Theodore Roszak (scholar)

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Theodore Roszak
late 1960s

Theodore Roszak (November 15, 1933 – July 5, 2011) was a an American historian, author, scholar, pacifist, teacher and social critic. He taught at Stanford University, the University of British Columbia, and San Francisco State University; he was professor emeritus of history at California State University Hayward.

Quotes[edit]

  • The truth of the matter is no society, not even our severely secularized technocracy, can ever dispense with mystery and magical ritual.
    • The Making of the Counter Culture (1969)
  • Ideology is not absent in the technocracy... it is simply invisible, having blended into the supposedly indisputable truth of the scientific world view. ...The most effective ideologies are always those that are congruent with the limits of consciousness, for then they work subliminally.
    • The Making of the Counter Culture (1969)
  • That is what Castle's work needed: a beginner's eyemy eye, before it became too schooled and guarded, while it was still in touch with the vulgar foundations of the art, still vulnerably naive enough to receive that faint and flickering revelation of the dark god whose scriptures are the secret history of the movies.
    • Flicker (1991)
  • In a time when so many artists have learned to confabulate with extremes of horror and alienation, the most daring thing an artist can do is to fill a book, a gallery, or a theater with joy, hope, and beauty.
    • with Betty Roszak, "Deep Form in Art and Nature" Alexandria 4, Vol.4 The Order of Beauty and Nature (1997) ed. David Fideler
  • Our goal should not be to borrow from elsewhere, but to search among our own cultural resources, perhaps even in modern science and industrialism, for ways to restore art to the status it has always held in traditional societies as a form of knowledge. ...art adds to what we learn from any combination of physics, biology, geology, and chemistry. It tells us the world is... deserving of reverence.
    • with Betty Roszak, "Deep Form in Art and Nature" Alexandria 4, Vol.4 The Order of Beauty and Nature (1997) ed. David Fideler
  • In the technocracy, nothing is any longer small or simple or readily apparent to the nontechnical man. Instead, the scale of intricacy or all human activities... transcends the competence of the amateurish citizen and inexorably demands the attention of specially trained experts. ...even the most seemingly personal aspects of life. ...In the absence of expertise, the great [productive} mechanism would surely break down, leaving us in the midst of chaos and poverty.
  • "Technocracy," in The Meaning of Technology. Selected Readings from American Sources (2004) ed. Montserrat Ginés Gibert
  • It will be enough to define the technocracy as that society in which those who govern justify themselves by appeal to technical experts who, in turn, justify themselves by appeal to scientific forms of knowledge. And beyond the authority of science, there is no appeal.
  • "Technocracy," in The Meaning of Technology. Selected Readings from American Sources (2004) ed. Montserrat Ginés Gibert
  • It is characteristic of the technocracy to render itself invisible. Its assumptions about reality and its values become as unobtrusively pervasive as the air we breathe. ...the technocracy increases and consolidates its power... following the dictates of industrial efficiency, rationality, and necessity. ...the technocracy assumes a position similar to that of the purely neutral umpire in an athletic contest. ...we tend to ignore the man ...Yet ...he alone sets the limits and goals of the competition and judges the contenders.
  • "Technocracy," in The Meaning of Technology. Selected Readings from American Sources (2004) ed. Montserrat Ginés Giber

The Gendered Atom: Reflections on the Sexual Psychology of Science (1999)[edit]

