Meaning in the Modern World

Blog

Human Condition Philosophy: A Critical Review

Human Condition Philosophy

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.

Reverence

Religion?

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.

tumblr_msk8idCR1S1qbh26io1_500

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.

636004129965033496395635845_kindness_cover

A revelation?

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.

481264634

Science?

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.

A History of Happiness Essay

Homework

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.

Courage To Challenge The Climb Of The Cliff

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.

a liberal life

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.

Reason

Human Condition Philosophy, Matt, Aug 2016

Related Post

Comments(7)

  1. REPLY
    Annie says

    The Human Condition is a big con, how can there be only one true path for humanity! Utter nonsense.

    • REPLY
      nitin_8 says

      I read the Human Condition too and thought it was a load of nonsense as well. I can see how it can trick some people and it does seem very cult like. Thanks for your review.

  2. REPLY
    Kev Oostenbruggen says

    I though the intention was well even though it was badly written, still it does seem like one of those new age cult things and I don’t like they charge you to join but without telling you what membership will get

  3. REPLY
    Purpravis says

    Lol, yes complete waste of space, surprising so many big-wigs signed up to it…then again Geldolf probably isn’t known for his academic wisdom…

  4. REPLY
    David Munn says

    I was once a supporter of Griffith. I’ve been studying his ideas for over 25 years. I do think that he is unique. Similarities to New Age gurus are superficial. For a start, New Age gurus are popular, while Griffith has been trying to sell people on these ideas for about 30 years and once referred to the exercise as being “in the dead cat business.” Few really want to listen to someone tell them that they are lying psychotic neurotics who want to attack innocence and are responsible for their children’s psychological problems because they didn’t nurture them enough. The New Age gurus tell us we are all good without all that depressing ballast to weigh the message down. But if we are insecure about our worth and liable to weigh ourselves down with such self-criticism, then finding a better defence for ourselves than Griffith can provide may be worthwhile, and he may be a good case study.

    Griffith believes that we have a genetic conscience, i.e. that idealism is inborn. He says that he was extremely idealistic in his youth and that his writings grew out of his desperate need to reconcile that idealism with reality. In his worldview, his idealism arose from his relative innocence. If idealism is inborn then this would make sense. But he claims that our basic nature is to be cooperative, loving and integrative. Idealism is not an integrative trait. It is a divisive trait, because it is unforgiving of non-ideal behaviour. Idealism is a neurotic trait similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, where the individual can’t be at peace unless things conform to a fixed expectation. And a compulsive neurosis can drive tremendous activity, which Griffith’s writing has certainly been.

    If our conscience was genetic then we would expect that everyone would feel guilty about the same things. This isn’t the case. What makes us feel guilty varies from person to person and culture to culture.

    But Griffith’s description of us becoming angry, egocentric and alienated in response to the critical voice of the ideals, rings true. The theory just needs to be flipped. Our genetic orientation is towards cooperation and unconditional acceptance, hence the ease with which we bond with our parents and are open to learning. The condemning ideals are products of the conscious mind. They arise from our attempts to manage our behaviour, but their criticism gradually undermines our self-acceptance – causing us to become insecure, i.e. neurotic. Hence we become angry, egocentric and alienated.

    Understanding what lies behind Griffith’s writing is made easier with some knowledge of the phenomenon of projection. He often tends to see in others a projection of aspects of his own situation about which he is in denial. This doesn’t mean that what he sees in the other is completely imagined, only that it gains a greater charge of meaning for him because of it. Unable to see that his own theory has become dogmatic, he views movements such as environmentalism, feminism, socialism, post-modernism, etc. as evidence of “a death by dogma”. There certainly are dogmatists within those movements, but they don’t share a dogma and each movement contains competing dogmas as well as individuals who are non-dogmatic. To Griffith they appear as a monolithic Dogma Monster, because he is seeing himself. Similarly, while E. O. Wilson no doubt has his faults, he is not the one falsely claiming to be the sole possessor of the knowledge needed to liberate humanity. If Griffith’s theory is wrong, and I think it is not hard to demonstrate that it is, then who is really the “Lord of the lying, the master of keeping humanity away from the truth, the quintessential liar… the antichrist.”? If someone says, “Here is a theory about the human condition. Let’s run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes,” then you can’t fault them. But if you spend pages and pages telling people that your theory is what Jesus meant by ‘the coming of the Son of Man’ and what Beethoven was anticipating when he wrote the Ode to Joy, and that theory turns out to be unfounded, then you have been engaged in a massive effort to lead humanity away from the very salvation you were promising them. You really are the liar of liars. Griffith’s response to E. O. Wilson would seem inexplicable if it were not for the fact that he needs to see the nightmare of his own situation reflected out there in the world.

    Bob Geldof spoke at the launch of Freedom, but he did not express agreement with the book. Griffith seems to spend a bit of time in his new booklet Transform Your Life and Save the World trying to explain how Geldof is wrong in his disagreement with him. (I’ve only skimmed some bits.) Geldof, in his speech, said that we need lots of new ideas and that people should read Griffith’s book and discuss it and criticise it. It is easy to get Geldof for a speaking engagement. You only have to book him :

    http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/bob-geldof

Post a comment

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER!

Short, sharp insight into topics that matter.
Free with no adverts or sales pitch*.

 

*(See privacy policy. newsletter examples.)