January 6, 2021 #4 of podcast: The Cult of Logic
This episode is a two-part discussion on the problems with logic when it is mixed up with intuition. I talk about how the logic that clicks because it fits in our technic worldview has led us astray in the past (ie in the NYC urban planning scene) and how it applies to Hasidic married women shaving their heads, and of course, how this is now playing out in the scientism of covid19 measures. The second part of the podcast is a conversation about the Frankfurt School’s theories on instrumental reason, which is a very limited way of reasoning in which everything is broken down to component parts.
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- #LINK: On Jewish Dybbuk forlklore see: Dybbuk | Jewish folklore | Britannica
- #BOOKS: On Jane Jacob’s and Robert Moses I drew from The Battle for Gotham by Roberta Brandes Gratz and The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
- #ARTICLE: On the traffic patterns of more highway space see here: What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse | WIRED
- #ARTICLE: On the construction of the BQE in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Brooklyn-Queens Expressway – s. Williamsburg bk (weebly.com)
- #ARTICLE: The excellent article on the Frankfurt school from which I quote extensively: How the Frankfurt School diagnosed the ills of Western civilisation | Aeon Essays
- #BLOG: I must mention John Steppling, whose essays have all been eye opening and have introduced me to the Frankfurt School, esp Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Here’s a story. I’m in the middle of Hasidic Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. I have my tour guide license with me, I have a wireless microphone that connects to the earpieces of my ten or so guests, I am explaining the unique neighborhood architecture when a woman from my group comes up to me, “Frieda, can I ask you a question?” “Sure. I love questions.” “I heard that Hasidic women shave their heads. Is it true?” “For the most part, yes, it’s true. Married women shave their heads.” “Why?” Okay, here I brace myself, been through this exchange on my tours before. And I say, “Because it’s the custom.” “But why did they make the custom?” Okay, so I take a deep breath, and I explain that we don’t know the origins of the custom. When I was a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence College studying for my Masters, which I didn’t complete, my thesis work was focused on uncovering the origin of the custom for married women shaving their heads. And if there’s one thing I took away from many, many leads, it was that the entire question’s a mystery. But then I explained that importantly, that in this community, the custom is done just because it is. It is the custom. Your mother did it, your grandmother did it, so you do it.
My customers are not happy with this answer. Now I know that a smooth-talking proselytizing rebbe from Chabad, this sect that does outreach and knows how to sell itself to the modern public, would have some mystical spin about the spiritual and the purity and other bullshit. And I know that my customers want to hear it. Their question is an invitation for some spiritual babble, but I won’t tell it to them. Because I shaved my head for five years when I was a married Hasidic woman, and I didn’t get a reason, my friends didn’t get a reason. So, the correct answer is there is no reason.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Sometimes one of my customers step up to the challenge, and they offer an answer that is more satisfying than mine. And sometimes those customers will be quite forceful. So, they’ll say something like, “I heard from my friends, and whose daughter joined the Hasids, I heard that they shave their heads so that the women wouldn’t be tempted to cheat,” or a variation of that is, “They shaved their head so that they are not attractive to strange men.” And then people in my group will go, “Ahhh,” and they’ll have this satisfied look on their face. Like, I get it, that makes sense. Hold up. Wait. So, I’m the tour guide, and here’s a [inaudible/Yiddish 3:13], this stranger, this dude who paid me money for my expertise, I’ve experienced the custom, and I don’t know everything, but I’m probably the knowledgeable person in the picture, but you believe the stranger over me. Why? Because the stranger is saying something that makes sense. What they are saying is logic. Here’s something that has been bugging me for a really long time. Where I grew up, nothing made sense. You weren’t allowed to ask why, just is. Now, everything has to make sense. Everything has to have a reason, or else you make up one.
So, in this episode, we’re going to talk about the cult of logic, logic that supersedes the truth. Stick around.
