History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The phenomenal and its limits

September 13th, 2015 · No Comments


I have commented on this book already but was surprised recently to observe Harris’ citation of Nisargadatta’s classic: I am that. I am no longer sure where Harris is coming from but I suspect we are getting a triangulation of deep fried new age psychology and neuroscience.
The attempt to work out the limits of modernity (see previous post on the dialectic of the enlightenment) and its relation to the legacies of spirituality is actually a part of Harris’ agneda, it seems, and there is nothing wrong with this.

The problem is that science as we know it is incomplete and it is not a true standard for secular modernity. This was slogged out very thoroughly in the early modern up to Kant, and the Romantics and many others. Harris is getting bogged down in the wrong modernity even as he botches the ‘trek to India’ search.

The answer lies clearly if incompeletely in Schopenhauer, for one, and this exploits the net equivalent of the software/hardware level distinction. This metaphor can’t do justice to Schopenhauer’s idea, which emerges from Kant but it can help to see that the question of spirituality isn’t really bottom up, but in a mode that is pegged with the contrast of the phenomenal and the thing-in-itself. With this it is instantly obvious where scientists are going wrong: they attempt to reduce the thing-in-itself to the phenomenal and the results are in every case ‘off key’.

This is part of what is confusing about the ‘self’ which seems to exist, yet not exist: we have a clear instance of our statements above.

The point would seem that neuroscience then cannot handle the thing-in-itself…what else is new?

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