has the restoration of the arts and sciences improved our morals?


Rousseau thinks nope.

He writes,

In fact, whether we turn to the annals of the world, or eke out with philosophical investigations the uncertain chronicles of history, we shall not find for human knowledge an origin answering to the idea we are pleased to entertain of it at present. Astronomy was born of superstition, eloquence of ambition, hatred, falsehood and flattery; geometry of avarice; physics of an idle curiosity; and even moral philosophy of human pride. Thus the arts and sciences owe their birth to our vices; we should be less doubtful of their advantages, if they had sprung from our virtues.

He argues

 Their evil origin is, indeed, but too plainly reproduced in their objects. What would become of the arts, were they not cherished by luxury? If men were not unjust, of what use were jurisprudence? What would become of history, if there were no tyrants, wars, or conspiracies? In a word, who would pass his life in barren speculations, if everybody, attentive only to the obligations of humanity and the necessities of nature, spent his whole life in serving his country, obliging his friends, and relieving the unhappy? Are we then made to live and die on the brink of that well at the bottom of which Truth lies hid? This reflection alone is, in my opinion, enough to discourage at first setting out every man who seriously endeavours to instruct himself by the study of philosophy.

In what can be described as a critique of philosophy, he asks

What is philosophy? What is contained in the writings of the most celebrated philosophers? What are the lessons of these friends of wisdom. To hear them, should we not take them for so many mountebanks, exhibiting themselves in public, and crying out, Here, Here, come to me, I am the only true doctor? One of them teaches that there is no such thing as matter, but that everything exists only in representation. Another declares that there is no other substance than matter, and no other God than the world itself. A third tells you that there are no such things as virtue and vice, and that moral good and evil are chimeras; while a fourth informs you that men are only beasts of prey, and may conscientiously devour one another. Why, my great philosophers, do you not reserve these wise and profitable lessons for your friends and children? You would soon reap the benefit of them, nor should we be under any apprehension of our own becoming your disciples.

Source go read it.

 

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

44 thoughts on “has the restoration of the arts and sciences improved our morals?

  1. Deeply profound. It seems we need our darker side as much as we dislike it.

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  2. On the whole, probably not. In the individual, possibly.

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  3. themodernidiot says:

    what a whiner. if he can’t answer his own questions, he needs more arts and sciences.

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    • makagutu says:

      At least in his defence, he didn’t set the question. He only made a submission and his was the winning essay

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      • themodernidiot says:

        Rousseau wasn’t a total waste to be sure lol, dude was pretty brilliant; but on this one he’s idealistic. I will concede he was talking about studies from centuries ago, which was less progressive, especially for for younger children, than today. His thinking on unchecked passions is noble, but naive. However he wasn’t totally wrong that academics can eat itself with its own egomania. The negatives he fears is what we have today as arts and some sciences get stripped from our schools and succumb to business takeover. We’re making very dumb robots, and putting our most creative children on medication. He’s what we’d here call a Libertarian. Good intentions, poor execution.

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        • makagutu says:

          sometimes when am bored and this doesn’t happen often, how has the invention of the aeroplane apart from making it easy for travel improved our morals? I see the problem with the question though, are things only useful if they are related to our morals? This I think is the critique we should make on his argument. He measures practicality and utility by how much they make us better men, whether this is enough a yardstick is open for debate.

          Liked by 1 person

          • themodernidiot says:

            it’s a stupid argument; we were shitty to each other before and after every single technological breakthrough. our efficiency doesn’t make us any more or less moral. how much free porn we can download doesn’t make us any worse, we don’t call our mothers any more often, and we help each other just as much, both out of kindness and necessity. I don’t think we don’t have more violence or theft or hustle, we just have more numbers. the “increase” of how much we screw each other over is also skewed by increased knowledge of incidents, better tracking, more people, etc. I think the percentage of douchebaggery is proportionately the same, if not lower. we have less violence in some ways from more awareness thanks to technology, but that cancels out with the increased efficiency we have for killing.

