Skip links

Bad Ideas Have Bad Consequences

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. Take, for instance, the Enlightenment, otherwise known as the Age of Reason, which can be judged by the superciliousness of its definition of itself. In claiming to be the “enlightenment”, it was claiming ipso facto that the world was living in darkness until its “enlightened” perspective arrived; in calling itself the “age of reason”, it was dismissing the whole heritage of humanity as being lacking in reason until the arrival of the “rational age”. In this light, or darkness, we can see that the so-called Enlightenment was a progenitor of today’s cancel culture which sees the past as inherently inferior to the present.

At the heart of the Enlightenment was the egocentrism of René Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), which placed the individual at the centre of a subjective microcosmos, in which the deified self knows nothing with any certainty but his own thoughts. It is a very short leap from this entrapped perspective, bereft of any contact with the outside world of objective verity, to the belief that I can reinvent myself in my own image. In this light, or darkness, we can see Cartesianism as the progenitor of transsexualism and transhumanism.

At the other end of the Enlightenment spectrum from the idealism of René Descartes is Thomas Hobbes who reduced all existence to mere matter. “All that exists is body,” Hobbes insisted, “all that occurs motion”. Such philosophical materialism gave rise to the historical determination of Karl Marx, whose ideas have led to the slaughter of tens of millions of people. Yes indeed. There’s no doubt about it. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences.

Although Descartes, Hobbes and Marx will be well-known to most vaguely informed people, another major influence on modern thought and culture, somewhat less known, is Auguste Comte. In his book, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, Henri de Lubac devotes considerably more space to Comte than he does to the other three central figures on whom he focuses as being central to the rise of atheism and its godless consequences. De Lubac discusses the ideas of Feuerbach, Marx and Nietzsche in the first part of his book but devotes the whole of the second part to Comte.

The impact of Comte on his own age was summarized by the French philosopher, Émile Saisset: “Herr Feuerbach in Berlin, like Monsieur Comte in Paris, offers Christian Europe a new god to worship – the human race.” This divinizing of humanity as the one abstract Being, which all individuals must serve, was Comte’s life mission. By the end of the nineteenth century, he had been so successful that Lucien Lévy-Brühl could write that “the positive spirit”, which Comte had done more than anyone else to isolate and define, was “so closely interfused with the general thought” of the age that it had become almost unnoticeable and yet ubiquitous, “like the air one breathes”.

Read more at The Imaginative Conservative 

Share with Friends: