How is a return to a traditional society possible?
While I often find myself in agreement with you, I have a question about something you recently stated, in the discussion about the Rutgers suicide:
The only solution lies outside that system. Namely, society needs to return to traditional morality, under which (a) sexual relations are only recognized and approved by society inside marriage, and non-marital relationships are not given any public recognition or status; (b) homosexual acts are considered wrong; and (c) sexual relations are not permitted in college dorms, males and females are housed in separate dorms, and the opposite sexes are not permitted to visit the other sex’s dorms except during certain prescribed hours.
How is this to be accomplished? By government force? Or is it the hope that all 300 plus million Americans will once again embrace a traditional moral code which I am guessing would mean a resurgence of Christianity (or is there another way to have a traditionalist morality?). Are the only two alternatives Progressivism and Traditionalism? Are those the only two paradigms?
As happens so often when readers ask how a re-traditionalized America could come into being, you seem to assume that I am advocating some program that would make this happen, and you are wondering what this program could be. I have no such program. I have no idea of forcing America to change. The change from the historical America to the hyper liberal America today was, above all, a change in thought. If the traditional America of 50 or 100 years ago could change into the hyper liberal America of today through a change in thought, then hyper liberal America could change into a re-traditionalized America through a change in thought. But such a change can only begin through a change in the mind and soul of each one of us. If that change could occur in one person, or in ten people, then it can occur in a thousand people, or in a million peole. But this means starting with conservatives. And that’s why I’m always criticizing conservatives and pointing out that their underlying assumptions are liberal. Imagine that millions of conservatives, whose thinking is now essentially liberal, actually became traditionalist in their thinking and opposed the liberal assumptions that surround us and instead of accepting them. Then traditionalism would become a “player” in American politics, influencing mainstream opinion, and anything would become possible.
So, my position sounds so silly when you ask me how I plan to convert 300 million Americans to a traditional moral code. But what if I said that we have to start by converting ten million intellectually and political active conservatives to belief in and advocacy of a traditional moral code? Would that be so impossible? No. And if that happened, then changing the direction of the whole country would become possible.
The essence of traditionalism as a movement is to persuade people (including conservatives) who currently subscribe to liberalism that liberalism is wrong, and that traditionalism is right.
Again, people think that the radical change I speak of is inconceivable. But when what we have is unbearable and destructive and false, then change becomes conceivable. Six years ago the Freedom Party in the Netherlands didn’t exist; now it is part of the governing coalition of the country (not in the government, but the government is dependent on its support). Nineteen months ago Newsweek declared on its cover, “We Are All Socialists Now.” Now Newsweek has almost gone out of business, the Democratic Party is teetering on the brink of catastrophe, and the Tea Party is the dominant political force in the country. So the liberal order, for all its power, is not a stable thing. It is highly vulnerable.
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“Are the only two alternatives Progressivism and Traditionalism? Are those the only two paradigms?”
I was speaking of the hyper liberal ruling “morality” we have now, and asking what is the alternative to that. And my answer is that once society moves away from traditional morality, there is no stopping point until it arrives at the hyper liberal morality we have now. And that is why the only real alternative to the hyper liberal morality that currently rules the West is a return to traditional morality.
On another issue, but by the same logic, I argue that the only real alternative to the ongoing Islamization of the West is the de-Islamization of the West.
Mark Jaws writes:
Winning hearts and minds for a return to a traditionalist society will take decades. The sad truth is that too many people, particularly men, are enjoying today’s relaxed sexual environment which allows them easy access to multitudes of women. I am not saying this is a good thing, but when we talk about returning to the good old traditionalist days, for far too many people thoughts of puritan sexuality come to mind, when one could not even utter the word “pregnant” in polite company.
However, I think we can accomplish an important first step by insisting that the federal government phase out welfare—permanently—for two reasons. First, we must cite the astronomical costs associated with the secondary and tertiary effects of welfare, which are no longer sustainable. Second, we can advance our concept of “social justice” and claim it is not only counterproductive to subsidize irresponsible and dysfunctional behavior, but it is also morally reprehensible to force a taxpayer to pay for another man’s children.
