History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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A challenge to examine the eonic model, the enlightenment, and pinker’s new book…

February 19th, 2018 · No Comments

Below some very rough high speed notes on pinker’s thesis and a correction using the eonic model…we might keep working on this as a short blogbook, and then kindle book…I strongly recommend to pinker fans a study of the eonic model, and of the critiques of darwinism emerging here and elsewhere…I fear however that a book like World History and the Eonic Effect is totally repressed by the general academic community. It tokes the narrow scientism as ideology that has crept into the thinking of many such as pinker …

As a student of the eonic effect I respond immediately with a rough sympathy for pinker’s thesis, save only that it is narrow in its scope and vitiated by several factors.
A study of the eonic effect, something pinker and his fellows would never perform, might help to see the larger context.
First, any student of the eonic effect sees how an historical dynamic can generate ideological transformations, a seeming contradiction to theoretical neutrality. Not so: the eonic effect shows an immense spectrum of paired opposites as ideological ‘outcomes’ but preserves its larger dynamical neutrality as a relationship of macro transformation and human action.

In that context, pinker is on to something. In our perspective which is broader than that of the enlightenment the modern transition generates an immense transformation in the period ca. 1500 to 1800 after which it sets in motion a new era in history. In that context pinker is roughly correct: the emergence of the idea of progress and the context of rationality are indeed prime ’emergent’ innovations. But there is the danger of contracted analysis: the basic meme of ‘reason’ has a huge dialectical spectrum from the seventeenth century to the actual enlightenment period in the eighteenth. But who is the spokesman for this? Pinker has a cloned version that can’t really do justice to Kant, let alone the figure Hegel with his immense consideration of Reason in History…there are many others…That of course is because pinker’s focus is on the scientific revolution and the rational of what was to become scientism and reductionist evolutionism. That brand of the ‘enlightenment’ movementy seems to have checkmated itself early on and pinker’s complaints about the enemies of his movement fail to consider the limits to progress generated by the meme itself, etc…This is a huge debate and stretches between the right and the left.
In terms of eonic effect and its larger perspective of world history pinker, and the host of other thinkers about progress, is right: not only is progress a product of the era of the modern transition and the later subset we call the enlightenment it is an actual dynamic in larger historical scheme. But there is a catch 22 here:
the idea of progress in history has two components pace the eonic model: a macro aspect and a micro aspect. The macro aspect is visible across history in the progression of epochal transitions and the micro aspect is the free agency involved in realizing those progressions, which are diverse from primitive to futuristic: we must consider the neolithic transition a kind of transition, or a form of progress. So with the rise of the state, etc…Much of the earlier historical progression could seem primitive to us now, but surely was ‘progress’ in some sense. We could wince at this statement in the context of the Egyptian pharaohs, but roughly the point is clear enough.
Then in the next phase we see something surprising: action not just in progressive mainlining but a parallel effect such as we see in the Axial Age and this confounds us with a mysterious spectrum of opposites: Greece, Israel/Persia, India, and China, etc…In this context the birth of secularism seems to take place in Archaic Greece, but still in the context of paganism, while the Israel/Persia connection generates a ‘rationalized’ paganism as monotheism, while India and China spawn a universalistic buddhism, taoism, confucianism, etc…The point here is that unilinear progress suddenly creates a broader field of relative opposites acting in a curious symphony: this can only enrich the potential…This are echoes of the past: we see that the eonic model shows discrete progressions, and what is ‘progress’ at one point is regression at another. With the Reformation, for example, the progression of world religion begins to be challenged in the case of christianity…The Reformation was a key moment in the ‘progress’ of religion, etc,…This would be a long study, it is a reminder that the issue is more than that of the modern transition, and more than the limited version of that that emerges in pinker’s reduced account.

Again the eonic model shows that there is a double aspect here: the macro and the micro. The macro has performed its action in the generation of the modern spectrum. Its action stops and the result is left to free agency. It is here that pinker’s poignant plea to free agents to carry the action of ‘progress’ makes sense. Pinker confuses these two aspects and fails to see that there is no guarantee that the action of the modern transition will continue automatically. The stage of world history shows advance and decline, why? This is inevitable in a system operating on a discrete/continuous time line. It is precisely the upsurge of social progression in the early modern that animates the urgency of a progressive succession to the early modern. And it is here that pinker is attempting to keep the game afloat, in the classic manner of the ideologues of progress….

we will pause here, in a rough draft, but there are a huge number of issues that need discussion: the diversity of rational memes, as mentionede, what of Hegel, idealism, and Reason in History? What of Kant’s challenge to scientism, his gestation of a profound version of evolutionism way before Darwin. What of the gestation of socialism/communism way before the classical liberalism of pinker’s narrow social vision with its threat of conservatizing retrogression…??? What about the romantic movement? We can’t just throw this out as extraneous…Pinker’s view can’t see the place of art in the field of progress…etc..

To be continued…these are rough notes, generated as fast as typing allows. We can upgrade the statement to a short book perhaps. But the point is that social thinkers need to be wary of the complexity of both greater antiquity and the modern transition. A too narrow version of what is taken as ‘progress’ and ‘reason’ could down shift modernity into a reductionist version of itself doomed indeed to decline…
Let’s cite the leftist ‘dialectic of the enlightenment’ challenge to the Reason and Progress ideologists. Although they got much wrong and are and should be counter-challenged by figures such as pinker trying to rescue modernity from disaster their theme which needs a rewrite can’t be excluded.
Finally the world system is confounded by capitalism, and here pinker has shifted to conservative ground. The claim that a postcapitalist form of social regeneration (as neo-communism) could represent a stage of progress needs to be considered…

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