Orthodoxy Is Inevitable

Cult effects culture. A people cannot efficiently coordinate their activities except insofar as they share a common understanding of the way things are, and of the proper way to deal with them. At the very least, they must agree about what is real, what reality is like, what it is for, and so forth; they must agree about First Things, and indeed Most Things. This they generally do, without ever even noticing all their myriad agreements; men rather tend to notice only their irksome disagreements, however petty.

Thus to cohere, a culture must recur to its common cult, and must rehearse it together. So is there always an established religion.

A people among whom heterodoxy regarding First Things begins to gain a foothold begins ipso facto to become confused in their motions: in their heads, hearts, and acts. Their loyalties are then divided, and so vitiated, at least at the margins.

Heterodoxy is cold civil war. Let it compound long enough, and it will go hot. So healthy societies must control for heterodoxy, especially about First Things.

Continue reading

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Ontological Priority of Wholes to Parts

I struggled for several decades to understand composite wholes (organisms, organs, ecologies, societies, and so forth (not to mention molecules, atoms (in the Rutherfordian sense rather than the Democritean), cells, organelles, hadrons, etc.)) as deriving from and completely explained by the interactions of their constituent parts, until I finally realized that it simply can’t be done. Such “explanations” inevitably invoke the whole they are trying to explain as an obscure feature of their parts. They are, i.e., somehow or other circular. This is why honest and careful materialism *just is* eliminative.

The derivation must run the other way, if we are to understand either wholes or their parts. And once we run the derivation in the proper direction, taking the whole as itself an ontological real independent of its parts, and prior thereto, and furthermore definitive thereof, why then all sorts of vexing problems that simply cannot be solved under the terms of materialist modernism – the mind/body problem, in particular – simply vanish. There are to such ontological holism furthermore all sorts of interesting consequences, that tend to validate both our quotidian experience and the deliverances of traditional supernaturalism.

Continue reading

Profane Hierarchies are Bound to Work Evil

A hierarchy that is not consecrated and thus ordered in all its parts to the vision of the Good vouchsafed by the common cult is as likely to work good as is a broken clock to display the correct time. A profane institution is finally, and thus fundamentally, and thus thoroughly misdirected away from the proper mundane end of all human acts: the achievement, maintenance, repair and restoration of that proper harmony among and within things under and toward heaven, in virtue of which alone is there any health, prosperity, propagation, contentment, wisdom.

Continue reading

Increase of Subsidiarity Tends to Increase of Liberty

As each level of a subsidiaritan political hierarchy fobs off upon its subsidiaries every duty it possibly can, each level of the hierarchy will interfere with subsidiary systems less and less. The result should be a libertarian’s dream – and quite nice for sovereigns, too (indeed, optimally nice).

Continue reading

What I Saw During the Eclipse

They Live 01

My Downtown, as Photographed During the Eclipse

During a solar eclipse, light from the sun is not only diminished by the occulting transit of the moon, but that same light is also temporarily polarized.  The polarization shows things fleetingly in a new and revelatory way, as long as one is looking.  (It helps to be looking, as it were, out of the corner of one’s eye.) Rather than photographing the eclipse itself, as it passed over my city, and as many people were doing, I photographed the city.  The shots in this post document what I saw.

Continue reading

Liberty Is the Fruit of Sovereignty

You can’t do anything at all if the world isn’t ordered. Actions are conceivable under conditions of absolute disorder, but their effects are not. So, since acts can complete their actuality only insofar as their actions somehow eventuate in effects – which cannot happen under conditions of disorder – then actions cannot actually happen except under conditions of order.

This holds not just for the cosmic order that warrants our expectations of the consequences of our actions, but for its social subsidiary.

Only in the context of a social order can we do anything as individuals.

Continue reading

The Lethal Sociological Misprision of Modernism

Feminists, Marxists, libertarians – indeed almost all moderns – are alike stuck in the improper reduction of all social relations to struggles for power. They cannot see that struggles for power are not the basis of society, but rather defects thereof. Society is constituted fundamentally of charitable exchange, communion, friendship, familiarity, commensality.

There is struggle, to be sure. But you can’t struggle for social power if there is no society to begin with.

The modernist’s reduction of society to its diseases leaves him unable to understand his quotidian predicaments in any other way than as constant battle. This dooms him to … constant battle. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How I Got My Hat Back

Panama Hat

My Hat

Yesterday, 17 July, my wife and I celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage by going to dinner at a The Bistro, a local establishment in Oswego, New York, our city of residence, where we have previously had pleasant experiences.  Not the least part of that pleasure is the affability of the establishment’s bartender, Mark, whom I know also from Old City Hall, where we both like to drink.  Mark, a former SUNY Oswego Philosophy major, is a friendly acquaintance.

In any case, I tried to dress for the occasion.  It was too hot and muggy for a jacket but I wore a black tuxedo-style shirt with a bow tie and I sported my new hat, a white Panama with the characteristic broad brim and a black band.  When we decided to eat at the bar, I put the hat on the table behind us, where, of course, I failed to retrieve it when we got up to leave.  (The two Martinis might have had something to do with it.)

Not only did I leave the hat behind, but I forgot it entirely.  Then, around ten o’clock this morning, my telephone (yes – I maintain a land line) rang and when I picked it up I recognized the voice of my friend Dick Fader, who is also a regular at Old City Hall.  Dick told me that he had just received a telephone call from Mark (my number not being known to him), and that Mark had told him (that is, Dick) that he (that is, Mark) had rescued my hat when he left work, and that he had left it for me at Old City Hall.

Continue reading

Of Possible Interest


Mika Waltari

My essay A Novel for Our Time appears at Baron Bodissey’s Gates of Vienna website.  The “novel for our time” is Dark Angel (1952) by the Finnish writer Mika Waltari (1931 – 1979), a fictionalized account, drawing on historical sources, of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.  Waltari’s work is today largely forgotten, but during his lifetime it received widespread appreciation and made itself available to non-Finnish speakers through translations in a dozen languages.  (Waltari’s novel The Egyptian, for example, would become the basis of a lavishly produced Hollywood film of the same name.)  Dark Angel is partly allegory, being a study in loyalty to civilization and its opposite; and it is partly a call to its audience to remember an event that is increasingly obscure or entirely unknown to most Western people.  Most importantly – and most relevantly from the perspective of sixty years later – Dark Angel is an attempt to grasp the essence of Islam.  Waltari’s characterization of Islam stands at an angle to a number of assumptions that critics of that creed at  the present time make of it – and in a way that heightens the claim of radical incompatibility between Islam and the West.