Carlo Suarès : Critique of Reason Impure : Carlo Suarés: Men unthinkable in an unbearable world
(Extract from Critique of Reason Impure by Carlo Suarés. 1955 Stock Edition)
This book sets out to note, in a way accessible to the public, the crisis in which humanity finds itself in this mid-twentieth century. This state has not yet been established with evidence. Indeed: the leaders are precisely those who provoke it, and the public, indoctrinated, takes sides.
We are still persuaded that "if vis pace para bellum" is not war, that defensive pacts are not offensive, that means and ends can oppose ... If we have observed the state of dementia of the third Reich, on the other hand today, on the right as on the left, in the West as in the East, we suffer from a mental paralysis, from a psychic atony, such that we must exert a considerable effort to see the most obvious facts. Human conscience struggles in a nightmare where it sees our affairs rushing uncontrollably towards a catastrophe whose material causes escape observation. If this last assertion is correct, if our collective problems have become so complex that the human mind is unable to grasp them, we find ourselves either in a state of helplessness where we only have to undergo a disaster after another until destruction, be led to attempt a critique of the very foundations of reason, thought and language.
Philosophies and religions only register their ineffectiveness. We have become unthinkable men in an unbearable world. The more obvious the failure of philosophers becomes, the more their language becomes incomprehensible. We remember a famous philosopher [ 1 ] to whom his friends only half joked that he was the only one to understand himself. The man who struggles in the anxiety of everyday life, asks himself other questions than, for example, this one, taken at random, in a known work of philosophy [ 2 ] : A being for whom his being is in question in his being as this being is essentially a certain way of not being a being which he poses at the same time as other than him.
The non-specialist public thinks they have the right to know what a philosopher is talking about, without, however, this philosopher doing "popularization" work. He thinks that only a certain simplicity in mind will have any chance of clarifying the current chaos.
The curious thing about some of our best contemporary philosophers and psychologists is that their impenetrability is not due to the nature of their philosophy, on the contrary, but to the difficulty that a new thought has to express itself. clearly. It turns out, in fact, that we have witnessed, for a few years, a upheaval in philosophy, of which very few people are aware.
Here is how Jean Wahl defines this upheaval: [ 3 ] If you say: man is in this world, a world limited by death and tested in anguish; man has an understanding of himself as essentially anxious, bent over his solitude in the horizon of temporality, we immediately recognize the accents of Heideggerian philosophy ... [ 4 ] If you say: I am a thinking substance like Descartes said it, or, real things are ideas, as Plato said, or, the I accompany all our representations, as Kant said, we move in a sphere which is no longer that of the philosophy of existence.
Further on [ 5 ] Jean Wahl writes: we are becoming aware of a whole movement which challenges philosophical concepts at the same time as we are made to feel more strongly than ever our union with the world. In this sense we are witnessing and participating in the beginning of a new way of philosophizing.
The public participates, although in an almost unconscious way, in this revolution in the way of thinking. He lives daily and behaves as if he had noticed that very great philosophers, from Plato to Hegel, including Thomas Aquinas and Descartes, thought wrong. Yet the prestige of abstract philosophy, metaphysics, theology is still powerful. The "ideas" being abandoned because ineffective, their psychological hold remains, with the root cause which had generated them. This is why, the new philosophy, having today at its disposal the complete documentation of human thought through the ages and the continents, having made the tour, is led to distinguish the knowable from the unknowable, and to reject as being worthless all speculation on the unknowable, whether it is called "concept", "future" or "God". This critique involves examining the relationships that in fact exist between self-knowledge and knowledge of the Universe. On this last point, scientists such as Einstein or de Broglie have, in several works, given the public indications which it would be wrong to overlook, imagining that they are too difficult to grasp. Certain concepts emerge, which are necessary, sufficient and simple. They contribute in large part to the revolution of thought which we see everywhere the need. New philosophy sets in motion, not thought [ 6 ] , but the psyche, the self. In short, it arrives at the conception of a Knowledge which is not expressed by thought, but by behavior.
