When listening to a review by Zarathustra’s Serpent of a David Bowie song whose theme was the announcement by news reporters that we only have five more years until the world ended and the ensuing chaos, I found Arad’s suggestion that moderns had replaced, as the foundation for morality and the reason for living, God with The Future. As soon as I’d heard this, I knew it to be right. It is very interesting.
It has widely been pointed out that if God is dead then all things are permitted. This is so because nothing has a nature and so it cannot be a violation of anything’s nature to change it or even to destroy it. If things are just brute facts and we change them, they are, in their new form, just more brute facts, and there is no real way to choose between them. (This is why Nietzsche saw that humanity needed a superman who could create values and impose them by his will, such that it would become possible to live by something other than sheer will.) The superman has never come, though he has been long waited for. It seems that, while they waited, people can up with an alternative. If they could no longer live for today, they could yet live for the future.
It’s a solution that is not without its problems. It only works if one can keep up a very short shortsightedness; any contemplation of The Future as an idea reveals how empty it is. Whatever future one sacrifices for today will only be a present that must sacrifice for its own yet-to-come. Another fatal flaw is that even a cursory knowledge of history will show how utterly unpredictable the future is and how little one can realize any goal for it. To quote Jane Austen, however, desperate people are not always wise. Further, there is a sort of wisdom in a fool making plans which will only work if he remains a fool—that is what he is most likely to do.
In short, it is not philosophically coherent, but it does explain why it is that so many materialists deny that if God is dead all things are permitted.
3 thoughts on “Materialists Often Replace God With the Future”
1. Human nature is human nature whether God exists or not.
2. Human nature is a fact (or series of facts) which are explained by our evolution. Facts which have an explanation aren’t brute facts.
3. If God exists its nature is a brute fact as it cannot have any explanation higher than or outside of itself.
4. Atheists don’t have to care what Nietzsche (or Dawkins, or anyone else) has to say about anything.
5. I’ve never heard of anyone replacing any Nietzschean Übermensch with “the future”, let alone it being a thing that happens often.
6. Atheism doesn’t necessitate materialism.
As for it being foolish living for the future, didn’t Jesus tell his disciples that he’d be back to end the world any minute now 2,000 years ago?
1. No, because you can’t coherently have a category of “human” meaning something other than “this reminds me of that” from which you do not get that anything should be like anything, eg that cruelty is in some sense inhuman.
2. See 1
3. You’re using “brute fact” in a curious way – essentially you’re using it to mean “contingent”, which is not the normal usage of the one to which I was referring.
4. You are indeed free to ignore what people smarter and wiser than you (Nietszche) have said.
5. I am very willing to believe that you are ignorant in the subject, as you claim.
6. It does in westerners. You are right that, eg there are Buddhists who are atheists and believe that the material world is an illusion. It tends to work out to the same philosophical positions under different terminology, but in any event they’re not relevant to what I was talking about.
1. Human nature is “a concept that denotes the fundamental dispositions and characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—that humans are said to have naturally”. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have any such nature in a naturalistic universe, and your confusing double (or is it triple?) negative response doesn’t give one either. Maybe the reason is so obvious to you, you forgot to include it?
2. See 1.
3. No. A brute fact is defined philosophically as “a fact which has no explanation”, which is exactly how I used it. God’s (alleged) nature would be a brute fact for the exact reason I gave, namely that it cannot have any explanation outside of itself, but human nature does have an explanation, namely that it is the result of an evolutionary process which could, in principle, have turned out differently had there been different mutation and/or selection pressures.
4. Your appeal to Nietszche is an argument from authority fallacy, and it’s arrogant to assume atheists should agree with Neitzsche just because you think they should. It’s no different to me claiming that because you’re a Christian, you should accept Kent Hovind’s opinion.
I’m not the only one to have noticed that Christians seem to be over fond of authorities, possibly because Christianity is based on authority: the authority of God, of Paul, of the gospel authors, and so on.
5. You insulted me rather than supporting your claim. Do you even have any sources for it?
6. Atheism is the position of disbelief in any God or gods. There are millions of people who don’t believe in God but who believe in ghosts, for example. It does you no favours to tell others how they should define their own beliefs.