In a passage from the sixth book of his Histories remarkable for its synthetic comprehension and concision, Polybius (floruit circa 200 BC – 118 BC) sets forth the six genera of political order, and shows how each develops from the devolution of the last:
Part Two of my essay René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order [Part II] has appeared at the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. The essay had its first incarnation four or five years ago at The Brussels Journal, but I have expanded it and rewritten it extensively. The essay explores the complementarity of René Guénon’s study in Spiritual Authority & Temporal Power (1929) of “The Revolt of the Kshatriya’s,” an event of Indian history which serves Guénon for a paradigm of usurpation, and Voegelin’s study in The Ecumenic Age (1965) of empire-building as a case of “concupiscential exodus” that destroys civilizations. For the revised version of the essay, I have added a section discussing what I see as the significance of Britain’s recent “Brexit” vote in light of Guénon and Voegelin. I would like to thank Edwin Dyga, the convener of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum for giving both parts of the essay such a handsome presentation.
The Orthosphere yesterday reached 1,000 posts since we began writing here in early 2012. Meaningless in itself, this passage nevertheless marks a milestone. It is fitting then to reflect on how well we have met our original purpose, of providing a traditional, orthodox Christian perspective on the maelstrom ever in progress here on Earth.
How can we tell whether a given sort of government coercion is just?
Government just is coercive control. But coercion eo ipso traduces a man’s dignity – which is to say, his status as an image of the Most High, and therefore in his very being a thing worthy of all honor and respect; a King, indeed, within his own small domain. Men ought then to be coerced as little as possible. So the basic problem of just government is to discover where coercion is justified nonetheless; and the moral hazard of all government is that it will coerce where it ought not to. The probability that government will err is obviously very high; so then is the probability that it will coerce unjustly.
Richard Cocks and I joined our friend Dick Fader earlier today to see Star Trek Beyond in the local Oswego cinema. Richard and I are longtime inveterate Star Trek fans and Fader, as we call him, if not quite a fan, is at least an interested party who knows the history of the franchise. The management screened Star Trek Beyond in the big auditorium, nowadays equipped with roomy lounge chairs, but in tilting them into a reclining position the movie-goer risks taking a nap. It is a temptation to which I never yield.
I offer, as best I can, a translation of a section from Dominique Venner’s masterwork Histoire et tradition des Européens: 30,000 ans d’identité [The History and Tradition of the Europeans: 30,000 Years of Identity,] published in French in 2002 by Éditions du Rocher. The excerpt originates in Chapter 10, “Nihilisme et Saccage de la Nature” [“Nihilism and the Exploitation of Nature”]. Venner wrote in a style that runs to the ironic and telegraphic: Phrases in brackets represent my attempt to overcome the occasional obscurity that his tendencies of irony and compression, or self-allusion, entail. Flora Montcorbier, whom Venner cites in the excerpt, is a writer of the French New Right. I give the French original of the text first, followed by my attempt at an idiomatic English rendering.
Alrenous thinks we have no control over our wants. We simply find ourselves wanting what we want like Woody Allen’s grotesque comment about seducing someone pretty close to being his common law step-daughter – “the heart wants what it wants.”
But we can change our mind about what we want, or we can decide not to pursue a want. There can be a back forth between thinking and wanting. In Plato’s notion of the tripartite soul, there is logos, thumos and eros. Logos is the rational part, thumos is gumption and drive to achieve things and eros is happenstance desires. According to Plato, when logos is in charge of the soul then it is logos that controls eros, not the other way around. Logos decides which desires to pursue and which to forego.
If eros controls the soul in the way Plato says is true of most people then Alrenous would be correct. Wisdom for Plato involves knowing which desires to satisfy and which to ignore. The difference between thinking and wanting is something we are all familiar with. If there is not, then rationality doesn’t exist and we are back to the physical determinist’s performative contradiction. I would find myself either wanting free will to exist or I do not and that determines whether I believe in it, not rational argument. If Alrenous says yes, but we always end up doing what we want to do – clearly that is not true. We can do our duty, say to our children, when we would prefer not to – I’m thinking about supervising my son’s music practice when he was younger.
Alrenous recently argued that Free Will is Analytically Impossible because we cannot do other than what we want to do, and we can’t control – can’t change – what we want (unless we uncontrollably want to, etc.). So, it’s our wants that run us, not we ourselves.
Is there a difference between what we want to do and what we will to do, on this account? Apparently not. If so, then all that Alrenous has done is kick the question of free will down the road a bit: the will is subsumed in desire, as its mere outworking or byproduct; so that the question goes back a step in the order of operations, from whether the will is free to whether its animating desire is free. But then that leaves quite open the question whether the whole system of will cum desire is free.
A hard-working, well-liked, and professionally productive Associate Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science at Upstate Consolation University has hired a law firm to help him in his fight to have his recent summary termination of employment overturned and is promising to take his complaint to civil court. Brainerd Feta-Stilton’s firing came astonishingly enough just after he had generated major publicity for his institution by discovering a new Trans-Neptunian object. Even more surprisingly, Feta-Stilton had tentatively named the object Ugna, in honor of Dr. Edwima Ugna, the very same university official who subsequently terminated him. Ugna, who has served as Upstate Consolation University’s Provost since 2006, had in the past praised Feta-Stilton for his scientific achievements, which have brought many grants and endowments to the institution, as well as much positive exposure.