The marks of anti-intellectualism

There is nothing wrong with mistrusting intellectuals.  After all, intellectuals often mistrust each other, and even those they trust they often vehemently disagree with.  Nor is there anything particularly wrong about a person not being interested in intellectual pursuits, nothing wrong even in a person actively disliking the practice of certain forms of inquiry.  We are all “anti-intellectual” on some topics, those that we find uninteresting or that we think obvious humbug.  I’ve never been interested enough to investigate claims that aliens built the pyramids or that the moon landing was faked.  Life is short, and I must allocate my time accordingly.  The phenomenon of anti-intellectualism involves something more:  dislike of analysis of a topic one has made one’s own.  If I were to write a book about the claim that aliens built the pyramids, it would be my job to give arguments for this view a careful hearing.  If instead I maintained my aloofness to the topic–now my own topic–but instead made my book entirely ad hominem, say seeking out embarrassing personal facts about those who espouse the alien construction hypothesis or accusing them of being pawns of the oil industry, then I would be practicing anti-intellectualism.  I would be engaging in a fundamentally dishonest practice, an abuse of the life of the mind, regardless of who built the pyramids.

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A Pleasing Array of Spines (Or the Catharsis of Culling One’s Library)

Commenting on my latest post, Thomas Bertonneau mentioned some reflections he had had while culling his library. His particular reflection was that many of the books he had been obliged to read in graduate school were distinctly repulsive volumes. That they should be discarded he never questioned, his only doubt being whether fire might be safer than the landfill. Cracking the covers of a once-celebrated slab of postmodern lit-crit was, as often as not, like cracking the cover of a long-forgotten Tupperware container from the back of the refrigerator. Poor Thomas recoiled from the metaphysical odor of dead and rotten things. Continue reading

The Conundrum of a Democratic Snob

Steve Sailer fisks an article by associate professor of history that purports to explain that ancient Phoenicia did not exist, and is only thought to exist because, many centuries later, some grubby nationalists invented the idea of Phoenicia to further their grubby nationalism. What the grubby nationalists called Phoenicia, Dr. Josephine Quinn describes as “a disparate set of neighboring and often warring city-states, cut off from each other for the most part by deep river valleys.”

If we change the “river valleys” to “arms of the wine dark sea,” this would seem to sound a lot like ancient Greece, and everyone nowadays knows the Hellenes never existed. The Hellenes were invented by grubby nationalists inflamed by ouzo and irrational hatred for the Sultan. Continue reading

I Hear the Crash of Toppling Pins

I once knew a German architect who had been charged with writing a government report on what should be done with all the old, empty churches. I suggested that the churches be converted into bowling alleys. Each one could house only a couple of lanes, but the view from the choir loft would be great and the reverberating crash of toppling pins would be magnificent. Continue reading

Globalism as Sacrificial Crisis: Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s Mark of the Sacred

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The Wicker Man of the Pagan Celts

Gregory Copley has argued in his study of Un-Civilization (2014) that the global human arrangement, a creeping improvisation of the last three or four centuries, nowadays has outlived its ad hoc semi-functionality so that it totters on the verge of a radical spontaneous reconstruction whose survivors will have experienced it as nothing less than a catastrophe.  Eric Cline, in his recent study of The Year Civilization Collapsed (2014), underscores the likelihood of such a calamity as the one that Copley predicts.  Cline marshals the details of an archaeologically attestable prototype of “systems collapse” that occurred around the date 1177 BC when a vast swath of the civilized Eastern Mediterranean literally went up in flames, inaugurating a “dark age” that in some places lasted four hundred years.  That it has happened increases the possibility that it might happen.  Jean-Pierre Dupuy, like Copley and Cline, is a student of crises, but unlike them he is primarily a religious thinker, one who takes seriously the insights of the man whom he calls the Albert Einstein of Twentieth-Century social science, René Girard.  Dupuy’s title, The Mark of the Sacred (2008; English, 2013), recalls the title of Girard’s seminal Violence and the Sacred (1966; English, 1972).  In that work, Girard discovered, in myth, ritual, and tragic poetry, the signs of a “sacrificial crisis” ubiquitously and regularly afflicting archaic societies.  In the sacrificial crisis, the social group suffers structural breakdown in rampant, violent mimesis or imitation that resolves itself through the production of an arbitrarily selected victim; the victim’s immolation then promotes him to godhead and generates the basic forms of culture.

One might think analogously of the basic architecture of the pyramid in relation to death-by-stoning: The former results from the latter, concealing the victim under an aesthetically pleasing form that dissimulates its own origin.

