Is it possible to separate politics from philosophy, from any educational pursuit?

1Education cannot occur where equality is taken as the preeminent moral virtue, where the past is rejected as hopelessly morally compromised, and when materialism is adopted as the overriding metaphysical presupposition. To engage in education, therefore, is a rejection of all those things. Since most colleges and most professors, often through intimidation, adopt those positions, they have abandoned education. Education can only occur where overt politicization is avoided. Education, as opposed to indoctrination, will involve a respect for students’ moral integrity, and for the past, and thus a willingness to sometimes consider reform, but never to entertain wholesale rejection and abhorrence of all social structures and reality as we know it. A measured and sane education will accept the existence of mystery, and respect tradition as a repository of answers to questions many of which we have forgotten. The Enlightenment has been described as a rejection of intuition and tradition; as such, it announced its hostility to education aimed at wisdom.

Socrates described education as poring over works of philosophy and then sharing one’s best finds with one’s friends. Real education is self-education; auto-didacticism, in combination with smart friends with similar interests. A mere professor can lead a student to water but cannot make him drink. The student might come to share the professor’s enthusiasm and love for a subject through mimeticism, or he might not.[1] But, here, the discussion will focus on pedagogy.

To answer the question of whether politics can be separated from philosophy, we must first examine what philosophy is.  Philosophy begins and began with intimations of the divine and working through the implications of that insight. Plato, the father of Western philosophy, had “The Form of the Good” as the generator of reality. As the basis of all things, it indicates that existence and being is fundamentally good. As Plotinus put it, one cannot love the Father and hate his children. This stance is reflected in the Bible where God declares Creation good. Philosophy posits a divine and good ground of being.

Since, existing is a chore, and to exist is to be limited, imperfect, and thus frustrated, philosophers must often work to maintain a positive slant of mind. As a last resort, faith is all that remains – that in the midst of darkness, the light can still be found, and still undergirds everything.

Nihilism and materialism are the denial of the possibility of philosophy. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Wisdom is a combination of moral goodness, the virtues of generosity, courage, temperance, and justice, and sufficient practical wisdom to live well. A drug addict with a needle in his arm, or an Antifa rioter, is not wise. A nihilist and a materialist cannot be wise. Such people deny wisdom exists. And, in fact, modern pseudo philosophers, especially professional philosophers, largely abandoned the concept of wisdom and the search for wisdom during the twentieth century. One cannot be a self-described lover of wisdom and give up the notion of wisdom. The existence of car enthusiasts is predicated on the existence of cars, wine lovers on wine, etc.

Wisdom and reality – one cannot be wise and have a fundamentally mistaken conception of reality – partly involve a 2view of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness as the core of reality, and things to be pursued, and as three different aspects of the same thing. Christianity, likewise, adopts a Trinitarian view of things. Those who claim to pursue truth sometimes divorce it from Beauty and Goodness. This is nonsensical. They can give no rationale for their love and devotion to truth. We can only love the Truth, if Truth is Good and Beautiful. For the deniers of Goodness and Beauty, there can be no love and devotion, and thus no rational adherence to Truth. It would be impossible to trust such supposed purveyors of “Truth” since they have no love of Goodness and thus honesty. Some who are particularly decadent, even abandon Truth in favor of power – a bloodthirsty and demonic doctrine if ever there was one.

Materialists cannot and do not do philosophy. Consistency is not their strong point. Materialists are committed to determinism because they have no choice, and determinism rules out the possibility of rationality and of goodness. Goodness can only exist if freedom exists and freedom is possible only with a transcendental ground of freedom. Every materialist scientist, it seems, starts his philosophical-like musings with a denial of freedom, and thus a rejection of agency. So, there is no point in listening further since he has declared himself a puppet of physical forces only with no mind of his own, and he has also, by implication, declared that to be true of you the listener. With no agents, there is only a sea of causation. The Person does not exist and cannot be differentiated from his surrounding environment without violating his own principles. There are no minds, just brains and a brain is a physical mechanism like any other. Education is possible only if agents exist.