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          • makagutu says:

            i like your views on this question

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          • themodernidiot says:

            I like that you let us question our views. well done there.

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  4. aguywithoutboxers says:

    Which, once again, begs for a universal definition of morals. There are many benefits from our subscriptions to the arts and sciences. Good topic! 🙂

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  5. john zande says:

    Oooooh, I like! More fuel!

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  6. Sounds profound, but it’s actually isn’t. History, science, and the arts are of course connected to our vices. That’s because they are ways to cope and learn about these vices. A lot of art deals with negative things because this is what causes distresses, confusion and questioning. We produce art to communicate our troubles to learn about them.

    We study history in hopes of learning the faults of the past to not repeat them.

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    • makagutu says:

      we repeat the mistakes of the past almost to a T.
      Our knowledge of the arts and sciences have hardly made us any better than our savage ancestors in some ways

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      • That’s a bold claim, but you need to elaborate on further. I highly doubt that things are just like they were back then.

        The idea that nothing changed is very emotionally appealing. It’s almost a thought-terminating cliche: Everything is the same! No need to examine every period for its highs and lows!

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        • makagutu says:

          which is the bold claim? Everywhere men are at war for resources for religion and anything you can think of. What have we learnt from all these wars if any? Why do we have governments spending so much on war machinery? How is this different from how the Roman empire as it faced decline had to spend so much to keep mercenaries, tax its citizens to sustain the armies?
          The only constant thing is change. You may disagree with me, but maybe savage man could have been better than we are today. We kill each other for difference of opinion, are racist even with years of enlightenment that we at bottom are really the same among others.

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          • We’re still racist because anti-racist people believe race exists. I’m serious. I opened a thread in a message board, and everyone kept telling me it exists with zero scientific proof.

            The people who kill for religion do not have the same history as ours. The ‘western world’ learned from the Crusades and the Holocaust. The Islamic world didn’t. Then again, I haven’t seen a lot of Islamic self-criticism.

            Men, women, faggots, kikes all have more rights now than before. People are aware of sexual abuse, domestic violence and it’s no longer hidden behind closed doors. Gender roles are being questioned and challenged. We now want evidence for what we believe in instead of relying on a book.

            Some things did change.

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        • makagutu says:

          some things change, and I agree with you completely.
          since the world went to war in WW2, we haven’t been on a large scale killing spree.
          I don’t understand, we are racists because anti-racists believe race exists?

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          • Noel, “The Brain in the Jar” seems to be offering the denialist/self-serving argument that racism exists only in the minds of people who don’t like it. Anyone with a brain actually functioning inside their skull, however, knows otherwise.

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          • We are racist because we believe race is a valid catagory.

            You’re into science, so I hope (Unlike many others I talked to) you won’t be hurt by this. I haven’t seen a single piece that describes race as a valid taxonomical division. I’m not an expert in biology, but i learned a bit how taxonomy works and never have I encountered race. Anyone I tried to talk to about the subject couldn’t produce any scientific evidence.

            All catagories are made-up, but some are valid and some are not. Male and female are valid because there’s a huge biological difference between the two. Music nerds and casual listeners are valid because music nerds would put a lot of effort into learning about music, while casual listeners will just have a few favorite bands and songs.

            No one has ever provided a case that race is a valid catagory that we should still use. Even anti-racists.

            We are going a bit off-topic. I would understand if you wouldn’t want to get into this here.

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          • makagutu says:

            I get your point.
            Race isn’t a valid taxonomical group, that much we are agreed.
            My use of race referred to the general usage which refers to discrimination based on colour/ skin complexion. The same way we German is not a category in taxonomy but refers to a group of people who identify as such.
            Don’t worry about going off topic. You are a welcome guest.

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          • German is an ethnic group. That’s a more sociological thing. We identify German people by, say, their language and where they were born. I could elaborate, but I’m not that well-versed in sociology.

