Arimathea | Philosophy
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All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.
Thursday, March 3, A.D. 2016
The God Confusion

R.J. Snell has a brief but important article in the Intercollegiate Review about the nature of God and how that theological issue has affected the West: “The God Confusion: An Ancient Dispute in the Modern Heart.” I have addressed the same point several times on this site, starting with “Square Circle.” The rational order of the universe reflects God rather than constrains him. Nature is not a threat to omnipotence but a manifestation of such.

I should note that I have since softened my stance about the square circle; I am no longer sure that God could not make a square circle. This change has nothing to do with theology—I still affirm the same theological point. Rather, it has to do with the limits of human understanding. From our perspective, it is clear that a square cannot be a circle—and vice versa. Yet, it seems possible that there could be some possible coherence of the shapes at another level of understanding. I do not wish to indulge postmodern attacks on our knowledge; fie, fie, fie upon such a suggestion! However, as I have noted before, the flatland principle seems quite reasonable to me, given the general myopia and widespread ignorance of mankind. Imagine how geometry might appear to a two dimensional perspective. Several Euclidean rules would strike a two dimensional mind as ridiculous, and we see a similar relationship between hyperbolic geometry and the Euclidean tradition. It seems obvious that the distinct natures of the square and the circle rule out a square circle, but, contra my post from seven years ago, we do not comprehensively and exhaustively understand geometry. Intellectual humility does not necessarily lead to po-mo misology—or even to its more respectable Kantian precursors.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 3, Anno Domini 2016
Wednesday, March 2, A.D. 2016
Samuel Francis Criticizes the Hometeam

Radix Journal has posted a Chronicles article by Samuel Francis from A.D. 1998, “Into the Dustbin.” Francis laments the incessant infighting of the Right and attempts to find the origin of its dysfunction. He concludes that the Right is by definition the losing side of history—championed by losers. I am not convinced by his argument. “Reaction” or counterrevolution has had quite a few “successful” periods, though the leftward trajectory of the modern era is obvious enough. The strength of the essay is Francis’ recognition of the importance of conserving a concrete social order:

In the United States, prior to the 1930s, it was not so [that the Right was a band of dysfunctional losers]. The Right back then was the organized political expression of a dominant social and political class, a class that sported at its top families like the DuPonts and at its bottom such happy warriors as Sinclair Lewis’ George Babbitt and his friends. It was a class that dictated the tastes and manners of the day, was determined to keep immigrants out of the country, maintain the Constitution and the Free Enterprise System, put America First, preserve the white, Christian, Republican character of the nation, and crush the Bolsheviks and labor agitators wherever you could find them. As a ruling class, it was an amalgam of the Old Stock Protestant Establishment and the plutocracy that rose to national power after the Civil War. However poorly defined its ideas and however vapidly expressed its ethic, it was nevertheless a real class that really had something to conserve, and it generally knew that it could not conserve it unless it also conserved the social and cultural fabric through which it exercised social power.

In the Great Depression and New Deal, this bourgeois ruling class was effectively dislodged from social and political power. Its top ranks, if they survived at all, soon allied with the emerging managerial elites in state and corporation, and its bottom ranks, stripped of any real prospect of preserving or restoring the social order in which they had played a significant part, simply drifted. It was mainly those middle and bottom ranks of the old bourgeois elite that for the next forty years would effectively define “conservatism” and the Right as they were known to the generation between Herbert Hoover and Barry Goldwater. Unable to articulate its own ideas and values very effectively, it welcomed ideological allies in journalism and the academy that could express them, but the journalists and the academics were not for the most part of the same class or culture. Hence, the “conservatism” they defined displayed all the symptoms of rootless intellectualism and attracted all the odd and awkward personality types that could not fit anywhere else and would not fit with each other.

Once “conservatism” is decoupled from the social order and the social class that it naturally represents, it becomes simply one more ideological ghetto, angrily hunting down and kicking out those who deviate from its sectarian commandments and every now and then hurling a few mudballs at whoever passes by, and the kinds of personality it tends to attract are precisely those that are unable to work together for any serious purpose. It ceases to defend authentic tradition because authentic tradition has ceased to exist in a coherent form, and what it defends is “traditionalism.” It ceases to defend authentic liberty because the rooted liberty that once pertained in the defunct social order is no longer meaningful, and what it defends is “libertarianism.” It ceases to defend the people, culture, and institutions of the old order because they too have ceased to exist coherently as a fabric or have been conscripted into the new order, and what it defends is simply a pallid ghost of what was once a living civilization.