Does all this have political implications? Yes: indirectly, though, not the kind that divides people into Republicans and Democrats. It is of the sort that says “Yes,” or “No.” “Yes” means that what exists is fundamentally good. And might ask, can it be improved in some way? Nineteenth century Russian self-described nihilists, answered “No,” and wanted to raze all of society to pave the way for utopia. The thought is, “What exists is not good. Let us have a new reality.” Actual existence; the Logos, is an ordered reality; a hierarchy. Hierarchy means “sacred order.” The nihilists believe in “equality,” which means eradicating the Cosmos (a harmonious whole) and returning it to disordered Chaos. Equality turns each person into a rival and competitor with his fellow man and generates resentment at any individual who seems to have raised himself above the herd; above the great mass, in any way. Equality is hostile to success. Since education is aimed at improvement, and development, education is antithetical to equality. Development depends on the existence of hierarchies. To be literate is better than to be illiterate, and so on. The ineluctable trajectory of the nihilist is mediocrity, ignorance, death and destruction. Equality negates creation. The nihilist also has no faith in divine transcendence. Their dark souls, however, continue to yearn for God and the divine, and they become determined to produce heaven in the only place they think it can exist; on Earth. Their attempts to do so create a Hell.

Wisdom is unachievable for someone who denies wisdom exists or wisdom is important. Education means introducing people to the greatest achievements of human civilization; mostly philosophical and artistic (broadly conceived), but 3also scientific discoveries. As Roger Scruton put it, to paraphrase, “The good teacher says ‘This I have loved. You will love it too.’” Science, by itself, however, has a tendency to become a worldview, in the manner of a déformation professionelle, so it is important to study Latin, and the like, as well as calculus. In learning Latin, the student studied great artists, like Virgil, as well as Roman philosophers who loved and admired the Greeks.

The possibility of education rests on faith and hope, on a belief in the possibility and desirability of wisdom, and thus on God. The choice is God or nihilism, my perennial and perhaps only thought. The impossibility of bootstrapping morality without God, without man being made in the image of God, without human life being fundamentally sacred, is sufficient evidence that those two things set the parameters of choice.

The current tendency at colleges and schools, predictably, is to reject all of Western civilization and the careful preservation of books, of obvious value, that have lasted thousands of years, usually on the basis simply of their having been written by white men. In other words, nihilism. For some reason, the rejection of Cervantes has a special pathos for me. I want to say: “Try actually reading him. He’s not so bad.” There is thus no education in such a context. There is nothing to study and learn. One cannot study the future, and one has rejected the past. The stupidity of Leftist mania could be compared with thinking that all the greatest art humanity has ever produced was created between 2016 and5 2021. No one in his right mind thinks that. And neither should the current everchanging fashions in pseudo-morality be regarded as the highwater mark in moral insight. Of course, its everchangingness is sufficient proof of its nullity. What is encountered are not refinements of thought, but complete reversals, such as the sudden switch from moral subjectivism/relativism being taught in schools to moral absolutism combined with moral omniscience (epistemic infallibilism) involved with critical race theory.

It is impossible to separate education from religion – at least with any consistency. Some people point out that most people are perfectly willing to be inconsistent so this is not a terminal problem. However, the “logic” of nihilism – the imagined lacuna at the heart of reality – has an eroding effect over time. Writing this little essay, for instance, begins with a thought and then follows the logical implications that proceed from it. All thinking has axioms, treated as self-evident truths, undergirding it. Those axioms point in certain directions and not others. In some sense, you end up where you started. Nihilists end up at nihilism. Believers end up with God.

Education exists with God. It cannot exist with nihilism. Though education is not itself political, the possibility of education even existing means a metaphysical choice has been made. Education assumes nihilism is false and the Logos is true. It means Russian, or American, nihilism is false. And this will have political ramifications. The love of learning, of Latin, Greek, or philosophy, is positive. It is an affirmation. The nihilist who looks around and hates what she sees, and sees no worth in it, cannot educate. So, instead of education, she engages in propaganda. There is nothing of worth to be garnered from the past, she thinks. As pointed out by C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, there is no Way, or Path, or Logos, to follow from this point of view. Students are not people introduced to the best thought and art of the last several thousand years, but are subjects in an indoctrination program who are encouraged to denounce each other and their professors in the manner of Nazism, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or East Germans recruited by the Stasi. Administrators, corralling professors, then become the heads of laboratories, and the students, lab rats. The professors and administrators are Gnostics, with a pseudo-religious pseudo-divine “gnosis” (esoteric 4knowledge) who are there to create “equality” where none exists. Significantly, the Gnostics detested physical reality. In the name of equality, SAT test scores are currently being thrown out as methods of selecting students who will instead be selected on the basis of diversity, inclusion, and equity, though ignoring differences does not actually make them go away. Many top universities have eliminated Western civilization courses, and college administrators everywhere are encouraging the false religion of DIE to permeate every single college department and even every single course. This is indeed “political.” Is, thus, education political? Continuing to educate students, rather than indoctrinating them, is a political rebuff to tyrants. Not being overtly political, in the context where the curriculum has been politicized, ends up having a political meaning. But, this constitutes a paradox and conundrum, the nonpolitical, becomes political, not a fact about education per se. Take away the pressure to engage in political indoctrination, and these political overtones cease. So, this political meaning, at least, is not inherent to the process. More importantly, education has non-nihilist implications that involves preserving the best of the past and thus love for our forebears, and mental and spiritual superiors. It attempts to conserve and may thus be described as conservative. It, at the very least, means embracing a tradition and corpus of learning. Modern universities have largely abandoned education, and have instead embraced Marxist programming on test subjects that divides the world into oppressors and the oppressed. Those who belong to the imaginary oppressor class must be demoralized and filled with self-loathing and become a class and “race traitor.” That is not an “education,” but indoctrination. Education is not overtly political. But, indoctrination, which replaces education at colleges, is indeed political and wears it proudly.