Phasing out welfare will significantly reduce the underclass birthrate and eliminate the welfare magnet which has drawn millions of third world non-productive and dependent people to our shores.
Ed L. writes:
What is your position on off-campus apartments, which, unlike dorms, are not under the administrative control of school authorities? Even if you don’t have any actionable “program” in mind, I’d like to know: is off-campus living a form of permissiveness that traditionalism should discourage or frown upon?
I assume you mean male and female students living together as couples.
Well, what was the situation in 1960? It wouldn’t have happened. Not that there weren’t pre-marital relationships going on, of course there were, but that pre-marital relationships, when they were going on, were discreet and private, not trumpeted and public. No parents in 1960 America would have allowed their unmarried daughter to live with a man in an off-campus apartment, nor would their unmarried daughter have thought of doing so.
It’s remarkable how things have changed so much that the America of 50 years ago has become like a distant, unknown planet.
We look on the depraved “reality” in which we currently live and imagine it can be the only reality. This is a kind of mesmerism.
Imagine that we found ourselves in Pottersville, the nightmare alternative town in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and I said to someone, “The only way to get out of this nightmare of Pottersville is to return to Bedford Falls,” and he says to me, “No, impossible.”
That’s where we’re at. Pottersville is now considered the unquestionable reality.
Ed L. replies:
I was actually thinking about students who rent apartments singly in their own name. Such students can invite guests in at will without having to worry about busybody roommates or campus authorities.
The liberal stance has it that that would be the ideal arrangement, but that it’s only a matter of tough real-world dollars-and-cents economics (especially so nowadays with the exorbitant costs of higher education) that preclude it.
No mystery here. Prior to the sexual revolution, women lived in their own apartments, female students (usually with other female students) rented their own apartments.
[Note: in the below comment, I quote a a rational argument made by Dennis Mangan, and reply to it as such. In doing so, I have not forgotten that Mangan wrote
, just two months ago,
Auster reduces everything to what’s good for his tribe [the Jews],
Which means, quite literally, that everything I say, on whatever subject, is “really” aimed at empowering the Jews. For having said this, Mangan deserves, from the point of view of strict justice, to be dismissed forever as a deranged anti-Semite and never to be quoted or discussed again by rational people. And even from his own point of view, since he has said that everything I write, on whatever subject, is really about helping the Jews, he himself has no basis for understanding my current argument for a return to traditionalism to be about a return to traditionalism, rather than about helping the Jews. Here, however, I will leave aside for the moment the fact that Mangan has disqualified himself as a participant in rational discussion. I will reply to his present argument, which is rational and worth replying to.]
Dennis Mangan quotes my argument on how our society could change from hyper-liberal to traditional through a change in thought, just as, over the last 50 to 100 years, it changed from traditional to hyper-liberal through a change in thought. As a counter argument, he points out that the change to liberalism was not simply a change in thought, but occurred because changing material conditions, e.g., the availability of birth control, made different, freer behaviors less harmful and more viable.
To put Mangan’s point another way, it is not liberal ideology that made us more liberal, but the material conditions brought by modernity that made us more liberal. And since the material conditions of modernity are not about to go away, it is not realistic to think that society could change back to traditionalism.
This is a reasonable and important argument, and I do not dismiss it. As a short answer for the moment, I would say that the material conditions of modernity, while they tend to push a society toward liberalism, are not determinative. Ultimately, the cultural and moral choices made by a society supersede material determinism.
Example: Japan chose as a society not to yield to the material conditions that militated in favor of immigration. Instead of having immigration to make up for Japan’s labor shortage, the Japanese made a deliberate choice to work at greatly increasing productivity, and as a result they were able to maintain their extraordinary economy without bringing in non-Japanese immigrants.
Example: Modernity pushes toward individualism and atomism. But Singapore as a society made a conscious choice to maintain traditional forms of social control of behavior. The result, in Samuel Huntington’s terms, is that Singapore became a modern society, without becoming a Western society.
So, again, notwithstanding the modern material conditions that are indeed a powerful factor pushing society toward nihilistic liberalism, each society remains the master of its fate. We should see the problem in Toynbean terms of Challenge and Response. As Toynbee puts it, each society faces a series of challenges offered by its environment. If it meets these challenges successfully, it grows and prospers and becomes more creative as a society; if it fails to meet them, it stagnates or dies. Thus the “environment” of modernity presents a challenge to traditional society by pushing it toward liberalism. The survival of each society then depends on its response to this challenge. If it simply gives into the promptings and inducements offered by modernity, it will turn hyper liberal and ultimately commit suicide. But if it responds in creative ways to the challenge presented by modernity, it can maintain itself as a traditional society even in the midst of modernity, and so assure its continuing survival and creativity.
Laura Wood writes:
It was much less common before the sexual revolution for young women to live on their own and it was much less risky because pre-marital sex was not approved by parents.
The first step for a return to sanity on college campuses is for parents to decide that they do not want their daughters sexually active. Once that step is taken, the rest is fairly simple. Asian women from strict, traditional families go to today’s colleges and do not engage in promiscuous activity, while American parents take their daughters to the doctor for birth control prescriptions. Parental expectations make a huge difference. But college girls should always live in supervised dormitories. That’s the way it was in the forties and fifties, when the idea that college should be a four-year orgy was not yet embraced.
There’s going to be a college revolution, given technological advances that make higher education much less expensive, but in the meantime this all could be accomplished virtually overnight. Parents have to want it. As it is, their focus is almost entirely on their daughters’ success in school and in work. Sex is okay in their minds as long as it doesn’t interfere with productivity. The four-year orgy is a bourgeois phenomenon.
The sexual liberation of women is directly connected to their economic liberation. The first cannot be reversed unless the second is too.
Though I read Laura’s comment after I wrote my response to Mangan, she had given another answer to Mangan’s argument. Modernity pushes society toward women’s economic liberation, and thus toward women’s sexual liberation and sexual promiscuity. That’s a Toynbean “Challenge” presented to traditional society by modernity. If a society wants to maintain traditional values (and thus maintain its very existence), then its “Response” to this “Challenge” must be to resist this particular aspect of modernity by making a conscious decision not to encourage and not to allow women’s economic equality with men.
Laura laid out this argument in detail and defended it with stunning force and effectiveness against a Homeric host of critics in her blog post “Why We Must Discriminate.”
The larger point is this: only those societies that believe in their own moral freedom to make choices in resistance to material forces can survive. Societies that subscribe to Marxian or Darwinian material determinism are, as a result of the very belief system to which they subscribe, Doomed.
Societies that subscribe to Marxian or Darwinian material determinism are, as a result of the very belief system to which they subscribe, Doomed.
And what is it that will destroy them? Material circumstances. You can’t mess with Mother Nature. Mangan’s argument is strong, because modern technology has indeed given us a great deal of power over our reproduction, and its use has indeed decayed our culture. Mangan is right also that the process of that decadence will be difficult to stop, and to reverse. But just because we can do something does not mean that it is prudent to do it, even if it pays off for us immediately. For example, we can make fake butter and doctored eggs, but it turns out that they are worse for us than the real thing. So they are going out of fashion. There is a junk food epidemic among the lower classes, but the upper classes are moving toward organic food.
The same thing can happen with artificial birth control. Thanks to venues like Catholic Radio, the public is beginning to become aware of the disastrous health and environmental consequences of birth control pills—breast cancer, atrophied male reproductive systems in humans and animals (especially aquatic animals), reduced sperm counts across many species, and even an explosion of hermaphroditism in many species, and male phylogenetic expression of female secondary sexual characteristics (perhaps expressed as a tendency toward homosexuality in our own). People are beginning to realize that it’s a really bad idea to mess with their endocrine systems, in rather the same way that they long since realized that it isn’t a good idea to get hooked on painkillers. Watch for the EPA to start noticing estrogen as a water pollutant, and a threat to our fish stocks.
So at some point, people are going to start turning away from birth control pills (and from the use of hormones and steroids in stock animals), because they have bad consequences. There is no reason why they could not similarly turn away from feminism, and from the valorization of promiscuity, homosexuality, and bastardy. These practices just don’t work out very well, because they contravene human nature. Homosexuals die young. Childless women are unhappy. Mothers of young children hate to leave them to go work in an office. Single men and women are lonely, no matter how many sexual partners they have enjoyed. Divorced people are poorer than if they had stayed married. Meanwhile, couples who marry and found religiously observant traditional families live longer, more prosperous lives than those who don’t. Their children are healthier, better-adjusted, more successful, and more numerous than those who spring from non-traditional families.
Modern technology enables us to run red lights, but mostly we don’t. We can jettison tradition, but it won’t work out, and sooner or later we’ll return to it. Or we’ll die. But more likely, the children of non-traditional families will die at a higher rate, leaving behind the children who have been raised as traditionalists—or who, thanks either to life experiences or encounters with traditionalist thought at places like VFR or Catholic Radio, have come to understand the error of liberal ways—to take their place. Like all error, liberalism sows the seeds of its own destruction.
John Dempsey writes:
Speaking of Mangan you wrote:
“As a counter argument, he points out that the change to liberalism was not simply a change in thought, but occurred because changing material conditions, e.g., the availability of birth control, made different, freer behaviors less harmful and more viable.”
And you replied:
“As a short answer for the moment, I would say that the material conditions of modernity, while they tend to push a society toward liberalism, are not determinative. Ultimately, the cultural and moral choices made by a society supersede material determinism. “
Am I wrong to think that many of the material conditions of our current form of modernity are actually the product of liberalism? If we take Mangan’s example of the advent of birth control, should we think that birth control invented itself? It was Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood funding that gave birth (pun intended) to birth control.
Can the material conditions of modernity be separated from liberalism? I’m just trying to think this through.
I see your point, but I’m not sure if this is a helpful line of inquiry.
The amazing series of discoveries in nuclear physics in the 1930s that led up to the wholly unpredictable culminating discovery in February 1940 that a two pound piece of uranium 235 could be made into a workable atomic bomb was not driven by the desire to kill Japanese. It was driven by its own internal logic, which was unfolded purely as a result of the increasing knowledge of matter.
Similarly, the advances in technology and transport that turned married couples from farmers sharing the work of home and farm into atomized salaried employees of industrial corporations were not driven by a liberal desire to make women equal to men, but by their own internal logic.
So, while the desire to control conception undoubtedly drove the invention of the Pill, the modern science that made that invention possible came into existence as a result of the internal logic of the increasing knowledge of matter, not as a result of liberalism.
Leonard D. writes:
I agree with Mangan in thinking there is a material basis for at least some of our modern social mores. In particularly, the effect of effective birth control on society is huge, and we should not expect to cram that particular genie back into its bottle. Also, an important aspect of our condition is the very wealth we’ve generated. Wealth is not a completely unmixed blessing, but we don’t want it to vanish!
However, as you indicate, there are many legal and ideological aspects of our modern conditions that are the not consequences of knowledge or wealth, but human choices. These might be changed.
To take one example: if we abolished our many subsidies for single motherhood, and we somehow credibly changed our political system so that nobody believed such largess would return, we would very rapidly see a resurgence of marriage.
Or another: if we abolished all state involvement in education, and we somehow credibly changed our political system so that nobody believed such largess would return, then we would shortly see a bonanza of private schools teaching traditional subjects in a traditional way.
And we are quite capable of dramatically influencing the society of the USA via immigration. The left knows this, which is why they want to import all those Third-Worlders. More clients for them. But the system could go the other way if rightists captured the state and actually meant business. We could cut off all immigration of Muslims, for one thing, but we could also revert back to the pre-1965 quota system, which would prefer Westerners. We have a desirable society, so we could place very stringent limits on our immigrants—if we only had the political will. (I once estimated that with proper credit arrangements, we could sell green cards for $1 million each.)
I do not believe we can return to the social mores of any past USA. Birth control alone makes that impossible. But we can return to a much more conservative society.
You might be interested in reading J.R. Nyquist’s new article, a ringing proclamation of traditionalism. J.R. Nyquist is a foreign policy expert and author, who writes a weekly column at Financialsense.com. He is starting a new blog at this site, but his current website is JRNyquist.com. I have sent you some of his work before.
“The war that is really ongoing, in our time, is a war against our ancestors and against the Creator; a war of ingratitude—of monstrous, self-destructive, ingratitude. Is it for us to break the Great Chain of Being?”