Wise words there, but the essay does not explore the vulnerability of that social order. Why did it crumble so swiftly? Was it inherently weak or contradictory, or was the fall of Old America an unhappy accident of history? Such questions are for those loser-ish intellectuals to answer, I suppose.

In surveying the past, we find that some societies disappeared through internal or external destruction, while others transformed so completely as to become something different. They all, however, came and went. One could thus argue that any previous civilization was a failure because it ceased to exist, but that is misleading because it does not provide useful distinctions between, say, the Roman polity (even given its significant evolution) and the Third Reich. One could argue that the former endured, in one way or another, for over two thousand years while the second barely made it to its second decade. Human political achievements are frail and, it seems, universally mortal. Yet, some have greater success—in temporal endurance, in human flourishing, in influence—than others. So, political study should be able to analyze the advantages and arrangements of regimes in order to distill some general political principles. With such knowledge, we might be better prepared to evaluate history’s winners and losers—and to chart future paths while keeping in mind that any planned venture depends, to some extent, on fortune. But that’s the sort of thing that a loser would say.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, March 2, Anno Domini 2016
Monday, February 29, A.D. 2016
Carlson on Trump

If you have not already gormandized enough at the political trough this campaign season, you may be interested in reading Tucker Carlson’s article last month on Politico, “Donald Trump Is Shocking, Vulgar and Right: And, my dear fellow Republicans, he’s all your fault.” It is one of the best mainstream commentaries on Trump that I have read (along with David Frum’s “The Great Republican Revolt” in The Atlantic). Selection:

But the main reason Trump could win is because he’s the only candidate hard enough to call Hillary’s bluff. Republicans will say almost anything about Hillary, but almost none challenge her basic competence. She may be evil, but she’s tough and accomplished. This we know, all of us.

But do we? Or is this understanding of Hillary just another piety we repeat out of unthinking habit, the political equivalent of, “you can be whatever you want to be,” or “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Trump doesn’t think Hillary is impressive and strong. He sees her as brittle and afraid.

He may be right, based on his exchange with her just before Christmas. During a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump said Hillary had been “schlonged” by Obama in the 2008 race. In response, the Clinton campaign called Trump a sexist. It’s a charge Hillary has leveled against virtually every opponent she’s faced, but Trump responded differently. Instead of scrambling to donate to breast cancer research, he pointed out that Hillary spent years attacking the alleged victims of her husband’s sexual assaults. That ended the conversation almost immediately.

It was the most effective possible response, though more obvious than brilliant. Why was Trump the only Republican to use it?

Why, indeed?

I have always liked Carlson; he strikes me as genuine and sensible. Moreover, his Daily Caller is a colorful little place in D.C., and they do a fine spread of munchies for events. I do miss Carlson’s bow ties, however. He should have stayed with it; why cede sartorial ground to the Left (Paul Simon—and not the interesting one)?

Posted by Joseph on Monday, February 29, Anno Domini 2016
Tuesday, February 23, A.D. 2016
The Human Cost of the Second World War

Open Culture has a post on Neil Halloran’s short animated film, The Fallen of World War II: “The Staggering Human Cost of World War II Visualized in a Creative, New Animated Documentary.” The graphic accounting of human destruction is sobering:

May their memory be eternal!

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 23, Anno Domini 2016
Friday, February 19, A.D. 2016
The Mod Quad

A couple of years ago, the University College London’s Union Council banned from campus a group calling itself the Nietzsche Club. The club was to be a philosophy discussion group that studied the writings of Nietzsche, Evola, and Heidegger. The Union Council, which I take is the school’s student government body, expressed concern that such a group could lead to the spread of fascism on campus—because a chief danger to Britain in A.D. 2014 (you know, the U.K. of the Rotherham rapes) was the rise of rightwing fascists. Timur Dautov, a council member who supported banning the reading group, happens to be the president of the University College London Marxist Society. What is good for the leftwing goose is never good for the rightwing gander. At least, honest Communists do not purport to be evenhanded. Who? Whom? is a respectable position for them.

