Archaeology of Criticism



"The stream of common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for." [Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values 16 (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1974)]

"As industrial technology advances and enlarges, and in the process assumes greater social, economic, and political force, it carries people away from where they belong by history, culture, deeds, association, and affection. And it destroys the nature or the character of the places they have left. The very possibility of a practical connection between thought and the world is thus destroyed.

. . . . [Industrial technology] continually requires the movement of knowledge and responsibility away from home. It thrives upon the disintegration of homes, the subjugation of homelands. It requires that people cease to cooperate directly to fulfill local needs from local sources and begin instead to deal with each other always across the rift that divides producer and consumer, and always competitively." [Wendell Berry, Standing By Words 58 (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983)]

"The discontents of modernity may have to do with the difficulty facing liberal democratic citizens whenever they make their daily decisions. Severed from traditions and ties of place, they are free to make choices about how to lead their lives irrespective of the actions of others, yet, because they live in complex societies organized by large states and even larger economies, they are dependent on everyone around them to make their societies work . . . .

The distance between the need for a moral code and the inability of modern societies to find one becomes a problem so incapable of solution that the forces of modernity which produced it ought to be distrusted, if not condemned. From such a perspective, the things that make modern liberal democracies rich and stable will always lack meaning, while things that give people meaning will have no effect on what makes their societies rich and stable." [Alan Wolfe, Whose Keeper? Social Science and Moral Obligation 2, 5-6 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)]

"Insofar as our culture conventionally construes technical, scientific, and professional roles as those that obligate men to ignore all but the technical implications of their work, the very social structure itself is inherently pathogenic. . . .

A utilitarian culture . . . inevitably places a great stress upon winning or losing, upon success or failure as such, rather than upon the character of the intention that shapes a person's course of action or upon the conformity of his intention with a preestablished rule or model of propriety. . . .

In large reaches of our society and particularly in the industrial sector, it is not the man that is wanted. It is, rather, the function he can perform and the skill with which he can perform it for which he is paid. If a man's skill is not needed, the man is not needed. If a man's function can be performed more economically by a machine, the man is replaced." [Alvin W. Gouldner, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology 13, 65, 73 (New York: Basic Books, 1970)]

"The whole person is always greater than the cultural roles because the living organism always has more potential behaviors than the particular cultural game that society sets up in order unthinkingly to further the business of everyday living. The total individual, in other words, is always greater than the cultural role self. But man does not realize this, except in rare cases, because he must live as society has set up the plot. The result is that most people approach each other from the point of view of their roles, rather than as whole beings." [Ernest Becker, The Structure of Evil __ (New York: Free Press, 1976)]

"[T]he ability of man to separate himself from his environment and to divide and apportion things ultimately led to a wide range of negative and destructive results, because man lost awareness of what he was doing and thus extended the process of division beyond the limits within which it works properly. In essence, the process of division is a way of thinking about things that is convenient and useful mainly in the domain of practical, technical and functional activities (e.g., to divide up an area of land into different fields where various crops are to be grown). However, when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man's notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives (i.e. to his self-world view), then man ceases to regard the resulting divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and his world as actually constituted of separately existent fragments. Being guided by a fragmentary self-world view, man then acts in such a way as to try to break himself and the world up, so that all seems to correspond to his way of thinking. Man thus obtains an apparent proof of the correctness of his fragmentary self-world view through, of course, he overlooks the fact that it is he himself, acting according to this mode of though, who has brought about the fragmentation that now seems to have an autonomous existence, independent of his will and of his desire.

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[W]holeness is what is real, and . . . fragmentation is one response of this whole to man's action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought. In other words, it is just because reality is whole that man, with his fragmentary approach, will inevitably be answered with a correspondingly fragmentary response. So what is needed is for man to give attention to his habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end. Man's approach to reality may then be whole, and so the response will be whole. For this to happen, however, it is crucial that man be aware of the activity of his thought as such; i.e. as a form of insight, a way of looking, rather than as a "true copy of reality as it is." [David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order 2-3, 7 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980)]


  Contents: Archaeology of Criticism