This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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“The present danger does not really lie in the loss of universality on the part of the scientist, but rather on his pretense and claim of totality…What we have to deplore therefore is not so much the fact that scientists are specializing, but rather the fact that specialists are generalizing. The true nihilism of today is reductionism…Contemporary nihilism no longer brandishes the word nothingness; today nihilism is camouflaged as nothing-but-ness. Human phenomena are thus turned into mere epiphenomena.”

~ Viktor Frankl[1]

Another term for Liberalism nihilism, which is really nothing but fear expressed in the realms of knowledge and values, is reductionism. Reductionism is a fearful minimalism, insisting that knowledge be drastically simplified. This is typically accomplished by way of unjustifiable generalities.

To demonstrate how far-reaching this reductionism has been, we will examine the contributions made to the decay of knowledge by Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, Adam Smith, John Locke, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. These figures are chosen for the diversity of the fields they represent. If some of this recapitulates what has been said above, the reader is asked to excuse the repetition as a matter of deliberate emphasis.

Rene Descartes (Philosophy): Descartes put a ceiling on man’s knowledge which limited ‘truth’ to rational concepts. This rejected the traditional conception of the self and of our ability to know God through the supra-rational Intellect, “the eye of the heart”, which sees things beyond “the eye of the mind”. Thus, rooting the certainty of our existence in operations of the discursive faculty, he also sought to enclose the Divine on this plane. Everything becomes rational, and therefore impoverished.

Isaac Newton (Physics): Joining with Descartes, Newton reduced the sciences of physics to mathematics and therefore to a deterministic mechanism:

“According to the mechanical philosophy and its theory of ‘atomism,’ the operations of material beings are owing entirely to movements of units of matter (atoms) governed by physical laws rather than the constitutive forms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic system lying beyond the matter of which things are composed.”[2]

This rejected any metaphysical considerations in regard to matter, and effectively severed this science from transcendence.

Martin Luther (Religion): We have already discussed Luther’s contribution to the reductionism of the modern era. Suffice it to repeat here that he did not reform—he abridged to an extreme. He took a few specific points of traditional doctrine, such as the teachings about grace, faith, and scripture, and elevated them to absolutes without context or support. In this way he simplified all theology into the “nothing-but-ness” of the three solas: sola scripture, sola fida, sola gratia.

Adam Smith (Economics): The well-known treatise Wealth of Nations contained not a single new idea. Great minds from Aristotle to St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas had spent the last two-thousand years developing the science which they called ‘Political Economy’. When Smith came on the scene, his predecessors had already taken into consideration the totality of economic action and had situated it hierarchically within all other sciences, superior and inferior. Within economics itself they had discerned four categories or stages: production, exchange, distribution, and consumption. All Smith did was destroy this comprehensive edifice by dropping the last two categories (distribution and consumption), and by rejecting any moral or metaphysical considerations. He made the same error as Newton, reducing a sacred science to a profane one, and in the process destabilizing it and degrading it, under the pretense that it could be considered a mechanical and mathematical science, and would thenceforth become simply economics.

Charles Darwin (Biology): It was said by C.S. Lewis that “evolution is as old as Epictetus”, and he was right. Just as the Greeks knew the world was not flat,[3] they also conceived of the idea that life originated in the sea, in some primordial sludge, and then migrated onto land and eventually became man. What Darwin did, which the Greeks refused to do, was take this out of a metaphysical context and attempt to mechanize it according to purely materialistic laws. Darwin eliminated the transcendent from biology, as Newton had eliminated it from physics. Man, then, is a result of this evolutive mechanism, and all of his complexity and subtlety can therefore be accounted for by this mechanism, given enough time.

Sigmund Freud (Psychology): Working from the combined reductions of Descartes, Newton, and Darwin, Freud formulated his ideas, which were perhaps the most reductionistic to date. In the work of Freud, the mind, already a shell of its former self, is further reduced to a highly unstable yet entirely predetermined product of its environment. A mechanical monstrosity. All human passions and beliefs are the result of subterranean influences of the unconscious, which only occasionally break the surface of consciousness and present themselves for analysis. In Freud, we see that the Cartesian imprisonment of the mind eventually—and necessarily—gave way to man becoming a prisoner of instinct and animal ‘drives’.

John Locke (Politics): The reader may not be familiar with Locke by name, but everyone in America is intimately familiar with his political theory. He was one of the famous and influential liberals of the Enlightenment. He is responsible for the radically reductionistic political doctrines on which liberal democracies like America now operate. Like all the previous characters in this list, his claim to fame is the severing of transcendence from his particular field. Locke’s primary legacy in this respect is the ‘separation of church and state’, which today both Christians and pagans embrace as a wonderful novelty, although they justify it in different ways. He completed this reduction by placing all authority in ‘the people’, the government deriving its sovereignty from the bottom up. This is the opposite of the traditional teaching, traced out by Paul, showing that political leaders must acknowledge and remain attached to God, because their authority derives not from below but from the top down. But God was already dead. Based on Locke’s liberal principles, and with God unmentioned in the American Constitution, whatever the people came to desire would be translated into law. This holds true even if the people wish to abolish fundamental realities like sex, and even if they wish to reinstate ancient horrors such as child sacrifice.

[1] Cited in E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. 5-6.

[2] Christopher Ferrara, Liberty: The God that Failed, p. 40.

[3] They observed the spherical shadow of the earth on the moon during eclipses.

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