What of philosophy? Philosophy departments are perhaps the last holdout in this cultural revolution in the humanities, but, they too are giving way to pressure from administrators who insist on DIE. So, they too, will die. And, the rather ignominious reason that philosophy departments were resistant, is that they were so positivist in nature – so devoted to scientism- that “value” driven ideas from grievance studies departments passed them by. Perhaps, if science suggested, for instance, that sexual dimorphism were false, we might pay attention, but science suggests no such thing. Plus, we philosophers are the only people with any training or experience in actually thinking about ethics in a methodical manner, with knowledge of thousands of years of the best thinking on the topic, and are unlikely to take kindly to some administrator, or sociology, or women’s studies professor lecturing us about ethics. Education cannot be the less informed teaching the better informed.

[1] I have never had an inspiring professor. But, two high school teachers were. I should add that this essay was written in response to this question whose wording is not my own. Since publishing this, at an institution with which I am affiliated, there has been an invitation to join a reading group called, “Egalitarianism and Education.” It seems impressively coincidental. The reading group is pro-egalitarian, which, it is suggested here, makes no sense with regard to education.

16 thoughts on “Is it possible to separate politics from philosophy, from any educational pursuit?

  1. “I have never had an inspiring professor. But, two high school teachers were. I should add that this essay was written in response to this question whose wording is not my own.”

    Before the signs of nihilism made themselves obvious in the institutions of education, those institutions had undertaken the first steps toward self-annihilation without people noticing. They did this, among other ways, by dedicating themselves to insipidity — hiring insipid teachers and principals, adopting insipid “textbooks,” and making sure that a non-inspirational atmosphere pervaded the “halls of learning.” Even the pretty girls were pretty in an insipid way.

    I had one inspirational teacher in high school, but he was a dubiously moral person. He nevertheless introduced us to Nietzsche, Spengler, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler. He ended up as a snake-oil salesman, no kidding.

    • Thanks, Tom. I had a friend of the family, rather than a teacher, who was inspiring and a mentor to me. However, he turned out to be a fraud and pathological liar. His enthusiasm for Mahler and Wagner, however, among other things was quite real. I know you know this, but it might be of some interest to others as a phenomenon – and one that we share in common from our past.

      My public high school was insipid. My private high school, less so – but it too has been corrupted and now participates in every crazy globalist trend that rules out inspired eccentricity.

  2. “Education cannot be the less informed teaching the better informed.”

    Like all things, education must follow a principle, but the principle is usually identical to the prince, as the rule is identical with the ruler. “L’état, c’est moi,” said Louis XIV.

    If we democratic peoples are ruled by the nebulous, mediocre and cowardly mass, “the people” (“Moi! Je suis peuple!”, cried Robespierre, in defending himself against the charge of treason), then the rule and principle of education will therefore be akin to its representative. From one day to the next, it seems a more crude, carnal and barbarous type is discovered or imported, to the cheers of the many, whose intellectual burdens are lessened thereby. This is the natural inclination of man, whereas philosophy, spirit etc., grounded in the supernatural, requires *unnatural* effort, in order to triumph not only in the hearts of the young, but also, and perhaps most importantly, over the head of society.

  3. I was inspired by two English teachers in high school. Nothing in college, unfortunately. What inspired me was their pedantry and love of reading – I still often write out on paper the themes and conflicts of a book, as they made us do back then. One of them would give to interested students a list of 50 or so great books the summer before class. We could choose anything or nothing, but she would discuss those books with those who had read them before class.
    There was no extra credit and no bonuses. I think she spun it as free college prep maybe. But that opened the door to many books I would have never discovered. Anyway, sorry for the tangent. I’ve thought of this a lot recently as I’m often asked to “mentor” newer folks or students of my own.

  4. I am glad to know, Richard, that you did not, in fact, pen the title. It didn’t read like you!

    When I hear a speaker intoning forcefully (and usually with a bitterness the speaker actually relishes to lavish upon his theoretical enemy) upon “equality,” “racism,” “inclusion” and “diversity” — all code words which the deconstructionism-loving pseudo-intellectuals have purposely set adrift from their moorings in reality so as to sail the (low) seas of unreality — it occurs to me that this new weapon of ours might really do the trick.

    Hope you liked the sailing the seas analogy. Please indulge me my simple pleasures, gents….

  5. I remember some time back utilizing grammar, punctuation, and high dollar words, demonstrating my intelligence. It felt silly. Better to speak plainly, as Socrates did, for he shared that he knew nothing. The only thing, according to him, that made him wiser was that while everyone else was trying to demonstrate their intelligent, giving them popularity and standing, he assured he knew nothing. I think that’s our difficulty: We know nothing yet keep trying to prove otherwise.

    • Hi, dolphinwrite:

      Exactly what Socrates was doing in his claim of knowing nothing is intensely debatable and thus philosophical. It has to be combined with Socratic irony and thus, humor. “I know nothing” is a great approach to dense, interesting, deep, prose. It removes the impulse to run a check list. I agree with this, I disagree with that. I agree with this… etc.

      “I know nothing” is a precondition for deep learning. If taken too literally, then learning is impossible. Learning is possible, but it requires a degree of humility. I have certain students who are, in fact, high IQ, but so ridiculously cocksure they are incapable of learning anything.

      If you read Platonic dialogues, Socrates obviously knows things and uses his knowledge to trip his opponents; cynics and power mongers. His assertion is partly an acknowledgement of mystery. Without mystery, God and freedom are impossible. And, they lie at the core of reality. How can anyone claim to “know” God? I know nothing about matters supreme. I certainly know nothing about heaven, although I once thought I did. Now, i look forward to being enlightened on the topic, assuming I am ever admitted. (And I don’t see why I ever should.) A day pass, if one can be purchased, would be much appreciated!

  6. I found it humorous, while in college, the professors some students doted on. They didn’t know anything anyone couldn’t have figured out, yet, they felt the need to seem intellectual and well-researched, keeping students guessing. It was difficult, explaining to some peers, there was nothing new, but if they listened carefully, they would see what the professor was saying, where he/she was going, and that they might be able to explain the same things to ten year olds. But then, the students might lose the motivation to learn, realizing what they were learning they already understood, or could figure out, some through research, on their own.

  7. As someone who did a philosophy degree starting in 1998 and then actually guest taught a semester of University in 2019 the difference was both dramatic and shocking. My professors, many of whom were intellectually rigorous and impressive were both feared and respected. Faculty were in charge and wouldn’t hesitate to dismantle a student engaging in intellectually weak argumentation. Fast forward to 2019 the prisoners now run the prison and the staff are frightened, neutered, painfully agreeable “facilitators”. It took me exactly one semester to confirm that I’d never teach anything again.

  8. Richard: Returning from class just now, I rode the elevator with a student who had the word EQUALITY written six times across the front of her tee shirt in boldfaced rainbow colors. Waiting in my inbox was another student’s email message that began, “Hey Mr. Smith.” I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t go straight to the diminutive of my Christian name.

    I attended the wedding of my graduate student this weekend, and at the reception sat with two young ladies who are studying architecture. They were bubbling with excitement over the idea that all architecture is really political, and they were full of ideas to inject politics into everything they design. They were pleasant young women but their political idea was very ugly, boiling down to the proposition that the bourgeoise clients of architects must suffer pain.

    My department has planned a “retreat” for this Friday, and the agenda says we will “revisit our values.” Our true values are, of course, money and status. Since neither money nor status are on our present list of values, I suppose it follows that our third true value is deceit. It is degrading for an educated adult to participate in this kind of moronic babble.

    • Your comment makes me fantasize about a world where college mottos or mission statements had to be truthful. “We are here to extract the maximum amount the federal loan system makes available. If, in fact, you were never cut out for college in the first place, fail and are left with nothing but debt, that is your problem.” “We are here to inculcate virtue signaling. When we are through with you, you will be so demoralized, and emotionally and financially exhausted, that this is all you will be able to do, too.” “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” “SUCKERS! This has been a communication from your overpaid college administration and applies to professors and students alike.”

      • I now have two sons in college and their stories make me ashamed of my profession. Your honest mission statement would be recognized as the truth by intelligent space aliens who have observed what universities actually do. What really makes me weep is the sanctimonious talk about “retention,” since this really means nothing but more debt for students who ought to be doing something else.


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