If the crisis were really noted, we would not seek to resolve it by means of its own causes. These causes, which we want to be convinced are material (not psychological) necessarily escape observation, as concrete facts, because our societies have become so complex and so interdependent, that any action based on an idea provokes there. unpredictable, endless repercussions in the most unexpected areas. This lack of agreement between the idea and its effect is a decomposition, a social disintegration. A civilization at its beginnings builds, produces, organizes, accumulates reserves. But for several decades we have been trained to accept as an inevitable fact the destruction of raw materials in order to maintain their prices and war as a means of solving what is called industrial "overproduction" . Such errors of judgment result from one of the dogmas most necessary to our psyches: profit, or personal salvation. The importance of this dogma in all the registers of our consciences, led us to the idea of ??defending until the destruction of the human race, a civilization which turns its back on everything that defines it. To this end, verbal arming precedes and accompanies the other. Its arsenal is made up of words which have no concrete content, but whose psychological action is one of the most virulent factors of our catastrophes. The primary utility of words such as "nationalism" is to mask the fact that there is no jurisdiction, that there is no security, that there is no freedom. These are three inventions of the mind, three "categories": in philosophical language, three "concepts of pure understanding", three abstractions which have no concrete basis. Since the objects they designate do not exist and cannot exist, these "ideas" are false and therefore harmful.
There is no jurisdiction possible. Until recent times - until the 18th century - great minds, philosophers, could boast of possessing the sum of human knowledge. Who is, today, the chemist, the sociologist, the economist, etc., etc., who can be aware of all that concerns his specialty, however restricted it may be? This situation is aggravated by the fact that scientific research, statistical offices, political information services, are everywhere secret. Our so-called "information" era s impenetrable. In this conjuncture, men who assume loads of responsibility are constantly busy seeking the impossible coincidence of their experience and a world that is moving too fast. Their attitude is therefore necessarily theoretical, based on preconceived "ideas". Some are Marxists first, technicians second, others are anti-Marxists first, and act accordingly. Both failing to recognize that they cannot - that they can never - catch up with events, pretend to shape them. And since their ideas are necessarily out of date, disaster is inevitable.
However, if there is not sufficient competence among the competent, there is not, a fortiori, among the peoples taken in mass. On what, then, do we pretend to make them believe that they govern themselves?
So there is no democracy and there cannot be. The word "democracy" must join the vocabulary of "pure concepts", ochimeras.
And there is no security. This is obvious to each individual, since he does not know if he will live until the end of the current day. But we are in the pursuit of collective security, a guarantee of survival for the human species. Is it necessary to show that for this purpose, we have invented weapons capable of destroying the human species? And this absurdity results from forced incompetence, because those who, on one side and the other, support the collective security of hundreds of millions of human beings on force, gropely assess the degree of vulnerability of their enemies , but ignore theirs, not knowing the weapons that would hit them.
And there is no freedom. Within the state under whose jurisdiction he lives, no individual in the world is free to act against that state. As for knowing "who" are the States (and therefore how we should go about fighting them), the analyzes that we have attempted to pierce these entities are outdated. Even that, so penetrating of Lenin [ 7 ] that the state is the personification of a ruling minority, no longer corresponds to the fact, in the eyes of those who claim to be their own disciples. According to Lenin, Communism was to bring about the disappearance of the state. A "majority" state (Bolshevik) was, for Lenin, a contradiction of terms.
In truth, we do not know "who" are the States , and we do not know "who" is in power. And it is impossible to know, because the complexity of our societies escapes analysis. Sometimes a certain power is held by a well-organized minority (as in public limited companies where 10% of the actions in one hand is sometimes enough to control them) and it happens that a majority is necessary. But it also happens that majorities represent only minorities, as in the UN where twenty small states representing almost nobody, each have one vote.
