The Beginning of Wisdom p.243

Yet, standing where we stand, at the start of the twenty-first century (more than thirty-seven hundred years later), it is far from clear that the proliferation of opposing nations is a boon to the race. Mankind as a whole is not obviously more reverent, just, and thoughtful. And internally, the West often seems tired; we appear to have lost our striving for what is highest. God has not spoken to us in a long time.

The causes of our malaise are numerous and complicated, but one of them is too frequently overlooked: the project of Babel has been making a comeback. Ever since the beginning of the seventeenth century, when men like Bacon and Descartes called mankind to the conquest of nature for the relief of man’s estate, the cosmopolitan dream of the city of man has guided many of the best minds and hearts throughout the world. Science and technology are again in the ascendancy, defying political boundaries en route to a projected human imperium over nature. God, it seems, forgot about the possibility that a new universal language could emerge, the language of symbolic mathematics, and its offspring, mathematical physics. It is algebra that all men understand without disagreement. It is Cartesian analytic geometry that enable the mind mentally to homogenize the entire world, to turn it into stuff for our manipulations. It is the language of Cartesian mathematics and method that has brought Babel back from oblivion. Whether we think of the heavenly city of the philosophers or the posthistorical age toward which Marxism points, or, more concretely, the imposing building of the United Nations that stand today in America’s first city; whether we look at the World Wide Web and its WordPerfect, or the globalized economy, or the biomedical project to re-create human nature without its imperfections; whether we confront the spread of the postmodern claim that all truth of is human creation – we see everywhere evidence of the revived Babylonian vision.

 

Leon R. Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.243

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