the question ‘how?’ replaces the question ‘why?’ (morris berman, part 3)

“The control of nature—the very heart of the modern scientific paradigm—has its historical root in the renaissance Hermetic version of soul travel and ascent. But the alchemical worldview hardened into the mechanical worldview of the seventeenth century, which I think is breaking up today.

Experimentation, measurement, technical mastery became the hallmarks of the new age. The question, How? replaced the question Why? Truth was equated with utility, thanks to Bacon, among others. Newton told us, What is, is measurable. Fact and value were split apart. Vex nature and nature will yield its secrets.

So we tortured nature for four hundred years, uninterested in the consequences of our inventions. Technology became the source of a new epistemology embodied in the concept of experiment.”


From an interview with Morris Berman for Omni magazine by Murray Cox (August 1991 issue). Mr. Berman follows this statement with a brief discussion of his disappointment with the New Age movement, of which his book The Reenchantment Of The World (1981) was one of the more remarkable (and readable) examples on the New Age breathing life back into the Old Age.

Aside from Mr. Berman’s books, he oversees a rather interesting blog, Dark Ages America. DAA is noteworthy not only for his observations, but for the many comments he receives from his readers and his interacting with them. Go ahead and give it a read.

Comments and arguments welcome!