2 Answers

  1. The short answer is yes.

    The long answer is also yes, but with a bunch of three-page reservations.

    Scott Alexander, in his “After Virtue”review Our Alasdair MacIntyre, long life to him, jokingly remarked that not a week could pass without someone, somewhere, blaming the Enlightenment for all mortals.

    This footnote is directly relevant to the question precisely because McIntyre shows how a change in the cultural and social paradigm has literally made old texts unreadable to contemporaries. When we open Plato and Aristotle, we see their appeals to ethics and piety, and we have no access at all to what these things meant to the people of the Hellenistic era. As if a thousand years later, our descendants would look at the text of this question and not understand what “soulless” means.

    In other words, it's so bad that the public discourse doesn't even have the right tools to understand how bad it is.

    I don't feel in the position of a person who can adequately criticize this position — McIntyre is not just one of the main philosophers of our time, but also a professional antiquarian. But I would like to draw your attention to a couple of things that do not so much refute this statement as demonstrate the overall complexity and incomprehensibility of what happened.

    Aristotle's natural philosophy was essentialist. Trees grow because they have the nature of growth. Trees also grow so that the Greeks can make ships out of them and enslave non — Greeks-but if the nature of shipbuilding was in trees, trees would turn into ships by themselves. Hence the nature of shipbuilding in the Greeks. Etc.

    Descartes, who is often credited with inventing the Cartesian spirit, invented matter rather than spirit: anti-essentialist crap devoid of any hidden parameters. It is thanks to Descartes that we know that dumbness is not treated with a crushed gramophone record, at this level.

    So when Newton in the 18th century suddenly suggested that the planets are attracted to each other because there is a nature of attraction in matter, he was rightly accused of dragging some archaic occultism into science. Instantaneous invisible remote influences simply did not fit in the ideas of rational science about the material.

    The theory was established because its model worked well, as usual, and by the beginning of the 20th century, everyone was basically getting used to the idea that instantaneous invisible remote influences, for some reason that has never been clarified, are somehow part of the mechanics, well, okay.

    Then came general relativity and quantum physics, and it got even worse.

    In other words, on the one hand — yes, a paradigm shift has indeed taken place, and a huge number of things that once seemed spiritualized to us now seem to be just nothing — and attempts to revive this feeling often look frivolous (like Wiccans) or speculative (like panspychists).

    On the other hand, even within rationalism, there were enough things that turned out to be completely wild up close. The study of matter has led us to the fact that we have no idea what it is at all. We know infinitely more about it, we can build a particle accelerator and predict the results of their collisions quite accurately, but… what are they? Why do they exist? “Excitations of the quantum field” simply does not give a fundamental idea of the world in the sense in which the laws of mechanics did.

    I don't think it's limited to physics, or even the natural sciences. Almost every fairly large discipline has begun to take the form of a black box over the past half-century, and smaller ones are being combined into multi-disciplinary ones with the same success.

    Perhaps all this will sooner or later seep into the mass consciousness, and give people the feeling that the complexity of the world significantly exceeds the possibilities of its description — and maybe it consists not of gears, but of nodes, excitations, waves, cascades, systems, etc.

    Perhaps in this variety there will be a place even for trees growing by the nature of growth, why not?

  2. The short answer is no. Long answer – it is hardly worth answering a question in which you do not understand anything.

    It was a time of “systems of the universe” – constant attempts to establish relationships between God, Nature and Man, all scientific work proceeded in this genre of Three Books (God, Man and Nature), there was no division of sciences among themselves and their separation from magic and theology. There was no question of dry technocracy. Humanistic science placed man at the center of existence, balancing quackery and microscopes. And even in those directions that were created by atheists, a primary source was constantly sought, which first in scientific works, and only later – during the Revolution in France – began to be called the Supreme Power and Supreme Being.

    Science and fiction were not separated at all, because scientists of that time had to use their imagination to explain all the new data about the world around them, obtained as a result of new research methods, including aeronautics and the study of corpses. They themselves suffered from confusion and believed in a “new Paracelsus” who could create a “transcendent” and “universal, philosophical chemistry”, while constantly filling the vacuum created by their own discoveries with new cosmologies.

    The abundance of cosmologies was enormous: the secret of life contained in the “vegetative force”, the principles of the new, “static” astronomy, filling the Newtonian void with a “universal agent”, the electrified “animal” form of the Newtonian ether, etc.

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