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Notes on "Gray's Anatomy" by John Gray (2009)

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-secular thinkers imagine they have left religion behind, but have only exchanged religion for a humanist faith in progress

-Joseph Roth worried about spread of ideas of national self-determination. Monarchy was more tolerant. A society can be civilized without recognizing rights, while one based on rights may be tainted with barbarism (Austria-Hungary abolished torture in 1776)

-torture is Enlightenment tradition, 'progress' a legacy of Christianity (salvation in battle between good and evil Zoroastra). 'God defeats evil' translated into secular terms. also meliorism of liberal humanists. Enlightenment hostile to Christianity but used Christian framework.

-myth-free civilization of secular rationalism is itself the stuff of myth. but fictions can be more or less truthful depending on how they capture human experience. p16

-secular rationalists - mix of Christian tradition deformed by Greek philosophy. Socrates+ preached 'reason, virtue and the good life are one and the same' vs Keat's negative capability - living in uncertainties, mysteries p17

-liberal toleration both ideal of rational consensus on best life (remedy for the limitations of human understanding), and also belief that humans can flourish in many ways of life. but there is no one best life. rather toleration as Hobbes's way to peace, modus vivendi

-Mill warned that (collapse of society -> socialism) would generate dictatorship. He criticized maldistribution of property and oppressive system of industrial organization. supported worker-managed companies to avoid management-worker conflict and to provide for personal initiative.

-Santayana - liberty for Greeks not chaos and unknown human nature, but there is "a necessary piety, a true philosophy, a standard happiness, a normal art... not merely freedom to live. It was freedom to live well, to discover and pursue a natural happiness, this liberty to grow wise and to live in friendship with the gods and with one another." p66 (Soliloquies in England 1922) -classical liberty is freedom of self-rule/control where civilized peoples pursued the arts of life in assurance that knowledge of the human good was (within limits) achievable. not absolute freedom just as there is no absolute freedom for capital divorced from human good.

-denies progress and heresy of liberal toleration that there is nothing to choose between traditions and cultures. things valued for themselves, not just as instruments leading to something better which -> time worship (Wyndam Lewis) leaving us destitute of the sense of the present. -moral ambiguity of mechanical progress. seems to multiply opportunity but it destroys the possibility of simple, rural or independent life. lavish information but abolishes mastery except in trivial or mechanical efficiency

-political form of empire best suited to maintaining the condition of cultural pluralism but not pax americana because US culture evangelizing reformism and optimism. "Perhaps the Soviets might be better fitted than any other power to become the guardians of universal peace... if the management were competent, a universal communism, backed by irresistible armed force, would be a wonderful boon to mankind.(The Birth of Reason and Other Essays 1968) pp108-9

-recent globalization - historical analogy 1989+ is not pre-1914 but 1919-39 - 'continental Keynesianism' unworkable - US$ weak a la UK pound, national govts "flying blind" p236 not Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat: A brief history of the 21st c - he is techn determinist - glob phases 1/ 1492-1800 military expansion and horsepower/ 2/ 1800-2000 multinational corporations, steam and railways; 3/ individuals driving force via worldwide fibre-optic network. now legitimize intervention thru transnational orgs. r2p

-no systematic connection between glob'n and free mkt. no techn-det 'level playing field' via neoliberalism - 1/ and 2/ still in control

-positivism: 1/ history driven by science; 2/ science will overcome natural scarcity banishing poverty and war; 3/ progress in sci and ethics/ politics go together (Saint-Simon "govt of men replaced by admin of things" -> 'state will wither away, new religion with human species replacing God promoting altruism and cooperation, Comte, Condorcet) -> social science - human knowledge reduced to single set of laws

-"Each power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger." CSLewis The Abolition of Man (1947) cited at p307

-freedom only meaningful against a background of common cultural forms, we are a familial and historical species. Green theory must acknowledge environmental benefits of mkt, property rights and price mechanism to regulate scarcity and use of resources. [but price must include 'external economies', property rights ltd, public goods govt controlled. Gray recognizes labor as factor of production "categorically distinct from others" (as is capital) but refuses the Marxian theory based on precisely this.]

-'progress' detrimental to life of the spirit because we view our lives not for what they are but as "moments in a universal process of betterment". p329 "Progress is movement for movement's sake." Hayek p329

-reform to allow mix of private and public - Illich re education - state allots free education credits to families and requires children to attain certain skill levels. health care: not to keep alive but to assist in moments of crisis and adapt to chronic illness, emphasizing personal responsibility for health, limiting professional monopoly.

-US male spends 29% of day on road, averaging less than 5mph vs poor country - walking - who uses 3-8% of his day without cost

-Conrad - terrorism in The Secret Agent - attack pre-1914 society's belief in science/ progress/ economics. no 'progress', history cyclical. but terrorists re-enact the crimes and delusions of the society they seek to destroy (Dostoevsky allows for redemption). Hobbesian view - social institutions are tainted with criminality, society battleground of predatory and fragmentary egos, self-interest and self-deception. austere worldview a la ancient pagan sense of fate in Greek tragedy. can only stave off disaster, requiring stoicism. no utopia.

-world population: 2b (1940), 6b (2010) 8b (2050). humans turning planet into an extension of themselves.

-find respite from time like Odysseus who refused Calypso's offer of everlasting life on enchanted island to return to his home, no longer dreaming of immortality.


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