Saturday, October 2, 2010

Swift, Pope, Bacon and Darwinism.

Swift states that no Person can disobey Reason, without giving up his Claim to be a rational Creature (Swift 212). In examining this text, we must first ask ourselves, what is Reason? Well it is the faculties within the brain that allows for human beings to act in a logical, uniform way. One of the ten laws of economics is that human beings are rational creatures and inasmuch, they will act to various circumstances in a uniform fashion. Now, this definition is derived from our present understanding of logic.
However, according to the Augustans, Alexander Pope points out that Reason is the rule of nature; in his “Essay on Criticism” he states that one must “First follow NATURE, and your judgement frame / by her just Standard, which is still the same” (ll 17-18). He goes further to contend that “True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest, / What oft was Thought, but ne’er so well Exprest...” (ll 41-42). So we see that there must be a balance between logic and wit and furthermore, that these two are interconnected via nature and traditional vies of the ‘Great Chain of Being’.
In this point of view, Nature is not something that can be extracted or put under the microscope for close scrutiny. Rather, Nature is something that every human being has and must abide by. When one does not follow reason, this turns into a political statement. This is indicative of the continuous battle between the arts and the sciences; Bacon is accused of reducing nature to nature, Goethe puts forth that by naming and quantifying certain elements, the life is taken out of them. Swift encapsulates this in that “Such constant irreconcileable Enemies to Science are the common People” (137). And what is it in the human being that causes them to be an enemy to science? It is nature. In the ‘common human being’ nature unites us all. And we recognize – according to swift – that science doesn’t care about us. Yet we keep demanding that it obey our human limits and our common morality.
So where does Darwinism fit in?
There are aspects of this argument that Darwinism cannot and does not account for. This would be the reason and logic that human beings have – and our ability to disobey the same. Take the example given in lecture on Thursday; a college student commits suicide after extreme privacy violation (from his roommate) in which his conduction of sexual relations was streamed over the internet without his knowledge or consent. Where is the rational logic in either of these actions? The student who took the videos of his roommate? It can be argued that his use of technology demonstrated his indifference to his friends’ privacy. According to the Augustans, science does bad things and technology is problematic. In this case, his use of technology superseded the rational of his logic and thus he committed this horrendous act leading to the disappearance of his roommate. As for the man himself who committed suicide, this refutes Darwin’s survival of the fittest. Not all human beings have this desire to live at all costs – as is demonstrated by this suicide, and countless others throughout our times.
Furthermore, as Darwinism cannot seek to answer these questions of logic, wit and rational, can Nature answer them? Is the natural instinct proposed by Pope enough to account for the actions of human beings? Where does the emotional aspect of the mind fit in? Is there more or less at stake that govern the human condition?

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