2014-08-29

Death and Resurrection of the Science

We believe that the sacrifice is the generic paradigm that allows to understand human civilization, and in fact the one still ruling. The sacrifice produces the dissociation of the body and the spirit. The best example of that is probably the myth, common to many religions, of the death and the resurrection of the god. The dominant knowledge is based on this "sacrificial mechanism", even without being aware of it, as happen in most cases (René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, 1987). This is particularly the case of natural sciences --physics, biology or medicine--, that ultimately respond to this sacrificial structure, to this distinction of body and spirit, in order to create a spiritual knowledge out of a dead body. Jean Baudrillard understood this quite well:

"The mind-body duality is biology's fundamental presupposition. In a certain sense, this duality is death itself, since it objectifies the body as residual, as a bad object which takes its revenge by dying. It is according to the mind that the body becomes the brute, objective fact, fated for sex, anguish and death. It is according to the mind, this imaginary schizz, that the body becomes the "reality" that exists only in being condemned to death."

"Therefore the mortal body is no more "real" than the immortal soul: both result simultaneously from the same abstraction, and with them the two great complementary metaphysics: the idealism of the soul (with all its moral metamorphoses) and the "materialist" idealism of the body, prolonged in biology. Biology lives on as much by the separation of mind and body as from any other Christian or Cartesian metaphysics, but it no longer declares this. The mind or soul is not mentioned any more: as an ideal principle, it has entirely passed into the moral discipline of science; into the legitimating principle of technical operations on the real and on the world; into the principles of an "objective" materialism." (Symbolic Exchange and Death, 1976)

Thus, science is based on a thanatological paradigm: it needs to kill --or al least to inflict some sort of pain, damage or punishment-- in order to know. Dead --or suffering-- and dominant knowledge are inseparable. Or, put another way, the man kills the nature through the act of knowledge. We are saying in other words that Western science inevitably derives from Christianity, from its clear moral partition between good and evil, order and chaos, pure, rational spirit and sinner, guilty, sacrificed body.

On the contrary, another knowledge can be practiced based on the notion of incarnation. A knowledge that re-produces, re-creates, re-embodies back the spirit in the body. 

Image after Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (c. 1490) [pd] and William Hogarth's The reward of cruelty (from The Four Stages of Cruelty, 1751) [pd].