Philosophy versus Tradition

Many reactionaries complain that capitalism is eo ipso inimical to tradition. I disagree about that: it is liberal or deranged capitalism that is the problem; so that the problem is not with capitalism per se – which is really nothing other than the natural and basic form of human economic coordination, rooted at bottom in the exchange of gifts and favors, in the love we bear for each other as friends, neighbours and relatives, and so is the default to which all societies recur (and must recur, or else falter and dwindle) – but with its derangement. Latter day capitalism is sick, to be sure. But so is our whole society, beset in all her members and organs by the maladies and diseases by which we infect and corrupt her, a wounded animal struggling ever to heal herself, again and again deformed and crippled by our manifold political foolishness and iterated moral and intellectual insanities.

It’s not economics that is intrinsically inimical to tradition, but philosophy. In a traditional society, there would be no such thing. In a traditional society, no one would wonder how to be a good man, or what the meaning and purpose of life might be, or how and by what agencies the world is ordered. In a healthy traditional society, such questions would not even occur to anyone, because from earliest childhood everyone would have understood the ancient answers handed down by their forefathers from the very beginnings of time. No other answers would be even conceivable. Contrary doctrines would be greeted with outrage, horror and disgust.

But philosophy *just is* intellectual contrariety. The niggle at the basis of all philosophical deliberation is the sudden thought – the rather disquieting thought – “um, maybe we’ve gotten this rather important and fundamental bit wrong.” And the essential work of philosophy is to test propositions, and discover their weaknesses. Everything is grist for its mill.

It is often suggested that philosophy makes no progress. I think this is an exaggeration; for one thing, natural science is a department of philosophy, properly speaking. Yet it must be admitted that progress in philosophy is slow and halting at best. But this is no more than we should expect from a discipline that is intended first to the discovery and demolition of erroneous thoughts, so to find what survives the winnowing process. We are still talking about Plato because after almost 2,500 years of attacks, he has not yet been completely demolished, not at all. Plato’s doctrines are evidently robust, and so it seems very likely to be somehow true. That we are still talking about his stuff means, not that no progress has been made, but that he made a lot of progress early on.

Because it is in the business of testing propositions of all sorts, philosophy cannot but get around to testing the essential ideas of any society in which it operates, that make it what it is, shape its notions of what is proper and desirable, and so enable its members to live together amicably and efficaciously. So, philosophy sets itself root and branch against the Tree of Life that sustains any traditional society, and that connects its members to their earliest ancestors by living integral flux of familiar inheritance; it plucks off the apple, and tastes. And then, it takes up an axe.

The Athenians saw this clearly: that’s why they executed Socrates. The teachings of the sophists were false – incomplete, and inadequate to reality – but they were the traditional teachings of the Athenians, all of whom had from boyhood been taught by sophists. To them, the radical innovations of Socrates were horrifying, outrageous, not just a heresy but an apostasy from the patrimonial cult, and a radical betrayal of the polis. Once it had been determined in trial that he stood by his doctrines unapologetically, and indeed patriotically, the only possible response was the death sentence.

As Socrates was to the prevailing sophist wisdom of Periclean Athens, so today are we traditionalists and reactionaries to the sophism of the pervasive liberal order. Sophistical liberalism is now the prevalent received tradition of the West. This is why traditionalists – all of us heirs of the countercultural tradition of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and of their philosophical protest against the traditions of Athens – are so reviled by the politically correct. Our ideas make them feel physically sick, and they would rub us all out if they could.

The only sort of philosophy that is not inimical to tradition is philosophy baptized: i.e., theology. When the philosophy of the Greeks and their heirs is itself the received tradition of a people, implicated in the intellectual bases of all their sacred theological doctrines, then only can it operate socially as the foundation and buttress of the social order. Then science and religion may be integrated by a Grand Metaphysical Synthesis, anointed by mystical experience, and all the rites and rituals, the customs and social forms of the culture sanctified and enchanted.

In all other circumstances, philosophy – whether classical or not – is skeptical acid thrown at the foundations of a weak and somehow vicious patrimonial cult; for philosophy destroys as it corrects.

43 thoughts on “Philosophy versus Tradition

  1. Capitalism is a historical phenomenon. In particular it is the phenomenon that replaced Christianity as the organizing principle, moral authority and self-understanding of Western Civilization. Capitalism is not just another word for economic exchange.

    • In the OP, substitute “economic exchange” for every instance of “capitalism,” so that you don’t have to worry about the bugbear of “capitalism” as a label for the nominalist skepticism that replaced classical philosophical theology as the fundamental ordering understanding of the West, and your discomfiture with its thesis should subside.

  2. …capitalism per se – which is really nothing other than the natural and basic form of human economic coordination, rooted at bottom in the exchange of gifts and favors, in the love we bear for each other as friends, neighbours and relatives…

    Weird, because pretty much anybody else who has ever thought about this would say that capitalism is the exact opposite of “neighbors and relatives exchanging favors”.

    In a traditional society, no one would wonder how to be a good man, or what the meaning and purpose of life might be, or how and by what agencies the world is ordered.

    Oh I see, this is a sort of rightwing version of noble-savagery, since the only people who could possibly not be aware of the existence of different cultures and values are the most backwards tribesmen (and even they tend to be cognizant of neighboring tribes).

    As Socrates was to the prevailing sophist wisdom of Periclean Athens, so today are we traditionalists and reactionaries to the sophism of the pervasive liberal order.

    You seem to be trying mightily to simultaneously be on the side of Socrates and tradition. Good luck with that.

    The only sort of philosophy that is not inimical to tradition is philosophy baptized: i.e., theology.

    Which suggests that it is not really philosophy at all, but a weakened version, turned into something innocuous.

