But_Never_a_Man_Humanism_and_the_Divisi.pdf - Peter...

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Peter Capofreddi 1 “BUT NEVER A MAN”: HUMANISM AND THE DIVISION OF LABOR The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,—a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man. Emerson [1883, p. 85] The sardonically skeptical sentiments of Molière and Voltaire, which demand that we not take the fictions of religion and philosophy too seriously, have escalated over time into a universal and highly exaggerated sort of anti-intellectual sentiment, which demands that we not take anything other than production and commerce too seriously. All of man's psychological needs other than the need for material comfort—all virtues other than prudence—all literature other than journalism and technics—all these, in our new philosophical outlook, are banished—banished to the same place of contemptuous indifference to which we have banished religion. Not only can the new anti-intellectualism not tolerate the fictions of religion; it can’t tolerate any fictions, even those which embody and demonstrate psychological truths about man. We’re squeamish about all aspects of human life that don’t fit neatly into the dichotomy we have set up for ourselves, a dichotomy which separates work —that which is serious and deals only in facts—from entertainment —that which is lighthearted and deals only in fictions. The serious work of fiction, which is not mere entertainment, which teaches us something important and serious about ourselves, is a threat to this dichotomy, and therefore scrupulously ignored.
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Peter Capofreddi 2 Among the most urgent normative questions facing the intellectual leader in the present age is the question of how she should relate herself to the division of labor economy. Should she participate? If such participation is inevitable, is there some way she can participate without making herself into a merely partial human being? Because of the way today’s university is organized, the answer to such questions is already conceded before the study of normative questions has even begun. Philosophical inquiry itself is assumed to amenable to division of labor. Division of labor becomes part of the cognitive apparatus—an inescapable a priori judgment whose reality can no more be doubted than the reality of space and time. Or, as Marcuse puts it, “The societal division of labor obtains the dignity of an ontological condition.” [1964, p. 129] Dualism, whether that of Platonism or Christianity, is a dialectical step that might potentially allow us to escape from the perverse monism of today, in which the universal essence of all things is not water, air, or fire, but rather money. Dualism at least opens the possibility that something other than commerce might be a serious human activity. Of
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