As a child, Pinker, says, he thought as a child, embracing anarchism at about the same time he converted to atheism. But as an adult, he has put away childish things: “I was a Rousseauan then; now I’m a Hobbesian.” What this means in practice is that he merely abandoned one sect of totalitarian statism for another.
Rousseau, it should be remembered, was was the author of what he called “The Civil Religion” — a doctrine that would enable the masses, in Rousseau’s phrase, to “bear with docility the yoke of the public good.”
The most important article of Rousseau’s Civil Religion was the absolute divinity of the State; the gravest transgression was “intolerance,” which was regarded as evil not because it injured the rights of individuals, but because it challenged the State’s authority.
According to Rousseau, the ideal social arrangement would be a “form of theocracy, in which there can be no pontiff save the prince, and no priests save the magistrates…. [W]hoever dares to say, ‘Outside the church is no salvation,’ ought to be driven from the State, unless the State is the Church, and the prince the pontiff.”
The State would make belief in its dogmas compulsory, even as it denied it was doing so: “While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the state anyone who does not believe them…..” Apostasy would be a capital offense: “If any one, after publicly recognizing these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death — he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.”
Posts Tagged ‘Rousseau’
Terry Melanson | 2010-05-20 - In Europe and North America, “culture war” was the socio-political preoccupation of the mid- to late-19th Century. However, the struggle for control of the educational establishment actually began a hundred years earlier during the Enlightenment.
The late Joseph Campbell maintained that civilizations are not based on science, but on myth. “Aspiration,” Campbell explained, “is the motivator, builder and transformer of civilization.” Our technological society has been built on Francis Bacon’s myth of the New Atlantis.
Competing with Bacon’s vision of a scientific society based on intelligence, knowledge and innovation, is an older, more persistent fable: the Noble Savage. The Noble Savage is not a person, but an idea. It is cultural primitivism, the belief of people living in complex and evolved societies that the simple and primitive life is better. The Noble Savage is the myth that man can live in harmony with nature, that technology is destructive and that we would all be happier in a more primitive state.