      • Huh, didn’t you chide me awhile back for incivility and insults? Oh well.

        I sort of thought of you as intellectually serious but if you are going to base your world view on redefining concepts to mean their opposite and positing magical fairylands where all conflict of values has somehow been made to vanish — well, have fun, but you are unlikely to make much of an impact on the world.

      • a.morphous, your *very first comment* in this thread was suffused with snark and sarcasm. You are therefore in no position to protest thereat. Nor is any leftist, for that matter, in any position to protest “redefining concepts to mean their opposite and positing magical fairylands where all conflict of values has somehow been made to vanish,” two traits that could almost serve as identifying marks of leftism, as webbed feet identify waterfowl.

        Notwithstanding all that, I dispute your characterizations both of the main post and of my response to you. I haven’t insulted you, or been uncivil. All I have done is evaluate your first comment as unphilosophical. And this evaluation is not inaccurate. I suppose I should explain why.

        … anybody else who has ever thought about this would say that capitalism is the exact opposite of “neighbors and relatives exchanging favors.”

        Not so. Thinkers from St. Paul to Frederick Turner have suggested otherwise. I said in any case that capitalism is *rooted* in gift exchange, not that there is nothing else to it. This notion is a commonplace of cultural anthropology. You have not addressed it, at all, instead aiming a critique at a straw man. Even if I had tried to redefine “capitalism,” a truly philosophical response would have grappled with that redefinition, to see if it really made sense, or shed some new light on the matter, rather than descending immediately to reflexive scoffing.

        … this is a sort of rightwing version of noble-savagery, since the only people who could possibly not be aware of the existence of different cultures and values are the most backwards tribesmen (and even they tend to be cognizant of neighboring tribes).

        But I never said that a traditional people would be ignorant of other peoples and their different folkways. Again, you have not provided a philosophical response to the ideas I actually expressed, but instead tilted at a nonexistent quintain. And you have missed!

        All peoples have of course been aware of other peoples and their different folkways. What was their evaluation of those alien ways? Almost every culture in the world has called itself “the human beings,” with the clear implication that the wogs begin at Calais. A traditional culture can know of other cultures and still feel that its own are the only ways truly proper and natural to man and the world. This is as true of modern liberal culture – which is utterly convinced that modern liberal culture is the only just and proper and natural sort of culture there could possibly be, and that all peoples will inevitably adopt it once they understand things rightly – as it is of any other.

        You seem to be trying mightily to simultaneously be on the side of Socrates and tradition. Good luck with that.

        Again a failure to grapple with what I actually suggested: that a truly philosophical approach to the world can indeed be integrated with a culture in such a way as to inform, bolster and support its traditions, rather than eat away at them – even as they do still eat; indeed, even by way of that eating.

        Philosophy is inherently antagonistic to unexamined notions, but the end result of its challenge can be cultural resolution upon notions that survive philosophical critique: that, i.e., (since such critiques reveal falsity) are somehow or other probably *true.* Platonism, the example I adduced, is a palmary case: it still survives, and engages minds, despite a sustained philosophical critique that has continued for millennia. Manichaeism, not so much. So Platonism is a foundation of our culture, even for those who reject it; but no one believes in the doctrines of Mani any more, or even thinks about them. Why? Because Aquinas decisively demolished them, that’s why.

        The integrity of Thomist Aristotelianism and the Platonism of Palamas with Christian doctrine, and the concomitant integrity of Christian civil, religious and political order both East and West, show how philosophy baptized can provide an intellectual (moral, legal, and so procedural) skeleton for a culture, that helps it perdure. A tradition of philosophical critique of received tradition can foster a culture that is metastable in the face of challenges and novelties, in exactly the same way that selection pressure can improve the fitness of a genome.

        You suggest that philosophy baptized must ipso facto be emasculated. But that presupposes that baptism per se is to falsehood; that baptism cannot be true. I.e., it begs the question. Greek philosophy has been baptized by Christian theology for two thousand years. Both still flourish, again despite continuous challenges both intellectual and pragmatic. Those with ears to hear would take their survival as an index of their truth (not a demonstration, mind, just an index). By their fruits shall ye know them, and all that.

        Summing up, your comment was sophistical, rather than philosophical. It was contrary, all right, but not substantively so.

        Perhaps the most interesting thing about your rejection of my arguments is that it is itself a perfect example of how the current traditional culture of the West – yours – deals with philosophical criticism: snark, sneering, ridicule, scoffing, sarcasm, batting away at straw men, misprision (whether deliberately Machiavellian or blithely ignorant), question-begging, ad hominem, and utter failure of honest intellectual engagement with the notions actually under discussion. I.e., sophistry.

      • Perhaps the most interesting thing about your rejection of my arguments is that it is itself a perfect example of how the current traditional culture of the West – yours – deals with philosophical criticism: snark, sneering, ridicule, scoffing, sarcasm, batting away at straw men, misprision (whether deliberately Machiavellian or blithely ignorant), question-begging, ad hominem, and utter failure of honest intellectual engagement with the notions actually under discussion. I.e., sophistry.

        Amen. Over and over, you cannot get real debate with the Secular Establishment in our society, which laughably pretends to be the rebels (well, I suppose they are, against our Lord). The supposedly “prophetic” arts and literature of our idea are directed at powerless groups of people, like Fundamentalist Baptists, Traditional Roman Catholics, and other conservative religious people. These works meant to chastise supposedly powerful people in our society are caricatures that one could scarcely find in real life.

        In any case, the Bible has a lot to say about such people:

        Psalm 2:2-4:

        The kings of the earth set themselves,
        and the rulers take counsel together,
        against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
        Let us break their bands asunder,
        and cast away their cords from us.
        He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:
        the Lord shall have them in derision.