From The Daily Beast article:

The student society was never allowed to hold a public meeting after a series of posters advertising the new group appeared on campus. One asked if there was “too much political correctness?” Another claimed: “Equality is a false God.”

Before those ideas could be explored on university property, the student union stepped in. The fledgling group was banned after the Union Council approved a motion arguing that “there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a far-right and a fascist ideology” and that “fascism is directly threatening to the safety of the UCL student body.”

“Equality is a false God” posters sound pretty appealing to me. Granted, fascion-vorwärt red armbands would have attracted more attention—and accessorized well for the smart set on campus—but I applaud the catchy advertising all the same.

So, Commie agitators have been successful across the pond in stamping out dissent. Such pinko garbage could never happen here in God blessed America, right?

Well, that sadly is a laughable statement these days. As evidence (of which there is plenty), I offer an excellent essay by George Will and some additional articles that Salvo Magazine sent out in its newsletter a few weeks ago:

“America’s higher education brought low” by George Will

“Survey: Liberalism Growing Among College Professors”

“Wise Man on Campus: An Interview with J. Budziszewski” by Marcia Segelstein

“Mind Control: Now Occurring at a University Near You” by Herb London

“Hollowed Halls: Confession of an Ivy League President” by Paul J. Maurer

“Campus Gags: The Not-So-Free Exchange of Ideas” by A.W.R. Hawkins

Indeed, the rot is deep and widespread. A friend who teaches philosophy recently told me that he does not know for how much longer he will be able to include Nietzsche’s writings in his courses. The students find Nietzche’s untimely meditations too distressing to consider. Ecce homo ultimus!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, February 19, Anno Domini 2016
Thursday, February 18, A.D. 2016
More on Moldbug’s Cathedral

In yesterday’s post, “The TRS Lexicon,” I mentioned my distaste for the alternative Right’s use of “Cathedral” to mean the general left-liberal consensus among the establishment in the modern West. I find it perverse to call good evil and evil good, and I take the Left as the antithesis of Christendom. The “The TRS Lexicon” suggests that Moldbug uses Cathedral as an anti-Christian slight, but there may be other reasons. Moldbug himself states that leftist ideology functions as our contemporary established religion in “A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations,” and he is certainly right.

Moldbug notes that the contemporary establishment cooperates to advance a certain agenda without any central organizing power. Conspiracy theorists want to attribute the seemingly coordinated moves in dismantling Western civilization to some agent—worldwide Jewry, the Freemasons, plutocractic dynasties like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, elite conferences like the Bilderberg Group, et cetera. Moldbug’s point is that there need be no central Committee for Public Safety. An ideological virus has been far more successful than the Comintern in spreading leftist ideas. So, there is no Council of the Elders of Zion, no ruling hierarchy, though the West has an equivalent to an established church. This Moldbug calls the Cathedral. While I disagree with his (and others’) use of the term, the following is why it makes for an effective image.

Medieval Christendom was not perfect; medieval men were fallen like their heathen ancestors and descendants. However, all aspects of medieval society—explicitly religious life and practice, politics, domestic and international policy, the fine arts and everyday craftsmanship, economic activity at all levels, municipal affairs and family life—all aspired to the Christian vision. Medieval man understood everything as having its proper place in the City of Man in orientation, ultimately, toward the City of God. A widely acknowledged order of the Good made possible a civilizational unity in Christendom not seen since the beginning of the modern age. Indeed, this fragmentation of modern life is a significant source of our civilization’s ills, and such is why modern ideological movements seek to recover an all embracing vision for man. The totalitarian age is an attempt to found that unity anew, whether in Marxism, National Socialism, technocratic commercial republicanism, or whatever the latest ideological mutation may be. The utopian dreamers of today yearn for some simulacrum of wholeness. They want to build their own Cathedral—an updated version of the French Revolution’s Temple of Reason where they may find salvation as l’homme régénéré.

