiny as a whole are incoherent).
It is more difficult to contend
with such subtle manipulation than doing so with conservatism
of the old brand. Still, both accommodate to massive demand for
"security by solidarity and myth of our own free choice".
9. Adding to the confusion is
that "leftist" and "rightist" ideas became
so incoherently muddled that at least progressiveness lost resilience
and even its substance, which is pursuing progress. Such
muddling, besides being brought about by the factor discussed
in 8., more generally stems from well-organized group interests
eclipsing general enthousiasm for progress and moral indignation
about injustice, inferior quality and stagnation.
10. Also, many among modern
society's problems stem from its intelligentsia's being integrated
into the establishment and most intellectuals being too conformed
(and too indolent) for substantial independent thinking on them.
Hence, a mere few innovators aspire to explaining and exposing
the subtle ideological manipulations, repressions and taboos that
- as more complicated successors of censorship, convention and
the Church - shield the modern analogues of nobility and other
privileged in-crowds and groups having an interest in stagnation,
inefficiency or injustice.
preferences for pushing anti-red thread ideas in order to shield
immoral and irrational interests (see also 3., 4., 7. and 8.)
do not constitute the only psychological force favouring stagnation.
Another one is an "innate" tendency of the majority
- even among intellectuals - to experience "the group",
its values, conventions, idols and cult figures - from royalty
to sports stars to great names in the arts or philosophy - as
a support and orientation in life. As formerly the nation,
religion and convention, now such group etc., to which one will
adjust, is a "defense mechanism" and source of security.
This causes the "heretic" to have to fight an uphill
struggle: the (disinterested) majority tends to take sides with
the "safe status quo", from the queen and received ideas
to (partly) the establishment as such. That is, it will be dangerous
to accuse the powers that be too radically and concretely, the
more so if one invites people to seriously think about truth,
good and evil, rather than sociably engaging in group life and
enjoying the regards of one's neighbours, colleagues and peer
group. It will be psychologically risky to distance yourself
from all of these by implicitly declaring them in default in your
seriously and concretely accusing social abuses and the orthodoxy
shielding them. In a way, they, and "the group"
in general, embody present-day religion, fatherland and tradition
as a psychological "safe heaven". Actually, a major
ultimate cause of social evil is the majority's deriving security,
purpose and hope from the group and conventional ideas (as the
just-meant secularized versions of God and orthodoxy) rather than
doing so from truth, reason, the idea of a rational moral order
in the world and scientific knowledge and progress referring to
them. (This will be one more motive for most in-crowds' relativizing
or undermining such truth, reason etc.!)
11. Progressiveness should actually
boil down to points such as:
(a) Stimulating "red-thread" evolution, which generally
means applying reason and an enlightened ethic of integrity and
compassion to all imaginable problems and sectors of life, and
fostering emotional awakening and coherence;
(b) Advancing progress also as to developments in lie-detection,
genetic engineering, subtle means of "measuring man",
electronic markets and other broadenings of scope and technologies
allowing man to emancipate from ignorance, deceit and manipulation
(e.g., in the political domain). And also from coincidence, arbitrariness,
convention and the limitations of direct social interactions (think
of finding mates, jobs etc.);
(c) Applying science and reason in general, as well as rational
morals, to exposing everything in society which has something
to do with (ideological) manipulation, bureaucratic inefficiency,
virtual oligopolies and cartellization, or other group interests
prejudicing the public one. Such interests contain educational
establishments cherishing problem groups rather than quality and
performance, a hypertrophized judiciary in which truth and moral
justice are less than first and foremost, the above-mentioned
"helping professions" that thrive on the "deprivileged"
increasing in number, unions and business stifling efficiency
by various work rules, etc.
Some more Vital and Intriguing Questions:
12. How could so nonsensical
and boring philosophies like postmodernism and Foucault's - "science
is a mere option; truth, good and evil are merely conventional"
- get so much attention if no unconscious interest-based motive
is pushing them: undermining reason and moral criticism like it
was formerly done by censorship and bajonets? A similar question
could be asked with respect to incomprehensible "modern art"
such as Rauschenberg's and Corneille's, and as Pinter absurdism.
13. More generally: What else
than the circumstance that present-day anti-enlightened forces
will be much more subtly ideologically and bureaucratically hidden
than their predecessors in former ages, could be responsible
for the general intellectual skepticism as regards human capacity
to improve the world, such defeatism simply being a disguised
variant of conservatism? Who among our cultural leaders realizes
and exposes this and such forces as indicated in 12. and 8. above,
or even brings coherence into socio-cultural thinking by seeing
the importance of red-thread evolution and counterforces as indicated?
14. Who shows a way out of nihilistic
pessimism, inter alia, by proposing more emphasis
on, and allocating more money to, scientific parapsychology as
a means of finding more facts about any possible phenomena such
as reincarnation, nonlocal coherence in human existence and (other)
super-individual phenomena such as any collective unconscious?
Who draws attention to the connections such phenomena may have
with nonlocal phenomena as recently found in microphysics? (Think
of the paradox of Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen, the Bohm-Aharonov
effect, and the like. In the two earlier-mentioned books the above
problems too are elaborated.)
How many scientists, finally,
seriously try to build a bridge between science and religion by
considering the latter, at least in essence, as a pre-scientific,
"heuristic", way of approaching some deep questions
of human destiny which - if, eventually, it would appear to have
factual substance - might be integrated into enlightened thinking?