        Psalm 1:

        Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
        nor standeth in the way of sinners,
        nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
        But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
        and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
        And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
        that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
        his leaf also shall not wither;
        and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

        The ungodly are not so:
        but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
        Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

        For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
        but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

        Psalm 14:1:

        The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
        They are corrupt, they have done abominable works,
        there is none that doeth good.

        I can’t resist posting relevant portions of the Psalter.

      • @Mark:

        He has indicated secularist leanings in the past. I’ve read quite a few of his scoffing posts since I’ve started reading this blog. If he isn’t a secularist, then he really, really likes playing Devil’s Advocate.

      • Thank you for the information. I’m not against engaging with the secular, both within reaction and without, and have authored a post on this topic at my blog. But it is necessary to know where people stand before engaging in any discussion. This helps at least to weed out trolls and the like who occasionally wander onto this side of the net from Reddit and other cesspools.

  3. The issue is an interesting one discussed within Reaction itself. I would point to the ‘techno-anarcho-capitalist’ sector of Reaction, sometimes referred to as the third of the ‘big three’ when it comes to this new awakening of reactionary thought and activity.

    First, I’d re-iterate something I have said before. Capitalism and Communism are really Marxist inventions in terms of words. Marx and Engels used Capitalism to denote the system they saw around them in the broad sense, that the primary center of all human existence and purpose (resources and currency) was freely exchanged between individuals and so the natural inequality of man meant that unequal outcomes were the inevitable result (the poor and the rich).

    It is important to note that it wasn’t really capitalism that Marx and Engels observed, since there was a fair amount of cronyism or ‘corporatism’ at this time at least in Europe, just as there is today.

    Of course, Marx then dreamed up a competing system called communism and we know how that went.

    The Reactionary should first reject the Marxist assumption entirely, that resources and currency are the primary center of all human existence and purpose. They are not. Money did NOT make the Traditional World go round. It was a factor, but so were myriad other virtues and factors.

    Capitalism and Communism really both stem from this 2D view of the world that essentially assumes atheism, and so I try to limit my use of the word Capitalism when talking about the freedom of markets to operate.

    Traditional Societies were not mass regulatory nightmares. Sorry to say. If you wanted to sell some crap to someone who would pay for it, nobody bothered much interfering with you for a few reasons. It was too much hard work, and it had knock on effects to areas where the government could fund itself off of the general wealth of its population. Heck, look at how Rome collected taxes in Judea. They couldn’t even be bothered to set up a real tax collecting system, they just paid some thugs to shake a couple of people down on the weekends to get the desired amount. Environmental concerns, nope. Health and safety red tape, nope. The regulation for selling products that made people sick was that their family would come and kill you after the fact.

    In a Reactionary society, local markets would be free compared to what we have today, with a few caveats that come under religious purview, and this is perhaps more relevant to trade imports and exports from other societies. Pornography would be prohibited for example, as a corrupting force. This hinges on the fact that you will inevitably have trade coming into the society, and you need to know what is coming in, as there may be a chance for liberalism to enter through trade in what we might call ‘media items’. This is my opinion of economics thus far.

    But this is all very debatable and may depend upon how large the society is in terms of population. The main take away is, the Reactionary does not view money as the axis upon which the world turns, and therefore when making economic decisions, he can take other things into account over raw profiteering.

    As to philosophy as you portray it, I applaud the post. Absolutely agree on the acidic nature of non-Christian philosophy. It has no place in the future, and should be consigned to a pyre or at the very least a vault-library. Through sophistry and word play, secular philosophy only serves to tear at the fabric of tradition like a small dog.

    God is unquestionable. The man who thinks himself smarter than the Father is the most destructive fool of all.

    • I admit that I am one of the sort of reactionaries that Kristor mentions in his post. I have grown a deep antipathy for capitalism because I started to see how capitalism destroys everything conservatives value: culture, art, music, the land. I am starting to think that a mixed sort of economy with an authoritarian and centralized authority for certain needs like military and law enforcement hardware, military research, and a few government-run farms in case of emergencies on the national level but on the local level and for everything else that doesn’t need to be supplied by a central government, I support a sort of micro-capitalist/Distributist social credit sort of politics. Small is Beautiful and the like. When it comes to large corporations that provide products not necessary for immediate needs or national defense, I believe that the state should hold 1/3 of the shares, the workers should own 1/3 of the shares, and the owners 1/3.

      I’m still kicking this idea around in my head though. I am not set on economics as I am on other things.

      • I can understand this antipathy wholeheartedly. We need only look at the large corporations of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions. Economics is a more flexible subject than say theonomic judicial systems.

        A discussion that I had once with a reactionary was very interesting, in that he advocated a kind of caste system that had five levels from sovereign, to clerics, to planners, to military/salvagers, and then at the bottom the tradesmen. He justified this by pointing to the old Chinese tradition in which trade was relatively free, but those who engaged in it no matter how rich they got, were still looked upon as occupying a lower role in the social strata.

        My primary focus has been on ‘Collective Zealotry’, and that the structure of a society is not the most important thing down to the detail, but what is most important is having ideologues at the top, men of conviction. Unfortunately I see a habit of virtueless men gaining political power through their trade in this corporatist system where the government has an incestuous relationship with megabanks and the like, and so am naturally averse to this mixing of capital and government forces. A wall between the market and state does protect markets from excessive government regulation and favoritism, but it also protects the government from interference by extremely rich citizens who seek to influence policy to their own advantage. The second, I find to be more deadly.

      • I do not believe in a caste system; the caste system in India is an extremely distorted version of a natural class system. Same thing could be said about the English class system but not to the same extent.

