“Science” and “Rationality” as the Mystical Cult of Chance

Posted by on December 10th, 2009 at 9:00 AM

He nourished a conviction that there must be some logic

lurking somewhere in the results of chance.

—Joseph Conrad, “The End of the Tether”

I come from a dizzy land where the lottery is the basis of reality.

—Jorge Luis Borges, “The Lottery in Babylon”

More centrally than any other “principle,” chance—amoral/inhuman or alienative accident, unanticipatable or eternally surprising “fortune,” stochastic events and conjunctions that extemporaneously “just happen” to work out as they do—is at the core of the modern anti-metaphysical metaphysics, the world-order that no longer invites, or rewards or tolerates, reflections about the logic and limits of how it rules.  The true cathedrals of anarchic modern egocentrism and anomic materialism are of course no longer churches but rather casinos as arenas for the orgasmic quest for the all-begetting, all-ruling, sacred all-that-glitters.

It is this fundamental rule of (supposedly) no preconceivable, no fundamental and certainly no permissible normative rules that deters moderns wholesale from understanding how vital it is to think through in advance their repertory of a priori concepts, values, criteria, and principles.  Instead, confident in the mindlessly conformist faith that there is no point in struggling to understand profoundly a world in which nothing can be known or understood in advance, moderns “believe” without fathoming why it must be so, that every constellation of events and feelings must be unique, idiosyncratic and incomprehensible, and that all of life and thinking must thus be a blind gamble devoid of any teleological order, enlightening intelligence, or encompassing meaning.  The cult of “chance” symptomatizes a massive and systematic lacuna, the vacuum of value-intelligence and moral meaning in modern dysculture and its dominant types.

In ancient culture, “knowing” was a sublime expression of man’s mastery-through-connoisseurial/essential-evaluation, i.e. the power of knowing was identical with humans’ vital and defining authority to qualify and function as a self in the first place.  But in modern culture, “knowing” has become a mindless capitulation to blind “facts” or directionless “objectivity,” to matters in principle unknowable by “subjective” means:  where Descartes originated much of the modern thematics in a methodically skeptical search for what can possibly be “certain” to us, late modernity has morphed its reaction to the complexities of science and technology and capitalism from “certainty” to raw and barbarically self-destructive uncertainty, the radical disqualification of all forms of culture, philosophy, religion, etc. as fundamentally useless, valueless, futile fantasies.  This is the vacuity at the core of the modern “order” of “realism” that makes it at one and the same time necessarily amoral, abysmally self-obscure, myopic, drenched in pathos, starved of fundamental purpose or mythos, wretchedly dependent on mechanistic and ordinarizing routines, and of course crudely but aptly describable ever since its founding as “soulless.”

Moderns “find” a meaningless morass throughout their improvidential “experimentalist” or improvisational lives because they already unwittingly invested their world of “possibilities” with just such structurelessness and discordance:  these privations are exactly the key in which modern dysculture and modern self-alienated mentalities and lives have been composed, from long before any given individual got born and acculturated into these modes.  —It occurs to no modern as such that his aleatory or dice-throwing “all-things-are-possible”-worldview is demonstrably not objectively true, not even factually descriptive of “reality,” but is merely the way that specific morally, evaluatively and culturally impoverished (“atelic,” “anomic” or basally nihilist) personality-types are constitutionally self-bound to see the parameters of human, natural, social, economic, and historical existence.

Those types, classically understood as “banausic” philistines obsessed with utility and exploitation, are by no accident whatsoever the prevailing or governing intellects in the modern “dispensation” or coordinated scheme of things.  All the games of modern domains, methods and attitudes are tilted by and toward this dismally privative (or as Hegel called it, “prosaic”) form or tribe of primordial character.  What calls itself “the modern world” is banausoi’s conspiracy or rigged apparatus or orchestrated “racket.”  Their constricted worldview persistently rises to positions of privilege and command across the modern socio-economic and legal-political landscape; in the modern Babel banausoi all speak the same vacuous, formalist and mechanical technojargon.

The rise of techno-science and capitalism, bent on controlling all things just through their inherent chaotism (the weaknesses or vices in their organicism), is a concerted determination to make human existence a grandiose mechanistic apparatus, an infinitely regimented economy:  nothing in human psyche or natural resources or the “noosphere” of ideas should escape the net of lawful determinations extrapolated from the fictive “first principle” of Money or Capital.  —If we encountered this coordinated web of irrationalist compulsions among a primitive tribe or an alien species, we would recognize it for what it actually is, a cult or mania; but since it is a cult or mania that has owned the Western world free and clear for the past five or six centuries, it is instead adulated and revered as “ultimate truth,” as the divinely decreed and fated Way Things Are and Will Eternally Remain.  All resources of understanding are suppressed that might illumine the ways and reasons this stochastic modality is merely the correlate of the most gravely self-alienated, the most nihilist species of personality.

[©2009 Kenneth Smith]

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3 Responses to ““Science” and “Rationality” as the Mystical Cult of Chance”

  1. Correct me if I get this wrong, so those who live in chaos and say everything is just an illusion of society and order are nearly the same people who follow capitalism? No wonder our economy is doing so poorly when you have people who are–for lack of a better word–dicks out and about running things. Control through madness….we’re screwed.

  2. Ian Harker says:

    Thank you for using 6 paragraphs and about 500 advanced vocabulary words to tell me something that most old ladies at the supermarket or post office could sum up in one or two sentences.

  3. Uland says:

    Brilliant. Acute.
    I’ve noticed a particular strain of “chance-ism” shaping itself around the dopey language of eco-mysticism, wherein the “universe” , or “nature” will have it’s way; this abstract force that will make for good or bad fortune and can be “read” according to whim.

    Ian, I’d like to meet the old ladies you hang out with.Introduce me to them when you’re finished writing complete fabrications.