Lawrence Auster died last Friday, and today is his funeral in Philadelphia. He will be missed.
Last month, Auster posted a chapter from his unpublished book The Death of America: “The Etiology of Cultural Suicide: How the belief in radical freedom opened America to Third-Worldization.” In the comments thread, Auster comments on Plato’s Republic:
Liberalism, by liberating desire, breaks up and divides the human consciousness, putting man into deeper sleep and mechanicalness and farther from the possibility of a unified state of being, whether we are speaking of the individual consciousness or of proper social-moral order.
Plato in The Republic has a great deal to say about the proper ordering of man’s being, both on the individual level and the social. In fact it’s the main subject of the book. He calls this proper ordering “justice.” It is a state in which each faculty or part of man’s being is doing its proper work and not interfering in the works of the other parts. The reason (represented on the external level by the philosophers) directs the whole man or the whole society; rational fear (represented by the Guardians or warriors) guards the man or the society from external threat; the ordinary instincts, represented externally by the mass of the population and the trades they pursue, provides for the individual’s or the society’s physical needs. (I’m not getting the scheme quite right, but it’s something like that.)
It is commonly believed that the chief significance of The Republic is that it is a proposal for an ideal society, and because some of the specific features of this society are highly unattractive, such as extreme regimentation and separation of children from parents, The Republic is commonly rejected as totalitarian. This is not a correct way of viewing the book, and it closes us off from its greatness and genius. The main reason Plato describes a good polis in such detail is to illustrate in external terms the state of “justice” within man’s being, He doesn’t mean “justice” the way we mean it, as fairness, as people treating each other right. He means the proper ordering of man, so that man is not chaotically divided within himself, but unified, functioning according to his true nature, and directed toward his proper ends. Plato’s aim is fundamentally the same as Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s.
In Book VIII and the beginning of Book IX of The Republic, the greatest and most exciting single passage of genius I have ever read), Plato describes the downward course of the polis from true order to disorder, and one of the things that disorders it is the liberation of desire and diversity. He calls this stage or condition of the polis democracy, and the typical man who inhabits it democratic man. His description of the democratic, diverse polis is amazingly like contemporary America. (I list the main features of Plato’s democracy in my 1991 talk to The Federation for American Reform, “The Real PC,” in which I argue that the PC that drives mass Third-World immigration is much more than an elite or class phenomenon, it’s the all-ruling orthodoxy of modern society.) But that’s not the worst. When all desires are encouraged to run free, ultimately the man who has the strongest desires, who places no limit on his desires, takes over. Plato calls him tyrannical man, and the polis he rules a tyranny. This is the final stage in the downward path of the polis from proper order to demonic disorder.
How is it that Auster, who had no institutional philosophical education, understood the dialogue’s argument whereas so many in the academy, including the formidable Karl Popper, fail so miserably in their exegesis? It is shocking.
Auster’s early departure is such a loss for the rest of us. I wish my fellow View from the Right readers consolation.
May his memory be eternal!