        I think a better class system would be one that has Military men/planners/sovereigns at the top(the sovereign has always been at the top of the military caste not separate from it). Cleric/bureaucrats second, and all productive freemen third who will be comprised of farmers, craftsmen, and skilled workers. Tradesmen who do not produce the goods they sell will be seen for what they are: the lowest of the low and outside of the class system. This does not go for small business men however. Microcapitalism is a good thing. Even Henry Ford style capitalism is a good thing. What we have now is not.

      • Tradesmen who do not produce the goods they sell will be seen for what they are: the lowest of the low and outside of the class system.

        That would be a great way to eliminate trade as such. It would crash the whole transport sector. It would crash the internet, the postal service, the newspapers, advertising, journalism, movie theaters, concert venues, publishing, books, writing.

        It is simply false that traders and brokers add no value. If it were true, no one would ever have found them useful, and there would never have been such jobs anywhere.

        Designing a utopia is a dangerous business: caveat conditor!

      • We need only look at the large corporations of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        This pushing is not happening because the corporations of America are large, or are corporations, or are American. I.e., it isn’t a function of economics at all. They are doing this because it is the reigning paradigm, and so it is being pushed by *all the institutions of society,* with the (partial) exception of the conservative wings of the Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical churches.

        Compare:

        We need only look at the universities of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the churches of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the military of America who has been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the governments of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the NGOs of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the labor unions of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the news media of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        We need only look at the artists and entertainers of America who have been at the forefront of pushing radical left wing social agendas with very few exceptions.

        That these institutions are all pushing the Establishment Party Line is *not a design defect.* It is not a problematic feature of our society. Pushing the Establishment Line is what the Establishment is meant to do, and *should do,* in any society. The problem is not that there is an Establishment, or that it is pushing the Established Line. The problem is with the line.

      • When it comes to large corporations that provide products not necessary for immediate needs or national defense, I believe that the state should hold 1/3 of the shares, the workers should own 1/3 of the shares, and the owners 1/3.

        Taking into account the impact on business operations and decisions of government regulation, that’s pretty much what we have right now, in effect, and for all corporations. Control is, after all, an incident of ownership. And the government already exercises pervasive control of all business activity.

        Say we wanted to limit government control only to “large” corporations that “provide products not necessary for immediate needs or national defense.” Who decides which corporations fall outside government control? The government, right? Meaning, of course, that *no* corporations really fall definitively outside government control. Just like now.

        I am starting to think that a mixed sort of economy with an authoritarian and centralized authority for certain needs like military and law enforcement hardware, military research, and a few government-run farms in case of emergencies on the national level but on the local level and for everything else that doesn’t need to be supplied by a central government, I support a sort of micro-capitalist/Distributist social credit sort of politics. Small is Beautiful and the like.

        Aside from the government farms, this sounds like Hayek and von Mises. And Lao Tse; and Catholic subsidiarity.

      • @ Kristor

        “That would be a great way to eliminate trade as such. It would crash the whole transport sector. It would crash the internet, the postal service, the newspapers, advertising, journalism, movie theaters, concert venues, publishing, books, writing.”

        Well, I wouldn’t mind more government control of a few of those things. Journalists are a scourge, they are mostly professional liars like many lawyers. They don’t report the news like they should; they make the news now.

        The postal service I have no real opinion. Whatever is best for the people and the nation. If that means free trade, then so be it. If it means full state control I am fine with that as well.

        Movie theaters are usually owned by local businessmen. I made an exception for those types. Concert venues will either be locally owned by community men or state owned.

        Publishing can be mixed. I want some state control supported by tax payer money so that certain types of writers can get published like the Faulkner types who would never be published in today’s day and age. And prevent the publishing of drivel like Twilight and 50 Shades. The modern capitalist system is preventing the creation of new Great American Authors. High Art has traditionally been patronized by the state and the Church like in how the monarchs, popes, aristocrats, and clergy would patronize artists, writers, and composers.

        The internet should be like it always was and is, a virtual wild west. We need to keep it open so that the state, deep state, and extra-state organizations will be able to monitor certain activities(like the creation and distribution of child pornography and subversive political and social movements).

        “It is simply false that traders and brokers add no value. If it were true, no one would ever have found them useful, and there would never have been such jobs anywhere.”

        Brokers are definitely needed. It should be a state job or a Church job with exceptions for Mohammed Abbas types who give out micro-loans. Traders…. That is an iffy thing. I think I did go overboard on that due to my anger towards trader types. I suppose I mean people who are just traders, not traders and something else.

        “Taking into account the impact on business operations and decisions of government regulation, that’s pretty much what we have right now, in effect, and for all corporations. Control is, after all, an incident of ownership. And the government already exercises pervasive control of all business activity.”

        My problem is not the fact of control per se as who is doing the controlling. In this regard I am leaning towards a Rooseveltian trust-busting campaign. No more Wal-Mart, no more McDonalds!

        “Say we wanted to limit government control only to “large” corporations that “provide products not necessary for immediate needs or national defense.” Who decides which corporations fall outside government control? The government, right? Meaning, of course, that *no* corporations really fall definitively outside government control. Just like now.”

        I mean towards activities that an individual, family, or community can not perform and must be performed by a centralized national entity. A local farm can not produce enough surplus grain and non-perishable foods to feed large parts of the nation in case of emergency. A local community will never be able to raise an army to the size that the nation-state can. A local community will never be able to produce munitions, explosives, weapons like the state can. A local community will never be able conduct any serious military research like the state can. Same thing with the production of certain goods like cars, planes, ships, medical technology and computers.

        Of course the state determines what falls in or outside of it’s jurisdiction, that is why it is the state. The issue is not the existence of the state, but which groups control the actions of the state.

