Friday, December 12, 2008

Science is unable to motivate us or move us in the way that religion can

Part IV: Alyosha and Zarathustra on Com-passion and a Genuine Embodied Life
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Perhaps the reason is, as Nietzsche says in Human All Too Human (#251, “Signs of a Higher and Lower Culture”), because science is unable to motivate us or move us in the way that religion can. In the same section from Human All Too Human, Nietzsche speaks of the “two-chambers of the brain,” bringing to our attention the “downside” of living in predominantly scientific, materialistic (philosophically speaking) age. Scientists, for example, have cast so many doubts on the claims of religion and metaphysics, yet what Nietzsche himself seems to suggest is that which makes us human is tied to religious and even traditional metaphysical claims (e.g., claims about the soul and God).

Consequently, we must develop a “two-chambered brain,” one chamber that allows us to embrace and experience religion, and another that can come to terms with the truths of science and philosophy of the materialist strain. In other words, as Nietzsche sees things, religion gives us passion and drives us forward. Science, in contrast, is unable to provide this kind of drive, as its role it to regulate the passions and discern truth from error. So “truth” in this context, or to use the conscientious man’s term, “honesty,” viz., that which is “hard, strict, narrow, cruel, and inexorable,”[4] lies in science, not in religion and (traditional) metaphysics. Nonetheless, even though he himself has given up on ancient religion (e.g. Judaism, Christianity) and metaphysics, Nietzsche is willing to admit that if all we have is this scientific “truth” and strict, cruel honesty, then something essential to human beings has been lost.

As he says throughout Human All Too Human, the kind of truth science gives is a “humble truth.” Consequently, it cannot satisfy our deepest longings. As a result, we require a dual-chambered brain in which at least one side, the religion and metaphysics side, gives us what we need to carry on. With these things in mind, we may interpret the conscientious man’s statement, “where my honesty ceases, I am blind, and I also want to be blind. But where I want to know, I also want to be honest-that is, hard, strict, narrow, cruel, and inexorable,” as another variation on Nietzsche’s theme of our divided psyche.[5]

1 comment:

  1. But does what is usually called "religion" really motivate us any differently?

    Much of the mischief in the world is created by righteous religionists from the two major mono-theistic power seeking cults of Islam and Christianity.

    Both of which, if given half the chance, would impose themselves on every one. Such being the purpose and outcome of their mutually shared totalitarian agendas.

    What if what is usually called "religion" (especially Christianity with its drive to total power and control) is a vast all encompassing scapegoat machine or mechanism that has now encircled everything and is thus now destroying everything which it has thus encircled. Which is what scapegoat cults always inevitably do.