Suggested Reading For Analytical Philosophers: Wordsworth’s Prelude


This modest offering stems from two provocations.  One is Richard Cocks’ piquant disquisition at The People of Shambhala, referenced here at The Orthosphere, concerning the limitations inherent in the modern school of thought that calls itself Logical Positivism or Analytical Philosophy; the other is a pedagogical necessity that befell me last week to explicate in class for the students of my “Writing about Literature” course a famous passage from William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Book I.  My title must obviously be taken cum grano salis, as logical positivists and analytical philosophers would immediately reduce Wordsworth’s  observations and arguments to their own insipid categories.  Frankly, I cannot imagine the logical positivists or analytical philosophers, or howsoever they dub themselves, making any sense whatsoever of Wordsworths verses or, for that matter, being interested in or aware of them.  Wordsworth’s fundamental assumptions must be opaque to such people.

I have written up my lecture-outline as a short essay.  I append the text on which I comment at the end of the essay.  Those sufficiently generous to feel curiosity about the essay might want to read the excerpt first.  I take for my illustration the fourth panel of The Voyage of Life (1842) by Thomas Cole, one of the founders of the Hudson Valley School.


A Brief Essay on the Adventure of the Boat at Night: It is an observation of natural philosophy that ontogeny repeats phylogeny: That is, the gestation and maturation of the individual repeat the gestation and maturation of the family, genus, or the species.  More generally speaking, everything that exists is an effect that research – or introspection – can trace back to a cause until the procedure finds its destination in a First Cause.  These facts entail any number of paradoxes, not least the poet William Wordsworth’s contention, found in his little poem “My Heart Leaps Up” (1802), that “the child is the father of the man”:


Wordsworth averred often in his prosaic self-explanations that his every line of verse belonged to one great conjectural poem such that each smaller poem was but part of a transcendent whole, which could perhaps never be completed in the poet’s lifetime.  That one Wordsworthian poem should  comment on another should come therefore as no surprise.  The few short lines, almost throwaway verse, of “My heart leaps up” indeed suggest much concerning a crucial passage from one of the early books of one of Wordsworth’s most ambitious poems – the epic-length verse-autobiography The Prelude, begun by the poet as early as 1798 but never published until after his death in 1850.  In the episode in question, Wordsworth recounts one of the adventures of his boyhood, in the Lake District of Northwest England just below the Scottish Border, the native locale where he spent his childhood and to which he returned to live later in life after the peregrinations of his young adulthood.

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A Thousand Essays

The Orthosphere yesterday reached 1,000 posts since we began writing here in early 2012. Meaningless in itself, this passage nevertheless marks a milestone. It is fitting then to reflect on how well we have met our original purpose, of providing a traditional, orthodox Christian perspective on the maelstrom ever in progress here on Earth.

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Dominique Venner on Nihilism and “The Religion of Humanity”


I offer, as best I can, a translation of a section from Dominique Venner’s masterwork Histoire et tradition des Européens: 30,000 ans d’identité [The History and Tradition of the Europeans: 30,000 Years of Identity,] published in French in 2002 by Éditions du Rocher.  The excerpt originates in Chapter 10, “Nihilisme et Saccage de la Nature” [“Nihilism and the Exploitation of Nature”].  Venner wrote in a style that runs to the ironic and telegraphic: Phrases in brackets represent my attempt to overcome the occasional obscurity that his tendencies of irony and compression, or self-allusion, entail.  Flora Montcorbier, whom Venner cites in the excerpt, is a writer of the French New Right.  I give the French original of the text first, followed by my attempt at an idiomatic English rendering.

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Of Possible Interest: The Degeneration of Right Order

Ruins with Jihadis

I am pleased to report that an essay of mine, René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order, has appeared (Part I of two parts) at the Sydney Traditionalist Forum.  I hope that it might be of interest to Orthosphereans.  The essay discusses the disastrous cultural and civilizational consequences of the ancient empires, especially those empires whose ambitions intersected in the Central Asian region known in Antiquity as Bactria.  Both Guénon and Voegelin were fascinated by the seemingly perpetual flux and reflux of imperial ambitions in that region, where global powers remain locked in contention to the present day.  The essay explores Guénon’s discussion in Spiritual Authority & Temporal Power of the “Revolt of the Kshatriyas,” a social upheaval that weakened the Indian states in the Fifth Century BC and made them vulnerable to Persian and Macedonian intervention; it also explores Voegelin’s discussion in The Ecumenic Age of “concupiscential exodus,” exemplified by Alexander’s Asian campaigns, as a destroyer of the civilized order.  I argue in Part II, which will appear in the same venue next week, that the commentaries of Guénon and Voegelin on this topic are eminently applicable to the modern condition.

