instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Above and beneath

It's of no particular use to observe that it is better to love than know what is above and to know than love what is beneath without an "above" and a "beneath." It seems to me, though, that getting rid of one or both of them has been an important goal in the West for centuries.

To suggest there are things beneath the human soul is to suggest the human soul is above them. In a blind, undirected, random universe, though, can we really say the human soul is any better than anything else -- assuming we're even willing to grant for the sake of argument that "the human soul" is a coherent concept. As one species among others, humans aren't objectively "better," Stephen Jay Gould argued on behalf of many; we simply came along later and so are (as the math would predict) are more complex.

As for anything above the human soul, have you ever heard of anything less scientific than belief in spirits? There is no God, the human soul (whatever it might be) does not survive physical death; what you see is what you get.

Rushing to fill the spiritual vacuum sciencism produces are various flavors of pagan syncretism. Sheep and chickens are our sisters and brothers, with the same natural rights we have; to think otherwise is immoral speciesism. And we ourselves are God; hadn't you noticed?

The result is a flattened universe in which all difference is explained away as one form of illusion or another. Maybe we're all just energy states, or maybe we're all just the Spirit (or, God help us, maybe we're both), but it's meaningless to speak of "above" and "beneath."

Or so, at least, we're told. Fortunately, very few humans are both crazy enough and stupid enough to believe that; whatever they might say, most people don't live as though there were nothing greater or lesser than themselves. Christian apologetics against sciencism and pantheism has the happy effect of preserving and restoring the instinctively-known distinctions between the human soul, what is above it, and what is below it.

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