As Girard sees it, and as Dupuy reiterates, this “scapegoat mechanism” made humanity, but it also entrapped humanity in the closed epistemology, gory practice, and mendacious rhetoric, stomach-churning to inspect, of the sacred.  In Girard’s argument, which Dupuy again adopts, people could not begin to escape the delusion of the sacred until the decisive event of Christ’s Passion, as recorded in the four Gospels.  In The Mark of the Sacred, Dupuy explores the implications of this – to him – persuasive view.  Those implications entail, among other things, a reassessment of existing normative models of economics, political theory, cognitive science, and, indeed, modernity’s total view of itself.  The prideful, deforming error of modernity, as Dupuy demonstrates in a series of five topically various but logically closely-related chapters, is to believe fanatically in its own claim to be thoroughly and justifiably secular, thus licensing itself to reject everything that it categorizes as religious or irrational.  In itself, Dupuy’s case is hardly unprecedented.  Among others and as early as the beginning of the Nineteenth Century S. T. Coleridge and Joseph de Maistre identified the Revolution, that declaration of an absolute break with all tradition, as essentially religious, but as by no means an advance beyond the Christianity that it condemned.  Yet Dupuy, assimilating Girard, takes this argument in new directions.

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Reading Count Gobineau

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Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (1816 – 1882)

The name of Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (1816 – 1882) rarely appears nowadays except in a context of moral dudgeon.  The first sentence of the Wikipedia article devoted to Gobineau perhaps unsurprisingly informs the reader, in rather lazy prose, that “Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau… was a French aristocrat who was best known by his contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat, and travel writer but is today most remembered for developing the theory of the Aryan master race and helping to legitimise racism by scientific racist theory and racial demography.”  (Punctuation corrected.)  The term “scientific racist theory” especially courts self-condemnation through its editorial heavy-handedness and its retrojection of a contemporary item of ideological cant: Objectively, Gobineau sought only to articulate a scientific racial theory or a scientific theory of race.  The term “master-race” moreover is foreign to Gobineau’s text; and “Aryan,” as Gobineau properly uses it, is an ancient tribal self-designation.  Had someone accused Gobineau of racism, or of being a racist, the term would have baffled him entirely.  The reliably left-leaning Wikipedia is not alone, however, in treating Gobineau as thoroughly toxic.  The New World Encyclopedia, in its online version, asseverates that “although [Gobineau’s] racial theories did not receive immediate attention in Europe,” nevertheless “it was through the influence of the Bayreuth circle and Richard Wagner that his views became popular, and his anti-Semitic theories developed.”  The Encyclopedia’s rhetorical maneuver draws on the widely circulated notion that National Socialism began proleptically with Wagner, who therefore qualifies himself as morally pernicious, and it extends Wagner’s supposed vileness backwards to the one who planted the seed of wickedness in Wagner’s mind – namely Gobineau in his proper person.  That reading Gobineau’s prose inspired Wagner to be a rabid anti-Semite and led to the Holocaust seems to be the implication.

Leaving aside the imputation that Wagner was a Proto-Hitler, which while of considerable interest belongs in another discussion, these slick mischaracterizations of Gobineau’s treatise on The Inequality of the Human Races (1854) reveal themselves as being based on prejudicial and superficial readings of that book; or perhaps on a universal omission to read it.  What then would a careful and unprejudiced reading of The Inequality of the Human Races yield?  The present essay proposes to answer that question.  (Note: Inequality is a work in four extensive volumes that touch on a variety of topics and that in many ways establish the science of comparative ethnography; the first volume, however, functions as an extended introduction to the other three, summarizing their contents in advance.  For the sake of tractability, I confine my remarks to that first volume.)

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Castaway or Crusader?

An interesting post at Albion Awakening contrasts the doctrine of Geworfenheit with what might be called, in the broadest sense, the principle of faith.  The German verb Geworfen means thrown, and Geworfenheit is therefore the state of having been thrown, or, as it is sometimes translated, cast.  The word seems to have entered the philosophers’ lexicon in the work of Martin Heidegger, but the doctrine it denotes is immemorial and, no doubt, incorrigible. Continue reading

The “Social Construction” Swindle

René Flores is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and a notice in this morning’s mail informs me that she will deliver a lecture at this university next Tuesday evening. I’m afraid I will not be among those who will be edified by Dr. Flores, since on Tuesday evenings I either wash my hair or sort my socks. But even if I were free, I would not be tempted to take a place at Dr. Flores’ feet, because I already know the answer to the question that burns so hotly in the title of her lecture.

“Who is ‘Illegal’?”

The answer is, of course, no one! Continue reading