Re: Foss on China, Thunder Rites, etc.

Thu, 12 Oct 1995 11:14:39 -0400

On Thu, 12 Oct 1995, John McCreery wrote:

> Two remarks:
> (1) In re science and mysticism. It is a well-known fact in the history of
> science that Sir Isaac Newton devoted more pages to writing about astrology
> than he did to the scientific work for which he is remembered. I also
> recall, in re Birt's example of Ptolemaic vs. Copernican astronomy, that
> the spread of solarcentric cosmologies was linked to mystical ideas
> associated with Neo-Platonism. :-)) [All this is from memory. Take with
> large grains of salt.]
> (2) While trying to figure out the explosive elaboration of religious
> buildings, cults and activities in Taiwan as the island's economy
> began to take off, I toyed with the notion of pent-up demand
> released by increased economic well-being, an equivalent to the
> post-WWII "edifice complex" that saw a spate of church-building in
> Eisenhower-Kennedy America. Then it occured to me that in a situation
> where worshippers ask their gods for practical benfits--healthy
> kids, successful businesses, wealth, long-life and material happiness--
> rapid economic development ensures that many of them will encounter
> empirical evidence that their prayers were answered. Empiricism alone
> does not good science make.
> John McCreery
John, I think there is merit to your theory re mysticism and economic
well-being in Taiwan. But how about the theory that along with conditions
of MONOPOLY capitalism (which is definitely not identical to
pre-monopoly capitalist formations) come ideological requirements such as
intensified mysticism, a greater focus on the unknowable and ineffable.
It seems to me that monopoly capitalism, the massive socialization of
production, necessitates more vicious forms of subjective idealism, that
is, a more forceful denial of the existence of objective reality. Since
monoploy capitalism dispossesses millions, ways to justify this
dispossession are spawned, e.g., mysticism. And, yes, empiricism alone
does not make good science. In fact ideology, understood as collective
delusion (or false consciousness), results from failing to transcend the
empirical level. Any thoughts?

Shawgi Tell
University at Buffalo
Graduate School of Education