Moreover, the term “cathedral” lends itself to such a social unity. A cathedral is, of course, the seat of the bishop in a diocese. It is therefore the central locus of Christendom: there, where the bishop, priests, deacons, and all the people of God—emperors, kings, nobles, guildsmen, peasants, merchants—unite to perform the most essential function of man—the worship of God. The cathedral is thus the image of society united in its highest act. On a more pedestrian level, the medieval cathedral provided the practical necessities of the town’s common life. Beyond the cult, it served as the source and center of public identity and pride, the main civic meeting space, the chief educational establishment, and the default market location for cities that had not yet developed additional public buildings. In every way, it was the focus of medieval social life—the House of God. The cathedral’s edifice itself recalls an even greater unity. The architecture and embellishment of the cathedral recapitulates the whole cosmos; it contains the heavens, the realm of angels and stars, the earth and sea and all that is therein—birds, hooved creatures, both wild and livestock, fish, reptiles, mystical beasts, and flora, both of the woods and of the pasture. It contains the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant; both the breathing saints and the ones who pray in the bosom of Abraham join together in the worship of God. It embraces all of history in stone, glass, paint, and mosaic—from the creation of Adam to the Last Judgment. The cathedral is the collective microcosm of creation—the place where the microcosmic priests meet to pray, where they participate in the neverending doxology of the universe in praise of the eternal God.

So, when Moldbug sought a term adequate to capture the extensive reach of modern leftist ideology and the human mechanisms that foster it, it is not surprising that he chose the “Cathedral.” In the Church of the Antichrist, the term fits perfectly.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, February 18, Anno Domini 2016
Tuesday, February 9, A.D. 2016
Köselitz contra Fukuyama

Happy birthday to my father! Many more years to you!

Henry Köselitz has an excellent little essay on the Radix Journal site: “History Isn’t Over.” He mentions Francis Fukuyama’s well known description of the world after the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of American hegemony in the 1990s—the “end of history”—and notes how history is refusing to end. In other words, mankind stubbornly refuses to accept universalist, liberal, commercial republicanism as the only show in town. Indeed, there are good reasons to think that the curtain call for that production is nearing. From Köselitz’s essay:

Liberal regimes cannot pay their debts because Liberal regimes do not have the population base necessary to sustain a modern welfare state. All Liberal regimes have below replacement birth rates, creating a situation in which there are not enough workers to produce the wealth required to provide for medical care for retirees and benefits for those unable to find work in an economy increasingly geared towards those on the right-hand side of the bell curve. As this trend is found in every Liberal regime, it is not an accident. This fall in population is the direct result of the sexual revolution, the deconstruction of the family, and the pursuit of economic growth at all costs, all of which are a natural outgrowth of Liberalism’s belief in the autonomy and equality of the individual.

The sexual revolution separated sex from fertility; it desacralized sex, made it just another recreational activity instead of the foundation of the family. The patriarchal family itself came under attack by feminism, which objected to male leadership in both the public and private sphere, and actively worked to delegitimize the family and the mores and institutions which supported it. This project was aided by businesses which wished to increase the supply of labor, thus reducing its value. All of these trends contributed to falling fertility rates, and are products of principles of equality and individual autonomy followed to their logical conclusion. Liberal regimes cannot defend their borders or protect their citizens from crime because Liberalism cannot delineate an “Us” or a “Them”. They are unable to do this because Liberalism contends that human society is merely an aggregation of autonomous and equal individuals each pursuing their own rational self interest. It thus must deny the existence of the Other. It is not possible to conceive of an Other because to do so would be to “discriminate”. Discrimination is the act the valuing of one thing over another, thus the act by its very nature violates the Liberal moral principle of equality. Because of this, a Liberal regime cannot consider questions of identity when shaping its immigration policy without contradicting its highest moral principles. It is no accident that Liberal regimes are importing millions of “refugees” who have open disdain for the values and culture of Europe and have nothing in common with the European populations which they are “enriching”. It also why Liberal regimes throughout the world have long allowed their inner cities to become third world slums.

Exactly! Liberalism eventually lobotomizes its adherents. The above words bear repeating: “. . . Liberalism cannot delineate an ‘Us’ or a ‘Them’. They are unable to do this because Liberalism contends that human society is merely an aggregation of autonomous and equal individuals each pursuing their own rational self interest. It thus must deny the existence of the Other. It is not possible to conceive of an Other because to do so would be to ‘discriminate’. Discrimination is the act the valuing of one thing over another, thus the act by its very nature violates the Liberal moral principle of equality.” Human beings are social by nature, and rational self interest involves a network of interests—because the self finds its context among broader associations—a series of “us’s.” Liberal societies are naked and vulnerable, internally and externally, to men who refuse to intoxicate themselves on eighteenth century hallucinations. Their tribes unite and find the decadent West a low hanging fruit ripe for picking—and devouring. There are barbarians at the gate, but there are no guardians at the tower, and the gate is kept open on principle. Hence, liberal regimes will fall. The question remains to what extent any remnant of their host civilization survives. This is why I refuse to rejoice at the coming disaster. I do not want modernity’s violent death to destroy anything else; for its life has marred the world beyond the fantasies of hell.