What do people mean when they say something makes sense or that it’s logical? What they are saying, for instance, is that there’s a motive that fits with the action. It adds up for them intuitively. A is followed by B very linearly. Women shave their head is A, followed by B, the sanctity of the marriage is preserved. You had a behavior, you found a motive, the motive explains the behavior, wallah, you found the answer. But why does the motive explain the answer? You intuitively feel satisfied, you feel that a-ha, but why? What’s intuition? Intuition is not a priori truth that you are born with that magically tells you this is it. According to Wikipedia, the colloquial sense of intuition is a gut feeling based on experience. It’s pattern recognition of similar things that fit with what you already know. In other words, intuition is based on your experience. And your experience is colored by your culture. Your culture is one in which marriage is not a family arrangement. It’s not for the sake of preserving a blood line. It’s not a religious institution. It isn’t a pragmatic partnership in which two people have children. It’s more than anything, an institution of love and romance and sex, a partnership that is romantic. And many times, when we look at customs that were established far before our present culture, we think of it through the prism in which a marriage serves as priority and intimacy need. So, I see a lot of the comments about chastity and keeping the marriage spicy as part of the century zeitgeist that would not necessarily be the first order of business in earlier time.
But people don’t want to hear that some of the traditions evolve before and that we don’t really know what purpose, if any, had. A lot of people will rather take post hoc explanations than except that some things are done for mysterious reasons, for no reasons, for silly reasons, or for reasons that are now expired. History is replete with examples of times something made sense and was considered common wisdom but was loaded with assumptions and knowledge of the time. And just because it added up based on the knowledge of the time didn’t mean it was correct. The theory of viruses prior to our current germ theory, the accepted scientific understanding of how illnesses are created, was miasma theory, which was something in the air that caused, out of rotting organic matter that caused you to get sick. Or in Jewish history, in Jewish culture, the dybbuk was the manifestation of what we now understand to have probably been mental illness that was then seen as a spirit that because it had caused usually the woman who was the bearer of the spirit to go so crazy, it needed to be resolved by extracting the bad spirit. So, there’s treatments which followed which seemed rational. All the ritual performances and chasing the dybbuk and screaming at the dybbuk were built on assumptions of where the woman’s erratic behavior came from, that of course, we now know are myth.
One particularly interesting example I was recently reading about that I thought would really illustrate what I’m saying is that of the New York City urban planning scene in the 20th century with Robert Moses. Now, Robert Moses is now very infamous. He is nicknamed the Power Broker. And his tenure in New York City as a public employee in redesigning the city is marked by a very technocratic approach. He was a real technic, and his vision was a futuristic city with all of us in isolated automobile pods, zipping from one place to another conveniently, no need for the grimy and the seedy. And you got to place the poor people out of their slum neighborhoods into these projects. So, this was a very artificially coordinated city vision that he had in mind in which you had to aggressively reorient neighborhoods and the city in order to make this vision come true. And nothing was too much for this end goal. This often meant razing whole neighborhoods, and as a matter of fact, and as a tangential aside, Williamsburg, which is where I give tours, was very impacted by this because Williamsburg got cut down by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which doesn’t even run perpendicular to the neighborhood. It just goes on a slant. And when it was constructed, the city took the homes that were in its way with eminent domain, and various churches and synagogues were just demolished so that the neighborhood can make room for this highway which goes under and over the neighborhood. And this project was part of how Williamsburg was so dramatically changed. It was not the only reason why a lot of people moved out, but many people left Williamsburg at the time of so much destruction because their homes were taken, and they might as well have gone somewhere else. But Williamsburg before that had been a much more eclectic neighborhood. And after the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is when it really started to be a homogenously Hasidic neighborhood. But there’s more going into what changed the neighborhood into such a homogenous neighborhood, and we’re not doing a walking tour right now, but this is just tangential on how Robert Moses comes into the picture for my area of interest.
But what I want to talk about is, when he was building these projects, there was local organized resistance to what he was doing. Jane Jacobs, who wrote the book The Life and Death of Great American Cities, and who was smart as a tack – she was smart not in the over educated way, but she could talk about things in very lucid but also very common-sense ways. And she was dubbed the housewife who was standing up to Moses, although that was a completely simplistic caricature of her. But she lived in Greenwich Village, and there were plans to build highways in Greenwich Village and through Manhattan. And she got involved in the organized opposition to the construction. And the grounds of the opposition, in part, that the local communities were waging against the Moses governmental bureaucracy was that not only their neighborhoods were going to be destroyed but that the cars were going to emit a lot of pollution, which will harm their neighborhoods. Now, the Moses camp argued that they were going to make sure that there’s going to be reduced pollution. One of the ways in which the pollution was going to be reduced was by making the traffic more dispersed.