“In fact, the Constitution was not written to protect the nation of Islam, or various colonies of that nation planted in our midst. The Constitution nowhere says that Muslims have the right to come to the United States, build mosques, or establish their own culture as part of a multicultural patchwork celebrated as a new kind of nation (which effectively negates America).”
“If a person truly believes the Koran, they [sic] cannot be an American without making a mockery of that which Americans are.”
I hope you are encouraged that the truths and proposals that you have been developing so expertly over the years are being openly discussed and adopted all over the place. The tide is turning.
October 3, 2010
[There was a further e-mail exchange with Bobby D., with whose first comment and my reply this entry began.]
Bobby D. wrote:
Thank you for your reply. It was helpful. If and when you have time and if you should chose to write on such a subject, I would like to know more about what the essence of traditionalist morality is. And here I am looking for a more philosophical understanding of it. Here are some questions that always pop into my head when I read you mention traditional morality:
1) How connected is it to Christian morality?
2) What is Christian morality’s essence? With all the various Christian sects out there, is there even such a thing as “Christian morality”.
3) Is traditional morality deontological (Kantian)? Utilitarian (greatest good for greatest number, greatest number for traditionalism being decided along racial lines)? Altruistic?
4) If the essence of traditional morality is altruistic, then what role does sacrifice play? Should we sacrifice and to whom? To God? To society? To the posterity of the white race? (For example, should there be anti-miscegenation laws to protect the white race and would this entail that white people be forced to sacrifice their lustful desires for non-white women for the good of society? The same thing can be applied to certain freedoms of speech and expression—should individual artists be forced to sacrifice their desire to express sexuality in various art forms so as not to corrupt society with decadence? Etc.)
5) Lastly, how central is Jesus to morality? Can there be a proper human morality without Jesus’ sacrifice? And here I am very interested to know your opinion on those arguments made by some secularists that say that since Jesus sacrificed his life for the salvation of humanity, then sacrifice is the essence of morality and America, whites, males should sacrifice for the improvement of the rest of the world. I get that a lot.
I know I have asked a lot of questions. As I say, if you should ever write on the subject of traditionalism’s moral foundations, then perhaps you could answer some of these questions. I have read many of your larger essays on FrontPage.com and I don’t think you ever got this deep, although you occasionally get very philosophic with some of your very intelligent and very educated commenters. I am a philosophy post-grad, so this is why I am interested in this subject.
Thank you again,
I don’t have the background in philosophy to answer your questions. I take these topics on a fairly basic, commonsense level. For example, it was understood through all of history that marriage is the basis of the family. That’s traditional morality. Now we’ve thrown that away to a great extent. One doesn’t need a discussion of Kantianism or altruism or deontology (which I don’t know what it is) to understand that point.
The best short approach to the topic of moral truth or objective value is in C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (less than 100 pages long). Lewis also doesn’t get into the abstruse areas of Western philosophy. He gets right to the basic truth that there is an objective moral truth, and that all individuals and cultures have intuitively known this to be true. If you read Lewis, you will understand better where I’m coming from.
Bobby D. replies:
All due respect, but that isn’t good enough. Its not enough to say that because something was always done that makes it a tradition thus that makes it good. Slavery was a tradition for the entirety of human history until recent centuries. There must be reasons, provable reasons why something is moral or not. If traditionalism is going to tell people that they need to give up their sexual freedoms because they are moral transgressions, then traditionalism need a *moral theory* that is well articulated. That is just the way philosophy works.
Also, because I study this stuff, I see in your discussions of ending the rule of liberalism a naivete of how epistemology affects culture. Many of your posters are arguing that it is some material factors that have resulted in liberalism. You are smart enough to know that ideas are more fundamental. But which ideas? This is where epistemology comes in. It is post-modern philosophy which has ushered in skepticism on a massive scale that is responsible for today’s culture. Philosophic skepticism has resulted in a certain view of the subject-object relationship which says (following Kant) that the subject can never really know the “world as it is”, as a result all we know are appearances. It is this assault on perception which as lead to an assault on *objective knowledge* which has plunged the culture into moral relativism. Moral relativism is the leading reason for the anti-discrimination society we now live in—what you call liberalism.