I have never read Fukuyama; I only know of the “end of history” as I know about Confucius’ Mandate of Heaven—through cultural osmosis. With apologies to Fukuyama who may have addressed the irony himself, I find it amusing that someone would identify the rise of liberal capitalist imperium as “the end of history,” which reeks of Marxist obsession with Hegelian dialectic—the thought paradigm of the very people whose utopia just self-destructed. Maybe, such was Fukuyama’s point, and he has fun with it. After all, his famous book is titled The End of History and the Last Man. How can that the second part of that title not proceed from an intellectual’s smirk?

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 9, Anno Domini 2016
Thursday, February 4, A.D. 2016
Pollack’s Respectful Whistle

Insanity is rampant, and there is no shortage of material for cultural critics. Nonetheless, I recommend a brief but clear post that Malcolm Pollack published last summer about the Obama administration’s clever strategy on the racial Marxism front: “A Respectful Whistle.” Perhaps, clever is not the appropriate word. It is not tactically brilliant to muster and direct one’s forces to attack a wide break in the enemy’s defense. That is war 101, right, if not just common sense? Thus, it is not so much that leftist strategy is brilliant as it is that American “conservatives” are blind, imbecilic, or pusillanimous (and possibly all three) when it comes to ethnic matters. So, why shouldn’t Obama’s henchmen have a little opportune fun with our Nation of Cowards?

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, February 4, Anno Domini 2016
Wednesday, February 3, A.D. 2016
Stereotype Affirmation

Claire Lehmann wrote an article of substance on Quillette about the current state of psychology research, the work of Lee Jussim, and studies about stereotypes: “How a rebellious scientist uncovered the surprising truth about stereotypes.” The irony is that the truth about stereotypes is not at all surprising—it is what careful observers of the human condition have always known. What is surprising in Lehmann’s report, sadly, is how information that does not complement Party doctrine (the “Narrative” as some folks like to say) gets shelved or ignored in a society wherein most everyone voices encomia to the values of transparency, objectivity, and rationality. What a sham—those Potemkin principles of the modern university! Ask Charles Murray, James Watson, Robert Oscar Lopez, or Lawrence Summers about their esteemed colleagues’ and institutions’ commitment to open inquiry in search of truth. See how school administrators, “educators,” and today’s students handle what Steve Sailer calls “hatefacts”—those unpleasant, counter-narrative truths that might trigger cognitive dissonance among upstanding, right-thinking citizens. Dedication to science!?!? Hooey!

Jussim’s experience should surprise and appall the academic world, but that will not happen. We should be shocked by the established, pervasive, willful deceit in our society, but its ubiquity accustoms us to its perversity. Kudos, though, to folks like Jussim—and Lehmann—who fight the good fight.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, February 3, Anno Domini 2016
Friday, January 29, A.D. 2016
Kalb on Trump

Last October, James Kalb wrote about the rise of Donald Trump in the context of “political correctness”: “Trump and the Culture of Political Correctness.” Kalb argues that Trump’s spectacle of a campaign, while showy and bacchanalian, is nevertheless less unreal than the official narrative of the American establishment, which refuses to acknowledge its own masquerade. The vivid contrast between the clown who tells the truth and the marm who gravely speaks what everyone knows to be nonsense has set Trump on the path to the White House.

Trump’s campaign has been a personal delight for me ever since he announced his candidacy by forcing the media and the politicians to address the national question. Trump—the smasher of leftist bars on the Overton window. What joy! I do not know whether he will succeed in winning—but I am surprisingly pleased by the American presidential race this year. I put no trust in the sons of men, but I quite enjoy seeing an unholy fool mock the wicked and dishonest sanctimony of the powers that be.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 29, Anno Domini 2016
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