Thus, not only is there no freedom, but it is impossible to know for whose benefit the constraints are exerted. Just as a revolver is enough in the hands of a fanatic to shoot down a Gandhi, power is sometimes exercised by those who do not have one.
We are in reality led by the blind result of chaotic forces in presence, which escape not only control, but any idea that we would have of it. A major catastrophe becomes inevitable, and the so-called "man in the street" feels it, as he knows himself and understands himself, in his distressed condition, limited between birth and death. "Ideas" are no longer around him. The "concepts", the products of "pure thought", he knows they are disengaged from the real. And it is here that comes to distract him, console him, take him out of reality anyway, the Psychological Comedy with empty words, of those to whom this disorder seems to suit (because they are enriched and enjoy, while waiting the flood). "Nationalism" is an inflation of the pooris an inflation of the poor "man in the street" He who is nothing, feels, thanks to this concept, charged with emotion, swollen, raised, ready to kill and be killed. As an instrument of this "crisis" that we create every hour by means of the "solutions" that we strive to bring about, the "man in the street" entered the world of a nightmare awake. This fact, the cause of which is psychological, paradoxically translates into consciousness through values ??that are solely material and sensory. The lights, the noises, the spectacles of the big cities take on him the revenge of the abandoned reality. Reality is its natural need to feed itself, to house itself, to clothe itself. In the current state of production and technology (the terrestrial globe and the atom being conquered), this need is no longer a problem. The problem is speech.
The causes of the crisis are the many ideas that we have of it. The idea is expressed by the word; the word is an image; the picture is false. The image in "ism" and that in "anti-ism", in the name of which we destroy ourselves have nothing in common with the facts as they are. They are generated by the innate need that man (in the state of ignorance in which he finds himself regarding his deep being) to explain himself to himself, to explain the world and build an image of the universe. These images, whether they are Brahamanic, Buddhist, materialist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, nationalist, racial, economic or rationalist, group around them sets of images which constitute mythologies, whose fabulous character shapes our primitive psychologies, those of our "elites" understood. These mythologies are so numerous, contradictory and conditioned that their subjective character is obvious. This simple observation should be enough to project a sense of common sense into this shock. But the ascendancy of religious and philosophical traditions is surprising. Writing on the subject of "the soul of the primitives", a professor of philosophy [ 8 ] , making a retrospective picture of the first sketches of science and philosophy, notes that ... in this collective effort, the role of personal reflection is imperceptible. Thought will confine itself, for a long time (he adds) to interpreting, commenting on the Myth, which constitutes "the deep rut", where the whole life of the mind takes place. However, little by little, the Myths will oppose each other: their varied proliferation, in the same people, their striking diversity between the peoples confronted by migrations or conquests, will make feel all the imperfection of these stories ... The lucidity of this professor, at the very moment when, believing to speak of primitives, he describes our era, is obviously defeated by the fact that he qualifies the "ism" in which he believes, not of myth, but of revealed truth or designed.
Thus, underlying the images, the ideas that both have of society, of the relationships between the individual and the community, is the need, judged from time immemorial, legitimate and necessary, moral and spiritual, to explain the world and to make an image of it, to know the unknowable.
This need, mathematics and physics on the one hand, criticism of reason on the other hand, teach us today that it will never be satisfied. This is the conclusion of millennia of research. Between the impenetrable and the penetrable, between infinity and number, between the continuous and the discontinuous, between himself and his thought, between his existence and his life, man will have to establish new relationships.
The development of our experimental knowledge, to which is added the search for a unified theoretical conception comprising all the empirical data, has led us to a characterized situation - in spite of all the successes - with an uncertainty concerning the choice of the basic theoretical concepts, writes Einstein. [ 9 ]
From the beginning of this century, the "microcosm" and the "macrocosm" he world of atoms and that of interstellar spaces underwent two prodigious assaults, which would both make us discover essential cosmic laws and definitively rout ideas logical, rational, "mechanistic" of the universe, striving for the "why and "how" of objective knowledge. Phrases such as "the ultimate nature of things" or "the universal constituent of things" of Plato; or "the supreme law of discontinuous harmony" rom Pythagoras; or being one, continuous and motionless" of Parmenides; or "the seeds of all things" of Anaxagoras; or the nature of material things of which Descartes proclaimed the evidence; or "the unifying activity of the mind" which, according to Kant imposes its conditions on phenomena" etc., etc. : in short all the speculations of the philosophers were to go to join the archives of thoughts without content.
