Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Wisdom of Arthur Koestler


The esteemed polymath Arthur Koestler wrote this [in the late 60s]….

The citadel of science…rests on a number of impressive pillars, but some of them are beginning to show cracks and turn out to be hollow, or reveal themselves as monumental superstitions. The most important among them I have called “the four pillars of unwisdom.” They represent the doctrines:

(a) that biological evolution is the result of nothing but random mutations preserved by natural selection;

(b) that mental evolution is the result of nothing but random tries preserved by reinforcements;

(c) that all organisms, including man, are nothing but passive automata, controlled by the environment, whose sole purpose in life is the reduction of tensions by adaptive responses;

(d) that the only scientific method worth that name is quantitative measurement; and, consequently, that complex phenomenon must be reduced to simple elements accessible to such treatment, without undue worry whether the specific characteristics of a complex phenomenon, for instance man, may be lost in the process.

The common element in these four fallacies is the philosophy of Reductionism…which holds that all human activities can be reduced to (explained by) the elementary responses” displayed by lower animals (such as the psychologist’s laboratory rat) and that these responses in turn can be reduced to elementary physico-chemical laws.*

* Pages 200-201 in The Encyclopedia of Delusions (Nothing but….?), Edited by Ronald Duncan and Miranda Weston-Smith [A Wallaby Book, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1979]


Ennoia said...

And Koestler was an atheist too -- imagine that...

RRRGroup said...

A wonderful atheist nonetheless.

Bruce Duensing said...

Koestler was an entire universe onto himself in a unique quasi newtonian and reductionist kind of way, particularly his theory of, to use a metaphor, mechanical levers and pulleys that cranked out a fine labelled and branded product whimsically named reality. or perhaps better yet, Koestler's Crackers ( not descriptive of his psyche, or is it?) Perhaps we are all crackers and bozos on this bus, but every point of view is important in order to develop one's own. Great blog..once again.

RRRGroup said...


Koestler was not only brilliant, but sweet too.

That's what is endearing about him, for us anyway.

Anonymous said...

Koestler was indeed a brilliant man.
Possibly a rapist.

Check out this link to an article
in City Journal.