[ELDRITCH-DARK] Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)

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#1 [ELDRITCH-DARK] Re: Lovercraft and materialism (new branch from the Hieroglyphs thread)

Beitrag von Nyarlathotep » 12.10.2019, 18:36

My understanding from what I have read by Lovecraft and from some excellent discussions, years ago, with J. D. Worthington, is that Lovecraft would have endorsed these remarks from geneticist Francis Crick: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." You are nothing but a pack of neurons." (My underlines.) These neurons are not evidence of a Creator, or of some other source of intelligent design. They are the inevitable outcome of countless (to us), random atomic events, and of the tendency of mutations that happen to be favorable for reproduction to persist and pass on what appears to be "information" but is really no such thing; it's just molecules that happen to work a certain way. This is an expression of scientism, which the late scholar of religions Huston Smith called the "world's littlest religion." Scientism is a faith; it's a resolution to believe in a certain way. It may appear to provide a convincing answer to some of life's problems (e.g. Why do bad things happen to innocents? It sure looks like we live in a vast, utterly uncaring universe that is not aware of us). It also means that the things that seem to us (till we learn scientism) to be meaningful, to be "signals of transcendence," are no such thing; they are as finally meaningless as the dead earthworm in the rain puddle on the asphalt street. Now I think this is what Lovecraft believed, and yet he was also sensitively alive to some forms of beauty and so on. His commitment to materialism required him to deny the apparent value he sensed in those experiences, to write that off as just a quirk of his personality, such that really the person who evidently did not see the beauty, feel the wonder, was no worse off, except perhaps subjectively, than himself. From Lovecraft's point of view, the person who was subjectively content and happy, whatever his way of life, was just as well off as the other. You couldn't be a consistent materialist and yet say that Lovecraft at his happiest (perhaps relishing a beautiful sunset, and, a couple of hours later, spending a late evening with a good telescope and a clear sky) was any different from, any better off than, a hypothetical person absorbed by a virtual reality device, lying in a filthy bed swarming with bugs and rank with feces. In either case their neurons are being stimulated so that, subjectively, they feel content. Lovecraft's horror at the VR addict I have postulated would, he would need to say, be merely the inevitable result of what happen to have been his subjective history and his biochemistry, etc.; really, the VR addict is not in a horrible state. Lovecraft might be willing to make a story of something like this because he liked to write horror stories and could count on most readers being disgusted and appalled. But from his own point of view, really it doesn't matter. It wouldn't matter if all mankind went mad from some cataclysmic revelation of the Old Ones. It could happen, it might not happen, it doesn't matter; Lovecraft has made his peace with a cosmos wherein love and intelligence don't finally matter, even though that cosmos might seem to matter to some transient matter-energy units that we call human beings for in infinitesimal moment. I think this is a fair statement of HPL's commitments, and a demonstration of his dividedness. I suspect he would agree and say that, things being as they are, dividedness permitted him to live with a kind of integrity: he admitted both sides of his inner life. Whether this was always really good enough for him, I don't know. He might have had to wrestle with the matter more if it were not for his having a supply of admirers to whom he could expound his materialism once again. I'm sure that he enjoyed doing that, and that it might possibly have helped to quieten faint, faint whispers of misgiving, if such there were. This contrasts with Machen's view, which I will probably develop here later, although there's much of what I would say already there in the Hieroglyphics thread. Incidentally, C. S. Lewis, as a young man, had a period in which his belief was very close to Lovecraft's. "The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast. On the one side a many-sided sea of poetry and myth; on the other a glib and shallow 'rationalism.' Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless. The exceptions were certain people (whom I loved and believed to be real) and nature herself. That is, nature as she appeared to the senses. I chewed endlessly on the problem: 'How can it be so beautiful and also so cruel, wasteful and futile?'… I was so far from wishful thinking that I hardly thought anything true unless it contradicted my wishes."

Source: http://www.eldritchdark.com/forum/read. ... #msg-12132