        “Aside from the government farms, this sounds like Hayek and von Mises. And Lao Tse; and Catholic subsidiarity.”

        I take that as a compliment. I am more influenced by the latter two than the first two, but I suppose I am trying to find a good way to implement Archaeofuturistic concepts into practical solutions. I am certain that none of us wish to be Amish and completely forgo all modern technology but at the same time, technology is not Our Saviour as the Moderns think. Technology should free our time and efforts into doing things like thinking, writing, hunting, fishing, singing songs, reading books, listening to music, spending time with our children(for those of you that have them), spending time with your wives(same caveat), and with your friends, family, and neighbors. There is of course a spiritual value in hard work but I do not take this reality to the gross excess of the Calvinists. Work is not nothing, but it’s not everything either. There is a balance that the Modern world has forgotten. And sometimes, the most rewarding work is that you do with your own hands. Every man can get a taste of Creation by tending to a garden or small farm. Either way, technology should not replace the act of being human(like certain types of reproductive technology) and the economy should be made to serve people not the other way around.

        “Amen! To think that we can fix the problem of our culture by ripping out and replacing the financial system is to engage in the same sort of idolatrous worship of material factors of reality as that of misers, communists, and criminals. Wealth is not the problem, but the idolatrous worship and love of wealth. You can’t solve the problem of idolatry by destroying the golden calf, or even those who worship it.”

        Of course. A man’s existence should never be reduced to how much money he has or doesn’t have. That is dehumanizing. And that lies my opposition to both communism and capitalism. Both capitalism and socialism are fine in certain settings but to call yourself a socialist(or far worse a communist) or a capitalist is to put economic ideology over human practical and spiritual realities. If people in this particular society were to stop looking at what the Jones have and start cherishing what they have, people would be far less miserable. Status can not and should not come from material objects. A poor man with courage and guts is a true nobleman compared to a rich but cowardly and weak man. Meritocracy is based on on the false assumption that someone with the most wealth is fit to be an aristocrat. As false as the presumption that merely having the blood of great man makes you a great man as well.

        “Designing a utopia is a dangerous business: caveat conditor!”

        I agree. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. But I don’t want to create a utopia because I know I will never be able to create such a society, only Christ can and shall. All I want to do is overthrow the insane Anarcho-Tyranny that we live in and replace it with a sane and just society where the good will know relative peace(relative because this life is vale of tears for even the saints let alone the good) and the wicked will find neither peace nor rest but justice.

    • The Reactionary should first reject the Marxist assumption entirely, that resources and currency are the primary center of all human existence and purpose. They are not. Money did NOT make the Traditional World go round. It was a factor, but so were myriad other virtues and factors.

      Amen! To think that we can fix the problem of our culture by ripping out and replacing the financial system is to engage in the same sort of idolatrous worship of material factors of reality as that of misers, communists, and criminals. Wealth is not the problem, but the idolatrous worship and love of wealth. You can’t solve the problem of idolatry by destroying the golden calf, or even those who worship it.

      • Your posts are well thought out, Kristor, as always. My point wasn’t that I was blaming the intrinsic nature of large corporations as such for the social agendas that are dominant today, but that I can understand where this pushback against the free market comes from within the right itself, in light of this fact.

        A good comparison can be found in how Republican Party voters in the USA have begun to turn against the Chamber of Commerce largely because the chamber backs candidates with leftist tendencies beyond economic issues.

        As to the financial system as it stands, we won’t rip it out (how could we?), but I do predict its collapse and death heralding the great awakening (similar to what happened with Rome as commerce between disparate areas broke down in the wake of the empire imploding). So, I don’t expect we’ll see a functioning Starbucks in a future reactionary city state or region for example. The international markets will cease to function correctly and economics will be scaled down to the local level to a large degree. Its not to say that it wont expand again in the future, but my theory is that we will see mass devastation in this century and like our political class, current national borders, and liberalism in general, the economy will crumble. We may even see barter make a comeback depending on just how far society devolves!

        The principles of trade however, will always remain the same. Someone seeks a product. Someone else decides to make it.No amount of central planning or modeling changes that. Even the Soviet Union with its iron fist could not hold back the laws of economics.

        I do think the whole issue surrounding money and trade is a minor issue. Its one of those things that will be more open to accurate assessment when we’re actually IN the control stage, when we can observe what we have, what we lack, what we need, etc.

        For now, there are more pressing concerns.

      • @ Mark Citadel: I didn’t even mean to critique your argument, really. It was more the way that you expressed yourself that concerned me.

        There is a certain exasperated bloody-mindedness that has more and more crept in to reactionary discourse lately – understandably enough, to be sure – with expressions of the general form, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Substitute in traders, financiers, capitalists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, VII Catholics, what have you; or corporations, government, free speech, the market, the academy, and so forth. All such proposals of categorical deletion are founded upon category errors. If you kill all the lawyers, the only thing that will happen is that the price of lawyers will go way up, so more young bucks will enter the field. Same for anything. Deleting all the Muslims from the West would not cure the vacuum that made room for them in the first place – that called them forth from the vast dreadful deep that answers when we ask.

        Unless we fix the spiritual rot at the roots of the West, then killing all the x or demolishing institution y will accomplish *nothing at all.* Because why? Because all the structural incentives that work to found and succor x and y will continue operating, and so will reconstitute them.

        The *only* thing that can heal the West is metanoia: the conversion, moral baptism and rebirth of millions of consciences and their derivate utility functions. People need to start making different sorts of choices, or else the institutions that are now established to serve the sorts of choices they now generally make – and that, to be sure, encourage such choices by their very existence, which reduces the costs of those choices – will just reconstitute themselves in response to continued demand from a depraved people. And those people won’t want to make different sorts of choices – indeed, different sorts of choices will seem to them just insane – unless they begin to think differently about things, and about what is truly important.