These two assaults were, for atoms the quantum theory and for the cosmos, that of relativity.
As early as 1900, Max Planck, in order to establish the amount of radiant energy emitted by bodies heated to different temperatures, was led to express it by an equation, on purely theoretical bases (the "mechanism" of this phenomenon was, and is still unknown). According to this equation, radiant energy is the emission of a "discontinuous" current of small portions called "quanta", , each of which carries an amount of energy equal to its frequency, multiplied by a "constant" This constant is a number, which we see here: Energy / F req uence = 0.000000000000000000000000006624 [ 10 ] and this number, constant in itself, is inexplicable. (This equation expresses a quantity of energy, considered indivisible in the current state of our knowledge: the energy involved in a revolution of an electron in its minimum orbit around the hydrogen nucleus.)
Taking hold of this equation, Einstein, in 1905, postulated (we translate Barnett from English) that all forms radiant energy - light, heat, X-rays - actually travel through space in separate and discontinuous "quanta" This conception was the basis of experiments on the photoelectric phenomenon: rays of light, projected on a metal plate, are transformed by this one in a rain of "electrons". It was the discovery of "photons" or particles of light energy. At first, these photons were designed like little balls.
However, another luminous phenomenon, diffraction (the deflection of light on the edges of an opaque body), in no way obeys the theory of quanta. It was necessary to admit a double phenomenon, of continuous waves and of discontinuous vibrations. It was L. de Broglie who, in 1925, proposed to reconcile this duality by conceiving of electrons, no longer as balls, hard and elastic, but as wave systems. This stage was, perhaps, for the human mind, the pulverization of the last "stable" element on which he hoped to place the universe: the ultimate element of "matter", occupying a determined space, with an established volume, had disappeared. The wave electron escaped any spatial conception. Following L. de Broglie, the Viennese physicist Schrvdinger and the Americans Davisson and Ge r mer, established, mathematically and experimentally, the bases of a "wave mechanics", where "waves of matter" and "particles of light" defeat all rational representations of phenomena so well that, by abandoning these representations, we have come to study the behavior of electrons as a function of probability statistics. There is an indeterminacy there which is not due to the imperfection of the observation, but to the fact that this affects the observed phenomenon: the electron being 'smaller" than a light wave, its speed, therefore its "position" are modified by it.
In turn, the theory of Relativity dissipates all the images we are trying to conceive of cosmic spaces.
The famous experiments of Michelson and Morley , from 1881, demonstrated the inexistence of the cosmic "medium" - which had been called "ether" -- within which the stars were supposed to move, and thanks to which the light was, thought- we, transmitted ... I want you to think that light is nothing else, in bodies that are called luminous, only a certain movement, or a very quick and very lively action, which passes to our eyes through through the air and the other transparent bodies, in the same way as the movement or the resistance of the bodies encountered by this blind man, passes towards his hand, through his stick ... This logic, thus expressed by Descartes, was put in rout, as well as another notion, held to be essential to the mind, that the speed of a body must necessarily seem lower or greater depending on whether the observer is moving in the same direction as him or in direction reverse: the speed of light re is always the same, either that the observer receives the light ray in the direction of the movement of the earth, or that he receives it in the opposite direction. It had to be concluded that if the "ether" exists, the speed of the earth relative to it is zero.
