Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aldous Huxley On Human Nature

Note: This is my blog, but occasionally I will let others do the speaking for me. Here Huxley writes about the mannishness of man (to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer), and he does so much better than I could. Excerpts are from Aldous Huxley-The Complete Essays, Volume VI 1956-1963, Ed. Robert S. Baker and James Sexton. Ivan R. Dee:Chicago 2002

"The scientific theory of human nature that is now emerging is a good deal closer to the Homeric notion of a debating society of somato-psychic factors than to the more "spiritual" hypothesis of an autonomous, unitary, detachable soul imprisoned in a body, or the deceptively commonsensical Cartesian notion of a soul attached, somehow or other, to an automaton."  --from Literature and Science

"Man is a multiple amphibian and exists at one and the same time in a number of universes, dissimilar to the point very nearly, of complete incompatibility. He is at once an animal and a rational intellect; a product of evolution closely related to the apes and a spirit capable of self-transcendence; a sentient being in contact with the brute data of his own nervous system and the physical environment and at the same time the creator of a home-made universe of words and other symbols, in which he lives and moves and has anything from thirty to eighty percent of his being. He is a self-conscious and self-centered ego who is also a member of a moderately gregarious species, an individualist compelled by the population explosion to live at ever closer quarters, and in ever tighter organizations, with millions of other egos as self-centered and poorly socialized as himself. Neurologically, he is lately evolved Jekyll-cortex associated with an immensely ancient brain-stem Hyde. Physiologically, he is a creature whose endocrine system is perfectly and adapted to the conditions prevailing in the lower Paleolithic, but living in a metropolis and spending eight hours a day sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office. Psychologically, he is a highly educated product of twentieth-century civilization, chained, in a state of hostile and uneasy symbiosis, to a disturbingly dynamic unconscious, a wild fantasy and an unpredictable id-and yet capable of falling in love, writing string quartets, and having mystical experiences." --from Education on the Nonverbal Level

Afterthought: Even if you don't agree with everything Huxley says, you can't accuse him of over-simplification? Man is a complex creature, and the human condition exceeds our linguistic capacity. However, I believe Huxley's words-especially the concept of the "multiple amphibian"- are helpful...Remember that what I include in this blog-my words or others'-is NOT meant to give the Final Answer or to be a declaration of absolute truth. Rather, it is simply what I deem to be interesting and worthy of consideration.

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