Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anaxagoras and the human condition

One of my friends just talked to me about an interview series between an evangelical Christian and a couple of Satanists; he pointed out that although most of the YouTube comments railed against the Christian for being a fundamentalist, the Christian actually ran circles around the Satanists, who were complete idiots. My friend's point: contrary to common perception, Christian fundamentalism is neither necessary nor sufficient for stupidity.

I mention this not because my friend's insight is profound (though apparently it is beyond many people's capacity to grasp), but simply because it occurs to me that Anaxagoras's view of matter is a good metaphor here. For Anaxagoras, every bit of substance contains a bit of every other substance; it makes no difference how much you try to purify something, everything always contains everything else in it. Likewise, we might point out that no matter how much you try to purify humanity by carefully choosing out a select group from the masses, you can be assured that the group you select still will contain idiots. It does only slight violence to the metaphor to notice further that any such group will undoubtedly consist primarily of idiots.

No comments: