William Blake said that some men could see the world in a grain of sand, and he meant, I believe, that some men could see the portent of things. It is indeed remarkable how little things can sometimes condense the meaning of an entire world. Here’s one such little thing that appeared in my mailbox yesterday. It doesn’t condense the meaning of the world, but it does speak volumes one part of that world for those who have ears to hear. Continue reading
Like many of you, my workplace has been supplied with a poster bearing the slogan “Diversity is Our Strength.” This challenges the old prejudice that “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” The old prejudice was famously illustrated in Aesop’s fable called The Bundle of Sticks, where a father of fractious brothers demonstrates the benefits of unity with an unbreakable fascis (bundle) of sticks.
And we know where that leads.
“In skill, in wit, in cunning him surpassed,
Yet never engineer beneath the sun.”
Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered, (1581)*
“Faustian man has become a slave of his creation.”
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (1926)
This post has been fermenting since I went, a few weeks back, to watch my daughter run a cross-country race. The meet was held on the grounds of a very large high school on the outskirts of Houston, where that concrete pandemonium is tearing up the peckerwood of east Texas. An urban frontier is always ragged, but the urban frontier of Houston is a wound. It is a hurricane of shattered trees and growling machines; of tawdry shacks set against pharaonic masonry; of siroccos of grit, furnaces of glare, and the quaking thunder of terrific trucks.
The high school and its grounds are restful in comparison to these surroundings, but this is only because the hurricane has already torn up the peckerwood and replaced it with another patch of concrete pandemonium. Continue reading
In business ethics classes, students are supposed to become what they are studying. Ethical. In light of this miraculous transformation, Upstate College is cancelling the study of zoology, veterinary science, biology, mathematics, philosophy and modern languages – though admittedly too late to prevent the emergence of exotic animals, protozoa, equations, Platonic Concepts and sweet incomprehensible murmurings from assorted classrooms.
“‘The friendship of a blockhead shun,’
Said Israel’s monarch, David’s son.”*
Samuel Low, “The Fool’s Friendship” (c. 1800)
“And all that pity you are made your prey.”
Thomas Otway, The Orphan (1680)
It may strike some readers as odd that I so often quote or allude to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, one of history’s more decidedly anti-Christian thinkers. Indeed, I most often quote The Antichrist, his most decidedly anti-Christian book. The Antichrist is, as they used to say, strong meat, but a Christian who has the stomach for strong meat may learn a good deal from it. Nietzsche himself believed he had diagnosed Christianity as the pathology of Western Man; I would say he has diagnosed morbid pity as the pathology of postmodern Christianity. Continue reading
The blurb on the thirty-five cent Ace paperback likens Charles Eric Maine’s 1958 novel World without Men to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Ordinarily – and in consideration of the genre and the lurid cover – one would regard such a comparison skeptically. Nevertheless, while not rising to the artistic level of the Orwell and Huxley masterpieces, World without Men merits being rescued from the large catalogue of 1950s paperback throwaways, not least because of Maine’s vision of an ideological dystopia is based on criticism, not of socialism or communism per se nor of technocracy per se, but rather of feminism. Maine saw in the nascent feminism of his day (the immediate postwar period) a dehumanizing and destructive force, tending towards totalitarianism, which had the potential to deform society in radical, unnatural ways. Maine grasped that feminism – the dogmatic delusion that women are morally and intellectually superior to men – derived its fundamental premises from hatred of, not respect for, the natural order; he grasped also that feminism entailed a fantastic rebellion against sexual dimorphism, which therefore also entailed a total rejection of inherited morality. In World without Men, Maine asserts that the encouragement of sexual hedonism, the spread of pornography into the mainstream of culture, and the proscription of masculinity are inevitable consequences of the feminist program, once established. The sixty years since the novel’s publication – as a thirty-five cent paperback – have vindicated Maine’s notable prescience as a social commentator.
Although World without Men might not measure up fully to 1984 or Brave New World, Maine, who was a talented storyteller, worked on a higher level than most of the genre writers represented in the Ace catalogue. Indeed, in its narrative structure, World without Men trades in at least one formally modernistic gesture. It gives glimpses out of chronological order of a progressive biological and cultural catastrophe so that the reader must reshuffle events into their actual, causal sequence. Part One, “The Man,” takes place in the Seventieth Century, and Part Two, “The Monkey,” late in the Twentieth. Part Three, “The Girl,” takes place seventy-five or a hundred years after part two. Part Four, “The Patriarch,” takes place sometime in the indefinite far future, but before 7000 AD. (References to Christ as having been born some “seven thousand years ago” permit specification of the date.) Part Five, “The Child,” recurs to 7000 AD and shares certain personae with “The Man.” Thus “The Man,” “The Patriarch,” “The Girl,” and “The Child” are long-term sequels to “The Monkey,” which chronicles the development of a birth-control drug called Sterilin, while probing the consciences of the pharmaceutical researcher, a man, who creates it, and the corporate mogul, a woman, who aggressively markets it. World without Men anticipates certain features of the current faddish ideology calling itself transhumanism, criticizing it in advance of its appearance.
I am a very obscure dissident academic, but I occasionally receive messages from dissidents of even greater obscurity who are in need of encouragement and advice. Some have been geographers, some have been from other fields, but all were lonesome, some were angry, and not a few were afraid. One of these correspondents wrote to me first a few years back, and we have exchanged a few messages since then. This morning he wrote to say that he has come under a full-scale SJW attack, with blue-haired paratroopers dropping from the sky and metrosexual landing craft disgorging intersectional infantry onto his poorly defended beaches. Continue reading
This course will use film to discuss philosophy, and philosophy to discuss film. Many of the film selections will be science fiction because, despite the name, that genre of film tends to be an exploration of philosophical and even theological questions.
Rationale for Including the Written Word
Written philosophy, fiction, and literature will also feature prominently in the course because those who are the most literate tend to have the most insightful, interesting things to say about what they are viewing, and also to understand what they are viewing better. Many directors of meaningful films assume that their art house audiences are readers who are used to applying themselves assiduously to intellectually demanding tasks, thinking about what they are engaged with, are comfortable with ambiguity, and do not expect easy answers.
There was an attempt in the 1990s to argue that students who did not read were just “differently” literate – they were “media savvy.” This idea turned out to be chimerical and not supported by the facts. Continue reading
“If you would pray acceptably . . . withdraw from the world, see that you carry not the world with you.”
Phillippe Sylvestre Dufore, Moral Instructions (1760)
Radical thinkers would have you believe that it is a great advance to discover the politics behind science, art, religion, sports, sex, or whatever else you can think of. The fact of the matter is, that their “discovery” is a reversion to the entropy state of human consciousness, and that the discovery of hidden political agendas was coeval with the birth of human speech. When Prometheus gave man fire, most men immediately sat down and hashed out critical theories that defamed Prometheus, deprecated fire, and exposed the gift as part of a wily Titanic conspiracy. Continue reading
In an interview with Joe Rogan, Sean Carroll claims that of all the physicists on earth, there are perhaps one hundred who will admit to being interested in what the equations of quantum mechanics imply about what actually exists and the nature of physical reality. Showing too much interest can jeopardize a physicist’s career, and render him nearly unemployable if he specializes in that area.
The remaining physicists are happy to use the equations of QM without worrying about what they actually mean. Thus, they have memorized a set of algorithms and they become living proof of the truth that an algorithm, a set of instructions to answer well-defined questions, can be followed with no real understanding. This, unfortunately, is the case in the majority of mathematics classes, where students mechanically follow the equations while failing to understand what they actually doing or what the equations really mean. Students who never develop beyond this are incapable of making new discoveries or becoming real mathematicians. Just as someone could hypothetically follow driving directions, getting to the programmed destination, while having no idea where he was doing to end up.
Could this failure of imagination and interest be why nothing much has happened in physics for nearly a hundred years, compared with the early twentieth century and the rise of relativity and QM? Things like Higgs Boson, the God particle, were postulated long ago (1964) and merely experimentally confirmed with the collider.