Saturday, March 10, 2007

Darwin, Freud, Hitler

The discoveries made by Darwin, innovations made by Freud, and atrocities committed by Hitler have exploded any hope one may have had for the Platonic fantasy that the soul is immortal, neither created nor destructible. Darwin's work shows how beings without souls could have gradually, by incremental changes, given rise to ensouled beings. Freud's work shows how the human soul emerges and changes over the course of a lifetime. Hitler's work shows how human beings can destroy both their own souls and the souls of others.


Konst. Kokarev said...

It's very, very arguably.
Platonic ideas were not broadly accepted by public. Plato belongs to intellectuals. That's why, mentioned above ideas and fact couldn't change the Zeitgeist. In fact intellectuals always thought that a man is not so good as some may think.

Carl Sachs said...

"Christianity is Platonism for the 'people.'"

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Preface.

Konst. Kokarev said...

I'm plucked! :-)
But can't say that Nietzsche's idea is fully truthful.

Maureen said...

I'm not sure exactly how to respond, though like Konst, I would be inclined to say that the "Platonic Fantasy" you refer to is a fantasy about Plato called "platonism." Platonism has a long-life, a history of reinterpretation, association, assimilation, but is a fantasy at every turn. It *isn't* as though Nietzsche, for example, recognized the frame of the Phaedo as being the actual key to the text and its arguments, and it isn't as though Nietzsche carefully distinguished between Christian Neo-Platonisms (the history of re-interpreting Plato) in fashioning his aphorism. (That is, yes, there is a way that the Christian tradition certainly did refashion *Platonism* in a marketable form, but this has its own history--and a very interesting one. A majority of scholars presently distinguish Platonism from Plato.)
You introduce Hitler in a curious way, especially if you hold that Freud shows that souls are created over time. It would be up to us as individuals and societies to fight soul destruction, encouraging soul-development. This means that even if the soul is not simple, it doesn't follow that there is no meaning or value to the term. If "immortality" is ruled out metaphysically (with simplicity), the metaphysical reality of this entity hasn't been anything but re-configured as a material reality. Darwin and Freud can be right, and give us sufficient grounds to value the soul and care for its development. (Plato most often does not write about the soul as a simple, by the way.)
If you were to engage Eastern traditions, things get even more interesting.

andy gricevich said...

Great blog, Carl--and great comments around here. If I ever have spare time, I'll try to keep up with it... not much organized co-philosophizing these days...

Drop me a line sometime, so I know which email of yours works.