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Archive for June, 2012

The Only Anthropology is Christian Anthropology!

Posted by nouspraktikon on June 8, 2012

Nothing But The (Monogenetic) Blood!

There in fact is no such thing as a secular science of anthropology.  The fact that the term started to be applied in the mid-19th century to the newly expanded Natural Science, now with a “hominid” department attached to it, can be seen in retrospect as just another form of 19th century imperialism…in this case the paradigmatic imperialism of naturalists and materialists wishing to encroach on sacred science.

Of course the Socratic dictum of gnoson seton or “Know Thyself” had long been an ideal of those philosophers who stood in the tradition of Protagorian humanism.  But it was recognized for what it was, a philosophical sect with tenuous claims to scientific objectivity.  Ironically, Kant had proved the impossibility of the Protagorian ideal with his critical philosophy.  The human mind can only see the phenomenal world through the subjective categories of the understanding, the objective, or noumenal, world cannot be directly apprehended.

The real bummer is that the human essence, whatever that might be, is part of noumenal reality.  So human self-knowledge is intrinsicly contradictory.   None the less, Kant’s pronouncements in this regard had the same effect on European philosophy as telling a child “don’t stick beans up your ears” and the history of neo-Kantian philosophy is in large part a matter of spinning various Anthropologies out of a priori categoires…begining with that grand daddy of all post-Kantians, G. F. W. Hegel.

Enter naturalism

Natural scientists didn’t pay much attention to these post-Kantian developments in philosophy.  What they did pay attention to was Darwin and his theory of the decent of man from pre-human hominids.   Logically, this too should have lead to the abolition of anthropology, since there was no clear break in the animal/human continuum according to the theory of natural selection.  However what is logically mandated is often vetoed psychologically and even the most radical 19th century evolutionists continued to self-identify as “human beings” rather than advanced apes.  Living off the inherited moral capital of Chrisitanity was so habitual that nobody saw the hypocracy…or even the inconsistency of the situation.   It has taken the “deep ecology” ideology of post-modernity to get around to the implications of all this.

Back to the Future…Humanist Eric Gans and Generative Anthropology

Fast forwarding to the 21st century present, in Eric Gans at last we have a humanist thinker who has pointed out that the secular emperor has no clothes.   In his work he points out (among many other things) that the positivist and evolutionist thinkers of the 19th century, for all their pride in human progress forgot to establish any criteria by which the boundary between the pre-human and the human could be determined.   To put it indelicately, according to science, there is no such thing as the human race.

Well, why should there be?  Did anybody promise us erect bipeds  that we were part of a real category that could designated “Humanity”?  In fact somebody did…the God of the book of Genesis, who formed Humanity (a.k.a.  Adam and his wife) as the font of all human blood.  It is to the credit (but no doubt the chagrin) of Eric Gans that he recognizes the category human (hence his or any other’s “humanism”) hangs by the thread of the Judeo-Christian scriptures.  To put  a very long story in the simplest possible terms, Gans then proceeds to muddle the issue by making the Genesis account simply the first in a generic series of “scenic representations” depicting, more or less scientifically, the origin of the human race as a quantum jump on the scale of Being.

Why not just Genesii? 

Rarely does one encounter a humanist as honest or self-consistent as Gans.  Indeed, he is the kind of philosopical anthropologist who virtually does the Christian apologist’s work in advance.  Voltaire’s maxim, “If God didn’t exist we would have to invent him” can be interpreted deistically as a call for order and explanation in the universe, although perhaps he was hinting at something more Christian.  Gans’ formulation is the obverse, “[Christian] theology is good anthropology but bad metaphysics.”

However Gans won’t admit that Christian anthropology is good anthropology because it is the only anthropology possible.  Instead he seeks to create the above mentioned generic category of “scenic representations” which can be ranked along side of the Biblical account, and of which the latter is only the first pre-scientific attempt at “originary anthropology.”   There are any number of these origin accounts spooking around in the modern, and now post-modern, imagination.  Some of the better known would be Freud’s original patriarchal assasination, Rousseau’s social contract, and even Stanley Kubrick’s ape-transforming monolith from Space Odyssey 2001.  At least he has the tact not to call these these imaginary scenes by the plural of Genesis.  Is that Genesii?

Trancending the 20th century Dark Age

The reason why I am so happy about a thinker like Gans, is not because of any latent sympathy for humanism in the narrow sense.  It shows that for whatever perils the post-modern situation may present, at least we are past the consensus thinking of the 20th century when a human essence could be dogmatically asserted on the basis of “having culture” or “having language.”  In fact these were just slapdash neo-Kantian shibboliths pressed into service after the Darwinian chickens had come home to roost.

Gans own theory of origins is rather disapointing, a rather predictably linguistic understading of mutual social preservation.  But by leaving no stone unturned in his search for human genesii…excuse me, scenic origins…he has demonstrated that there is a God-shaped lacuna at the heart of the secular social sciences.

In the traditional division between theology and natural science, real anthropology began, not with humanity but with God.  This doesn’t mean that there was ever a Christian consensus on anthropology.  But starting with God does provide an answer to Kant’s critiques.  God does have perfect knowlege of himself, since the split between phenomenon and numenon is inablicable to Him.  Thus human thought, self-referential or otherwise, is true to the extent that it is analogical to God’s thinking.

But, as I have implied throughout, the problem is really much more fundamental.  It is not a question of the possibility of human knowlege, it is whether there are human beings for knowlege to be predicated of.  For a strictly positivistic naturalism, the human race quickly breaks down into people groups, monistic egos, and even genetic continua.   The assumption of humanity is predicated on either a mythology of origination, or a factual Genesis, speculation or faith.

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