  • When it is another human being who is being... objectified, everybody (except the rapist) can clearly see the act as a crime. But when we objectify the natural world, turning it into a dead or stupid thing, we have another word for that. Science.
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • Life... becomes an anomalous puzzle that cannot be "explained" until scientists in laboratories find a way to animate the dead matter that is the normal condition of things. This amounts to saying that life has no "place" in the world until men—the gender that originally dominated the world and still does—can create it... in a laboratory and express it in a formula. Only then will we "understand" what life is.
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • Boyle was among the first who recognized that the withdrawal of sympathy licenses conduct that would not be permissible within an animistic vision of nature. ...The vision that he and his scientific colleagues were creating was fast becoming a mathematical abstraction lacking color, odor, texture, and personality. ...The task of the natural philosopher, we are told, is to "probe," "penetrate," and "pierce" nature in all her "mysterious," secret," and "intimate recesses."
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • Reduced to the statistical permutations of genes, life became "nothing but" the marriage of chance and selection.
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • This is the point at which the "rape of nature" ceases to be a metaphor. It is an accurate depiction... rape stems from a compulsive need to control, to control completely. ...From ...inadequacy flow fear, anger, the need to punish and subjugate. ...the objective is... to dominate this elusive, troubling female so that she will do what she is ordered to do. ...that requires the objectification of the other; she must become what he wants her to become.
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • In four centuries of taking wealth and comfort from the body of the Earth, modern science has not troubled to produce a single rite or ritual, not even a minor prayer, that asks pardon or gives thanks. But then what sense would it make to ask anything of a dead body?
    • Ch.7 The Rape of Nature
  • Science, in broad outline, can be divided into three parts: the study of the vast, the study of the tiny, and the study of life which... acts as audience to both the vast and the tiny.
    • Ch.9 Deep Community
  • Or perhaps... there is actually an infinity of universes among which only this one has by sheer accident produced the conditions for life and mind. It now requires such artful speculation to maintain an orthodox faith in chance. Skeptics, it would seem, are willing to believe anything.
    • Ch.9 Deep Community
  • Without apoptosis, life would not be possible. ...when cells lose their ability to die, they run rampant, assuming that life-threatening form we call cancer. ...The process of apoptosis by which life and development are governed is profoundly communal. ...Cells ...need to be "encouraged" to live.
    • Ch.9 Deep Community
  • The macho is in the metaphors, not the phenomena.
    • Ch.9 Deep Community
  • You and I, whole human beings, are, so Richard Dawkins insists, merely "survival machines, robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes." At its most fundamental level, he finds the living universe populated by John Wayne genetics and Clint Eastwood chemicals.
    • Ch.9 Deep Community
  • Some Calvinist divines identified an "idol" as anything "feigned in the mind by imagination." There is a haunting similarity between such teachings and Galileo's bold attack upon what he called "secondary qualities" in nature.
    • Ch.10 The Black Madonna
  • When theoretical physicists censor the public's spontaneous visualizing response by warning us we must not try to picture the underlying nature of the world, whether atoms or quarks or preons, they are drawing upon an intellectual discipline devised by Calvin. Reality is beyond the senses; only the rigorously logical mind, leaping bravely into the intangible, can grasp it. No images.
    • Ch.10 The Black Madonna
  • Women enter the sciences, but "womanliness"—those qualities that have always been stereotypically attributed to females—is not yet entirely welcome, whether it comes into the laboratory wearing pants or a skirt.
    • Ch.11 Only Connect
  • Because girls are raised to specialize in a certain set of human characteristics, would they not, then, bring to science a different sensibility? Does that sensibility have the right to be represented in science—or, for that matter, in business, politics, law, or medicine?
    • Ch.11 Only Connect
  • Goethe wondered at what point our instruments might be creating what we think we see out there in the world. ...his question is still a good one. Every science of observation must take care not to get lost among its own artifacts.
    • Ch.11 Only Connect
  • The bond of sympathy, like the artist's eye for beauty, may stretch across many divisions.
    • Ch.11 Only Connect
  • We are discovering that natural philosophy needs bonds of sympathy as well as precision of intellect.
    • Ch.11 Only Connect
  • Here, at the birth of modern science, is a fundamental insight. Our knowledge of nature Out There begins with knowledge of ourselves In Here. Until we have freed our minds and emotions of the hidden presuppositions that stand between us and the world, we can never be certain we are in touch with reality.
    • Afterword: The Idols of the Bedchamber

The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology (2001)[edit]

  • If we could assume the view of nonhuman nature, what passes for sane behavior in our social affairs might seem madness. But as the prevailing reality principle would have it, nothing could be greater madness than to believe that beast and plant, mountain and river have a "point of view." …minds exist, so we believe, nowhere but in human heads.
  • The epidemic psychosis of our time is the lie of believing we have no ethical obligation to our planetary home.
  • The Earth's cry for rescue from the punishing weight of the industrial system we have created is our own cry for a scale and quality of life that will free each of us to become the complete person that we were meant to be.
  • The alchemists of the ancient world had a teaching: "As above, so below." Four words that contain an entire cosmology. ...a grand cosmic unity, a harmony resounding in the mind of God.