15. Is it a coincidence that,
in discussing The Scientifization of Culture and Wetenschap
als bevrijding, opponents conspicuously concentrate on side
issues, on the idea of progress and the makability of society
in general, or on the motives of the author, but will
not go into their substantial content, which is explanations,
theories and the analysis of abuses? Could this be one of
current methods of humouring taboo: still keeping out of discussion
precisely the essence of nonconformism: dangerous arguments leading
to exposures and dangerous alternatives to orthodoxy and mental
16. More specifially: why everybody
keeps mum about massive abuses such as
(a) defendants being acquitted on a technicality,
(b) education very often lacking substance and discipline,
(c) politicians lying frequently while lie-detection could attain
near-100% reliability by their interviewing each other in
(d) governments not applying an available method to control inflation
without restraining growth by increasing interest rates,
(e) the interest-based reasons why egalitarian permissiveness
speaks of "disadvantaged" also in the case of people
hanging around at street corners rather than making homework,
and further generally refuses to consider failure as regards moral
conduct and/or intelligence as a question of moral and/or genetic
low quality rather than one's being victim of his social environment,
(f) most people's being afraid of violating "political correctness"?
Why not even vigorous minority
opposition appears against most of the above situations? And why
nobody asks for the interests behind relevant ideologies
and behind earlier-mentioned incomprehensible or even absurdistic
or inane "art"? Is our thinking far less free than it
is purported everywhere?
17. Why so many extol "uncertainty",
"chance", problems being "beyond scientific knowledge",
"mystery", "alienation", the "poly-interpretable",
the "basic subjectivity" of values and even truth? Why
so many definitely like the troubled waters inherent to
such uncertainty, chance, etc.?
18. Is it possible that you
could easily be manipulated into uncertainty, "the
poly-interpretable" and "alienation" by fashionable
ideology (egalitarianism, political correctness, relativism,...)?
Viz. because your vital instincts (self-preservation, sexuality,...),
your conscience and sense of the moving and the sublime, and finally
your reason (intelligence) are hardly mutually integrated into
a coherent and autonomous personality? Could such non-integration,
in turn, be manipulatively induced too, via means going from sexual
taboos to relativism and your dependence on "the group"?
Do you really translate your
frustrations into a longing for new ideas undermining parts of
the status quo, on a scientifically sound basis? Could a negative
answer possibly explain why your thinking about life, good, evil
and progress is conformistic, "other-directed" or even
Please end mindlessly investing
strivings and emotion in empty images: sports results, philosophical
verbiage or conventional status symbols (such as "modern
art" or other fashions), and start being really interested
in how the world and society work; isn't this a far more sound
source of hope and self-confidence than "the group",
its orthodoxy and "games people play"?
19. Did you realize the inconsistency
of "progressiveness" not aspiring to progress as
to man, human quality, too (also by genetic engineering and
eugenics), but feeling much sympathy for those causing their fellow-men
much trouble by being anti-social, by not working hard at school,
or by being addicted? Did you also realize that the perennial
problem of drug addiction could indeed be solved if the cult of
the "disadvantaged" did not prevent the authorities
from interning the addicted, who can much easier be found
than the dealers?
Generally, in modern democracies
evil is less manifest in cruelty and gross exploitation than in
subtly and disguisedly humouring vested interests in inefficiency,
dishonesty, inferiority, troubled waters and privilege. For, what
possible alternative (unconscious) motive could explain ideological
aversion towards, and/or bureaucratic obstruction of, more competition,
lie-detection, eugenics, violation of "privacy" and
the enforcement of integrity by all available means? Within this
context, isn't it revealing as to the impact of egalitarian extremism
that even the sterilization of mentally handicapped is widely
condemned, especially by "progressives"?
20. The Scientifization of
Culture and Wetenschap als bevrijding give explanations
of many hushed-up socio-cultural phenomena like those indicated
above, and result in integrating them into a coherent and transparent
general social theory. In it, contrary to - for the rest, rare
- others, values and (genetic and other) human quality also figure
prominently. It inspires to our linking up with fundamental
laws of progress in which a "red thread" of advance
in reason, values and human quality in general constitutes the
core of social evolution. This, on the other hand, is often partly
and temporarily frustrated by anti-enlightened forces serving
vested interests, and by the troubled waters such interests will
be shielded by and thrive on...
Edmund Burke said: "The
only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to
do nothing". Mind in this spirit that in refusing to seriously
think the above things over - rather than investing much energy
in sports, royalty, political correctness and one-line thinking
adjusted to the tv commercial - you are co-responsible for
present-day's cultural lag and, therewith, for most current woes
and social abuses. Then you belong to the inertial mass which
made it so particularly difficult for past enlighteners to fight
convention, the Church and stupid privilege... Actually, you are
then precisely the kind of (wo)man preferred by the negative forces
in society: disinterestly contenting yourself with "pane
et circenses", bread and games.
What I tried here was indeed
reducing the cultural lag by partly summarizing a concrete, clear
and coherent enlightened social theory and program enunciated
in the earlier mentioned two books. These aspire to embodying
a continuation of the ways of thinking and action characteristic
of the Enlightenment, but now extended and deepened according
to the progress in socio-cultural knowledge, and also in view
of the more complicated problems and ways of disguising unconscious
ideological manipulation (frustration of reason and moral and
emotional enlightenment) that developed since Louis XVI and the
divine rights of kings...
Join in, inter alia, by producing serious contributions
to our Discussion Page.
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