The Modern Pox Upon the Old City

Western cities more than a century old all feature a stark contrast between their remaining old-fashioned neighborhoods and their horrid modern depravations of the builder’s art. In few however is the contrast as stark as in New Haven, Connecticut. Consider the view from two different windows of a single hotel room in that town, and choose one for yourself.

First, the view south over the post war cityscape:

2016-05-22 10.57.26

Note that grey monolith just left of the Ikea store. Up close, it is far and away the ugliest, most brutal building I have ever seen, literally breathtaking in its visceral affront to the human body. One aches to get away from it; the feeling it provokes is subdued rage. This is perhaps why it stands now vacant. The adjacent Ikea store is positively charming by contrast.

Modern New Haven is dispiriting – it engenders despair. Few pedestrians are to be seen on its barren sidewalks, scuttling quickly on their way, heads down.

Here then is the view to the north, taking in the Yale campus:

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Sydney Traditionalist Forum: 2016 Symposium

Our friends at Sydney Trads have just published their 2016 Symposium, the latest in what must be hoped will be a long series of similar collections. Among the essays are three by Orthosphereans: Tom Bertonneau, Jim Kalb, and myself. The other contributors are Barry Spurr, Alain de Benoist, Krzysztof Urbanek, Peter King, Gwendolyn Taunton, Luke Torrisi, Michael Tung, and Valdis Grinsteins.

Many thanks to our antipodean colleagues for their efforts in mounting the Symposia.

A Lamp That Shall Be Put Out

Whosoever curseth his father or his mother                                                 His lamp shall be put out in deep darkness

Proverbs 20: 20

This past December I was standing outside a Louisiana filling station, waiting for my children to do what children do at filling stations on a long drive.  To pass the time, I idly read the portion of the first page of the Times Picayune that was visible through the window of the newspaper dispenser.  This included a headline announcing the New Orleans City Council decision to remove four Confederate monuments from prominent places in that city, an act in line with the flurry of iconoclasm that had been roiling the South since the Charleston shootings earlier that year.  Continue reading

The Most Important thing a Non-Liberal Blogger can do…

…is teach basic truths. You don’t have to be esoteric, profound, edgy, or popular. You just have to teach important truths.

We live in a time of universal destruction. Intellectual destruction. Cultural destruction. Moral destruction. Religious destruction. And so on.  The noblest thing a blogger not in thrall to the liberal zeitgeist can do is teach important truths. Because man needs truth.

That way you can sleep well at night and keep your head high during the day.

Pushing the Eschaton

It is in the discourse of the Right a commonplace that liberal policies implement Ponzi schemes; that their wild prodigality can be justified only on the basis of magical thinking which supposes that economic and cultural goods pour forth inexhaustibly from some mysterious cornucopia, rather than as products of unstinting, intelligent, diligent, difficult, costly labor rightly and prudently directed. In this liberalism has always reminded me of the cargo cults that sprang up among natives all over Oceania in the 20th Century after their contact with Europeans, especially during and after WWII. But of these cargo cults I had had only the most cursory knowledge. I knew only that some cargo cultists thought that if they mocked up a semblance of an airstrip, planes full of goods would land to disgorge them (“If we build it, they will come;” we see the same sort of thinking at work in those who suppose that if they just show up in a nice suit or arrive in Sweden, life will be for them thenceforth all wine and roses (and blondes)).

I’m reading Mircea Eliade’s The Two and the One, wherein he discusses the cargo cults. Now that thanks to him I now know a bit more about them, my hunch about liberalism has borne out to a truly spooky degree. Consider the following extended passages (page 125 ff.), and feel the prickle of the hairs on your neck as you begin to comprehend the true immensity of the intellectual gulf that separates us from latter day liberals:

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Sydney Traditionalist Forum: 2015 Symposium

Our own Thomas Bertonneau is one of the contributors to the 2015 Symposium of our friends over at the Sydney Traditionalist Forum, Quo Vadis Conservatism: or, Do Traditionalists have a Place in the Current Party Political System?

Before your knee jerks and you answer “No,” go check out the Forum, get educated about the question … and then answer, “No.”