( Perusing my hard drive this morning I happened upon a paper I wrote several years ago on the subject of belief. While perhaps less complete than it could be, I think it dovetails nicely with yesterday’s post on materialism. It was not originally written for online publication, and I think this shows in its length and style, but rather to satisfy the needs of a college philosophy course. Still, it sheds some light on what may follow as a logical followup question from yesterday for some of my readers, namely, “What then, is knowable?” Properly speaking this is the subject of epistemology and this essay is insufficient to address that question in any depth. I hope it may be enough to point the reader towards my source material, particularly the work of William James and Martin Heidegger, who cover this subject in a far more insightful and enlightening manner. )
Materialism is now the de rigueur assumption underlying any public discussion of the sciences, especially the life sciences thanks to the neo-Darwinist domination of that field. This is despite the fact that “material monism”, as my old philosophy professor liked to call it – the belief that only matter exists and is real, is falling increasingly out of favor among the “hardest” of the “hard sciences”, like physics. This popularity has become so widespread that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the reasonably educated layman to imagine a world outside of materialism.
I recently finished reading Georges Dumezil’s Plight of the Sorcerer. I was peripherally familiar with Dumezil’s work when I ordered this volume, having read half of his landmark Archaic Roman Religion. While even half of a Dumezil analysis was enough to convince me of his value, both to the historian and the magician, I was mostly attracted to Plight of the Sorcerer by its title. Naturally, as something of a would-be sorcerer, I was interested in what insights or warnings I could gain from the text. It certainly sounded ominous. “Plight” is not a word that fills one with confidence.