I’m not going to go into this whole how this went down. But the important to what I’m getting at is that the highway was said to be built wider so as to have fewer cars on the road at once. You won’t have all of these cars crammed together, honking and emitting their pollution onto the East Village, Greenwich Village neighborhoods, but rather they’re going to be moving fast. And this was supposed to…this smooth moving traffic that was not as clogged up was supposed to help with the pollution. Now, the approach to making the traffic move fast was to build wider highways. And this was common sense at the time. This was not Jane Jacobs common sense, but this was common knowledge that no one even contested. You build wider highways, and then the traffic flows more smoothly. Think about it, it makes sense. If you take a highway and you have all these cars, and you make the highway wider, then the traffic disperses. If, however, you make the highway narrower, then the traffic clogs up. If you’ve ever tried the bottleneck at the George Washington Bridge, you know exactly how it works. We could also take that from the analogy of waterways, how we can control waterways – we build dams, it does essentially that. We raise the water or we lower the water based on how narrow or wide we built the waterways or the dams. But what we’ve come to see through experience with highways, and this is now common knowledge in contrast to what was known in the 60s, is that if we make highways wider, not just ramps, but if we build wider roads, then more cars will get on the road. We’re incentivizing people to get on the road, we’re making it easier, then more automobiles will be there. If it’s clogged up, if you need to drive through Manhattan, you’re disincentivizing and you have less traffic. So, the theory that you make roads wider and wider and thereby reducing traffic was simply not borne out in reality, even though it clicked, it made sense, it was intuitively reasonable.
The same went for leeches, and Jane Jacobs in fact wrote about this, how some doctors got very aggressive in leeching the poison out of an ill patient and further and further getting aggressive with how they were applying this medical treatment, even though the patient was in excruciating agony, because it was sensible. You were removing the juju, whatever it was that was needed to be removed, and it made sense, it followed.
I think that this is what we see with masks. With masks, there is a sense that there’s a virus, there’s something in the air, and it just follows that if you put something, a physical barrier, then it won’t be able to move through. It makes sense. A lot of people, if you discuss masks will say it’s very simple, dumbass, you have a mask, you put it on your face, the virus can’t get into your nose and mouth. Now, some experts who have studied viruses, and we know this, have argued that viruses are tiny, and your barrier doesn’t actually work. But it feels like it does. There is the experience of protection that comes out of the physical barrier and the ability to imagine that transmission being stopped. I think we see a lot of that in religious realms as well where cloth can be used to move to create a barrier of a spiritual movement. And when you have that image in your mind of this spiritual movement, once it’s in your mind and it fits, it becomes a very powerful visual image. If you look at all the Coronavirus measures, there’s a lot of that at play. You stand apart so you can’t give each other the bad juju, you have to limit the number of people so you can’t give each other, you have to wash your hands repeatedly and on and on. Some of it is good, of course, and some of it has been shown to be actually effective. But some of it also, while it might intuitively make sense, if you’re washing your hands repeatedly, you’re also removing things that are there that you need in order not to be overly desensitized, or you don’t want to bleed your skin dry. There are other things going on there. But if your visual is so strongly of a hand that is dirty, and you’re going to be repeatedly removing it just because it fits in your mind in that form of logic that is a logical limited to reasoning in a restricted sense. Your reasoning has only a small number of facts out of the empirical world, and that’s what you’re building on.
In the Hasidic community, there’s a lot of instances of OCD that are very much coming from the exact same place. People who will wash their hands repeatedly because they’re afraid that they got impurified and will become extremely distraught and will get their hands to be raw and crackling because they see their hands, the impurity, and it just is sitting in their head in this limited exchange of hands dirty, hands dirty, without the bigger picture of wait, maybe you’re not worshiping God with happiness. You’re supposed to be [Yiddish 17:36]. Maybe there are other things that are going on, even for a religious person, that doesn’t add up if you’re so obsessed with purity. But the brain has a natural tendency to click with these narratives, and then it’s very hard to get out of it. And when we say logic, when we understand something intuitively, if that intuition is built on that click, but that click is limited and is not open to being challenged from all the other data, empirical data in the world, then it’s not actually logic, then it’s not actually correct, then it’s not actually intellectual reasoning. I hate even using the word intellectual reasoning or logic or all of these because they’ve been so corrupted by this snarky and limited way of talking about things. But you’re not going to come to the truth if your reasoning prefers that which clicks over that which can be empirically shown to be a more complex but less satisfying story.