In truch, the "environment" in which the stars were supposed to evolve was, for philosophers, the allegory by which they represented one of the concepts most necessary to reason: absolute space. Now, the theory of Relativity, demonstrated by experience, has revealed that there is neither absolute space nor absolute time. There is no "time interval" or "length of time", regardless of their reference system. Time, being only one of the dimensions (one of the four dimensions) of a reference system, has physical reality only according to the events that occur there. Two identical clocks, but attached to different systems, would mark hours of different durations. And if we could make a clock travel on a ray of light, it would mark that a trip of millions of years had zero duration, if however this clock, whose volume would be reduced to zero, could still mark the 'hour. The words "at some point in the Universe" do not correspond to any reality. There is no "moment" in the Universe that one can think of.
The ancient search for the "absolute reality" of an object thus reveals the imaginative, illusory nature of the words "reality" and "absolute". The object, as we see it, has a mass, and this mass, fundamental property of what in simple and current terms, we call "matter" is nothing other than "resistance to a change of spee d. Thus, paradoxically, if an object were entrained at an increasingly greater speed, tending towards that of light, it would become smaller and smaller, and its mass would become larger and larger. This law has been verified and applied for a very long time. The electrons and "beta" particles emitted by nuclei of radioactive substances reach a speed equal to 99% of that of light. These particles have a considerable "mass", which is none other than "energy". As a result, the greatest possible energy is the greatest possible mass, and the minimum possible matter. Energy is a condensation, in movement, of matter, and matter a resistance to the movement of energy. There is no difference in essence here, but reverse relationships, within a space-time "continuum". The theory of Relativity does not pretend to explain "why" this Universe exists nor why it exists thus made, but is limited to describing its properties. However, says Lincoln Barnett, it would be wrong to think that Einstein's theory of gravitation is only about the form, not the essence of the Universe. It is based on notions whose cosmic importance is considerable. The most remarkable is that the universe is not a rigid and immutable building where independent matter is contained in an independent space and time, but, on the contrary, an amorphous, plastic and variable continuum, without established architecture, and constantly subject to change and distortion.
Thought tends to forget that the foundations of Euclidean geometry are purely sensory. It is now demonstrated that this geometry is wrong with regard to the gravitational fields: The rays of light do not travel in straight lines, when they pass through a gravitational field, because the geometry of this field is such, that 'it does not contain straight lines; the shortest path that light can take is a curve, rigorously determined by the geometric structure of the field. Since the structure of the magnetic field is shaped by the mass and speed of the body in gravitation (star, moon or planet), it follows that the geometric structure of the universe as a whole, receives its form from the total of its content equipment. For each concentration of matter in the universe, there is a corresponding distortion of the space-time continuum. Each celestial body, each galaxy, creates local irregularities in space-time, similar to the agitations of the water around the islands. The greater the concentration of matter, the greater the curvature of the resulting space-time. And the total effect of this law is a total curvature of the whole space-time continuum: the combined deformations, produced by all the non-evaluated masses of matter, in the universe, cause the continuum to fold in on itself in a big cosmic curve. So the universe is non-Euclidean and finite. Lincoln Barnett, based on calculations by Edwin Hubble (of the Mont Wilson Observatory) on the approximate density of matter in the universe, estimates that it has a radius of about 35 billion years- light. What, however, intricately complicates the issue is that the universe is expanding. We can even say that it explodes, that it is in a state of explosion. Indeed, all the galaxies move away from us at a speed all the more considerable, that they are more distant from us. Those which, in relation to us, are at a distance of 250 million light years are moving away from us at the speed of about 40,000 km per second, or 1/7 of the speed of light. All galaxies, without exception, are moving away from each other at fantastic speeds. According to Lincoln Barnett, this explosion began about 2 billion years ago. If the curvature of the universe is a function of the amount of matter in it, its expansion would prove that matter is in the process of dissolution. In addition, the rate at which the thermonuclear process inside stars transforms matter into radiation allows astronomers to estimate, with enough confidence, the duration of a star's life, and the average age at which they have arrived, for the most part visible stars in our firmament is 2 billion years old. This figure coincides strikingly with that obtained by calculating the density of the universe. A third confirmation of this figure is given by the age attributed to uranium on our planet: 2 billion years.
