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The Waning of Humaneness by Konrad Lorenz

The Waning of Humaneness (1987)

by Konrad Lorenz

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The devaluations of individuality that occur within all large state structures avowing the most varied political convictions and, consequently, carried out in very different ways are, in their essence, extraordinarily similar.

The autonomous human being who stands on his rights to individuality and on his human rights is not the kind of citizen that is liked in large nation-states and, it should be noted, is not liked either by those doing the governing or by a majority of his fellow citizens being governed. The public opinion formed by this majority prescribes very exactly what "one" does or does not do; whoever behaves differently is, at the very least, suspect, or is regarded as not normal. (p. 188)

See also: Citation #15 at In the Country of the Young (http://www.librarything.com/work/2739... )
The system of human societal organization, the maladies of which we have been concerned with in this book, is quite unequivocally the most complicated system extant on our planet. I have tried hard in this book to organize the sequence of the sections in such a way that the symptoms of illness would be intelligible and understandable as having been engendered by the failed performances of the human mind that were discussed in the second part of this book. When I designate the currently dominant societal order as the "technocratic system," this is done because technology threatens to establish itself as a tyrant over mankind. An activity that by its nature should be a means to an end has become an end in itself. When something becomes technically possible now, it is regarded as a duty, as an obligation, to realize this possibility. The branches of science underlying and supporting technology directly have become overvalued while the significance of all other branches of science has become undervalued. The scientism discussed in chaper 3, and all its dangerous effects, stands in direct causal interaction with technocracy. (p. 172)

See also: Citations # 6 & 13 at In the Country of the Young (http://www.librarything.com/work/2739...)
and Citations # 1 (m) at Technopoly ( http://www.librarything.com/work/4682... )
The predominant system has set in motion processes of economic and technical development that can be reversed only with difficulty or not at all, and the prolongation of which menace mankind, as a species, with destruction. To these dangers I devoted an entire book, Civilized Man's Eight Deadly Sins. Here I am concerned with other dangers, certainly closely connected with those treated in the other book, yet related not to the demise of humankind but pertinent to the waning of mankind's humaneness. There exists, absolutely, the possibility that the human race will elude extinction despite poisoned air and water, overpopulation, radioactivity, and a depleted ozone layer; while the race somehow may survive these very real dangers, there also exists the second possibility that a rigid state-controlled sociopolitical organization of humanity will, at the same time and as a consequence, come to prevail and force mankind's subsequent development further away from the humane in an uninterrupted descending trajectory. (p. 173)
The technocratic system dominating the world today is at the point of levelling off all cultural differences. All of the peoples on the earth, with the exception of those described as underdeveloped, produce the same articles by means of the same techniques, plow with the same tractors fields which are planted with the same monocultures, and go to war with the same weapons. But above all they compete within the same world market and do their best, using the same methods of propaganda, to outdo one another. More and more, the qualitative differences that could be creatively effective in this interplay are disappearing. Bernd-Olaf Küppers has shown that a decline of cultural values corresponds to a disappearance of natural diversity.

It is a pernicious error on the part of the science of economics to suppose that the "natural selection" of a free market economy might be regarded with as much certainty as a creative beneficient force as that of natural selection in the evolution of species. The criteria of selection in economic life are those associated exclusively with rapid power acquisistion. According to Küppers, the value concept of economics has a pronounced normative character and thus loses automatically its temporal universality. As I attempted to show in the section on cultural evolution in chapter 3, excessive conservatism begets "living fossils," while at the other extreme variableness produces monsters incapable of surviving. This is so in the development of cultures just as it is in the evolution of species.

A much too rapid development in a culture dominated by technology carries with it, as characteristic, the penchant for that cuture to strike out often in shortsighted directions from which there is no turning aside or turning back. Many processes in our technical civilization are like control system circuits with positive feedback that, once set in motion, are difficult to stop. Economic growth and the growing needs felt by consumers, implanted through propaganda, are an example of this. (p. 176, 177)

See also Citations # 3, 4, 9, & 10 at In the Country of the Young (http://www.librarything.com/work/2739... ) and Citation #11 at In Search of Heresy by John W. Aldridge, (http://www.librarything.com/work/5949...)
Tightly interwoven with technomorphic thinking and, like this way of thinking, one of the stabilizing supports of the technocratic system, is a dislocation, a displacement, of consciously acknowledged reality. ... I recall, with considerable shame, having heard a lecture given by William Vogt about twenty years ago and not being in the least convinced that anything he said could justify the warnings he was giving us. The social behavior patterns of certain birds were more real to me at the time than were jeopardies to the human environment. Every human who is dedicated to his vocation, especially those who strive toward accomplishing self-set goals, holds the aspects of that vocation to be most real and, moreover, the most important in the world. The industrialist who has fought with self-sacrificing devotion and real idealism for the formation and development of his firm perceives these endeavors to be, quite obviously, the only "interesting thing," the only real thing. All of the failed performances of human inclinations, all of the misapplications of natural propensities such as love of order, the pleasure derived from witnessing increase, the joy of functioning and the others mentioned in chapter 5, can only conform the industrialist in his conviction. Reinforcing all of these are, in addition, the scientestic and behavioristic world views: "correct" and "true" for the industrialist is what can be verified through quantification, and the making of money fulfills all of these numerical demands optimally.
The pleasure derived from functioning, which has been discussed, can then take effect and result in the means soaring aloft to become the end in itself. When this happens, all of the humans involved become slaves to the apparatus of productgion. The vicious cycle of economic growth is then closed and subsequently becomes a malestrom into which all mankind is sucked.
Those who represent the industries now dominating our globe, with all their available intelligence, appear to believe firmly in the reality of their subjective values. At the same time, however, they appear to be blind to two indisputable facts that every schoolchild is capable of comprehending: first, that unlimited growth within a finite space cannot possibly go on forever; and second, that no properly budgeted household can give out more than it takes in. Those people who are responsible for our contemporary social order are quite certainly in a position to understand these facts; they are also not so immoral that they would be ready to expose their own children and grandchildren to a heinous extinction; they do not believe in the reality of the dangers that are threatening all of mankind because, for them, other things are real and consequently important. (p. 184, 185, 186)
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