Understanding

Americans are no longer interested in this – why I do not know, and I am not likely to find out – because this is a deep, dark secret of theirs. If I were to venture a guess (and this is only a guess) I would say this is because they already know everything – and knowing more would only mess up their minds – and make them different from their fellow-Americans. The worst situation imaginable!

Let me add an extended quote from The Age of the Crisis of Man:


The first area of concern was with what man was himself, and whether there existed anything fundamental beneath his facade, a human nature, determinate and accessible, when all else was social and unreliable. I will call this level of concern by its traditional name of philosophical anthropology, the “philosophy of man,” or simply the “question” of man and human nature. Was there even such a thing as an abstract, universal man? Was there an individual, freestanding nature that could exist beyond all demands of collectives of men? Should there be such individuality, or was community (of the right kind) a necessary part of human nature?

The second area of preoccupation was with the shape of history. The history question included fears that the twentieth-century cataclysms had shown that the chronology of civilized development was not as people had previously imagined it, that events perhaps had no good order, or that previous fantasies of historical destiny and inevitability had actually led to these violent disasters and therefore needed to be reconceived. Was it possible or desirable to rehabilitate any sense of direction in history?

Third was a concern with faith— a vague word— as a worry about both religion and ideology. What sort of beliefs could and should be maintained in the midst of a world turned upside down? Thinkers wondered whether it was possible or wise to believe in anything abstract, lest it lead to the further abuse of concrete human life, after dogmatic belief— in Germany, Italy, and Russia— had led to the worst disasters. Yet how would they go on without a faith in progress, in God, or simply in a natural supremacy of good rather than evil in the world? It had a concrete political reference, too, in concerns over a “crisis of liberalism,” meaning both economy and democracy, and the fear that even if one felt no temptation to totalitarianism, one possessed no reliable historical model for political order under new global conditions.

The fourth area, finally, was a fear about technology, in the sense that human technologies might be outstripping or perverting humane thought and goals. Technology in this debate included material artifacts like machines and bombs, and factory systems to make them, and also human techniques, especially the forms of technique that would organize men and women (whether in collective “planning,” usually counted as good by the political left and center, and questioned by voices on the laissez-faire right, or in machine control and the de-individualizing propensity of technical efficiency, which was universally accounted bad).


I could not put it better myself – but only add to this, most American’s aversion to understanding – the subject of this posting.

If we cannot understand our situation, we cannot fix it. And indeed, this is what Americans seem to be saying “The situation cannot be fixed, and should not be fixed – all we can do is make it worse! ”

And making it worse, is what they are doing.

  1. The typical American can scarcely distinguish between fact, falsehood, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. When it comes to the first three, they can all be held permanently outside the self, capable of being consulted at will though Google and Wikipedia, so of no immediate concern. Thus, we have sheer ignorance masquerading as limitless potential. Going beyond basic knowledge to understanding and wisdom is a much tougher nut to crack, and many forgo it entirely in favor of skimming the surface of an endless supply of digital exhaust. This isn’t universal; some of us remember what it means to apply critical thought and learn about the world effectively. However, those skills are being drowned the ocean of effervescent ephemera that passes for culture these days.

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