        We don’t need a demagogue of any political or economic ideology. We don’t need Simon bar Kochba, or Judas “the Knife” and his Zealot comrades, or even the Maccabees. We need Jeremiah, Hosea, and Isaiah. We need Elijah, and John Baptist.

        We need Christ.

      • At the same time, an economy based on usury, a sin Dante placed in the same circle of Hell as sodomy, *will* yield bad fruit.

      • Yup. That’s what sin does. Usury is a form of deceit (because it is selling what does not exist – a fraud). It is a defect of the market. Such defects are often institutionalized in law – e.g., price controls, subsidies, etc. (cf. likewise sins like divorce and abortion).

        But the root of the problem is in the sin; the institutionalization of sin is a sequela, a symptom. Before such institutions can even be recognized as problematic, their sinfulness must first be recognized. The Aztecs thought human sacrifice was just fine.

        So policy reform can help, but only by removing noise from the system (any other sort of reform is just yet another institutionalization of sin and injustice), so that men are more alive to the disastrous nature and effect of their evil, and so that they can then come to understand the importance of repentance. There is no shortcut: it’s metanoia, or death.

    • @ Svar

      Publishing, as I had indicated, should be put in a totally different catagory to other types of products because it is typically a media item (unless its an instruction manual). Media items, in any reactionary society, must be necessarily regulated for the continued preservation of moral nature in the citizen.

      No, there will be no ‘Huffington Post’ in the world to come. haha

      • You forgot to mention Daily Kos, Daily Beast, Wonkette, The Young Turks, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, The Colbert Report, and the Daily Show.

        Though I think they should be given the pretense of “free speech” only so we can see them out in the open like they are now. We can’t allow them to go underground and start another subversion march through the institutions. Keep them in the open, make them objects of public ridicule, have them locked up in mental institutions. We must destroy the very thing they hold dear: their status and reputation. There are some types who just “wanna shoot ’em all” but I personally think that their punishment should be much, much more severe. Public ridicule and humilation followed by life in a mental institution where all they can do is watch on a screen how the horrid world they’ve created will become destroyed.

  4. Destructive forms of philosophy are anti-traditional, but this is like saying the sky is blue. It’s just plain obvious. However, philosophy itself isn’t anymore the enemy than capitalism is, as you eventually get around to saying in a roundabout way. Pondering big questions about reality is not necessarily antithetical to the good and beautiful (indeed, it is a necessity for understanding them more fully). The problem is that philosophy has been taken to mean the destructive sort of slash-and-burn field that you make it out to be. It is more about finding bad arguments than building on the good ones. Building on the good ones eventually weeds out the bad ones anyway, as a matter of course.

    Not to mention, too many philosophers are willing to be skeptical about basic propositions necessary for reality itself. I’m sorry, but the classical arguments on the existence of God point to one thing: Without Him, there wouldn’t be anybody to ask the question “is there a God” at all, and they do so effectively. Yet, many a supposed “philosopher” (how such a person loves wisdom is beyond me) would sooner throw out the idea of efficient causation (and with it the whole field we call “science”) than they would submit to the force of the argument.

  5. On a related note. There seems to be some minor buzz about a so-called ‘Gray Enlightenment’ going on. This is, a group of disgruntled conservatives going full bore secular and stating that they want to keep the current system in place, but that conservatives should abandon religion in favor of ‘reason’ (whatever that means), in order to win their sham elections, and also embrace liberalism’s eternal dominion. haha.

    Yet more non-Christian philosophizing leading to idiocy, in fact a poignant example. These fools are so far removed from the truth its hard to see how they can be reached. They’re as deluded as the progressives.

    God have mercy on them.

    • There seems to be some minor buzz about a so-called ‘Gray Enlightenment’ going on. This is, a group of disgruntled conservatives going full bore secular and stating that they want to keep the current system in place, but that conservatives should abandon religion in favor of ‘reason’ (whatever that means), in order to win their sham elections, and also embrace liberalism’s eternal dominion.

      I was under the impression that the term for this, at least in the United States, was known as the “Republican National Committee.”

      Seriously, too many people seem to think “conservatism” means low taxes and bombing campaigns. “Conservatives” are the chief offenders here.

  6. Pingback: Philosophy versus Tradition | Reaction Times

  7. I addressed this issue in one of my first blog posts (The Necessity of Knowledge); the topic is dear to my heart.

    I slightly disagree with Kristor’s set-up — the sophists were not the traditionalists of Athens, but rather the johnny-come-lately intellectuals who profited from the chaos they sowed. They did have the minds and souls of the city’s elite in their grasp, though. This, of course, fits perfectly with Kristor’s more interesting comparison of the sophists with our latter day free thinkers — the teachers of our elite who instruct our future rulers not in the ways of their fathers but in their radical newfangled theories. Protagoras is more like Adorno, whereas Homer — the teacher of Greece — is the voice of the true Hellenic conservatives. For our Proto-Ivy League professors, Homer was the dead white male of classical Athens.

    Aristophanes makes for a fitting representative of tradition, as he mocked both the sophists and Socrates. However, it’s not clear who Aristophanes would be for us since, as Kristor notes, our civilization is itself an offspring of Greek philosophical thought. Perhaps the anti-intellectual, dehellenized, pious pietist Protestant could be the equivalent of the Athenian traditionalist. Note, though, that the most celebrated Athenian defender of tradition is not an ignorant hick but a most brilliant comedic writer. Imagine a cross between Francis Schaeffer and Noël Coward — or maybe even Larry David, now that I think about it.

