If we look at animals, we notice 3 levels of awareness.
-First there is the realm of the “reptile brain” concerning itself the basic impulses, sensations, and instinct. Hunger, lust, cold, warm, thirst. Most animals go no further than this. They have no need to.
-We notice another tier in some higher animals with more complex instinctive behaviors, memory and learning, emotions and social skills.
-Lastly, we see in some humans a limited form of what we call consciousness or self-awareness.
The philosophers of the enlightenment who created the ideas of modernity predicated their ideas on human society on the assumption that most humans are rational and self-aware.
This is of course not the case.
The vast majority of humans adhere to whatever ideas they are taught early in life without ever a thought. For the most part, humans thrive by banding into tight collectives and living their lives railroaded by instinctual protocols of social interaction, courtship, and rearing offspring just like pretty much any other high level social mammal. They can hardly be distinguished from wolves, baboons, dolphins, or chimpanzees.
The individual as enlightenment thinkers conceive of one, is a being who hardly exists amongst humans at all. And only a significant minority come somewhat close to the ideal of being able to think objectively and then only some of the time about certain things. We have only to read for 15 minutes about the inbuilt cognitive biases in humans and immediately begin to recall some of the stupid decisions we’ve all made.
From the erroneous underlying assumptions of human rationality and consciousness come the catastrophic ideologies spawned from the Enlightenment.
Capitalism and Marxism in their various forms are portrayed often as opposites, yet both come from the same source, Enlightenment thinkers who believed societies were composed of free rational individuals.
Marxism believes the masses of workers ought to rule and Capitalists believe a market formed by the purchases of the masses ought to rule.
Both try to solve the problems of a society of rational individuals, a fantasy society that doesn’t exist. This is why both systems, despite their good intentions end up wrecking entire peoples.
The empowered workers end up creating a despotism that impoverishes them and even causes famines.
Market demand enshrined as God destroys everything in its path like an amnesiac beast enslaved to its present whims. And in the end, what good is all the wealth in the world if the people meant to benefit are destroyed and the sterile units of money still counted dutifully by whirring machines, oblivious to the piles of dusty bones nearby?
Ultimately, humans are group selected, like other social and eusocial animals. The ideas that stand the test of time and spread are those that help one group of humans outcompete another.
If we would have a successful way of improving life for most people, an idea must first provide for the spread and defense of its adopters. Enlightenment thinkers provided no defense. Their ideology is like a nation without a military. They had no concept of the harsh realities of survival, preferring to live in their dream world.
Every surviving major religion has some directive that its followers go forth and multiply, to defend against outsiders, and in some strains to proselytize.
For nature doesn’t care if the most competitive system makes people happy or not so long as it proliferates.
No ideology will have its intended results unless it is grounded in a firm understanding of how people actually are in the real world.
Yet I can’t see how an ideology that shows people the unpleasant truth of how we really are could ever become very popular.
Its adoption would depend on those more capable of consciousness subjugating those less aware and the humans most Human in the Enlightenment sense adopting rule over human animals as man establishes rule over beast.
Perhaps a banker who rules over a million humans by extracting a penny from each every day through sleight of hand is the natural ruler, parasite, and predator of their herd.
Or the politician who outwits them all through sophisticated talk?
Perhaps their easy dominance over the many shows us how a well-intentioned philosopher could come along and use an engineer’s knowledge of societies to realize their vision.