Monday, May 04, 2009


If you like deep philosophical discussions about the biggest questions of human existence as much as I do, you'll appreciate Stanley Fish's essay/review of British critic Terry Eagleton's new book, “Reason, Faith and Revolution” which goes to the heart of our current dilemma -- a superstitious belief in self and progress.

Here's a small piece of it...

"Progress, liberalism and enlightenment — these are the watchwords of those, like Hitchens, who believe that in a modern world, religion has nothing to offer us. Don’t we discover cures for diseases every day? Doesn’t technology continually extend our powers and offer the promise of mastering nature? Who needs an outmoded, left-over medieval superstition?

Eagleton punctures the complacency of these questions when he turns the tables and applies the label of “superstition” to the idea of progress. It is a superstition — an idol or “a belief not logically related to a course of events” (American Heritage Dictionary) — because it is blind to what is now done in its name: “The language of enlightenment has been hijacked in the name of corporate greed, the police state, a politically compromised science, and a permanent war economy,” all in the service, Eagleton contends, of an empty suburbanism that produces ever more things without any care as to whether or not the things produced have true value.

And as for the vaunted triumph of liberalism, what about “the misery wreaked by racism and sexism, the sordid history of colonialism and imperialism, the generation of poverty and famine”? Only by ignoring all this and much more can the claim of human progress at the end of history be maintained: “If ever there was a pious myth and a piece of credulous superstition, it is the liberal-rationalist belief that, a few hiccups apart, we are all steadily en route to a finer world.”

Read the full review.


Anonymous said...

ut how paradoxical for Lou Gold~s blog to doubt that human progress is real. The developmen of Santo Daime is a proof of human progress. He reports daily of a tsunami of spiritual advancements and denies progress?

David F from Brasilia

Lou Gold said...

Hi David,

I'm really glad that you commented. Thanks for joining in with a nicely challenging question.

I believe that deep spiritual work -- Daime or meditation or other paths -- give us tools to make something better but it's dangerous to assume "progress". That's been the arrogance of the consciousness of materialism, of this age that has not given the world, in general, peace or health or happiness.

For example, it's been the "modern" thought that conquering nature and separating from the forest were signs of progress. Now, at least some of us, would no longer assume that is progress and we are grateful to the Daime (the medicine of the forest) for a kind of "reconnecting" -- to nature, to each other, to our own consciousnesses in more humble ways.

Maybe the notion of historical progress has more ego in it than spirit? Maybe the deeper truth in the moment is the constant struggle to help reduce suffering. Maybe, it's more about working with joy than being able to claim progress.

Check out the very beautiful "Peace With Every Step" video that I posted today. Thich Nhat Hahn speaks of learning how to "inter-be". Maybe that's a more important question than "is there progress?"

Mr Confused said...

Forcing people to cut back on dependencies like cars and oil for heating thru fear tactics to make us regain nature is hardly what I call *progress*

All it does is show the greed of big brother government and their biggot hearts.

We seem to be stuck in a period where either things/ideas are done thru fear tactics or ideas are dismissed off hand.

I am not exactly sure what you call this kind of situation since there is no official name which makes it harder to discuss.


For one thing it is actually safer and makes far more sense economy wise to drill for oil on our own land because we have safety techniques that causes minimum harm compared to shipping oil off shore or from foreign countries that hate America and freedom.

And yes polar bears are not really dead. The news talks about one little area and blows it out of propotian to get ratings because people are drawn to doom and gloom messages like moths to light.

The stupid evil liberals hate America with a passion and wish to destroy us all for power and fame. :(

The liberals in the olden days did not used to be this way and actually had good ideas to bring progress but now it's all changed like a switch got flipped.