When Robert Moses’ projects failed, for instance, he built these projects that were supposed to rehabilitate poor communities, the de-slumming of New York City, when things failed, when the projects became places of crime and more isolated, scarier places than they had been when they were open slum neighborhoods with easy access to supervision, then the big guys, the big wigs in these elite fancy universities who had studied the theories and had all of these ideas in their heads that were not practical but were under the legitimacy of the credentialed, they framed the failures of their projects as people not behaving. So, they would say the people are not behaving, we have built this garden in the projects, and the people are not behaving, they’re not enjoying it and appreciating it and avoiding crime. Of course, the people didn’t ask for the garden and the people wanted to be able to feed their children and have opportunities and they wanted their neighborhoods, and they were no thank you for the heavy-handed destruction of their neighborhoods. But the high and mighty were saying, well, it’s not working because people are not behaving. Of course, people were behaving; they were behaving like people. People don’t behave like an algorithm, where you place them here and they go, and they appreciate a garden, and then they go to the other end, and they go to the playground. People behave in much more cacophonous ways.
We see the same thing with masks. We keep wearing masks, and we keep distancing, we keep closing schools, and we keep doing all these precautions. And still, we don’t see any measurable difference. So, we are told people are not behaving. People are not doing it enough. They’re taking off their mask between bites too much. No. We should have learned by now people are behaving. This is people. Humans are not machines. You with a technocratic mindset making assumptions about human behavior that is setting you up to expect of humans things that are just not going to happen, you ask people to stay in their houses locked up for months on end, barely go out, barely socialize, and they don’t do it, guess what, they are behaving, you are not behaving.
There’s much more to talk about behaving and misbehaving so stick around.
It seems we prefer some explanations over others. We prefer the explanation that Hasidic women shave their heads to preserve the sanctity of the marriage and to preserve their chastity over the explanation that this is a custom that has been borrowed and preserved and evolved and whose exact origin was lost in time. We prefer explanations for almost every Hasidic custom that will define the behavior as being motivated for a religious end. Something as simple as fashion – Hasidic children will be dressed in the same clothing, in matching outfits. Now, this shouldn’t be too complicated because even in the secular world, for Christmas pictures, for instance, the entire family will wear matching clothing. So, this is not so complicated as a fashion concept. Yet, when people ask me, they will want to hear that it is because it helps the family know which of the children belongs to them. “Tell me, Frieda, that it’s because the children won’t get lost.” And when I say it’s just a fashion, they’re not as satisfied, and it doesn’t click. Even if they don’t argue with me, I feel like it doesn’t sink in. And this is something I’ve been mulling over so much. What makes us think that everything has a use? Why do we think that everything we do is driven by an end goal as quantifiable and as practical as not losing one of your children? Furthermore, it seems to me that we are not even aware that we think in this way. We’re not even aware that we want everything to have a logical cause and effect, that we think of things in such technical terms. In other words, we are fish who don’t see our water because we don’t see that the water we’re in is a limited view. To only see things as actions motivated by an end result and to always prefer to think of human behavior as driven by a useful motivation is a limited prism because we do things that don’t have use at all. We’re driven by a myriad of things that are collectively so much larger than simply looking for a practical outcome.
Our educated class today is indoctrinated in this prism, and they are so smug and condescending to anyone who is not indoctrinated to their worldview, but they don’t realize that their worldview is a limited worldview. It is the worldview of the technic. It is a worldview that is derived from the limitations and the vocabulary of technology, of machines, of artificial intelligence, of usability, which doesn’t include all the more complicated human factors that don’t have a language in the hard science or technological realms.
The Frankfurt School was very prescient, and they were able to already diagnose this problem with modern society, and they gave a vocabulary to the problems that we have here. So, I’m going to tell you about the Frankfurt School, but in order to make sure that I’m being as clear and getting this right, I’m going to be referencing the Stuart Walton article, which was published in Aeon Magazine in May 2017, and it’s titled Theory from the Ruins. So, the Frankfurt School was established in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923. And it was comprised primarily of Jewish intellectuals from bourgeois backgrounds, from well off backgrounds, and they were confronting a very staggering problem of the time. Now it’s 1923, and the Enlightenment promise had really taken root. The common belief by then was that humanity was en route to great progress in a linear line from darkness and primitiveness and superstition towards reason, science, and enlightenment. Yet these Jewish intellectuals, and this included some very well-known ones, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, they were struggling with the question of how does the Enlightenment promise jive with what was going on in Europe in the turn of the 20th century? Enlightenment was supposed to get rid of primitive superstitious, murderous savagery. And yet here was 1923. The world was in crisis after World War I which had seen so much destruction and there was so much agitating. And of course, as they were working out their theories, World War II broke out and they had to flee Germany. In fact, Walter Benjamin died en route in a hotel room while trying to flee Nazi Germany. The official narrative is that he committed suicide. The others escaped to America. But their question became evermore pertinent – what happened to the promise of Enlightenment? What happened to the promise of peace and prosperity, that instead, the machines of science, the efficiency of modernity was being used to systematically destroy so many people? And for the Frankfurt School, the answer lay in the limitations of our Enlightenment thinking, which had taken the scientific method and reason and had made it the only way through which we could understand the world. They were not against the scientific method, and they were not against rationality, but what they were saying is rationality itself and breaking things down to its component parts itself, is not the whole. So, here’s the quote from the article:
“While the power of reasoned judgment was in one sense the agent by which superstitious beliefs were dismantled, it was then set up as a rigidly unquestionable authority in itself – what the authors termed ‘instrumental reason.’” End quote.
