Hubris and the Pomocon Outlook
April 28, 2009
Ralph Hancock over at Postmodern Conservatism has offered his stab at the pomocon outlook in outline. I think much of its correct and even its fine print is worth considering, but there’s a key part of this picture that I think his approach and its self-conscious conclusion misses. Specifically, its not just that modern reason is not merely tyrannical, it is hubristic, and beyond its tendency to develop in totalitarian directions, there are a huge number of ways in which its project can implode via simple overreach. Stock bubbles, epidemic flu, global warming, the creation of culture which inflames religious sensibilities worldwide: all of these stem not from a suppression of the good, but from an overestimation of reason’s capacities to achieve any and all goals regardless of external considerations. As we consider the world scene it’s this kind of overreach, and not the nihilism implicit in the modern project (represented by communism, fascism, etc.), that poses the greatest threat to the human self, the stability of social order, and the future possibilities for philosophy.
Which isn’t to say there’s not something to be gotten from looking at reason through its own suppressed tendencies or from building an outlook that takes reason’s tyranny seriously, particularly given the ways in which hubris and tyranny inevitably intersect. But the analysis should and must go beyond what reason thinks to what reason can do, particularly given the world we live in.