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Schumacher (1977). A Guide for the Perplexed.

Schumacher (1977). A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper and Row.


We all recognise life if we see it but only the material aspects are regarded as truly existing by science. Schumacher argues how problematic this is and why.

British economist Schumacher acknowledges a hierarchy of knowledge and consciousness; mineral – plant – animal – human. There is progression when moving up along these levels. Origin of action progresses as well; cause – stimulus – motive – will. Therefore each level of being becomes increasingly unpredictable.

Materialistic scientism, dominant in science, is flawed; methods of research used on lower levels of existence are inadequate when dealing with life, consciousness and self-consciousness.

Here Schumacher connects to Bateson: the map is not the territory. The territory of life is minerals and inanimate matter, but the stuff of life is more like a map laid out on this matter. This map exists more like information than as matter. DNA is a clear example of information stored upon layers of matter; the DNA is not equal to the matter, and the information stored within it becomes something else. As the logical step is made form the territory of matter to the map of life, this map becomes something completely different from the matter. Life is more than just a smart physical interplay of things. The consequences are huge; love is not just a chemical in the brain, a depressed person is not just lacking serotonin. Both statements to me are hopeless reductions dismissing what is crucial to our lives, what gives it value and makes it worthwhile.

This materialistic scientism, neglecting the unique qualities of the map which is life, is highly dominant in science. A conceptual frame describing life is lacking. I think the materialistic scientific frame of thinking is deeply embedded in the way we as Western human beings see the world.

Problematic because in social sphere this leads to moral relativism and utilitarianism. Acknowledging levels of being creates simple moralism: man should move to higher levels – of consciousness, self-consciousness, perhaps even higher.

I think everyone should read this book. To be ordered here.