On the Unbearable Persistence of Subjectivity, Despite the Best Efforts of Parascience to Kill It Off

"I consider the common account of the sense of emptiness in the modern world to be a faulty diagnosis. If there is in fact an emptiness peculiar to our age it is not because of 'the death of God' in the non-Lutheran sense in which that phrase is usually understood. It is not because an ebbing away of faith before the advance of science has impoverished modern experience.

"Assuming that there is indeed a modern malaise, one contributing factor might be the exclusion of the felt life of the mind from the accounts of reality proposed by the oddly authoritative and deeply influential parascientific literature that has long associated itself with intellectual progress, and the exclusion of felt life from the varieties of thought and art that reflect the influence of these accounts [e.g. most recently, E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett].

"To some extent even theology has embraced impoverishment, often under the name of secularism, in order to blend more thoroughly into a disheartened cultural landscape. To the great degree that theology has accommodated the parascientific world view, it too has tended to forget the beauty and strangeness of the individual soul, that is, of the world as perceived in the course of a human life, of the mind as it exists in time. But the beauty and strangeness persist just the same. And theology persists, even when it has absorbed as truth theories and interpretations that could reasonably be expected to kill it off. This suggests that its real life is elsewhere, in a place not reached by these doubts and assaults.

"Subjectivity is the ancient haunt of piety and reverence and long, long thoughts. And the literatures that would dispel such things refuse to acknowledge subjectivity, perhaps because inability has evolved into principle and method."

--Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self, The Terry Lectures (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), Kindle location 496-509 (or thereabouts).

Hat tip to millinerd for the reference (be sure to watch the video of Robinson with Jon Stewart!)


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