For me, instrumental reason is something that I began to see everywhere once I started to learn about it, the way people reason instrumentally. When you ask me why do women shave their heads? And you anticipate and expect an answer in which the act of shaving the head is instrumental, then you’re approaching the question within the realm of instrumental reason and will pick first and foremost the answer that satisfies that condition. But here’s the problem with instrumental reason. I’m going to quote again from the Aeon article:
“The transformation of living entities and processes into inert objects or things…once they become the components of a rationally ordered mechanical system, something of their humanity has been robbed of them.” End quote.
Something of their humanity has been robbed of them. Breakdown a potential mate to all his or her component parts – height, weight, appearance, photo, political affiliation, sexual orientation, religion, politics, favorite movies and favorite books, lifestyle and arts – I take all these categories together, and you feed it into the algorithm, and you get a 94% match. You know and if you’ve tried dating on online algorithmic software, you know that you don’t know this person. Whatever you are getting from the algorithm from all these component parts will not give you the actual person. You have to meet them. You have to experience them to know them, because between the component parts and the actual person, something is missing. And that something’s not some kind of New Age fluffy spiritual thing. I’m not talking about something in a religious sense. If I were talking about something in a religious sense, then I would use religious language. I have no language to describe that something. We have no language to describe that something. We do the same thing with education. We divide it to its component parts. Attendance, participation, this assignment and that assignment, every single assignment goes into the completed grade in the algorithm, and you produce a total score of X number, and this is how well the student has done. In order to get into college, you put in the algorithm of the score on the SATs and the ACT and so on and so forth. And yet, and yet, something is missing. You will not know what kind of student this person is, what kind of learner and what they’re getting out of education purely by looking at the component parts as we can divide them with our scientific vocabulary. Something is missing, and we are ignoring that something, and we are pretending it doesn’t exist. And we are pretending we can go on in life without that something, that we can model human behavior, and we can predict viruses and climate behavior. And all of these things are modeled and are taking into account a human population, animals, an entire living world that is only being broken down to its component parts with a large swath of our humaneness missing.
To me that something is there. That’s something that makes humans special, animals special, any living thing special. Any living thing distinctly different from something that’s inanimate is there. It shouldn’t even be a question. We should in theory be assuming that something is there and working it out through philosophy and the arts and various different methods through which people work out this distinctness that is humanist. But instead, we’ve turned art into a mechanism within the cold limitations of instrumental thinking. We’ve turned everything in the world into this narrow box. And we have denied that the something is missing. One of the somethings which we can name is history. And history is a complex mechanism that sets in motion cause and effect and traditions that all cascade into later actions and reactions and push and pull. And we can learn a lot about the human behavior and what drives us through looking at the big holistic meta-narrative of history. For instance, I think it’s very important to understand the Hasidic community and its behaviors to look at the meta-narrative of history and understand how human behaviors evolve and what its uses and what keeps it going. But history is much more complicated than instrumental thinking. And this is something that just doesn’t appeal to us. In our age when we claim we are educated, but when we say we are educated, our education is limited within the instrumental thinking, and our history is all about cramming facts into your head, as many facts as you can, as if that is going to do anything. Who needs these useless facts if they’re not contextualized into the larger story that captures humanists?