How to change this? Well, intellectuality is a top down game. Society’s change only when the governing epistemologies change. That means that it is the UNIVERSITIES which are the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to societal change. Today, the universities are totally dominated by skeptics/relativists/egalitarians. There will be no lasting change so long as this is the case. In order to change the West, the dominant epistemological methodology must change and that will take time.
Even if there were a traditionalist revolution and traditionalist instituted a traditionalist society by force. There are not enough intellectuals in the world today that hold to a traditional Platonic/Christian metaphysics to maintain that traditionalist society.
So the problem that traditionalists have is that you are not working to make a change at the deepest levels of philosophy, the level that counts. If you were to enter into a debate with a university professor about your views on Christian morality, you would have to ground your views in a theory and that theory would have to have the power to win over other epistemologists. That’s how this works.
That is why I ask you to write more on these subjects. Because this is where the game is won or lost.
Oh, for heaven’s sake, when did I say that “because something was always done that makes it a tradition thus that makes it good”? The way you rush to interpret my brief point to you in the most simplistic way possible does not indicate a readiness on your part to attempt to understand my writings.
You really should delve more into VFR and do some work at trying to understand the basis on which I say things are good and bad. (For some of my writings on traditionalism, which include the issue of right and wrong, go to the Word document, “VFR articles arranged by topic,” and see the heading on Traditionalism.) VFR is a blog, not a systematic work, though I try as much as possible to relate my various points together and keep some kind of unity. I tend to approach these questions through specific issues. For example, check out the big discussion from 2003, “How is homosexuality to be understood?”, where definite conclusions are reached on the morality of homosexual acts.
I have written a fair amount on the question of good and bad, of why things are good and bad. At the same time, I have always made it clear that I do not have an academic background in philosophy. Further, I must say that most discussions I’ve seen coming from that quarter are woefully off point and a waste of time, like a parody of intellectuals getting more and more absorbed in unreal abstractions and failing to deal with the issue they’re supposedly dealing with.
For you to tell me that my problem is that I am not an academic philosopher and that I must become one is about the silliest criticism I have ever gotten. If you don’t find my discussions worthwhile, then don’t read me, because obviously I am not about to become an academic philosopher and thus become the sort of person you think is worth reading.
LA continues to Bobby D.:
I shared my correspondence with you with a correspondent, who wrote back to me:
He writes to you and wants you to sum up personally for him all the elaborate arguments you have made and then, because you could not possibly sum it up, accuses you of simplicity and avoiding the important issues.
Who does he think you are, his personal servant/philosopher?
Dean Ericson writes:
Bobby D. sounds like a Randian: epistemology as the apex of philosophy; concerns with altruism and sacrifice; the idea that society is mostly designed by conscious philosophy rather than a muddle of conscious and unconscious; tradition; innate, God-given character, etc. You are right to deflect his rather tedious questions. I was exhausted just reading them. I’ll bet you have expended 10 million words on private email correspondence over the years.
You’re right, that hadn’t occurred to me. His repeated emphasis on altruism (an issue I hadn’t addressed at all, and have never brought up in any discussion) shows that he is likely a Randian or at least strongly inclined that way.
Never have I discussed the good in terms of altrusm or sacrifice to others. I discuss it in terms of ordering ourselves according to a good that is larger than ourselves. But this larger good is not the opposite of one’s self (we’re speaking here of one’s true self), it is not the undoing or cancelation of one’s self; it represents the true fulfilment of one’s self and its potentialities. This idea can be expressed in a variety of ways. But here I will put it in Christian terms: “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10.) And also this: “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)
Bobby D. replies to LA’s earlier reply to him:
All well and good. Although, you should know that intellectual movements are largely epistemological phenomenon. You essentially want the Western world to go back to a Thomistic/Platonic epistemology with a serious respect for Christian mythology. If that is going to happen, you are going to have to overcome the last 200 years of Kantian/Skeptic and post-modern philosophy. You will not be able to do that unless you or your fellow Trads publish treatises and influence university thought. You can scream at me all you wish, but that won’t change the nature of the world in which you live.