The Making of an Elder Culture (2009)[edit]

  • Since the late 19th century, aging has been the normal state of all industrial societies; it is a sustained trend. Societies designed to cater to the needs of aging populations will soon become the accepted political condition of our species. Acknowledging that fact will, at some point, slide so smoothly into the conventional wisdom that future generations may not realize that this is a major new feature of modern life, this is different, this is not what human culture was ever meant to be—and it all started now.
  • All the while, steadily and without fanfare and as invincibly as all things blossom, ripen, and mature, more people were living longer. And as they did so, they were creating a possibility not even the most far-sighted futurist had anticipated.
  • The elder culture that is being improvised all around us day by day... promises to be the road toward a saner, more compassionate, more sustainable world—altogether, a more important turning point than ever presented itself in the 1960s... This, at last, is what the dissenting idealism of the 1960s was, in its highest and brightest expression, all about: a transformation of values that may finally reveal the goal of industrialization... In raising that possibility I cling to one hope. They grew up... reveling in their willingness to search beyond the limits of convention. ...What Boomers left undone in their youth, they will return to take up in their maturity... we have won years back from death. That gives us the grand project of using those extra years to build a culture that is morally remarkable.
  • The final stage of life... offers us the opportunity to detach from competitive, high-consumption priorities... At that point, life itself—the opportunity it offers for growth, for intellectual adventure, for the simple joys of love and companionship, for working out our salvation—comes to be seen as our highest value. ...That is what I have always assumed it means to be countercultural.

Quotes about Roszak[edit]

  • Roszak argues that our habits of abusing nature, as well as out patterns of overconsumption, betray a sickness of the soul rooted in our estrangement from the natural world. The roots of this sickness lie in modernism's account of a dead and purposeless universe. ...modern psychology made it irrational to care for the world. The result is we left ourselves with only a cultural or conventional basis for defining sanity, based upon the individual's adaptation to society.
    • Robert Frodeman, Geo-Logic: Breaking Ground between Philosophy and the Earth Sciences (2003)
  • Roszak makes a signal contribution to the environmental debate by turning us toward questions of psychology rather than science, and meaning rather than fact. But while raising the indispensable question of how sanely we have treated the Earth, Roszak overstates the degree of uncertainty surrounding the scientific assessment of environmental issues. There is... a fair degree of consensus concerning a number of environmental issues...
    • Robert Frodeman, Geo-Logic: Breaking Ground between Philosophy and the Earth Sciences (2003)
  • Missing from his account of science is Aristotle's sense of phronesis or practical wisdom. ...a conservative approach to questions of public concern... rooted in recognizing the fragility of community and the irreversibility of the historical process. It identifies our capacity to reason about social or political questions that are not susceptible to calculative reason. The ability to deliberate...and reach a consensus through the give-and-take of conversation—once understood as the epistimology appropriate to political debate. In ancient Greece, the polis provided the social space for deliberative dialogue among citizens.
    • Robert Frodeman, Geo-Logic: Breaking Ground between Philosophy and the Earth Sciences (2003)
  • The work of Ophuls contains one element of a larger environmental philosophy, and that if Roszak, another; what is missing is the marriage between these two perspectives.
    • Robert Frodeman, Geo-Logic: Breaking Ground between Philosophy and the Earth Sciences (2003)
  • According to Roszak, too many Americans thought and behaved in concert with the technocratic ideal. But America's youth, heirs to the modernistic attributes of creativity, individualism, and freedom, used their inheritance to challenge modernism itself by breaking the technocratic mold. Roszak admired this audacity in the younger generation.
    • Preston Shires, Hippies of the Religious Right (2007)

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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Theodore Roszak, ’60s Expert, Dies at 77 by Douglas Martin The New York Times (Jul12, 2011)