As we look to the end of Christmastide next week, I thought it seemly to bid farewell to the season with a fond nod – not just of respect and gratitude, but as shall be seen of reverence and some awe – to the inspiring and administering angel of the domestic rites of that festival, Santa Claus. With that statement, I have given away the matter of this post.
James Chastek’s Just Thomism is one of the sites I read without fail. I like it because he teaches me lots of things. He closed comments a while ago because responding to them took up too much time. So here is what I would have commented at his blog if he still allowed comments, in response to this post:
Many of the books in the “decline of the West” genre – which was already old by the time Weaver published Ideas have Consequences in 1948 but which still sells (Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed) – tell a curious narrative of decline over very large time scales. If Nominalism or Hobbesianism were as harmful as claimed, why is the diseased host still alive a half-millennium later?
Now that’s a good question. I myself have contributed a fair bit to the literature wailing and bemoaning nominalism. How do I answer the question?
The acid eating at tradition is cheap information. This is to say that the acid eating away at cultures – all cultures, properly so called – is cheap information.
And information is from now on essentially free.
Can there then ever again be such a thing as a coherent traditional society?
Sure, tradition is necessary; it is the atomic stuff of culture as such. But is it even possible anymore? Are we looking at the death of culture?
We hear often from our adversaries on the Left that race, sex, nation, and so forth are all merely adventitious social constructs, and so presumably, as fundamentally adventitious, therefore nowise suasive or authoritative, but rather, only, and simply, and completely, specious.
But the notion of the social construct redounds to and devours itself. It is autophagous. It cannot therefore be true.
If reality is socially constructed, and if that social construction is by itself a legitimate generator of truth, then one of the social constructs that can be legitimately constructed, and therefore treated as true, is the social construct that reality is not socially constructed. If on the other hand reality is socially constructed, but that social construction is not a legitimate generator of truth, then one of the social constructs that cannot be legitimately constructed, or therefore treated as true, is the social construct that reality is socially constructed.
Finally, if reality is not socially constructed to begin with, then the notion that reality is socially constructed is simply false.
All our notions are affected by society, to be sure. But that does not mean, as the Social Justice Warriors would like it to, that they are all just made up for no good reason, so that we can modify them as we wish and without serious consequence; that they are not, in other words, simply true, more or less.
To think that our social constructs are adventitious is to suppose that we are a society composed mostly of inveterate liars or fools. But if that were so, how could we have managed to survive thus far?
Electronic maps are great. Their route planning vis-à-vis current traffic conditions is terrifically handy. But I am sure I am not alone in finding that reliance upon electronic guidance for direction to destinations impairs my ability to build my own internal maps of new territory – to know where I am and find my way.
I’m pretty good at orienteering. It’s an occupational requirement for professional outdoorsmen. I know where North is almost always, and without thinking about it; and I can often find my way to a new place by the seat of my pants. I’ve trekked in the wilderness for weeks with no better map than what I could draw on the back of an envelope, and never got lost. To be fair, I’ve also found myself totally bewildered in company with three other experienced outdoorsmen equipped with good topo maps and compasses under clear skies. Too many cooks in the kitchen, perhaps.
But when I rely upon electronic guidance to get to a new destination – rather than map reading, memory, and dead reckoning – I find that *I can’t find my way there the next time without that same electronic help.* Why? Because, knowing that as I travel I can rely upon the electronic guidance to support me in my first foray, I relax my conscious attention to my environment versus my map, and turn it instead to my own thoughts of this or that. I arrive at my destination, but without a vivid memory of how I got there. It’s almost like driving a route you’ve known for years; you do it automatically, thinking of other things, and arrive with no vivid recollection of the trip. The difference of course is that when I get someplace new in that semiconscious way, *I have no clear idea where I am.* I am disoriented. I literally don’t know where East is, and must examine the shadows to calculate it.
That state of disoriented befuddlement is a fitting analogy for what is overtaking us in many departments of modern life.
The basic problem with freedom of speech and of religion is that in principle, and then inevitably in practice, it opens the agora to the discussion of the pros and cons of every alternative cult. No topic is prohibited. So, no sort of doctrine or rite is forbidden within the pale. There ensues a proliferation and interpenetration and confusion of heresies and petty foreign cults. The cult of Moloch is then sooner or later bound to enter the lists. Where there is freedom of speech and of religion, no one will be able to prevent that entry legally.
Where it is legal to advocate and to practice Molochism, it will sooner or later be advocated and practiced, by at least some few.
As those functions best handled lower in the social hierarchy should be delegated downward, so by the same token should those functions best carried out higher in the hierarchy be delegated upward. The father should not enslave the son, but nor a fortiori should the son usurp the offices proper under the Order of Being to the father.
Professors and other professional intellectuals and quasi-intellectuals (journalists, opinion writers, novelists, bloggers, and so forth) are paid to think about things – or, at least, somehow or other rewarded for doing so, or (more accurately) for *appearing* to do so. And each of them is charged with devising original insights, that, as original, warrant our attention, and then perhaps our deliberation.
There’s no other reason to have these people around.
Sir Roger Scruton/Dr. Jordan B. Peterson: Apprehending the Transcendent
Scruton comments: “The old way of teaching the humanities was as objects of love. This is what I have loved. This is what previous generations have loved who handed it on to me. Here. Try it out and you will love it too. Whereas the postmodern curriculum is a curriculum of hatred. It’s directed against our cultural inheritance.”
Peterson, describing that postmodern point of view: “This is the best of what the best of us could produce and it’s nothing. Why should you bother?”
When asked why someone would adopt a man-hating ideology, Scruton suggests that with a loss of a culturally inherited religious tradition and church attendance feminists feel something to be lacking in their lives but do not know what it is. They then surmise that it has been stolen from them. They look at people who seem to be at peace with themselves and the world, the socially successful, who seem fairly content, and imagine it is they who have taken it. Continue reading
Many feminists describe the history of humanity as a male tyranny, oppressing and maltreating women at every opportunity. Their name for this is the “patriarchy;” a name now intended to send a shudder down the spines of all who hear it.
Having suggested this characterization of the totality of human existence all that is needed is evidence. Then, in an instance of what is called “confirmation bias,” a selective search is made for unpleasant things ever done to women, not worrying about similarly horrible things perpetrated against men, nice things about men, or nice things men have done for women.
The result is an ugly and repellent account of the way men and women are connected to each other.
A list of male contributions in architecture, art, music, literature, philosophy, poetry, theater, medicine, math, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering – the provision of the water coming out of the kitchen tap and showerhead, plumbing, roads, hospitals, the phone in your pocket, you name it, would present a more positive picture of the male input to humanity.
But, thanks to anti-male propaganda, it is possible to read Facebook posts where one woman casually comments to the other that “men suck,” and is met by bland agreement by a married woman. Continue reading