    Anyway, I think that the sophists make philosophy necessary (for a society) — just as heretics make theology necessary (for the Christian community). Once such alternate epistemologies and moralities arise, they must be addressed. And sophism seems to be an inherent danger in a culture’s waking up from conventional dogmatism. So, I would argue, philosophy is part of a civilization’s maturation. Like adolescence, it is dangerous and can easily take a bad turn, but it is a requisite part of actualizing one’s potential.

    • Yes. My suggestion that sophistry was the prevalent tradition of Periclean Athens was not meant to indicate that it was the old-time tradition of that town, still somewhat exemplified in such men as Pericles himself. Rather I meant that sophistry was *by then* the prevalent tradition – this being why Aristophanes, like Burke and de Maistre, had something to react against.

      Once chthonic tradition begins to break down and criticism begins, cultures move through three stages on the path to maturity. First, there is a mountain. Then there is no mountain. Then there is.

      Read “real essences” for “mountain,” and you get philosophical innocence, then adolescence, then maturity.

  8. @Kristor

    “… philosophy sets itself root and branch against the Tree of Life that sustains any traditional society… The Athenians saw this clearly: that’s why they executed Socrates.”

    I have come to believe that Socrates was executed because he was regarded as a *religious* fanatic – not a philosopher. Indeed the early, and I presume most biographical, Socrates (of Euthyphro and the Apology confirmed by Xenophon) didn’t seem to have any philosophy at all!

    Rather, he used a method for demolishing philosophical pretensions, so that men would return to serving god (Apollo) – thus (by this account) Socrates was an agent of traditional religious society in the face of democratic radical destructiveness (including philosophy).

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/what-kind-of-man-was-socrates-prophet.html

    Of course, in saying this, I am editing-out and discarding the Socrates of the later dialogues of Plato – as being merely a mouthpiece for Plato’s later and different and *philosophical* ideas.

    So I would distinguish sharply between the anti-philosopher Socrates and the philosopher Plato.

    • That’s very interesting. I have no idea if you are right or wrong, but why do you think Plato would put metaphysical ideas in his mentor’s mouth?

      • @josh – I don’t think it is at all controversial that Plato *did* put his own ideas into Socrates’s mouth in the late dialogues – the only dispute is the *extent* to which he did this. As to why… perhaps Plato had established Socrates as a ‘character’ in the dialogues and it was just an enjoyable and popular way of presenting ideas – and an act of homage. At the time I don’t suppose there was much public confusion about what came from the real Socrates, and what was the Platonic ‘character’.

  9. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/10/01 | Free Northerner

  10. >Many reactionaries complain that capitalism is eo ipso inimical to tradition.

    Well, it is important to understand what capitalism even is. It is not the same as a free market, a hands-off government, or even business or markets or pursuing profits. It is that specific arrangement where owning a tool and working with it is separated, so that many people work with tools they don’t own and some people own tools they don’t work with, the first people being called employees, the second investors or capitalists.

    For example, a family busines, mom and pop shop, or family farm is not capitalist, even though they may operate on a free market in the pursuit of profits. On the other hand, the Soviet state was clearly capitalist: the state owned the factories, and workers just worked with the tools, they did not own them.

    The problem with the terminology is that due to many complaints against this system, governments in the 20th century started to, well, not actually changing capitalism – the structure of ownership – , but rather interventing into market exchange itself. Whether this was a trick, or a folly, or actually the only possible doable thing I don’t know. But after that the terminology changed, as the governments claimed their interventions will cure the ills of capitalism, these interventions were called socialism and the opposite, the lack of them, was called capitalism. But it is not actually a good terminology at all: capitalism is a specific kind of ownership structure and not market exchange per se.

    Actually, by this logic, the most plausible anti-capitalist policy would be exactly one libertarians would like: boost the family businesses and the self-employed, most likely by deregulating them first. Because these are the kind of people who roughly own as many tools as they can themselves personally work with, they are both investors and workers, and this is actually what is important regarding this term.

    Back to the original topic: does capitalism, correctly understood, erode tradition? Yes, it does. Suppose that you would own a newspaper in a way that you and your family members write the major articles, and some other articles are wrote by a few freelancers. This would be a NOT capitalist newspaper. What kind of newspaper could it be? Small and local, published, maybe, in a town or county only, where you live and people know you. Would you want to put porn into it just because that would boost sales? No, you don’t want all your neighbors and friends think you are that immoral and mercenary. You would keep it traditional, by the standards of said community. Now, think of an actually capitalist newspaper! You own some shares of a media group, which you could sell easily at any time at the NYSE. You only keep the shares as long as it is profitable and you don’t have any other motives. You don’t expect anything from the CEO you elected, only profits. You don’t care if three countries away they publish porn or what – no backlash to you personally. You want them to publish whatever pays. You don’t live there, you don’t work there.

    The point is, work as such is an inherently social activity. When workers, at least leading workers, read, managers don’t make decisions, because they are not owners (so in other words the owners are not the managers, not the lead workers), the product of a work can easily contradict social standards. And this is the issue with capitalism – although I do admit that it sounds a bit like some weird right-wing version of marxism. But I think it is the truth.

    • That’s an interesting distinction between capitalism and other forms of social organization. It points at the nature of the problem: the alienation of labor from the human factors of its work. But I don’t think it quite succeeds. If capitalism exists wherever there are employees or employers, then any family farm or county newspaper would be capitalist, unless the *only* people who worked there were familiars of the owner. A young clerk starting out at a small law firm, or an apprentice learning his trade in a smithy – both of them coming to these first positions with nothing other than their bodies and their wits – must perforce work with the assets of their employers: the buildings, tools, good will, records, and so forth. The only way such an arrangement would not be capitalist is if their masters were family.