Since you describe me as “screaming” at you, it would appear that you do not have regard for me.
In any case, there are thinkers who have been challenging the last 200 years of Kantian/Skeptic and post-modern philosophy, from a variety of directions. And there will be more. And even in my limited way, I am doing that. We each make the contribution we can make.
Also, the notion that Kantian/Skeptic and post-modern philosophy has been heretofore unchallenged could only come from within the academic hothouse, which knows nothing outside itself.
I want to add one other thing. Bobby faults me for not being a philosopher. But in fact, whenever I discuss questions of good and bad, of true and false, of reality versus non-reality, I always reason my way, step by step, through the problem. For example, I always make the connection between a particular instance of an idea and the larger idea of which it is an example; or between a thing and its origin. And, as a couple of readers have pointed out to me recently, that type of argumentation is philosophy. So, I do not know philosophy in a professional or academic sense. But what I do is philosophy, in an uninstructed, basic sense of the word. And, in my view, it is better than most academic philosophy, because, unlike academic philosophers, I use language and arguments that the ordinary intelligent reader (including myself) can understand and relate to.
Just my opinion, but I would venture that Natural Law theory is the basis for morality that most traditionalists, Christian and non-believers alike, would subscribe to. For non-believers, the Natural Law is graven in our hearts by evolution; for the believers, it is graven in our hearts, and in the rest of nature, and in evolution (NB: not Darwinian evolution) by God.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 01, 2010 07:05 AM | Send
If you would like a primer, I recommend What We Can’t Not Know, by J. Budziszewski. For the metaphysical basis of natural law, see Feser’s The Last Superstition; or go right to the source.
I am not sure that I agree that the universities are the institution that must be won over if we are to rescue society from liberalism. They are important, to be sure. But university faculty are slaves to intellectual fashion, so that if a devastating philosophical critique of liberalism were to become widely known (through, let us say, the Internet, via sites like VFR), and liberalism’s absurdities revealed for any intelligent, open-minded thinker to see, and especially if liberalism were to become unpopular with the young, the faculty would go along like sheep. And where do the young get their ideas? The Internet. There is also this: the young are inculcated from birth these days by their liberal parents, teachers, professors, et al., to rebel against the system. What is the system these days? Liberalism. You can do the math on the rest of that one.
There may also be a structural change underway, in which the universities will find themselves disintermediated [?] by the Internet in just the way that the record labels, TV networks, newspapers, publishers, and DVD rental shops are already being disintermediated. 20 years from now, higher education may be nothing like what it is today; the residential colleges may be greatly reduced in importance, the preserve only of extremely wealthy undergrads, and of post-grads like yourself. That’s what happens when a monopoly prices itself out of an elastic market.
Finally, there may be a Kuhnian paradigm shift underway. Qua theory, liberalism is collapsing under the weight of its internal contradictions, and of its disagreements with reality when implemented therein, as it has increasingly been over the last 50 years (particularly the economic and financial realities that are beginning to make … themselves felt in respect to public sector pensions). It’s just barely creaking along, and TARP may have been the last infusion of tax money it will ever again see. Meaning it may be doomed, practically speaking.
Bottom line: liberalism is so 20th century. Just as the ancien regime of the 19th century persisted up to the dawn of WWI, so the Boomer Weltanschauung may persist right up to the last years of this decade. Let’s just hope that we don’t get another world war as the occasion of the collapse. A faint hope; collapse just is war, usually.
PS Lawrence is right. You needn’t be a post grad familiar with Kantian deontology to make moral judgments, thank God (literally)(were it so, how could humanity have survived through to the foundation of the universities?)—or to see and understand the handwriting on the wall: mene, mene, tekel upharsin. It’s all very simple, at bottom, and it is graven in our hearts; so that we are without excuse, and if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we have always known goddamn well just exactly what is going on, morally, and how we have failed, and sinned. This was so before the Incarnation, too; for the Incarnation merely expressed in an individual the truths that had been expressed throughout nature from the get go. Had those truths not been thus expressed throughout the creation ab initio, the body of Jesus of Nazareth, throughout a product of this world, and of the truths it expresses, could have formed no fit expression of Truth Himself.