            Race is a biological thing, so it has to be taxonomic. Sorting people based on the color of their skin is useless. Why not discriminate based on height? It also brings up the problem of: Where do you draw the line? Where does one stop being white and start being black?

            All groups are made up, but they’re pointless if they don’t help us. Even in the blurry world of musical genres, it’s easy enough to draw lines. Unlike genres though, race is political and/or scientific – We have to put it up to a higher standard.

            It’s time for a post-racial world. I don’t care about anyone who says “Look at how primitive Africa is!” or “But I want to be identified as black!”. Your feelings are not enough.

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          • makagutu says:

            are you saying race is a biological thing? I am lost now.

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          • Races are things you run wearing gym shoes and white socks. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            why, thank you! I knew you would clear this up for me

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          • You’re most welcome.

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          • Yes. Race is a biological thing, Ethnic group is a sociological thing.

            Race is biological because what we refer to in races – white or black – is a specific biological trait.

            Ethnic group is the sociological classification, which doesn’t have ‘white’ or ‘black’. What about Irish, Kikes (Also known as Jews and People Who Dominate the World), Russians, Italians? As for ‘black’, Africa is a pretty huge continent. Are they all just ‘black’?

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          • makagutu says:

            I am getting lost here, forgive my being slow if you will.
            Earlier you said we are racists because of anti-racists. In that same comment you said race as a category hasn’t been defined. When you say race is a biological thing, do you mean in the sense that skin colour is regulated by genes or what sense are you talking?
            Would be correct to refer to the entire human family as the human race?

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          • Don’t feel bad. I sometimes don’t understand other people. So long as we keep asking for explanation to make sure we understand we’re going good.

            One reason racism still exists is because anti-racists still think race is a valid catagory.

            Racism tends to rely on biological features. The most common division is ‘white and black’. This refers to the skin color, which is a biological attribute.

            Taxonomy is the classification of biological organisms. Since people rely on biological terms to sort out the races, it’s a taxonomy thing.

            I haven’t seen any taxonomical category called ‘race’. The lowest one is subspecies, and I only saw that all humans belong to the same subspecies.

            Skin color is a variable like height. Of course, if you breed people with the same height you’d only get people with the same height, but it’s still a variable. If you let blacks and whites breed, the difference will blur.

            Compare it to insects and spiders. Insects all have six legs. Spiders have eight. This will never change. Spiders and insects also can’t breed.

            It would be correct to refer to everyone as just ‘the human race’, but in this ‘race’ is a synonym for ‘species’ or ‘subspecies’.

            Ethic group is sociology. The difference between Germans and Jews are less in the genes, and more in the culture, language and other such things.

            We do need to understand the difference between ethnic group and race. Language shapes the way we think.

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          • makagutu says:

            That fellow is so annoying I don’t know how people entertain him!

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          • makagutu says:

            I understand what ethnic group is.
            In my last query, I asked if you mean race is biological in the sense that skin colour is regulated by genes. I think generally when people talk of race, it is mainly about skin colour and add a few more things to it for example saying such and such are not as intelligent as such and such because they are in this way. This is the part that I think we are speaking past one another and your comment about anti-racists.

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          • Oh, I see
            Well, people who make these claims are wrong because none of these attributes are enough to seperate Homosapiens into two different groups in taxonomy. These are things that fall apart in the individual area.

            Until I see a list of races, the differences and why they matter there’s no reason to believe race exists. Thus, any special treatment because of ‘race’ is wrong.

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          • “The Brain in the Jar” wrote: “It’s time for a post-racial world.”

            Most people would agree. However, it will never happen simply by ignoring the all-too-real subject of racism. Doing so would be analogous to ignoring the subject of cancer. Pathologies, whether they be societal or physiological, cannot be solved by pretending that they do not exist. The patient must first recognize the problem, then deal with it directly. This is the only viable path towards a post-racial world.

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          • makagutu says:

            You and I are in agreement

            Liked by 1 person

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