Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles—a pro human exceptionalism opinion piece in the New York Times blog—the newspaper in which we have previously been told that plants are ethical and peas are persons—and by a philosophy professor, no less! From “Anything But Human,” by Richard Polt:
Wherever I turn, the popular media, scientists and even fellow philosophers are telling me that I’m a machine or a beast. My ethics can be illuminated by the behavior of termites. My brain is a sloppy computer with a flicker of consciousness and the illusion of free will. I’m anything but human.
Nicely put. We see anti-human exceptionalism pitched widely and fervently across a broad array of ideologies and disciplines.
Polt goes through several examples, even noting the temptation of some evolutionists to create an “ought” in determining behavior, which Polt essentially says is nonsensical. He points out that the “sub human temptation” has been around since the old Greek philosophers. This is an interesting point:
So why have we been tempted for millenniums to explain humanity away? The culprit, I suggest, is our tendency to forget what Edmund Husserl called the “lifeworld” the pre-scientific world of normal human experience, where science has its roots. In the lifeworld we are surrounded by valuable opportunities, good and bad choices, meaningful goals, and possibilities that we care about. Here, concepts such as virtue and vice make sense. Among our opportunities are the scientific study of ants or the construction of calculating machines. Once we’ve embraced such a possibility, it’s easy to get so absorbed in it that we try to interpret everything in terms of it even if that approach leaves no room for value and meaning. Then we have forgotten the real-life roots of the very activity we’re pursuing. We try to explain the whole in terms of a part.
That’s known as reductionism, which is being pursued, in my view, primarily to undermine human exceptionalism—toward the ultimate end of breaking the spine of Judeo/Christian moral philosophy as the primary basis of societal morality and values.
HT: Greg Pavlik