Of flies & ants

“Next to the error of those who deny God,” says the author of the Discourse on Method, “there is none which is more effectual in leading feeble spirits from the straight path of virtue than to imagine that the soul of the brute is of the same nature as our own, and that in consequence after this life we have nothing to fear or to hope for any more than the flies or the ants.”

The brutes are animals other than humans, by the way. We have come to a time when Descartes needs a commentary.

Nothing to fear from the future more than would terrify a fly or an ant, to our deficient Modern. For his life can boast nothing more consequential. He has, in the universal scheme of things, no greater claim on Reason, or “soul,” and no clew by which to rank himself above the dumb animals.

Most, or rather all, contemporary schools of Atheism are like this. It is why our feeble Moderns love animals, but want the human race extinguished. It is not that humans can’t feel. In this respect they admit that a person is as sensitive as a warthog, and possibly more sensitive than an earthworm. But it is his capacity for thought┬áthat marks him apart. This is what makes him dangerous, and indeed, a grave environmental threat. Depopulation would reduce it, which is why population control is crucial, among “sceptical” left-progressives.

Just after Descartes was quoted as a pro-human, in my grade-school history of philosophy (Copleston’s), he took a glorious crack at Montaigne. For Montaigne was a notorious animal-lover, among his other intellectual frailties. He liked to note that some animals behave better than people (although his criteria were never clear).

There is a difficulty in arbitrating or playing referee between these two radical positions; the serious one of Descartes, and the silly one of Montaigne. One hesitates to champion the Cartesian dismissal of dumb animals with psychotic self-confidence. They are incapable of Reason, true, and can’t even talk (except parrots) at the level of a podcaster, or a politician.

But I, for one, hold Reason in uncommonly high regard, which is why I don’t go to the zoo, or to the Internet, expecting to find an intelligent conversation.

I did, however, recently listen to a young lady in the medical profession explain her Atheist conviction to me. And four centuries after this view was soundly demolished — by a Frenchman I admire but am not always fond of — I was compelled to listen to her dietary advice, mixed with post-Christian blather. She (a registered nurse, apparently) looks to a future which she will share with the defunct flies and ants.

Whereas, I still hope for something better.