Instrumentalism




[Ariel] Rubenstein refuses to claim that his knowledge of theoretical matters can be translated - by him - into anything directly practical. 

To him, economics is like a fable - a fable writer is there to stimulate ideas, indirectly inspire practice perhaps, but certainly not to direct or determine practice.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 211




All things organic are dying in the grip of organisation. An artificial world is permeating and poisoning the natural. Civilisation has itself become a machine that does, or tries to do, everything in mechanical fashion. 

We think only in horsepower now; we cannot look at a waterfall without mentally turning it into electric power; we cannot survey a countryside full of pasturing cattle without thinking of its exploitation as a source of meat supply; we cannot look at the beautiful old handwork of a lively and primitive people without wishing to replace it by modern technical process.

[Oswald Spengler]
Man and Technics, p. 72




With the decline of metaphysics, ethics has outgrown its status as a subordinate element in abstract theory. Henceforth it is philosophy, the other divisions being absorbed into it and practical living becoming the centre of consideration. 

The passion of pure thought sinks down. Metaphysics, mistress yesterday, is handmaid now; all it is required to do is to provide a foundation for practical views. And the foundation becomes more and more superfluous. 

It becomes the custom to despise and mock at the metaphysical, the unpractical, the philosophy of “stone for bread." 

There is exactly the same difference in Classical philosophy before and after Aristotle - on the one hand, a grandly conceived Cosmos to which a formal ethic adds almost nothing, and, on the other, ethics as such, as programme, as necessity with a desultory ad hoc metaphysic for basis. 

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, Vol. 1, p.366




It is because the inner being is extinct in the modern scientist, leaving him with only gross physical perceptions and an abstract, mathematical intellect, that the relationship between the I and the not-I grows rigid and soulless, so that his detachment can only act negatively.

His science is only good for grasping and manipulating the world, not for understanding it or for enlarging his knowledge in a qualitative way.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p.142
 



Iain: I believe there are different levels of purpose. In one sense you can say a daily purpose might be to get food and no longer be hungry, but that is not to exhaust the purposes of an animal.

It seems unsatisfactory to say that the purpose of the animal is just to make other animals like itself. It seems more that there must be something purposeful about being a deer, that it demonstrates one of the ways in which the verb to be can be inflected.

It creates a much richer idea of what it means to be, and that seems to me close to the purpose of an animal, that the lioness is not just killing and eating, which is certainly a daily purpose, and not just producing more lioness cubs or lion cubs, but actually just being the lion is the purpose of a lion.
 

Jim: […] I would say that part of the being of a white-tailed deer, at least for those who appreciate them, is we find them beautiful as well or something about their form that’s really quite elegant, the coloring, the shape, athleticism and all that.

But is that a purpose? I guess a purpose from what perspective? What’s the perspective of the purpose of the deer who plays and the deer that is beautiful?
 

Iain: Well, obviously not a utilitarian purpose, and that’s why I begin by differentiating intrinsic purposes from manipulation that reaches a certain goal at a lower level and at a utilitarian level and as an external extrinsic purpose.

So, there seems to be something about the way evolution works, that it’s not just about creating a creature that can last longer, has better survival power, because there are, for example, actinobacteria at the bottom of the sea. Single examples of which may be a million years old. Human beings do rather poorly in this competition because we live through only 70 years old. Trees can live to be a thousand years old.

But as you get more complex, you find that actually the survival value of the individual and even its ability to propagate many examples of itself may be diminishing. So it seems to me that the idea of fitness must encourage us to think in terms of something other than mere mathematically calculable survival.

[Iain McGilchrist]
‘EP 155 Iain McGilchrist Part 2: The Matter With Things’, The Jim Rutt Show, YouTube
 



The interesting and significant point is that this argument against vitalism is not concerned with its truth but with its fertility. To confuse these two is a very common error and causes a great deal of damage.

A methodological principle - ‘fertility' - which is perfectly legitimate as a methodological principle is substituted for the idea of truth and expanded into a philosophy with universal claims. As Karl Stern puts it, ‘methods become mentalities'.

A statement is considered untrue not because it appears to be incompatible with experience, but because it does not serve as a guide in research and has no heuristic value; and, conversely, a theory is considered true, no matter how improbable it may be on general grounds, simply because of 'superior heuristic value'.

In the ideal case, the structure of a man's knowledge would match the structure of reality.

At the highest level, there would be ‘knowledge for understanding’ in its purest form; at the lowest, there would be ‘knowledge for manipulation’. Understanding is required to decide what to do; the help of ‘knowledge for manipulation’ is needed to act effectively in the material world.

For successful action, we need to know what will be the results or alternative courses of action, so as to be able to select the course most suitable for our purposes. At this level, therefore, it is correct to say that the goal of knowledge is prediction and control.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.69, 127
 



I have thought often about the role of the tool-making instinct in the history and prehistory of our race. And I have associated this instinct with a more general characteristic of our people which I -- and others also -- have called the Faustian spirit.

That's the spirit which drives us not only to build things and to invent things but to explore and to try to understand ourselves and the world around us. It is a spirit which makes us seek power not just for the sake of mere power, but also for the sake of progress, for the sake of building new things. It leads us to conquer not merely for the sake of conquest, but also to improve and develop that which we conquer.

It leads us to value truth over and above any practical value that truth may have; to value knowledge above any monetary gain that knowledge may yield.

[William Pierce]
'The Faustian Spirit and Political Correctness'




These words help to clarify what Edwards meant by "consent and good will to Being in general" - the essence of "true virtue," as he called it in his treatise on that subject.

"Consent" implied a love of God's creation in and for itself, without regard to the ways it thwarted or seemed to encourage human designs.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.249




There was much to be said for Mailer's contention that "the life of politics and the life of myth had diverged too far" in the postwar years and that the times demanded a leader who could "engage" once again the “myth of the nation" and thus bring a new “impetus ... to the arts, to the practices, to the lives and to the imaginations of the American."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.469



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