Human Condition Philosophy: A Waste of Time.
This blog is written to save you the need to read Jeremy Griffith’s book Freedom and his other works on the human condition philosophy.
They do not explain the human condition philosophy. Further, they have so many holes in them that it is hard to find a fitting metaphor that doesn’t include a sieve in it.
A start would be the brainwashing like repetition that fills his books. In them we are endlessly told that this is the only truth that can save humanity from its doom.
Yep, no other path will do. No other truth counts. Nothing that humanity has produced or written up to date has been worth much. In Freedom’s own words “all the preceding works on psychology will have to be re-written.”
Eat your heart out Freud.
This is not a new religion. It is something better that surpasses religion. Yet it does quote from the Bible and call its principle antagonist Adam.
It is his two million year old decent from a mythical nature to our “less-than-ideal, imperfect, ‘fallen’, or corrupted state and condition” that reading this book and joining the movement (for a fee of 20 Australian Dollars) can miraculously reverse.
Other ingredients of religions abound: a fundamental truth only now just revealed, a judgement day, a devil and a prophet. We also need delivering from temptation. Saving from our impending doom (which naturally is just around the corner – it always is!).
Who is this devil? In an interesting twist, it is E.O. Wilson one of the founders of the Evolutionary Psychology paradigm. The “Lord of the lying, the master of keeping humanity away from the truth, the quintessential liar… the antichrist.”
And all that for a Scientist.
I am the one and only
Never mind: this is the “only psychosis-addressing-and-solving real explanation of the human condition.” The “World Transformation Movement (WTM) provides the only path forward for humankind.
Anything else represents ever-increasing, excruciating, unthinkable suffering and ultimate doom for our specie.” All those other movements and cults were nonsense. This is the only one that counts, “not another false start to a new world for humans but the real start to that world.”
Now where have I heard this before?
Another trick seems to be to repeat that the truth revealed by an understanding of the human condition is real because it is scientific. Again and again Griffith states this is a biologically based first-principle.
If we say it enough it becomes true.
What is this human condition philosophy that the labours of humanity up to this point have been unable to reveal?
Apparently that we have instincts and a conscious and the two don’t always align. It is the misunderstanding about this difference that means we have been calling ourselves bad for a long time.
In truth, we should have realised that we are good.
Yep, that is it; this fundamental scientific truth is that we’re not that bad after all. Once we’ve realised that we’ll be able to walk into the shining light. To the “extraordinary euphoria” and “magnificence” that only this book and this movement can take us to.
Luckily there is hope. Although our impending doom is near, once enough people have read the book, joined the movement, and paid their fees, the world will be saved “virtually overnight.” And according to one section of the book, we will have Elvis and at least a few other rock and roll greats to thank.
Phew, I was beginning to get worried.
Putting aside the self-promoting nature of the book, is it robust data-based scientific research? Former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association Harry Prosen thinks so. Australian mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape also supporters Griffith’s theories. Griffith’s work, however, falls far short of the scientific ideal of objective inquiry.
With good justification the human condition philosophy rejects the contemporary view that humans are violent savages. Unfortunately it then claims the opposite: that our early ancestors were most likely a quiet, gentle, loving and co-operative species. These arguments are supported with the views of Laurens Van der Post and Marshall Thomas. Both were anthropologists who described !Kung, or the Bushmen of the Kalahari, as peaceful and non-violent.
In the authors mind all the subsequent criticisms of their work are transformed into evidence of a malicious desire to persecute them. Completely ignoring the now extensive field work that show violence, aggression and homicide are intrinsic aspects of !Kung social life.
Griffith also needs to do much more homework. Take for example his use of Lei Feng, a Chinese Cultural Revolution propaganda hero, used by Griffith to show selflessness is possible. Never mind that he existed only in caricature, a product of crass Communist Party propaganda. The truth revealed as the corrupt and malicious nature of the Chinese Communist system gradually came to light.
In another example, much of the books’ premise rests on a view of humanity that corresponds to Rousseau’s eighteenth-century idea of the ‘noble savage’ and yet no detailed reading of Rousseau presented.
In fact, while Rousseau was breathtakingly and insightfully critical of civilization in a way this book is not, he actually came to the conclusion that we could never know what the state of nature is.
It is unknowable and therefore not important.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
The book is not all horror. Its repetitive nature does begin to drum the message in that humanity is not all that bad. Its attacks on the West’s contemporary “upset, resigned, self-centred, egocentric, selfish way of living” are perhaps not too far off the mark. The analysis, however, is only superficial.
The book is right to find fault with the most debilitating forms of the evolutionary psychology movement, although calling one of it’s key founders the devil is probably going a bit too far.
And attacking the shallowness and pettiness of contemporary western civilization with its encouragement of crassness, gross competition, and materialism is something this site also does.
Unfortunately other than being nice and joining the movement (for a fee) the book offers no real solutions to the problems that many of us are all aware of. Despite its claims, there is nothing radical offered forward here. Philosophers and pundits have long that if everyone was nice to each other the world would be a better place. The only practical solutions put forward are trite.
For all the car companies in the world to design a cheap simple, functional car that everyone can drive. Never mind that under Communism communal production produced the unreliable Trabant and Skoda. Or that we should build our own furniture despite the existence of Ikea.
The book does some justice in taking a pot shot at western culture and contemporary capitalism and does us a service in reminding us to be nice. Contrary to the author’s claims though, this book is not the first piece of literature to do so. (For others, see here.) Nor will it be the last.
It contains nothing new.
You shouldn’t have to wade through 500 pages of repetition and waffle to understand that the is and the ought are not aligned.
Human Condition Philosophy, Matt, Aug 2016