      Thus if we do accept your definition of capitalism, then we would have to admit that almost all civilized societies have been capitalist. But in that case the attribution of social degeneracy to capitalism can’t work, since it has prevailed in many robustly traditional societies.

      I revert then to my argument that where capitalism does subvert tradition, the subversion is not due to capitalism per se, but to some defect either of capitalism itself as actually implemented in law and custom, or of some other parts of the polis – e.g., liberalism – which, in the nature of things, cannot but subvert capitalism, as well.

      Defects of any thing pervert it, so that it works at best defectively toward its originally intended and designed end, thus missing it. And error compounds. Unless it be purged, the parasite of evil eventually destroys its host; but until it does, and as its influence upon the host increases, more and more deranging it, the natural operations of the host are more and more deformed; it is hijacked, as it were, and becomes itself an agent of evil, and a vector of its plague (whether consciously or not; whether intentionally or not).

      The example you give of the owners of the local newspaperman being ashamed to print porn is not in fact dependent on whether the paper is or is not capitalist under your definition of that term. Whether the paper has unfamiliar employees (so that it is capitalist) or not, the owner is personally known in his community, which depends for its survival and prosperity on the maintenance of the social virtues, and so has a legitimate interest in promoting the righteous comportment of its members, and punishing the unrighteous. The newspaperman has a reputation to uphold among his fellows, in the light of their communal standards of righteousness. If he fails thereat, he fails, not just as a businessman, but as a journalist, and as a man. It is this consideration that deters him from personal vice. The number or character of the laborers at his firm are immaterial.

      The example thus gets at the root of the problem – or one of them, anyway: the alienation of people *from each other* made possible by mass society, which enables them to do evil more or less anonymously. Small is beautiful, no doubt. But big is sometimes apposite to circumstances – viz., railroads, cathedrals, fortifications, universities, irrigation canals, etc.; so we have no real option to ban bigness as such: enterprises must be allowed to expand so as to enable their performance of their intended functions.

      So it seems that some operations of civilization must be mediated by organizations so large as to enable anonymity. Some way must then be found to increase the personal cost of malfeasance – not necessarily financial, but of any sort – to the responsible malfeasors, no matter how remote they are from the scenes of their crimes. Costs must be levied to those who impose them. Such is the correction of systematic moral hazards, also known as market failures.

      NB though that the wickedness in your example would not be eliminated by changes to the law of corporations. A single person with an internet connection and a camera – or just a smartphone – can sell porn all over the world, anonymously. The capital needed to get such a business off the ground these days is pocket change. Nor would any employees be needed. So it’s a difficult problem, but apparently it does not arise from capitalism per se, or from bigness per se.

      • “the owner is personally known in his community”
        capitalism has resulted in widespread anonymous ownership.
        capitalism celebrates innovation which spills over to social sphere.

        “, then any family farm or county newspaper would be capitalist,”
        Under capitalism, few owners, a lot of property-less workers working for hire.
        that is, hirelings over-number owners.
        also, reqd: owners are working for money. cf Dawson “the bourgeois is essentially a money-maker”.
        it means that a capitalist intends only at making money..

      • systematic moral hazards is not the only thing. you need to consider the essence of a money-maker.
        Capitalism reduces concrete things to money and thus enables growth of money-makers. the people whose only intention is to make money. they have no other vision.

      • Vishmehr, you are arguing that capitalists are one-dimensional. The notion disagrees with reality. Men are complex; and businessmen are just as complex as any other sort of man.

        It just isn’t true that capitalists are interested only in money. Nor is it true that they engage in business only to make money. Some there must be, I suppose, who care nothing for their businesses, or their employees, or their customers, but want only to make money. But the problem they pose is due, not to the fact that they happen to be businessmen, but to the fact that they are moral idiots, or sociopaths. Their sort would be problematic in any office of any social order. No polity is invulnerable to their predations.

        Such men are in any case the odd exception, rather than the rule. All the businessmen I know care deeply about the matter of their business, about their employees, and about their customers. All of them are tremendously committed to excellence in all their doings, and seriously engaged in a relentless daily critique of their own personal methods and ethics.

        Likewise it just isn’t true that capitalism reduces concrete things to money. That’s like saying that geography reduces concrete things to latitudes or meters, or that engineering reduces concrete things to joules or kilograms. It’s a category error. Certainly any professor of any discipline may commit such an error, and grow besotted with his maps, plans, measures or models, forgetting the reality to which they refer. Social critics like you and I are notoriously prone to this besetting hazard of intellectual life. But when it happens, disaster eventually ensues, reproves the errant and corrects his error.

        … capitalism celebrates innovation which spills over to social sphere.

        No. Capitalism, or rather uncoerced market exchanges, reward what works over what does not. Sometimes new ideas are better, but usually they are not. And they are costly to test. So, business is extremely skeptical of innovations. One of the most often observed maxims of business is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Businessmen love social stability, peace, lawfulness, a general and pervasive ethical uprightness; it makes doing business easier. Businessmen abhor change. They tend therefore to conservatism.

        capitalism has resulted in widespread anonymous ownership.

        Where anonymity enables perfidy, this is a problem. But ensuring that it does not is not to delete capitalism, but to correct the failures of the market, and so perfect it.

  11. kristor,
    are you aware that the virtues of distributism are considered by Hayek (only he calls it “several property”).
    if you think that property distribution is entirely irrelevant, then how would you feel if 50% of your nation comes to be owned by saudi royal family and 25% by chinese communist party?

    The economists do not even agree on what “property” is.

    • … are you aware that the virtues of distributism are considered by Hayek (only he calls it “several property”).

      Yes. I feel the same way.

      … if you think that property distribution is entirely irrelevant …

      I don’t; never said anything of the sort.

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