I’ve been seeing instrumental thinking everywhere, everywhere I look. Everything is now reasoned and explained with instrumental thinking. Just open the New York Times, look at any article about health and science, human behavior, and you’ll see study cited and expert saying, and this is the statistics and that is the percentage. Everything is in the algorithm correctly named and referenced. Nothing is just because this is the human experience. We’re not just lonely, we’re not just in need of intimacy, we’re not just in need of community, you need to cite a proof. And where’s the proof? The proof is in a study that has proven that without community, we have higher incidences of cardiovascular illness, and therefore, it is necessary. Why do we need such a proof? Or why do we need a partner? You turn to evo-psych, evolutionary psychology. It’s so hot now. Anything that can be explained with simple cause and effect is explained by roundabout way through evo psych, even though evo-psych really is a very iffy field, it’s one of those fields that do we really know? How do we know that things evolved for whatever reason we claim that they have evolved if we don’t really even have evidence of what it was like at the time and what drove the evolution of certain human traits? There’re so many complicated factors that have driven our evolution but to say, oh, I feel aroused when I see the color red, then it must be that in the time of the caves, the color red caused the arousal because it was the sign of something-something therefore this is causing my arousal now. Very little of evo-psych has been actually even shown to have any kind of DNA basis. It has been actually made a connection between our DNA because evo psych makes a tremendous argument. It assumes a certain genetic evolution, it assumes we have certain genetic imperatives, and it assumes to know how these genetic imperatives came to be. All the while, we have no idea how much do we know about the hunter-gatherer days, about the cave people? How much evidence is even surviving that we should be able to deduce such things? But this is where we get to if everything is deductive reasoning.
I’ve been concerned about instrumental reason for a long time now because I’ve seen how we don’t allow ourselves to see the bigger picture. We don’t believe, for instance, certain answers that I believe to be correct on, say, Hasidic culture and history if they don’t fit within our prism. And I thought this is concerning because this is a misguided approach. I also thought it shuts off the humanists, which is a red flag for me through the roof. And then in March, when suddenly, we said we can all stay home and not have any contact and cut off our children from socializing and cut off our routines, I thought anyone who thinks stay the fuck home is easy is coming from instrumental reason. People now not only deny that there are parts of humaneness that are not in the algorithm, but they also are demanding that we live as if our humaneness was limited within this prism. Now you have to wear a mask. You have to wear a mask because what’s the big deal of wearing a mask? It’s not a big deal, right? In instrumental thinking where humans are pretty much component parts, and they’re like objects, putting a mask on your face is like putting a cover on a chair. It protects it. It makes it last longer. It’s better for it. And that’s all. There’s nothing to it. What’s the big deal? Why are you being a baby? Why are you being difficult? You’re being authoritarian. You’re being uneducated, conspiratorial.
But wait, wait, putting a cover on a chair is not the same as putting a cover on a human face. You cover a human face, you don’t see the gesture, you don’t see the smile, you don’t see the quivering lip, you don’t see the heavy breathing, you don’t see the very essence of the humaneness. How could anyone think that putting masks on children for eight hours of the day to not see each other’s faces, to not breathe fresh air, is no big deal. You could only think that when your thinking of humans is so trained to be analogous with thinking like we are machines, when all of our frames of reference are the characters in video games, which are algorithms and the object in our component parts, then the sum result is this. We think that we can behave like all the objects that we have constructed around us and from which we model ourselves and our own expectations of ourselves.
The concern with instrumental thinking is if you don’t take into account our distinct humaneness, and everything is a calculus, then you’re shutting off something that’s supposed to be something of a moral barrier. I’m not using moral in a religious sense, but it’s where we take our moral inkling from. In Nazi Germany, which was of course where the scientific and the Enlightenment had come out of, Hitler’s race theory was constructed on instrumental thinking, and it could only operate within instrumental thinking. The moment you step out of instrumental thinking, it makes no sense to say that in order to achieve the Übermensch, all of these humans, the Jewish people are no use. With instrumental thinking, you have permission to create this calculus of which human and what is in the best interest of the future of humanity in this limited realm.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from the excellent Stuart Walton article in Aeon Magazine on the Frankfurt School. Quote:
“The hardest task facing any emancipatory politics today is to encourage people to think for themselves, in a way that transcends simple sloganizing and the dictates of instrumental reason. True critical thinking requires not just a refusal to identify with the present structures of society and commercial culture, but a deep awareness of the historical tendencies that have brought about the current impasse, and of which all presents experience is composed. That impulse, compared to the project of constructively helping the system out of its own periodic crises, retains the spark of a dissonance that might just one day throw it into the very crisis that would prompt a general and genuine liberation.” End quote.