Does the universe form to undo and then redo, in cycles of "creation" and "uncreation", whose rhythm and magnitude escape our imaginations? Even, says Lincoln Barnett, if we accepted the idea of ??an immortal universe, in which the sun and the earth and the giant stars are relatively newcomers, the initial problem, that of the origin remains ... " something "was in existence, either free neutrons, or a quanta of energy, or simply the impenetrable" cosmic substance "or" cosmic essence ", from which the universe of innumerable species was drawn ...
In the evolution of scientific thought, concludes Lincoln Barnett, one fact emerges in an impressive way: there is no mystery of the physical world which does not reveal a mystery beyond it. All the paths of the intellect, all those of theory and conjecture lead, ultimately, to an abyss that human ingenuity cannot cross. Because man is chained by the very condition of his being, by his conditioning in nature. The more he broadens his horizon, the more clearly he recognizes the fact that the physicist Niels Bohr expresses when he says: "We are both spectators and actors of the great drama of existence". Man is thus, for himself, his greatest mystery. He does not understand the vast veiled universe in which he was projected, for the simple reason that he does not understand himself. He has a poor understanding of his physiological process, much less the ability he has to perceive the world around him, to reason and to dream. And, less than all the rest, does he understand his noblest and most mysterious faculty: his capacity to transcend himself and to perceive himself in the act of perception.
This admirable conclusion of the scientist puts an end to the "revelations" that superficial minds, claiming to be "materialist" or "empirical" expected from science. And a final point, also in mythical images, in which spirits claiming to be "religious" transform the unthinkable into deities.
Having arrived at these observations, the human mind is forced to stop, for an obvious reason: our reason is the expression of a subjective dissociation, which we call space and duration, which appear to us to be different in nature, and which are therefore irreparably absurd. Absurd, because these distinct notions of space and duration, the only ones that we can conceive, are, in fact, inconceivable: inconceivable, a space that ends, beyond which there is nothing; inconceivable, a space that never ends, never; inconceivable, a duration which began one day (what existed "before"?) and which will end one day (what will exist "after"?); inconceivable, a duration that has always existed, that will always exist. Within the absurd limits of his unthinkable Jacob's ladders which can neither begin nor end, nor do not begin and end, our mind clears the few rungs of our days (from birth to death) and of our spaces (visible and imaginary) and builds a small "logical" refuge, based on "principles" that do not exist: the "identity principle" (A = A) presupposes an element A, observable, definable, existing in itself, in a certain place, at a certain time; the "causality principle" (all effect comes from a cause) presupposes the objective existence, in itself, of duration.
To perceive this absurd is to stop at its threshold. If our mind is so made that the thinkable is necessarily unthinkable in essence, but if we only have for this instrument that limited thought, the choice is not open to us to use it or to use it point, but to assign it its limits or launch into the extravagances of religions, theologies, and philosophies, which consist in "thinking" the unthinkable, "knowing" the unknowable, "explaining" the inexplicable.
1 Lion Brunschvicg.
2 J.-P. Sartre: " Being and Nothingness ", p. 222
3 Jean Wahl: "Little Hisotry of Existentialism" p.58/59
4 Heidegger is considered by philosophers as one of the main promoters of the philosophy of existence.
5 Book cited, p. 62.
6 Julien Benda's critique of the "mobilism" of thought; in " Some Constants of the Human Spirit " seems valid to us.
7 Lenin: " The State and the Revolution ". - " The Infantile Disease of Communism ".
8 Pierre Ducassi: " The Great Philosophies ".
9 In his preface to Lincoln Barnett's book " The Universe and Dr Einstein ".
10 Expressed in the CGS system (centimeter-gram-second).
Paralipomhnes de la Comidie Psychologique par Joe Bousquet, René Daumal et Carlo Suarés - 3e millinaire